History of Norfolk, NY


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THIS is the eighteenth town erected by an act of the Legislature, passed April 9, 1823.

Prior to 1823 Norfolk was a part of the town of Louisville. An attempt had been made and failed in 1817 to divide the latter town, making the new one six miles square, with the present village site of Norfolk in about its geographical center. The division was finally effected, as above stated, leaving Louisville as it now stands, except that in April, 1844, two lots and parts of three more were added to it from Norfolk, On April 15, 1834, mile squares 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 and the north halves of 14 and 19 of Stockholm were added to Norfolk. The surface is rolling, the soil fairly good, particularly for grazing, and the town is drained by the Raquette River, which flows northeasterly across from one corner to the opposite one. One of the chief reasons which led to the division from Louisville, was the existence of a large swamp between the Raquette and the Grass Rivers.

Soon after the erection of the town of Norfolk, and on the 5th of May, 1823, the first town meeting was held at the house of Elisha Adams, where the following named officers were elected: Christopher G. Stowe, supervisor; Erastus Hall, town clerk ; Elisha W. Barber, Ephraim S. Raymond, Roswell Hutchins, assessors; Ebenezer S. Sanburn, Bishop Booze, John Blanchard, commissioners of highways; Christopher G. Stowe, Ephraim S. Raymond, overseers of the poor; Russell C. Atwater, Roswell Hutchins, Erastus Hall, inspectors of common schools; Benjamin Raymond, Phineas Atwater, Roswell Hutchins, trustees of gospel and school lots.

It is no discredit to the permanent settlers of this town that the first operations towards cutting its forests were made by timber thieves previous to 1809. This is a fact that was common to many of the towns on the St. Lawrence and its large tributaries. The cutting of the very finest timber for vessel masts was in particular carried on by these depredators, and many beautiful sticks were taken out of Norfolk and shipped to Montreal.

In 1809 the first permanent settler arrived in the person of Erastus Hall, from Tyrringham, Mass. His first visit was one of exploration only. He reached Potsdam May 9, 1809, met there Judge Raymond, who had the land agency of that section, and who induced Hall to explore the territory then embraced in the town of Louisville. A bush road had been cut from Potsdam to the site of Raymondsvillc for the conveyance of potash to iriarket, and over that Mr. Hall traveled, accompanied by Ira Brewer, who was also from Tyrringham. Reaching that point and wishing to cross the river, they constructed a rude raft, loaded on it their baggage and started to pole it across the rapid stream. As a result they nearly lost their lives; but they did finally succeed in reaching the opposite shore. Returning on the following day to Potsdam, pleased with the outlook, they had farms surveyed by Sewall Raymond of Potsdam, and the first contract in the town was given to Mr. Hall in June of that year. The first frame house was built on the east side of the river at Raymondsville. Mr. Hall employed persons at Potsdatn to build him a house, and in the fall returned to his former home. After his settlement he resided in the town until his death at the age of eighty-three, on March 29, 1869. He was a conspicuous and useful citizen and left an estate valued at nearly $100,000. In the same year (1809) Eben Itidson, from Williston, Vt., and Martin Barney came in and made the beginning of a settlement. In March, 1810, Mr. Judson brought in his family, his wife being the first white woman settler.* The company consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Judson. three children, a brother and a brother-in-law, and Ashbel and John Hall, two young men who did not remain long. They had two horse teams, an ox team and a cow.

Major Bohan Shepard of St. Albans, Vt, acquired an early interest in this town, and in September, 1810, he sent on a company of about ten men, who built for him a saw mill on Trout Brook ; this was the first mill in the town. The second mills were built by Jonathan Culver, in 1812, at a place called Hutchins's Falls, about three miles below Raymondville, and at the lowest point on the Raquette where mills were ever erected. These mills were burned Judge Russell Atwater built the third mills in the lower part of what is now Norfolk village in the summer of 1816, which are alluded to a little further on. The first Durham boat on the Raquette River came up in 1816 from Schenectady, by the route which has been several times described ; it was laden with mill irons, goods and provisions, sent in by Judge Atwater. It was hauled around Culver's dam, before mentioned, and for a time afterward made regular trips from Culver's to Norfolk, in Connection with boats which ran below the dam to the St. Lawrence. The first bridge was built at the village site of Raymondville (which was called "Racketon" in early years) about 1814.

Christopher G. Stowe, Martin Barney, Milo Brewer and several others came in and began improvements in 1810, but the families of Hall and Judson were the only ones who remained through the winter. In 1811 several other families came in, and among those and others of later years who have been prominent in the community, may be mentioned Moses B and Col. Ira Hale, Joel Farnsworth, Divan R. Rich, father of Silas F. and Hiram Rich, Denis Kingsbury, Sylvester C. Kingsley, F-Ienry, John, William and Aaron Blanchard, Ephraim P. Raymond, Nathaniel F. Winslow, Joseph Cummings, Perry C. Bixby, Amos Kimball, C. C. Elms, Chauncey L. Shepard, son of Maj. Bohan Shepard, Ostnund Farwell, John Patterson, Samuel Adams, David C. Clinton, Wetmore Adoniram Lockwood. Ichabod Whitcomb, Lewis and Daniel Small, Fisher F. Ames, Amos W. Palmer, William W. Grandy, Lot and Jones Bradish, William L. Gadding, Ebenezer S. Sanburn, Elisha W. Barber, Roswell Hutchins, Julius and James Grant, the pioneers of what has since 1838 been known as the "Grant Settlement," on and around lots 72 and 73. Of these Messrs. Bixby, Shepard (on the place now occupied by his grandson, George B.), Farwell, Adams, Whitcomb (still living at the age of ninety), Grandv (who kept a hotel), Hutchins and others located on or near the village site.

The first white child born in the town was Roscius W. son of Eben Judson, now a lawyer and a prominent citizen of Ogdensburg, who was born August 7, 1810. The first death was that of Eben Judson, father of Roscius, who passed away June 29, 1813. Dr. Lemuel Winslow settled as the first physician in the town in 1811, coming from Williston, Vt. The first road opened was the one leading toward Massena in 1810.

As far as this territory was concerned, the War of 1812 produced little effect, aside from the general forebodings prevalent throughout all this section and rumors of Indian raids. The town was still a part of Louisville, and the reader is referred to the history of that town for the part taken by the inhabitants in our last struggle with a foreign nation.

No event of great importance has occurred in the town since its organization, aside from the part it was called upon to take in the War of the Rebellion. In that memorable struggle the inhabitants showed a patriotic willingness to aid the government and sent to the front about forty men, whose deeds are their best monument. While in manufacturing industries it perhaps cannot be said that the town has fulfilled the ardent expectations of its earlier inhabitants, in other directions it ranks among the more prosperous communities in the county. Its ample water power on the Raquette River, which led to the construction of seven or eight dams and various mills and factories, gave the inhabitants the right to hope for a great degree of prosperity from that source; that this has not been realized is due to several causes, chief among them being the absence of early railroad facilities. As a dairy town, however, it is excelled by few, the product being almost wholiy butter of high quality. There are four successful factories in the town and none for the manufacture of cheese. The further account of the industries is given in the pages of village history following.

A list of the supervisors of the town follows, with dates of their terms of service:
1823, Christopher G. Stowe; 1824-29, Phineas Atwater: 1830-31, William Blake; 1832-33, P. Atwater; 1834-36, William Blake; 1837, Norman Saekrider; 1838, William Blake; 1839. N. Sackrider; 1840-41, Hiram Atwater; 1842-45, Ira Hale; 1846-47, Giles I. HaIl; 1848-49, Calvin Elms; 1850-51, Nathaniel F. Beals; 1851-54, Christian Sackrider; 1855, Giles J. Hall; 1856, John Yale; 1857-59, Lewis Small; 1860, Horatio S. Munson ; 1861, William Glosson; 1862-65, John H. Brinkerhoif; 1866-68, Edwin H. Atwater; 1869-705 Joseph C. Mould; 1876-77, Edwin H. Atwater; 1878-80, S. J. Farnsworth; 1881-83, Edwin H. Atwater; 1884, Henry D. Carpenter; 1885, E. H. Atwater; 1886, S. J. Farnsworth; 1887-94, Oscar H. Hale.

Norfolk Village.- As has already been stated, the first settlement on the site of the village was made by Judge Russell Atwater, who came from Russell, in 1816. In June of the previous year he had purchased one half of the Morris tract and the west half of 88 in Louisville. This tract had been assigned to James D. Le Ray in a partition of lands and sold by him to Gouverneur Morris. A clearing of ten acres had been made for Le Ray in the lower part of the village site in 1811, and there a crop of wheat was raised the following year. Mr. Atwater built a large stone mill in the year of his arrival; it was burned and rebuilt and is now owned by Warren Dyke, having passed through various hands in the meantime, but recently passed to the possession of Mein & Baxter.

The mill drew around it other settlers and the hamlet slowly took on the character of a small but enterprising village. Among those who have in the past years contributed in a conspicuous manner to the prosperity and the moral progress of the village may be mentioned Norman and Christian Sackrider, Julius Judson, Thomas and Joseph C. Mould, William Atwater, M. D., Hiram Atwater, Timothy W. Osborne, Roswell Hutchins, Solomon Sartwell, Martin Beach, John P. and Henry A. Wetmore and the Robinson brothers, with others.

The Phcenix Iron Company, under the firm of E. Keyes & Co., was formed October 7, 1825, and the following year built a furnace on the north bank in the village, for making pig iron from bog ores which existed abundantly in swamps of this and neighboring towns. It passed through several hands and was run about four months in a year till 1844, when it was burned by an incendiary. It produced about twelve tons daily, and was lined with sandstone. In 1846 a forge was built by William Plake, a little above the furnace, and run two or three years, until it was burned.

Other manufactures that have been operated in the village were a tannery, operated by a Mr. Griffith, which was abandoned about 1870 also several shingle mills, two being in operation now, one in connec tion with the saw mill by E. W. Bemis and the other by Matthais Van Zandt. A tannery at East Norfolk, or Slab City, was in existence for many years, but was finally burned and was not rebuilt. A starch factory was started in 1874, but was not in operation long. In 1868 H. S. Martin purchased the sash factory of E. H. & L. L. Atwater and remodeled it into a huh factory, it being the first one started in the county. It was burned in 1870, was rebuilt and operated about a year, then transferred to Norwood. Besides, tl1ere have been the usual complement of small shops.

Of the village in 1853 Mr. Hough wrote as follows, which will indicate the former ardent hopes of the people:

The village of Norfolk possesses manufacturing facilities which are destined to render it a place of much importance. The Raquette River here has a descent of about 70 feet within a mile, passing over three dams already erected, and affording opportunity for at least four more, at each of which the whole volume of the river could he used. Below the upper dam the channel is divided by an island of about two acres in extent, which affords facilities for the erection of dams at its head and its foot, and the water could be diverted to either side or used upon both sides of the island and the main shore. At the foot of the island the water turns to the left, and the bank on the inside of the bend is so low and flat, and hut little elevated above high water mark, while that on the outside of the bend is an elevated plain of easy ascent, and abruptly terminating upon the river. * * * Throughout the whole extent the bed of the river is formed of limestone, affording at the same time a secure foundation for building, and the materials for erecting walls. Lime made of this stone is of good quality.

There are two general stores in the village, one formerly kept by G. A. Mowitt having gone out of business. The larger one is that of Ambrose E. Sayles and E. H. Atwater, and the other is kept by E. B. Fairchild and A. Branchaud.

In 1852 the town voted $650 for a town house, which was built in the village, of brick, 40 x 60 feet, with a wide piazza in front. This building was subsequently burned and the present one was erected in 1871. It is one of the finest in the county in the smaller towns and cost $3,000. Two handsome iron bridges span the river, one in the village and the other one-half mile below. The large brick hotel was built by E H. and L. L. Atwater, and is now kept by James Cullimore. The postmaster and justice of the peace is C. A. King.

Raymondville.- Sftafford's Gazeteer, published in 1813, has this paragraph:

The village of Racketon is a new and flourishing settlement, forming in the southeast part of the town, at the head of bateau navigation on the Raquette River, twenty miles from its confluence with the St. Lawrence. At this place, immediately above the landing, is a fall of the waters of the Raquette River of about fifteen feet, and excellent accommodations for hydraulic works. Racketon is about twenty-five miles east of Ogdensburg; and uniting its advantages for good navigation to the St. Lawrence with those of its central position in a rich and fertile country. must become a rich and popuions place.

Alas! for the errors of the prophets. A bridge was built across the the river at this point in 1814, and Judge Raymond, entertaining high anticipations for the future of his village, moved his family here in 1816 and they lived here several years. From him the inhabitants named the village Raymondville. Joseph Clark and William Coats were early residents of the village, the former being a wagon maker and the latter an extensive brick maker, an industry which is still in operation by members of his family. The first brick yard was established in 1817 by Erastus Hall; it was about half a mile below the village. A woolen factory was conducted for many years, passed through various hands to W. S Bennett. It was badly damaged by the great fresbetin 1891 and the proprietor took it into another building and it is now in operation. The grist mill has been in operation many years and is now abandoned; it was owned by John and James Donnelly. William Coats has a saw mill and shingle mill. A starch factory which was carried on for a few years by N. C. Bowen of Moira, N. Y., is now abandoned. A beautiful one-span iron bridge, taking the place of two other iron bridges having a center pier which were swept away by floods, crosses the river here and has withstood the floods about ten years. It cost $10,000. The postmaster is Simon N. Babcock.

A part of the hamlet of Yaleville is in this town in the southwest corner. There have recently been established there by O. E. Martin, an extensive pulp making industry which turns out twelve tons of wet pulp per day, and is noticed in the history of the town of Potsdam. A foundry and a saw mill once in operation there are not now in use. A grist mill is now in use there.

Religious Societies.- The first settlers living in the lower part of the town, were not church members, but men of moral worth. By common consent they assembled on the Sabbath at some one of their homes for religious worship. They sang hymns, read the Scriptures and a select sermon, then returned to their homes without stopping to visit. In the year 1811 a Congregational missionary, named Seth Burt, came from Massachusetts and left some religious books. Rev. James John son, from Potsdam, and Rev. Mr. Winchester, from Madrid, who also were Congregationalists, occasionally visited the community and held meetings at Raymondville. After Mr. Atwater's grist mill was far enough advanced, he fitted up the upper story for divine worship. A Congregational church was organized July 1, 1817, by Rev. Royal Phelps. acting as missionary, assisted by Rev. John Ransom of Hopkinton, with seventeen members. Meetings were held in the grist mill, school house and elsewhere previous to the building of the church. The society was incorporated February 20, 1828, with G. C. Stowe, Martin Beach, E. S. Tambling, William Blake, Philemon Kellogg and John C. Putnam, trustees. The Rev. Loring Brewster was installed as the first pastor, in April of that year. A re-organization was effected December 12, 1840, and in that year the church was erected at a cost of $3,000. The membership is less than 100, and the pulpit is supplied from the church at Norwood,

A Congregational church was organized at Raymondville March 12, 1828, as a branch of the parent church at Norfolk. The society showed little vitality until 1844, when they joined with the Methodists and erected a union brick church at a cost of $3,000. Since that time services in both denominations have been kept up with commendable regularity, but the membership is small.

The parish of Grace (Episcopal) church was at first organized in Norfolk, in 1825, by Rev. Seth M. Beardsley, a missionary. Services were kept up until July, 1836, when they were discontinued until March, 1842, at which time the church was reorganized under Rev. John A. Childs. On the 30th of July, 1845, the corner-stone of the present church was laid on a lot purchased by the vestry. Its massive walls of stone and its peculiar architecture make it a quaint landmark. The membership is small, but services have been kept up with commendable regularity. Rev. Mr. Earl is the present pastor.

The Methodist church was organized April 19, 1831, with Royal Sheldon, Lucius Chandler, Justus Webber, Hiram Johnson, and Ebenezer Houghton, as trustees. After nine years of faithful work the society reorganized February 10, 1840, and built their first house of worship, which they sold to the Catholic society in 1868, and built their present edifice. The church is now prosperous, and is at the present time ministered to by Rev. S. S. Short.

The Catholic church was organized in the summer of 1868, when they purchased the old Methodist church building and refitted it for their use. The first pastor was Father Swift. The society has prospered and has a membership of between 400 and 500. The present priest in charge is Father Fitzgerald.

* Mr. Hough makes the startling statement that they started on March 10, in the first snow storm that had fallen in that winter.

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