Jefferson County, New York

History of Champion

Revisited by Durant & Peirce 1878 - Part 1

This town, embracing township No. 4 of the eleven towns, was formed from Mexico, by an act of March 14, 1800, including all that part of the present town of Denmark north of Deer River. It received its name from General Henry Champion, of Colchester, Connecticut, who was one of the early proprietors of this town, and also very extensively interested in lands in Ohio and in the western part of this State.

The supervisors elected since the organization of the town have been: 1800-1814 Noadiah Hubbard; 1815, Wilkes Richardson; 1816-17, Stowell Warner; 1818-20, N. Hubbard; 1821 Eseck Lewis; 1822-26, N. Hubbard; 1827 Samuel Dean. At a special town meeting in October, Eseck Lewis was chosen to fill a vacancy; 1828-29, Henry D. Cadnell; 1830-33m Otis Loomis; 1834-38 Richard Hulbut; 1839-40, David Smith; 1841-43 John Pool, Jr.; 1844 E. Lewis; 1845 James C. Lynde; 1846, David Smith; 1847 John Pool, Jr.; 1848, William Vanhosen; 1849 D. Smith; 1850, Wm. Vanhosen; 1851-53, Benajah A. Lewis; 1854-55, A. S. Babcock; 1856-58 Nelson Rulison; 1859, Joel A. Hubbard; 1860, William J. Bentley; 1861-63, Daniel Potter; 1864-67, Wesley Barr; 1868, John F. Peck; 1869-70, Frederick H. McNitt; 1871, Albert W. Hadsall; 1872-74, Minor C. Merrill. At a special town meeting in March 1874, James Sterling was chosen to fill a vacancy, 1875-77, James Sterling.

The town officers elected at the first town meeting on April 1, 1800 were Noadiah Hubbard, supervisor; Eli Church, Clerk; Timothy Pool, David Coffeen, and William Hadsall assessors; Ephraim Chamberlain, constable and collector; John Ward and Reuben Rockwood, overseers of the poor; Solomon Ward, Amaziah Parker, and Elihu Jones, commissioners of highways; David Coffeen, William Crowell, Timothy Pool, and Moses Goodrich, overseers of highways; Levi Barnes, fence-viewer; Bella Hubbard, pound-master.

The following is a record of the first school meeting in town, as it occurs on the records in the town clerk's office:
“Champion, Oct. 23, 1800—At a regular meeting of the inhabitants of the town aforesaid it is resolved, that there shall be a house erected near a spring, on the road running from Noadiah Hubbard's to Daniel Coffeen's, in said town; and likewise resolved, that said house shall be built with logs, sixteen feet one way, and twenty feet the other way. Also, resolved by said meeting, that Daniel Coffeen and Noadiah Hubbard shall act as trustees of said school.
“Attest, ELI CHURCH, Town Clerk.”

Champion was surveyed by Moses and Benjamin Wright, in 1797, the former subdividing and the latter surveying around it; the area, according to M. Wright, was 26,703 acres, and by B. Wright 25,708 acres. It was subdivided into lots of 500 acres each.

This town was the first one in which actual settlements were begun in the county, excepting, perhaps, Ellisburg, which was explored with the view of settlement at about the same time. The following advertisement appeared in the Western Sentinel, June 7, 1797:

“LAND FOR SALE, lying on Black river, in the county of Herkimer, and State of New York. Forty lots of land laid out into farms, containing from 100 to 240 acres each. On Inman's Patent, so called, in this township, there is about forty actual settlers, and a good gristmill within one mile and (illegible...) on said land. This land is of an excellent soil, and the situation convenient and pleasing for settlers. The subscriber will remain on the land the most of the ensuing summer and fall. Terms of payment will be made to accommodate purchasers. Also township No. 4, lying on and adjoining Black River, about thirty miles from Boon's Mills; this township is of an excellent soil; twenty actual settlers will be on this township this summer. For terms please to apply to the subscriber, who will reside on Inman's Patent, or to Captain Noadiah Hubbard, of Steuben, who is making a settlement on said township NO. 4. “Also for sale, a township of land lying on Black River, near Lake Ontario. These townships are all laid out in lots, and will be sold by large or small quantities, to suit purchasers, and the title indisputable. Also ten lots of land to be least on first tract.
LEMUEL STORRS May 10, 1797”

Settlement was commenced in this town by Noadiah Hubbard, in 1787, the details of which were given in a letter written by Hubbard in June, 1853 to Dr. Hough. Excerpts are presented here:

“I first came to this town, Champion, in the year 1797, with Lewis Storrs, a large landholder, when he came on for the first time to view his purchase. I was then residing in Steuben, in what is now Oneida county, but then, or shortly before, Herkimer..in the autumn..We traveled on foot, by what is called the French road, to the High Falls on the Black river. This road had been cut for the accommodation of the French refugees who had made a settlement at High Falls, and had there a log city. Many of these French belonged to the nobility of France, who were obliged to abandon their country during the revolution, in 1793...Their settlement was made upon what was called the French Tract, on the north and east sides of the Black River, and extending a great distance.

“From the High Falls we descended the river in a boat to the rapids, called the Long Falls, now known as Carthage. Here we landed, and in two days explored the township, then an unbroken wilderness. On our way down, Silas Stow, then a young man, and afterwards known as Judge Stow, of Lowville, joined us..In due time we arrived safe and well in Steuben from whence we had started, where I passed the winter. Mr. Storrs offered me very liberal inducements to come on her and commence a settlement so liberal that I determined to accept them, though I may say in passing, and then dismiss the subject forever, that he failed to fulfill his liberal offers...in consideration of those offers, I left my home in Steuben, June 1, 1798, and started for this place, accompanied by Salmon Ward and David Starr, with fifteen head of cattle. We traveled again upon the French road, as far as it availed us. This township had been surveyed by Benjamin and Moses Wright the year before, and this year Mr. Storrs had engaged Benjamin Wright to survey Hounsfield, and on his way there he was to mark a road to this place and to precede me. I met the surveyors agreeably to appointment at a Mr. Hoadley's, and from there we came on to what is called Turin Four-Corners. There was only one log house there then. From there we went west about thirty or forty rods to Zaccheus Higby's. There we laid down our maps and consulted them, and came to the conclusion to take from thence a north course. This led us on to the top of the hill, now known as the Tug hill...

“We descended the hill before reaching Deer river. The latter we struck and crossed above the falls, not far from where the village of Copenhagen now stands; and coming on, we succeeded in finding the town line, which was identified by marked trees, not far from where the toll-gate now is, on the Champion and Copenhagen plank road. We then changed our course, following the line of the Black river, at Long Falls, where we arrived before night. We there found W(right) and men...

“My boat, which I had dispatched from the High Falls, soon after arrived, with my provisions, yokes, chains, cooking utensils, etc....In a few days I selected the farm upon which I now live...Not one tree had been cut here for the purpose of making a settlement, nor was there a white man settled in which is now the county of Jefferson when I came here. I was the first white settler in the county...

“Early in the spring, 1799, I sent on two men to make sugar before I came on myself. (Hubbard had spent the winter in Steuben) They commenced making sugar, and one day went out hunting, leaving their sugar boiling. The consequence was the house took fire and burned down, with all of the little it contained...This spring Esquire Mix and family came on; John and Thomas Ward, Ephraim Chamberlain, Samuel and David Starr, Jothan Mitchell, Salmon Ward, Bela Hubbard, David Miller and Bontio, a Frenchman, came to Carthage. The above were all young, unmarried men, save Mix. We continued our labors through the summer of 1799...in view of making this my permanent home, I moved my family here in the autumn of 1799..

“We had a very unfavorable time to come. There had been a snow storm in which about six inches of snow had fallen. We were obliged to travel on horseback, and the horses' feet balled badly; we had sloughs to go through, and altogether, it was very uncomfortable traveling in that manner with children. We arrived at Mr. Hoadley's the first night, and our ox teams and goods the next day. From there we came to the High Falls, where I had a boat awaiting us which I had caused to be built for my own use...We spent one night at the Lowville landing, where a family were living...Our oxen arrived soon after by land.,,My wife said, in view of the difficulties in getting here, that if she had anything as good as a cave to live in she would not return in one year at the least. She, of choice, walked from the Falls here, a distance of four miles through the forest. We arrived on the 17th of November, 1799. The weather continued pleasant until the 27TH, when it commenced snowing; the river soon froze over; the snow, of which a great quantity fell, and continuing to fall, lasted all winter, and we were entirely cut off from all intercourse with the world...In the spring of 1800 people began to flock into the country by hundreds and as my log house afforded the only accommodations for wayfaring men, we were obliged to keep them whether we would or no. Sometimes, and that very often, my floors were strewn with human beings as thick as they could like, some so near the huge fireplace as not to pass unscorched; one man, in particular, it was said by his companions that his head backed by too close proximity to the oven. This rush continued two or three years, and was full of incident and interest, but at this distance of time I can not recall these incidents with sufficient accuracy...

“...I cannot state the order of time in which they came, but the names of a few of them I will record..such men as Egbert Ten Eyck, afterwards first judge of the court, who was then a young lawyer, and married here to one of our beautiful maidens; Olney Pearce and wife; Hubbel and wife; Judge Moss Kent, brother of the late chancellor; Henry R. Storrs...Dr. Bandy, a Frenchman; Drs. Durkee and Farley and many others...Religious meetings were held on the Sabbath, after old Deacon Carter came into town; and in a very few years, I think as early as 1805, the Rev. Nathaniel Dutton came....NOADIAH HUBBARD”

A petition, which outlined the difficulties of early settlement, was presented to the legislature, dated the third Tuesday of February, 1801. The petition was signed by N. Hubbard, Benjamin Pike, Jr., Eli Church, Harrison Mosely, Timothy Townsend, Joel Mix, Samuel Foster, Abner White, Mathew Kemp, Bela Hubbard, Jr., Elisha Jones, William Davis and William Crowell

Champion – Part 2

The first saw mill in town was built by William Hadsall and John A. Eggleson, from Greenwich, NY, in 1802, on Mill creek, near the line of Rutland, where several years afterwards, a grist mill was built.

In 1804, David Coffeen removed from Rutland to the west side of the river, opposite Carthage, and in 1806 built a mill on this side of the river, which was the first hydraulic improvement at that place. Water in the channel was insufficient so he constructed a wing dam partly across the river, which was completed by LeRay when he commenced his ironworks at Carthage.

A mile and a half from the present village of Champion, towards Great Bend, is a hamlet know as the “Huddle”, where mills and a distillery were built several years before the war.

It was suggested that Champion had been contemplated as the probable center of a new county. A special meeting was held November 13, 1804, to choose delegates to discuss the measure, and Egbert Ten Eyck, Olney Pearce, and John Durkee were chosen by ballot for that purpose. At that same meeting, the latter two were recommended for appointment as justices of the peace. In 1806, one hundred dollars was raised for killing the Canada thistle. Wolf bounties of five dollars were offered in the years 1807-13; in 1812, a panther bounty of five dollars; a fox bounty of fifty cents; in 1815 a fox bounty of one dollars and a wolf and panther bounty of ten dollars; in 1820, fifty cents for foxes and twenty-five cents for young foxes, the wolf and panther bounty remained at ten dollars. Every man was required to cut the Canada thistles growing in the road in front of his lands, under a penalty of one dollar for each thistle.

During the year 1812 the town was visited by fever which baffled the skill of the physicians, and proved fatal in nearly every case.

The town was owned at the time of settlement by Henry Champion, of Colchester, and Lemuel Storrs, of Middletown, Connecticut. On May 12, 1813, an instrument was executed between them, by which the latter conveyed for $18,300 his half of the sums due for lands in this town and Hounsfield but this conveyance not being delivered during the lifetime of Storrs, was subsequently confirmed by his heirs.

The village is situated near the center of the town, upon the main road, at the point at which it is crossed by the Great Bend and Copenhagen (formerly plank) road. It had about 100 inhabitants; two churches—Methodist and Congregational; a stone building for academic purposes but used by the Episcopalian Society as a church; a hotel owned by Mr. J. A. Hubbard; a store owned by Mr. M. G. Coughlan; a blacksmith shop and a shoe shop.

GREAT BEND:

This village is situated mostly on the south side of Black River, at the base of the peninsula formed by the Great Bend, and at the point where the Chassanis line crossed the river. Among the first settlers in this portion of the town were a large number of Martins, who came from the east, and located on the road leading from Great Bend to Carthage, since known as Martin Street. Prominent among them were Enos, Mason, Timothy, Samuel, Harry, and Captain. James Colwell and Samuel Fulton located near the village about 1805.

The first white child born in this portion of the town was the wife of Elisha Barr. A bridge was built as early as 1804, but was swept off by the spring flood of 1807, which was very general in this section and of extraordinary height. It was subsequently rebuilt.

In 1804 a substantial covered bridge at this place was burned, and a few weeks after an act was passed authorizing a loan of $2,500 to the Town of Champion, $750 to LeRay, $2,000 to Wilna and $750 to Pamelia, for building bridges over Black River, among which were those at this place and Carthage. The loans were to be repaid by a tax in eight equal annual installments.

The first mill at Great Bend was built by a Mr. Tubbs, who also constructed a dam across the river in 1806 for Olney Pearce and Egbert Ten Eyck, who had purchased a pine lot of 100 acres in the vicinity. Henry G. Gardner subsequently became interest in the improvements and in 107 the mill which had been destroyed in the flood of that year, was rebuilt. In 1809 a distillery was put into operation and in 1816 the premises were sold to Watson & Gates, who in 1824, conveyed them to Charles E. Clarke. A destructive fire occurred at Great Bend on March 5, 1840, by which all of the business portion of the village was destroyed, including the gristmill and bridge at an estimated loss of $20,000. The mill was immediately rebuilt on an extensive scale.

During the high water in the spring of 1862, a crowd had collected upon the bridge, attracted by the unusual height of the river. While they were watching the flood wood and timber that were being carried over the dam, an old deserted mill, which stood a short distance above the bridge, was suddenly loosened from its foundation and carried with such violence against the bridge that it was swept away. The greater number of those on the bridge reached the shore in time to avert the accieent. A son of Mr. Fox, the miller, with Charlie Lewis, a companion, were less fortunate. Lewis was carried down the river for several miles but finally succeeded in reaching shore. The Fox boy was not seen after the accident until his body was found several weeks later on the river bank.

On January 9, 1873, the body of an unknown man was discovered on Deer Lick Creek on Martin Street, about two and one-half miles from Great Bend. It was a stormy day with deep snow and cold weather. The body of the murdered man was take to Watertown. In one of his pockets was an envelope directed to “Charles Wenham, Copenhagen, NY., care Wm. Davenport”, in the handwriting of Charles Sutherland. The envelope contained one hundred dollars currency. The conclusion was that officers determined the body was that of Wenham and further, that Sutherland was the murderer. A party of three constables with Police Chief Guest left Carthage to secure Sutherland, and reached Joen Dryden's near Copenhagen after midnight. In the interim, George Dryden seeing that Sutherland was a strong suspect, telegraphed his brother to get Sutherland and bring him to Carthage. At Copenhagen, John and Charles Dryden met him, and started from the hotel to go to Charles Dryden's house. He was asked about the murder, but denied all knowledge as to Wenham, except that he left him in Carthage at about eight o'clock on Monday night, January 6, and further that he could clear up all suspicious circumstances in five minutes after reaching Carthage. Shortly after this, the officers arrived and Sutherland was arrested; the party started for Carthage. After covering about half a mile, the prisoner had a spasm but denied having taken poison. He then had five spasms and died in the last, about three quarters of an hour after leaving Dryden's. Upon arrival in Carthage, his body was taken into the Levis House office. District Attorney Williams who was also a physician, and others were called in, and it was pronounced a case of strychnine poisoning.

Hiram Smith, who lived near Copenhagen in Lewis County, was afterwards suspected of having been a party to the murder, and he was arrested at Copenhagen on October 10, 2873. Smith was indicted in December 1872. He was arraigned in February and entered a not guilty plea. Levi H. Brown and Nathan Whiting were appointed by the court to defend him. Judge Morgan began hearing the case in May 1874. After a five day trial Smith was found guilty and sentenced to be executed on July 24, 1874. Because Smith protested his innocence so intently, the governor, at the request of Judge Morgan, postponed the execution until October 23, 1874 and then at the suggestion of Judge Morgan and District Attorney Williams until December 4. This gave Smith, his counsel and friends six months after the trial to investigate his case. A number of affidavits were obtained in behalf of Smith and presented to the governor, who heard the case finally on November 5. His decision, rendered on November 16, left no doubt in his mind of the guilt of Smith and therefore he could not interfere to prevent the execution which occurred at the Watertown jail on December 4, 1874.

The portion of the village of Great Bend which lies within the town of Champion, consisted of a hotel kept by William Fredinburgh; a store kept by Daniel McNeal; a gristmill owned by D. B. Sterling, and a paper mill owned by the Great Bend Paper-Mill Co.

WEST CARTHAGE VILLAGE:

In 1834, Joseph C. Budd, William Bones, and Benjamin Bentley erected a blast furnace in Champion, west of the river, opposite the village of Carthage, which was 26 feet square at the base and 32 feet in height. It was run by four blasts; the first two on bog ore alone, when it was abandoned in 1836. About 1,000 ton of iron was made at this furnace with the cold blast but no castings were made at the site. The parties who owned it had in February of 1833 purchased of A. Champion about 320 acres opposite Carthage which had been surveyed into a village plat and sold to parties in New York, who caused a new survey and a map to be made by Nelson J. Beach. The speculation failed, and the property reverted to Champion, who sold it to V. LeRay. The village company procured an act incorporating the West Carthage Iron and Lead Company, with a capital of $200,000 in shares of $500. It was incorporated May 15, 1837. First directors were Ebenezer Jessup, Jr., Chauncey Burks, Wolcot Hubbell, Ebenezer Griffin and Carlos Woodcock, and the company was limited in duration to 25 years. Nothing was done to carry this into effect.

West Carthage had excellent water privileges and was one of the most extensive manufacturing villages in the county. There were in 1878, two extensive pail and tub manufacturers, a map roller, a sash and blind and a pump manufactory, two planing mills and a tannery.

The first religious organization in the county was believed to have been formed in this town in June, 1801, by the Rev. Mr. Bascomb, who was sent on a missionary tour by the Ladies Charitable Society of Connecticut, and on that date formed a Congregational Church. Only occasional preaching occurred until 1807 when Rev. Nathaniel Dutton was ordained. There were present on that occasion the late Rev. Dr. Norton of Clinton, NY; and Mr. Eels of Westmoreland as well as one or two others.

A partial obituary for Rev. Dutton is presented here, the efforts of Rev. David Spear of Rodman:
“Died in Champion, New York, September 9, 1852, Rev. Nathaniel Dutton, aged seventy-three years, the first settled minister in Jefferson County. His parents live in Hartford, Vermont. The son, having become pious in early life, devoted himself to the work of the ministry, graduated at Dartmouth in 1802, studied theology under Dr. Lyman, of Hatfield, commenced preaching in 1805 under the approval of the Hampshire Association, was sent by the Hampshire Missionary Society to labor in the Black River country, and in 107 was installed pastor of the First congregational church in Champion.”

Of interest was a convention of ministers who assembled at Champion on September 22, 1807—they voted a proclamation recommending that the inhabitants of the Black River settlement observe on the first Thursday of December, a day of thanksgiving and prise. It was signed by a vote of the convention; James Murdock, moderator; Nathaniel Dutton, scribe and published in the Black River Gazette at Martinsburgh, then the only paper north of Utica. The proclamation was far in advance of the later national Thanksgiving holiday.

The first Congregational Church of Champion was formed on May 7, 1805 with Jonathan Carter, Abel Crandel, Joel Mix, Noadiah Hubbard, Joseph Paddock and John Canfield being the first trustees. On July 4, 1807, Champion and Storrs gave the town two acres on the summit of a hill that overlooked the village for the site of a church and a public green. The War of 1812 delayed the building until 1816 when the church was built and dedicated on December 15, 1816.

The first Methodists organized a legal society on December 30, 1825 with M. Andrews, Wilson Pennock and Josiah Townsend as trustees.This was the Methodist church at Champion Village.

The Methodist church at North Champion was one of the oldest in the town. The building was erected in 1826.

The Episcopal church of Champion Village was organized about 1868. The old academy building was given to the society at that time by the Freemasons.

The Congregational Church of West Carthage was organized on March 31, 1835; it was voted to call it the First Congregational church of Carthage. Revs. Dutton and Monroe were the organizers and the following persons united to form the church: Philo Weed, Abigail Weed, C. H. Morrison, Prudence Morrison, Daniel and Mary Wilcox, John and Hepzibah Hewitt, Merritt Coughlin, Lucy Nimocks and Lovica Gilbert. Merritt Coughlin was elected clerk and Philo Weed deacon. On November 16, 1852, the citizens of West Carthage convened, and organized themselves into a Congregation society by calling Deacon Daniel Jackson and Mr. John Vrooman to president, when Alfred Lathrop, James Mix, Joel Manchester, Reuben H. Potter, Truman Buck, Ezra Carter and Theodorus Buck were chosen as trustees.

The Baptist church at Great Bend in 1818 reported only twenty-five members and the First Baptist Ecclesiastical Society was formed October 16, 1826 with Moses C. Merrill, Elisha Jones, Thomas Campbell, Elisha Bentley, Moses Miller, Sidney Hastings and James Thompson trustees.

Dr. Eli West studied medicine in Castleton, Vermont; attended lectures at the Castleton medical college and graduated there about 1816. He moved to Carthage the following year and practiced for more than 50 years. He was twice elected to the legislature from his district and held the office of supervisor and justice of the peace for many years. Dr. R. J. Darraugh of Champion, was a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Canada. He graduated at the Queen's University of Kingston in 1866 and in August 1877 moved to the village of Champion. Dr. G. D. Hewitt of West Carthage, attended lectures at Burlington, VT and Pittsfield, MA. He served in the army as surgeon in the 186th Regiment and returned to the village of West Carthage in 1865..


For additions or corrections, contact Nan Dixon

Return to Jefferson County Genweb Page

Copyright 2011 Jefferson County NYGenWeb — a member of the NYGenWeb Project