THE TOWN OF THERESA.
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Away back in the early years of the century Benjamin Wright, the pioneer surveyor
and explorer, informed James Le Ray that the high falls on Indian river offered abundant and never failing water
power for any mills which the proprietor might feel disposed to build at that point. This information determined
Le Ray to make a clearing and found a settlement, to accomplish which he caused a road to be opened from Evans’
Mills to the falls during the year 1812. He also caused 40 acres of land to be cleared on the present J. P. Douglas
place, and another tract of 100 acres in the next year, which James Shurtliff purchased and settled upon in 1815.
A few years later the proprietor engaged Musgrove Evans to survey a thousand acre tract for a village site, although
many years passed before the hamlet was in fact established. A mill, however, was built, but before its completion
Anson Cheeseman moved into the building and occupied it as a home. The lumber cut from the land was made into rafts
and floated down the river to market at Rossie and Ogdensburgh. The cleared tracts were then sown with grass seed
and made excellent pasture for Mr. Le Ray’s live stock; and if local accounts be true, in 1813 the proprietor kept
on these lands about 500 sheep, 60 head of cattle, and 20 horses. However, the war was then in progress, and the
herdsmen in charge of the stock lived in constant fear of a sudden invasion of the region by the British. The tract,
too, was surrounded with an almost boundless extent of heavily timbered wild lands, and ravenous animals were frequently
seen in the region. This was about the only occupancy of this part of the county previous to 1817, when Mr. Le
Ray began the sale of land to settlers.
Such, in brief, was the early history of the town now called Theresa, but the pioneers found evidences of a still
earlier occupancy, for all along the banks of Indian river, and all around the shores of the multitude of small
lakes in the north part of the town, the whites discovered traces of the Indian occupation. Indeed, this group
of lakes was one of the most favored Indian hunting and fishing grounds in the entire northern country, just as
in more recent years the region has been regarded and called the sportsman’s paradise, and even to the present
day is a much frequented resort forhunters and fishers. This miniature lake system comprises no less than a dozen
bodies of water, ranging from half a mile to several miles in length. and all tributaries of Indian river. They
are known as Butterfield, Grass, Moon, Hyde, Crystal. Sixberry, Mill-site, Red and Muskalonge lakes and Lake of
the Woods, but not all of them are wholly within the bounds of the town. A small part of Edmund and Clear lakes
extends from Alexandria across the Theresa line. The principal water course is the Indian river, a stream of considerable
size, which enters the southeast corner of the town from Le Ray and thence flows north and northeast into St. Lawrence
county. These several lakes suggest the peculiar physical features of the town, and also something of its geological
formation. The land surface along the river is much broken, and is traversed by ridges of gneiss rock, with very
fertile intervales. A portion of the town is underlai d with sandstone, and here the surface is level or gently
undulating. The northern portion is almost perfectly level, in certain localities undesirably so, yet rich, fertile
and productive to a remarkable degree. In the vicinity of several of these lakes various mineral deposits have
been found, a fair portion of which was iron ore. It was developed to some extent in 1847 and following years,
for which purpose a furnace was built near Mill-site lake, but long ago passed out of existence.
As has been stated, the pioneers of this region found scattered evidences of the former Indian occupation, but
they also found unmistakable traces of a white occupancy of more recent date than the aboriginal period. It is
a known historical fact that Indian river was a thoroughfare for trade and traffic for the smugglers of the embargo
period of county annals, but the high falls made necessary a carrying place, for no river craft could pass them.
It was therefore the custom to carry goods from the upper to the lower level, requiring the use of two fiat bottomed
boats. These remained after the period had passed and were found and used by the pioneers in their early settlement
of the town.
The territory comprising Theresa was originally a part of great lot number four of the Macomb purchase, and passed
as a part of the vast tract to the Antwerp company, thence to James de Le Ray, by whom it was again surveyed and
subdivided for purposes of settlement and development. It was this worthy proprietor who caused the “jobs” to be
cleared; it was he who caused the primitive mills to be erected at the falls during the years 1810—11, and he,
also, who sent the live stock to be fattened in the splendid pasture lands that followed the clearings. The outbreak
of the war had the effect to retard development, but as soon as that period had passed the worthy proprietor again
turned his attention in this direction and the settlement was founded.
Captain John Hoover and John A. Evans were probably the first whites to live within the limits of the town, but
theirs was only a ternporary occupancy, for they. were sent here to watch the stock grazing on the clearings. They
were here in this work in the early spring of 1813, but when his services were needed on the frontier later on
in that year, the doughty captain returned to Le Ray, assembled his company and went at once to the harbor. In
July his company took part in the affair at Goose creek, and after it was over the men returned to Sackets Harbor
by the way of Indian river, passing the cabin the herdsmen had occupied at the high falls, where the captain left
his men and resumed charge over ttie stock, with no other company than his wife and a single hired man. On one
occasion, soon after the captain’s return from the frontier, he discovered five British soldiers spying about the
premises. rrhey soon entered the barn and remained during the night. The captain then returned to his cabin, which
barricaded for the night, but at early dawn went out and took a position where he could see and not be observed;
and when the soldiers came out of the barn he challenged them “after the maner of a sentinel, demanding who they
were, to which they replied, ‘friends.’” He then ordered them to come forward and lay down their arms, upon which
two of them approached him while the others turned and fled. He assured the two that they should not be harmed
by “his regiment,” if they were orderly, and disarming them, ordered them to mount their horses and conducted them
without further trouble to Sackets Harbor.
While there was no permanent settlement in the town previous to about 1817, Mr. Le Ray continued his improvements,
and in 1814 caused a bridge to be built across the river at the falls, and about 1818 he had Mr. Evans survey and
lay out the village tract of 1,000 acres. In the next year he built a grist mill and a tavern, the latter being
burned in 1820. In the meantime settlement was begun and the town began making permanent history. The pioneers
were James Shurtliff. Anson Cheeseman and Col. Sinesa (or Sinecy) Ball, all of whom came in 1817. Mr. Shurtliff
located on the clearing, and soon afterward opened his house as an inn for the accommodation of new arrivals and
travelers through the region. He was one of the early justices of the peace, an earnest Presbyterian and a man
much respected in the corninanity. He died in Plessis August 1, 1846. Colonel Ball settled on the old military
road, two miles west of the falls. He had a large family of children, and several of his descendants became persons
of note in the county. Anson Cheeseman came into the town in the fall of the year, and was connected with the saw
mill, for which he furnished the supply of logs. He also assisted in the construction of the grist mill in the
next year. His surname is still well. known in the town.
The settlers who came in 1818, so near as can be determined, were Benjamin Barnes, Jesse Doolittle, Curley Smith
and Zalmon Pool. Barnes settled east of the river, above the upper falls, and is remembered as a local M. E. preacher,
also as brickrnaker and mason, and withal a valuable asquisition to the settlement. Jesse Doolittle came from Watertown
and located about a mile from the upper falls. Curley Smith located at the lower falls, and started a blacksmith
shop, setting up his establishment in the open air. Sylvester Bodman and Dudley Chapman came in 1820, and while
the same year may have witnessed still other arrivals the names cannot now be determined. Abraham Morrow was one
of the most prominent settlers in 1821. Among the other settlers in the town about or soon after this time may
be recalled the names of Jeremiah Cheeseman, Joseph Miller, Mr. Moyer, who settled near the Shurtliff improvement;
James Lake, near the body of water once called Hide lake; Eliphalet Emery, also in the same vicinity. There were
also Ebenezer Lull, the first storekeeper; Mrs. Keeler, the widowed sister of Anson Cheeseman, and who brought
to the settlement two Sons and a daughter; Allen Cole, who located near the Orleans line; Henry Morey the first
carpenter; Augustus Soper, on the west Theresa road, and also Nathaniel Parker, Austin Bates, Samuel Hall, Michael
Cook, Benjamin Allen, David Morgan, Job Whitney, Mr. Castleman (the squatter on Le Ray’s land), Col. Artemas Baker
(the second blacksmith), Nathan Starks (another early blacksmith), Seymour Murray (the first shoemaker), and perhaps
others equally worthy of mention, but whose names cannot be recalled.
Gen. Archibald Fisher, a man of especial prominence among the early settlers, came from New Hampshire about 1820
and located for a time near the Orleans line, but later on removed to the village site. He became general of militia
and was otherwise conspicuous in public affairs in the vicinity. Lodowick Salisbury came about the same time and
settled on the military road. His son, Alexander Salisbury, was the first supervisor of the town, and was president
of the Redwood glass company. Azariah Walton came about 1822, but removed to Alexandria Bay, and was for nearly
twenty years connected with the customs office.
Daniel Strough also came about 1820, setting on the military road. He was a shoemaker by trade, but a farmer by
occupation in this town. In his family were ten children, and among them Samuel W. became perhaps the most prominent.
His life, except about three years spent in New York, was passed in Theresa. He was a farmer, but also dealt in
other productions. He was in all respects a self-made and self-respecting man; was well educated, and a noted school
teacher for many years. He was not an attorney, but as a man of understanding was the general and safe adviser
for the whole townsfolk. His wife was Erneline Taliman, who bore him four children, viz.: Byron J., Elnora (Mrs.
William A. Snyder), Lucien S. and Perrin A. Strough.
The military road, to which frequent reference has been made, was lain out and partly built during the years 1818
and ‘19. It was the resuit of a tour of this part of the state by President Monroe in 1817, and was designed to
connect Piattsburg and Sackets Harbor. It extended from the harbor to Brownville; thence to Parnelia Four Corners,
Redwood and Hammond, passing through what afterward became this town. For many years it was an important north
and south thoroughfare through the town and increased settlement along its route. However, let us turn briefly
to some of the early events of town history, and to the persons connected with them.
The first birth was that of Ursula Cole, May 26, 1819, the daughter of Jacob Cole. She afterward became the wife
of Jacob Ostrander. The first marriage was that of Erastus Clark and Kate Underwood, in 1820. The second event
of the kind was the marriage of Andrew Stone with Hannah, daughter of James Shurtliff. The first death was that
of Thompson Doolittle, son of Jesse Doolittle, and the date, Nov. 18, 1820. Dr. James Brooks was the first physician,
who came in 1822, and died in 1823. Dr. Samuel J. Gaines was the second physician, and was soon succeeded by Dr.
John D. Davison, who came from Pamelia in 1824. Dr. Gaines died Sept. 22, 1865. His sons James and Nathan Gaines
were later physicians in the town. The first grist mill was begun in 1820, and was built by Samuel Case for Mr.
Le Ray. It stood on the site where a similar structure has since been maintained. Noah Ashley was the first miller.
In 1823 the property was sold to Percival Bullard, and by him to Marcius and Stephen Ashley about 1830. Later owners
were Salisbury, Kelsey & Co., and Stokes and George Wilson. The building was burned in 1852, but was rebuilt
by Mr. Wilson, and was afterward operated by Wilson & Humphrey, David Burr and Charles Pool until it was again
destroyed by fire in 1859.
In 1819 Mr. Le Ray caused a tavern to be built in the village settlement on the site of the present Getman house
Mr. Stephenson was first landlord, but in the fall of 1821 the building was burned. A second hotel was built on
the same site in 1824. It was of brick, and for many years was known as the “Brick tavern.” Gen. Fisher was its
owner and landlord, and under his proprietorship was a famous hostelry, This was the first brick building erected
in the town or village, the bricks for which were made by Benjamin Barnes, who came to the town in that year. The
second brick building was the dwelling house of Nathaniel W. Lull, standing on Main street. The brick used for
this house were also the handiwork of Mr. Barnes. As has already been said, Benjamin Barnes enjoyed a certain prominence
in the locality as a local Methodist preacher, and an earnest, faithful worker in all which pertained to the spiritual
as well as the temporal welfare of the villagers He died in the town March 21, 1864.
Jonathan Thompson, who has previously been mentioned, started a tannery on what was known as Barnes’ creek, in
1822. In that year a second like industry was established by Nathaniel Lull on the ground where now stands the
railroad station. It was abandoned, however, after about ten years, and long before the railroad was built through
the village. Thompson soon removed his tannery to the site of the foundry of more recent years, near the south
end of the lower bridge. Here he also built a currier shop, but later on sold his property to John S. Casler. In
still later years Almond Thwing built a tannery in rear of where the American hotel now stands. Charles Thwing
afterward owned the business, and he and Mr. Eddy built still another tannery (about 1860) on the river, above
the falls. This became the more recently known Cooper tannery, but after it had been sold Cooper built another
which was discontinued after a few years’ operation.
In 1822 Nathan M. Flower came from Cherry Valley to the falls on Indian river, as the village settlement was then
known, and started a fulling and cloth-dressing mill on the site of the Collis woolen factory of later years. He
was well skilled in his trade but his works were subsequently destroyed by fire. Mr. Flower was a prominent personage
in the new community and held several important town offices, notably that of justice of the peace. He died in
the village April 4, 1843. Ex-Gov. Roswell P. Flower and Anson R. Flower, of Watertown, were Sons of Nathan M.
Nicholas D. Yost came to Theresa from Johnstown in 1837 and purchased a considerable tract of land. He then possessed
moderate means, but by a life of prudent economy and excellent business judgment he amassed a competency. During
his active life Mr. Yost was unquestionably one of the best business men in Theresa. He was liberal, generous and
honest, and respected all through the north part of the county. Mr. Yost died Sept. 5, 1870, but the surname is
still in the town and represented in the best interests of the region. George
E. Yost, banker, of Theresa, was one of the children of Nicholas D. Yost.
Outside of the Indian river valley there was little attempt at development, other than in regular agricultural
pursuits. Our narrative has necessarily been confined chiefly to the improvements made in and about the village
settlement, for few indeed were the enterprises founded in other localities, unless we except the several hotels
which once had a part in the early history of the old military road. One of the first attrmpts in this direction
was made by Benjamin Pease about 1825, when he built a log tavern on the road near the Le Ray line; but his was
an unpretentious structure, drew but little trade, hence was soon closed. Soon after this the military road became
as noted for its many public houses as the little village at the falls was noted for its variety of industries.
Among the first to open an inn was Lodowick
Salisbury, of whom previous mention has been made, who began business soon after 1825. In 1827 Elias Holbrook came
down from Le Ray and opened the second hotel on the road, the same afterward kept by Austin Bates, and still later
by landlord Hodges, by whom it was named “Hodges’ tavern.” About 1828 John L Farrar built a public house near the
Le Ray line. Landlord Farrar also made and sold pumps, and his hotel was afterward run by Austin Bates, Marcius
B. Ashley and Mr. Shiifta. It was afterward called the “Shufta tavern,” in allusion to P. Shufta, one of its latest
landlords. From the same person was derived the name Shufta’s corners, which has endured to the present time while
the old tavern was long ago numbered among the things of the past.
About 1828 Henry R. Morey came from the village and built the famous “Red tavern” at the cross roads north of Colonel
Bull’s place. This was a noted stopping place in early times, and was famous for the “good cheer” dispensed to
the weary traveler along the military road. The later proprietors were Hiram Becker, Elias Glass, Austin Bates
and perhaps others before the house was closed. About 1828 Daniel Strough kept a hotel on the highway leading to
La Fargeville, but the building was soon afterward put to other uses. Warren Parish was probably the first hotel
keeperat West Theresa. In the north part of the town, on the north side of Red lake, John Graves tried the experiment
of opening a hotel to be patronized chiefly by fishermen and hunters in that region; but the enterprise proved
unsuccessful from a business point of view.
From what has been stated it must be seen that the settlement of this part of Theresa (then Alexandria) was accomplished
quite rapidly after Mr. Le Ray first opened the way in 1817, and while there is no present means of determining
accurately, it is believed the number of inhabitants in what is now Theresa in 1840 was about 2,000. The subject
of a new town had been discussed at the annual meetings for several years, but no definite action was taken previous
to 1841, when a division of the territory was agreed upon.
Organization.— The creating act
passed the legislature April 15, 1841, and by it Theresa was brought into existence; and was so named in allusion
to Mile. Theresa, the daughter of James D. Le Ray, and the wife of the Marquis de Gouvello, of France.
In accordance with the provisions of the act, the first town meeting was held at the public house kept by Marcius
B. Ashley in ‘rheresa village, April 11, 1841, when officers were elected as follows: Percival D. Bullard, town
clerk; Abraham Morrow, Michael Servis, Osman Caswell, justices of the peace; Richard Hoover, assessor; Barney N.
Hansen, Jonathan Hakes, commissioners of highways; Stephen Scott, commissioner of common schools; Samuel W. Strough,
Ichabod Cronkite, inspectors of common schools; Samuel T. Brooks, overseer of the poor; Isaac L. Huntington, Jeremiah
R. Hungerford, Albert W. Covenhoven, constables.
Previous to the law creating the town of Alexandria Salisbury had been elected supervisor of Alexandria, and under
the act as a resident of the newly erected town he was continued in office for the year.
Throughout the period of its history, Theresa has been known as one of the best agricultural towns of Jefferson
county. The pioneers and early settlers here were a determined, strong and intelligent set of men, many of whom
came to the region with but little means, but through the inspiring influence of Le Ray they went earnestly at
work, and in the course of a few years established for their locality a standing and reputation equal to that of
any civil division of the county, when natural advantages are considered. True, the Indian river afforded water
power as good as the Black river, and while the lakes were in no wise a hindrance to local progress they were never
considered important factors in the town’s advancement and prosperity. The above results, however, came from the
energetic action of the first settlers and their descendants. The north part has never been thickly populated,
the exceedingly level character of the land surface preventing its fullest development, yet in this region are
some of the best grazing lands of which the county can boast. The lake region has its attractions and advantages,
offering a multitude of sporting resorts, and withal a beautiful display of nature’s marvels, but hardly a factor
in promoting the welfare of the people in the accustomed pursuits of business life. The institutions were firmly
established long before the subject of town division was suggested, and that end was sought for the convenience
of the inhabitants living remote from the central portion of the town. The high falls, as Theresa village was formerly
called, has ever been a more important trading center than Alexandria Bay, while the splendid water power furnished
by the river has given the village a prominent place among the manufacturing centers of the region; yet it is doubtful
if at any time this water power has been less utilized than the present. This is due to existing conditions rather
than lack of public spirit on the part of the people.
In 1845, four years after the town was created, the number of inhabitants within its boundaries was 2,109, showing
it to have been, with two exceptions, the largest town in the county at the time of erection. In 1850 the number
had increased to 2,310.
The subsequent changes in population are best shown by the census tables, viz.: 1855, 2,278; 1860, 2,628; 1865,
2,515; 1870, 2,364; 1875, 2,360; 1880, 2,389; 1890, 2,391; 1892, 2,342.
The bounds of Theresa have not been changed since the town was created, therefore these figures may be regarded
as a fair index of growth and development. It is seen that the greatest population was attained in 1860, and that
the subsequent decrease is inconsiderable when compared with the majority of towns similarly situated. Indeed,
Theresa has always been regarded as one of the substantial towns, rich in agricultural productions, stable in all
its interests and institutions, and peopled with as progressive and liberal a class of inhabitants as the county
can show. Situated somewhat remote from the shire town, the people have learned to depend on their own efforts
and home industries for support, and therefore have been thoroughly democratic in domestic life and economy. The
same patriotic spirit impelled the business men of Theresa village and vicinity to build the little steamboat “Indian
Chief” and launch it on the river below the falls, in April, 1858. At that time no railroad was in operation through
the town, and this undertaking furnished a partial means of transportation to the St. Lawrence and of better market
for the productions of the region. The boat run on the river about five years, and was then sold. The second boat
was purchased about 1860, by Wm. D. Chapman, and after running a few years as an excursion boat was sold and taken
to Alexandria Bay. The third steamer was the little “Lady of the Lake,” built at Theresa by Mr. Chapman and run
on the river until sold to St. Lawrence river navigators. Then followed the “Sir John Keach,” also built by Mr.
Chapman, and still later the “Eldorado,” built at the expense of counsellor David Bearup, of Theresa. She was the
largest of the five boats run on the Indian river by local owners. In 1876 this boat was sold to James McAllister.
None of these investments were profitable to the owner, but their operation attests the public spiritedness of
Theresa’s people. Dr. James Kelsey’s pleasure yacht was the most recent boating enterprise on the river at this
Previous to 1872 Theresa had no railroad communication with the ontside world nearer than Philadelphia, about eight
miles distant. The need of such a means of traffic had long been felt, but the conditions for the consummation
were not developed until 1870, when the Black river and Morristown railway company was organized, the articles
of incorporation being filed with the secretary of state March 22, 1870. In this enterprise all Theresa was interested,
particularly the residents and business men of the village, among whom may be mentioned the names of David Bearup,
Franklin Barker, George E. Yost, Dr. Lucius Hannahs, Ambrose Walradt, John F. Lambie, Percival D. Bullard, B. Palmer
Cheeseman, and others. Mr. Bearup was elected president of the company and has served in that capacity to the present
time. The road was completed to Theresa village in December, 1872, and in the course of the next two years was
substantially completed. In 1873 the Clayton and Theresa railroad was built, and in this enterprise the business
men of the town were also active participants. Both companies, while maintaining separate organizations, were merged
in the R. W. & O. system, and in 1891 were leased to the management of the Central Hudson system.
In the history of the town there has been but little attempt at manufacture, except as has been noted in preceding
paragraphs. The town is almost wholly an agricultural region, and butter and cheese have been the staples not directly
the product of the soil. Cheese making has been for many years an established industry and the source of much revenue
to those engaged in it. At the present time there are at least half a dozen limbufger factories in operation, yet
this commodity is made in such manner that it attracts no attention, requires little capital, and no special building
for its production. The manufacture of English or Yankee cheese has been carried on in the town for more than twenty
years, and there are now in operation four good factories known and distinguished as follows: The Brooklyn factory,
located in Theresa village, owned by I. C. Cooper; the Cooper home factory, and the Still's corners factory, both
managed by Mr. Cooper; also one on the J. P. Douglass farm, known as Patron's factory.
One of the early and for a time substantial industries of the town was the old Redwood iron company and works,
located on the west side of Mill-site lake. It was started in 1847 by William Bones, Joseph C. Budd and Samuel
T. Hooker, who built a smelting furnace and produced pig iron from ores mined in the vicinity. The business was
continued for several years with varying success, but was stopped chiefly for want of profit. On July 16, 1855,
the Redwood iron company was incorporated, with a capital of $10,000, for the purpose of "opening mines, raising
iron ore, manufacturing pig iron and castings of all de
scriptions, also bar and hoop iron and nails," as set forth in the articles of association. The incorporators
were Gustavus M. Spencer, Albert G. White, Robert Bostwick, Horan Langdon, Isaac N. Conklin and Nathan W. Merwin.
This company was composed chiefly of foreign capitalists, and its business after a time shared the fate of its
Theresa Village.- In 1818, when Musgrove
Evans surveyed and laid out for the proprietor a thousand-acre tract of land around the high falls on Indian river,
it was the intention of Mr. Le Ray to found a village, although more than half a century passed before it was separated
from the town for municipal purposes. In a preceding paragraph is noted the early industries which were started
from time to time on the village site, but manufactures spring up in all localities where water power is found
and without special reference to locality. At least such was the case in the early history of Theresa and other
towns in the county. The surest index of hamlet and village character was the tavern and country store at the established
Ebenezer Lull was the pioneer merchant of the settlement, and began business at the clearing in 1820. Alexander
Salisbury, afterward prominent in local affairs, was his clerk. Lull was also partner with Azariah Walton in the
lumber business, and carried on an extensive trade on the river. In 1825 Olney Pierce, acting for Anson Ranney,
bought Lull's store and succeeded him in mercantile business. In 1832 Ranney built the stone building at the corner
of Commercial and Main streets, where he was in business many years, having as partners Percival D. Bullard and
later Silas L. George. About 1830 John J. Gilbert began trading in a brick building at the south end of the lower
bridge. Later occupants of the store were De Grasse Salisbury, Benj. L. Smith, A. Salisbury, Mr. Morseman and John
S. Casler, the latter changing the building to a dwelling and currier shop. Another merchant of about the same
period was John Gibbs. Salisbury & Thompson began business about 1837, and were followed by Salisbury, Thompson,
Ashley & Davison, one of the strongest of the early firms of the village. The Exchange block was built in 1845,
comprising four brick stores, and was one of the most pretentious structures of the village. Among its first occupants
were P. D. Bullard, William D. Chapman, Franklin Parker (with a stock of "East and West India" goods),
and Baker & Salisbury. A brick block was built on the west side of Commercial street in 1847, also including
four stores, and was owned by William Townsend, Thomas Gale, Miles Myers and A. N. Brittan.
The first hotel in the village was that built on the site of the Getman house in 1819, owned by Mr. Le Ray, but
which was burned in 1820. A colored servant was burned to death in the building. In 1824 Gen. Fisher erected a
new hotel on the site, the famous "Brick tavern," which he kept for many years. Later landlords were
Marcius B. Ashley, S. Wilson, J. Davis, J. F. Smith, W. E. Bennett, C. C. Chadwick, B. N. Hanson, Noah Perkins,
Niles Terrill, Elias Getman, and afterward Getman Bros., the present proprietors. In 1890 the old house was destroyed
by fire, and was at once replaced with the present hotel, one of the best appointed and managed country hotels
in northern New York. The erection of the American house was begun in 1822, soon after the Le Ray tavern was burned,
but was not fully completed until several years afterward. It was used for various purposes until 1842, then remodeled
and opened to the public, and has since been occupied and managed by many landlords.
The first post-office in the town was established at Theresa village in 1822; Ebenezer Lull, postmaster. The village
was then a station on the post and stage route leading from Champion to Alexandria Bay, by the way of Evans' Mills.
In the southwest part of the town a post station called Military Road was established previous to 1840; but the
office was long ago discontinued. The office at West Theresa was established in 1848, but that, too, has been out
of existence for many years.
In this connection it is also proper to briefly mention some of the more prominent industries of the village in
later days. In 1821 the business interests included a grist mill, a saw mill, an ashery, a store and a tavern.
Just thirty years later there were two grist mills, three saw mills, two foundries, a machine shop, plaster mill,
wagon shop, clothing and fulling mill, eight stores, two hotels, several small shops, and about 600 hundred inhabitats.
The next quarter of a century witnessed many changes and improvements in the village. At that time (1875), Webster's
planing mill stood on the site of the old Le Ray saw mill of 1811, The large Empire grist mill occupied the ground
on which once stood the Le Ray grist mill. Pool's saw mill was on the south side of the river, in a locality noted
for its variety of early industries. A. N. Brittan's chair factory stood near the lower dam, on the left bank of
the river. This vicinity, also, was noted for its many factories. There were also Wakefield's foundry, Coilis'
cloth works, Stockweil's tub factory, Gregory's foundry, Sneil & Makepeaces grist mills, Sheley's sash, door
and blind factory and planing mill, and perhaps still others worthy of notice, but now forgotten. Between 1860
and 1870 the business of the village was at its best, and Theresa, then unincorporated, was one of the most popular
manufacturing and trading centers of the county; and that notwithstanding the fact that no railroad had connected
the place with the markets of the state.
The magnitude and number of business interests made necessary at last a partial separation of the village from
the town, and steps were taken to secure that result. George Rockwell made a survey of the region, and included
within the limits of the proposed corporation a body of land about one mile wide and three miles long. The river
divided the district in nearly two equal parts. An enumeration of the inhabitants was made, the necessary notice
was given by the town board, a special election was held, and by a good majority the residents in the districts
voted to incorporate. All preliminaries being thus settled, the necessary papers were filed with the county clerk,
and on the 29th of June, 1871, Theresa became an incorporated village. The first election of officers was held
July 29, and resulted as follows: President, George E. Yost; trustees, John Parker, Ambrose Walradt, Gideon Snell,
sen.; treasurer, Hiram Salisbury; collector, Charles Fairbanks. The trustees chose Melvin E. Cornwall as town clerk,
and Lucius Hannahs, health officer.
The succession of village presidents has been as follows: George E. Yost, 1871; Norval E. Douglas, 1872; John Parker,
1873; George Kelsey, 1874; P. B. Salisbury, 1875; Elias Getrnan, 1876; Jerome Cooper, 1877; Jason C. Morrow, 1878;
William Dresser, 1879; Dorman Walradt, 1880-81; John F. Lambie, 1882; Richard Rodenhurst, 1883; Emmons R. Stockwell,
1884; William Walradt, 1885; William M. Lambie, 1886; Ceylon Wakefield, 1887; Loren F. Shurtliff, 1888; Ager J,
Jarvis, 1889; William M. Lambie, 1890; G. G. Perrine, 1891; Leman W. Tyler, 1892; Richarci Rodenhurst, 1893-94;
Leman W. Tyler, 1895; Ager J. Jarvis, 1896; Almauson T. Smith. 1897.
The first twenty years of municipal history in Theresa was a period of continued prosperity, varied only by the
ever changing events of time. The period was one of growth and development, and during the ten years next following
1880 the population increased to about twelve hundred, and all other interests in like proportion. The ordinary
precautions were taken to prevent serious disaster, yet no definite action was had to properly guard against loss
by fire. This neglect, if such it may be called, resulted disastrously to all interests, for on April 5, 1890,
a conflagration swept away almost the entire business part of the village, causing a total loss in property of
about $150,000, with only about $100,000 of insurance to protect the owners. In all about forty buildings were
destroyed. In one respect, however, this disaster had a purifying effect. Many of the burned buildings were of
frame, some of them old and presenting an unattractive appearance, but after the debris had been removed the enterprising
men of the village set themselves to work, and within the next year and one-half a new Theresa stood on the old
site, having little resemblance to the former village, but presenting a class of buildings which rival any in the
county in a municipality of twice the size of this. Indeed, Theresa is now looked upon as the most attractive village
in this part of the state. The new structures are almost wholly of brick, three stories high, substantially built,
and an ornament to any place.
The people of the town also exhibited a spirit of liberality, and caused to be built an attractive town hail. The
lower floors are rented for business purposes, and the upper floor is arranged for public meetings and entertainments.
The revenue derived from rents more than pays the interest on the investment. Another good result from the fire
was the organization and equipment of a fire department, and also the erection of a village hall, and fire department
building. This, however, was not fully accomplished until 1894, in which year the building was erected. The department
comprises a good chemical engine, a hook and ladder truck and two service hose carts, each supplied with a reel
of good quality of hose, and manned by a company of the most active young men of the village. The department was
regularly incorporated September 12, 1892.
Union free school district No. 1, of the town of Theresa, was organized in 1866, but was not incorporated under
the state regents until 1893. The institution then became known as "Theresa union school." The present
large stone school building was erected in 1870, and was enlarged by a material addition built in 1897, at a cost
of about $3,000. The school has always been generously supported by the residents of the district. The present
principal is Prof. J. S. Fox, successor to Prof. Marshall. The board of education comprises Henry Cheesernan, pres.;
Dr. J. R. Sturtevant, sec'y, and A. T. Smith, L. W. Tyler and John Bogart.
In 1806 the village bonded to the extent of $18,000 to secure a sufficient supply of pure and wholesome water for
domestic purposes. In the same year the works were constructed, main pipes were laid throughout the principal streets,
fire hydrants were located at convenient points, and a stand-pipe was erected on a commanding elevation on the
outskirts of the village. A contract was made with Sneli & Makepeace to pump the supply of water from Indian
river to the stand-pipe. All these things were accomplished speedily and well, during 1896, and the result is a
system of water works not surpassed in any municipality in the county.
Theresa lodge No. 174, F. and A. M., was organized Nov. 28, 1849, with John D. Davison, master; John Moak, S. W.;
John Dillenbeck, J. W.; Alanson Doolittle, treas.; J. B. Davison, sec'y; A. Baker, S. D.; A. Morrow, J. D., and
George W. Cornwe1l, tyler. These officers were the charter members. The members now number 80 persons.
The past masters have been as follows: John D. Davison, 1849-51; John Moak, 1852-54; Archibald Fisher, 1855; Davis
Ballard, 1856-57; John Moak, 1858; James B. Carpenter, 1859; Jesse D. Moak, 1860-69; Percival B. Salisbury, 1870-76;
Jesse D. Moak, 1877; John F. Lambie, 1878-79; Percival B. Salisbury, 1880-83; Jeremiah B. Sturtevant, 1884-85;
Charles W. Thompson, 1886; Lester H. Pool, 1887-89; Percival B. Salisbury. 1890-92; Clayton Wakefield. 1893: W.
A. Fisher, 1894-95; A. T. Smith, 1896.
Theresa chapter, No. 149, R. A. M., was organized in January, 1854, with John D. Davison, H. P.; John Moak, K.;
and John C. Young, S. The original membership was small, but has increased to about 70 at the present time. The
succession of high priests has been as follows:
John D. Davison, 1854-55; John Moak, 1856-05; Davis Ballard, 1866; John Moak, 1867; John B. Linn, 1868; Jesse D.
Moak, 1869-80; Jeremiah R. Sturtevant, 1887-90; Wm. M. Lambie, 1891; J. R. Sturtevant, 1892-97.
Cassiopia lodge No. 291, I. O. O. F., was formed at Plessis, April 13, 1847, and in December following removed
to Theresa village. The lodge remained in active operation only a few years. No similar organization was maintained
until 1896, when Theresa lodge No, 755, was instituted, with 27 charter members. The present number is 45. The
officers are George Walradt, N. G.; Scott Sargeant, V. G.; Jas. Vock, fin. see.; Chas. Walters, rec. sec.; Edward
George E. Yost, banker, began business at Theresa, January 1, 1872, although for several years prior to that time
he had done an informal banking business in connection with his other interests in the vicinity. The bank is entirely
a private enterprise, yet does not lack any of the essential elements of state or national banks, except the necessary
formalities. The fact that Mr. Yost has continued tile business for more than twenty-five years is evidence of
the success of the bank; and the fact that the bank has the entire business of the village and vicinity is also
evidence that the people are satisfied with its management. Indeed, there has been no public enterprise of consequence
to the people of Theresa during the last thirty years with which George E. Yost has not been in some manner prominently
In the same manner may be mentioned the manufacturing and mercantile interests of the village as represented at
this time. The manufacturers are C. Wakefield & Son, iron founders, machine shop; Stockwell & Parker, box
factory; Snell & Makepeace, roller flour mill, with a capacity of 125 bbls. per day; Pool & Cheeseman,
flour, feed and saw mill; George Heller & Co., sash, doors and blinds; A. N. Brittan & Son manufacturing
company (limited) established in 1843, but burned in 1889, and not rebuilt; Brooklyn cheese factory, I. C. Cooper,
prop'r. The principal mercantile interests are George Kelsey, Cheeseman & Avery, Lambie & Co., and Walradt
& Sons, dry goods and general stock; J. H. Drummond, drugs and groceries; Rodenhurst & Son, hardware and
plumbing; Stratton & Cheeney, crockery and groceries; Wm. Root, general store; Wrn. Loucks, boots and shoes
and groceries; Chas. Lehr, boots and shoes; Chas. Young, grocer; A. T. Smith, drugs; Fisher & Middleton, furniture
and undertaking; Hoover & Westcott. hardware and plumbing; J. Casey & Sons, dry goods and groceries; G.
W. Henry, hardware and groceries; J. D. Nellis and Gilson Cook, meat market; W. D. Chapman, jeweler; Getman Bros.
and G. W. Bretch, landlords; David Bearup, C. A. Kelsey and C. A. Van Allen, lawyers; J. R. Sturtevant, F. L. Santway,
Jas. Kelsey and Miss Dell Dresser, physicians.
The First Presbyterian church of Theresa, now more commonly known as the Flower memorial church, was organized
May 8, 1825, at the dwelling of pioneer Abraham Morrow. There were nine constituent members, five males and four
females. Mr. Morrow and Sylvester Bodman were the first elders. On Dec. 22, 1835, the society was regularly incorporated,
Anson Ranney, James Shurtliff and Nathan M. Flower being the trustees. These officers, with a like committee froni
the Methodist society, caused to be built in 1837 and '38 a meeting house for the joint use of the societies. The
edifice was dedicated in September, 1838. In 1849 the Presbyterians purchased and afterward occupied it until the
building was replaced with the beautiful edifice erected in 1879, by the children of Nathan and Mary Ann Flower
as a tribute of love to their parents. Tile generous donors caused to be erected within the church two tablets,
on one of which was inscribed the names of tile original members, viz.: Abraham Morrow, Lucinda Morrow, Sylvester
Bodman, Relief Bodman, Nathan M. Flower, Mary Ann Flower, Abner Cheeseman, James Shurtliff, Leona Shurtliff. On
the other tablet are inscribed these words: "Erected to God in memory of Nathan and Mary Ann Flower, by their
children, 1879." This is the largest and strongest church society in the village, and numbers 140 members.
The present pastor, Rev. Charles G. Cady, was installed June 1, 1892, succeeding Rev. Geo. S. W. Renwick.
The Methodist Episcopal church of Theresa was organized March 5, 1836, although a class was fOrmed in the town
as early as 1827, and Theresa was made a charge in 1831. In 1837 a church edifice was built, as above stated, in
connection with the Presbyterian society, but in 1849 the Methodist interest was sold, the society then beginning
tile erection of a new church home. This structure was burned in 1860, and was replaced in 1862 with the edifice
now occupied by the society. This church has 184 full members, and 41 probationers. Pastor, Rev. W. H. Bury.
St. James church (Episcopal) of Theresa, was organized July 16, 1848, although previous to that time services had
been held in the village. The first communicants were Daniel, Horace and Franklin Parker, E. W. Lewis, Dr. Lucius
Hannahs and wife, and Percy Jarvis. In the spring of 1850 a church edifice was begun. The corner stone laid July
19, and the church formally dedicate4 by Bishop De Lancey, Aug. 7, 1861. Horace and Daniel Parker were the first
wardens. The present number of communicating members is 56; wardens, Franklin Parker and Peter Schwarz; rector,
Rev. John Smiley.
A Roman Catholic mission has also been established in the village. and while services are held the parish has not
been organized. It is an out.station of Evans' Mills.
When James Le Ray laid out the village tract in 1818, he reserved and donated a parcel supposed to contain about
an acre of land for the purpose of a burying ground. On measurement, however, the parcel in fact contained 1.40
acres, No authority appears to have been exercised over this lot prior to the creation of the town in 1841, when
a sum of money was voted for improving the ground, and three trustees were appointed to have charge of the plat,
to lay out lots, and otherwise have authority over them. The trustees were Jesse S. Doolittle, Nathan M. Flower
and Alexander Salisbury. From that time the village cemetery was cared for at the public expense. The Oakland cemetery
association was organized in October, 1884, for the purchase and maintenance of a cemetery tract of land. About
eighteen acres comprised the grounds, on which was erected a substantial vault. Lots were laid out, the surroundings
made attractive, and Oakland became the established cemetery of the village.
The inhabitants of Theresa, town and village, have ever been generous in providing for the educational welfare
of their youth. The first school in the town was opened while the territory formed a part of Le Ray, and was started
by a Mrs. Castleman in a house standing on the tract cleared for Le Ray and put to use as a pasture. This was in
1820. Soon afterward Almira Barnes opened a school in the widow Keeler's house, while the third was taught about
the same time by Abigail Salisbury, at the dwelling of Carley Smith. A school house was built in the settlement
about 1821, and a Mr. Welch is said to have been the first teacher.
From 1821 to 1841 the school system in force in the town was that of the mother town Alexandria, and not until
the year mentioned was a separate system established for Theresa. In 1842 the commissioners of common schools divided
the territory into seven districts, and made provision for a school in each. In later years as the population in.
creased and as the convenience of the inhabitants demanded these districts have been changed, both in number and
boundaries. In 1855 there were 17 districts, and 1,053 children attended school. Twenty years later there were
15 districts, and 815 children attended school. As now arranged the town comprises 15 districts, and all school
property, buildings and sites, are valued at $11,810. Twenty teachers are annually employed. In the last current
year the town received public moneys to the amount of $2, 373.67, and raised by tax for the support of schools
the additional sum of $3,947.22.
Supervisors.- Alexander Salisbury, 1841; John D. Davison, 1842-43; Archibald Fisher, 1844-45; Jesse Kelsey, 1846;
Zalmon Pool, jr., 1847-48: Anson Ranney, 1849- 50; Percival D, Bullard, 1851; Anson Ranney, 1852-54; Franklin Parker,
1855; Joseph Fayel, 1856; Percival D. Bullard, 1857; Nicholas D. Yost, 1858-59; Joseph Atwell, 1860; Benjamin P.
Cheeseman, 1861-62; P. D. Bullard, 1863; David Bearup, 1864-70; Jason C. Morrow, 1871-72; George E. Yost, 1873-74;
John Parker, 1875-77; George Kelsey, 1878-84; B. W. Chapman, 1885-87; George Kelsey, 1888-89; George E. Yost, 1890-99.