JEFFERSON COUNTY, NEW YORK

HISTORY of the TOWN of ANTWERP

Visited by S. W. Durant & H. B. Peirce in 1878


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The territory embraced in the town of Antwerp lies in the form of a parallelogram of which the longer lines run about northwest and southeast. The towns of Philadelphia and Wilna join it on the southwest and Theresa on the northwest, while its northeastern and southeastern boundaries respectively are the counties of St. Lawrence and Lewis. Its surface, which cannot properly be termed hilly, is yet rolling and uneven, and in many parts rough, broken, and seamed by rocky ridges; notwithstanding which blemish the soil is strong and productive.

Its principal stream is Indian River, which enters from Wilna, and, after making a bold sweep towards the northeast and passing through the principal village, flows back across the southwest line into Philadelphia. There is also the Oswegatchie River, which enters the town from the northeast, and, making a short and abrupt bend, known as the "Ox Bow", passing the village of the same name, turns sharply back into St. Lawrence County, after having received Antwerp's tribute, a small stream flowing out from her three lakes, which are Sherman's, Vrooman's, and Moon, the last named lying on the northwestern boundary, and partly in the town of Theresa.

THE FIRST SETTLERS.

It is doubtful whether the honor of having made the first settlement in the territory now forming the town of Antwerp belonged to Captain William Lee or to Peter Vrooman, for it appears evident that both settled during the same year, 1803, though both were then but squatters on land which they afterwards purchased. Lee located on the State Road on Lot No. 657, and Vrooman built his log house at the great bend of the Oswegatchie, at a point near the lower end of the present village of Ox Bow. Both these settlers opened their log dwellings as public houses for the accommodation of the travelers and explorers who had already commenced to journey through that new country. Mention of the existence of both these establishments as early as the year 1804 is found in the diary of James Constable, who, during the summers of 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806, made extended tours through Jefferson and the adjoining counties on business, as executor of the estate of his deceased brother William, who had been an extensive landowner in this region. Under date of August 25, 1804, he says:

"Pass on through No. 4...10 miles to the Long Falls (Carthage), where we breakfasted at a middling good tavern...Proceed on 4 miles from the river to a log hut, then 6 miles to another, then 12 to a third, there being but three settlers on the Great Tract No. 4, unless there are some on Pennet's Square...This tract belongs to, or is under the management of, Mr. LeRay and Mr. G. Morris, and nothing has yet been done towards settling it. The three people now on it have a verbal promise that they shall have the land at a fair price as first settlers, but they are very anxious in their inquiries after General Lewis R. Morris, who, it is understood, has undertaken the selling of 100,000 acres..Sleep at Lee's tavern, 22 miles from the falls, with hard fare and poor lodgings."

From which it is apparent that his day's journey was northward from Carthage, through the present towns of Wilna and Antwerp, --finding a cabin at the end of the first four miles, then another, six miles farther on, then nothing but wilderness for a stage of twelve miles, including the present site of the village of Antwerp, until he reached Captain Lee's log tavern, which stood upon the farm now owned by John Wilber, north of Antwerp village. He proceeds:

"August 26--Pass on five miles to the Ox Bow, a remarkable bend in the east branch of Oswegatchie River, and a fine situation for a large house. There is now a log hut, at which we breakfasted, and another in sight."

After two weeks' travel east through St. Lawrence and Franklin, he returned over the same route, and, under date of September 9, says:

"Set off from Lee's after breakfast and stop at Stearns', on Nov. IV., at twelve miles' distance, then ten miles more to the Black River at Long Falls."

Again passing over the place where is now Antwerp Village, and never mentioning the spot, for at that time there was not so much as a pole cabin upon it.

In his tour of the next year (1805) he again traversed the same route, and thus recorded his journey from Carthage to the Ox Bow:

"August 16,--Proceeded through Great Tract No. IV, and stopped at Stearns', ten miles, where we dined, and arrived at Lee's, twenty-two miles from the falls, where we passed the night, and, as the house was completely full, an uncomfortable one it was. I see no alteration in this part of the country since last year; the road at least as bad, and no more settlers. We were told General Lewis R. Morris has been through it, and has now gone to Vermont, intending shortly to return, perhaps with his family. He has quieted Lee and other squatters, who seemed well satisfied. He is expected to build at the Ox Bow."

"August 17.--Left Lee's very early, and came through to the Ox Bow, fives miles of as bad road as we had yet traveled."

In 1806, Vrooman purchased the land on which he had squatted three years before. Captain Lee made his purchase in 1805. After a few years occupation he sold out and removed to Morristown on the St. Lawrence. His successor was Mordecai F. Cook, from Pennsylvania, who continued to keep a public house. This became a place of some note, and being centrally located in the town, the annual elections were several times held there, those of the years 1830 and 1832 being particularly mentioned in the record as having taken place at his house. Here, too, was the place of "general training" in the old days of military enthusiasm, and the spot, nearby, where the parades took place, is still known by old residents as the "training ground." And in the times when Antwerp and the adjoining towns were the theatre of bold smuggling operations, and military guards were set over the roads leading towards the border, Cook's tavern was a rendezvous equally well known to the contrabandists and to the officers who were set to capture them. Mr. Cook remained here until his death.

Daniel Sterling, the father of James Sterling, the iron manufacturer, came to Antwerp in 1805, and settled a mile north of Indian River, where Bradford Sterling now lives. Mary Sterling, his wife, received the first deed conveying lands in the town of Antwerp. Samuel G. Sterling, son of Daniel Sterling, now of Philadelphia, was the first white child born in the town.

John Bethel, John C. Foster, Edward Foster, Hopestil Foster, Edward Foster, Jr., Silas Ward and Peter Raven came in 1806. In 1807, came Lyman Colburn, Asa Hunt, William Randall, Allen Thompson and Henry Adams. In 1808, Salmon White, Clark Lewis, Amos Keith and Thaddeus Park.

All the above settled on the old Gouverneur Road to the northeast of Daniel Sterling, and in 1809, Caleb Cheney, Amos Streeter, and Warren Streeter located on the same road. Mrs. Nott, with her family of two sons (Moses and Reuben) and three or four daughters, also came about the same time; and Solomon Pepper came in 1810. Zopher Holden settled, in 1806, on Indian River, about two miles southwest of Antwerp Village.

On the Long Falls (Carthage) Road, Lemuel Hubbard settled as early as 1805, and Henry C. Baldwin, Dexter Gibbs, Sherebiah Gibbs, Amasa Sartwell, Almon Beecher, and William Fletcher had located there as early as 1809. Other early settlers in the town, and the dates of their purchases, were as follows: John Jennison, James Parker, Benajah Randall, John Robinson, 1806; David Coffeen, Zebulon Rockwell, and Samuel Griswold, 1807; Alfred Walker and David Gill, 1808; Richard McAllaster, Jonathan Marbles, Isaac L. Hitchcock, John Pease, Jesse Jackson, Daniel Heald and Timothy Ruggles, 1809; Harrison Mosely, Jeduthan Kingsbury, 1810; John White, Anson Cummings, Levi Wheelock, William McAllaster, 1811; Elkanah Pattridge, William Harris, Asher Seymour, Ira Ward, Roswell Wilder, Benjamin Goodwin, Elliott Lynde, Ezra Church, Silas Brooks, S. Bekwith, James Briggs, 1812; Matthew Brooks, Samuel Hendrix, Oliver Stowell, James Chase, Silvius Hoard, and Sylvanus Hall had settled before 1810.

Of all who came to Antwerp prior to the War of 1812, one alone remains. This is Mr. Benjamin Cook who came here from Schoharie in 1811, but it was not until the following year that he purchased the land upon which he is now living. There was no road to the place at that time, though the Old Cambray Road lay less than a half mile from him to the southeast. He married after he came, but has now been a widower for many years, and is living along within a few rods of the spot where he first reared his pole cabin. He, however, has sons living in the west. He was, in point of time, the third schoolteacher in Antwerp. The lot on which he settled was No. 690, and his farm is distant from Antwerp Village some three miles on the road to Keene's Station. In the month of May, 1830, he brought a number of young pines from the Eggleston swamp and planted them in a row along the roadside, opposite his house. The land on which they stood he afterwards sold to Otis Foster, and it is at present owned by Ansel Clark. The saplings lived, and are now great trees of half a century's growth,--objects of no little pride to the aged man who planted them. Mr. Cook has seen great changes in the town: his old neighbors are all gone; the mill which he built on is farm long after his arrival has for years been a decayed ruin; he he still is here, and, though eighty-six years of age, is yet vigorous, and his wonderful memory is scarcely impaired. In the preparation of this historical narrative we have drawn freely from his store of early recollections, obtaining from him facts which no other person living is able to furnish, and which, as he truly says, it was well to gather now, for in a very short time at farthest they would have become forever inaccessible.

ORGANIZATION OF THE TOWN:

Antwerp was erected a town on the 5th of April 1810. It's territory--the same which is included in its present boundaries--was partitioned off from LeRay. Its name was given in honor of the Antwerp Company, who owned large tracts of land in this and in the neighboring townships.

The organization went into effect on the 1st of January, 1911, and the first annual meeting of the new town was held on the 5th of the following Marc, "at the house of Francis McAllaster, occupied by William Fletcher, innkeeper, in said Town." Daniel Sterling was chosen moderator, and the following persons were elected to the town offices, viz.: Daniel Heald, supervisor; Samuel Randall, clerk; John Jenison, Zopher Holden and Silas Ward, assessors; Francis McAllaster, Oliver Stowell, and Elkanah Pattridge , commissioners of highways; William Fletcher and John C. Foster, overseers of the poor; Daniel Sterling, Jeduthan Kingsbury, Salmon White, Matthew Brooks, and Samuel Hendrix, overseers of highways; Elkanah Pattridge, constable and collector....It was resolved that the next annual "meeting: be held at the house of Daniel Sterling, now occupied by Hopstill Foster.

THE VILLAGE OF ANTWERP:

The first settlement and improvements upon the site of the present village of Antwerp were made under the direction of General Lewis R. Morris. On the 23d of December, 1804, he had purchased a tract of 49,280 acres of land within the present boundaries of the town, comprising more than two-thirds of its entire area, and including the location on which the village stands. It was not until the year 1808 that David Parrish became proprietor of a part of these lands, by purchase from Morris.

In the year following his purchase (1805) General Morris decided on the establishment of a settlement and the erection of mills at this point, where the road leading to Long Falls crossed the Indian River; and accordingly he at once commenced the erection of a dam across the river, the work upon this being done by and under the supervision of Lemuel Hubbard. In the following spring (1806) the erection of a sawmill upon this dam was commenced by Silas Ward for Morris, and a small frame house was built and opened as an inn at the place where the Proctor House now stands. Its first landlord was Gershom Matoon. After him and during the first few years of its existence the house was kept by Jeduthan Kingsbury, William Fletcher, and Francis McAllaster.

At the commencement of the year 1807, John Jenison was appointed local agent for General Morris, and he was continued in that position by David Parrish, after that gentleman became proprietor in 1808...Dr. Samuel Randall came to Indian River in 1808, and was the first physician not only of the village, but also of the town of Antwerp. In 1809 the first post office in the town was established here and Dr. Randall received the first appointment as postmaster...The first grist mill at Indian River was built in 1810, by Ezra Church, on the spot where the flour mill now stands...About 1812, Church also built a clothing mill on the same dam, but on the south side of the river, where Bethel's planing mill now stands...About 1812, Isaac L. Hitchcock built a tannery in the village, on the westerly side of the road, on land now owned by Stephen Conklin, and nearly opposite the head of Railroad Street. This he sold in 1815 to Luther Conklin, who removed here in 1816...The first distillery in the town was built by Emmons & Bissell, not far from the Hitchcock tannery, about 1820. The first wagon shop was started at nearly the same time by Henry Welch. This was on the south side of the river...The first merchant in the village, and in the town of Antwerp, was Zebulon H. Cooper, who in about 1810, opened the "yellow store" on the ground now occupied by Chapin's block. A small store was opened as early as 1812 by Dr. Randall, and a third by Orrin E. Bush. The only buildings in the village on the north side of the river, in the spring of 1811, were the grist mill built by Church, the public house where Proctor's now is, a building which stood just above the present post office and kept as a boarding house by a Frenchman named Bordeau, the yellow store of Cooper, the post office and dwelling of Dr. Randall, and farther north, the dwelling of Major John Howe.

Upon the opening of the War of 1812 considerable alarm was felt...and on the 2d of July in that year a special meeting of the inhabitants was held for the purpose of making fortification against an expected enemy...A tax was also voted to furnish arms and ammunition for the defenders. The blockhouse was completed and stood in the road, nearly in front of where Foster's Hotel now is...About 1812 a school was commenced in a small building which was erected on the east side of Main Street, north of the present site of Foster's Hotel...This was superseded about 1816 by a new school house upon the hill, which building is still standing on the premises of Welcome Payne...In 1816-17 the old brick church, now owned and occupied by the Catholics, was built by Mr. Parrish, at an expense of nearly $10,000, all borne by himself, and by him made free to all Christian denominations...The second public house was erected upon the westerly side of Main Street, and was first kept by Reuben Nott, then by John P. Hind, afterwards by John C. Foster, who was also its last landlord...Foster's Hotel, on the easterly side of Main Street, was built and opened by General T. R. Pratt, now of Watertown...

STERLINGBURGH:

On the southern bank of Indian River about one mile above Antwerp Bridge, is a cluster of buildings which, though hardly entitled to the appellation of village, is collectively known as Sterlingburgh, from James Sterling, who was its proprietor for many years. It consists of an excellent grist mill, a saw mill, and a few dwellings, besides several large builds, relics of past enterprise, now in disuse and some in actual decay...Mr. Parrish late in the autumn of 1816 commenced preparations for the damming of the river, and the erection of a forge at this point. During the early part of the following year he completed these, as also a large house and a road to the works; but the enterprise proved unprofitable, and by the opening of the year 1820, it was abandoned..In 1824, the erection of a distillery was commenced here for Mr. Parrish, under the supervision of William McAllaster, his agent...In 1834, Mr. Parrish erected a grist mill near the distillery...

SPRAGUE'S CORNERS:
is the name given to a cluster of buildings lying partly in Antwerp and partly in St. Lawrence County, at a point nearly half a mile southeast from the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburgh Railroad, at Keene's Station, which name is often applied to the village.

The first settlers here were William Vebber and Moses and Robert Parkinson, brothers from Massachusetts, who came in from the southwest...Israel Sprague was another of the earliest settlers here, and it was from him that the settlement was named. Both he and Vebber lie in the graveyard on the hill at the westerly end of the village. Mr. Burge, the father of Moses Burge, was also one of the first who located here...

STEELE'S CORNERS:
is the designation of a neighborhood about one mile southeast from Sprague's. Formerly there was a hotel at this point, built and kept by Ebenezer Gillett, and a store by William Skinner, Esq., in partnership with a Mr. Pierce...

BENTLEY'S CORNERS:
is now but an agricultural neighborhood in the westerly part of the town. Some years ago, before the opening of the railroad, this was the location of a post office bearing the same name, and it also had a tavern, by Clark Willard.

NAUTVOO:
consists of a small cluster of dwellings, with a saw mill and shingle mill and a school house, all located on Indian River, in the southerly portion of Antwerp, and very near the town line of Wilna...

THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF ANTWERP:
was organized in July, 1819, by Rev. Isaac Clinton, then principal of the academy at Lowville. The original members were: William Randall, Percivial Hawley, Edward Foster, Elijah Hoyt, Hosea Hough, Mrs. Hawley, Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Frances Eaton, and Mrs. Polly Copeland...The only persons now identified with the church that belonged to it at that time are Mr. Japhet Chapin and wife, both past eighty. They joined by letter under Mr. Finney...

BAPTIST CHURCH--ANTWERP VILLAGE:
The first Baptist organization in the village of Antwerp was made about the year 1824 under Elder Wilkie of LeRay.,,Among the first members were Daniel Coolidge, Jerome Woodbury, Eli Whitford and wife, Walter Colton, Obadiah Chamberlain and Richard Huntley

THE PRESBYTERIAN CHUCH--OX BOW:
On the 15th day of May, 1820, the Ox Bow Presbyterian Society of Antwerp and Rossie, a body corporate, was formed with Abraham Cooper, Reuben Street, James Ormiston, Abraham Lewis, James Douglas, Abner Benton, Orren Matthews and Percivial Hawley as trustees...

THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH--OX BOW:
A Methodist church organization existed at Ox Bow Village more than 44 years ago, the society there having been formed May 14, 1833, with Ira D. Shepard, William H. Collar, Samuel Benfy, Ebenezer Beardsley and Abraham Lewis, trustees...

INTERMENT GROUNDS:
The first graves in Antwerp were made in the old burial ground in the northeastern part of the village, upon the slope of the hill, near its top, and adjoining the schoolhouse and Baptist church lots...among the earliest burials were those of Richard McAllaster and his wife, Susan, whose deaths occurred within less than three weeks of each other, his on the 11th of February and hers on the 23d of January 1813 The land (one acre) was donated fur burial purposes by David Parrish...

THE FOSTER BURIAL GROUND:
This inclosure, situated near the house of Andrew Kinney, is very nearly as old as that of Antwerp Village. It was known to the oldest settlers as graveyard number two. It was donated by Edward Foster, Sr., not later than 1810, and within it lie four generations of the Foster family, of which he was the head...

THE BEAMAN BURYING GROUND:
located a short two miles from Antwerp Village, on the Sterlingville Road, near the residence of J. M. Beaman, Esq., was donated many years ago by Ira Beaman whose remains are buried there as are many members of the Beaman and Aldrich families.

GRAVEYARD AT SPRAGUE'S CORNERS:
This spot, one acre in extent, was given to the public by David Parris and Colonel H. B. Keene, recollects when about 55 years ago, in his boyhood, he worked with older persons at a "bee", which was held to clear away the stumps and undergrowth in preparation for interments. Mr. Israel Sprague was interred there and also Leonard Pike and Mr. William Vebber, one of the first comers to Sprague's Corners. It is upon the hill just south of the settlement. There is also a graveyard on the Fuller Road between Sprague's Corners and Antwerp Village.

THE BEMIS BURIAL GROUND:
in the northwest part of the town, three miles from Ox Bow Village, was a part of the farm of Ebenezer Bemis and by him given for purposes of interment more than half a century ago...

THE VROOMAN HILL BURIAL GROUND:
is located in the west part of the town and was taken from the farm of Peter Vrooman, and was first used as a cemetery after the Bemis ground had been found to be unfit for the purpose...

THE OLD CEMETERY AT OX BOW:
containing 68 one hundredths of an acre, and located in the village adjoining the Presbyterian Church, was donated to the pubic by Abraham Cooper, in 1822, at which time, his father, John Cooper was buried there; this being the first interment in the ground...

THE NEW CEMETERY AT OX BOW:
known as the Presbyterian cemetery, was laid out in 1874 on 13 acres of ground purchased of Ira Hinsdale for $1,300...

THE HILLSIDE CEMETERY:
This is the name given by the Antwerp Rural Cemetery Assoc. to the beautiful grounds laid out and decorated under its auspices at Antwerp Village. The association was incorporated and organized in 1859...

THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS:
The teacher who first presided in the first school was Lodowick Miner who came from the Royal Grant in Herkimer Co. Successors were Jacob Miller and Benjamin Cook...The first division of the town into school districts was made March 12, 1814...

PHYSICIANS:
The first physician to locate in Antwerp was Dr. Samuel Randall, who came there about 1812. He was admitted to membership in the Jefferson County Medical Society in 1817, and died November 21, 1831 at the age of 47 years. Dr. Ralph Rogers came here about 1820 and removed to Watertown where he died. Dr. Hiram (Alva?) Murdock came about 1822 and removed to Gouverneur, St. Lawrence Co. Dr. Caleb Preston came about 1825 and then moved to Galway, NY. Dr. Samuel J. Gaines came about 1828 and moved to Sacket's Harbor. Dr. Wm. H. Wiser came about the same time as Dr. Gaines and moved to New Hartford, NY. Dr. Chambers came from Canada bout 1833 but after a short stay returned to Canada...Dr. Walter Dewey came to the place in 1834-35...and practiced until his death on December 4, 1845, at the age of 34...



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