HISTORY of WATERTOWN, NY
FROM OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE
A DESCRIPTIVE WORK ON JEFFERSON COUNTY
NEW YORK
EDITED BY: EDGAR C. EMERSON
THE BOSTON HISTORY COMPANY, PUBLISHERS 1898



THE TOWN OF WATERTOWN.

In 1796 the veteran land surveyor, Benjamin Wright, laid out into townships and lots the entire Black river tract, or the eleven towns, comprising substantially all of great lots numbers five and six of the original Macomb purchase. Through various sales and transfers the title to the vast tract became vested (July 15, 1795) in Nicholas Low, William Henderson, Richard Harrison and Josiah Ogden Hoffman, who paid for the same one dollar per acre. After having thus acquired title the proprietors employed Benjamin Wright to make the survey and subdivision mentioned, and then (August 5, 1796) divided the townships among themselves by ballot, using the lands of Worth as “boot money” equivalent. On this division townships Nos. 2, 7 and 11, or the subsequently created towns of Watertown, Adams and Lowville, fell to Nicholas Low, under whom, through the agency of Silas Stow, M. S. Miller and I. W. Bostwick, acting in succession, the lands were disposed of to settlers. Wright’s survey showed an aggregate of 26,485 acres of land in No. 2, which he divided into 52 lots, ranging from 450 to 625 acres each. A subsequent survey by Robert McDowell found the town to contain 26,667 acres. The lots were subdivided in 1801 by Joseph Crary, under the direction of agent Stow, who accomplished the work of settling the lands with the best pioneer element in the whole Black river country. However, before entering upon a detail of the events of this period of our history, let us briefly turn back and learn something of the previous occupants of the region and preserve for future generations the knowledge of their places of abode and also of their offensive and defensive fortifications.

Watertown presents many evidences of the aboriginal occupation, and it may truthfully be said that no other town in the state furnishes more decided proofs of the Indian occupancy and warfare. In the eastern part of the town the range of Rutland hills breaks away from the line of Black river and takes a southwesterly cours& toward the lake. Here, too, are the headwaters of North Sandy creek, which one or two centuries ago was plentifully supplied with fish, while the surrounding forests furnished abundant game for the chase. Hunting and fishing was the chief occupation of the Indians, and it is not surprising that this locality should have been one of their favorite haunts. It was here that they erected some of their strongest defensive works, and also established their most populous temporary villages, lines of which follow the Rutland and Dry Hill ranges from the northeast to the southwest part of the town, and which, with like works in Rutland, on the east, and Rodman, Adams and Ellisburgh on the west, forms a continuous chain of defenses from the Black river to Lake Ontario.

In this town four distinct fortifications were found, plans of which are reproduced in this chapter (plates made in 1849 from actual surveys, and from information received from pioneers and early settlers). Perhaps the strongest and most modern of all these works was that found on the farm of the late Amby H. Gragg, about half a mile northeast of Burrville. In 1802 Rev. John Taylor made a missionary tour through this part of the state, and in visiting this fort made a plan of it, which is almost identical with that produced in this chapter. The description of this work was prepared in 1849, and is fairly descriptive of present surroundings. It is as follows:

“There is a work on lands formerly owned by William Lampson, near the residence of Joseph Gibbs (now Mrs. A. H. Gragg) one half mile east of Burrville, and about one-fourth of a mile from the Rutland town line, on lot No. 24. It is a crescent running across an elevated ridge, the steep bank of which completed the enclosure, and would have rendered it a very suitable position for defense. No graves were found and there is reason to believe it was a military work, belonging to a period long subsequent to that of many others in this section of the state. On the hillside is a spring of water, and within the enclosure a large boulder of gneiss which has been worn smooth and concave in places by the rubbing of stone implements. On a point of land across the deep valley was picked up a cast iron ball weighing eight ounces. Several of those have at various times been found by inhabitants, and this leads to the conjecture that they may have a connection with the history of the work. Fragments and implements of aboriginal workmanship have been abundant. This site being on the line between Montreal and Onondaga, may we not reasonably conclude that it may have been a camp or station of the French, at the period when they occupied trading and missionary posts among the Iroquois two centuries ago? No trace of the original mound is now left. The sketch was drawn under direction of one of the early settlers, who was familiaT with it when the country was first cleared.” The hillside spring was dried up with the settlement of the country, and the boulder was long ago removed as an obstruction to cultivation of the soil.

The point of land occupied by this fortification was also the site of an ancient village, relics of which are yet found in considerable quantities. It was thus occupied as an Indian encampment when the pioneers came into the county.

About two miles west of Burrville, and two and one half miles southeast of Watertown (on the farm now owned by Mrs. Truman Hungerford) was formerly the remains of an Indian earthwork, of which the following plan and description were made in 1849: “On lot No. 29, on the farm of the late Anson Hungerford, there was formerly a trench enclosure which is now obliterated by many years’ cultivation. Its place and relative position appears in the outline and sketch. It is said to have resembled the work near it. It had gateways, or intervals, at irregular distances, and was surrounded by a ditch so deep that a team could not drive across it without great difficulty.”

A short distance from the above work and on the same range and lot, on lands of the late Asa Goodenough (now owned by Mrs. Marvel Bailey) is another trench evidently intended as a defensive work, still in perfect preservation, and the most distinct of any similar structure in northern New York. This locality is two and one-half miles southeast of Watertown, on the summit of a gradually sloping natural terrace of Trenton limestone, in the edge of an open wood, and commands an extensive and pleasant view. In 1849 elm trees three feet in diameter were found growing on the banks, while within the enclosure were found decayed remains of oak and other large trees, indicating not so much the age of the work as that the entrenchment was thrown up in the woods without removing the trees. In one place on the southwest side the bank was about six feet above the bottom of the ditch. The accompanying diagram made at that time fairly represents this fortification as it then appeared.

The trees on the work above described were cut at least thirty years ago, but the embankment can still be traced without difficulty. Another description of the work on the Goodenough place, written about the same time (1849), is as follows:

About two and one-half miles southeast of Watertown is a work along the the brow of the terrace facing northward, the greater part of which is covered with forest and is consequently well preserved. It is much smaller than the others, and is bounded by a series of right lines slightly rounded at the angles, which gives it something the apperance of a modern field work. The slope of terrace bank is here comparatively gentle. and there is a step or table about midway from brow to base. Here a number of Springs start out below the rock. Formerly the walls of the work were continued down the slope toward the springs as indicated by dotted lines on the plan. They, cannot be traced further than the edge of the terrace. The position of this work is remarkably fine, and was selected with taste and skill. The table land im
mediately around it is hard, and the soil gravelly and dry. There seems to have been a burial place in this vicinity, and pipes and fragments of pottery are of common occurrence.

Perhaps the largest fortification of the kind in northern New York (covering an area of eight acres), is that found on the farm of C. D. Morse, on Dry hill, in this town, and about five miles from the city. This work was carefully examined in 1849, when the following plan and description was prepared:

“On the brow of a terrace about two miles northeasterly from the fort on the Talcott farm is another work of somewhat regular figure and of larger dimensions. Most of it is now under cultivation, and the outlines are much defaced. The embankment on one side runs into forest land, where it is well preserved, measuring about three feet in height. The darker lines of engraving show what parts are distinctly marked. ‘rhe dotted lines show what have been plowed down and which are no longer distinguishable from the general level, except by a deeper green and more luxuriant growth of grass on the line of the ancient trench. The position of this work corresponds very nearly with that upon the Talcott place. There is, however, no water near except a limited supply from a small spring. Nevertheless, this seems to have been the site of a very populous aboriginal town. The entire area of the work is covered with carbonaceous matter, burnt stone, fragments of pottery, etc. Indeed, these indications are visible for some distance exterior to the walls upon the adjacent level. These artificial accumulations have rendered the soil within the enclosure extremely fertile, and it sustains most luxuriant crops. Many fragments of human bones, some of them burned, have been observed by cultivation; suggesting the possibility that the ancient village may have been destroyed by enemies, and that these are the bones of its occupants who fell in defense of their kindred, and were burned in the fires that consumed their lodges. A little to the northward of the work there seems to have been an aboriginal cemetery. Here the plow frequently exposes skeletons buried according to the Indian mode, and accompanied by various rude relics of stone and bone. Within and around the work are also found stone axes, flint arrows heads and other remains of savage art. Fragments of pottery and broken pipes of clay are, however, very abundant, of these bushels might be collected without much difficulty. It is doubtful if this work was intended as a temporary place of resort, but must have been occupied by a considerable population for a long time, and was undoubtedly a fortified town. There were also a number of pits, or caches, of the Indian occupants, of considerable size, but now mostly filled up.”

Numerous evidences of former Indian villages are also found in the town, one of which, of vast extent, was on the farm of A. P. Sigourney, on lot No. 24, opposite the residence of Clark Woodruff. The village covered about four acres of land, and is described by Squier as containing rude fire-places, constructed of rough stone held together, and surrounded with carbonaceous accumulations sometimes two feet in depth on the site of the ancient habitations. Here, too, were found’ relics which resembled those discovered within and around all ancient enclosures.

Traces of similar villages were found on lot No. 10, on the Butter. field farm (now owned by Valda Thomas); on a gravelly knoll on the farm of Delos Hadeock, on lot No. 17, at East Watertown; on the Dr. Gifford farm near Cold creek; on the C. G. Rexford farm on lot No. 30; on the Elmer Everett farm on lot No. 4, and on the John J. Goodenough farm (now owned by Patrick Donahue) on lot No. 29.

Excavations made on these aboriginal sites present the same relics as were found in Rutland; broken pottery, carved pipes, bodkins, sharppointed bones, beads, teeth, bones of wild animals, burned and charred corn, mortars for grinding, bone needles and awls, flint arrowS heads, spear-points, chisels, combs, accumulations of ashes, and numerous other evidences of the Indian occupation, and also the handicraft of the period. Skeletons were also found in some places.

Henry Woodworth, of East Watertown, has a collection comprising several thousand of these implements from ancient works and villages in this town and also from Rutland. This is unquestionably one of the rarest private collections of relics to be found in this part of the state. Among the curios of his cabinet, Mr. Woodworth has several stones about the consistence of chalk, which on rubbing impart colors of various shades. These were doubtless used by the savages in preparing their faces for the war-path or the important discussions of the council.

A bone pit,’ quite unlike the others of this region, was discovered about three miles east of Watertown. It was on the farm of T. E. Beecher, in the town of Watertown, on left side of the road leading mirth from his house, and just above the turn (about fifteen rods, from the road) on a gradually sloping hillside. It was originally marked by a number of large stones placed over it. Upon removing the stones and excavating beneath them a pit was found about six feet square and and four feet deep, full of human bones well preserved, but in fragments. More than forty pairs of pate/las were counted, showing that at least that number of skeletons had been deposited in the pit. It is said that when the bones were first exhumed, they exhibited marks, such as would result from the gnawing of wild animals, and from that circumstance and the fact that they were so much broken up it has been very plausibly supposed that these are the bones of some party which had been cut off by enemies, and whose remains were subsequently collected and buried by their friends. All the bones are those of adults. Many of the fragments have been removed and scattered, but several bushels yet remain. No relics of any kind were found with them.

Passing over this period of local history, let us turn to the equally interesting subject of settlement and development by the white-faced pioneer. So far as we have any knowledge, Benjamin Wright and his party of surveyors were among the first white men to traverse and explore this region. Their visit was made in 1796, and two years later Eliphalet and Christopher Edmunds came down Black river in a boat on a hunting expedition, but at the falls, within the present city limits, they unfortunately overturned their light craft and lost their guns and supplies in the water. They then left the river and went to live in the south part of the eleven towns region, where they were pioneers, and where in later years both became men of influence and prominence.

In 1800 settlement was made both within what is now the city and in the town outside. In the city chapter the names of all the pioneers and early settlers will be found, together with all obtainable incidents of pioneer life, wherefore in the present connection it is not considered necessary to repeat what has previously been stated, but rather to confine our narrative, except occasionally, to the settlement, growth and development of the town. In the year last mentioned Seyrel Harrington and Joshua Priest, who were former acquaintances of the Edmunds brothers, followed the latter into the region and made a settlement on Dry hill, in the south part of the town. In March of the same year Deacon Oliver Bartholmew, an old Connecticut patriot of the Revolution, made his way through the forests and settled on land in the northeast corner of the town, in which locality he was the pioneer, as also in later years, both in Brownville and. Watertown, he was one of the most industrious and exemplary men among the settlers. He died in Watertown in June, 1850, aged 92 years. Deacon Bartholmew had bought his lands in 1799, during which years purchases were also made by Simeon and Benjamin Woodruff, E. Allen, Silas Alden, James Rogers, Elisha Gustin and Thomas Delano, but the exact location of their lands is not known. Indeed, not all of those who are-mentioned in the land books became actual settlers.

From the same source it is also learned that in 1800 agent Stow sold lands to Heman Pettit, Thomas and John Sawyer, John Bliven, Abram Fisk, Joseph Tuttle, N. Jewett, Joseph Wadley, Jonathan Bentley, Friend Dayton, J. Sikes, S. Norris, Charles Galloway, Jonathan Talcott, Josiah Bentley, John Patrick, David Bent, Luther Deming, Ephraim Edwards, Tilson Barrows, Thomas Butterfield, J. and L. Stebbins, Asaph Mather, Benj. Allen, Ebenezer Lazelle, Henry Jewett, Lewis Drury, S Fay, Stanley, James Glass, Ira Brown, W. P. and N. Crandall, Calvin Brown, Aaron Bacon, Bennett Rice and Thomas H. Biddlecom.

Nearly all of these purchasers were born in New England, but after the close of the revolution had come to the unsettled regions of New York, taking up their abode for a time in the Mohawk Valley and the country westward; and when the fertility of the lands in this locality became known to them they were attracted thither. Many who are mentioned came in 1801 and ‘2, and to them numerous present residents in the town can trace their ancestry. But these were not all, and while settlement on the village tract was progressing rapidly, there appears to have been a corresponding growth in the outlying regions.

The two Woodruffs (Sirneon and Benjamin) came and made a beginning during 1800, settling just northeast of Burrville. In the Woodruff family were the brothers mentioned, and also their father, Jonah, and a younger brother, Frederick. They founded the Woodruff settlement, and were the progenitors of one of the most substantial families in the county in later years. Jotham Ives, who came in 1800, and was followed by his brothers, Joel and Dr. Titus Ives, located in the extreme west part of the town, in what afterward became known as the Field settlement.’ Jotham Ives is said to have raised the first crop of wheat in the town. The surname has ever been preserved in local annals, and has been a synonym for integrity, capacity and moral worth. Among other early settlers in that locality were Adam Blodgett, Samuel Bates, Mr. Spencer and Asaph Butterfield.

Between 1800 and 1804 settlement increased rapidly, and during the short period two thriving hamlets were built up within the limits of the town. Each settlement was struggling for supremacy from a business point of view, and each sought to obtain the coveted designation of county seat for the then proposed new county, although one of these places (Burrville) made no special strife in that direction. Among the many who made settlements during the period referred to there may be recalled the names of William Sampson, Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle (founder of the Congregational church at Burrville, and for a time the owner of a distillery at the same place), Jonathan Miles, Jacob Stears, Seth Peck, Henderson and Silas Howk, Job Whitney, Caleb and Nathaniel Burnham, all of whom, with others previously mentioned (the Sawyers, Fisk, Drury, Fay and Bacon) settled in the east part of the town. Wilson hill, south of Burrville, was settled in 1802 by James Wilson, who cut his own road from Adams. His son, John Wilson, lived to be one of the oldest men in the town. In the same general locality other early settlers were Jonathan Baker, William Huntington, John Gotham, Seth Bailey, Doris Doty, Cyrus Butterfield, Cyrenus Woodworth, Levi Cole, Samuel Thurston, Capt. Job Whitney, Anthony and Andrew Sigourney, William Fellows and possibly others.

In the central portion of the town the earliest settlers (some of whom may have been mentioned) were Eli Rogers, James Rogers, Stephen Gifford, Aaron Brown, Elijah Allen, Corlis Hinds, Reuben Scott, Benjamin Green and possibly others whose names are now forgotten. In the western part the settlers were Bennet Rice, Joseph Wadley, Thomas H. Biddlecom, John and Zebediah Buell, Friend Dayton and others previously mentioned.

In the south part of the town the first settlers were Harrington and Priest, who have been mentioned, but in the course of the next few years there came to the locality several men and families who were prominent factors in local history. Among these were John Babcock, John Purcell, Septimus G. Adams, Joseph Sheldon, Francis Lemmon, Jonathan E. Miles, Tilley Richardson, John Bliven, Patrick Agan and Mr. Hungerford, the father of Orville Hungerford, and others whose names are now forgotten, but who were unquestionably worthy settlers but were less prominent in town affairs and may not have remained permanently in the locality.

The first deeds to land were taken in 1802 by Jotham Ives, Elijah Allen, David Bent, Ezra and William Parker, Joseph Tuttle and Joseph Moore. All settlers on the land previous to that time held by contract and paid. but little spot cash to the agent, for the proprietors had given a “purchase money” mortgage on all the lands of the town, and it was not until March 18, 1802, that the lien was satisfied and discharged of record.

Joseph Sheldon, who came to the county in 1802 with Septimus G. Adams, was one of the prominent characters in the early history of the county. He and Adams went first to examine lands in Rodman, for the sale of which Timothy Greenly was the agent, but not making a purchase, they came back as far as the “Gulf stream,” where they made a clearing. In 1805 they sold their improvement and bought the Babcock and Purcell lands on Dry hill. Adams raised a family of ten or twelve children, and after a busy life as a farmer died near Burrville.

Joseph Sheldon was probably the pioneer dairyman of the county, having 40 cows as early as 1834. His lands were extensive, and at one time he kept 1,000 sheep. He had the first horse-rake in the vicinity, but perhaps the most famous of his properties was the distillery on Dry hill, on account of which that place was a much frequented resort in early times. Tradition has it that at one time there was an almost continuous stream of thirsty patrons traveling up the bill to Sheldon’s still, and from this fact the name of “Dry hill” was derived. Mr. Sheldon married with Hepziba Richardson, the daughter of Capt. Tilley Richardson, and to them were born these children: Tilley R., Susan (Mrs. Jenks P. Thompson), Mary (Mrs. Willard L. Eddy), Harriet (Mrs. Jeremiah Beckwith), Bishop, John, Joseph and Mark Sheldon. In the later history of the county some of these Sons were important factors, while others of them gained prominence in other fields. Joseph Sheldon afterward became interested in village property in Watertown, where he was a leading citizen for several years. He died in 1857. The old Sheldon homestead, which was built about 1809, is still standing.

Capt. Tilley Richardson, an old revolutionary soldier, removed originally from Worcester county to Litchfield, Mass., about 1790, and from the latter place to Watertown in 1802. He settled on the now known Jacob Stears farm, on the road leading to Rodman. His family followed the next year, and all his later life was spent on the same farm. He died in 1852. He raised to maturity a large family of children, nearly all of whom removed to Illinois. Jonathan E. Miles brought a peck of apple seeds, and is credited with having grown from them the first orchard in the town. They were planted on the farm whereon John Bliven settled, and on which Solon B. Tolman now lives. Pioneer Miles built a house on the side of the hill on the east side of Sandy creek, on the road running to Rodman. From that time the locality was known as Miles' Hill. The old house still stands, and is owned by Albert J. Lawton. He was also something of an astronomer and could readily compute the time and duration of eclipses. Miles' son, Josiah, was a school teacher, and the author of Miles' spelling book, Another son, Fabius, was a more noted teacher, and was instrumental in assembling all the teachers of the region in a formal meeting, something after the manner of teachers' institutes of later years. This is said to have been the first meeting of the kind ever held. Patrick Agan was an Irishman and a hardworking, industrious and successful settler. Patrick H. Agan, of Syracuse, so prominently known in legal and political circles, was a son of this worthy pioneer.

In addition to those whose names have thus been recalled, the south part of the town contained (using John Sheldon's own words) an unprofitable lot of Mohawk Dutch, nearly all of whom subsequently removed to Ohio. Another prominent settler, though not perhaps a pioneer, was Ebenezer Tolman, who came from New Hampshire about 1810, having traded his mills in the east for a farm in this town. His wife was Hopef ul Randolph, by whom he had ten children. Mr. Tolman was aged 90 years at the time of his death.

In another department of this work further allusion is made to this family, and also to the other older families of the town and the county. For the purpose, however, of preserving the names of as many as possible of the early settlers of Watertown, the appended list is herewith. furnished. By a fortunate coincidence the writer found in the possession of Charles Richardson (son of Capt. Tilley Richardson) the assessment roll of the town for the year 1809, the second discovery of the kind in the county. The roll of course shows the name of each resident tax payer, with the valuation of real and personal property. From this roll the following names are taken, Viz:

"Assessment roll of the real and personal estate in the town of Watertown in the county of Jefferson, made the 7th day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1809, by Powell Hall, Seth Otis, John Adams, assessors for the said town" (the figures following each name indicates valuation of real property). Benj. Allen, 532; Ambrose Adams, 110; John Adams, 430; Septimus G. Adams, 276; Robert Adams, 116; John Ayers, 40; Andrew Basinger. 274; Israel Ballard, jr., 388; Tillson Barrows, jr., 776; Zachariah Butterfield, 450; Cyrus Butterfield, 98; James Bard, 230; John Blevin, 392; Horatio Burr, 784; John Bruce, 80; Calvin Brown, 316; Oliver Bartholomew, 390; Thomas Butterfield, 823; Aaron Brown, 694; James Brown, 140; Moses Brown, 208; Jonathan Baker, 445; Daniel Brainerd, 176; Caleb Burnham, 496; John Babcock. 131; Nathaniel Burnham, 426; Alfred Burrows, 50; Josiah Bloss, 190; John Bryant, 20; Amos Benedict, 315; Christopher Biddlecom, 236; Joseph S. Bloss, 100; Joseph Bixby, 50; Benj. Bull, 192; Samuel Bosworth, 100; Daniel Bates, 40; Willjam Barrett, 116; Almon Bannister, 60; Henry Coffeen, 1543; Nathan Coffeen, 482; Henry H. Coffeen, 248; Wm. P. Crandall, 610; Alfred Cummings, 116; Isaac Churchill, 112; Asahel Churchill, 112; Asahel Churchill, jr., 114; Salmon Churchill, 103; Joseph Clark, 600; Clark & Bailey (mill) 320; Chauncey Caihoon, 329; Jonathan Cowan, 1123; Isaac Crawford, 198; Edmund Chase, 80; Thomas M. Converse, 610; Ezra Cooper, 216; Medad Canfield, 70; John Collins, 265; Peter Cameron, 311; Wm. Coffeen, 20; Mrs. Dresser, 178; Jesse Doolittle, 230; Ebenezer Dayton, 72; Thomas Dayton, 106; Jesse Dodge, 210; Thomas Delano, 050; Henry Delano, 206; Luther fleming, 318; Doris Doty, 280; Duff y & McCunnifee, 100; Eli Day, 376; Jonas Everett, 300; John Edmonston, 225; Elias Everett, 300; M. Folts, 242; Ebenezer Fish, 56; Abraham Fisk, 520; Jabez Foster, 787; Elijah Field, 376; Jonathan Fisk, 66; Samuel Fellows, 421; Wm. Fellows, 400; Thaddeus Field, 80; Arunah Fullington, 96; Philip Field, 42; Jason Fairbanks, 10; Hiram Fellows, 146; Joel Goodell, 328; Benj. Green, 183; Charles Galloway, 176; James Glass, 254; Henry Gotham, 200; Amos Gill, jr., personal, 40; Wm. Gillespie. 50; John Gotham, 96; Stephen Gifford, 122; Corlis Hinds, 290; Powell Hall, 650; Amasa Herrick, 382; Oliver Harpur, 300; Timothy Hungerford, 1176; Anson Hungerford, 440; Erastus Haskin, 108; James Hoar, 162; Nathaniel Havens, 195; Wm. Hancock, 220; John Harper, 214; William Huntington (founder and pioneer of the locality known as Huntingtonville) 073; Wm. Huntington, jr., 274; Silas Holt, 225; Dyer Huntington (son of William and father of Richard H.) 04; James Hanna, 142; Wm. Hooper, 94; Richard Hooper, 80; Charles Harvey, 110; John Hathaway, 25; Johnson Howk, 40; Henry Hopkins, 200; James Ingalls, 184; Jonathan Ingalls, 420; Erastus Ives, 306; Titus Ives, 380; Jotham Ives, 475; HenryJewett, 390; EzekielJewett, 315; NathanJewett, 330; Abraham Jewett, 000; (the Jewetts lived on Sandy Creek); Nathan Jones, 10; Samuel C. Kanady, 260; Aaron Keyes, 100; Samuel Knapp, 380; Samuel Knapp, jr., 126; George Kingsbury, 120; William Lampson. 356; John Losee, 188; John Losee, jr., 318; Francis Lammon, 520; Peter Lawrence, 200; Samuel Lamb, 468; David Mills, 154; Sylvester Morris, 150; Jonathan E. Miles, 180; James Mann, 200; Elnathan Mattison, 378; Asaph Mather, 178; Hart Massey, 901; Isaiah Massey, 490; James Mayo, 100; Varannus Moore, 472; John Morey, 10; Wm. Nichols, 260; Hosea Norton, 42; Timothy Nash, 56; Seth Otis, 285; Thomas Potter, 212; Seth Peck, 330; John Pattison, 145: Sarah Perry, 144; Jonathan Potter, 120; Benj. Pool, 196; Samuel P. Parker, 234; John Parcels, 173; Solomon Palmer, 294; James Parker, 816; John Prentiss, 114; Richard Potter, 350; John Paddock, 1280; Paddock & Smith, 150; Samuel Phippen, 312; Richard Phillips (personal) 50; Lebbeus Payne, 45; Tilley Richardson, 620; Josiah Richardson, 180; Russell Richardson, 340; Bennett Rice, 430; Jason Rice, 120; James Rogers, 300; Eli Rogers, 216; Aaron Rhodes, 226; Oliver Rowe, 154; Beloved Rhodes, 186; Thomas Randall, 66; James B. Robbins, 10; John Runyan, 108; Joseph Sodey, 112; John Sykes, 278; Rufus Spencer, 454; William Sheldon, 370; Joseph Savage, 238; Joseph Sheldon, 359; Daniel Stanley, 288; Elias Sawyer, 128; Thomas Sawyer, 292; Ozni Stowell, 178; Job Sawyer, 196; Abel S. Scott, 110; Abel Scott, 222; Simeon Skeeles, 56; Daniel Staplin, 270; Friend Street, 102; John Simmons, 68; Moses Smedley, 100; Anthony Sigourney, 596; Jonas Smith, 290; Frederick and Phineas Smith, 75; Caleb Smith, 30; Frances Smiler, 220; Nehemiah Thornton, 88; Jethro Taylor, 90; Egbert Ten Eyck, 280; Oliver Taylor, 95; Ezekiel Thrall, 100; David Talcott, 116; John Thompson, 118; Amasa Trowbridge, 90; Joshua Town, 90; Win. Tryon, 100; Joseph Wadleigh (Wadley), 816; Thomas Wadley, 140; John Wadley, 140; (the Wadleys lived near Rice's Corners); Josiah Wright, 130; John Wait, 202; Thomas Wilson, 262; Palmer Westcott, 275; James Wilson, 338: Isaac Wilson, 508; David Wiswell, 220; Samuel Whittlesey, 350; Oliver White, 98; Job Whitney, 230; Smith Waters, 290; Woodruff, 20; Samuel Waters, 330; Thomas Watt, 40; Cornelius Waters, 108; Cyrenus Woodworth, 586; Samuel Winslow, 292; Jacob Wheeler, 202; Benj. Woodruff, 346; Jonah Woodruff, 405; Hazen Webster, 70; Luke Wood, 372; Philip Wilson, 160; Paoli Wells. 70; Gardner White, 150; William Wood, 150; Lyman Wilson, 80.

Thus is brought to notice the name of every resident taxable inhabitant in Watertown in 1809, when the assessment roll was made. At that time the village had not been separated from the town, even for purposes of local government, nor was such action accomplished until several years afterward. From what has been stated it must be seen that the agents were very active in the sale of low lands after the mortgage on the town had been paid. Such,indeed,was the case, and no town in the region showed a more rapid and healthful growth than this. True, in 1805 the county was created, and the flourishing little village on Black river was designated as its seat of justice. This was the greatest stimulus to later growth and prosperity in the whole town, for all the country has ever been benefited by the village and city and their constantly increasing commercial interests. There was no complete separation of the town and village until the latter was incorporated as as a city under the laws of 1869, and thereby more than 9,000 of the town's population was surrendered to the new creation.

In 1807 the town contained 231 inhabitants having the requisite property qualifications, in which respect it ranked third in the county, In 1810, at the first census enumeration after the county was created, the number of inhabitants in Watertown was 1,841, from which time the subsequent changes are best shown by extracts from the census reports, as follows: 1814, 2,458; 1820, 2,876; 1825, 3,416; 1830. 4,768; 1835, 4,279; 1840, 5,027; 1845, 5,432; 1850, 7,201; 1855, 7,557; 1860, 7,567; 1865, 8,194; 1870, 1,373; 1875, 1,279; 1880, 1,264, 1890, 1,215; 1892, 1,083.

Thus it is seen that with the single exception of Pamelia, Watertown has less population than any town in the county, and also that during the last twenty-five years the number of inhabitants has been gradually decreasing, while in the city there has been more than corresponding increase. During this period there has been shown a strong tendency on the part of farmers in the town to remove to the city, for the double purpose of affording their children the advantages of a good education and the hope of more profitable employment for the farmer himself. The result has been that in many cases the old home farm is occupied by a tenant, or the buildings stand unoccupied. In either case the resuit is disastrous, and the old homestead on which the pioneer of the family labored and struggled for the welfare of his children in later years is ofttimes found in a dilapidated condition. Fortunately, however, this is the exception rather than the rule, and Watertown to-day can show some of the largest and best farms in the county.

From first to last the history of the town at large has been uneventful, and neither record nor tradition furnishes us with many noteworthy incidents of pioneer life in the region. Through Solon Massey's reminiscences, "A Link in the Chain," we have an account of the loss of young James Parker, a son of Captain Parker, the lad having been sent out on an errand to procure a quantity of hemlock gum from the woods and also a supply of provision from the store in the village. The boy was given a silver dollar with which to make the purchase, and an axe to secure the gum. After dinner the youth went toward the village as far as the big woods at the foot of Folt's hill (now called Ives' or Coffeen hill), where he struck the axe in a tree, loosening a chip, be. hind which he placed the dollar for safe keeping. He then wandered around in search of gum, giving no heed to his whereabouts, and the result was he became lost to all surroundings; and the greater his efforts to find the axe and money the more he became confused. Night came on, and the boy not having returned home, his parents were much alarmed for his safety. The village was visited and disclosed the fact that the boy had not been there nor had the purchase been made. The neighborhood was at once aroused, and with the earnestness which always characterized such occasions in pioneer days, a large company of men set out in search of the lost youth; and they did not turn back or delay until the lost was found and returned to his home.

Folt's hill was something of a historic locality and the scene of several incidents during early times. In this locality in the fall of 1801 a settler named Dayton accidentally shot his brother while cleaning his gun preparatory to a general squirrel hunt in which all the settlers were to join. As soon as the accident occurred Dayton set off at the top of his speed to the village, where he secured the services of Dr. Isaiah Massey; and the latter, acting quickly, reached the cabin in time to dress the wound and save the life of the injured man.

Through the same reliable source of information we also have the wolf story of pioneer times, in which one Knowlton was the hero. He had been assisting Jotham Ives, who resided near Folts' settlement, in the customary fall employment of killing hogs, and having finished his day's work was given two hog "plucks" (heart and liver) in addition to his pay. Knowlton lived near the present residence of Titus J. Brintnall. Darkness had come on and he was nearly a mile from home, with no road and only a line of marked trees. Rather than hazard an attack by wolves, which were known to be frequently about at night, Mr. Ives offered him a lodging in his own house, but the settler had no fear and set out upon his journey. His clothing was somewhat spotted with blood, and this the wolves scented before he had made half the distance through the woods. Then began a race for life, in which Knowlton was almost home before the hungry animals overtook him, and he only saved himself by throwing them one of his plucks, which they stopped to devour while he made good his escape into the house.


Organization.- This town was created in anticipation of future settlement rather than for the accommodation of settlers then within its boyders. Through the influence of Nicholas Low, Henry Champion and others, on March, 18, 1800, the legislature passed an act erecting two new towns in this part of Oneida county. These were Champion and Watertown, the aggregate population of which at that time was probably less than 200 inhabitants. The effective portion of the act relating to this town was as follows:

"And all that part of the said county of Oneida known and distinguished by (as) townships Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in a tract of land belonging to Henry Champion and others, which said townships are bounded northerly by the Black river, westerly by Hungry Bay (Black river bay), and southerly by townships Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9, and easterly by township No. 4, all in the same tract, shall be and continue a town by the name of Watertown."


As then constituted the new town comprised all that is now Rutland and Hounsfield in addition to its present territory, and as well that of the city. Rutland was taken off April 1, 1802, and Hounsfield, February 17, 1806. The interesting events of town organization, such as first officers elected and the proceedings relating to local government, cannot be given in this connection on account of the destruction of the records by fire many years ago. Indeed, the supervisors previous to 1805 are now unknown. From all indications, however, the early civil history of Watertown was not unlike that of other towns in this region, except that here was an additional interest which centered around the county seat, and also the spirited rivalry between that settlement and the flourishing hamlet of Burrville, on the upper waters of Sandy creek. For a time it seemed as if Burrville possessed the greater importance, but when Watertown became a county seat it soon outstripped its rival, and eventually became the most important industrial city in northern New York. Its history is made the subject of a special chapter in this work, to which the attention of the reader is directed.

Burrville.- It is quite evident that proprietor Low and agent Stow had it in their mind to establish the principal village in the eastern part of township No. 2, where was found an available water power on Sandy creek which was equal for all practical purposes to the greater power on the river, and which could be diverted for manufacturing purposes at far less expense. Moreover, saw and grist mills at this place, with a tavern and store, would draw greater patronage than the river region. Therefore, in June, 1801, Stow made a contract with Hart Massey, by which the latter agreed to build, during that season, a saw and corn (grist) mill on his own land, the agent on his part agreeing to furnish all necessary machinery and stock the mills for operation, The work was done as agreed, but in 1802 the property was sold to Capt. John Burr, who with several sons located at the place, and through their united efforts made it the most important trading and milling point in the region. Soon afterward Jabez Foster opened a large store, and employed Orville Hungerford in the capacity of clerk, but when Watertown became the county seat the stock of goods, proprietor and clerk all removed to that place. In the meantime other industries had sprung up at Burr's Mills, as the place was then known. William Lampson opened a blacksmith shop, and soon afterward added an axe factory and trip-hammer, carrying on a large business in making edged tools. In some manner, and under several ownerships, this industry was maintained here until about the time of the war of 1861-65. About 1806 James Mann built a tannery, but later on sold out to Deacon Theophilus Redfield (one of the substantial old settlers), who employed six or eight men in the tan-house and about as many more in shoemaking. Among the old early interests were a carding machine and clothdressing works, but the names of their founders are now unknown. A hotel was also opened, and about its first landlord, if not in fact its founder, was Septimus G. Adams. Other important interests of the time were Converse's ashery and Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle's distillery. Dr. Crafts P. Kimball was the first physician, locating at the Mills previous to the war of 1812, and was a prominent figure in the locality until his death in 1873.

In the course of time of all these old industries which once made Burrville a busy trading center not one survives, and only the beautiful cascade from which power was taken, the old and frequently repaired tavern and the Congregational church give present indication of a once important industrial village. With the growth and constantly increasing importance of Watertown there was a corresponding loss in Burrville, until at last it became hardly more than a convenient trading point in a purely farming region. About 1825 Capt. Sampson built a blast furnace at the top of the falls, but after a few years its operation ceased, Deacon Redfleld removed his tannery to Watertown, and other local industries were abandoned. In its present condition Burryule is a quiet little hamlet of perhaps a dozen houses, a district school and Congregational church.

On June 8, 1803, Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle organized a Congregational society at a meeting held in Caleb Burnham's barn, at Burrville. There were fifteen constituent members, and Gershom Tuttle and William Fellows were the first deacons. Meetings were held in convenient places, and preaching services were frequently conducted by missionaries from New England, and also by Revs. Nathaniel Dutton (Champion) and B. Tyler. In 1811 the Watertown society was formed and took several members from the Burrville church. On Oct. 25, 1815, Rev. Daniel Banks was installed pastor of the church, and the organization was preserved until January, 1821, when a Presbyterian form of government was adopted. At that time the elders were Wm. Brown, James Stone, Theophilus Redfield, J. Van Nest, John Sawyer, Hart Massey, William Huntington, Asa Norton and Amasa Herrick. The deacons were Hart Massey and Theophilus Redfield. In later years the church prospered for a time and then gradually lost its strength and influence until it was finally dissolved. It was a mother of churches, however, and from it sprung a Congregational church in 1830 (which is now extinct) a part of the second Presbyterian church of Watertown (in 1831) and the present Congregotional church of Burrville, in 1834.

On October 14, 1833, the Burrville society was formed by Congregational, Universalist and Methodist members who lived in the east part of the town, and for the express purpose of building a meeting house. Dr. Kimball, George M. Jenks and Elnathan Lucas were the trustees, under whose direction a house of worship was erected during the following year. The building was afterward occupied by each denomination, in alternation, but finally it passed into the hands of the Congregationalists, the other societies having ceased to exist in the vicinity.

The Burrville Congregational church, as now existing, was organized Feb. 14, 1834, by Rev. David Spear, who was its first pastor, and then comprised 13 members from the former Presbyterian church, 3 from the Congregational church in Rutland, and one from the Congregational church at Smithville. This society has survived all the changes and vicissitudes of intervening years, although its members are now few and the society not self-sustaining. The present pastor is Rev. John K in caid.

The other hamlet localities of the town are quite small and of little consequence in local history. Field's settlement adjoins Hounsfield, and was named after pioneer Elijah Field, of whom previous mention is made. Watertown Centre is a name frequently applied to a little settlement near the geographical center of the town, the chief institutions of which at the present time are the beautiful Brookside and St. Patrick's cemeteries. Rice's is a station and post-office on the line of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg railroad, in the southwest part of the town, and was so called in allusion to one of the prominent families of that locality. Previous to the construction of the railroad the place was commonly known as Rice's Corners. Huntingtonville is a hamlet about half a mile west of the city limits, and is pleasantly situated on the river, opposite two islands. At one time this locality promised to become an important manufacturing center, but circum stances drew the industries further down the river. East Watertown is a hamlet about a mile east of the city, but other than its cheese factory interest it has no special prominence in town history. The old Grove hotel was once a popular hostelry in this part of the town.

Supervisors.- (The town records previous to 1805 are destroyed). Corlis Hinds, 1805-08; Tilley Richardson, 1809-10; Wm. Smith, 1811; Egbert Ten Eyck, 1812-19; Titus Ives, 1820-26; Jabez Foster, 1827; Titus Ives, 1828; Daniel Lee, 1829; Henry H . Coffeen, 1830-34; Orville Hungerford, 1835-37; Joel Woodworth, 1838-40; Orville Hungerford, 1841-42; John Winslow, 1843-45; Orville V. Brainard, 1846-47; George C. Sherman, 1848; Adriel Ely, 1849; Kilborn Hannahs, 1850; Orville Hungerford, 1851; Robert Lansing, 1852; David D. Otis, 1853-54: Adriel Ely, 1855; Willard Ives, 1856; Levi H. Brown, 1857; Henry H. Babcock, 1858; Ambrose W. Clark, 1850-60; David W. Baldwin, 1861; H. H. Babcock, 1862; Edward S. Lansing, 1863-64; George A. Bagley. 1865-68; Wilbur F. Porter, 1869; John Winslow, elected at special town meeting, 1869; Charles Richardson, 1870-75; Henry S. Barbour, 1876-77; John M. Felt, 1878-80; L. T. Sawyer, 1881-84; J. Stears, jr., 1885-86; B. W. Gifford, 1887- 90; Frank M. Parker, 1891-95; Milo L. Cleveland, 1896-97; Dwight L. Bailey, 1898-99.

Return to [ NY History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]


NY Counties - Albany - Allegany - Broome - Cayuga - Chatauqua - Chenango - Clinton - Columbia - Cortland - Dutchess - Erie - Essex - Franklin - Fulton - Genesee - Herkimer - Jefferson - Lewis - Livingston - Madison - Montgomery - Niagara - Oneida - Onondaga - Ontario - Orange - Orleans - Oswego - Putnam - Queens - Rensselaer - Richmond - Rockland - St. Lawrence - Saratoga - Schenectady - Steuben - Suffolk - Tioga - Tompkins - Tryone - Ulster - Washington - Wayne - Yates


All pages copyright 2003-2012. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy