JEFFERSON COUNTY, NEWYORK

HISTORY of the TOWN of LYME

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


Lyme:

Before the settlement of New York, all of the water within Stony Island and Point Peninsula was called "Naionre" by the Native Americans; the French called it "Bail de Nivernois" and the English called it Hungry Bay. When Champlain conducted an expedition against the Iroquois in 1615, he had an army of nearly 2,000 warriors and less than twenty Frenchmen. Canoes were left in a sheltered cove while the army pushed across the country on foot to make the attack.

Another expedition against the Iroquois was conducted in August 1684 by Marquis de la Barre with 1,800-2,000 men, the majority of whom were French soldiers. In his journal, Barre referred to the Nivernois location as La Famine. Almost all of his army was lost by hunger and sickness which encouraged him to make a treaty with some of the hostiles; once the treaty was completed he hastened to Canada.

Under the sanction and order of the King of France, Father Charlevoix, a Jesuit priest, paid a visit to the French colonies in North America. It was at the Bay of Famine where he wrote a letter dated May 16, 1721 and mentioned the prodigious eagles, numerous fish, painted Indians and trees that reached almost to the clouds.

Simon Desjardines and Pierre Pharoux were sent by the Castorland Company of France n 1793 to explore 625,000 acres of land in northern New York which had come into the company possession. In New York they were joined by M. I. Brunel, a celebrated engineer of his time. The three men and assistants took a bateau from Oswego and started a search of Black River. Eventually, they found the location.

Waters between Stony Island and Point Peninsula wash the shores of the town of Lyme which was created from Brownville on March 6, 1818. Lyme was named for the old Lyme in Connecticut. At that time it included all of the later territory, the town of Cape Vincent and the portion of Penet's Square, which lay west of Clayton. Cape Vincent was set off 31 years later.

The first public meeting of Lyme occurred in March, 1818, when Richard M. Esselstyn was chosen as supervisor, John Dayan as Clerk, J. B. Esselstyn, Luther Brittin and Benjamin Estes as assessors. Elnathan Judd, John Dayan and Joseph Rider were the commissioners of highways. John M. Tremper, Thaddeus Smith and Eber Kelsey were pound masters and fence viewers. Supervisors beginning with Richard Esselstyn 1818-1822; John B. Esselstyn, 1823; Willard Ainsworth, 1824; J. B. Esselstyn Sept. 1824; Willard Ainsworth, 1825-32; Otis P. Starkey, 1833; Jere. Carrier, 1834-35; Minot Ingalls, 1836; Isaac Wells, 1837; Philip P. Gaige, 1838; Roswell T. Lee, 1839; P. P. Gaige, 1840; Timothy Dewey, 1841; William Carlisle, 1842; Alexander Copley, 1843; W. O. Howard, 1844; Theophilis Peugnet, 1845; Isaac Wells, 1846-47; Alex. Copley, 1848; P. P. Gaige, 1849. Cape Vincent was erected from the township early in that year. Henry Cline, 1850; Alexander Copley 1851; David Ryder 1852; and successive names were: William Carlisle, Jacob Putnam, Nelson Burdick, William Dewey, Jacob Putnam, Francis C Cline, Remos Wells, William H. Main, Andrew J. Dewey and Charles M. Empie. Men who served in the assembly from the district were: John B. Esselstyn, Otis P. Starkey, Joshua Main, Isaac Wells, R. Francis Austin, William Dewey and W. W. Enos.

One of the first orders of business at the first town meeting was to divide the town into eight road districts, to give $100 to the poor and to forbid hogs to run at large without yokes around their necks and rings in their noses. Violation of the last swine rule resulted in a 50 cent penalty. It had been agreed that the fine money was to be turned over to the commissioner of schools. All of the towns in Jefferson County had a wolf problem to some degree and Lyme also offered a wolf and whelp bounty.

The first settlement was begun in 1801 above the north shore of Chaumont River and two miles above the village of Chaumont. It became known as Old Town. The settling party came by way of Oswego and the lake and they were: Jonas Smith and Henry A. Delamater of Ulster County; Richard M. Esselstyn from Claverack which was then in Albany County; David Soper, T. Wheeler, James Soper, Peter Pratt and Timothy Soper. In that summer a small clearing was made but the location proved unhealthy and by the next spring it was abandoned. Winter of 1801 and 1802 saw the settlers return to their respective homes after the clearing and building process in Jefferson. Delamater cleared the first land on Point Salubrious in 1802. By 1803, a part of the settlers were on the site of Chaumont Village where they built a saw mill and a warehouse and the local log tavern. Several Ulster families came and bolstered the numbers.

James Horton moved the Daniel and John Tremper families to the Chaumont settlement in 1805 and came with his own family the next year. Tremper was a tanner. They started building a small vessel but it was never finished. Henry Thomas kept a store and several mechanics were in business.

In 1806, Smith and Delamater failed; others were discouraged by sickness and several had died from malarial fever. The malignant fevers were very fatal in 1828 as well as typhoid pneumonia and diphtheria in 1875. In a space of 15 months, 50 persons had died within the limits of Chaumont Village in 1875.

When the settlers started over, Point Salubrious was selected as the next permanent stopping place. James I. Horton was there in 1806 and was the first settler. A Mr. Mills followed as the second settler. Joseph Rider, Silas Taft, Stephen Fisher and David Rider settled in 1807. By 1810 Harry Horton and others had settled, but no village was established, Chaumont retained its position.

Hardships of the time are identified by an incident in the fall of 1807. A group of Point Salubrious settlers went to Sacket's Harbor to get a flour supply for winter use. On the return trip they became wind bound for a week at the south shore of Pillar Point with only enough provisions for a single day. When that was depleted their survival was dependent on berries growing nearby and cakes made of flour and water which they baked on flat stones. On a separate occasion, Horton and Williams went to Brownville with two bags of grain on the back of a horse. Because the miller could not grind the grist until the next morning, and not wanting to lose their place in line, Williams decided to remain overnight. Horton returned to their settlement with the horse and the next day headed back to the mill with the horse. When he reached Limerick, he found Williams with the two bags of flour and learned that Williams had carried them on his back for four or five miles. He would carry one bag a short distance, return for the second and repeat the process. Needless to say, Williams was extremely happy to see Horton show up with the horse. Fire, which was so important to survival, was lost in the hearths of both Horton and Mills. Mrs. Horton took her little boy and they went searching for a smoldering ember. Finding a half burnt log, the little boy crawled under and found the all-important ember to give them the fire they needed.

There were not but fifteen families in the settlement when the War of 1812 was declared; that number included Chaumont Village and Point Salubrious. LeRay named Point Salubrious because of its healthful and pleasant location. From that point to the St. Lawrence was an unbroken wilderness. Musgrove Evans brought a colony of Quakers from Philadelphia in 1818. Over the next two years additional families trickled into the neighborhood. The journey to get there was all overland and sometimes took more than 30 days. The sickness destroyed the Quaker initiative and they sold out and moved away. Evans left Jefferson in 1823 and settled in Michigan, where he founded the Town of Tecumseh. He had been a surveyor and agent of LeRay in the region.

Once again, a settlement attempt was made in 1812 by two or three men to settle Point Peninsula, one of them named Robbins. The War interfered and it was abandoned. Six years later, Sebra Howard, William Wilcox, Oliver Wilcox and John Wilcox with their families became permanent settlers. The men who followed were Brittle Minor, Asahel Hosington, Asa Collins, and John Combs. Jonathan Selter was on the north shore. No one was living at Three Mile Bay in 1823 except a man whose name is not remembered.

Point Peninsula was nearly all sold before the Bay was permanently occupied; as late as 1835, only John Reed, Charles Leonard and Benjamin Estes were living there. Daniel Borden was about half a mile to the west of the village site and eight families by the name of Wells settled in the vicinity. Daniel J. Schuyler settled at Three Mile Bay in 1835 and was the first merchant; he also built 18 or 20 of the village houses. Asa Wilcox identified there and during the 40 years of his residence he built no less than 48 vessels, besides smaller boats and fishing craft.

When William Dewey was a civil engineer, he purchased 1,000 acres of unbroken land from Vincent LeRay de Chaumont and took possession with his father, Timothy Dewey in 1833. Because of the standing water on the land in most of the area it became known as Dewey's Swamp, but there were some very fine trees - ash, soft maple, elm and oak. The Deweys hired a large force of laborers and spent a great amount of money to drain the land which made it extremely fertile. George Ricketts was Dewey's foreman. The farm became known as Ashland Farm.

The largest land holder in this region of the county was Alexander Copley, who came to Jefferson in 1833 and lived there for 50 years before his death. On June 7, 1833 he purchased 2,562 acres from Vincent LeRay de Chaumont and three years later on October 5, 1836, he had a tract of 16,961 acres from Gouverneur Morris. The lands were in the towns of Clayton, Brownville and Lyme. Later he added 10,000 acres more to his estate, that land being situated in the town of Antwerp, which brought his total ownership to about 30,000 acres. Copley made his home in Chaumont but was often away on business. Listed as his business were: dealer in stone and grain; he owned a grist mill; employed vessels; was a merchant; was a director of the Union bank from the time of its organization until his death in February 1871.

In 1817 Simon and Jared White came from Depauville to Three Mile Point with probable settlement intentions. Moving westward they stopped at Clayton; the party consisted of two fathers, their wives, mother and children. The first night they put up a mile or two beyond Sacket's Harbor but were never seen alive again. Between them they carried several hundred dollars and it was thought that locals of ill repute had robbed and murdered them. Their boat was found empty of household goods and the bodies of the men bore marks of violence. The women were never found but the the children were found dead under the water.

The first celebration in the region as homage to the Fourth of July was held at Chaumont in 1802. They came from Champion, Hounsfield, Watertown, Brownville, Sacket's Harbor and Cape Vincent and lesser known points of settlement for the celebration with more than 100 people, several of whom were Revolutionary soldiers.

Alarm was felt in Chaumont in 1812 with the fear that the British might come and pillage the homes and burn them. They were fearful that hostile Natives might take advantage of the situation and pounce. In response to their fears, General Brown suggested the building of a block house for defense and it was built in that year on the north shore of the bay. Shortly after its completion, several English soldiers visited and promised not to destroy anything if the residents would take down the blockhouse. That was done and the materials later used on Point Salubrious for the building of a school and religious purposes. Blockhouse artillery was an iron gun that Jonas Smith had purchased some time before for two gallons of rum. It was later found on the isthmus of Point Peninsula, traveled to Sacket's Harbor and from there to Ogdensburgh, where it was captured by the enemy. The Revolutionary soldiers who lived in the Town of Lyme in 1840 were: Samuel J. Mills, 81; Jacob H. Oves, 83; Nicholas Smith, 85; Prudence Hodges, 73; Lucretia Marsh, 84 and Felix Powel, 77. There were many men from the area who served in the Civil War and lost their lives.

The old State Road which extended from Brownville to Port Putnam on the St. Lawrence in 1803, crossed Chaumont River at the village of Chaumont. The 1815 the turnpike of James LeRay was authorized to construct to Cape Vincent. Crossing the river in the early years was by means of rowboats and scows and poling was not an unusual method of navigation. A rope ferry was also used later and in 1823 Vincent LeRay got the right to build a toll bridge with a draw for the passage of vessels. The bridge was to be completed before December, 1824. The property reverted to the State several years later when the bridge did not comply with certain provisions of the law and in 1849 was impassable. With money raised, a new bridge was built and the State released its interests.

Fishing in waters that border Lyme was a business of prime importance from the first settlement. A law was passed that protected all of the people of the region against seine fishing which was done by the Canadians, under penalty of $25. In 1808 scoop nets for fishing were introduced. Seines were introduced at about the same time, possibly a little earlier than 1808. In 1845 gill nets were brought into use. But, the most successful fishing in Chaumont Bay was with the pound net, introduced in 1859 by Frederick Kirkland and Ralph Rogers. Fish caught in the spring were pike, while the fall fish were lake herring and white fish. An estimate was made that for 30 years, from 1815, ten thousand barrels of ciscoes (lake herring) and white fish were taken annually.

Near Chaumont there were extensive stone quarries which furnished the finest building stone. The average business was $25,000 annually. The stones were dressed on the ground and shipped on vessels to their destinations. The lighthouse at the head of Lake Ontario was built from Chaumont stone and even market buildings in Kingston, Ontario made use of the stone from those quarries.

The most important branch of business at Chaumont and Three Mile Bay was ship building. From the Chaumont shipyard, the Stephen Girard of 60 tons built in 1832 by William Clark; the Alleghan of 100 tons built in 1835 by Robert Masters; R. C. Smead of 75 tons in 1839 by S. and A. Davis. The list continues for several years with the enormous number of ships and steamers built in the area. In 1835 vessels were launched at Three Mile Bay by Asa Wilcox, with an aggregate tonnage constructed by him between 1835 and 1852, of 6,410 tons. Wilcox produced a very large number of ships at his location.

The first school was begun by Nancy Smith in 1805, four years after the town was settled. The first school commissioners chosen in 1818 at the first town meeting were: James M. Cran, R. M. Esselstyn and Benjamin T. Bliss.

The first temperance organization was formed on Three Mile Point about 1833. Joshua Lawton was president, Zenas Ellis, secretary and William McPherson, Sylvester Lawton and a Mr. Johnson were other persons attending.

The first Sunday school was opened on Point Salubrious very early but given up after a short experience. In 1835 there was no regular Sabbath worship at Chaumont but there were three taverns in the village. Solon Massey moved to Chaumont about that time and started a Sabbath school. The Presbyterian and Methodist churches were outgrowths of those efforts. The Baptist organization was holding services chiefly in the western part of the town.

The First Baptist Church in 1816 was conducted by the Rev. Joseph Maltby of Rodman who preached two or three months on Point Solubrious and baptized 18 persons. On August 12 of 1816, a council of sister churches convened and recognized 25 constituent members as a Baptist church. Elder Elisha Morgan delivered the sermon. Original members were: Stephen Fisher; Henry Horton; Abigail Horton; Amos Richards; Benjamin Bliss; George Coon; Nancy Coon; James Horton and Nathan M. Kendall. Kendall, Fisher and Peck were the first deacons and ordained May 2, 1822. Elder Thomas Morgan was the first pastor.

On July 24, 1824 a branch society was formed on Point Peninsula and meetings were held at the above locations and at Chaumont, Pillar Point, North Shore and Three Mile Bay. Ashna Lawton was the pastor in 1832 and continued until November, 1837. In April 1833, the church name was changed to the United Church of Lyme. In the fall of 1834 six members withdrew from the mother church - Nathan M. Kendall, Nathaniel Wells, Martha Woodruff, Ada Shaw, Anna Pratt and Mahitable Shaw.

Around 1827 Elder Amasa Dodge formed a Free Communion Baptish Church at Three Mile Bay, succeeded by the Free-will organization on July 6, 1841.

During the summer of 1831, Rev. Dexter Clary, John Hall, a licentiate, and Mr. Wicks, visited Chaumont going house to house talking and praying with the people. A revival ensued and the Presbyterian Church was organized. In September of 1831, George S. Boardman and John Sessions organized the First Presbyterian Church of Chaumont.

There were three Methodist churches in Lyme, the first was in 1834 on Point Peninsula. Hiram Shepher and Freeman H. Stanton, of Cape Vincent were appointed to that purpose. The territory now included in The Three Mile Bay charge was formerly included in the bay in 1839: David McComber, Eliza McComber, Benjamin Manning, Abigail Manning and Prudence Caswell. Reverends William Tripp and ___Corbin were on the circuit. Other denominations followed at later dates.

The first burial ground near Three Mile Bay was on a point of land east of the village and near the water. There was also a burial ground on Point Peninsula. At Chaumont the old burial place was on the north side of the bay and back from the turnpike. In 1873, in the office of Hiram Copley, the Cedar Grove Cemetery Association was formed. Trustees were: Ira Inman, A. J. Dewey, DeWitt Coley, George Swind, O. C. Taft, Abram Van Doren, William Dillenbeck, J. C. Pluche and Dr. E. B. Pratt. The grounds covered about two acres and overlooked the water of the bay.

A mineral springs was discovered at Point Salubrious in 1875 by Alvah W. Warner, at a depth of 74 feet.

Wilcoxville, situated on Point Peninsula, contained mechanic shops, a store, a hotel, and about 15 dwelling houses.

Three Mile Bay had two groceries, four stores, a steam mill, a hotel, three churches and three physicians - Charles Parker, C. B. Walrad and Dr. Loucks; warehouses, wharves and about 75 dwellings.

Chaumont contained 100 dwellings, 5 stores, shops, one hotel, steam mills, a warehouse and wharf and usual mechanical business.

In 1820 Lyme had a population of 1,724 person and in 1830, 2,882; in 1845, 6018 but after the creation of Cape Vincent, the population in 1850 was 2,925.

This concludes the early history of Lyme and its firsts.


Information transcribed and contributed by volunteer M. Sapienza. © 2015.



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