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Jacob Brown, for whom the town was named, was its first settler. He later became a major-general in the United States Army.
Formed from Leyden on 1 April 1802, the tract originally included all that portion north of Black River from a line that ran from the northwest corner of Champion, north 45 degrees east to the southwesterly bounds of St. Lawrence County.
The Oneida Tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy had possession of the lands prior to 1788. But, in September of that year, by treaty, the Oneida conveyed the greater portion of their lands to the State of New York. The office of Land Commissioner was created by the State in 1786 and authority was granted to the commissioners to dispose of any unappropriated lands.
In 1791, Alexander Macomb bargained for a large tract of land that embraced the section and in 1792 he employed William Constable to sell lands in Europe. By April 12, 1793, Constable had sold 210,000 acres to Peter Chassanis of Paris, France, and Chassanis appointed Rodolphe Tillier of New York to both manage and sell the property.
Macomb's Trace No. 4 required a large survey crew, whose camp was at Pillar Point at Peck's cove. Surveyors included: C. C. Brodhead, Jonas Smith, Timothy Wheeler, Joshua Northrup, Elias Marvin, John Young, Isaac LeFevre, Elijah Black, Samuel Tupper, Eliakim Hammond and Abraham B. Smede, and each had a few men as assistants.
Originally Chassanis proposed to divide the tract into lots of 50 acres each, for which the purchaser would be given title with another 50 acres to come into their possession in the future. There would be two cities - one would be located between Brownville and Dexter; 600 acres would be set aside for that city to be called "City of Basle".
The early history of the actual settlement of Brownville was closely allied to Jacob Brown. He learned of the Black River country through Tillier when Brown was teaching in New York.
Samuel Brown, Jacob's father, lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania near the Delaware River. Because Samuel was wealthy, Jacob and an older brother were being educated at an academy in Trenton. Samuel lost his property by making some unfortunate speculations so Jacob had to leave school and thus became the teacher for his younger brothers and sisters, at the age of sixteen. From that assignment he taught a large school at Crosswicks, New Jersey but also became qualified as a land surveyor and then spent a year in the Miami country of Ohio.
After their financial setback, the Brown family was seeking a way to regain their wealth and began negotiations for a tract of land that subsequently became the City of Cincinnati. Those plans never materialized and Jacob returned to New York in 1798 where he took charge of a Quaker school, when he met Tillier, the agent of Chassanis. As a plan, Tillier visited Samuel Brown's house with Jacob and wrote an agreement whereby Tillier would defray all the expenses of a prospecting trip, whether a purchase was or was not made.
Jacob closed the school in February 1799 and proceeded to the French settlement at the High Falls by noting marked trees from Utica to the Black River area. He used Utica to cache supplies that would be needed. In March he launched his boat on the Black River and floated down to Long Falls (Carthage) and in company with two men by the names of Chambers and Samuel Ward, plus a few hired men he took the route of the so-called French Road. Finding a creek, Jacob Brown intended to establish himself at the head of navigation and believed the creek would afford sufficient water for mills; the river below needed little improvement to make it navigable for boats and there the settlement of Brownville was begun.
His first chore was to clear the land and build the first house north of Black River; it was built of logs on the edge of the creek bank. He sent for his father's family, who arrived on May 27, 1799 having traveled by navigation of the Mohawk, Oneida Lake, and Lake Ontario where they pitched their tent at night on the shore and resumed their journey on a day by day effort. Upon their arrival, the family learned that the log house had neither a roof nor a floor and no door or window. Built of pine logs cut from that spot, a sailcloth was taken from the boat and stretched over the upper timbers for a roof. Openings cut for doors and windows were closed off by quilts and blankets. Twenty male and female residents clustered into the 20 foot square building.
At that time, there were no more than three families within 45 miles and nothing that resembled a settlement for 24 miles, all north of Black River was a dense wilderness. Jacob Brown's mother was quoted after her survey of her new home: "Well, Jacob, thee has got us all here, but thee has not a board to make us a coffin, nor a spade to dig us a grave." The tradition was that Jacob's mother was not known to smile for six months after she arrived in that wilderness. Jacob returned from New York with goods and brought a spade. His mother said, "Jacob, what will thee do with a spade, among these roots and stumps?" He replied, "Oh, some of us may die and we shall want a space." It was said that at that point she smiled.
At that time the Brown family consisted of Samuel Brown and his wife, Christopher, Jacob, John (later Judge Brown), Joseph, Mary (Mrs. Newland of Fishkill), Benjamin, Samuel (Major Brown of Brownville), Hannah (Mrs. B. Skinner), William who drowned in Lake Erie while acting as an aid to his brother, Major General Brown during the War of 1812), Abi (Mrs. Evans), and Joseph (General Brown of Tecumseh, Michigan). And with them came George Brown, who was a relative, with his two sons, Henry of 14 years and Thomas who was eight years. Necessity became the mother of invention: as a substitute for plank flooring, they used long strips of bark which was laid down closely and taken up each day, carried into the open air and cleaned, and then relaid.
Shortly after their arrival a piece of pine plank was discovered floating down the river which they captured and created as a table; it was later in the possession of Mrs. Mary How of Brownville. In time, a few rough hewn planks were put up as shelves, fastened to the log wall by wooden pins, and used to store the dishes. Meat was mostly pork and game from the local woods supplemented by fish from the river. A steady diet was bread, peas and pork. Their provisions were brought from Kingston by a boat owned by the group. During their first winter they were entirely shut out from the outside world. George Washington had died on December 14, 1799 and in the April following, Jacob Brown sent a man on foot to Whitesboro, which was the nearest post office. The messenger returned dressed in mourning with the sad news of the death of their president.
In that same season the body of a two-story log house of 25 by 30 feet, was put up on the site of a brick block later owned by Colonel Lord. Not in use until the spring of 1801, it was used as a store by Jacob Brown and his father, who kept a small stock of goods for the settlers.
In 1799 a great number of settlers came into the section seeking lands; many selected farms on Perch River and between it and the Brownville settlement. They began clearing land and sent for their families. Among those was John W. Collins, who took up about 600 acres of land which later became farms of Dr. Green, Melvin Moffatt and Kilborn. On the Dr. Green place Collins put up the first framed house which was a large two-story building. Richardson Avery, Nathan Parrish, Horace Mathers and others came in about the same time with a pledge that they would clear a certain amount of land and build a house.
In the summer of 1800 a large number had settled and the clearings extended from the banks of the river to nearly half a mile.
It was about that time that Jacob Brown brought a bride whose maiden name was Pamelia Williams, daughter of Captain Judge Williams of Williamstown, NY and sister of Judge Nathan Williams of Utica. The home was occupied by her and later by son-in-law, Colonel Edmund Kirby. Eventually, Mrs. Brown lived with her granddaughter, Mrs. William Everett, at Rye, New York.
Returning to George Brown, father of Henry and Thomas and George, he settled on the Henry Brown farm just outside the village. Hon. Lysander Brown of Watertown mentioned the pioneer life of his grandmother, Mrs. George Brown. A Native American paid a visit to their cabin and demanded food. Mrs. Brown was not quick enough to suit her visitor, so he threw a tomahawk across the room and told her that he wanted to eat "quick". She hurried to get him the food.
About that time, Thomas Y. How from Trenton, New Jersey, a Princeton graduate, arrived with his patrimony of ten thousand dollars. He did loan large sums to the Browns to help in their enterprises. He was an amiable neighbor but an unsuccessful businessman. How bought one hundred acres of land on the Perch River flats, later the Adam W. Walrath farm. Jacob Brown was engaged to clear the land for him and employed John Brown (father of Aaron and George Brown) who was known as Honest John Brown but after the clearing was How-job John Brown. Jacob Brown wrote a letter to his brother, John, a bookseller in New York, on July 9, 1802. He told his brother that they paid a debt of $2,000 to his good friend How, for clearing and putting in a crop.
In the fall of 1800 a sawmill was built at the mouth of Philomel Creek; the millers were Noah Durrin and Ebenezer Hills. Also in that year, Charles Welch, father of Nathan Welch, and Otis Britton came from Remsen. Their job was to chop out a road from a point on the river at Brownville to the ferry at Chaumont, a distance of ten miles. The story states that it was warm weather in November when they began their job but before it was completed a heavy snowfall came; their shoes were worn out and they were obliged to roll the big logs out of the road track in order to finish the job. They then traveled to Herkimer County, a distance of 80 miles in their bare feet. Before they left, they helped Samuel Britton, an uncle of Otis Britton, who had just come in from Herkimer County, to put up the frame of a log house on the farm, that was later known as the Crouch farm. In a mishap, Otis broke his leg and when his uncle could be spared, he took Otis by ox sled to Floyd, with Charles Welch preceding the team with his ax to clear the road. At the time, snow was two feet deep and hard on his bare feet. The following fall, Charles married Eunice Cole, daughter of Moses Cole of Newport, returned with Calvin Britton (later General Britton) and his own twin brother, Nathan. They brought their goods on a hand sled from Carthage, with the men and women following on foot. When they arrived at Brownville, Charles set up housekeeping in the original log cabin built by the Browns which had become a smokehouse. In the cabin for a week, William Dillon with his wife and two children arrived, and shared the tight quarters. Charles and Nathan took up a farm later owned by Daniel Fox, in the Parish neighborhood and it was there that a son was born to Charles and Eunice; he was named Charles and lived later in life in Orleans. He was the first child born in the new town north of Black River.
Charles Welch later bought and cleared a portion of the George I. Knight farm on Prospect Hill. He soon sold it and bought and cleared 100 acres, later called the Knapp farm, where he lived for 20 years. Mrs. Welch was a sister to Captain William Cole, Mrs. Jonathan Webb, Mrs. Stephen Gould, Mrs. Calvin Britton and Mrs. Otis Britton, who were all prominent pioneers.
In the fall of 1801, a grist mill was built by Ethni Evans, founder of Evans Mills, for Mr. Brown. The addition of a saw and grist mill was a powerful influence on the settlement and growth of Brownville. On one occasion Moses Bacon, who lived in Watertown, came to the mill with a bag of corn, carried on is shoulder; he had to wait his turn and rather than trying to find his way home in the dark, he slept in the woods all night with his bed of hemlock boughs and the bag of meal for a pillow.
Roads and bridges were important in the settlement of the new country. The State legislature passed an act for opening two roads into the new townships on March 26, 1803; one led from Rome to Brownville via Redfield and Adams and the other from Utica via Boonville and the Black River Valley. Jacob Brown was one of the appointed commissions to locate the roads which the State expended $30,000 for the venture.
The French company road, projected by Tillier, was never completed; the road was cleared and the stumps removed but because there were no bridges it was of little use to the early settlers. When the situation was explained to Tillier that bridges were necessary, he replied, "Why, I have reserved fifty dollars for that very purpose."
In need of a bridge, the settlers raised $1,000 by subscription and Deacon Oliver Bartholomew was hired for that sum to build a bridge which was completed in the summer of 1802. The bridge was destroyed by the great flood in the spring of 1806 and rebuilt by the deacon and his sons in 1807. For 32 years, money was raised for bridges that amounted to $9,050. In 1846, money was raised to build a bridge of the Perch River near its mouth, and another at Dexter Village.
By 1802, there were six frame and four log houses in the village of Brownville. The first religious services were held by Deacon Oliver Bartholomew at the home of Jacob Brown.
Prominent early settlers were: William Webb, father of Jonathan, William, Silas and Lewis. He lived and died on the Edward Spicer farm which was first taken up by Leonard Wilson. John Cole took a farm where he lived and died and where his son, John, Jr. lived and died and where his grandson, Byron, later lived. John Cole said that he had paid for his farm three times because of defective titles.
John Baxter took up 600 acres on both sides of Perch River. Isaac Moffatt, Melvin Moffatt, Abner and Leonard Wilson, Frederick and Richardson Avery, Stephen Stanley and others came at about the same time. By September 1805, the village of Brownville had 25 houses.
The first public house in Brownville was built by Jeremiah Phelps in 1805 on a site that later became a stone hotel. The stone hotel was built about 1820 by Henry Caswell and a Mr. Emerson and they soon sold it to a company made up of: William Lord, H. Lawrence, W. S. Ely, E. Kirby, I. Shields and John E. Brown. In 1805, John Brown (who was later Judge Brown) bought the lands on the south side of the river and built mills there; in 1806 the first dam was put up there. In 1805, Samuel Starr bought a farm and built a log distillery by the brook near his house where he made the first whiskey in the town.
Captain William Knox, Robert Smith, Samuel Peck, Eliphalet Peck and Nathaniel Peck all helped to clear the Starr farm. Nathaniel Peck married a daughter of Mr. Starr and assisted Starr in the manufacture of whiskey. He later moved the distillery to the Nathaniel Peck farm. About that time, talk of the Erie Canal had begun and Starr was quoted: "When the Erie Canal is built I will fill it with whiskey."
Jacob Kilborn, father of Alfred, bought and cleared the farm later owned by John Prior. He had an old log house built by him in 1807 that stood for many years. Moses Cole settled in another part of the town and he cleared the John Cowan farm. Joseph Rhodes took the Silas Spicer farm; and a little later James Pride to the farm later owned by Cyrus Allen. Pride's father-in-law, Mr. Thomas, lived and died on the farm which Pride later sold to William Vandebogart.
A little later, Henry Ward brought a stock of goods from Otsego County, which for a time was kept in the house built by Collins on the Dr. Greene place. The goods were later removed to Moffattsville (Perch River). Ward was succeeded in the mercantile business by Jacob C. and Alpheus Greene and followed by Isaac Moffat. After that time, Hugh Smith with Henry Spicer and other partners kept a stock for the benefit of the neighborhood.
Alexander Moffatt, known as Conkey, settled about that time in the vicinity of Limerick, where his sons, Aquilla, Jonathan, Hosea, Alexander, and Hinman lived for many years and son Orlando went west. Mr. Smith, father of Hugh, Ely and Elias also located there and Samuel Shelly who later owned a mill at Limerick that was built by Nelson. Isaac Day also joined the neighborhood about the same time.
Early settlers at Pillar Point were: Horatio Sprague, Eleazar Ball, Peter and Solomon Ingalls, Mr. Sherwin, Eliphalet Peck, Isaac Luther, Mr. Burlingame, Daniel Ackerman, Jere. Carpenter, Jesse Stone, George Rounds, James Douglas, Henry Adams, Samuel Reed, Mr. Fulsom, Luther Reed and Henry Ward. Samuel Knap bought and cleared 150 acres on the road to Limerick, a part of which was later owned by John Freeman. On one occasion after the farm was well cleared, Knap had a field of 40 acres of wheat, nearly matured. Judge John Brown, who held a mortgage, passed that way and the judge offered to discharge the mortgage on the farm if Knap would give him that crop. Knap refused and a few days later the field was struck with rust and the entire crop was a failure. His farm was later occupied by his son, J. C. Knap.
Jere. Phelps, David Lyttle and Solon Stone located at Dexter and later Mr. Willis and Jere. Winegar, and still later Kendall Hursley, Joshua Eaton, Jesse Babcok, Sylvanus Pool, John T. Wood, James A. Bell, Solomon Meyer, John P. Shelly and others.
Prior to 1805, Oneida County embraced this section but an act was passed on March 28, 1805 that created Lewis and Jefferson counties from Oneida. In spite of Mr. Brown's efforts to make Brownville the center for public buildings, Watertown was selected as the county seat. In 1807, there were 181 legal voters in Brownville with property qualifications. A five dollar wolf bounty was offered in 1807 and 1818; in 1821 it was eight dollars; 1806, 8, 9, 11, 12, 20 it was ten dollars; 1804, 13, 19 fifteen dollars; 1815, 16 twenty dollars, 1814, 17 twenty-five dollars. Fox bounties were also offered and ranged from $2.50 to fifty cents. Panthers brought a ten dollar bounty in 1806 but in 1807 the bounty dropped to five dollars.
On February 10, 1807, The Brownville Library, was formed with John Brown, John Baxter, Henry Cowley, Isaac Pearse, John Simonds, Stephen Stanley and Thomas Y. Howe as trustees.
In 1810 the legislature passed an act to improve the navigation of the mouth of the river up to Brownville by canals and locks. But the good harbor and port afforded by the bay at Sacket's Harbor as competition, caused the project to fail.
Communication for supplies at the time were mainly with Kingston; potash, a large product from clearing the land of timber, was exchanged for flour, pork and other goods. Two warehouses were built for the trade just below Brownville. Prior to the War of 1812, Congress placed a trade embargo on goods traded between England and the United States. Potash, in the new settlement, was one of the chief products and sold for three hundred to three hundred twenty dollars a ton in Montreal where it was shipped to England. An embargo road was opened from the Black River near Brownville to near French Creek, which became a thoroughfare for smugglers to circumnavigate the embargo.
The Black River Navigation Company was formed on June 5, 1810 and shares were sold to subscribers at ten dollars per share. Subscribers were: Samuel Brown, Jr., Jacob Brown, Micah Sterling, Benjamin Skinner, John Brown, Wm. M. Lord, Judah Williams, Samuel Starr, Joseph Sterling, Wm. Hunter, Richard M. Esselstyn, James Shields, Gershom Tuttle, Thomas S. Converse, Amasa Trowbridge. The commissioners were: Ethel Bronson, John Brown, Wm. M. Lord and Thos. S. Converse. On March 8, 1811, the company received an amendment to their charter; a collector would receive from every boat of five tons or over, 25 cents per ton, small boats fifty cents per ton for going and returning, provided the receipts should not exceed 14 percent of the capital invested. The company was to finish its work in three years but the time was later extended and in 1815, wooden locks were built of a capacity sufficient to allow the passage of Durham boats. About 1828 the wooden locks were decayed so they were replaced by stone locks and in the summer of 1827, the steamer Brownville was built by a company composed of: Turner and Dodd, Wm. S. Ely, Wm. Lord, Hoel Lawrence and Edmund Kirby along with others in Oswego and Ogdensburgh. The boat was burned to the waters edge on the first trip to Ogdensburgh but the crew was saved. The hull was towed to Brownville and rebuilt by Capt. E. B. Dodd and soon after sold at Sacket's Harbor with a named change to Wm. Avery.
A post route was established in April 10, 1810, from Utica by Whitestown, Rome, Camden, Adams, and Sacket's Harbor to Brownville; another from Harrisburgy by Champion, Watertown and Brownville to Fort Putnam. On April 30, 1816 from Brownville to Cape Vincent; June 15, 1832 from Watertown by Brownville and LaFargeville to Cornelia, at the mouth of the French Creek and then to Depauville to Brownville.
On April 12, 1816, an act was passed that allowed LeRay to extend the Cape Vincent turnpike road to Brownville village and by an act of April 21, 1831, the road was surrendered to the public.
The War of 1812 caused excitement in the frontier towns. Jacob Brown, who had been made colonel of the 108th Regiment of New York State militia, received the commission of brigadier general and had personal direction of military operations on the frontier during most of the first season. Large bodies of militia assembled there for service, and a hospital was established and troops stationed in the village and vicinity at different times during the war. A fort blockhouse was put up at Perch River but never used for protection of the women and children, sick and infirm. It was later used as a grain storehouse. The other blockhouse built on the later site of the Baptist church, was never used for that purpose but later used for religious meetings.
The first town meeting of Brownville was held at the home of Samuel and Jacob Brown and adjourned to the Brownville Hotel on March 1, 1803. The first town officers were: Jacob Brown, supervisor; Isaac Collins, clerk; John W. Collins, Richard Smith and Peter Pratt, assessors; J. W. Collins, Ozias Preston, Samuel Starr, commissioners of highways,; O. Preston, Richardson Avery, Henry A. Delemater, Samuel Brown, Benjamin Brown, William Rogers, Abijah Putnam, fence viewers; S. Brown, S. Starr, overseers of the poor; S. Brown, Sanford Langworthy, Caleb J. Bates, Sylvanus Fish, H. A. Delemater, Frederick Sprage, George Waffle, Ethni Evans, pathmasters; J. W. Collins, H. A. Delemater and S. Brown poundmasters.
Successive supervisors to 1850 were: Jacob Brown, John W. Collins, John Brown, Josiah Farrar, John Brown, Joseph Clark, John Brown, Walter Cole, George Brown, Jr., Hoel Lawrence, Walter Cole, George Brown (Perch River), Aaron Shew, Walter Cole, Mahlon P. Jackson, Alanson Skinner, William Lord, A. Skinner, Charles B. Avery, A. Skinner, Charles B. Avery, Arba Strong, Cyrus Allen, Thomas L. Knap and others after 1850.
At the annual town meeting held at Perch River in 1820, the meeting adjourned to the house of Edward Arnold on Penet Square until the next day. Another adjournment to the house of Elias Bennett of Brownville Village was held and remaining officers elected. The residents of Penet Square were robbed of their town meeting and so demanded a separate organization. Subsequently, the town of Orleans, which embraces Penet Square was set off on April 3, 1821.
The first murder trial on April 16, 1828 was a result of a murder committed near Perch River by Henry Evans upon Joshua Rogers and Henry Diamond. They tried to forcibly eject Evans without legal formality from premises leased by a brother of Rogers. The parties had been drinking and were quarrelsome. Evans had shut himself up in his house, which was forcibly entered with threats and abusive language; Evans seized an ax and mortally wounded two and badly a third, who recovered. He was arrested and at the June term of the court of Oyer and Terminer in 1828 was tried. Judges were: Nathan Williams, circuit judge; Egbert Ten Eyck, first judge; Joseph Hawkins, judge; Robert Lansing, district attorney; H. H. Sherwood, Clerk, H. H. Coffeen, sheriff. Sterling, Bronson and Rathbone defended the prisoner. Evans, whether drunk or sober, had been the terror of his neighborhood and after a half hour the jury returned a guilty verdict. He was sentenced to be hung on August 22. Objections were raised against Evans' body being buried in the Brownville Cemetery so his friends, took the remains three or four miles back from the village and buried his corpse by night.
The 1814 census noted one slave in Brownville; she was probably Sylvia Robinson, the slave of Thomas Bowlsby, brought by him from New Jersey. "Old Sylvy" did not know how old she was but guessed she was about one hundred years old. She was buried in the village cemetery.
In 1840, Revolutionary War pensioners for Brownville were: John Baxter age 88, Walter Wilson 85; Selah Burton, 79; David Rimiston, 93 and John P. Beecher, 78.
The Village of Brownville was incorporated on April 5, 1828; officers were: Thomas Loomis, Jr. Hoel Lawrence, George Brown, Peleg Burchard, Tracy S. Kanp, trustees; Wm. S. Ely, Asa Whitney, Wm. Lord assessors; John A. Catheart, treasurer; James Shields, Collector; Levi Torrey constable. Successive Presidents of the Board of Trustees were: Wm. S. Ely, Derrick Gibbons, Hoel Lawrence, Edmund Kirby, Wm. Lord, George Brown, Arba Strong, A. Skinner, J. Hemminway, Joel Blood, James Shields, Thomas Loomis, Wm. Lord, Chas. K. Loomis, John Bradley, Arba Strong, M. C. Loomis, John E. Brown, Edmund Kirby, Thos. L. Knap, C. K. Loomis, J. B. Kirby, James J. Hunt, Jesse Ayers and others after 1853.
On February 9, 1814, a company was organized for manufacturing purposes with a capital of $100,000. First trustees were: John Paddock, John Brown, Thomas Loomis Jr., Thomas J. Whitesides and Hoel Lawrence, who were to serve for one year. A stone factory building was erected and the manufacture of cotton goods began the next year. It proved unprofitable. The property was bought by Charles Smith, Elizar Fairman, and John A. Cathcart in 1826 and on April 6, 1831, the Brownville Cotton Factory was created. Indifferent success and numerous stoppages occurred until 1842 when owners Charles Smith, Wm. H. Averill and F. W. Andres enlarge the mill. It remained under this ownership until 1856 and owned and managed successfully by others into the late 1800's. The Jefferson Lead Company was formed on June 30, 1838 with Thomas L. Knap as manager. They made white lead and lithic paints for about 12 years. Bradley and Brown owned a woolen factory, destroyed by fire in January 1846. A furnace, foundry and machine shop was built by Wm. Lord and Henry Caswell in 1829. Alanson Skinner built a foundry, furnace and stove manufacturing business in 1837 and a machine shop in 1846. Thomas L. Knap built a flouring mill about that time and later owned and operated by Charles H. Bartlett and others. Seth G. Hunter was in the manufacturing of furniture and cabinet ware. Henry Lord in 1828, had the Brownville Carriage Works. A harness shop by George Stebbin was in the same area. Henry Lord was principally into the manufacture of lumber wagons. G. Codmon &Son conducted a general manufacturing business in the line of furniture, cabinet ware, coffins and job work in wood. Across the river was a flouring mill that was owned and operated by Byron Cole, Myron H. Peck and J. H. Thompson. A stone building which was intended to be a woolen mill, constructed in 1835, was for twenty-five years in the business of manufacturing satinet, fuller's cloth, and flannels as well as a general wool carding and cloth pressing business by Joel G. Stacy, Enoch Drake, H. C. Alexander, W. R. Willis, Jr. and others. Warren &Hunter ran a shingle mill with materials shipped from Canada but transport costs were too great and the business folded.
Early merchants in the village were: Alvin A. Gibbs, dry goods; Albert E. Lord, dry goods and drugs; Myron H. Peck, groceries and provisions, Robert Younger &Son, groceries and provisions. The doctors were: William P. Massey, Ezra B. Pratt, and William W. Goodwin.
The Brownville Female Seminary was established in 1849 and opened May 1, 1850 as a boarding and day school under the charge of Miss Mary F. Bloomfield.
The village of Brownville was greatly indebted to General Brown for his involvement in all things that pertained to its welfare. During his residency of 22 years, his goal was for the good of the village. His military duties forced him to remove to Washington in 1821, where he lived for seven years. Having contracted a disease at Fort Erie, he died at Washington February 24, 1828 at 52 years. Acknowledgments for his distinguished service included a gold medal from the President and the thanks of Congress. The state of New York legislature presented him with a sword and resolutions of appreciation and the freedom of the city of New York was presented to him in a gold box. His remains were laid in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington and Congress built a monument on his grave that commemorated his services.
Edmund Kirby, later Colonel Kirby, was another citizen of Brownville, tied to its early beginnings. He was a son of Ephraim Kirby, and officer of the Revolution, and later judge of the supreme court of Connecticut. Colonel Kirby was born at Litchfield, CT on April 18, 1794. He entered the army as a lieutenant in 1812 and served during the war on the northern frontier. He joined General Brown as an aid in 1820 and from 1821-23 discharged the duties of adjutant general in Washington. In 1824 he was appointed paymaster of the army and returned to Brownville where he married Eliza Brown, a daughter of General Brown. From 1832-40 he was engaged in the Florida wars with the Natives and was chief of the pay department during the Mexican War. He was a volunteer aid to General Taylor at the storming of Monterey and an aid to General Scott at Vera Cruz, Cerre Gordo, Contreras, Charubasco, Chapultepec and the Mexican capital, and always distinguished for courage and bravery. In 1848 he returned to Brownville. Disease from hardships in the tropical climate impaired his health and he went to the medicinal waters of Avon Springs where he died on August 20, 1849 at 55 years. His remains were brought to Brownville and laid to rest in the village cemetery with fitting military honors. By his side in the cemetery are the remains of his gallant son, Brigadier-General E. Kirby, who was wounded at Chancellorsville on May 3 and died May 28, 1863 at the age of 23 years.
George Brown, Esq. was identified with the interests of Brownville and was the son of George Brown , one of the colonists, and followed his father to the county in 1802. He died on July 8, 1870 at the age of 88 at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. James G. Brown, of New Haven, Connecticut.
Colonel William Lord came from Vermont just before the War of 1812. He was induced to come to be the bookkeeper for his uncle, Wm. M. Lord, who kept the Brownville Hotel. In the fall he was going to return to Vermont with Isaac Farwell, Chesterfield Parsons and a Mr. Stow. While having supper at Abijah Farwell's, Warren Skinner who was acting as sergeant in Capt. Wm. Cole's company, came in and warned each of them to report with ax and gun the next morning for service in cutting and felling tress across the road between Brownville and Cape Vincent to prevent the enemy from gaining access to Sacket's Harbor. Farwell, Parsons and Stow decided to go on to Vermont but Lord stayed, joined the company; he was in service for 28 days and did not see Vermont in six years. Two of his sons, Col. N. B. Lord and N. N. Lord were in the Civil War.
Alanson Skinner moved to Brownville in 1814 but remained a short time and went back to New Hampshire where all of his children were born. He returned to Brownville and entered into partnership with Wm. Lord. He served as a State Senator in 1850-51. He died at his resident in Brownville on June 7, 1876 at 82 years.
General Thomas Loomis came to the country at an early day from Otsego County. He was in the tannery and shoe shop business but also had a distillery. One of his sons, Charles K. was a resident of Brownville for many years. His business career as a merchant, lumber dealer and United States marshal, made him well known throughout the country. During the last years of his life he was general freight agent for the buffalo Division of the NYC Railroad and in his duties, on his way to a railroad convention, was the victim of a railroad disaster at Carr's Rock. Another son, M. C. was engaged in business with his father for many years and the moved to Ogdensburgh where he stayed. General Loomis was an invalid for many years and died at his home in Brownville on April 24, 1869 at 88 years.
Thomas S. Knap came from his home in New Berlin, NY in 1829, to take charge of the business of his brother, Tracy S. Knap, whose health obliged him to relinquish the business for a time. Mr. Knap focused on the manufacture of linseed oil and encouraged the farmers to cultivate large crops of flax. He also manufactured white lead and lithic paints from 1838 to 1850. In 1851 he left Brownville for Pittsburgh, PA in association with his brother, Charles Knap, of the Fort Pitt Iron Works. His family had planned to follow him when they were startled by the news of his death from cholera.
John A. Cathcart was a prominent merchant of Brownville where he settled in 1828 at the advice of his friend and relative, Elizur Fairman, one of the owners of the Brownville Cotton Factory. Originally from Rochester, NY, he was in the mercantile business. He later operated a dry goods grocery for 25 years. He died in 1852 and left his business to his son, W. A. Cathcart of Bay City, Michigan.
The village was formerly Fish Island but named Dexter in honor of S. Newton Dexter of Whitesboro. About 1826, James Wood and his sons, Gillman and Charles and Ira, became interested in the lumber business in the area. Mr. Wood was originally from New Hampshire and in about 1830 began building a dam and woolen factory a mile and one-half above Brownville on the Black River. It was almost finished when it was swept away by the spring flooding of 1833, and was a total loss. Besides Mr. Wood and his sons, the names of Keyes &Hungerford, Thurman, Gunn &Co., John Bradley, Kirby &Loomis, Joseph Huntington, Potter &Hammond, E. Leonard and Henry Binninger are connected with the lumber business of Dexter.
In 1837 a joint stock company was formed for the purpose of laying out a village on a tract of 249 acres south and 800 acres north of the river; original members of the company were: Edmund Kirby, S. W. Dexter, John Williams, John Bradley and J. Brown.
A post office was established in 1836 with Joshua Eaton as first post master. The citizens of Dexter who were residents and identified with the interests of the village during its growth were: Jesse Babcock, John T. Weed, Solomon Meyer, John P. Shelly and F. W. Winn. James A. Bell moved to Dexter in 1836 and became involved in local affairs. His first venture was a small dry goods store; then a warehouse and later a storage facility for hops. Bell became associated with Major Edmund Kirby in the shipping enterprises and lumber.
Dexter was incorporated on May 8, 1855.
Mills were built at Limerick at an early day. A dam at Limerick increased the sluggishness of Perch River and in 1827 an act authorized John Baxter, Abner Smith and Isaac Moffatt to remove the obstructions for the purpose of improving the river current. In March of 1828 the circuit court declared the dam a nuisance and directed that it be removed. The summer of 1828 was a sickly one filled with fevers and ague and a severe form of malarial fever prevailed. On May 26, 1841, an act was passed to provide for reclamation of drowned lands by which parties benefited along the river were to be taxed for defraying expenses incurred. Nicholas Lawyer, John Cole, Jr., Paul Anthony, Daniel Allen and Jonathan Webb were appointed commissioners for carrying the act into effect.
PERCH RIVER POST OFFICE:
At an early day it was called Moffattville. It had a dozen houses, a Union church, a store and a few shops. Names associated with Perch River: Uncle Isaac Moffatt, Deacon Vandebogart, Silas F. Spicer (who knew all about the underground railroad), Daniel Allen, Silas and Lewis Webb. Hon. Hugh Smith and Hon. Henry Spicer who were business partners and each called to represent the district in the legislature.
Old Uncle Isaac Moffatt, as he was called, one of the first settlers, had a sense of humor. His family physician Dr. Bates, had left his saddlebags at the Moffatt house on a professional visit, and when Bates sent for them, the doctor found his patron had removed several vials and in their place deposited specimens of the finny tribe, carefully labeled "Bullo Tronti, etc.".
The name was derived by certain rocks along the shore and they were left standing by the action of the lake water. There were extensive fisheries along the shore. A small village opposite Sacket's Harbor, had a post office, a Methodist church and a few dwellings and shops. Its most important aspect was ship building.
The First Presbyterian Church of Brownville was organized on March 18, 1818 with eight members. Elam Clark and William Vandebogart were chosen as elders. It was admitted to presbytery on February 10, 1819 and Noah M. Wells was installed as its pastor on September 14, 1820. In 1878 he was age 93 and living in Erie, Michigan.
The Baptist Church of Perch River was organized in Brownville on September 7, 1806. An ecclesiastical council was held at the house of John N. Collins on October 10, where the church was fellowshipped by delegates from Champion, Rutland and Adams. Its members were: Richardson Avery, Truman Kilborn, Ara Farr, Oliver Bartholomew, Persis Towns, Isaac Cornwall, Jr., David Little, Peter Towne, Joseph Rhodes, Rhoda Rhodes. The members who sat in the council from the Champion church were: Elder Timothy Pool, Deacon Arnold Lewis and David Pool; from the Rutland church: Benjamin Peck and Chandler Mattby; from the Adams church: Timothy Heath and Matthew Wilkie. The first minister over the church was Elder Timothy Pool in 1806. His successors were: Elders Wilkie, Joshua Morgan, Sardis Little, Ford Guiteau, D. D. Reed, Sawyer, John L. Moore, Miller, Lorenzo Rice, Abner Webb, De Golier, D. Peck, Ira Cooley, Sydney L. Dyer, Calvin Filo. A society was legally organized on April 25, 1825 and the trustees were: Melvin Moffatt, Walter Cole, George Brown, Nathaniel Peck and William Webb.
The Baptist Church at Pillar Point was formed on September 22, 1838 with I. Howard, G. C. Parsons, Hiram A. Reed, Solomon Ingalls, Elisha Harris and Samuel R. Campbell as trustees. In 1839 they had 30 members.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church was formed legally on October 13, 1826. Thomas Y. How and Thomas Loomis were chosen as wardens and Asa Whitney, Tracy S. Knap, Sylvester Reed, S. Brown, William S. Ely, Peleg Burchard, Edmund Kirby and Hoel Lawrence were vestrymen. The first rector was William Linn Keese.
The Presbyterian Church of Dexter was organized July 2, 1839 by Rev. Marcus Smith, Isaac Brayton and Dexter Clary and received by presbytery. They had 18 original members.
The All Saints Episcopal Church of Dexter was organized on July 14, 1839 with John Bradley and Gillman Wood as wardens; Edmund Kirby, Jesse Babcock, Ora Haskell, Salon Stone, James A. Bell, Andrew Wood, Israel J. Griffin and Robert Anderson as vestrymen.
The Methodist Church of Brownville was formed on August 3, 1829 with Joshua Heminway, Henry W. Chapman, Samuel Knap, Isaac Mecham, William Lord and Daniel Case as trustees.
The First Universalist Society of Dexter was formed on September 5, 1841 with trustees: Thos. Broadbent, John Maynard, David Baker, Eleazer Parker, Solon Stone and F. W. Winn.
The first Masonic Lodge of Brownville Lodge of F. and A. M. No. 378 was installed March 31, 1819 by Isaac Lee, acting G. M.; A. Trowbridge, D. G. M. Its Masters have been Sylvester Reed, Peleg Burchard, Joseph McKenzie, Hoel Lawrence, Warren Skiner, S. Reed. From 1827 to 1839 meetings were discontinued when the charter was renewed as No. 53. The lodge was reorganized on April 2 of the same year with Alanson Skinner, Master; Richard Buckminster, S. W.; Arba Strong, J. W.,; Joel Blood, Treasurer; John K. Adams, Secretary, Henry W. Chapman, S. D.; Apollus Huntington, J. D.; Derrick Gibbons, Gideon Tillinghurst, Stewards; Hugh Wiley, Tyler.
This ends the early history and firsts of Brownville.
Information transcribed and contributed by volunteer M. Sapienza. © 2015.
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