History of West Monroe , New York


West Monroe is the youngest and the second smallest town in Oswego county. It was formed from Constantia on the 21st of March, 1839, and is the original twelfth township of Scriba’s patent, the patentee, George Scriba, giving it the name of “Deift,” from a city near Rotterdam in the province of South Holland. It lies on the northern shore of Oneida Lake, a little east of the southern-central part of the county, and is bounded on the north by Parish, on the east by Constantia, on the south by the lake, and on the west by Hastings. It comprises an area of 20,076 acres.

The surface is very uneven and is broken into level, rolling, stony, and swampy ground. Much of it is marshy and unfit for cultivation. Along the valleys the Medina. sandstone crops out, while in the north part of the town iron has been discovered, and it is also said that traces of lead and silver were found at an early day. Adjacent to the lake shore the land is very swampy. The soil is a medium quality of clay, and of sandy and gravelly loam, and produces fair crops of grain, hay, and potatoes, but is better adapted to grazing.

The whole area was originally covered with a dense growth of heavy timber, which long gave employment to a number of saw mills. Only scattered remnants of these forests now remain, and nearly all the mills have been abandoned. Instead the land is dotted with comfortable homes and fertile fields, monuments of the labor of the sturdy pioneers, whose descendants enjoy the fruits of earlier struggles. The chief industry has changed from lumbering to that of agriculture, with dairying as the leading branch. There are two cheese factories and two saw mills in operation, the latter being owned by H. A. Smith and M. H. Raymond. The principal streams are Shanty Creek, the south branch of Salmon Creek, and a tributary of Scriba Creek.

The territory under consideration was parceled off at an early day in large tracts, and maps and titles have since borne the names of the grantees. These subdivisions and their respective locations are as follows: De Pau’s tract, in the north part of the town; Munn & De Peyster’s tract, in the central part just south of the foregoing; Lawrence tract, in the southeast corner of the town, an Indian reservation being taken off in the extreme southeastern corner; and De Graff’s tract, in the southwest corner of the town.

The first town meeting was held at the house of James D. Spencer on May 7, 1839, at which time the following officers were elected:

Russell King, supervisor; Marcus Patterson, Eleazer Slocum, and Benjamin Spencer, assessors; Horace Spencer, Azor Hoyt, and George Getman, commissioners of highways; Edward Dundin and Abram Ruskin, overseers of the poor; George 0. Hoyt, Peter Phillips, and Henry Stall, commissioners of common schools; Lucius Patterson, Benjamin G. Lewis, and Joseph Shaw, inspectors of common schools; Hiram Flining, collector; Hiram Flining, David Baird, Solomon Ouer, Abraham Merchant, and Joel Merchant, constables; Joel Merchant and Willet Miller, jnstices of the peace; Augustus G. Jewell, surveyor. There is no record of the election of a town clerk until 1841, when Samuel Atherton was chosen.

The supervisors have been as follows:

Russel King, 1839—40; Philip Rea. 1841-42; Marcus Patterson, 1843-44; Philip Rea, 1845-46; Eleazer Slocum, 1847; Philip Rice. 1848; Avery Williams, 1849; Marcus Patterson, 1850—51; John F. Slocum, 1852—53; Henry J. Jewell, 1854; Henry A. Baker, 1855—56; John F. Slocum, 1857—58; Levi Stow, jr., 1859; John F. Slocum, 1860; James A. Baker, 1861; Lucius L. Strickland, 1862—63; John F. Slocum, 1864—65; Merritt Burgess, 1866—67: John F. Slocum, 1868—72; John A. Webb, 1873; John F. Slocum, 1874; John A. Webb, 1875; J. W. Phillips, 1876; Merritt Burgess, 1877; J. Eugene Sperry, 1878—81; William N. Burgen, 1882; W. R. Paul, 1883—84; E. M.Wightman, 1885—86; W. R. Paul, 1887—89; George H. Simmons, 1890—91; F. H. Claxton, 1892; Solomon Graves, 1893; George H. Simmons, 1894—95.

The town officers for 1894—5 were:
George H. Simmons, supervisor; William J. Mutter, town clerk; Charles Ort, collector; Alexander Rowe, William Burgen, and Curtis Harding, assessors; H. E. Miller, R. 0. Smith, A. T. Humphrey, and W. C. Humphrey, justices of the peace; Charles Piguet, highway commissioner; W. H. McLymond, overseer of the poor.

The first settlers in West Monroe were Martin Owens, Abel Ames, Joseph P. Ames, Sylvanus Allen, and Ebenezer Loomis, who came in i8o6. Mr. Owens came from Fabius, Onondaga county, and located on the Julius Beardsley farm, where he remained until 1847, when he went to Wisconsin and died there. Abel. Ames first took up his residence on the farm now owned by John F. Slocum, and died in town in 1844, leaving four sons, one of whom resides on the homestead. Joseph P. Ames, a brother of Abel, was without a family. Mr. Allen was born in Shelburne, Mass., and settled on the place now occupied by a son of George Campbell. In 1841 he removed to Lysander, Onondaga county, but returned to West Monroe in 1854, and died there in 1865, his death being the first in his family, which consisted of his wife and nine children. His widow died in 1871. Mr. Loomis settled on the farm now occupied by Hiram Rea, whence he moved to Cicero, N Y., in 1830, and died there. The first birth in West Monroe was that of Azariah Ames.

In 1808 Deacon Smith came from Massachusetts and settled near the center of the town. He engaged in lumbering and erected during that year the first saw mill in West Monroe. In 18,, he built the first frame building and opened it as the first tavern in town, keeping it through the war of 1812.

At this period Oneida Lake was noted for its salmon fishing, and a company of fishermen came hither with their nets in 1810, from Cape Cod, Mass., to engage in the business. Among these were Enoch Nickinson, and Captain Walker with his five sons. The business, however, proved unprofitable and many of the colony removed from the town. Those who remained turned their attention to agriculture. Another settler of 1810 was Hiram Nickinson, who came from Massachusetts and sett]ed on lot 75

The war of 1812, followed by the cold season of 1816, had a disheartening effect upon the infant settlement and materially checked its growth. During this period down to 1820 the inhabitants were engaged mainly in lumbering or in cultivating small clearings. Their temporary log cabins were from time to time replaced by frame dwellings, but improvements progressed slowly. The miasma arising from the swamps caused considerable sickness and added to their sufferings. Fever and ague were prevalent. But those who had come bravely bore the privations incident to pioneer life.

From 1820 to 1830 a large number of arrivals occurred. Prominent among them were Aaron Raymond, Samuel Atherton, Samuel P. Baker, Joseph Stall, John Pierce, John Wilson, Eleazer Slocum, James and Isaac Simmons, Silas and James Penoyer, Amasa Davis and Roswell Gates, many of whom settled at what is now Union Settlement, where Aaron Raymand built a saw mill in 1821, which was the first mill east of the center of the town. About this time George Phillips took up his residence on the lake shore, and soon afterward Linus Walker settled on the west half of the same lot. The latter is said to have been subject to attacks of insanity, and during those intervals would perform remarkable feats in skating. On one occasion in the winter of 1829, when the ice was partially formed and not sufficiently thick to bear a man’s weight, much against the entreaties and efforts of his friends, he attempted to skate across Oneida Lake. When last seen alive he was swiftly gliding past Frenchman’s Island. The next June his body was found on the southern shore of the lake. He left five children, of whom two sons were accidentally drowned in the same waters. Samuel P. Baker married a daughter of Samuel Atherton. He settled here permanently in 1829, and died in Gloversville, N. Y., April 21, 1888. His wife’s death occurred in this town in 1882. Their son, Hon. William H. Baker, is a prominent citizen of Constantia.

Two other early settlers, both farmers, were Henry Phillips and John W. Sperry. The former was a native of Schenectady, N. Y., and the latter of Bethlehem, Conn.

Meanwhile a road had been opened from east to west through the town, and soon afterward other highways were laid out in convenient localities. A rude harbor or landing was constructed on the beach of the lake for the accommodation of lumbermen and others.

Between 1830 and 1840 Freeman Burr, Russell King, James D. and Benjamin Spencer, Jerry Cronon, James G. Caldwell, Jerry Letts, C. W. Pattat, M. A. Raymond, Lewis Rill, George Getman, Abram Buskin, Azor Hoyt, Horace Spencer, George C. Hoyt, Augustus G. Jewell. Joseph Shaw, Peter Phillips, Abraham and Joel Merchant, Lucius and Marcus Patterson, Philip Rea, Henry Stall, Joel Merchant, Benjamin G. Lewis, Willet Miller, Edward Dundin and others arrived, making the population in the last named year 908.

During the next decade, down to 1850, lumbering was prosecuted more extensively than before, and several saw mills were erected. Among the settlers of this period were Merritt Burgess, Warren Burgess, J. E. Phillips, Curtis Harding, Alvin A. Raymond, W. C. Humphrey and H. A. Smith. During this and the following decade (1850— 1860) the town experienced its greatest growth, numbering in the latter year more inhabitants than at any other period of its history. Alvin A. Raymond built a grist mill with a single run of stones in 1875, for the purpose of grinding feed, which was the first of the kind in town. Prior to this grain was ground in mills in neighboring towns.

The town of West Monroe manifested a patriotic spirit throughout the war of the Rebellion and early voted a bounty to each volunteer. Eighty-two of her sons enlisted and served with credit. Of these Charles C. Matthews, Peter Bowman, Ira B. Bryant, Warren A. Burgess, Henry N. Caidwell, Charles Devendorf Warren C. . Emmons, Adolph J. Fix, George Greyson, James Holmes, Franklin B. Hoyt and B. N. Watson received merited promotions.

In October, 1869, the New York Ontario, and Western (Midland) Railroad was put in operation through the town with a station at West Monroe.

The population of the town at various periods has been as follows: In 1840, 908; 1845, 990; 1850, 1,197; 1855, 1,217; 1860, 1.416; 1865. 1.278; 1870, 1,304; 1875, 1,366; 1880, 1,314; 1890, 1,100.

The first school house was a log structure erected in 1810 on the main road about one mile west of West Monroe, and the first teacher therein was Caroline Barnes. A school was opened at Union settlement about 1830 and another at West Monroe near the same time. In 1860 the town had nine school districts, which were attended by 513 scholars. There are now eight districts with a school building in each, the whole being taught in 1892—93 by eight teachers and attended by 227 children. The school buildings and sites are valued at $3,810; public money receivei from the State, $962.O7; raised by local tax, $736.26. The districts are locally known as follows: No. i, West Monroe; 2, Mud Settlement; 3, Whig Hill; 4, Ostrum’s; 5, Toad Harbor; 6, Union Settlement; 7, Nutting; 8, Green.

Supervisors’ statistics of 1894: Assessed valuation of real estate, $209,810; equalized, personal property, $5,550; railroads, 4.13 miles, $36,650; town tax, $1,084,050; 084.95: county tax, $1,179.42; total tax levy, $2,703.74; ratio of tax on $100, seventy cents, the lowest in the county. The town forms one election district and polled 228 votes in November, 1894.

West Monroe is a small village on the Constantia and Fulton road half a mile north of the station on the Midland Railroad. The first merchant in town was Charles P. Jewell, who opened a store at this point in 1834. His building stood on the west bank of the creek, whence it was moved to the site of Cross & Wightm an’s block, and finally removed and now forms the rear of E. M. Wightman’s dwelling. Among his successors were Henry J. Jewell, Ichabod Spencer, Henry and James Baker, Henry E. Miller, J. E. Sperry, W. H. Ray, and James G. Burr who is still in business. Cross & Wightman succeeded Mr. Sperry in the spring of 1885 and have since carried on a flourishing trade, being the leading tradesmen in the place. In i886 they erected a cheese factory here which •they sold to William Mutter, the present proprietor, in 1889.

The first hotel was built and kept by Pliny Draper, who soon sold to James and Horace Spencer, brothers, whom Eleazer Slocum succeeded February 12, 1840. Mr. Slocum continued as landlord until his death December 1, 1850, since which time, excepting a period of eight years, his son, John F. Slocum, has conducted the house. John F. Slocum has served as supervisor of West Monroe thirteen years, and is one of the oldest landlords in Oswego county. In 1881 he tore down the old tavern and erected the present fine hotel a little in the rear of the demolished structure. At one time two other hotels, kept by Captain Owens and Captain Allen, were maintained in the village. The pres. ent postmaster is J. W. Phillips. Among his predecessors were Edgar
M. Wightman, W. H. Ray and John F. Slocum.

Union Settlement is a hamlet about four miles north of West Monroe. In 1844 a post-office was established there with Silas Penoyer as postmaster, who held the position until 1860, when the office was discontinued. A new school house was erected at that point in 1894.

Jerry is a post office situated about five miles northwest of West Monroe. Harvey A. Smith is postmaster and also owns a saw mill there.

Churches.— The first church in town was built by the Presbyterians at Whig Hill in 1849, largely through the efforts of Rev. W. Leonard, who dedicated the edifice August 22, 1849, and supplied the pulpit for several years. He died in 1886, being at that time the oldest Mason in Oswego county. This church is now connected with that at Constantia.

About 1854 a Baptist church was erected in the village of West Monroe at a cost of $2,000. The pastor at that time was Elder Hanson. The society finally disbanded and for many years the edifice has been occupied by the Seventh- Day Adventists and others. The property is owned by John F. Slocum.

In the fall of 1890, under the pastorate of Rev. C. H. Bassett, a neat frame edifice was built by the Methodists in West Monroe village at a cost of about $2,000. The present pastor is Rev. E. L. Shepard.

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