THE TOWN OF PHILADELPHIA.
The lands comprising the present town of Philadelphia were a part of the 220,000
acre tract conveyed January 3, 1800, by William Constable, on behalf of the Antwerp company, to James D. Le Ray,
the consideration paid for which was $46,315.12. Of that tract this town includes 21,800 acres, and is the smallest
of the county's civil divisions, except Pamelia.
Jacob Brown, the pioneer of Brownville and the entire region north of the Black river, was the direct cause of
the settlement of Philadelphia. He knew the character and quality of the lands and their natural advantages for
agricultural purposes, and this knowledge he caused to be circulated among his friends and acquaintances in Bucks
county and the eastern part of Pennsylvania, where he had lived previous to coming to the Black river country.
The result of his endeavors in this direction was a visit to the region in 1803 by Joseph Child, sen., Moses Moon,
and his son, James Moon, who made an exploration of the lands of that part of Brownville which was afterward set
off to Le Ray. They examined particularly in the locality between the Chassanis line directly north of Black river
village, and thence extending northeast in the direction of Le Raysville, or lots 629-32, which Joseph Child and
Moses Comfort at that time purchased. These were afterward used as sample lots in the negotiations for the company's
After having satisfied themselves as to the quality of the lands the explorers returned to Pennsylvania and reported
the results of their investigations to their friends, whereupon a company was formed to make an extensive purchase
of lots in this region. On February 16, 1804, Mr. Le Ray, who then lived at Burlington, N. J., made an agreement
to sell to the company, or its representatives, sixteen lots (7,040 acres), of land in Brownville, on great lot
No. 4 of the Macomb purchase, at the agreed price of $3 per acre, payable in five annual installments, with six
per cent. interest, with a ten per cent. discount for cash payment. It was also agreed and provided that the lands
should be of as good quality as lots 629-32 above mentioned.
For the purpose of this transaction, which at that time was one of considerable importance to the proprietor, for
these proposed Quaker purchasers were both a sturdy and substantial set of men, Mr. Le Ray caused to be laid out
a tract aggregating twenty-five lots of land, in the form of a rectangle, five lots deep and five wide, each presumably
containing 440 acres. The center lot was No. 611, whereon stands the village of Philadelphia, and which the proprietor
agreed to donate to the company for the "support of a meeting house and school lot." Mr. Le Ray, with
his customary business tact, then reserved two lots immediately north, south, east and west of the center lot,
thus selling to the company a block of four lots on each corner of the tract, or sixteen in all.
The purchasers comprising the company were Abram Stockton and Charles Ellis, of Burlington, N. J., and Mordecai
Taylor. Robert Comfort, Thomas and John Townsend, Israel Knight, Benjamin Rowland, Cadwallader Child, Moses Comfort,
John Jones, David Evans and Jason Merrick, all of Montgomery, Philadelphia and Bucks counties, Penn. and all of
whom, save Jason Merrick, were Quakers.
In May, 1804, after all the preliminaries of the purchase had been settled, Cadwallader Child, Mordècai
Taylor and Samuel Evans came to the locality by way of Albany, the Mohawk valley and the French road to Felt's
mills, where they crossed the river into Le Ray. then however, a part of Brownville. Then in pursuance of an agreement
with Le Ray, Mr. Child visited Jacob Brown at his home in Brownville and consulted with him in relation to the
survey of certain, necessary roads from settled points to the purchase and proposed new settlement. With a party
to assist in this work, our pioneer set out for Le Raysville, and from a point near the old "Methodist meeting
house" he followed a line of lots "of Broadhead's survey to the south corner of the center lot, and down
Black creek to its junction with Indian river, then called the west branch of the Oswegatchie."
It was in the performance of this work that Cadwallader Child first surveyed the road from Le Raysvilie to Philadelphia
in 1804, and the same business called him down to Alexandria Bay that year, when he discovered and reported to
the proprietor that the bay had all the requisites for a port, upon which a large tract was reserved by Le Ray
for a village site. The proprietor had agreed to have a wagon road opened from the St. Lawrence river through the
tract just sold, and thence continued to the old post road in Champion, and to have the work finished before the
first of December of that year. In this the proprietor had employed Mr. Child, and a more faithful employee was
never in his service. In the party besides Mr. Child were Mordecai Taylor and Samuel Evans,' his companions from
Pennsylvania, also Michael Coffeen, Solomon Parker, Robert Sixhury and one other in the capacity of assistant.
Sixbury was the hunter of the party, whose chief duty was to supply the surveyors with meat for their sustenance.
This he did, but his skill with the gun did not avail; when at Alexandria Bay the party found themselves entirely
out of all provisions but game. They were on the point of returning when a schooner happened to come down the river,
and being well supplied with "mess," kindly furnished enough to carry the surveyors to the end of their
Cadwallader Child was the leading spirit of this whole enterprise, and for many years afterward was a conspicuous
figure in town history, both in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the region, as a perusal of the town chapters will
show. But Mr. Child never sought to draw attention to himself, being a consistent Quaker, therefore free from all
ostentation or desire for prominence, and whatever he did, and whatever prominence he gained, was wholly in the
line of his business as surveyor, at which he was employed much of the time by Le Ray and also by the settlers
in this part of the county. It is in this connection that his name appears so frequently in the records.
According to the terms of the purchase, it was agreed that in case the lands should not be as good as those of
lots 629-32, of which question Richard Coxe, Jacob Brown and Jonas Smith were sole judges, the proprietor was to
make good the deficiency by an additional amount of land, but it does not appear that the arbiters were ever called
upon to pass on the matter, on the contrary it appears that the purchasers were well suited with their possessions.
It was also provided that the company should agree upon a division of the lots among themselves before the 25th
of Api-il after the purchase, which being (lone, Mr. LeRay executed deeds to each of the owners in May, 1804. The
lots sold were numbers 539, 540, 542, 543, 575, 576, 578, 579, 643, 644, 646, 647, 674, 675, 677 and 678. The lots
reserved by Le Ray were 541, 577, 609, 610, 612, 613, 645 and 646.
Lot No. 611, to which reference has been made, was given to the company for the support of a meeting house and
school. In all the snrveys made by Child this lot was used as the central or starting point. The surveying party
in following the Broadhead line struck the lot at its southeast corner, thence followed down Black creek to the
place of discharge into the Indian river as above stated. Here a cabin was built about on the site of the Philadelphia
grist mill of later years, now the Wilson mill. From this point the road was surveyed to the St. Lawrence, just
above Alexandria Bay, followed by another from the same starting point to the Black river at Great Bend. Thus the
road was surveyed. These things being done, Mr. Child, his nephew Samuel, and Thomas Ward, went upon lot 644, which
the surveyor had drawn in the company's division, made a small clearing of about two acres and built a rude log
cabin, but did not remain on the lot during the winter. This clearing was about one and a half miles south of the
village site, on the bank of a small creek, and on the farm where Oliver Child, son of the pioneer, afterward lived
so long. This was the first improvement in the town of Philadelphia, but the honor of being the first permanent
settler and pioneer in fact must be given to John Petty, who came to Le Ray in 1802 or '3, and in the fall of the
next year located on lot 672, building a cabin and remaining throughout the winter of 1804-5. His lands were embraced
in the farm afterward owned by John T. Strickland, at Strickland's corners, near Sterlingville. Daniel Coffeen
followed in the same fall, and made an improvement but did not settle until the next spring.
Returning briefly to the subject of lot 611, it may be said that while this donation on the part of the proprietor
was in itself a generous action, it was nevertheless the ultimate cause of much dissension and nearly resulted
in a disruption of the Quaker element of population. The lot had been placçd in the hands of trustees of
the company to manage for the public welfare, and on February 1, 1805, these trustees held a meeting and determined
to lay out the tract in lots of ten acres each, which should be rented to any person or persons who would clear
the same and build a log or frame house 18 feet square within four years. In compensation for this work the tenant
should be entitled to the use of the lot rent free for a term of ten years. It was also determined at the meeting
that the division and disposition should he made under the direction of Robert Comfort, Cadwallader Child, Thomas
and John Townsend and Jason Merrick.
However, settlement on the lot under direction of the committee was not rapid, nor was it satisfactory to the company.
During the first ten years less than one settlement per annum was made, therefore the trustees became dissatisfied
with their lack of success in attempting the disposition of the lots, and in 1815 applied to the Le Ray monthly
meeting of Friends to relieve them. This could not be accomplished without an act of the legislature, and as an
application of such character was inconsistent with the religious teachings of the Quakers, it was not made. In
April, 1816, the Le Ray meeting appointed a committee comprising Richard Hallock, Daniel Child, Joseph Child, jr.,
William Barber, John Strickland, jr., and Joel Haworth to confer and act with the trustees in the mangement of
the lot, said trustees having been reappointed, except Merrick, who continued to act with them. On June 9, 1823,
trustees Robert Comfort and Thomas Townsend quitclaimed their interests in the lot to Cadwallader Child and John
Townsend, and thereafter, between October, 1823, and 1838 "the whole 440 acres was leased out in about 40
lots, or parcels, at annual rents averaging less than one dollar per acre, forever." On July 7, 1825, the
society appointed Edmund Tucker, Daniel Child and John Strickland, jr., to procure quit-claim deeds from the persons
mentioned in the conveyances from Le Ray, but this could not be done on account of the refusal of some and the
death of other grantees, whose property was in estates. In the meantime another element of discord had arisen,
for in 1828 the Quakers here had become divided by the teachings of Elias Hicks. Edmund Tucker and John Strickland,
jr., were leaders of the dissentients, the Hicksites, while Daniel Child, Cadwallader Child and John Townsend remained
with the orthodox members. The latter element, however, continued in control of the lot and the meeting house,
which had been built in 1810.
On March 9, 1843, Samuel G. Slocum, Robert Townsend and Naylor Child were appointed trustees in place of Cadwallader
Child, John Townsend and Jason Merrick, and on January 9, 1845, the monthly meeting directed the trustees to quit-claim
to most of the tenants and occupants on the lots the parcels which they respectively held, in consideration of
the gross sum of $1,250, which was done, though without the consent of Naylor Child. This was the result of the
so-called antirent troubles, which began as early as 1835, and while following closely after the more serious similar
disturbance in Steuben county, was in no manner related to that event. The local anti-rent conflict had its origin
in the fact that the original leases had been subdivided, subleased and otherwise repeatedly conveyed by lessees
without the knowledge of the trustees, who were compelled frequently to distrain for rent against tenants whose
leasehold interest had been transferred to a subsequent occupant. This was a condition of frequent occurrence and
led to much feeling on the part of certain tenants in possession at the time, nearly all of whom organized together
to resist the claims attempted to be enforced against them to secure pay for the debts of their predecessors. Jesse
Smith, John F. Latimer and Samuel Rogers represented the tenancy in this matter, but legal and not forcible resistance
was determined upon.
In March, 1844, a petition was sent to the legislature for an act authorizing the trustees to sell the center lot,
but the attorney-general, to, whom the application was referred, reported that it was "not competent for any
court, or even the legislature itself, to add to or diminish from the estate thereby created, or to change the
nature of the trust, or to confer upon the trustees to convey the legal estate discharged of this trust, thus annexed
to it." However, the difficulty was finally settled by the execution of quit-claim deeds, and all arrearages
of rent were paid to April 1, 1844. Since that time the titles to lands on the lot have practically settled themselves,
although formerly regarded as resting on rather insecure foundations. On this score, however, there is now no doubt
for where half a century or more ago was the scene of almost constant disquiet and uncertainty regarding titles
is now one of the most progressive interior villages in Jefferson county. Notwithstanding all the difficulties
of the period, the original purpose of the donation of lot 611 was in a measure carried out. The meeting house
was built in 1810, and was afterward maintained with but little expense. Robert Comfort was preacher of the meetings.
A school was kept in the meeting house, although the first school in the settlement was opened in the dwelling'
of John Strickland, sen., and was taught by Anna Comstock. In 1835 a difference arose between the Quakers and the
trustees of the district regarding the employment of teachers, and resulted in the erection of a school house by
the district, and a school supported at the public expense.
In the early history of the lot and its settlement, the improvements most needed by the settlers were grist and
saw mills, and as an inducement to their erection Thomas and John Townsend were given the free use for 20 years
of a fifteen or twenty acre tract of land, to include the falls on Indian river, for the purpose mentioned. The
work of building was begun in the spring of 1805, the Townsends coming to the town in that year, as also did Robert
Comfort, Josiah Walton, Thomas Coxe Benjamin and Thomas Gilbert and Daniel Roberts. Warren and Andrew Foster arrived
soon afterward, and with the Gilberts and Walton were employed in working on the mills. The latter were built quickly,
yet well, and were sufficient for the time and the needs of the settlers. During the same season, a log house was
built for John Townsend, and stood about on the site of the present Eagle hotel. A dwelling was also built for
Robert Comfort, standing near the east end of the bridge, and was soon afterward opened for the accommodation of
travelers. It was the first public house in the town. In the fall of 1807 Joseph Bolton came and took possession
of the tavern and continued it as a house of "public entertainment," as called among the Quakers. In
1809, John Strickland, sen., purchased the Townsend mill property, and about the same time took up his residence
in the blockhouse which Thomas Townsend had built, but which he soon enlarged to double its original size. This
was the first framed dwelling house in either the settlement or town.
Having thus traced the early history of lot 611 and the territory In its immediate vicinity which was settled by
these industrious, persevering Quakers, a brief allusion may be made to the arrival of some of the more prominent
characters that made up this somewhat unique settlement, and also some of the pioneers and early settlers in other
parts of the town than the lots purchased by the company. As has been stated, the pioneers of the town was John
Petty, who purchased and settled on lands on lot 672, in the fall of 1804, and was thereafter a permanent resident.
Daniel Coffeen came during the same fall, but did not move there until the next year. Thomas and John Townsend
came in 1805 to build their mills, and brought with them the settlers mentioned in a preceding paragraph, all of
whom were in some manner afterward identified with the town in its early history. Josiah Walton settled on reserved
lot 645, where he employed men to make a clearing, and on which Cadwallader Child sewed the first crop of wheat.
John Townsend also sewed wheat the same fall, these being the first events of their kind in the town. Mr. Child
also built a log house on lot 611, in which he intended to live, but soon sold the improvement to Silas Walton,
another early corner.
Jason Merrick, the only member of the company not a Quaker, was a native of Holland, and came to the settlement
in 1805, making an improvement on lot 675, clearing the land and building a log house. In his family were six children.
John Strickland, of whom mention has been made, was one of the most wealthy and influential men of the town in
his time. He was a native of Bucks county, Pennsylvania, born in 1757, and came to this town in 1806, bringing
here, it is said, the sum of about $25,000 in cash. He bought the saw and grist mills built by the Townsends, and
was otherwise extensively interested in ProPertY in the town. His possessions at one time amounted to 5,000 acres
of land. During the war of 1812-15, he furnished supplies to the American army, but the somewhat unexpected return
of peace found him with a large quantity of provisions on hand, all of which he was compelled to sell at less than
half its original cost, thus seriously impairing his fortune. In his family were eleven children, and among his
descendants have been some of the best business men of the county. This worthy pioneer died Sept. 15, 1849. The
locality so long known as Strickland's Corners was named in allusion to the family.
Stephen Roberts was another settler in 1806, and also a former resident of Bucks county, Penna. He took up 440
acres just south of the village site. His children were Daniel, Elias, Hugh, Grace and Elizabeth Roberts. This
family name has also been well preserved in the town and county and includes men of capacity and worth. Benjamin
Gilbert also came in 1806, and John Strickland, jr., in 1807. In the latter year Joseph Bolton came and moved into
the tavern built by Robert Comfort as above stated.
Thus was accomplished the pioneer settlement, and thus was founded its earliest institutions. In this direction,
however, progress was slow previous to 1818, for the most desirable lands of the town were supposed to have been
taken by the Quakers and their friends, whose names we have attempted to recall. From this fact settlement on the
reserved lots, and as well in the remote parts of the town was delayed until later years. At that time Mr. Le Ray
was much engaged with his other enterprises, and after the Quaker settlement was founded he gave little attention
to its affairs. In 1807 the settlement suffered seriously from an epidemic of fever, from which Robert Comfort
lost two daughters and Jason Merrick a son, all of whom were buried in the settlement graveyard.
The causes which retarded settlement on the center lot and the Quaker lands generally, also delayed development
in other localities, but among the heads of families who came about or soon after the time of separate town organization
Harvey Hamblin, the second supervisor of the town, and the Ingleharts, who settled about two miles from the Quaker
settlement in 1810. In the same manner may be recalled and mentioned Alden Bucklin, Thomas, James and William Bones,
1)avid Mosher, John R. Taylor, Benjamin Jackman, Hiram Hinman, Platt Hoffman, Samuel C. Frey, Cyrus Dodge, Andrew
Warren, Benj. Gilbert, Benj. Foster, Samuel and Harvey Copley, Thomas and Duty Mosher, Alfred Coolidge, Gardner
Clark, and others now forgotten.
However, for the purpose of preserving the names of as many as possible of the older settlers in the town recourse
is had to the assessment rolls, which, fortunately are found in fair state of preservation, the oldest of which
is of the year 1827.
At that time the resident taxable inhabitants were William Allen, Stephen Baker, Alfred Coolidge, James and Allen
Cooper, Cadwallader and Aaron Child. Gardner Clark, John Edwards, Harvey Hamblin, Nehemiah Howland, David Holden,
Jonathan Mosher, Samuel Rogers, Stephen Roberts, Mahion Strickland, John Strickland, John Strickland, jr., Abiel
Shurtleff, Ai Shattuck, John Townsend, Edmund Tucker, John Whiting, Erastus Whitney, William York.
Organization. -Notwithstanding the conditions which surrounded early life and settlement in this town, it was deemed
advisable to make a division of the territory of Le Ray within about ten years after settlement on lot 611 was
begun, although not until 1821 was the creating act passed by the legislature. At that time three new towns were
erected in the northern part of the county, Viz.: Alexandria, Orleans and Philadelphia, all by the same act. That
portion of the act which related particularly to this town was as follows:
That all that part of the town of Le Ray, &c, "Beginning at the easterly corner of lot 164, on the
southwesterly line of the town of Antwerp, and running thence along the southeasterly line of the above new town
of Alexandria (referring to a preceding section) to the south corner of lot 223; thence southeasterly and parallel
with the southwest line of the town of Antwerp, to the northwest line of the town of Wilna; thence northeasterly
along the said line of Wilna to the town of Antwerp aforesaid; thence nqrthwesterly along the said town line of
Antwerp to the place of beginning, shall be and the same is hereby erected into a separate town by the name of
Philadelphia; and that the first town meeting shall be held at John Strickland's tavern house in the said town."
The first town meeting was held March 5, 1822, when these officers were elected: Supervisor, Alden Bucklin; town
clerk, John Strickland. jr.; assessors, Thomas Bones, Alden Bucklin, Abiel Shurtleff; collector, William Bones;
commissioners of highways, Cadwallader Child, John Townsend, Abiel Shurtleff; commissioners of common schools,
John Strickland, jr., David Mosher, James Bones; inspectors of schools, James Bones, Cadwallader Child, J. R. Taylor;
constable, William Bones.
In Philadelphia the geographical and topographical conditions are not unlike those of other towns in this part
of the county. The town, however, has two splendid watercourses, the Indian river and Black creek, which drain
the lands thoroughly, and also afford abundant water power for such milling enterprises as have from time to time
been established. The soil generally in the town is a clayey loam, comparatively fertile under proper cultivation,
yet affording excellent grazing and pasture lands. Iron ore has been found in considerable quantities, thus leading
to some important early industries.
From the time of its earliest settlement until its lands and resources were fully developed, the growth of the
town was slow and conservative. Indeed, nearly the whole population during the first twenty years of its history
were a conservative class of men and women, Quakers and Friends, steady, earnest plodders, caring little for other
than the plainest comforts and conveniences of life, and scorning all that savored of personal ambition and progression
as viewed at the present time. Yet in all this vast county there were no more industrious, intelligent and trustworthy
people than the early settlers on the company's lands in what is now Philadelphia. All their customs and manners
in life were peculiar, especially in their religious walk and observance, which were elements not calculated to
attract to the town other settlers than those who shared the same views; and it was not until dissensions began
to creep among them, growing out of the preaching of Elias Hicks, that many families of other sects came to town
to live. In 1820 the territory comprising the town contained 826 inhabitants, and in 1825 the number had notincreased.
The subsequent growth is fairly shown by extracting from the census table as follows:
In 1830 the inhabitantsnumbered 1,167; 1835, 1,616; 1840, 1,888; 1845, 1,942; 1850, 1,915; 1855, 1,743; 1860, 1,790;
1865, 1,715; 1870, 1,679; 1875, 1,751; 1880, 1,750; 1890, 1,662; 1892, 1,648.
From this it may be seen that the growth of the town in all branches of its history and interests has been steady,
healthful and permanent, and that the maximum was reached in 1860. This gradual growth was in a measure due to
the development of a certain special industry, and one which for a time brought a full measure of prosperity to
all interests. As an iron producing town Philadelphia began to attract attention about 1836, but the presence of
iron ores was known long before that time. As early as 1816 the Parish forge was started at Sterlingburgh, and
the industries which followed led to the operation of the mines of the town. In the extreme northern portion, on
lots numbers 543 and 544, iron ores were found in abundance, and on the farms of Almon Fuller and Abiel Shurtleff
operations began. The ore was taken to Sterlingville and there made into iron and its products, and was also taken
to Antwerp, Redwood and Carthage, where furnaces and forges were in operation. However, from this discovery and
production no immediate benefit accrued to the town except the royalty of fifty cents per ton which producers paid
to farmers owning the ore producing lands, until the erection of the iron works at Sterlingville. The ores were
not rich in quality and were used chiefly in combination with others. The beds were worked with greater or less
perseverance by various proprietors until about 1880 when they were closed. In 1867 the mines were sold to the
Sterlingville iron company, of Syracuse, to which place the ores were chiefly shipped as long as the business was
In 1836 a furnace was built on Black creek, in the south part of the town, for
the purpose of working ores produced in Antwerp. James Sterling was the founder of the enterprise and put his works
in opera. tion in June, 1837; and from that time until his death he was in some manner connected with the industry
in the town. He died in 1863. He was the direct cause and means of building up the little hamlet called for him
Sterlingville, and was withal, one of the foremost men of the town in his time.
While ores from Antwerp were used almost wholly for a time, the Sterling furnace soon began taking ore from lots
543 and 544, The business started well, and on August 31, 1837, the Sterling iron company was incorporated, having
a capital of $20,000. The incorporators were James Sterling, Orville Hungerford, George Walton, Caleb Essington
and George C. Sherman. This company did an extensive and profitable business for about three years, and at the
end of the first year gave a complimentary dinner to its employees and others connected with the industry. However,
in 1840 the company ceased operations and dissolved, and was succeeded in the same year (on May 19) by the Philadelphia
iron company, also incorporated, comprising Ephraim Taylor, Frederick Van Ostrand, George Dickerson, William Skinner
and John Gates. Under this management the furnace was rebuilt, but subsequent operations were not specially profitable
to the company, which soon afterward passed out of existence.
The next proprietor was Samuel G. Sterling, brother to the founder, the latter also having an active interest in
the business. They continued the furnace for several years, but with indifferent success. The buildings were burned
in 1849, but were rebuilt in 1851. A. P. Sterling, formerly of Antwerp, next succeeded, and conducted the business
from 1859 to 1869 and then sold to the Jefferson iron company, an Antwerp concern and owners of furnaces in other
localities. The enterprise at Sterlingville was abandoned about 1880, and now exists only in history and ruins.
In 1839, just before the Philadelphia iron company was formed, Caleb Essington, formerly of the Sterlingville iron
company, built a forge at this hamlet and conducted it for several years in the manufacture of refined iron. This
business was continued about twenty years.
The history of these industries is substantially the history of Sterlingville during the period of their operation,
for the hamlet was founded with them and suffered seriously when they ceased operations. A saw mill was built on
the village site as early as 1824 by Hamblin & Crofoot for Edmund Tucker, but was probably owned by Joseph
Bonaparte, who lived in Wilna, near Natural Bridge, and was something of a character in the early history of that
region. James Sterling also built a saw mill at the village in 1836. The grist mill was started several years later,
but now all these old industries are gone and only an idle saw mill serves to remind us of a once busy community
and of pros. perous times now passed.
Sterlingville was made a post-office in 1839, with George Walton as postmaster. In 1840 Rufus Hatch opened a public
house, but in the next year the long knownSterlingville house was opened by Frederick Van Ostrand, one of the furnace
company. Indeed, almost the entire business of the hamlet was controlled by the company operating the furnace and
forge. In 1850 the interests comprised the furnace and forge, two taverns, two stores, two saw mills, several small
shops, a district school, Catholic church, and about 300 inhabitants. The Union meeting house was built in 1856.
Beyond this condition the village has not materially progressed. During the period of operation of the furnace
and forge, and other industries; it was a place of busy activity, and all its institutions and interests appeared
to be well and permanently established, but when operations ceased the laboring element was compelled to seek other
places of employment and business was confined to the patronage drawn from the surrounding agricultural region.
This has been the condition of things for more than twenty-five years, yet Sterlingville is a pleasant little hamlet,
and is peopled with an industrious and thrifty class of residents. At this time the business interests comprise
the general stores owned by C. B. Corbin & Co. and Bigarel & Malone, and the unused saw mill. The public
buildings are the district school, the union meeting house and the Catholic church.
Sterlingville became a Catholic mission in 1837, and in 1839 a house of worship was built just outside the hamlet
proper, on a lot donated by John La Farge. At that time Rev. Michael Gilbride was priest in charge. In 1849 the
edifice was burned, but was replaced in 1854 with a larger structure. In 1885 the building was removed to the village.
It is still an out mission from Evans' Mills, under the care of Rev. A. L. Dufrasne.
The union meeting house was erected in 1856 by contributions from the generously disposed people of the locality,
and at a cost of about $1,800. During its history the building has been occupied by worship. ers of the Methodist
Episcopal, Protestant Episcopal, Universalist, Baptist and Disciple denomination, none of which was sufficiently
strong to maintain a church or support a separate pastor. The Methodists are the strongest denomination in this
part of the town, gradually and constantly growing in numbers and influence. The believers in the Disciple christian
teachings began holding meetings soon after 1845 and about five years later had effected an informal organization.
The society was formed in 1864, the original members numbering 22 persons, but did not progress much beyond this
condition in later years. Meetings were held in the union building at Sterlingville as long as the organization
was maintained. No regular services of this denomination have been held for more than fifteen years.
Among the old localities not now known to the town, except in local annals, is that once called Whitney's corners,
so named for one of the prominent families living on the old plank road between Evans' Mills and Ox Bow. A post-office
was established here in 1850, Cary Z. Eddy being postmaster. After one year he was succeeded by William M. Whitney,
who held the office until it was discontinued in 1856 During the stage days this locality enjoyed some prominence,
but when the railroad became the established means of travel it seemed to lose all its former importance. The same
may also be said of the locality known as Pogeland, in the east part of the town, on the old plank road leading
from Sterlingville to Antwerp. A post-office was established here in 1852, with Daniel Smith as postmaster. The
office was soon abolished, then restored, but permanently discontinued in 1855. The last postmaster was Theodore
These post hamlets had no special importance in the history of the town, and were only the natural results of
laying out the turnpikes along which they were established. After the construction of the first railroad through
the town their necessity was gone and they were discontinued. The first railroad constructed into the town was
the old Potsdam & Watertown, which was opened for traffic June 2, 1855. This road gave the village of Philadelphia
a special prominence in this l)art of the county, and also had a beneficial effect upon all other interests in
the town at large. This was followed by the Utica & Black river railroad, which was completed to Philadelphia
village February 2, 1872. The Black river and Morristown railroad, an extension of the last mentioned road, though
built by another company, was opened in the fall of 1873, as also was the Clayton and Theresa road, thus, with
the united lines, giving the town a special prominence and peculiar im portance in the north part of the county.
The benefits of these several roads have been apparent, and while they have not made it a manufacturing town, all
agricultural interests have been benefited in the ready means of shipment of products to market. Outside of the
principal village of Philadelphia the town has been almost purely an agricultural region since the iron works were
discontinued. The soil produces well in all staples, while cattle and stock raising and dairying are leading pursuits.
Butter and cheese have been produced with profitable results for many years. In connection with the latter several
factories have been maintained in the town for many years. They are located to accommodate the milk producers of
their region. The factories now in operation are known as the Spring factory, owned by George A. Fuller and located
in the northwest part of the town, below the old Shurtleff ore beds; the Wilson facfory (E. Wilson, owner), located
at Whitney's Corners; the Philadelphia village factory, William Flat, proprietor; the Jersey factory, owned by
Bradley Sterling, situated two miles east of the village. The town also has two good limburger cheese factories,
one of which is Owned by George Gebler, on the Galloway road, and the other by John E. Strickland, and located
at Strickland's Cor. ners.
Philadelphia Village. - The village of Philadelphia, original I y known as Quaker Settlement, dates its history
from the time when Cad wallãder Child and his party of surveyors built a log cabin about on the site of
the present Philadelphia grist mill. Of course it was a part of the plan of the Quaker community to found a settlement,
and James Le Ray also had that end in view when he made the donation of the lot to the company. In 1805 Thomas
and John Townsend built the dam and the mills, and in the same year Robert Comfort opened his dwelling as a house
of public entertainment, being succeeded by Joseph Bolton. In 1809 John Strickland purchased and continued the
mills and was otherwise a prominent factor in the early history of the settlement. In 1810 the first meeting house
was erected, and in the building a school was kept for seventeen years.
In 1812 the interests of the settlement comprised only the mills and the meeting house, but about this time Samuel
Case opened a stock of goods and began trading. Beyond this condition of growth and prosperity there was no material
advancement for many years. In 1824 the mills and store were still in operation, the meeting house still stood
and served for worship and school. Then there were about fifty-five families on the center lot, which comprised
In 1828 the persons living here and engaged in business were Edmund Tucker and Mr. Strickland, owners of the grist
mill; Platt Homan, miller; Samuel C. Frey and Cyrus Dodge, innkeepers; Harvey Hamblin, W. Mosher and John Cross,
shoemakers; James Cromwell, cabinetmaker; Robert Gray, son-in-law to Mr. Strickland, storekeeper on the corner
now of Antwerp and Main streets (successor to Samuel Case); Seth Otis, storekeeper; Dr. Almon Pitcher, physician;
Horace Ball, carding, fulling and cloth mill; and also Stephen Roberts. Orrin Cloyse, John Root, Elijah Comstock,
Edmund Hall and Justin Gibbs, each of whom was engaged in some honest calling, for this settlement of staid and
sturdy Quakers was no place for idlers. At a little later period William Comstock took the cloth mill, and was
in turn succeeded by Milo Shattuck and one Houghton. Robert Gray also had a distillery, the only industry of its
kind ever in the town, but the period of its operation was not long.
About this time the Quakers who constituted the principal element of population at the settlement, became much
disturbed on account of the teachings of Elias Hicks, and the agitation of the period finally terminated in the
division of their community, with some feeling on both sides. Of course during the time there could not be any
healthful growth or advancement in any direction. Indeed, a contrary condition prevailed, and the settlement lost
some of its former inhabitants. Soon afterward followed the anti-rent disturbances, which continued with considerable
bitterness from 1835 to 1844, and in a measure involved the whole town, even to some of the Quakers. Samuel Rogers,
who with John F. Latimer and Jesse Smith. were the committee to represent the anti-renters in resisting payments,
was himself a Quaker, and still others took part in the events of the time. However, as is mentioned in preceding
pages, the period passed without more serious results than warm discussions and little open resistance to rent
collectors, after which events resumed their natural channels. In the meantime the settlement enjoyed no substantial
growth or prosperity, and it was not until after the construction of the first railroad in 1855 that the hamlet
took the semblance of a village.
In 1856, when Daniel H. Seofield came to Philadelphia, there was but one mercantile store in the place. W. W. Merrick
& Co. (Mr. Sisson being the partner) were in trade where Gardner's store now stands. The building was afterward
burned. Holmes & Scofield began business in that year in a building on the present bakery site. They were the
leading and in fact about the only merchants of prominence for many years, and while the railroad was in many ways
of benefit to local interests, the importance of Philadelphia on the old stage route was lost. For nearly thirty
years after this, although during the time various interests were established and passed through the usual changes
in business life, there was no remarkable increase in any direction, and not until about 1866 did prosperity in
fact come, although in the mean time village incorporation was effected.
On January 16, 1872, a special election of the inhabitants was held for the purpose of determining the question
of incorporation. The proceeding was conducted by Loren Fuller, supervisor, and C. E. Gould, town clerk. The whole
number of votes cast was 96, of which 73 were for and 23 against the proposition. The survey of the proposed tract
was made Dec. 4, 1871, and included 640 acres of land. The first election of village officers was held March 4,
1872, and resulted as follows: President, Daniel H. Scofield; trustees, Seth Strickland, Orrin A. Cross and George
A. Tucker; clerk, Asa E. Macomber; street commissioner, James Barr.
At that time the village contained 625 inhabitants. The present number, according to careful estimate, is 1,200.
It will be seen from this that the population during the twenty-five years of its municipal history has nearly
doubled, due in a great measure to the prominence the village has gained as a railroad center, and also to the
starting of several important manufacturing enterprises. In 1886 Daniel H. Scofield built the large brick building
at the corner of Main and Antwerp streets, and in the same year on the opposite corner C. W. Hall built the Eagle
hotel, on the site where a public house has been maintained from the earliest settlement, and where not less than
twenty-five landlords have provided comfort to the traveling public. The present Eagle hotel is known as one of
the largest country houses in the north part of the county. In the same year (1886) about 25 new dwellings were
built in the village.
The William Roberts lumber mills had been built in 1882, and employed about 70 men. The old flour mills had been
in operation since 1805, employing several men. Other industries which contributed to this fortunate condition,
though some of them in 1886 were not in active operation, were the Aldrich saw mill, which Hamblen & Crofoot
built originally in 1826; Farnham's tannery, built in 1842 by James Short; Potter's cabinet works, which succeeded
Milo Shattuck's cloth mill, and several other interests of perhaps less note.
The Bank of Philadelphia filed articles of association and incorporation February 7, 1888, and commenced business
March 1st thereafter. The capital was $25,000, and nearly every business man in the town subscribed to the stock.
The first officers were Daniel H. Scofield, president; William Roberts, vice president, and H. 0. Gardner, cashiei.
On March 3, 1893, Andrew C. Comstock succeeded Mr. Scofield as president; and on August 2, 1897, William A. Markwick
became cashier in place of Mr. Gardner. The bank was something of an experiment in the village but was deemed necessary
to local interests. It has done a safe, conservative business, and is regarded as one of the sound financial institutions
of the county. The deposits average about $50,000, and the surplus and undivided profit account is more than $5,000.
The Indian river chair company (limited) was incorporated in 1890, by Wm. Roberts, D. H. Scofield, A. C. Comstock,
M. E. Aldrich and I. C. Mosher, and with a capital of $15,000 (subsequently increased to $30,000). The first officers
were Wm. Roberts, prest.; D. H. Scofield, vice-prest.; I. C. Mosher, treas., and H. O. Gardner, sec'y. The company
took the old saw mill property and remodeled it into a large factory building and began the manufacture of reed
chairs, furniture, fancy rockers, and cobbler's, saddle seat and upholstered chairs, employing 75 men. In January,
1894, Wm. Roberts became president, G. W. Roberts, vice president and treasurer, and C. 0. Roberts, secretary and
general manager. An extensive business was done by the company, and when the outlook was most promising, on September
30, 1897, the works were entirely destroyed by fire. Thus the village lost one of its best and largest industries.
The present mercantile and manufacturing interests of the village are almost equal in number and importance to
those of any previous period of its history, and far greater than when the incorporation was effected. The saw
and planing mills owned by William Roberts arc among the best surviving industries, which, with his grist mill
make the proprietor one of the largest employers of labor in the village.
The other interests are about as follows; Seeber & Groat, sash, door and blind factory; Wilson Bros., proprietors
of the Philadelphia flour mills; Wm. Flath, cheese factory; D. H. Scofleld & Son, general store; A. C. Cornstock,
hardware; C. C. Neville, grocer; W. J. Guthrie, meat market; M. E. Aldrich. drugs; Webb Garchier, clothing; James
Neville, livery; H. P. McNiel, hardware: G. W. Fuller, harness shop; John Payne, grocer; B. F. Kent, boots and
shoes and jewelry; O. F. Grappotte, groceries; W. J. Linstrath, furniture; C. W. Griffin, general store; R. Adrian,
shoe shop; W. J. Wait, drugs and groceries; E. Cooper, meat market; W. K. Peck, blacksmith; Francis Wilson, proprietor
Eagle hotel; Geo. Fisher, proprietor Fisher's hotel.
The educational history of the village may also be briefly recalled. In 1810 Anna Comstock kept a little school
in a part of the dwelling owned by John Strickland, the property purchased by him from Thomas Townsend. This was
the first school in the town. Miss Comstock afterward taught school in the old Quaker meeting house built in 1810,
which was continued until 1827. In 1822, the year after the town was created, commissioners John Strickland, jr.,
David Mosher and James Bones divided the territory into four districts and made provision for a school in each.
The center lot was included in district number three. In 1825 a serious discussion arose among the factioas regarding
the school on this lot, the chief parties to the controversy being the Hicksites and orthodox Quakers, the latter
siding with the settlers on the lot who were not Quakers. Charges of unfairness and misappropria tion of funds
were made, and also the claim that the Hicksites refused attendance to children not of their creed. A warm discussion
followed, but in 1837 another school house was built, and stood on a lot donated by John F. Latimer. This school
was supported at the public expense. In 1851 the Quakers built a school house just south of the R. W. & O.
track (as afterward built), where school was taught several years. In 1809 the district purchased the old meeting
house lot, sold three acres and retained two acres for school purposes. The meeting house was occupied for a time,
but as the school population increased a large building was erected, and is still in use although it has been occasionally
repaired and remodeled.
In 1893 the Philadelphia union free school district was organized, and in 1894 the school came under the supervision
of the state regents. when the greatest improvements to the system were made. The school is now maintained at an
annual expense of about $2,400. The attendance averages from 175 to 200 pupils. Since the fall of 1894 the school
has been in charge of J. G. Peck. The board of education comprises W. A. Markwick (pres.), Robert Adrian, W. C.
Holmes (sec.) and Wm. Guthrie.
In the same connection it is also proper to mention the old Philadelphia library, formed Sept. 13, 1831, and indirectly
associated with the educational institutions of the village. The trustees and active promoters of this commendable
enterprise were Edmund Tucker, Alvah Murdock, Henry W. Marshall, Joel Haworth, John E. Latimer, Samuel Rogers,
Azel Danforth, Weeden Mosher, and John R. Taylor. For some cause the enterprise was not specially successful, and
was soon dissolved, the library passing into the hands of Mr. Latimer.
The Philadelphia water works system was established in 1890. For all previous time in the history of both settlement
and village the inhabitants were obliged to depend on the sometimes impure waters of Indian river or Black creek,
or the shallow wells in the locality. A complete and reliable water supply at last became a necessity, therefore
in the year mentioned the village electors voted to bond to the extent of $30,000 for construction purposes. A
reservoir was built on the plains, four miles from the village, and main pipes were extended thence to the village
and throughout its principal streets. There are now about seven or eight miles of main pipe, from four to eight
inches in diameter, thirty-two fire hydrants, and about 150 taps. The system is in charge of a commission comprising
William Roberts, president; Isaac C. Mosher, secretary, superintendent and manager, and A. C. Cornstock.
Philadelphia lodge No. 690, I. O. O. F., was instituted Feb. 14, 1894, with 26 charter members, and from that time
has grown to a present membership of 75. The past grands have been as follows: D. C. Rodenhurst, L. M. Aldrich,
W. A. Markwick, George A. Fuller (two terms), G. F. Olds and A. W. Danforth.
The religious history of the village is also interesting, yet of the several denominations which have in the past
had an organization and place of worship but three remain at this time. The Quakers were a Peculiar people and
worshiped according to the primitive and strict ideas which have always marked their sect. They were earnest, sincere
and devoted followers of Christianity as understood by them, and their lives and example had an influente for good
throughout the town until they became divided on doctrinal questions. Their meeting house on the center lot was
built in 1810 (one authority says 1809) and was used both for meetings and for school purposes until 1827, and
afterward for school alone. In this year a second meeting house was built under the direction of John Strickland,
jr., Edmund Tucker, John Townsend and Cadwallader Child, and cost $800. In the next year the division in the society
took place, and while both factions assembled in the same house for worship, the meetings were held separately.
Trom this time the influence and strength of the Quakers began to decline, and as a religious society they passed
out of existence between the years 1850 and 1860. In 1869 the meeting house was sold to the school district.
The Methodists were second in the field, on center lot 611, and began their missionary labors soon after the Quakers
became divided, although it cannot be said that Methodism in the village was in any sense the outgrowth of that
controversy. The first society of the denomination was formed March 9, 1838, the trustees being Wm. Powell, George
Sim, Theodore Cross, Stephen Post and Charles R. Smith. In this year a house of worship was built on land of Wm.
Powell at Pogeland. The society maintained an organization until 1867, and then merged in the society at Philadelphia
village, the latter having been formed in 1843, and drawing largely from the membership of the older organization.
The first trustees of the village society were Sterling Graves, Richard Crabb, Nelson Chadwick and Ben]amin Allen.
The church edifice was also built in 1843, but in 1858 was removed to the lot at the corner of Main and Church
streets. The parsonage was erected in 1858. This is undoubtedly the strongest church organization in the town,
numhering 210 full members and 34 probationers, with a Sunday school attendance of 270 pupils. The present pastor
is Rev. R. Flint.
The Baptist church of Philadelphia was organized Nov. 5, 1840, with 10 constituent members, viz.: Wm. and Henry
York, Nathan Frink, Walter and Henry Colton, E. D. Woodwarci, Diana Baker, Laura Taylor and sisters Cloyse and
Colton. The society was incorporated Dec. 14, 1840, Elias Roberts, B. D. Woodwarci, Walter Colton, Jesse Smith
and Henry York being the first trustees. In 1841, in union with the Congregational members of the village, a house
of worship was built on Main street. The building became the sole property of the Baptist society in 1868. The
first pastor was Rev. Ashbel Stevens. The present pastor is Rev. G. C. Jeffers, settled in 1895. The church members
number 74. The property is valued at $4,500.
The Congregational church of Philadelphia, as now existing, was in a measure the outgrowth of the dissensions among
the Quaker element of the population. On January 28, 1859, they, with certain former Presbyterians, formed a new
society called "the friends of Christian union in Philadelphia." The trustees were John Wait (at whose
house the organization was effected), Andrew Miller, Lucius Smith, Francis D. York, Brackett Ackerman, Nathan R.
Whitney and William S. Nichols. Steps were at once taken to create a building fund, which being done, a church
edifice was erected the next year. Rev. James Gregg was the first pastor. However, in 1841 Rev. Nathaniel Dutton,
that pioneer missionary worker of Champion, organized a Congregational society in this town, and preached for them
several years. On February 8, 1841, this society was incorporated, with Milo Shattuck, Nelson Ackert, Abijah Ford,
Peter Bethel and Alvah Murdock as trustees. Sometime previous to 1800 this church became Presbyterian, and so continued
until 1868 (Jan. 29) when it again adopted the Congregational form of government, and merged in the church first
mentioned. In 1889 the edifice was materially repaired at a cost of about $2,000. The church has a total membership
of 65 persons, and is under the pastoral care of Rev. A. W. Danforth, who was called to Philadelphia in 1892.
In 1888 the Episcopal mission of St. Luke's was established and for a time services were held in the village. The
number of communicants did not exceed twelve. For many years the village has also been a missionary Catholic station
and includes all the Catholic families of the northern part of the town.
The town of Philadelphia during the seventy-five years of its history has furnished to Jefferson county many prominent
and influential men. The earliest settlers were Quakers, nearly all of whom came to this region with little means,
and who were not what are generally called ambitious men, but came that they might be surrounded with the common
comforts of life and rear their children to useful pursuits under the religious teachings which was part of their
existence. Among them Cadwallader Child was perhaps the most conspicuous personage, but even he was devoid of all
that savored of personal ambition. He held some minor offices, but was chiefly conspicuous in connection with land
surveys in the north part of the county. In his family were five children, of whom Oliver Child was perlIaps the
most prominent. However, the surname Child has not many representatives now in this part of the county.
Among the other prominent and well known characters in connection with the history of the town half a century ago
may be recalled the names of Strickland, among whom were many conspicuous representatives; also the names of Alden
Bucklin, Harvey Hamblin, John R. Taylor, Benjamin Jackman, Henry W. Marshall, Azel W. Danforth, Hiram Hinman, Jesse
Smith, Miles Strickland, William Mosher and others equally worthy, all of whom were factors in local history previous
to 1840. At a later period were Alden Adams, Lansing Becker, Seth Strickland, Loren Fuller, John Allis, Daniel
H. Scofield, A. C. Cornstock, George E. Tucker, A. W. Oatman, William Roberts and Otis Brooks, all persevering,
industrious, thrifty, public spirited and therefore successful men, who by their works have built up and maintained
this among the progressive towns of the county.
Supervisors. Alden Bucklin, 1822; Harvey Hamblin, 1823-26; John R. Taylor, 1827-28; Benjamin Jackman, 1829-31;
Hiram Hinmau, 1832; Henry W. Marshall, 1833; Jesse Smith, 1834-36; Miles Strickland, 1837; William Skinner, 1838;
Miles Strickland, 1839; George Walton, 1840;Jesse Smith, 1841; Miles Strickland, 1842; John F. Latimer, 1843; Azel
W. Danforth, 1844-46; Lyman Wilson, 1847; Smith Backus, 1848-49; George Frazier, 1850; William Skinner, 1850-51;
Alden Adams, 1852-53; Seth Strickland, 1854-58; John Allis, 1859-61; Lansing Becker, 1862-63; John S. Peck, 1864-65;
Seth Strickland, 1866; Loren Fuller, 1867-72; George E. Tucker, 1873-79; Andrew C. Comstock, 1880; S. Monroe, 1881;
George E. Tucker, 1882-83; Andrew C. Comstock, 1884-88; Charles O. Roberts, 1889; Albert Oatman, 1890; Charles
O. Roberts, 1891-99.