History of Arsenal Green, Malone, New York



Local records are barren as regards This property, and the facts cancerning its conveyance and general history are to he found only in the offices of the clerk of Clinton county and of the Secretary of State and in the statutes.

Cone Andrews (the name came afterwards to be written Andrus) came to Malone from Vermont in the early years of the last century, and about 1805 bought from Noah Moody for $459 a tract of fifty-one acres, bounded substantially as follows: Beginning in what is now Main street, at a point nearly opposite from where Howard. avenue diverges, running thence westerly to or near the southwest corner of the Howard block; thence northeasterly, following the line of Elm street, to a point at or near Terrace street, which is easterly from the old Whittelsev (now McClary) homestead; thence about twenty-seven rods east, which would be near Lawrence avenue; thence southerly to Main street; and thence westerly to the place of beginning. Mr. Andrews (or Andrus) was the father of William, Lucius, Leonard, Albert and. George, and was by occupation a farmer and inn-keeper. He died about 1821.

In 1812 Cone Andrews deeded to the people of the State of New York a tract of land "for this use and purpose and this only, viz., that it shall be appropriated. as a public green and parade ground, and that no buildings hereafter are to be erected thereon." The tract in question was bounded: Beginning at the southwesterly corner of the lot on which the Elks lodge house stands (then the residence of Dr. Horatio Powell, and later of William A. Wheeler); running thence southwesterly on Elm street twelve rods and eighteen links; thence southerly forty rods; thence east thirteen rods and twenty links; thence northerly fifty rods to the place of beginning, containing three acres and thirty-five rods.

Also another parcel, which included. at least parts of the lots of the late Mrs. S. A. Beman (formerly S. W. Gillett's) and of Notre Dame church, containing a. trifle over two acres (86 rods) "for the purpose of an arsenal and other public buildings being erected thereon."

Both conveyances were upon the condition that they be received subject to any mortgage or mortgages on about one-fourth of an acre on the southwesterly side of the Main street frontage of the first described piece. The further consideration was "one shilling." As to the mortgages referred to, the record is complicated and obscure. One for $113.90, given in 1804, was not cancelled of record until 1827. How it was paid or by whom does not appear. Another, running to Cone Andrus, was for $1,500, and covered, with other lands, a part of the park; it is understood to have been foreclosed in 1815, though the record does not so show. A third (not given until 1815, and probably growing out of a resale after the foreclosure just referred to) was for $1,000, and covered the same part of the park as the Andrus mortgage. This third mortgage was foreclosed in 1829, and the lands which it covered were sold shortly afterward to Obadiah T. Hosford. Mr. Hosford then fenced in the mortgaged part of the park, which consisted of a wedge-shaped piece fronting five rods on Main street, running to a point twenty-five rods northerly, or beyond the railroad.

A map attached to the deed given by Cone Andrus to the people of the State of New York in 1812 shows that the arsenal lot was contiguous to the larger plot or park, so that there was then no lane or driveway between the two parcels, as there is at present. So, too, the fact that the northeastern corner of the larger tract was coincident with the southwestern corner of the Elks or Wheeler lot on Elm street proves that there was no lane on that side either. Whether the lanes that now exist were taken from the park or from abutting private lands, accurate measurement of the present fenced frontages on Main and Elm streets would conclusively demonstrate. (Measurement by pacing does make the lanes a part of the park.) When, and how, these lanes were created I have not been able to ascertain; but it is my conjecture that they were arbitrarily laid out or set off, but only by fencing, and not by authority, after the sale of the arsenal lot by the State in 1852, when the park was first fenced.

The same day that Mr. Audrus conveyed to the people of the State of New York, Benjamin Seeley, who at one time had had title to a part of the park property, quitclaimed to the State "all his right, title, property and demand" in that parcel.

Assembly documents for 1835 disclose that a bill for repurchase by the State of the part of the park fenced in by Mr. Hosford was referred to the commissioners of the land office for a report upon the facts. The report recited, after giving the history of the State's acquisition of the park and arsenal lot, as above outlined, that by Mr. Hosford's action the uniformity of the park had been destroyed to some extent, rendering it less suitable for a parade ground; and placed an estimate of fifty dollars to seventy-five dollars on the value of the piece sold under mortgage. Thereupon a bill was passed, chap. 179 of the Laws of 1835, authorizing the commissioners of the land office to appoint one or more suitable and competent person or persons to estimate and appraise the value of that part of Arsenal Greep which had. been sold under a decree of foreclosure, and providing that when the person or persons having the legal title derived from such decree and sale should execute to the people of this State a sufficient deed of conveyance of the said lot or parcel the treasurer of the State should pay to such grantor the sum at which such land should have been so estimated and appraised. The report of the State comptroller for 1836 carried this entry of payment: "Incumbrance on arsenal lot at Malone, $100."

Chapter 269 of the Laws of 1850 authorized the sale of arsenals and lots in a number of counties in the State, including that at Malone; and it was sold October 9, 1852, to William Andrus for $600- conveyance being made by the State, however, to Samuel C. Wead, doubtless by arrangement to that effect between Mr. Andrus and Mr. Wead. Mr. Wead sold the løt later to Albert Andrus, who built upon it and resided there for several years.

Chapter 7 of the Laws of 1852 appropriated the proceeds from the sale of This property, less $200, to the improvement of the "Arsenal Green and parade ground," and authorized the pavnient of the money to Guy Meigs, Samuel C. Wead and Hugh Magill, who were appointed commissioners to expend the same in grading and fencing said "public green and parade ground," in setting out trees upon it, and in making such walks through it as they might deem proper, provided nothing be done to injure the green for the purpose of military parades. The act further provided that the said Arsenal Green should never be sold for private purposes except the same be directed and authorized by an act of the Legislature.

The two hundred dollars reserved out of this appropriation was doubtless withheld for use in buying another arsenal lot, in case the State should conclude that one was wanted. The old arsenal building was not torn down for a number of years after its sale, and continued to be occupied by the State. In 1860 the State purchased from S. C. Wead for $300 "for an armory" a lot on the east side of Park street, a 'few rods north of Second street, and continued to hold it, unused, until 1873, when the then adjutant-general certified that it was not required for military purposes, and it was resold, by authorit of Chap. 717,. Laws of 1873 - S. C. Wead. being the purchaser, and paying $300 'therefor.

This act provided,, further, that the proceeds of the sale be paid over to the trustees of the Village of Malone, "to be expended by them in securing' and fencing the State grounds in said village."

An arsenal was built upon the arsenal lot as early as 1812. It was a two-story stone structure, and cost $5,000. In February, 1814, when General Wilkinson's evacuation, of Malone occurred, after the retreat here in October, 1813, from French Mills (Fort Covington) following the American defeat at Chrystler's Field, or Farm, Colonel Scott occupied the town for a part of two days with a British force of about a thousand men additional to a smaller nuniber of militia and a body of Indian allies. These latter; with' some of' the more turbulent of the militia and regulars, were bent upon destroying the arsenal, and. actually set fire to it. Representations to Colonel Scott by a number of the more prominent residents of Malone, to the effect that destruction of the arsenal would he wanton, and not withen the practices sanctioned in civilized warfare, induced the British commandant to interfere, and the building was saved. When it was finally razed, more than' forty years later, a part of its timbers and stone were purchased by S. W. Gillett, and were used in the erection of the dwelling house afterward owned and occupied by Mrs. S. A. Beman.

While the arsenal stood it was used for housing cannon (mainly howitzers) and the accoutrements and equipment of the local State militia. One of the howitzers went from the arsenal to Chateaugay, and another stood or lay for many years at the corner of Main and Clay streets in Malone village. ily recollection is that the brass six-pounder, which served Malone for a Tong time in the firing of Fourth of July salutes and in celebrating political victories, also came from the arsenal stores. At least itis the fact that this piece was bought from the State by citizens of Malone, of whom I remember that the late Francis T. Heath was one. It was afterward confiscated by State authorities upon the pretense that its further use would be unsafe; but the men who had bought it and owned it were not consulted or recompensed:

It may interest younger readers to know that in celebrating the Republican successes at the October elections in 1872 in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania (which virtually assured the re-election of General Grant), this field piece was used at art hour long past midnight. It was then standing on the south side of Arsenal Green, and in loading it some recklessly jubilant celebrant rammed a stone in it, which a moment later crashed through the roof of the house on Park street now owned by Stephen M. Howard, and then owned and occupied by Benjamin Webster. Mr. Webster's awakening must certainly have been startling.. Among those engaged in this celebration I recall the names of Wallace W. King, Sylvester S. Willard, Daniel H. Stanton, Colonel Wm. A. Jones, Colonel Birney B. Keeler, arid S. A. Beman. and, I think, H. D. Thompson, and myself. John C. Slack was the cannoneer.

There is no record in the Franklin county clerk's office, nor at Albany, that discloses by what process or proceedings the railroad. gained its. right of way through the park, but it was probably accomplished by condemnation under the general railroad law.

The present generation has little knowledge of early militia conditions in the country districts, nor can it easily form a true conception of them. Under the old military law all able-bodied free male white citizens between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, with the exception of legislators when the Legislature was in session, State officers and their deputies and clerks, certain county officials, judges, ministers of the gospel, teachers and students, firemen, men who had already served four years in the militia, and workers in certain specified industries, were subject to military duty. A further exemption, however, let out those who, "from scruples of conscience shall be averse to bearing arms," upon a payment of four dollars. Each captain was required to make the enrollment for his own company, the bounds of whose district were fixed by some superior officer. The law originally required the militia to assemble by companies "in their respective beats" on the first Monday of September, and, at a later date, in June in every year, "for the purpose of training, disciplining and improving in manual exercise," and by regiments or battalions once in each year between the first of September and the fifteenth of October; and at such other times and places, either by regiments, battalions, companies or troops, as should be directed by the proper authority. Non-commissioned officers were required in addition to assemble two days successively between the first day of June and the first day of September for like purposes. It was prohibited to sell or give away on a parade ground during a parade "any spirituous liquors, with out permission of the commanding officer." Uniforms do not appear to have been prescribed for privates, though it was contemplated by the statute that noncommissioned officers should uniform and equip themselves, at their own expense, with an infantry cap, a tight-bodied blue coat with yellow or white metal buttons, a white vest and pantaloons, and black gaiters or half-boots. Privates were subject to a fine of two dollars for a failure to appear at a parade, and to smaller fines if present without proper equipment, including "two spare flints." About 1854 the flint-lock muskets were changed to a more modern arm, fitted for the use of percussion caps. The compensation for military service was an allowance or commutation of two days on the highway tax of each man. The law appears to have been unpopular, as the Franklin county board of supervisors repeatedly memorialized the Legislature for its repeal, and the assessors persistently omitted to assess the fifty-cent per capita tax which the law required to be laid upon men generally. Thus there were no funds provided for payment of the militia, and, in consequence, in a number of years after 1850 "general training day" did not amount to much.

But in the years when this event was observed to the extent that the law contemplated there would be an assembling in Malone of perhaps three hundred to five hundred men, and Arsenal Green would be dotted with tents for the accommodation of the members of the regiment or battalion, which included at least one troop of cavalry, besides the several infantry companies. These men came from all parts of the county, and represented practically every walk and condition of the locality's life, and, except the officers, were ununiformed, a part unarmed, and nearly all of them undisciplined, raw and awkward in the extreme. The officers generally were but little better trained, and the movements of the day were largely farcical, and not infrequently characterized by. buffoonery and horse-play. Groups- of men to 'whom military duty was distasteful and irksome (usually leading and influential citizens, who by intelligence and habits of life were really qualified for' positions of command) would lose no opportunity for' making maneuvers confusing and ridiculous. They would conspire to elect grotesquely incapable members as corporals and sergeants, thus rendering the authority of these, and their attempted discharge of duty, a matter of jest and foolery.

General training day was more of a holiday and more eagerly anticipated. by the public generally than the 4th of July. The' number' of companies of militia that there: were in Franklin county no records remain to show, but each of the larger towns had at least one or more. In' Malone there were certainly two in 1855, and at one date or another Bangor, Bellmont, Chateaugay, Fort Covington; Moira and Westville had at least one each.

Sidney Hickok, father of Henry H. and uncle of Dr. Horace D., Carlos C. Keeler, Samuel S. Clark, Jonathan Stearns and Samuel S.. C. F. Thorndike, all of Malone; Seneca Sylvester of Fort Covington, and' Ezra Stiles. of Chateaugay were at one or another date colonels of the Franklin county battalion or regiment, and Claudins Hutchins of Dickinson a lieutenant colonel. Francis D. Flanders, John F. Dimick, Wade Smith, Enos' Wood and George M. Sahin of Malone, Milton Heath of Dickinson and James Duane of Duane, were majors'- the frst named having served as paymaster if my memory serves me correctly. Horace A. Taylor was, I think, a brigadier general, and of captains' between 1849 and 1855 there were Abraham Reynolds of Bellmont, B. Cartwright of Chateaugay, Claudius Hutchins of Dickinson, Samuel Greeno, Charles Durkee, Charles L. Hubbard and Joel J. Seaver of Malone, Daniel Taylor of Bangor, and Nelson Wiley of Westville,. and doubtless others whose names I am unable' to recall. Calvin Skinner was surgeon, Sidney P. Bates surgeon's mate, Howard. E. Kiiig quartermaster, Wallace W. King paymaster, and. Wynant P. Williamson, George S. Holmes, Henry J. Perrin, all of Malone, Seth Bell and. Amander Beebe, of Constable, Ira Russell, of Moira, and. George J. Austin, of Brandon, lieutenants. Unfortunately no official records of militia enrollments and commissions appear to have: been preserved anywhere. Certainly there are none in the Adjutant General's. office at Albany, where, of all places, they ought to be.

Referring to Captain Reynolds, a man of giant proportions, who was known as "the Chateaugay infant," Dr. Bates used to tell the story that on one training day, as he was coming into the village from the west, he discerned a man in full uniform, with sword drawn, marchiflg up the Court House Hill, in the middle of the road? seemingly alone; hut that upon a nearer approach the doctor discovered that an entire company, in double file, was marching behind Captain Reynolds, whose huge form actually concealed his command, though marching two abreast with a space between them.

The story is told .that upon one training day in Malone Colonel Judd of Ogdensburg was in attendance and in command, with one part of the assembled force on the side of the park north of the railroad, and the other on the south side. Being himself on the south side, and desiring to visit the other division, he rode his horse up the steps of the bridge that spanned the railroad, and down the other side. The narrative does not seem improbable to the writer, for he once saw Benjamin R. Raymond, when a boy, ride his horse nearly to the top of the south steps of this bridge, and then back down them.

Older residents of Malone, to whom the training days of what was derisively called the "floodwood" are a clear memory, tell me that, notwithstanding the law's prohibition against selling or giving away spiri-tous liquors on a parade ground, except with the consent of the commandant, the men were not usually compelled to go without stimulants, for, they say, it was a common occurrence that the entire force lined up in column before Hosford's tavern, on the corner where the Howard Block now is, each man taking his grog in turn as a matter of course; and, if air representations be true, not a few of them managed to get more than a single swig apiece from the dipper.

An act passed in 1917 (Chap. 180) authorized the commissioners of the land office to grant the Arsenal Green to the village of Malone upon the payment of a nominal consideration, and upon condition that whenever the lands conveyed, or any part thereof, shall cease to be used for park purposes they shall revert to the people of the State of New York. In pursuance of this authorization the conveyance was made a few months later, and the title to the property is now in the village of Malone.

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