In the spring of 1797, NOADIAH HUBBARD first came to Township No. 4 of the Black River tract, then known as Howard, but later as Champion. He prepared the way for future settlement. In the same year, according to local tradition, LYMAN and MARVEL ELLIS visited the town called Ellisburgh with a view to settlement. LYMAN ELLIS then prepared a piece of land, sowed it with wheat and harvested the crop in 1798. JUDGE NOADIAH HUBBARD said he was the first white settler in the county. He remained through the summer and until October, making a clearing. He then returned to Steuben NY where his family was living, to spend the winter.

In 1800, approximately 1,200 inhabitants were within the Jefferson County borders, which comprised the towns of Mexico and Leyden. The jurisdiction was created in 1805 at which time the towns comprising it were estimated to contain about 1,500 inhabitants.

During the Revolution and possibly earlier, Carlton Island was occupied by whites, British soldiers, but that possession was temporary and for the purpose of holding the island within the British dominion. In 1786, MATTHEW WATSON and WILLIAM GUILLAND purchased the land warrant earned and held by WILLIAM RICHARDSON, of the American army and located their claim on the island. The commissioners of the land office were in doubt as to whether the island was within US territory, and sanctioned the location only on condition that the warrant should be void if the island was found to be within British jurisdiction. Carlton Island did fall on the US side of the boundary and the patentees held under sure title but whether they occupied the land and improved it prior to 1800 is unknown.

The town of Adams, originally Aleppo, Township No. 7 of the Black River tract, was surveyed in 1796 by BENJAMIN WRIGHT and in 1799 NICHOLAS SALISBURY and several companions visited the region looking for settlement. Soon after, Salisbury made a purchase of land in the town but no permanent settlement was made until the spring of 1800. More than 40 lots were sold prior to 1805 and the town in 1807 had 163 legal voters.

In Brownville, one of the county's most historic divisions, the lands were about equally divided by the south line of great lot number four of the Macomb purchase. Therefore, settlement and improvement was divided between the proprietors under the Antwerp Company and RODOLPH TILLIER, who was the agent for the sale of lands on the Chassanis tract. He persuaded JACOB BROWN to make an investment in lands on his tract which resulted in a purchase and in 1799 the pioneer came to town with a portion of his family and made the first improvement near the mouth of Philomel Creek on Black River, which later built up the village of Brownville. In 1800 he erected a saw mill and in 1801 a grist mill, both at the mouth of the creek. A bridge across the river was built in 1802 and a dam in 1806. JACOB BROWN built the first house in the county north of Black River. Other pioneers in the town were: GEORGE BROWN, SAMUEL BROWN (FATHER OF JACOB), and his family, JOHN W. COLLINS, RICHARDSON AVERY, NATHAN PARISH and HORACE MATHER. In 1807, the town had 181 legal voters with property qualifications.

Champion, originally Howard, township No 4, of the Black River tract, was settled in 1797-98 by NOADIAH HUBBARD. In 1799, JOEL MIX came with his family and also; JOHN WARD, THOMAS WARD, EPHRAIM CHAMBERLAIN, SAMUEL STARR, DAVID STARR, JOTHAM MITCHELL, SALMON WARD, and BELA HUBBARD, all of who were young men without families. In 1807 the town had 182 legal voters

Ellisburgh was first settled by LYMAN ELLIS in 1797, but during the same year, CALEB ELLIS came, and a company of men engaged by the pioneer to build a saw and grist mill on Sandy Creek and a dam across the stream. CALEB ELLIS's family, ROBERT FULTON, ELIJAH RICHARDSON, HEZEKIAH PIERCE, CHAUNCEY SMITH, WILLIAM ROOT, VIAL SALISBURY, ISAAC WADDLE, ABRAM WILCOX and two men named Thornton, came to the town in the spring of 1798.

Lorraine, originally Malta, but later Atticus, township No. 1, of the Boylston tract, was settled in 1802 by pioneers JAMES MCKEE and ELIJAH FOX. Elijah was then a single man. Other early settlers who came during the following winter were: COMFROT STANCLIFF, BENJAMIN GATES, JOHN ALGER, SETH CUTLER and a Mr. Balcom. The first saw mill was built by Mr. Frost and the first grist mill by Mr. Cutler, both in 1804 and located on Sandy Creek. In 1807, Lorraine had 161 legally qualified voters.

Rodman, originally Orpheus, township No. 8, of the Black River tract, was settled in 1801 under the direction of SILAS STOW, acting as agent for proprietors Harrison and Hoffman. The pioneers were: ANSON MOODY, EBENEZER MOODY, JONATHAN DAVIS, NOAH DAVIS, AARON DAVIS, BENJAMIN THOMAS, WILLIAM RICE and SIMEON HUNT, followed in 1802 by TIMOTHY GREENLY and THOMAS WHITE. WILLIAM RICE built the first saw mill in 1801 and the first grist mill in 1806. The town had 236 legal voters in 1807.

Rutland, originally Milan, township No. 3, of the Black River tract, was settled under the management of ASHER MILLER, agent for proprietor William Henderson. Miller was the pioneer, having come to the town in 1799 and opened a road from the river to a point near the center. In the same year he encouraged settlement by: LEVI BUTTERFIELD, PERLEY KEYES, AMOS STEBBINS, WILLIAM KEYES, DAVID COFFEEN, GOLDSMITH COFFEEN, RAPHAEL PORTER, ISRAEL WRIGHT, JONATHAN BOSS, CLARK BOSS, JAMES KILLIAM, JEPTHA KING, CHARLES KELSEY, WARREN FOSTER, JOHN DOLE, GARDNER CLEVELAND and JOHN COTES. By 1807, Agent Miller had about 50 families in the town with a total number of persons of 236, equal to Rodman. DAVID COFFEEN built the first grist mill in Rutland in 1801 and the first saw mill in 1802. LEVI BUTTERFIELD was the first tavern keeper and JACOB WILLIAMS opened the first store.

Watertown within its present limits embraced original township No. 2 of the Black River tract, or Leghorn as it was then known. When created it included Nos. 1, 2 and 3 of the tract mentioned. The town was first surveyed in 1796 by BENJAMIN WRIGHT and later by ROBER MCDOWELL. It was subdivided in 1801 by JOSEPH CRARY for Silas Stow who was the agent for NICHOLAS LOW, the proprietor. Settlement was begun by: HENRY COFFEEN, JONATHAN COWAN, HART MASSEY, ISAAC MASSEY and ZACHARIAH BUTTERFIELD, some of whom purchased lands in 1799 and came to town in the next year. OLIVER BARTHOLOMEW came during the same year and settled down river about two and a half miles. Brockway's narrative states that in 1798 ELIPHALET EDMUNDS and his brother came from Vermont and descended the Black River in a boat; at the site of the later village of Watertown, they had an upset craft and lost their effects in the river. They then went to the south part of the county and were followed in 1799 or the next year by NATHANIEL HARRINGTON and SEYREL HARRINGTON and JOSHUA PRIEST, all of whom settled on Dry Hill.

The remaining towns were of later formation with the exception of Wilna which was formed from LeRay and Leyden in 1813 and comprised lands from both the Chassanis tract and great lot No. 4 of the Macomb purchase. Settlement in Wilna was begun on the site of Carthage by HENRY BOUTIN, one of the French company with intention to found a village. Hounsfield, originally Hesoid, township No. 1, Black River tract, was a subdivision of Watertown and Henderson, No. 6 of the Black River tract, of Ellisburgh, both set off in 1806, while Worth, the territory used as compensation or boot lands, was formed from Lorraine in 1848. The first permanent settlement in Hounsfield was made in 1800 by AMOS FOX, who also made the first improvements. Within the next two years about 30 families had come in through the energetic action of AUGUSTUS SACKET, founder of Sackets Harbor. Henderson began to settled in 1801 by: THOMAS CLARK, SAMUEL STEWART, PHILIP CRUMETT, JOHN STAFFORD, PETER CRAMER. In Worth the first settlers were: ASAPH CASE, and LEONARD BULLOCK who came in 1802, which was 46 years before the town was sett off from Lorraine.

The first division of Brownville was made in 1806 when LeRay was created and included all the town so called, together with Antwerp, Philadelphia and Theresa, and parts of Alexandria and Wilna. Settlement in LeRay was begun in 1802 by a company under BENJAMIN BROWN, under the LeRay proprietary. Pioneers were: DYER RHODES, GERSHOM MATOON, JOHN MATOON, JOSEPH CHILD and sons, THOMAS WARD, WILLIAM COOPER and BENJAMIN KIRKBRIDE. In 1807 LeRay contained 153 legal voters. Antwerp was formed from LeRay in 1810. The first settler was WILLIAM LEE who came in 1803 under the direction of LEWIS R. MORRIS, who was the proprietor. Mills were erected at Antwerp in 1806-7 for Morris by JOHN JENNISON.

Wilna was formed from LeRay and Leyden in 1813, but settlement was begun on the Chassanis tract side of the line. Alexandria and Philadelphia were formed in 1821, the former from LeRay and Brownville, and the latter from LeRay. Improvements in Alexandria were not begun until about 1811 when Mr. LeRay made a clearing at the center, hoping to attract settlers. War delayed the settlement. A portion of Wells Island and many smaller islands form a part of Alexandria. In Philadelphia the first settlers were Friends from Pennsylvania and New Jersey who came in 1804, among them: CADWALLADER CHILD, MORDECAI TAYLOR and SAMUEL EVANS. ROBERT COMFORT kept the first tavern, SAMUEL CASE the first store and THOMAS TOWNSEND and JOHN TOWNSEND built the first saw mill. Theresa was set off from Alexandria in 1841 and was named for one of Mr. LeRay's daughters. Settlement was begun about 1810 under direction of LeRay, who had land cleared and a saw mill built on Indian River, near the high falls, now Theresa. Among the early settlers were: JAMES SHURTLEFF, ANSON CHEESMEMAN, JEREMIAH CHEESEMAN, SYLVESTER RODMAN, M. B. ASHLEY, AZARIAH WALTON, COL. BUL, ABRAM MORROW, JOSEPH MILLER, ARCHIBALD FISHER, JAMES LAKE, EBENEZER LULL, N. W. LULL and J. D. DAVIDSON.

Lyme was the second town formed directly from Brownville and was created in 1818. A part of Clayton was set off in 1822 and all of Cape Vincent in 1849. In Lyme, settlement was begun in 1801 under: JONAS SMITH and HENRY A. DELAMATER, who were agents for JAMES LERAY. Pioneers were: RICHARD M. ESSELTYN, T. WHEELER, PETER PRATT, JONAS SOPER, DAVID SOPER, TIMOTHY SOPER. Within the jurisdiction of Cape Vincent the islands of Grenadier, Fox and Carlton are included. Settlement on the mainland was begun in 1801 by CAPTAIN ABIJAH PUTNAM, at a point two miles below Cape Vincent village.

Clayton was formed from Lyme and Orleans in 1833, taking from the latter two-fifths of Penet's Square. The pioneer was a man named Bartlett, who was stationed there by the land agents to maintain a ferry between Bartlett's Point and Gananoque, but after a year the settler burned his buildings and left the locality. Grindstone Island and several smaller islands are within the jurisdiction of Clayton

Pamelia, named by General Brown for his wife, was formed from Brownville in 1819 and settled in 1799 by two men named BOSHART and KITTS. Their stay was brief and followed by settlement of a more permanent nature by THOMAS MAKEPEACE and MR. HAVENS in 1804 and 1805. The town comprised two parts of three tracts - Penet's Square, great lot No. 4 and the Chassanis tract, but the portion taken from the Penet's square was not annexed to the town until 1829.

Orleans was formed wholly from Brownville in 1821. A part of its territory was annexed to Pamelia in 1829 and the whole of Clayton was taken off in 1833. The town comprised three-fifths of Penet's Square and was originally settled by squatters who occupied the land without title. That fact was widely known and induced other settlement of squatters until the region was well filled with poor families. There was a question as to the validity of the titles from Penet, which delayed settlement for some years. In 1817, settlers under approved title began to come in. RODERIC C. FRAZIER, PETER PRETT, DR. REUBEN ANDRUS, SAMUEL ELLIS and DANIEL ELLIS, were among the first permanent settlers. A portion of Wells Island is within this town.

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

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