History of Pierrepont, NY


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THIS was the sixteenth town erected by an Act of the Legislature, passed April 15, 1818. The territory was originally a large one in area, and was taken from Russell and Potsdam April 15, 1818, and formerly under their jurisdiction, and embraced the townships of Emilyville, Chaumont, Clifton, Glare, and so much of De Witt as would lie east of a continuation of the west line of said township to the rear line of Canton. Emilyville was taken off and annexed to Fine in the forming of that town, March 27, 1844. Chaumont and Clifton were taken off to constitute the new town of Clifton April 21, 1868, and Clare was taken off and made a town by that name in 1882. (See history of these several towns.)

The first town meeting was held at the house of Cyrus Grannis, March 1, 1819, and the following officers elected: cyrus Grannis, supervisor; Andrew A. Crampton, clerk; William Yale, Elisha Woodruff, Gardner Cox, assessors; Peter R. Leonard, Joseph Dorothy, poormasters; Flavius J. Curtis, Ezra Craw, Samuel Belding, commissioners of roads; Richard Weller, constable and collector; Seth Hale, overseer of highways; F. J. Curtis, Ebenezer Tupper, Gardner Cox commissioners of schools; Cyrus Grannis, William Yale, A. A. Crampton, inspectors of schools; Joseph Dorothy, Seth Hale, F. J. Curtis, Henry Axtell, fence-viewers; E. Tupper, P. R. Leonard, poundkeepers.

Pierrepont received its name from Hezekiah B. Pierrepont, who owned a large share of its territory, and under whose administration, through agents, most of it has been settled. Portions of it are still owned by his descendants. The surface of the town is diversified with hills and valleys, and the soil is especially adapted to grazing, the principal occupation of the inhabitants at present being the making of cheese and butter, for which there are five or six factories now in operation.

It is a remarkable fact in the history of this locality that the celebrated Frenchwoman, Madam De Stael, once owned a portion of the township of Clare which was in the township of Pierrepont until recent years. She invested money here upon the advice of Gouverneur Morris, with whom she was acquainted. From Mr. Hough we learn that on the 7th of October, 1806, he wrote her as follows:

It has occurred to me that you would do well to purchase the remainder of the township of Clare. It lies next to that of Ballybeen (Russell), which is rapidly increasing in population. Thus in time a revenue will be drawn from it, inconsiderable indeed at first, but subsequently of great importance. Now such a provision for a son is of more value than thrice the amount of money. The one directs to industry and economy, the other excites to dissipation, unless indolence is allowed to exercise its enervating power. It would perhaps be possible to purchase the remainder of Clare at the rate of one dollar an acre. It certainly wotid not be necessary to go higher than two dollars.

Quoting further from Mr. Hough, he says relative to the title to parts of this town as follows:
On the partition of lands between McCormick and others, 15,200 acres were conveyed to Herman Le Roy and Wm. Bayard, In trust for this lady. They were subsequently conveyed to Theodosius O. Fowler, and in 1846 purchased by S. Pratt and John L. Russell, upon directions to sell by the Due de Broglie and Ada Holstein de Stael, his wife, the only surviving child of Madame de Stael. In 1847 a question of alienage of the Duchess de Broglie, and of the operation of the New York statute of trusts, having arisen, the legislature, by separate acts, confirmed the title of Russell and Pratt to the Clare lands, and of Livingston to the Clifton lands, similarly circumstanced.

Between the years 1864 and 1868, Wm. H. Sawyer and Leslie W, Russell, of Canton, purchased for themselves and Samuel C. Wead, of Malone, the west half of this township, since which it has been rapidly settled. The east half of the township is owned by Marcus Ball, of Troy, and is practically unsettled. The Pierrepont, Fine and Watson turnpike runs from north to south through the west half of the town, and all the farms are upon this road. About 2,000 acres of land are cleared and improved, and 2,000 acres more in process of clearing. The land lying back from the road is considered the best for farming. The timber is mostly hard wood, with hemlock, pine and spruce.

In the summer of 1799 Judge Raymond and others, engaged in surveying into townships the great northern purchase, had a provision camp near the village of East Pierrepont. Some of his men, near the close of the season, becoming weary and mutinous, resolved to leave without consent before the job of surveying was completed. They were intending to take the compass, at all hazards to those remaining behind, to guide them through the southern forest. Mr. Raymond having failed to persuade them to relinquish their purpose, privately stole out of the camp on the evening previous to their intended departure and hid his compass. The mutineers, failing to get possession of the compass, dared not undertake a journey through the woods without it, and became sullen over the matter. Mr. Raymond at length succeeded in convincing them that it was for their interest to continue the survey until it was completed, and then return home honorably. After consulting with each other they promised obedience, when the instrument was produced, and the labors continued till completed.

There was a tradition among the Indians which was told the surveyors when running out the town of Pierrepont, that there was a silver mine near the falls on Grass River, in the township No. 3, which was worked a little about 1776, but was stopped by order of the government soon after it was begun. The Indian trail from St. Regis to Black River runs through Pierrepont by way of Fall River.

The first settlement in this town was made by Flavius J. Curtis, who located in the northeast corner about 1806-7. Further settlement was mostly postponed until after the opening of the turnpike from Plattsburg to Carthage in 1812-13, which passed through the town and called settlers to its vicinity. Henry Axtell came from Vermont in 1813 and settled on lot 44, and in the next year his son, Henry Edwin Axtell, was born, the first birth in the town. About the same time Cyrus Grannis, then agent for Mr. Pierrepont, built a large frame house near Pierrepont Center and opened a tavern, which was probably the first in the town. Ebenezer Tupper came in 1813 and settled on the east side of the Raquette River, where the turnpike crosses it. He also opened a public house, Peter Ripley Leonard came from Shoreham, Vt., and settled in Canton in 1803, with his brother Moses. Both removed to Pkrrepont in 1813, the former settling half a mile southwest of the Center, where his son Charles afterwards lived. Moses settled on the site of the Center village; they and their descendants were prominent in the town. Zuriel Waterman settled in 1813 on what was known as the "Waterman Hill," and has descendants in the town. Others who came that year were Davis Dunton, Foster Shaw, Alanson Woodruff, Joseph Mather and Clark Hutchins. Andrew A. Crampton came from Pittsford, Vt., in 1815, and settled a quarter of a mile southwest of the Center, where he lived fifty-one years; he was a leading citizen, was elected town clerk at the first town meeting, held several other offices, and was postmaster twenty-four years. His son now lives at the Center.

Appleton Crary was the first one of that name to locate in town, which he did in 1816, settling on the Canton Road. Nathan Crary, jr., then living in Potsdam, taught the first school in 1815-16, and afterwards moved into the town. Edward Crary settled at what became known as Crary's Mills, which mills he built. Nathan Crary, sr, came to Potsdam in 1805 and lived there to 1824, when he moved into Pierrepont and settled on lot 4, which became part of his son Stephen's farm; his descendants are still living in town. Ephraim Butterfield came from Vermont in 1804, served in the War of 1812, and in 1815 settled in Pierrepont on the farm occupied in recent years by his son Horace. Christopher Leonard, father of Christopher Leonard, Jr., settled on lot 45, and Shubael Crandall came from Vermont in 1817 with ox teams, fourteen days being required for the journey. Mitchell Hamilton settled in Hopkinton in 1806, removed to Canton in 1811, and to Pierrepont in 1825, where he died in 1854; his descendants are still living in town. In the northeast part of the town the first settlement was made on the Raquette River by Gardner Cox, who bought the water privilege in 18 17. John P. Dimick purchased a piece of land adjoining; they were both from Vermont. In March, 1818, Benjamin Cox, who had joined his brother in the purchase, moved in his family. Within four years of the advent of the Cox family several others came in at his solicitation and settled on both sides of the river. Samuel Bancroft came in 1816, Reuben Dorothy in 1818, Asa Briggs in 1820, and Samuel Belding in 1818; most of these have descendants now in the town. Others who came about that time were Seth Hale and David Bradley.

Pierrepont Center.-This small village is situated at the intersection of the Canton and Colton road with the St. Lawrence turnpike, nine miles from Canton and ten from Potsdam. The first grist and saw mills in the town were erected on Grannis Brook by Cyrus Grannis, near this village. The grist mill long ago disappeared and a saw mill has occupied the site ; but there has been little done with it at present. Eldoras Cochrane is in charge of it. There are two other saw mills in the town. A cheese factory is located here, operated now by John Coon, which is one of the five cheese factories in the town. There is also one creamery. Chauncey Thomas was an early blacksmith at this place, and built the first frame house. Benjamin Squire was the first merchant and Andrew Crampton the first postmaster. The present postmaster is B. P. Hubbard, who has filled the position a great many years and carries on a store. Charles Beekman is the other merchant of the place.

Hannawa Falls.- This place has had other names such as "Cox's Mills," "East Pierrepont" and "Ellsworth." It is a small village in the northeast part of the town on the Raquette River. In 1818 Gardner and Benjamin Cox (who have been mentioned among the settlers), and John P. Dimick, got out the frame for a saw mill, and in the summer of 1819 the dam was built and the mill erected. In 1822 Gardner Cox built a grist mill on the west bank of the river, with a single run of rock stones. Two years later a run of burr stones was added and the place took the name of " Cox's Mills." A bridge was built across the river in 1828, and in 1836 the first mill was replaced by a stone mill which was burned in 1869 It was rebuilt in 1877 and is now operated as a feed mill under the ownership of Thomas Bicknell, who also owns a small saw mill. In 1845 Gardner Cox built a starch factory which produced about thirty tons annually. In 1858 it was changed to a corn starch factory, which continued three years. The building was burned in 1872. In 1852 a large gang saw mill was erected here, which was operated for a time and was burned. A woolen factory, wagon factory and machine shop have been operated here in the past; but they have all been abandoned. The dam first built, or a portion of it, is still standing, as is also the stone house built by Gardner Cox in 1838. Cybele Kelsey and Martin Welch were the first merchants in the place and had an ashery and a starch factory. The first tavern was erected about 1835 and was kept by Sidney Lanphear. The first postmaster was John P. Dimick, in 1832; the present official is Mrs. H. G. Carpenter, who also keeps a store.

There is a post-office and small settlement at West Pierrepont

In 1822 a bounty of $1.00 for foxes and $5.00 for wolves was offered. The poor fund had accumulated in 1829 to $575.62 over and above the expenditures for such charities, and this sum was invested, by consent of the Legislature, and the proceeds applied to the support of schools. In 1846 the town voted the sum of $800, legalized by act of the Legislature, and erected a town hall near where the Canton and Colton road crosses the turnpike. The hall served the purpose of a church, there being no meeting-house in town at the time.

Following is a list of the supervisors of the town, with the years of their service:
C. Granuis, 1819; John Axtell, 1820-21; Ezra Crary, 1822-23; Benjamin Squire. 1824-29; August 22, 1829, Gardner Cox, to fill vacancy; G. Cox, 1830-32, '40; Samuel Northrup, 1833-38; Paine Converse 1839 ; A. A. Crampton, 1841-42; Joshua Manley, 1843, '44, '46, '47; Orrin A. Howard, 1845, '57, '58, '66. '67, '68, Truman Smith, 1848-49; Asa W. Briggs, 1850-51 Peter F. Ryerson, 1852.53; Edwin A. Merritt, 1854. '55, '56; Benjamin F. Hamilton, 1859-60; ; Martin Welch, 1801, '62, '63 Ansel B. Hamilton, 1864-65; L. Crampton, 1866-70; A. C. Leonard, 1871-72; William A. Sherman, 1873, '74, 75, '76 ; 1877-86, Darwin H. Merritt; 1887-88, J. Ingraham Leonard; 1889-94, John B. Squires.

Religious Societies- Services were held in this town in very early years by Rev. Ezra Healy, a Methodist, and in 1816, by Rev. A. Baldwin, an Episcopal clergyman. Down to 1844 no religious society existed at the Falls, the settlers in that section going to Potsdam to church. On January 3, 1844, the Methodist Episcopal church at East Pierrepont (Hannawa Falls) was incorporated, with Gardner Cox, Nathan Christy, Levi Fuller, John Hicks and Harry Train, trustees. Rev. Mathew Bennett was the first pastor. This society is now in existence, but with small membership and irregular services. A Presbyterian society was organized here and tbe congregation joined with the Methodists in the erection of a house of worship, but that organization has gone out of existence.

A Free Will Baptist church was organized at the Center, September 14, 1850, by Rev. J. W. Lewis Rev. William Whitfield was chosen pastor, and continued there many years; but in recent times the church has languished and at the present time there is no pastor and no regular service.

The first Methodist Episcopal church of Pierrepont, located at "Curtis Corners," was organized January 5, 1853, at the house of Joseph Martin. The first trustees were Charles Smead, Chester Mott, John Martin, Daniel Church and Darius N. Curtis. A neat church was soon erected, for which a bell was presented by H. E. Pierrepont of Brooklyn, N. Y. There is no settled pastor, and only irregular services are held.

What was called the Free Church Association of this town was organized at the Center in September, 1884, and a building was erected the same year. A similar organization was effected under the name of the Beech Plains Free church in 1875. A church was erected in 1880, but it has no pastor at present.

A Union church is in existence at the Center, where Rev. Mr. Irish from Colton holds service; no settled pastor.

The Seventh Day Adventists of Pierrepont organized a church June 28, 1874, with Milo Western, Orange Chollar and Arden Eels as trustees. Elder Edward Holcomb is the present pastor, and there are about twenty-five members.

There is a Union church at Hannawa Falls (Methodist and Presbyterian), over which Rev. Alfred Page is pastor.

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