History of Pitcairn, NY


Local Histories

THIS was the twenty-fifth town erected by an act of the Legislature passed March 24, 1836. It was formerly under the jurisdiction of Fowler and Edwards, containing the township No. 11, or Portaferry, excepting a triangular tract on the west corner, which was retained by Fowler. The town borders on Lewis county, and lies in the rear of Fowler and Edwards, and joins the town of Fine in the southwest part of the county. The first town meeting was held at the house of David Brown and the following officers elected: John Sloper, supervisor; Stephen Seabury, town clerk; Levi W. Gleason, Sylvester Bacon, and Aaron Geer, justices of the peace; Samuel Gustin, Almond Howard, and Robert Leach, assessors; Matthew M. Geer, collector; John Williams, George P. Burdick, and Levi Gleason, commissioners of highways; George P. Burdick and Almond Howard, overseers of the poor; Matthew M. Geer and Constant Wells, constable.

The township was assigned to Daniel McCormick and transferred by him to Joseph Pitcairn, from whom it received its name. The town is well watered by the south branch of the Oswegatchie and numerous smaller streams of pure water. The surface is chiefly rough and rocky, but in some of the narrow valleys the land is very productive. The first clearing in the wilderness of Portaferry was made in 1824 by James Streeter, who brought in his family the following year. Quite a number of other settlers came in 1824-5 and made small clearings, among them being Nathaniel, Elisha and Joseph Lanphear, Joshua Sloper, Aaron Geer, Dayton Merrell, George Peabody, Levi W. Gleason, Nathaniel C. Scovil, Nathan Dickenson and his five sons; and a little later these were followed by Samuel Gustin, George P. Burdick, Samuel Walling, Freeman Anderson, Stephen Seabury, and others. In succeeding years settlers slowly spread themselves over the territory, the forbidding character of which seemed to offer them little inducement in the way of sites for homes.

The first white male child born in the town was Calvin, son of N. C. Scovil, June, 1825; the first female was Harriet, daughter of Levi Gleason, born September 24, 1825. The first marriage was Aaron Bingham to Miss C. Dickenson in 1826. The first school was taught by Miss Caroline Dickinson in 1826. The first saw mill was erected in 1828 by Major P. Jenne (or Jenny) upon the creek that bears his name, and another was built a little later in the eastern part; both of these sites were long occupied by mills. At the present time N. H. Carter operates the mill at Pitcairn village on Jenny Creek and also a feed mill. At East Pitcairn is a steam, lumber and shingle mill operated by Wright Mason. There are two steam mills in the western part, one operated by Stephen Davis, built about five years ago; and one by Eli Pettis, built about two years ago. At Jayville, a hamlet in the southeast corner of the town and a station on the Carthage und St. Lawrence Railroad, there are two steam mills owned by Post & Henderson and J. S. Demott, respectively, of Oswego. Other business enterprises of the town are the store and hotel of John L. Guiles, and the store of V. J. Van Ornum at Pitcairn; the cheese factory and store of L. W. Hubbard at East Pitcairn; the cheese factory of Wilson Wing at Pitcairn and store of A. H. Andrews at Jayville. The agriculture of the town consists mainly of the production of excellent butter and cheese, and the raising of grain and particularly of potatoes. In the latter industry H. C. Pearson has accomplished results that have given him a very extended reputation. He supplied no less than thirty two varieties to the State exhibit for the World's Fair. Quite extensive iron mining operations have been carried on for several years at jayville in the valuable magnetic ore of that locality; but at the present time the works are idle. Traces of lead has been discovered, but not in sufficient quantities to warrant mining. There are three post-offices in the town : Pitcairn, with E, B Shipman, postmaster; East Pitcairn, with Simeon Wells, postmaster; and Jayville, with A. H. Andrews, postmaster.

The following incident happened near where Green's mill now stands about 1820, while the territory belonged to Fowler. Mr. James Streeter was out hunting deer in February, when there was about three feet of snow on the ground. He came on to panther tracks and traced them across the ice, and found a place where they had pawed away the snow to the leaves and where five had nested the night previous. Following on the tracks he soon overtook a male panther, which his dog treed, and which lie killed by a single shot, A few rods beyond a young panther was treed, when it required a second shot to dispatch him, and shortly after another young one was treed and killed by a single shot. The three were beheaded and taken to the camp. The next morning Mr. Streeter returned with a companion, when the female panther was killed. A large male panther was treed soon after and killed after being shot several times. This one, however, evinced much venom, keeping his eyes fixed on the hunters, disregarding the dog, gnashing his teeth, growling, spitting after the fashion of a cat, and would run up and down the branches as if about to attack them, then seating himself would purr also like a cat. The bounties were twenty-five dollars each, a good day's work.

Following is a list of the supervisors of the town, with their years of service.
John Sloper, from the first election to the year 1840, inclusive; Sylvester Bacon, 1841- 42; Horatio N. Diekenson, 1843-44; Asapli Green, to fill vacancy in 1844, '45, '46, '47, '51, '62, '53 and '54; Eli R. Paul, 1848, '49, '50, and 1855; Lorenzo D. Geer, 1856, '57, and 1869; Volney M. Carter, 1858, '59, and 1870 to 1877, inclusive; G. M. Gleason, 1860, '64, '65, '67, '68; Joel Manchester, 1861, '62, '63; Thomas P. Geer, 1866: L. D. Geer, 1878, 1881; E. W. Gleason, 1879-80; Safford Royce, 1882-3; S. B. Van Patten, 1884-89; Frank Manchester, 1800; John Geer, 1891-3.


The Baptist church was the first society organized in the town, which was formed in 1826, with nine members and Rev. Jonathan Paine, pastor. The organization continued about seven years. Another Baptist society was organized in Pitcairn in 1842, with six members and Elder E. J. Davis as the first preacher. For some twenty years after 1855 Rev. C. H. Dyke ministered to the congregation with churches at Edwards and Fine.

A Congregational church was organized by Rev. James Murdock, of Gouverneur, at Pitcairn about 1829, with Constant Wells and fifteen others, but in course of time the death and removal of most of the members caused its discontin uance.

A Methodist class was formed about 1830, and has been kept alive, service being held in the Union church mentioned below.

There was no house of worship in the town until 1875, when Constant Wells, one of the pioneers, erected and donated a building which he named "The Union Church of East Pitcairn." It cost $1.000. The lot was donated by Charles H. Bowles. Six dollars were donated by a man in Brooklyn. The building has since been used by the various denominations as occasion offered. Previous to this all denominations held services in barns, dwelling and school houses.

A society known as Disciples was formed in the west part of the town, under the preaching of Rev. Mr. Cooper, about 1872, with several members. They increased to about sixty at one time but decreased later.

The Free Will Baptists formed a small society and held meetings occasionally in town.

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