History of Macomb, NY


Local Histories

THIS was the twenty-sixth town erected by an act of the Legisla ture passed April 30, 1841. The territory was formerly under the jurisdiction of Morristown and Gouverneur, from which it was taken, and embraces that part of Morristown laying south of Black Lake and that part of Gouverneur north of Beaver Creek, from the De Kaib line to the Ogden tract, which it follows to the Oswegatchie, and then up that river to the boundary of Rossie. A small tract south of the lake was left in the town of Hammond, but it also was attached to Macomb on the 11th of April, 1842. The formation of the town was the result of a long existing feeling of seclusion on the part of the inhabitants of the territory finally set off. With the long and almost impassable lake on the north, and Beaver Creek on the south, also the poor roads that existed until comparatively recent times, rendering it difficult to reach Morristown and Gouverneur for the transaction of public business, it is, perhaps, to be wondered at that the citizens did not protest against their situation earlier than they did. In 1837 the people of Morristown expressed their willingness for a division whenever the settlers south of the lake should desire it; and shortly afterward a similar sentiment was expressed by the inhabitants of Gouverneur. A special town meeting was held in Morristown, at which the vote for the division was taken and carried with only one dissenting voice.

The first town meeting in the new town was held at the residence of David Day, 2d, on the 1st of July, 1841, and the following officers elected Supervisor, David Day, 2d; town clerk, Eliphalet S. Pope; assessors, David B. Woodworth, William Whalin and William Houghton; commissioners of highways, Timothy Pope, Daniel Tully, Dennison Coates; collector, Charlemagne Pope; overseers of the poor, George Kennan, Josiah Sweet; school commissioners, David Day, 2d, John S. Kinda, Morgan Starks, jr.; justices, William Mills, C. Pope and David Tully.

The surface of the town is much broken by ridges of gneiss, sandstone and white limestone, lying parallel with the lake and covering a large part of the town. Between these ridges are narrow intervales with rich soil. As a whole the town is much better adapted to grazing than to tillage. Fish and Birch Creeks flow into Black Lake and are the principal streams. Located on Birch Creek is a large tract through which the stream has little fall and over several thousand acres of which the waters formerly spread. Pursuant to a law, the enactment of which was procured, the channel of the creek through that section was opened and improved, and nearly 3,000 acres of valuable land were reclaimed. The cost of this improvement was about $6,000, for which the benefited lands were taxed. Pleasant Lake, a beautiful sheet of water, a mile long, is in the western part. It has no visible inlet and is not affected by freshets, and the water is clear, pure and cold, Hickory Lake is situated near the eastern bounds of the town and is the source of Fish Creek. There are valuable minerals in the town, such as galena, mica, copper, pyrites, etc., and considerable effort has been expended in the past in mining operations, as explained further on.

The first settlements in what is now the town of Macomb were not made as early as in many other sections of St. Lawrence county, and the fact that the town had no civil existence until 1841, makes its history brief, while the names of many of the pioneers of the present town have found mention in the histories of Gouverneur and Morristown. There was not much settlement in what is now Macomb before 1810. The first settlement was made in the town by Samuel Bristol, who was one of the earliest settlers in Depeyster and removed to Macomb. Capt. Rufus Washburn, originally from Connecticut and later from Otsego county, was one of the first settlers, and located where William Beardslee now lives. He was drowned in the Oswegatchie April 28, 1817, while returning from town meeting in Gouverneur. It was his son who killed the panther in his den, noted in the history of Depeyster. Samuel Wilson, E. Wilson and Samuel Peck were early settlers. For many years the settlements were limited to small neighborhoods on the State road; and no schools were opened until 1818.

Timothy Pope moved into the town from Oswegatchie in 1818, and built mills at the point which became and still is called Pope's Mills. He was originally from Otsego county and settled in Oswegatchie in 1804. He was an enterprising citizen and with others of his family accomplished much for the good of the community. He built a dam across the creek, forming a large pond, and mills have continued in operation there to the present time. The present saw mill is on the original site of the first one and is operated by L. E. Pope, a grandson of Timothy. In 1828 Timothy Pope built a distillery, which was operated for a time, and changed to a tannery and finally abandoned. Mr. Pope was killed, November 7, 1835, with Solomon Shaw, by the bursting of a defective mill stone. A steamboat was built in 1837 at Pope's Mills, by Henry Hooker and Erastus W. White, and was in use for five years in carrying pig iron and lead from the furnace in Rossie to the Narrows and at the foot of the lake, from where it was carted to the St. Lawrence to be shipped to the market at Oswego. The post-office was opened in 1859 with Russell Covel as postmaster.

The darn at this point (Pope's Mills) was carried away in 1862, since which time a large part of the tract formerly overflowed was sold to farmers and has produced valuable hay crops. The water power, by reason of doing away with this large pond, is limited to a portion of the year.

There has for many years been a small mercantile business carried on at Pope's Mills by various persons. At the present time general stores are kept by Woodworth Bros. (V. E. Woodworth being postmaster) and Frank Hastings. Hotels are kept by E. H. Perry (the Fish Creek House), and Frank Hastings (the Hastings House). The old school house at this place was removed and used as a blacksmith shop, and on the site was built the one now in use. There are now sixteen school districts in the town and the education of the young receives that liberal support that is given it in all progressive communities. In 1889 a fire visited Pope's Mills and burned the store and dwelling off S. Coats and the dwelling of Timothy Pope. Pope's Mills is now the site for the transaction of the town's public business.

Macomb Post-office is a small hamlet on the State road in the eastern part of the town. A small store is now kept here by Fred. Sterling, who is also postmaster. A steam saw mill with a capacity of 5,000 feet per day was operated here a number of years. It was burned in 1889.

Brasie Corners is a hamlet and post office in the western part of the town, which takes its name from the Brasie family, who settled there. The present postmaster is N. H. Parker, and stores are kept by Brasie Brothers and Jacob Thomas. John Charter is proprietor of a public house.

A post-office was opened in this town in 1888, and was named "Hickory," Vilas Ingraharn is postmaster and keeps a store.

As before stated, considerable effort and large sums of money have been expended in Macomb in attempts to develop a successful mining industry. About the year 1836, a vein of lead, zinc, blende and calcareous spar was discovered near the shore of Black Lake, at a place since named Mineral Point, and somewhat extensive mining operations were commenced.

The "Mineral Point Lead Manufacturing Company" " was organized February 25, 1839, with a capital of $96,000, in 384 shares, of $250 each. The affairs of the cornp any were to be managed by five trustees. The first trustees elected were Silvester Gilbert, James Averill, David C. Judson, Lewis Moss and John W. Grant. The business of the cornpany was to be carried on in Morristown and Brownville.

A company styled the " Morris Mining Company" was incorporated May 1, 1839, with James Averill, David C. Judson, Silvester Gilbert, John W. Grant, Lewis Moss, Thomas L. Knapp and Edwin Dodge, trustees, for the purpose of mining in Morristown and Oswegatatchie, to continue twenty-five years; capital, $50,000. 500 shares of $100 each, and to be managed by seven directors.

About the year 1836 a vein containing galena was discovered on the land of Robert Wilson, near the old State road; a company was formed and a shaft was sunk to the depth of about sixty feet. A few years after lead ore was discovered on the same range, near the road leading from Washburn Settlement to Gouverneur; and in 1850 small mining operations had been commenced. In 1851 a right was purchased by parties in New York, and a company formed, styled the "St. Lawrence Mining Company," which became incorporated under the general mining law of February 17, 1848. The articles of association were filed September 16, 1851, in the clerk's office, and Thomas Addis Ement, Stephen Crocker and John L. Gratacal were elected trustees; capital $72,000, in shares of $200 each; duration limited to fifty years. At a meeting of the stockholders in New York, May 17, 1852, the capital of the company was increased to $360,000.

In 1852 a vein of lead ore was discovered between the Chute and the Macomb mines, which was opened and worked quite extensively by private parties. John Canfield of Morristown, who was present at the time of the discovery, removed with a pick nearly fourteen hundred pounds of pure galena.

Shortly after this the mines were purchased by R. P. Remington, who organized a company for the purpose of working them. Work was carried on for about five years under the supervision of an experienced miner. Nothing has been done at the mines since they were abandoned by the Remington company. It may be safely stated that $100,000 has been expended for machinery and improvements at each of the mines which have been worked in the town.

It has been the history of these mines that when first discovered upon the surface they presented an inviting appearance, the veins being in some instances several feet in width. Upon leaving the surface, however, they were found to become narrower, until, at the depth of a few feet, they were nearly lost. A smelting furnace was built at an early day, and considerable ore was smelted and the product marketed while the mines were operated, but without remunerative profit.

Slight shocks of earthquake in this locality are of frequent occurrence. One occurred in the fall of 1860, more severe than usual. A well, twenty feet deep, on Timothy Pope's farm at the mills, affording abundance of water was dry the next morning after the shock. He dug a new well a short distance from the former one and obtained water only after passing several feet below the bottom of the first well. A similar incident occurred on the farm of Edwin Dodge about two miles and a half north of Pope's Mills. Water from a flowing spring was carried several rods in pump logs to the dwelling house and barns. On the morning of the earthquake of November 4, 1887, the water-works failed. On investigation it was found that the spring was dry and a new one was flowing about one hundred feet from the original one.

Since the period of the civil war, during which the people of this town showed a commendable patriotism in furnishing men and money in support of the Union, the population of the community has increased, and the prosperity of the people from an agricultural point of view has improved. Dairying, and especially the manufacture of cheese, has largely superseded grain raising, and there are now four factories in operation in the town,

Following are names of supervisors of the town with years of service:
1841-2, David Day, 2d; 1843, John Parker; 1844-6, Enoch Taylor; 1847-50, Willian Houghton; 1851-3, David Day, 2d; 1854, Timothy Pope; 1855, Joshua F. Houghton; 1856-7, John S. Snider; 1858, David Day, 2d; 1859, John S. Snider; 1860-1, John Whitney; 1862-4, David B. Woodworth; 1865-8, David Day, 2d; 1869-71., Horace L. Woodworth; 1872-6, E. R. Turner; 1877-81, Barren Hastings; 1882-5, John H. Graves; 1886-88, Fred S. Coa?s; s 1889-90, Elisha R. Turner; 1891, John W. Manson; 1892-4, John V. Clark.


For a number of years previous to the organization of the town, meetings were held at various places, both in school houses and dwellings, by Congregationalists, Lutherans, Universalists, Mormons and Methodists. A Methodist Episcopal church was organized at Macomb with five members; in 1841, by Rev. D. Ferguson, who was its first pastor. The church, which is still in use, was built in 1870, and has a seating capacity of 300 and cost $3,000. Rev. C. A. Miller is the present pastor, and also serves a small church at Brasie Corners.

The First Wesleyan Methodist church of Macomb, located at Pope's Mills, was organized with nine members June 9, 1857, by Rev. R. E. Johnson, its first pastor, Previous to 1872 the meetings were held in the school house; but in that year a neat church, costing $1,200, was built, having a seating capacity of 300. It was extensively repaired and improved in 1891, at an expense of $600. The present pastor is Rev. C. E. Hill.

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