History of the Village of Canton, NY


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The village of Canton had reached considerable importance in population, as the county seat, and as a center of manufactures and mercantile business, before its incorporation. The act of incorporation was passed May 14, 1845, with boundaries then embracing the jail limits, excepting the bridge across the Grasse River. These boundaries were changed and greatly enlarged, but in 1871 were reduced to the original dimensions. The first board of five trustees, provided for by the act of incorporation, were as follows: Nathaniel Hodskin, Prosper Barrows, Benjamin Squire, Nathan Pratt and Barzillai Hodskin.

The settlements on the village site of Daniel Harrington and the Foote family have already been described. Other prominent early settlers here were Dr. William Noble, the first physician, who owned a tract which embraced the present university grounds; he came in 1804-5. Dr. Daniel Campbell came in 1807, and Dr. Elijah Baker in the next year. Edwin Jones, father of D. M. Jones, who is still engaged in business, came in 1803 or 1804; Amos Jones, Sr., Medad Moody, father of Captain Lucius Moody, 1804; Silas Wright, of whom a sketch will be found in the chapter devoted to the bar, came in 1819, and also his brother Pliny Wright; Silas Baldwin and Dr. Darius Clark in 1824, and Nathaniel and Barzillai Hodskin in 1827 Harry Smith, the venerable citizen who is still engaged in trade, came in 1830, and Walter Brown about the same time. In 1828 Ebenezer Miner came temporarily, and in 1829 settled here permanently. He married a daughter of Dr. Daniel Campbell, and purchased the interest of the heirs in the doctor's estate. He was prominent in all public affairs; built the Miner block and many other buildings, and was in many ways a useful citizen; he died September 16, 1871. Other early comers to the village were Benjamin and Solomon Walker, Joseph and John Barnes, Alvin C. Low, S. Prentice, and others that will be mentioned. Stillman Foote, the pioneer, built a house on the brow of the hill in 1802, which, after several enlargements and many improvements, still stands and overlooks the village. Dr. Campbell built his house where R. B. Ellsworth now lives, next to the town hall. These two were about all of the dwellings of any pretensions in the place before the War of 1812. Dr. Campbell brought the first stock of goods to the place in 1807, and sold them from a room in his dwelling. During the war he closed out his stock and opened a tavern in the same house, using the room where he kept his store as a bar room. This was prompted by the considerable travel through the place of troops and others going through to Ogdensburg. On one occasion a sloop load of confiscated goods was sent to Dr. Campbell's house, where they were secreted. A force of the British started out in search of the property, but were delayed long enough by a snow storm to permit of the goods being sold at auction. The sale was long known as the Great Vendue.

Captain Lucius Moody, who was born in the village in 1806, was a son of Medad Moody, who bought two acres of ground including the site of the present Haven House, and there built a dwelling, for which a larger one was substituted in later years and kept as a hotel.

The original mill of Stillman Foote has been mentioned. It stood about on the site of the present Eagle Mills. There was no other mill at Canton until after the war. In 1810 Mr. Foote built a dam and a saw mill on the site of Morley (formerly known as Long Rapids). The mill and the site were soon sold out to Christopher Wilson and Pitts Bailey, who in 1815 put into the mill two runs of rock stones, for grinding, and a bolt. These were displaced two years later for burr stones. This was the beginning of the settlement of that point as a hamlet.

Dr. Darius Clark came to Canton in 1822, after studying his profession at Malone, and John Leslie Russell came here in 1829. These men are properly noticed under the bench and bar. Hon. Silas Baldwin came here in 1824 and began his long and honorable career. Nathaniel Hodskin came to the village in 1827, and soon afterward erected a small furnace which he finished in four weeks and began the manufacture of plows. In 1833 he, with his son Barzillai, built the stone structure now used by Mr. Deshaw as a machine shop. In 1850 the son, Barzillai, engaged in the hardware trade, and later in various other enterprises of a public and private character. He built the Hodskin House (now the Haven House) in 1864, and conducted it for a time.

In the year 1820 the second mill was put up by Henry Foote, son of Stillman; the frame work of this mill was afterwards used in the construction of what became widely known as the Jackson mill. This was built in 1860 by E. E. Jackson, and it subsequently passed to the ownership of B. Hodskin. Stillman Foote built the first distillery at the village about the year 1815, and in 1827 he established a marble factory, where most of that kind of material used in this section previous to 1835 was prepared from the stone found at Crary's Mills. The rock not proving very durable, the manufacture was abandoned. About the year 1840 Silas Wright built a custom saw mill on the site of the L. A. Taylor mill; it was burned in 1852. L. A. Taylor built his present planing and general wood-working mill in 1889-90; he began business in the place in 1874. Silas Parker built a saw mill in 1850, a short distance above the island, on the site of thepresent Grange mill. Its capacity was between 5,000 and 10,000 feet per day. It passed into other hands and was burned in 1885, while in possession of H. P. Grange, who had owned it since 1881. Mr. Grange rebuilt the mill, which now has two circular saws, a trimmer, an edger, a lath mill, a shingle mill, a planer, etc. The first good grist mill was erected of stone by Stillman Foote about the year 1817; it stood about on the site of the present electric light building, where it was burned, leaving a part of the wall standing. The Eagle mills were erected in 1842 by Henry Van Rensselaer. The structure is of stone and four stories in height, In 1871 this mill passed to Lasell & Jewett. The former bought his partner's interest and sold out to W. B. Allen. From Mr. Allen's estate the present owners, Henry and Fonda Bullis, purchased the property. In 1889 they put in three sets of rollers, which are now operated with three run of stones. Opposite this mill, on the island, was erected by Lucius Moody, in 1859-60, a fine three-story brick mill, which took the name of the St. Lawrence Mills. It contained four run of stones. It subsequently passed to possession of Hodskin & Sherwin, and then to D. W. Sherwin, who is the present proprietor. Four double sets of rollers were placed in the mill in 1888. A. F. Smith has carried on the manufacture of sash and doors since 1888, on a site which was occupied formerly by George Gilmore for making furniture.D. M. Jones, before mentioned, took the Hodskin furnace property in 1852, and in 1860 greatly enlarged the plant by adding a large brick furnace. On the site of L. B. Storrs's machine shop was formerly an oil mill built by Stillman Foote in 1871 this was purchased by Harry Smith in 1830, who operated it for ten years, making about 1,000 gallons of oil per year. Mr. Storrs carries on the manufacture of a patent machine for the use of tailors in pressing. The first tannery at Canton was on the west side and carried on by Elias C. Page. A larger tannery was started by him near the same place in 1830, which was burned, and he then laid the foundation of another, which was purchased by Jerry Traver in 1853 and greatly extended. A large business was maintained until a few years ago, when the scarcity of bark caused the abandonment of the enterprise. David Sears also carried on tanning from 1846 for a number of years. In 1827 Amos Bird, one of the early business men of the place, began operating a carding machine in a building attached to the saw mill on the west side, and continued it for many years About 1852 Albert Fowler began the manufacture of axes and other edged tools in a small shop on the east side of the river. Later he established himself on the island, where he continued to 1875, when the business passed to M. A. Fowler. The works were closed soon afterward. The building, of which he occupied a part, was erected by Barrows & Blanchard about 1846 for a butter tub and cheese box factory. Several years later Henry Stickles put in machinery for the manufacture of sash and blinds, and is still in the business. W. B. Barlow began the manufacture of threshers, wheels, etc., in 1873. He erected the buildings which he now occupies, and added a carding mill. His business is now largely repairing and the sale of agricultural implements. O. G. Baxter, manufacturer of plows and castings, since 1884, in the Rushton boat shop. J. H. Rushton began boat and canoe building in a small way in 1874. He erected in 1883 a large factory and now employs many hands. Wagon-making has been carried on in Canton in past years to a considerable extent; Champlin & Jeffrey were conspicuous in it at one period, and Mr. Champlin at a later date, but the business is now confined chiefly to repairing. Numbered in the past were several large asheries near the village, among the proprietors being L. E. Clark, B. Hodskin, E. Miner and others. The Canton Lumber Company, with Harmon Rice, has operated a large steam mill near the village, turning out a large product of lumber, etc., for several years past.

Down to the year 1827 three stores sufficed for the community, and they were then kept by Ephraini Bridge, on Main street, above the Union block, in a brick building, which was burned in 1862. Barnes & Sackrider were opposite, on the site of the Hodskin House, in a frame building, which is in use now as a blacksmith shop; and A. C. Low and Amos Bacon were where Harry Smith's drug store is now situated. Mr. Smith came here in 1831 and has been continuously in trade ever since. Medad Moody and Nathan Walker were merchants together as early as 1816, and handled potash, etc. Daniel Mack kept a drug store, where the Mather block now stands. The former leading merchants were Solomon Boynton, Ebenezer Miner, Christopher Cook & Co., and Simeon D. Moody, who built a part of the Union block which was burned; also M. D. Packard and Moses Whitcomb. Lorenzo Lawrence dealt in furniture. Joseph Ellsworth has been connected with the shoe trade, and is now associated with his son. D. M. Jones and H. L. Sackrider were early associated in the hardware trade, are now separate in the business. Conkey & Sherman carried on a drug trade for a number of years; the business is now conducted by George S. Conkey and G. .W. Gulley.

Medad Moody built a square frame hotel on the site of the Haven House in 1820, which was destroyed by fire several times and rebuilt, the last destruction being in the fire of 1862, after which he did not rebuild. Mr. Hodskin bought the site and erected the present house in 1864, at a cost of about $25,000. Since that time it has been kept by several different persons, and is now conducted as a first class temperance house by J. M. Haven, who purchased it in 1889. The American Hotel was originally built in 1825 by Sartwell Prentice, and was known as the Prentice Hotel until about 1840, when it passed to tile ownership of Henry Foote, and from him to the Bridge brothers, who gave it its present name. It is now kept by S. D. Bridge. The Commercial Hotel was built by Dr. Darius Baker for a private house for his son-in-law, Robert Clark. It has been kept as hotel many years, and at various times enlarged.

The first bank in Canton was established in 1858 by R. M. Godard & Co. It was closed up in 1860. In 1862 H. J. Messenger, who had long carried on banking in Cortland, N. Y., opened a branch in Canton, and two years later organized the Bank of Canton under the State laws. Messenger met with disastrous failure in 1868, M, D. Packard acting as receiver. During the life of the Bank of Canton, the Commercial Bank was organized, but after receiving deposits for a few weeks its manager disappeared with most of the funds, and the doors were closed. In January, 1870, S. D. Hungerford & Co. organized and opened a banking house in the building formerly occupied by the Bank of Canton, and its management was placed in the hands of W. H. Kimball as president, and S. D. Kimball as cashier. A bank building was built in 1870. The capital of the bank is $50,000. The institution has always been prudently and carefully conducted. Its deposits now average about $200,000, and it has a surplus of about $19,000. The bank is incorporated under the State laws, under the name of the St. Lawrence County Bank, and the present officers are W. H. Kimball, president; M. D. Packard, vice-president; S. D. Kimball, cashier.

The First National Bank of Canton was organized in 1887, with a capital of $65,000. Its officers were: D. S. Lynde, president; B. Hodskin, vice-president; John Pickens, cashier. Commodious offices were prepared for the bank in the Sherman block, and a substantial vault built. R. B. Ellsworth has succeeded Mr. Hodskin as vice-president, and W. H. Beard is the present cashier. Tile directors are Leslie W. Russell, Adolohus S. Lynde R. B. Ellsworth, John C. Keeler, D. S. Rice, James S. Gale, James P. Howe, Henry Bullis, George W. Seymour. All of these excepting Mr. Seymour are residents of Canton.

The Press.- The beginning of newspaper publication in the town of Canton dates back to about the year 1827, at which time Jonathan Wallace was connected with the publication of the St. Lawrence Repub- lican in Ogdensburg. He also at about that time issued the Day Star, a Universalist publication, which he continued about six months, when it was united with the Gospel Advocate in Utica. While that paper was being published the establishment was removed to Canton.

In July, 1832, C. C. Bill started a Whig paper in Canton, which be called the Northern Telegraph. He sold out to Orlando Squires, who began the publication from the same office of a Democratic sheet called the Canton Democrat. It was short lived. A paper called The Luminary of the North was issued here in July, 1834. Its light was soon extinguished forever. The St Lawrence Democrat was a Whig paper, owned by several persons and published by Edgar A. Barber; was started in September, 1840, and lived until April, 1842. The press and materials of Mr. Barber were next used by Charles Boynton for the publication of the Northern Cabinet and Literary Repository, which first saw the light January 2, 1843. How long the paper supported its burdensome name is not known.

A paper called The True Democrat was started May 28, 1850, at Madrid, by a Mr. Wilson. In less than a year it passed to O. L. Ray, who changed its name a year later to the Columbian Independent, and at the end of another year again changed its title to the Canton Independent, and removed it to Canton village. It did not survive long afterward. The Canton Weekly Citizen was a small folio which made a weekly appearance for one month beginning January I, 1852, and then joined those which had gone before.

The St. Lawrence Plaindealer was started as a Republican campaign paper in July, 1856, by William B. Goodrich, and S. P. Remington as junior partner. The material of the St. Lawrence Democrat was used, and the paper printed on an exceedingly ancient hand press. After the close of the campaign an entire new outfit was purchased, and the paper was established as a permanent enterprise. A few months later Mr. Goodrich sold out his interest to his partner. When the War of the Rebellion broke out, Mr. Goodrich entered the Union army as a volunteer. See chapter on the Rebellion.

The Plaindealer continued until 1862 under the editorship and management of Mr. Remington. At that time he entered the army, and sold the office to J. Van Slyke, who owned and controlled it until 1867, when it was repurchased by Mr. Remington. On the 14th of August, 1869, and again on the 4th of August, 1870, the material of the office was entirely destroyed by fire. Col. Remington, after each of these fires, continued to issue the paper regularly, on small sheets at first, but in a few weeks restored to its usual size, and the office equipped with new presses and material.

In 1873 he sold the Plaindealer and establishment to Gilbert B. Manley, the present proprietor. It has been twice enlarged, and is now issued as a seven column quarto. Williston Manley, a son of the proprietor, is now associate editor.

The Commerical Advertiser, a weekly Democratic newspaper, was started at Norwood, in this county, by Hall & Tracey, on the 3d of November, 1873. In May, 1877, it was removed to Canton, the first number in the new location being issued on the 31st of that month. Subsequently Mr. Tracey bought his partner's interest in the establishment, and has since conducted the paper alone. Under his able editorial and business management the Advertiser has prospered financially and is recognized as one of the leading exponents of Democratic doctrine in Northern New York

The post-office in Canton village was established April 1, 1804, under the name of New Cairo, with Daniel Sayre as postmaster. The name was changed to Canton July 1, 1807. The incumbents of the office have been as follows: Daniel Campbell, 1811 to 1821 ; Silas Wright, 1821 to 1827; Silas Baldwin, 1827 to 1833; John L. Russell, 1833 to 1841; Jeremiah Bailey, 1841 to 1843; Darius Clark, 1843 ; Ephraim Goff was the next incumbent and was succeeded in 1853 by Amasa O. Brown; Seth P. Remington came next, and was succeeded by William R. Remington; he was followed by A. T. Martyn, who was succeeded for four years by John H. Mills. The present postmaster, Edwin Aldrich, assumed the position April 1, 1891.

The presidents of the village from its incorporation to the present time have been as follows: From 1846 to 1852 they were Nathaniel Hodskin, Prosper Barrowc, Benjamin Squire, Nathan Pratt and Barzillai Hodskin; from 1846 to 1852 (elected by the people), Nathaniel Hodskin, Elias C. Page, Prosper Barrows, Paul Boynton, A. R. Kipp, Paul J3oynton and Luman Moody; from 1853 to 1858 the records are lost; from 1859 to the present the presidents and clerks have been as follows: 1859, E. Miner and S. J. Day; 1860-61, 1862, L. E. B. Winslow and M. B. Chamberlain; 1863, D. M. Jones and J. Barnes; 1864, J. Traver and J. F. Havens; 1865-66, E. Miner and Joseph Barnes; 1867, E. Miner and W. J. Ferrey; 1868, B. Hodskin and W. J. Ferrey; 1869, C. Bailey and J. W. Bugbee; 1870, Jeremiah Traver and Joseph Barnes; 1871, Joseph Barnes and W. J. Ferrey; 1872, J. S. Conkey and H. D. Ellsworth; 1873, B. Hodskin and H. D. Ellsworth; 1874, H. H. Judd and H. D. Ellsworth; 1875, L. B. Storrs and H. D. Ellsworth; 1876-78, L. B Storrs and C. A. Chamberlain; 1879, M. D. Packard and C. E. Chamberlain; 1880, John C. Preston and C. E. Chamberlain ; 1881-82, John C. Preston and H. D. Ellsworth; 1883, L. B. Storrs and H. D. Ellsworth; 1884, L. B. Storrs and L. C. Sawyer; 1885, Worth Chamberlain and L. C. Sawyer; 1886, Ledyard P. Hale and L. C. Sawyer; 1887-88, D. H. Rice and Charles J. Preston; 1889-90, D. H. Rice and C. E. Chamberlain; 1891, J. N. Bassett, Jr., and C. E. Chamberlain for one half of term; 1892-93, James E. Johnson and H. M. Barber. The present trustees are Thomas Peggs, G. E. Sims, George E. Janiieson, and W. A. Brown.

Fire Department and Water Works.-The first fire company in Canton village was organized about 1849, when the apparatus consisted of a small rotary engine. The venerable Harry Smith was foreman of company, which was in existence ten or twelve years, when the engine became disabled, and the village was substantially without protection from fire until 1870. On the 28th of August, 1869, a meeting was held to discuss and adopt measures for the establishment and maintenance of a fire department. For these purposes $700 were appropriated. On the 9th of the same month a meeting was held and a company organized. and a second-hand brake engine purchased in Ogdensburg.

On the 14th of August, 1869, a fire broke out on the north side of Main street and swept away everything between Water and Hodskin streets, involving a loss of $65,000. One year later, within a few days, another fire broke out at the point where it was stopped the previous year and burned away the buildings on the same side of the street for a long distance and causing a loss of $150,000.

In March, 1870, "The Fire Department of the Village of Canton" was incorporated by Act of the Legislature and the following board of directors named to hold office until the next annual meeting of the department under the act of incorporation: S. D. Bridge, chief engineer; S. P. Remington and M. D. Packard, assistant engineers. In January, 1871, a hook and ladder apparatus was provided for the department. A frame engine house was erected on Water street in 1870, which was occupied until 1874, when the present brick structure on Court street was built. A hook and ladder company was formed in December, 1875, with twenty members, but it was disbanded after a few years. In 1882 a steam fire engine of the Silsby make was purchased and the hand engine was sold. The steamer company now has seventeen members, one hose company eleven and the other ten members. The following have held the office of chief engineer: S. D. Bridge, 1870-71; John J. Stacks, 1872-73; M. D. Packard, 1874-76; Ezra D. Jackson, 1877; J. H. Mills, 1878; M. D. Packard, 1879; C. J. Perkins, 1880; Worth Chamberlain, 1881-82; S. D. Bridge, 1883-86; G. W. Seymour, 1886-88; T. G. Kirkland, 1889-90; Homer Bailey, 1891.

Water Works.-The present water works and sewer system were established in the year 1889, but as separate undertakings and under separate issues of the village bonds, the sewer system being introduced first. For the latter purpose bonds were issued for $35,000, payable in thirty years, and for the water works the amount of bonds were $40,000, payable in twenty years. They were negotiatied at four per cent. and were sold at a small premium, The works comprise a building for the pumps, which are modern and efficient in character, and a stand-pipe of sufficient height to give ample pressure excepting in the highest parts of the village. The sewer system comprises between four and five miles of conduit. The works are under control of a board of officers, consisting for the year 1893 of the following: J. Henry Rushton, president; Winfleld S. Leonard and Isaac Cornell.

Electric Lighting.- In the year 1887 a stock company was formed in which the Thompson - Houston Company was represented with citizens of Canton, the capital being $18,000. The necessary plant was installed in a wooden building which was destroyed by fire in 1890 and was replaced by a brick structure, the power being derived from the river. The village authorities pay the company for the public lights. The officers of the company are L P. Hale, president; A. T. Martin, secretary and treasurer; Luman Bailey, superintendent.

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