Improvements in Orleans began about 1806 by settlers who came in, had no land titles and took up lands. Referred to as "squatters" they were accustomed to make lines of possession of land by lopping down bushes; they bought and sold claims, giving quit claim deeds for the same parcels. The earliest settlers lived in log huts, and produced oak staves and square timber, made potash and were careless in cultivating the land.
In 1807, John Wilkes, one of the proprietors visited the tract, probably the first of the owners who actually inspected the area. He returned home in disgust and for several years there was no legal agent in the county. However, on October 17, 1817, the following settlers took contracts on lots numbered 66, 75, 86, 87 and 95, nears Stone Mills. In that vicinity A. M. Prevost held lands and had appointed Elisha Camp of Sacket's Harbor as his agent. Those who took contracts were: Asa Hall, Richard Taylor, Frederick Avery, Benjamin and John Taylor, William Collins, Samuel Linnel, Solomon Stowell, Lester White, Roderick C. Fraser, William Collins, Jr., Leonard and Blake Baldwin, Isaac Mitchell, John B. Collins, John Smith, Ebenezer Eddy, Shepherd Lee, Thomas Lee, Thomas Lee, Jr., Ebenezer Scovil, William Guile, William Larrabe, Warren Hall, Henry Arnold, Ambrose Adams and John Page. The contracts were for a seven year period and the lands were rated at $5 per acre.
In 1821, some of the settlers were not sure of the validity of Penet's title (lands referred to as Penet's Square) and petitioned the legislature to authorize the attorney general to examine his title. In part, an opinion by the Attorney General, Thomas C. Oakley, stated that the tract called Penet's Square was not part of Macomb's Purchase, but a separate tract that was granted by the State to Peter Penet by letters patent, dated 19 Nov. 1789 and the whole of the tract, with the exception of 21,000 acres, was conveyed by Penet to John Duncan, formerly of Schenectady.
A large portion of Penet's Square became the property of John LaFarge, who was engaged in the firm of Russell and LaFarge as a merchant in Havre; in the course of his business he had purchased a portion of those particular lands. LaFarge was a resident for several years in New Orleans and about 1824 came on to assert his title to the tract, but the settlers had little confidence in his title. In 1824 a meeting was held at Stone Mills and a committee was formed to investigate the issue but it went nowhere. In 1826, two or three people claimed title under Hyppolite Penet, who was a brother of Peter Penet. Again, nothing materialized in resolving the claimant issue. A great amount of litigation ensued and the lands reverted to LaFarge, who finally moved to New York. He appointed Dr. John Binsse of Watertown as his agent.
Early settlement was begun in 1806 but no records exist which can determine who made permanent and legal location prior to 1817. In that year, Jonas Everett and his son, Brainard, came in and settled. The farm was occupied jointly by Brainard and son-in-law, Judson Marshall. Isaac Niles arrived in that year and took up residence on a farm later occupied by George Wilder and Michael J. Hughes, known as the old LaFarge place. James Gloyd came in then and after a few years moved to the town of Lyme. From Connecticut, Ebenezer Eddy settled on a farm later owned by Thomas Lee. Leonard Baldwin also settled and remained on his farm.
First Clerk, Peter Rhines, came in 1819; he was the grandfather of Foster Rhines of Watertown. In the same year, Stephen Scovil arrived and settled on his farm. His brothers, Ebenezer and Hamilton Scovil came with him. Joseph L. Buskirk and his wife and four sons settled in 1820; that farm was later owned by Andrew Baltz but occupied by Singer H. Marsh. One of the sons, A. Buskirk, was a resident of Clayton. John W. McNett, agent for LaFarge arrived in that year with his brother, James C., he being the first elder of the Presbyterian church at LaFargeville. They located at Rixford's Corners which was at that time, the village.
Prominent pioneer and one of the oldest in settlement, was Josiah L. Nash who came in 1820 with his father, Henry S. Nash and they settled on the farm, which was within sight of LaFargeville.
R. T. Jerome came from Rutland where his father had settled in 1800. R. T. located in 1823 on a farm later owned by John A. Snell. Other early settlers were M. S. Tanner, Henry Heyl, John Tallman, William Whaley, Peter P. Folts, Lyman Brittin and sons George S. and Otis N. Brittin, Thomas and Abner H. Evans, Merchant Carter, father of Taylor, Hiram, Byron and John Carter, Nathan Halloway, David Gregg and of special interest settlers who had served in the Revolutionary War. They were Joseph Rhoades, Adolphus Pickard, John Moak, Moses Lyman, ___Rixford, Nicholas Smith, ____Barrett, Caleb Willis, M. Contreman, and William Collins.
William Collins was born in Stonington, CT in 1758 and enter the American service in 1774, being all of 16 years of age. In 1806, he moved to Brownville in Jefferson Co., and from there to Orleans in 1837; there he remained until his death in September 1850 at 92 years. Of his relatives in Orleans were Mrs. A. Baxter of LaFargeville and several grandchildren near Stone Mills.
Orleans was created from Brownville on April 3, 1821; it embraced Penet's Square and all north of that and west of a continuous line between Lots 6 and 7 of Penet's Square to the St. Lawrence. The name of Orleans was suggested as a result of the celebrity of New Orleans that had been acquired at the close of the war. Part of Wellesley Island and all the smaller islands were attached to Orleans in part, around the head of Well's Island to the Canada line. All that part of Alexandria west of N. 42 degrees W. from the corner of Orleans was also annexed to Alexandria. It was restored to Alexandria on April 12, 1842.
The authors of the book state that early records of Orleans were destroyed but a list of the supervisors survived, covering the years 1828 to 1832: Amos Reed 1822-23; Wm. H. Angel, 1824-26; Woodbridge C. George, 1827; Jesse S. Woodard, 1828; Chesterfield Persons, 1833; William Martin, 1834; Peter Dillenback 1835; Chester Persons, 1836; Daniel C. Rouse, 1837; John B. Collins, 1838-39; C. Persons, 1840; Peter P. Folts, 1841; James Green, 1842; Edmund M. Eldridge 1843; Abram J. Smith, 1844; Loren Bushnell, 1845; A. J. Smith, 1846; D. C. Rouse, 1847; John N. Rottiers, 1848-49; Hiram Dewey, 1850-55. Other supervisors who followed were: Jerome Bushnell, Pliny Newton, Russell B. Biddlecom, Jerome Bushnell, R. G. Biddlecom, Pliny Newton, Mayland F. Flord, Pliny Newton, Timothy D. Flansburgh, Pliny Newton and Brainard Everett. It is apparent that certain citizens served several terms.
On the night of 29-30 of May, 1838, the British steamship, Sir Robert Peel, was plundered and burned at the upper end of Wellesley Island while taking on wood. The attack was headed by Bill Johnston and his party of 22 self-styled patriots.
Rock Island light, opposite the mouth of Mullet creek was one of three beacons authorized in the St. Lawrence by an act of March 3, 1853. Bill Johnston was appointed keeper of the light which did shine near the spot where the Sir Robert Peel was burned.
The first village site was Rixford's Corners, two miles south of Orleans, named after Sabin Rixford, who settled there in 1817. A man named Morton built a store at the Corners in 1818; a distillery and ashery were established there prior to 1820. The store was burned in 1825 and the town records were destroyed; early town meetings were held at that store. The first settlement at LaFargeville was made by Dr. Reuben Andrus of Vermont in 1819 who built a log mill on Catfish Creek. For a long time it was called Log Mills, but at a Fourth of July celebration in 1823, a resolution was passed which gave the village the name of LaFargeville, as an honor to John LaFarge, its proprietor.
Dr. Andrus built the first log house in 1819 but the first frame house there was built by Horace Cook in 1823. Woodbridge C. George opened a store there in 1820. In the same year, Alvah Goodwin built a plain log tavern which lasted for a number of years.
William Larrabe in 1825, erected the first grist mill, later owned by R. T. Jerome, Jr. The first school was built in 1821. Those who attended were Emory Nash, three of Peter Cook's children, three of Dr. Andrus' children and some of the Townsends family. In 1837, Colonel Wright of Depauville erected the first church building for the Baptist Society.
In 1838, the mansion and farm of LaFarge, a mile south of the village, was purchased by Bishop Dubois and a Catholic seminary called "St. Vincent de Paul" was opened under Rev. Francis Guth with help from assistants. It was too remote so Bishop Hughes, Dubois' successor, moved it to New York, where St. John's College (Fordham) was founded soon after. The abandoned old mansion was later occupied by Michael J. Hughes, the bishop's nephew, as a farm house.
At Omar on Mullet Creek, formerly Mudge's Mills, was taken from the personage of Dr. Johnson's allegorical tale in the English Reader. The first settler in the vicinity was by William Tanner about 1818; in 1820 Tanner and Treat Mudge built the first grist and saw mill. Only six buildings were at the site in 1837. Truesdell and Stackhouse were the first store co-partners in 1841 but they also built an ashery there in the same year. On the site of the saw mill built by Mudge in 1820 was a renewed version built by Samuel Stackhouse and Samuel Newton, operated by Dewey and Rood. The eldest inhabitants of Omar were Ralph Gurnee, Timothy R. Stackhouse, Samuel P. Newton, John W. Collins and Otis N. Brittin.
The first post office was established on May 17, 1840 with T. R. Stackhouse as the first postmaster. By 1878 Omar contained a general store, a tavern, a grist mill, three sawmills, two shingle shops, a cabinet shop, a telegraph office, post office, a public school and a Methodist-Episcopal church and a population of 100 persons.
Stone Mills was first called Collins' Mills after the Collins family who settled there at an early date, descendants of William Collins, a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Stone Mills is included in Penet's Square and its early settlers were squatters in 1806. The first of these was Roderick C. Frasier. In 1807, Peter Pratt made the second location and shortly after, Benajah and Merchant Carter, Samuel and David Ellis, Robert Bruner and probably others who moved during the War of 1812 to settlements elsewhere. J. B. Collins and Peter Pratt built a small stone gristmill in 1820 which suggested the name of Stone Mills. A one acre plot of land was surveyed by Dr. Rham for public buildings and in 1838 a finely built stone school was created and the year previous a Union church building, also of stone. In 1878 Stone Mills contained one general store, blacksmith and wagon shops, a saw mill, a gristmill, two churches (Protestant Methodist and Lutheran), a public school and a select school, a post office and about 75 persons.
Called a hamlet on the Utica and Black River Railroad line was Orleans Four Corners with a post office and a few dwellings. Rev. William Bliss organized the First Presbyterian Church at LaFargeville in 1823. Trustees in 1839 were Johnson Mason, Abram I. Smith, Thomas E. Drake, Amasa Johnson and Robert T. Jerome. The church was built in 1840 at a cost of $3,000. By December 30, 1848 it became a united Congregational and Presbyterian body. The First Baptist Church at LaFargeville was formed at the home of Thomas Evans on Sept. 9, 1821 by Elder Saris, assisted by Elders Timothy Brewster and Emery Osgood. The original members were: Thomas Evans, Warren Wilson, Benjamin Ward, Thomas Barrett, Reuben Hungerford, Benjamin Farmer, Phineas Osborn, Nathan Elmer, Daniel C. Handey, Lucy Wilson, Ruth Hungerford, Mercy Evans, Sophia Elmer, Patty Burtwell, Lucy Elmer, Deborah Bartwell, Betsy Childs and Susannah Rhodes. The first deacons were B. B. Sheldon, ___Noyes and Thomas Evans with the first regular pastor, Elder Geary.
The First Baptist Society was formed on June 11, 1836 with Francis Epes, Abijah Fisher, Charles Sexton, Joseph Marshall and Orlando W. Cushman, as trustees. In 1838, the synod of the Frankean Evangelical Lutheran church sent Rev. Henry L. Dox as their missionary. Churches were formed at Perch River and Stone Mills and Orleans Four Corners.
The First Methodist Protestant Church of Orleans was organized at LaFargeville in May of 1869. Constituent members were: Daniel Eddy, Mary Eddy Gotleib Bents, H. Singer Nash, Helena Nash, Valvert Fox, Roby Fox, John Hunter, Malvina Fox, Nettie Fox, Daniel Miller, Jacob Getman, Jacob Snell, Jason Eddy, Maggie Eddy, Sophia E. Graham, Eleanor Graham, Adelaide Nash, Kate Nash, Ebenezer Gardner, Ella Sloat and Frank Shaw.
The Thousand Islands Park was a tract of land at the upper end of Wellesley (Wells) Island, between Clayton and Alexandria Bay, which encompassed 1,000 acres. The development of the Park came at a much later date than early settlement and with a concerted push in 1874 by Rev. J. F. Dayan of Watertown the Park gained notoriety.
Adam J. Snell, son of Joshua and Nancy Snell of Manheim Herkimer Co., NY, was born 22 Feb. 1828 at Manheim. Joshua, the father, never left Herkimer County. However, when Adam was 27 he located to Jefferson County and bought a farm of 127 acres in the Town of Orleans. By adding to his holdings the farm reached 227 acres. On 13 Sept. 1854, he married Juliette Snell, also of Herkimer. Their daughter, Carrie, was the wife of Frederick Resh and lived in Orleans. Juliette Snell died on 10 April 1861 and on 18 March 1862 Adam married Catharine M. Heyl, daughter of Henry Heyl. Henry emigrated to the States from Germany in 1832 and settled in Orleans. Adam and Catharine had a daughter, Emma E.
Russell B. Biddlecom, son of Charles and Rhoda Biddlecom, was born in Deerfield, Oneida Co, NY on 18 March 1822. At 13, he moved to Orleans, Jefferson Co. With a common school education he taught school for 13 years, which he began at age 17. He was called one of the most successful educators in the county. In 1842 he became town superintendent of common schools of Orleans. On 18 Sept. 1845 he married Martha Ann Richardson. Other offices he held were justice of the peace, and clerk of Jefferson County. Another position was that of colonel during the organization and raising of the regiment or 2,300 men during August and September of 1862. He was a captain in the Tenth NY Artillery from its organization on 2 Sept. 1862 until 31 July 1863 when he was discharged with a disability. In 1865 he represented the Third Assembly District of Jefferson in the State Legislature and the Second Assembly District in 1866. Orleans elected him supervisor in 1866. Russell became interested, as one of the stockholders, in 1871 of the Clayton and Theresa Railroad and was involved in the construction. Having left the teaching profession, Biddlecom went into the mercantile business at LaFargeville.
Described as a self-made man, William Whaley of Orleans, was the son of John and Sophia Whaley of Herkimer Co., NY where he was born 21 May 1819. A family of limited means, John Whaley bound William out when he was five years old to Hiram Skiff with whom he was to remain until he reached the age of majority. Skiff was not kind to William and mother, Sophia, objected to the completion of his contract. At age eleven he went to live with John Tallman, who moved to Jefferson and settled in Orleans. At the age of 18, William left the Tallman household. Caleb Willis provided a job for him and William stayed in his employ for seven years and with others who offered employment for similar amounts of time. In time he purchased his first land in 1845, a lot of 100 acres; slowing adding acreage, the farm grew to 774 acres, the largest in the town. He married on 23 March 1852 to Lovina Folts of Orleans, daughter of Peter P. and Betsey Folts. Lovina was also born in Herkimer Co. on 2 April 1821. Peter P. Folts had moved to Jefferson Co in 1834 and settled in Orleans. When Lovina was 29 she married William Whaley and had two children - Arminda A. and Armina A., wife of Jerome Snell of Theresa.
Simon Folts an extensive and practical farmer of Jefferson County was born in Herkimer Co in 1814; he moved to Jefferson Co. in 1834 and settled in Orleans. He worked for his father for almost ten years until he attained majority. In 1844 he married Jane Zimmerman, daughter of John C. Zimmerman of Pamelia, who was formerly of Herkimer County. Peter P. Folts, his father, gave him 60 acres of land so Simon when into business for himself in 1845. His own first purchase was 58 acres from LaFarge. Eventually, he amassed 600 acres all in one body.
Nathan Holloway was born in Hounsfield, Jefferson Co on 20 Dec. 1817. His father, Samuel Holloway, was one of the pioneers of the county. Nathan stayed with his parents until he was 21. On 24 Nov. 1839 he married Cynthia Lee, who died 21 March 1847. They had two children but only daughter Melissa S. survived. Nathan married a second time on 13 Jan. 1848 to Hannah Gifford; they had a son Harmon M. Hannah died on 30 Sept. 1875 and on Sept. 6, 1876 he married for his third wife to Mrs. Cynthia (Spaulding)Steenburgh.
Thus ends the early history of Orleans.
Information transcribed and contributed by volunteer M. Sapienza. © 2015.
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