Cape Vincent Custon House, New York
From: A Historical Sketch of the town of Cape Vincent
Read at the Centennial Celebration of the town,
July 4, 1876
By Elizur H. Pratt, A. M.
Warren W. Ames Printers, 1876


The custom-house District of Cape Vincent was organized on the 18 of April 1818. Previous to this date Cape Vincent was only a port of entry in charge of a deputy, with Sacketts Harbor as the headquarters. It is now the point where the chief officer is stationed and comprises the entire coast of Jefferson county, Sacketts Harbor having been consolidated with the Cape Vincent District March 3, 1863. There are ten ports of entry. During the period of the non-intercourse laws and the embargo, smuggling was a very animated business, without much injury to the consciences of the people since they firmly believed that those regulations were wrong as well as unnecessary. For many years it was an unsettled question whether Canton island belonged to the United States or the Dominion. A quantity of goods was seized on that territory during the administration of John Quincy Adams, and more than one cabinet meeting was held at Washington to determine what disposition should be made of the seizures. In June 1812 Elijah Fields, Jr., a deputy collector stationed at Cape Vincent, seized two schooners and their cargoes-the Niagara and the Ontario-under the belief that they were engaged in smuggling. After an examination of the case the Ontario was released for want of sufficient evidence, but the Niagara and her load were sold. The first collector was John B. Esselstyn, who served the government more than four years before any salary was established, and this was started at the extravagant figure of $250 per annum. The exports were comparative ly of no consequence before the building of the railroad; and no record of exports is made in the quarterly report which was drawn up just before the running of the regular trains. The next report had the item of exports set down at $20,000. There are forty-five vessels owned in the District of Cape Vincent, of which thirty-one are sail vessels and fourteen steam. The tonnage of the former is 4,538 and of the latter 598. The number of vessels entered and cleared are about a thousand a year. The exports of American manufactures through the District of Cape Vincent for the last ten years have been about $550,000 annually, of which $250,00 are exports in bond. The imports for the same time have been about $500,000 annually. The imports in the fur trade were $112,000, and the pounds of fresh fish from Canada were 700,000 pounds, for the year 1875

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