JEFFERSON COUNTY, NEW YORK

HISTORY of the TOWN of PAMELIA

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


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In 1799 two men whose names were Boshart and Kitts established themselves and their families about three miles northeast of Watertown, where they erected log houses and began clearing. Being dissatisfied and with the approach of winter, they all moved to Lewis County. The present Pamelia and all the rest of Jefferson Co. north of Black River was then embraced in the town of Leydon.

In 1799 the south part of the territory, later called Pamelia, was owned by Pierre Chassanis, a French gentleman, being a portion of what has been known as Castorland, The Chassanis Tract or The French Company's Land. The central and northern portions were a part of Great Tract No. Four of Macomb's purchase, except the territory east and northeast of Perch Lake, which was in Penet Square. Tract No. Four was actually owned by the Antwerp Company, an association of gentlemen from Holland who resided in the City of Antwerp; because they were foreigners the title was held by others for them. In 1800 the southwest half of Tract No. Four (including Pamelia) was conveyed in trust for the Antwerp Company to James Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont. He became the land agent for the company and ten years later he purchased all the unsold land in Tract No. Four. LeRay acquired an interest in the Chassanis tract also and after 1801 made all the land sales either as principal or agent. On 1 April 1802 the territory of Pamelia was transferred from Leyden to Brownville and remained so for 17 years. On 28 March 1805, it became a part of the county of Jefferson, formed from Oneida Co. on that day.

At the northern extremity of the unformed town was Perch Lake, nearly three miles long and three-fourths of a mile wide. Appropriately, it was named for its fish.

After the first attempts to settle by Boshart and Kitts, and during the first ten years of the 1800's, one of the earliest settlers was Mr. Makepeace, grandfather of Elliott Makepeace, Esq. He settled on the farm later occupied by Daniel Augsbury in the north part of the present town and built the first frame house within the limits of Pamelia. In 1804, a few settlers located on the north shore of Black River, later in the Watertown limits. In 1805, Mr. Haven settled a mile from the river, just inside the present city limits. Previous to 1812 some twenty or thirty families came into town: John Gould and J. M. Parish settled in the northwest part of Pamelia; Elijah Ainsworth and Philip Ainsworth, ___Brintnall, Caleb J. Bates, Isaac and Jacob Meacham, William Morse and Jacob Lowell all settled in the northwest part of town before 1812. Benjamin Cole, Obadiah Rhodes and Stephen Farr settled during the same period, near Pamelia Four Corners; Aaron Dresser, Curtis Goulding, Henry Becker and Alvin Twing were founders of that village.

John Folts located in the southwest part of the town before 1812 and probably Simeon Woodruff, Peter Acker and David and Belshazzar Tillipaugh. Two families, Bacon and Cooper, were among the earliest settlers in the southeast part of the town. Smith Scoville located previous to 1811 near the hotel which was later kept by his son, John Scoville. John Scoville was born in 1811.

In 1811 David Augsbury and his family settled in the northwest part of the town. In 1812, his father, John Augsbury, followed with his three youngest sons - Benjamin, Nicholas and Daniel. Two other sons, John and Abraham (men with families) did not come in until after the War of 1812. Daniel Augsbury was born about 1811 and provided information about the early settlement to Durant and Peirce in 1878. John Augsbury, his father, purchased the Makepeace farm.

In Pamelia, potash was the principal article produced by settlers which brought cash. Many of the loads were sent to Canada prior to the War of 1812.

Theron Converse put up a log house in the winter of 1814-15 on LeRay Street. He moved his family to the house in the spring of 1815 from Watertown. His son, Hiram Converse, then thirteen, became an early settler of Pamelia by that move. A deerlick two or three miles from their home provided hunting for the families.

William McGinnis settled in the southwest part of the town in 1815. He was then 30 years of age with a wife and four children and was still living in the town at age 91. He recollected that there were 30 or 40 families in Pamelia when he came in.

Those who located before 1819, many of whom came after the War of 1812, but some may have been there before: Elijah Wright, William Wafful, John Wafful, Russel Weaver, Benjamin Still, John Stewart, Captain Joseph Mayo, ___Nichols, John Stewart, Joel Nims, James Wright, Isaac C. Pettit, Daniel Pettit, Osman Banister, Nehemiah Van Nest, John N. Gunn, ___Gardner, Conrad Wafful, Benjamin Pease, William Sixhury, John Sixbury, Isaac Sixbury, Elias Wager, ___Combs, Charles Brown, Thomas Goodrich and Abram Spalsbury.

After the War, Aaron Dresser opened a tavern at Pamelia Four Corners, the first in town. In 1816 John N. Gunn kept a small store. There were four school houses built in that time period.

The first saw mill was built just after the war on Philomel Creek, at the crossing of the Clayton Road by a man named Abbey, father of the Abbey brothers, noted printers in the early days. Pigeons had a great roosting place near Perch River and in their flight made clouds so thick that it shut out the sky for ten minutes at a time. Daniel Augsbury related that his oldest brother killed forty with one raking shot as they sat in a line upon a fence. Many were killed for their feathers. Elijah Ainsworth used a net and frequently caught over 1200 in a single day.

Joel Nims settled in the Thomas Brown neighborhood in 1818, buying the improvements of William Wafful. Son, Allen, who was five years old, provided many of the facts on the town in 1878. In 1818 there was a considerable increase in population - log houses were still universal but in 1818 a large number of frame barns were built. Petitions were sent to the legislature on 12 April 1819 and an act was passed that formed the town of Pamelia. The town was named for the wife of Jacob Brown of Brownville. Pamelia Brown was still living in 1878 and was almost 100 years of age.

The first town meeting was held at the schoolhouse near Elias Wager's in the spring of 1820 and elected the se town officers: Supervisor, John Stewart; Clerk, Henry Gotham; Assessors, Russel Weaver, Benjamin Still and Simeon Woodruff; Overseers of the Poor, Simeon Woodruff and Benjamin Still; Commissioners of Highways, Alfred Comins, Simeon Woodruff and Benjamin Still; Collector, Horace Mather; Commissioners of Schools, Osman Banister, Nehemiah Van Nest and Joseph Mayo; Inspectors of Schools, Amos Eames, William Usher, Russel Weaver, John N. Gunn, Bakery Massey and Charles Brown; Constables, Jacob J. Greene, Benjamin Pease and Horace Mather.

In 1821 Simeon Woodruff built a stone house. Thomas Goodrich built another and later Abram M. Harger built the stone hotel at Pamelia Four Corners. Capt. Mayo built the stone hotel in the southwestern part of the town, later occupied by John Scovill.

Another improvement was the Pamelia Farmers' Scientific Library, incorporated on 1 April 1822. The trustees were: John Stewart, Russel Weaver, Joel Nims, Simeon Woodruff, Ansel Mills, Thomas Goodrich and William Cole. There were sixty shares at $2.50 per share and each man could draw books to the amount of his investment. Books had to be returned every three months and a new draw was made. If two or more persons desired the same book, they had to bid for the privilege of drawing it. The library was kept at Simeon Woodruff's and the rivalry for books became quite spirited at times.

By act of 1 April 1824, a small part of Penet Square, east of Perch Lake, was taken from Orleans and annexed to Pamelia. The area was called Leander, but the following March it was repealed before it went into effect.

The post offices at Pamelia and Pamelia Four Corners were established as early as 1830. In 1831 the postmaster at Four Corners was S. Comstock, followed by Abram M. Harger.

In 1847 a Methodist Episcopal class was organized at Four Corners; the next year a church was built at the Corners by that denomination and another about two miles southwest by the Universalist, Protest Methodist and Christian Order. There were only seven members of the Methodist Class: Curtis Goulding, Rachel Goulding, Asa Barnes and Betsey Barnes. At first it was connected with a circuit at Evans Mills in LeRay but became a separate church in 1849. The first trustees were: Jas. Jones, Charles G. Harger, Orvis Goulding, Curtis Goulding, Asa Barnes, Daniel Gould, Joseph Countryman, Abram Augsbury and Jacob Harwick. In 1848 a church was built at Pamelia Four Corners at a cost of $1,600. The Union Church Society was organized on 16 Nov. 1847. Trustees were: Reuben Lock, Jacob H. Zoller and Peter M. Salisbury. The Protestant Methodist Church was connected with the Perch Lake Circuit and early preachers were: N. R. Swift, Simon B. Loomis, Michael Prindle and Lorenzo Wheeler.

The Potsdam and Watertown Railroad was finished in 1850 and ran through the southeast corner of Pamelia. In April 1852, the Cape Vincent branch was completed.

By 1850 the population of Pamelia was 2,204 and in 1850 was 2,554. On 8 May 1869, Watertown was incorporated and included about 700 acres of the territory of Pamelia and over 1,200 of its population and all of its principal business establishments. That act reduced the population of Pamelia so that in 1870 it was down to 1,292 and in 1875, it was 1,055.

Pamelia was a stable dairying area and cheese factories became numerous. Limburger cheese became an export from Pamelia to New York, Philadelphia and other large cities. There was an English cheese factory at Four Corners that used milk from 400 cows. Four Corners had one small store, two wagon shops, two blacksmith shops, two shoe shops, one cooper, one harness shop, a post office and 25 houses. It was eight miles from Watertown and four from the northern portion of Pamelia.


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



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