JEFFERSON COUNTY, NEW YORK

HISTORY of the TOWN of THERESA

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


On 4 January 1800, J. D. LeRay de Chaumont bought 220,000 acres from the Antwerp Company. The availability of lumber in the area necessitated the building of a saw mil in 1810-11. There was no market locally so the boards were rafted down the river to the market at Rossie or Ogdensburgh. At the onset of the War of 1812, the lumber traffic became paralyzed and rafting stopped and so did the saw mill operation.

Approximately 100 acres was cleared by the proprietor's agent, Rotier, and seeded with grass. In 1813 there were nearly 500 sheep, about 60 horned cattle and 20 or so horses. To guard the animals during the War of 1812, Capt. John Hoover, a later landlord of the tavern at Evan's Mills, was garrisoned in the log house on the 40 acre clearing. The garrison consisted of Hoover's wife, himself and John A. Evans but with enough ammunition for a force three times as large. Needless to say, the captain was successful in saving the animals but he actually captured two of a party of five of the enemy who had come to scout his position.

Sales of land in Theresa was begun by Le Ray in 1817. Three dollars per acre was the price and buyers were given seven years in which to pay for their land. The details of the contracts required the purchaser to build within one year a log house that was 18 feet square, and to clear at the same time, four acres of every 100 acres purchased. In 1818 the proprietor caused a reservation to be surveyed which contained 1,000 acres. M. Evans was the surveyor. For some time it was known only as High Falls, but christened by LeRay as Theresa, the name of his daughter, who married the French Marquis de Gouvello.

The first two settlers on the lands in Theresa were Col. Sinesa Ball and James Shurtliff; both came in 1817. Shurtliff settled in the area where LeRay's larger clearing had been made, which later became the farm of W. H. Seeber. For a short time, Shurtliff kept his house as an inn, the first in the town. After him, the farm was occupied by his son-in-law Jesse Kelsey; later it was owned by James Ward of LeRay. Shurtliff died at Plessis on 1 August 1846 at 79 years.

Col. Ball settled on the Military Road, two miles west of the falls. He was an officer at Sacket's Harbor in the War of 1812 and became colonel of militia. His training camp was on a field near Cook's tavern in Antwerp. His personal land was sold to Edward Cooper, and passed to Irvin C. Cooper, his son. Col. Ball died near Hide Lake in Theresa on 1 July 1877 at the age of 86.

Beginning in 1819, the following settlers were identified: Anson and Jeremiah Cheeseman, Mr. Moyer, Joseph Miller, Jas. Lake, Eliphalet Emery and Zalmon Pool. Anson Cheeseman at that time was sawyer at LeRay's mill at the falls and lived in the mill house. Later he purchased and occupied a farm between the falls and the Military Road, which later became the property of L. Salisbury. He had a potashery in the village for a short time. Jeremiah Cheeseman, brother of Anson, was on the Alexandria Road, south side and opposite the estate of Timothy Wood. He later moved to Alexandria. Mr. Moyer settled near Shurtliff on land that passed to Alexander Cooper. Joseph Miller settled on the west side of the Alexandria Road, which became Benjamin Colvin's farm. James Lake's property was later owned by Charles Wilson o the east side of Hide Lake. Adjoining Lake's property was Eliphalet Emery and Zalmon Pool, Jr. Pool purchased in the fall of 1817 and moved with his family in March of 1818. He settled on the Antwerp town line in lot No. 138 on the southerly side of Moon Lake. He died there on 26 Sept. 1866 at the age of 73.

Jesse Doolittle came from Watertown (where he had been a smithy in 1806) in February 1819 and settled on the easterly side of the river on Lot. No. 131. His five children came with him: Alanson died in 1850; Jesse S. who remained on the farm; Richard who removed to Illinois and two daughters. He was the first blacksmith in Theresa, the second being Carley Smith from New Hampshire. Smith operated on the site of the residence of John C. Collis. Doolittle arrived at a time when he could clear sufficient land to sow three acres of wheat and one acre of corn, all the in the same spring. He lived on his farm until his death on 7 July 1836.

Others who came in 1819: Nathaniel Parker, Ebenezer Lull, Mrs. Keeler, Allen Cole, Henry R. Morey, Austin Bates, Augustus Soper and a few others. Mr. Lull was from Morris, Otsego Co., NY. He purchased and built a frame dwelling on land that passed to John Parker in Theresa. Mrs. Keeler, a widow and sister of Anson Cheeseman, built a frame house where a Mrs. Coe's brick house later stood. She brought two sons and a daughter with her. Henry Morey opened the first shop as carpenter and joiner, on a lot where Nathaniel W. Lull's house later stood. He built the house which later passed to George P. Fox. He removed to Evans Mills and died there but is buried at Theresa.

Allen Cole settled four miles west of the Falls near the Orleans line. He later sold out to George Snell, moved to Alexandria and died there. Augustus Soper came from Augusta, Oneida Co. and settled on the road to West Theresa, two miles west of the river, which land came into ownership of Absalom Zellar. Nathaniel Parker located on land that adjoined Soper's. Parker died in 1854 at the age of 87. Michael V. D. Cook settled in 1819, two and a half miles northwest of the Falls. Benjamin Allen and Daniel Morgan settled in the same year, both on great lot 136, Job Whitney on lot 135 and Castleman who squatted in a log house on LeRay's 40 acres above the Falls.

Lodowick Salisbury came about 1820 and settled on the Military Road on Lot 97, which was later owned by Silas West. His log house was opened as a place of public entertainment, which was the first of the several inns which sprung up on the road to Theresa. Salisbury died on 5 April 1846. He sons were: Alexander, the first supervisor of Theresa and one time president of the Redwood Glass Company - he moved to Illinois; Lodowick, Jr. of Theresa; Edward and Joshua who were deceased, and Percival B., a resident of Ohio.

Leonard Boyer came about that time and settled with his large family on land later owned by Jacob Ostrander, at the intersection of the Clayton and Military Roads. Sylvester Bodman came in 1820 and settled a mile southeast of the Falls on Lot 133. He widow, Mrs. Relief Bodman stayed on the property and was 96 in 1878. Dudley Chapman came with Bodman and settled near him.

Col. Artemas Baker, the second blacksmith at the Falls came in during 1820. His shop was later Bullard's store. Jesse Doolittle, mentioned above, kept a journal and under the date of 1821, there was an entry that showed he loaned Baker, the anvil, bellows, vise, shoeing tools, tongs, hammers and coal for the pursuit of his smithy. Baker built the house that later passed to Jason Morrow. Baker lived for some time in California, died in Michigan in September 1877, but buried in Theresa. Another early blacksmith was Nathan Starks, who settled east of the Falls near Bodman's. The first shoemaker was Seymour Murray who came in 1821. He came from Lowville and after a few years returned and died there.

Deacon Abraham Morrow, the first tailor, came from New Hampshire about the same time. His shop and residence were the first in the house which Mrs. Keeler had occupied. He later purchased and lived opposite the Presbyterian church on the corner lot, which was later sold to Rosele C. Colis. Morrow went to California with Col. Baker, returned and died in Theresa. Zalmon Pool Sr. and John and Isaac Pool located near Antwerp town line on great lot 137, after 1850.

Archibald Fisher came from New Hampshire about 1820 and purchased lands near the Orleans line, which later became the farm of Nicolas D. Yost. Fisher later moved to the village, became a militia general. Samuel Hall, a shoemaker, arrived about 1822. His residence and shop were on lands later owned by J. S. Vanderburgh. About 1822, Azariah Walton came to the Falls and brought his family. He bought five acres on the north bank of the river, a tract later owned by Gen. Fisher and encompassed the sites of Collis' factory and Stockwell's mills. His house stood where Mrs. Yost later lived. Walton later moved to Alexandria.

The first white child born in the Theresa limits was Ursula Cole, daughter of Allen Cole. She was born 26 May 1819 and was the wife of Jacob Ostrander. The next birth was a daughter of Anson Cheeseman who died when she was very young.

The first marriage was that of Erastus Clark to Kate Underwood, the ceremony performed at Jesse Doolittle's house in 1820. The next was that of Andrew Stone to Hannah Shurtliff, daughter of James Shurtliff. Her father performed the ceremony.

Thompson Doolittle, son of Jesse, was the first death on 18 Nov. 1820 at his father's house. He was buried on the family farm.

Dr. James Brooks was the first doctor. His house was next to Nathaniel W. Lull and later owned by John Parker. Dr. Brooks died in 1823 and the house and lot passed to his son, Thompson Brooks. Dr. Brooks' successor was Dr. Samuel J. Gaines, left in a short time and was replaced by Dr. John D. Davison, who came from Pamelia to the Falls in 1824, with a wife he had just married. His office was in an unfinished building which eventually became the American House. For a time it was his house but later he built a house in the rear of Capt. Nathaniel Lull's property. Dr. Davison died on 22 Sept. 1865 at 72 years. His two sons, James and Nathan M. were also physicians and practiced in Theresa but died fairly young. James died on 2 Jan. 1854 at 29 years.

The first grist mill was completed in 1821 by Samuel Case for LeRay. Noah Ashley, father of Marcius B. Ashley, was the first miller. Ashley died 17 Jan, 1849 at 63 years. The mill was sold to Percival Bullard in 1823, and by 1830 Marcius B. and Stephen Ashley were in possession. After a succession of owners, the last being Charles Pool, the mill was destroyed by fire in 1859.

The Getman House was the first public house at the Falls and was built in 1819. Le Ray owned the place but it was kept by a Mr. Stephensen from Lowville. It was destroyed by fire in the autumn of 1821. A new pubic house, built on the same spot was erected in 1824 by Gen. Archibald Fisher and was called The Brick Tavern, the first structure of brick material within the bounds of Theresa. Benjamin Barnes made and set the brick, also being the first brick maker/layer of the Falls. His kiln was on the opposite side of the river, referred to as Brooklyn. Nathaniel W. Lull had the second brick building in Theresa, which was his house on Main Street. Mr. Barnes became a local Methodist preacher and died in Theresa on 21 March 1864 at 72 years.

The first tannery was that of Jonathan Thompson at Barnes' creek, land later owned by Charles Fairbanks. It was begun in 1822 and put in operation by Nathaniel W. Lull, but abandoned after ten years. Thompson removed his tanning equipment to a location near the bridge where he had a leather finishing shop. John S. Casler succeeded Thompson in the business. A third tannery was built by Almon Thwing in the ravine at the rear of the American Hotel. Charles, his son, succeeded him in partnership with Mr. Eddy in about 1860 who built another tannery on the Falls.

Nathan M. Flower had a fulling mill and cloth works in operation around 1822. He was a clothier by trade who moved to Theresa from Cherry Valley, NY. Later the mill became the Collis' woolen factory. Flower died of apoplexy on 4 April 1843 at age 47.

Ebenezer Lull was the first merchant in 1820, opening a small store. Lull and Azariah Walton entered extensively into the lumber trade shipping West India staves and square timber to Montreal via the St. Lawrence River. The point of shipment was Alexandria Bay and another store opened at Plessis. In 1825, Lull sold the store to Olney Pierce of Watertown, and later by Anson Ranney. Ranney, a bachelor never lived in the house that he bought but Lull remained in it until his death in December 1827 from disease produced by exposure in running his lumber rafts on the St. Lawrence. Ranney built a store on the corner of Main and Commercial Streets about 1832 where it continued in business for many years. The second store in town was opened by John J. Gilbert about 1830. The store on the southwest corner of Main and Commercial Streets, which later was occupied by Joseph Fayel, was built about 1837 by A. Salisbury and Ichabod Thompson, partners in trade.

The first post office at Theresa was in 1822, as a result of the creation of the post route from Champion to Alexandria By, via Evans' Mills and the village. And the first postmaster was Ebenezer Lull. Sidney I. Jones was the first mail carrier by horseback; with mail service weekly. Lull kept the post office in his store.

At the time that the Military Road was a great route of travel, several taverns were opened within the Theresa limits. As mentioned, the first was that of Lodowick Salisbury. The next on the road was by Elias Holbrook of LeRay in about 1827. Later it was kept by Austin Bates and others. The Shafts Tavern on the same road was built by John L. Farrar of Pamelia in about 1828.His other occupations were farming and the manufacture of pumps. The Red Tavern, probably the best known on the road was built about 1828 by Henry R. Morey of Theresa. Hiram Becker, Elias Glass, Austin Bates and others succeeded as operators of the tavern. Benjamin Pease opened a log tavern on the Military Road as early as 1825 but had no successor.

NOTE: this segment covers the very early history of Theresa, the "firsts" and the settlers.


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



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