HISTORY OF DEPAUVILLE, which appeared in "The Thousand Islands Sun
Vacationer", 27 Aug, 3 Sep, and 10 Sep 1997 supplements to the weekly
newspaper, "Thousand Islands Sun", published at Alexandria Bay,
Jefferson County. Permission to present this article given by
Jeanne Snow, editor. Prepared by William Gillette, Depauville, in 1905
for the Jefferson County Centennial of 1905 published by J. Coughlin.
Depauville is situated at the head of navigation on Chaumont River. It received its name in honor of Francis Depau, an importing merchant and capitalist of New York who purchased 15 lots in Penet Square. This place first bore the name of Catfish Falls. The first improvement was begun by Simon and Jared White, who came over very early in the century as trespassers to get out lumber, but being warned off by the agent, they left a large amount of hewn timber which rotted on the ground.
From this place they moved on to Three Mile Point on Chaumont Bay whence, after a short stay, they started west in an open boat May 1817. The party consisted of the brothers and their wives and mothers and children, in all eleven. They arrived at Hounsfield some distance beyond Sackets Harbor. After leaving this place they were never seen alive. They were supposed to have been robbed and murdered but there was not evidence sufficient to warrant an arrest.
In 1816, Nathaniel Norton who had been a merchant in Russia, Herkimer County, came over as agent of C.H. and E.Wilkes, owners of 12,000 acres on Penet Square adjoining Depauville and built the first log house. Soon after Norton, came David and Nathaniel Holbrook with their father, and erected a rude apology for a saw and grist mill but on failure to pay for the premises, they were sold in 1824 to Stephen Johnson and Peter Martin. At the time there were but two or three log houses and the mills referred to. John Smith of Massachusetts came in 1818 and built the first house in Depauville. The first store was kept by Peter B. Beetle, agent or clerk for johnson. They had a miscellaneous stock of goods and a few barrels of whiskey. Peter Martin was also an early merchant.
At this village and vicinity material for the manufacture of water lime was found in vast quantities. In 1835 the manufacture of this article was commenced by Stephen Johnson and Mr. King of Oneida County, Joel Murray and Jared House of Lowville. Two mills were fitted out for grinding this material and during two years 1,000 barrels were made. This was the first enterprise of this kind in the county. The first mills were destroyed by fire in 1821. The present mills were erected by John Ingalls and William Huntingdon each of whom married a daughter of Stephen Johnson.
The first tavern was kept by Wintrop in 1820. It stood within a few rods of the present hotel (recently burned).
Ralph Page who came from one of the New England states built the house now occupied as the Methodist Episcopal parsonage. He owned and operated a carding mill and fulled and dyed cloth for several years. The mill was destroyed by fire but Stephen Johnson rebuilt and Abel Coleman came from Canada and ran it for a number of years after which it was discontinued owing to the scarcity of raw material. It was located between the stone bridge and the gristmill.
Peter Flansburg came in the latter twenties or early thirties and bought a tract of land near the old cave or wolf's den, now on the Horning place and built and operated a saw-mill for a number of years. It is reported he was very successful in his undertaking.
In the southern part of the town on the farm known as the Luther place now owned by Philip Lederman, there is a mineral spring. In the early thirties Dr. Carlisle had a house built near it and started a water cure. He had several invalid boarders but for want of capital and advertising it proved unsuccessful and the house was moved away to be used as a farm house. The water there has the same properties as the Massena spring water. An expert could not distinguish the difference.
First school and churches
The first school was taught in 1820. The first church was erected by the Methodist Episcopalians in 1825. It stood at the rear of the present stone school house. It has long since gone to decay. The religious history of this place owing to loss or destruction of the earlier records of the several societies is hard to procure.
A Methodist Society was organized in the extreme southern part of the town December 10, 1830. A house of worship was erected. After many years of service it was discontinued, the members divided, part going to Perch River and part to Depauville. The aforesaid building was sold and is now a barn on the farm of Walter Seeber (Charles Storms). The Methodist Society of Depauville was organized in 1834 with Waltham Case, Abel Lowe and E.M.Winslow trustees. The present church was constructed in 1851. The Free-will Baptist church was built in 1820 with Elder Amasa Dodge of Lowville. In 1834 a third church was built of stone at a cost of $2,200 of which Mr. Depau donated $500.
In 1847 Stephen Johnson and William Waffel built the schooner S.P.Johnson at this village. She was 85 feet long and 16 feet beam. She was built for the lake trade. Before she was launched the builders were afraid she would stick on the bottom owing to the shallow water so they built a temporary dam below and raised the water to a sufficient depth. She slid off her ways and floated all right.
In 1867 or '68 a joint stock company was formed and known as the Depauville Steamboat Company which built the sidewheel steamboat known as the "M.W. Wright." She was 90' long and 16' beam and was used on the upper lakes. A number of smaller craft have been built, launched and used here. In the later twenties and earlier thirties Stephen Johnson and others were extensively involved in the square timber trade. A large amount of pine and oak was felled, squared, and put into water, formed into draws, run down the lake where the draws were bound together into raft form and run down the St. Lawrence to Quebec. Timber for a number of rafts was made up here.
Before the white man came
Speaking of the early settlers Depauville was occupied long before the white man came. Numerous Indian relics and bits of pottery show beyond doubt of an early occupation. In the Whittier garden on the hill on the north side of the river was probably their cemetery. Years ago a number of skeletons were plowed up. Some of a very large size. I once saw and from calculation of the remains the old warrior must have been eight feet tall when in the flesh. Also from the appearance of the remains, they were buried in a sitting posture and flat stones set around them and covered with stone which was probably done to protect the remains from animals of the burrowing kind.
Stone pestles for grinding corn, pipes, lance heads, arrowheads, and stone ornaments some crescent and some heart shaped strings of wampum have all been found in this vicinity. There is no doubt but that there was a large settlement of some of the Six Nations of the Iroquois tribes of Indians who lived here as it was a good location for hunting, trapping and fishing and when these hills were covered with timber, it was well sheltered from the winds, but who these people were and where they have gone is one of the mysteries that will remain unsolved.
Privations and hardships
The early settlers endured many privations and hardships as the journey here was made through an almost trackless forest and for the first year provisions were hard to obtain. As soon as they could clear a small piece of land, they planted corn and sowed winter wheat. Hogs run in the woods and picked up their own food.
The first mill was a primitive affair, a piece of log or stump scooped out something like a druggist's mortar but larger. The iron wedge drove into a hard wood chunk was used as a pestle and attached to this was a spring pole with which they pounded their wheat into coarse flour and in this they also crushed their corn until grist mills were established, and in the language of Western man, hog and hominy are the staff of life.
The log houses were roofed with boughs and they could lie down to rest at night and count the stars through the roof and hear the wolves growl. The roads were mere trails marked with blazed trees. The streams were without bridges and I have heard the old settlers tell about crossing this stream above the falls on the rocks.
Most of the settlers of this section were of good New England stock. They were largely poor in pocket, but stout of heart and strong of arm and with their axes cleared farms and built log houses which provided homes for themselves and their families.
In about 1840 or before a strong German emigration began to this point of the county and a good many of the first settlers sold their possessions to the Germans who took up their work with as much, if not more vim than the Yankees had shown. They were in a general way prosperous and good citizens.
I will here endeavor to give a brief sketch of some of the early settlers.
Melzer Fowler came here in the early twenties. He with Heldon Norton kept a store where the cheese factory now stands . He owned a farm now owned by Clarence Whittier. He was killed in Watertown by a vicious horse. Nettie Fowler, a daughter of Melzer, married Cyrus McCormick of Chicago, the manufacturers of mowers, reapers and farming implements which bear his name.
Hubbard Fox and his brother, Alfred, settled on the farm now owned by Amasa Dodge in the early thirties. They came from Portland County. Hubbard was a physician and practiced medicine in the locality where he settled and there built a house on the lot owned by Chas. Babcock. He was elected Supervisor of the Town of Clayton. He was the first to hold that office in the aforesaid town which was in 1833. His brother, Alfred, held the office for several years.
Anthony Atwood came here from Vermont and settled on the northwest corner of the farm now owned by Stephen Diefendorf, known to the early settlers as "Swamp Hall Place."
Adam Fry came from New Hampshire and settled on the farm now owned by Chas. Haller.
Frederick A. Gillette came from New Hartford, Oneida County, and settled on the farm now owned by Lyman C. Gillette and occupied by Fred L. Bretsch.
Captain Amos Gillette settled on the farm now occupied by Ira H. Gillette.
Gaylord Enos settled on the farm and built the residence now owned by Mrs. Olive Halliday.
Abraham Diefendorf came here from Montgomery County in the early thirties and settled and improved the farm now owned by George Diefendorf.
E. M. [Edwin Martin] Winslow was born in this county at Sanfords Corners and came here in the early thirties. He was one of the early school teachers of this village. He settled and improved the farm now owned by Olin Winslow.
Amos and Martin Gould came here in the early twenties and bought a large tract of land about three miles northeast of this village and built a sawmill which proved very successful. The farms of Wm. Haller and Valentine Door [Dorr], heirs, and others were from this tract of land.
Samuel Kingston came in the early thirties and built a saw-mill one mile west of this place. He finally sold the mill to Rev. Sylvester Bishop who owned a tract of land adjoining. It is said to have proved a great success, but not a trace of the mill now remains. It is known as the "Bishop Place."
Peter Lowe was a soldier of the Revolutionary War. He and his son Gideon came from Lewis County in the early thirties. He had a large family, seven sons and five daughters. Abraham and Abel Lowe, his sons, bought of Francis Depau in 1836 the farm now owned by Elsworth Swartout. Isaac and John bought the William Lee place and part of the Stephen Smith place. They were hard working men and gained a competence and were quite prominent in this locality.
A very early settler was Charles Everett who came from Herkimer County in the early twenties and bought some land on the north side of the river about one mile west of this place and there built a saw-mill which is said to have been successful. No trace of this mill or residence remains except the wheel pit and a fragment of the dam which was built on what is now known as Coveys Creek.
Waltham came here in about 1830 and settled on the farm now owned by A.J. Baltz.
George Kissel came from Germany in 1836 and bought, cleared and settled the farm now occupied by Peter Kissel, his son.
George and Lewis Haas came here in 1836 and bought the tract of land now owned by William Haas. George afterward bought the farm now owned by George Baltz and occupied by Will Miller.
Abraham Stafford cleared and settled the farm now owned by Nelson Lingenfelter.
Rollin Cotter built a house on the lot owned by Doris Herkimer and carried on a tanning business for a good many years.
Nathaniel Norton settled on the farm owned by Fred Huchzermeier. He came to this part of the country in 1816 and is supposed to have been the first to settle on a farm in this country.
Ira Patchin was a soldier in 1812 and come to this country and settled and improved the farm known as "The William Patchin Place."
James Griswold came in the later thirties and settled and improved the farm now owned by John Patch.
In 1832 John Norton built the stone house now owned by George Horton, heirs and his niece Lucinna Norton.
Luther Brown came from New Hampshire in the early twenties, bought and settled to the southern part of the farm now owned by the John Dorr heirs.
Josiah Halliday came from Russia, Herkimer County, in the early twenties with seven sons and settled on and improved the farm now owned by his grandson, Sherman Halliday.
Thomas Fhair came from Quebec, Canada in the later twenties and settled on the place now owned by Mrs. Albert Putnam of Clayton Center.
Lynn Barney came from Vermont in the early thirties and settled and improved the farm now owned by his son Almond Barney.
Gideon Rodgers came from Jericho, Vermont, in 1822 and settled on the farm now owned by Mrs. Olive Halliday and occupied by Jacob Johnson.
Dr. William Frame came from Herkimer County in 1822 and practiced medicine until his death in 1847. His son, Luke E., M.D., studied the science with his father and practiced medicine in Depauville, a good doctor.
Aaron Summer came to Depauville in the later thirties and settled on the lot now owned by Chas. Babcock. He also practiced medicine in this locality many years and held the office of Port Master.
Oliver Wright came from Vermont in the early thirties and settled on the farm now owned by John Dorr, Jr.
William Mitchell came in the early thirties and settled on the farm now owned by Mrs. Alice Bretsch and occupied by Ernest L. Bretsch.
John Swartout came in the early thirties from the Mohawk Valley and settled on a tract of land between the farm of George Miller and Ed Dorr. It was probably the "Old Nathan Tucker Farm."
Valentine Dorr came here in 1834 from Germany and bought a part of the farm now owned by Amos and Martin Gould.
Elphalet Peck and his family came here from Brownville. He was the father of Abner W. Peck. They came in 1825 and settled on the farm now owned by George Lehr. Abner was elected to the office of Superintendent of Schools in the town of Clayton. He served as a member of the Legislature and one term as the Sheriff of the county.
Erastus Wright came from Herkimer County in 1834 and settled in this place on the lot now owned by W.F. Lowe. He was a carpenter by trade and an extensive builder. He was engaged in this business a good many years. He had a commission as Colonel in the Militia.
John O. Spencer came from Washington County in the later twenties and settled on and cleared and improved the farm now owned by Thomas Dulmadge.
Waterman Johnson and James, his son, came from Herkimer County in 1836. They were engaged in the mercantile business for a good many years. James held the office of supervisor for a number of terms and served as member of the Assembly and was elected sheriff of the county.
Amos Reynolds moved here from Montgomery County and settled on the farm now owned by Clarison Winslow and Emma, his wife. That was probably the old homestead of the Reynolds family. It is now occupied by George Orvis.
Jonathan Hall settled here in the early twenties and cleared and improved the farm now owned by Stephen Diefendorf and occupied by Olin Winslow.
Jacob Seeber came here in the early thirties from Brownville and settled on the place now owned by Mrs. Joseph Johnson. His son, E.J., was a prominent business man. He was elected to the office of supervisor several terms and also served two terms as member of the Assembly.
Bernard Poth came here from Germany in 1834 and settled on the place now owned by John Howell.
Henry Haas came here from the fatherland in the early thirties and settled about three miles east of Depauville on a farm he afterward sold to A. J. Baltz. He was a professor of music and a very excellent teacher
Joel Smith came from Montgomery County in the early thirties. His son, Sullivan owned the place now owned by Mr. A. D. Grabber. He served as a constable and deputy sheriff a good many years.
Some of the early school teachers in the village and vicinity were as follows: Bailey Ormsby, Crenas Wakefield, Adelia Bassit, George W. Gillette, Ella Fowler, Mary Everitt, William Smith, Francis Wright, Abner Smith, E.M. Winslow, Brian Wright and Wash Reynolds.
In the early twenties James Plum came from Vermont. In 1822 he received a commission from Governor DeWitt Clinton as Captain in the Militia. He settled, cleared and improved the farm now owned by Frank Lowe.
In the early twenties Captain Samuel McNett settled on the place now owned by Luke Seeber. He was captain during the War of 1812 and was in the battle of Sackets Harbor and other battles on our northern border. He performed good service and history gives him the record of being a faithful soldier and brave man.
The aforesaid are names of people who came and settled in the locality of Depauville before 1838.
Among the very early settlers were Phineas Osborne, Schuyler Osborne, Peter Lowe, Anthony Atwood, Nathaniel Norton, Gaylord Enos, Erastus Wright, Dr. William Frame, John M. Mount, Addison Maxville, Jonathan Hall, Joseph Epps, Frederick Gillette, Amos Gillette, Amos Reynolds, Abel Lowe, Waltham Case, E. M. Winslow, Henry Haas, William Thompson, French Lowe, Adam Frye, Jacob Seeber, Hubbalt Fox, Joel Maddison, Joel Halliday, John Severus, Rodger Severus, Benjamin Brown, Thomas Thair, Gardner Jones, Marrit Spery, James Griswold, Jason Schermerhorn, Valentine Dorr, John Norton, Amos Otis, John Spencer, Luke Frame, M.D., Alfred Fox, Jacob Burnham, Luther Brown, Amos Gould, Nicholas Rose, Isaac Lowe, Henry Baily, George Poth, Wm. Cheever, Gideon Lowe, Chester Lowe, Thomas Whittier, Jonathan Whittier, Leonard Vincent, Melzer Fowler, George Haas, Wm. Brown, Samuel Anderson, John Dorr, Wilson Wright, Nathan Tucker, George Babcock, Foster Hall, Lewis Haas.
The growth and progress of Depauville has been steady. The village now has four stores. The stone store owned by Richard Terry and kept by Walton & Potter was built by Stephen Johnson, in the early thirties. That and the stone building owned by Mrs. A. Grabber are about the two oldest buildings in the village.
The store, Post Office and Telephone Office, kept by A. D. Lowe, the store in the Masonic block kept by Chas. Dorr and the one in the block formerly occupied by John Clark, now kept by John Gonseth, all carry a heavy stock of goods and are doing fine business.
There are two hotels, two churches, the M.E. and the Free-Will Baptist, a grist mill, a saw mill and cheese box factory. It has also one of the best equipped cheese and butter factories in this part of the state.
The fraternities of Depauville are the Grange 59, Depauville Lodge F. and A. M. 688, Depauville Court of Foresters, Lodge 848 I.O.O.F. and Lodge 304 Rebekahs and Depauville Chapter of Eastern Star 125. The fraternities are all flourishing and have a good membership.
There is a good school of two departments, wagon shops and blacksmith shops, two resident physicians, Post Office and Telephone Office. Our stream is well stocked with pickerel and black bass. Fishing is good.
The cemetery here is organized under the charter and is controlled by a board of trustees and is financially in a prosperous condition and is improved from year to year. A great many old pioneer settlers are buried here and the veterans of the War of 1812 and a good many Civil War veterans are laid to rest here awaiting the final call on Resurrection morn.
There is a cemetery one mile north of this place near Corbins Corners. A good many old settlers are buried there. The place is overgrown with brush and sadly run down. The Union Cemetery three miles east of this village in the German settlement is kept in a good condition and many old settlers are buried there. The interest on a sum of money loaned out is used to keep the cemetery in repair.
In this brief sketch of the early settlement of Depauville I have gathered the information from the best sources I could find. Some from early records, some from the descendants of the old settlers and some from the old inhabitants. The dates and names are as correct as possible for me to obtain and I hope the community will remember that perfection is hard to obtain and will overlook errors and mistakes for it is very hard getting at facts. The old settlers have nearly all passed away and the few that remain have forgotten and the answer is, "I cannot remember, I have forgotten, that is too far back for me." I have done the best I could with the material at hand.
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