History of Manufacturing in Jefferson County, NY
From: Jefferson County Centenial 1905
Compiled by Jere Coughlin, Secretary
Hungerford-Halbrook Co, Watertown, N. Y.


When the ax fell upon the heavy timber in the county, it was found necessary to dispose of the timber, which was burned and potash made. This was probably the first industry.

In 1810 there were 49 asheries in the county. In a later period there were over 100, while in 1860 there were none.

Lyman Ellis, one of the first settlers, built the first ashery.

In 1865 there were 148 sawmills in the county, while now there are very few. With the advent of crops there was need of mills to grind them. Consequently, rude ones were made from trees. In 1800 the first grist mill was built. Fields of wheat and grain have moved westward and the mills have moved with them. However, Jefferson county holds her own in this industry.

Something to drink was the next point. In 1804 the first still was built here. The first brewery was built here in 1807. Every household had its own spinning wheel from which came the cloth for their clothing. The household plan of manufacturing sooft gave way.

In 1812 the first woolen mill was built in Tylerville. It did not pay, and after three years was sold to Daniel Eames who continued it until 1849. The history of this industry, was one of misfortune, in this city. The first tannery was built at Adams in 1802 by Bradford List Attempts were made to locate mineral wealth. The county, however, was not rich in minerals. In 1819 the first blast furnace was built in Carthage. In 1837 iron ore was found at Antwerp by James Sterling and a company formed. It was continued for three years. There was little profit in the mining industry and the mine is the only one in the county remaining in operation. Limestone is one of the principal resources of the county. Chaumont is a center for this rock.

In 1849 there were 60 shops for cabinet making in the county; now there are ten. There are five factories in the county which are doing a good business. The growing demand for cheese has called forth the necessity of cheese boxes. Boat building at one time was important as a business, the county having the largest coast line of any county in the state. Packing of seeds was established in 1850. Maple sugar making is one of the important industries also. In the latter part of the century, paper making has gained great importance. The first mill in the county was built in 1810. Rags were the first material used for pulp. At the present time Jefferson county leads in this industry over every other county in the state. In 1889 the Hopper-Morgan company was formed and bought the tablet mill at Glen Park. Cheese making sprang up about 1860. At the present time there are 106 factories. The Watertown Produce Exchange is the largest interior exchange in the world, doing over a million dollars’ worth of business a year. The county ranks high in the working up of steel and iron, although the crude products are somewhat remote. The New York Air Brake company is one of our greatest plants. It was established in 1876 by Mr. Eames and in 1884 was taken over by the present company.

The Bagley & Sewall company was established at an early date and now its business is located in various parts of the world. The Eager Electric company is a new industry, which is growing. The Harmon Machine company and the Brownville Iron works are now consolidated and doing a large business. The carriage business, established in 1840, is one of the principal businesses in the town. The thermometer business and the spirit level business are also well known. Silk making also is important in this vicinity. The making of patent medicines, trusses, fishing baits, paints, cream separators and many other things are still prominent.

In 1883 the Nill & Jess bakery was established, and later this firm began the manufacture of cigars. Since that time many other cigar shops have been established.

In 1818 there was a powder mill in Leray, and later it was used as a starch factory.

It is hard to tell what the future may bring to the county. The present industries may decay or they may give place to something else. New methods may make our water power more or less valuable. New lines of transportation may make our products more saleable or may leave us stranded by the wayside. Come what may, Jefferson may always be proud of her ancestry for the perserverance, honor and the intergrity of her sons.

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