from the
by J. H. French.
Published by R. Pearsall Smith,
Syracuse, N. Y. 1860.

Transcribing this for the Jefferson County website has been a labor of love, by two very generous volunteers, Barbara (Seeber) Britt, and her daughter, Leanne Allen O'Bryon. Murphy's law outdid itself in working overtime right up to the uploading to the website. Without the dedicated efforts of Barbara Britt and Leanne O'Bryon, you would not be using this article now. They carefully copied the text, including any vagaries of spelling and grammar. Questions should be directed to Nan Dixon, who takes full responsibility for anything else that can go wrong with it!

Footnotes are inclosed in brackets {} and are immediately after the text to which they refer. Location necessarily varies from the original because of this.


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This county was formed from Oneida, March 28, 1805, and named in honor of Thomas Jefferson. Its bounds have been changed by setting off a portion of Rodman to Lewis co. in 1808, and by annexing a portion of Lewis co. to Wilna in 1813. It lies in the angle formed by the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, is distant 145 mi. from Albany, and contains 1868 sq. mi. The S.W. part is marshy, but at a short distance from the lake the land rises in gentle undulations, and, farther inland, by abrupt terraces, to the highest point, in the town of Worth. A plateau, about 1000 feet above the lake, spreads out from the summit, and extends into Oswego and Lewis cos. An ancient lake beach, 390 feet above the present level of the lake, may be traced through Ellisburgh, Adams, Watertown and Rutland. North of the Black River the surface is generally flat or slightly undulating: in the extreme N.E. corner it is broken by low ridges parallel to the St. Lawrence. With the exception of a few isolated hills, no part of this region is as high as the ancient lake ridge mentioned above. {An isolated hill in Pamelia formerly bore a crop of red cedar; and, as this timber is now only found upon the islands in the lake, it is supposed that the hill was an island at a time when at least three fourths of the county was covered by water.}

The rocks of the co. belong to the primary formation and the lower strata of the N.Y. system. Gneiss is the underlying rock of the E. border in Wilna and Antwerp, of the Thousand Islands and the shore at Alexandria Bay, and of the two strips of land extending from the E. border , one toward Theresa Falls, and the other toward Evans Mills. Next above this is a thick deposit of Potsdam sandstone, extending through Wilna, Antwerp, Philadelphia, Theresa, Alexandria, Orleans and Clayton, the margin of which may be traced along its entire extent by a low mural precipice. The soil upon this rock is thin, and principally derived from drift deposits. The rock itself is almost indestructible, and preserves diluvial scratches and marks with great distinctness. Above this is a thin deposit of calciferous sandstone, extending through parts of Cape Vincent, Lyme, Clayton, Orleans, and Le Ray. The soil upon this rock is deeper than that upon the Potsdam sandstone, and is derived principally from disintegration. The Black River limestone overlies this, and forms the surface rock in most of the remaining parts of the co. N. of the river, and in a part of Champion and Rutland, S. Above this is the Trenton limestone, appearing on the lake shore at Cape Vincent and extending in a S.E. direction through Lyme, Brownville, Watertown, Rutland and Champion. This rock is of great thickness, and it forms the principal declivities of the plateau in the S. part of the co. About midway in this strata is found the ancient lake ridge before noticed. The caves near Watertown are in the lower strata of this rock. Next above come the Utica slate and Lorraine shales, forming the summit of the irregular table land which covers the S. "peak" of Champion, the S. border of Rutland, the greater part of Rodman, a corner of Adams, the E. part of Ellisburgh, and the whole of Lorraine and Worth. These shales are easily decomposed, and produce a deep, rich soil. Along the streams that flow from this formation the water has worn deep and often highly picturesque ravines, sometimes miles in length, and almost through the soft and yielding strata. The rounded outline of the slate hills, the abrupt terraces of limestone, and the sharp wall like margins of the sandstone, afford characteristic features to the country underlaid by these several formations. Alluvial deposits uniformly occur where the streams from the slate flow out upon the limestone; and drift deposits are scattered promiscuously over the whole co. The most remarkable of these is the "Pine Plains", a sand barren several miles in extent in Wilna and Le Ray. The lake shore in Ellisburgh consists of drifting sand, behind which are marshes. From Stony Point to Cape Vincent the shore is bordered by the level edges of the Trenton limestone; but farther down the river it presents that alternation of rounded ridges of rocks, intervales, and marshes peculiar to the primary formation. The highest point in Worth is about 1200 feet above the lake. The streams are Black {Indian name Ka-hu-ah'-go, great or wide river}, Indian, and Perch Rivers, the two Sandy Creeks {Called by the Indians Te-ka'-da-o-ga'-he, sloping banks}, Stony, Catfish, Kent, French, Pleasant and Black Creeks, and their tributaries. Hungry Bay {called by the French "La Famine"} (including Henderson, Black River and Chaumont Bays) has a coast line of great length; and the Thousand Islands present many attractions from their romantic scenery and historical associations. Several small lakes, filling deep gorges, in Antwerp, Theresa and Alexandria,--one in Rutland, two in Henderson, Perch Lake in Pamelia and Orleans, and Pleasant Lake in Champion, constitute the other waters of the co. Iron ore abounds in Antwerp. Traces of lead and copper are found in the primary region; limestone, capable of a great variety of uses, water limestone and barytes are also abundant. The Black River enters the co. at Carthage, where commence a series of cascades and rapids which continue almost to the lake, with a total fall of 480 feet. Indian River affords water power at half a dozen places, and most of the streams S. of Black River are available for the same purpose.

The flat country along the St. Lawrence at times is affected by drouth, which is never felt on the uplands; while the latter are somewhat noted for the great depth of their snows. The mirage has been frequently seen on the lake, bringing into view places beyond the horizon. One form of this refraction, in which a line of clear sky appears along the shore, is almost a constant attendant upon clear, pleasant days in summer. Waterspouts, attended with dark clouds and a roaring noise, have been seen upon the lake and in its bays. In the primary regions, the intervales are remarkably fertile, while the ridges are often naked rock. The soil over a part of the sandstone is too thin for cultivation, but the barren region is comparatively limited. The limestone and slate districts are exceedingly fertile, and particularly adapted to dairying and the raising of spring grains. Of these, barley, within a few years, has become the most important. Winter wheat is raised less than formerly; oats, corn, rye and peas are staple products. For many years manufactures have received much attention and employed a large amount of capital. They consist of iron from the ore, castings, machinery, cotton and woolen fabrics, paper, leather, and flour, and have been chiefly carried on along the line of the Black River, and in Antwerp, Theresa, Philadelphia, Adams, and Ellisburgh. Rafting, shipbuilding, and lake commerce form prominent pursuits at several points along the St. Lawrence.

Upon the erection of the co., in 1805, Watertown was selected for the co. seat. {The commissioners appointed for the selection of the co. seat by the Gov. and Council were Matthew Dorr, David Rodgers, and John Van Benthuysen. The first court and the first board of supervisors met at a schoolhouse on the site of the present Univ. Church. The first co. officers were Augustus Sacket, First Judge; Joshua Bealls and Perley Keyes, Judges; Thomas White, Lyman Ellis, Wm. Hunter and Ethni Evans, Assistant Justices; Henry Coffeen, Clerk; Abel Sherman, Sheriff; Benj. Skinner, surrogate and treasurer; and Hart Massey, Ambrose Pease and Fairchild Hubbard, Coroners. At the time of its erection most of the taxes of the co. were paid by non-residents.} A combined courthouse and jail was erected in 1807 and burned in 1821. Soon after, separate buildings, of stone, were erected, which are still in use. In 1816 a fireproof clerk's office was built, and occupied until 1831, when the present one was erected. The jail having become unfit for use, and having been officially complained of, a writ was issued, Dec. 1, 1848, by the Supreme Court, ordering its immediate improvement. {In 1807 the jail liberties were first established, which were so extraordinary as to demand a passing notice. "They covered a small space around the courthouse and part of the public square, and included most of the houses of the village; while between these localities, along the sides of the roads, and sometimes in the center, were paths, from 4 to 8 feet wide, with occasional crossings; so that, by carefully observing his route, turning right angles, and keeping himself in the strict ranges which the court had established, a prisoner might visit nearly every building in the village; but if the route was, by any accident, obstructed, by a pile of lumber, a pool of mud, or a loaded wagon, he must pass over, or through, or under, or else expose himself to the peril of losing this precarious freedom, by close imprisonment, and subjecting his bail to prosecution for the violation of his trust."--Hough's Hist. of Jeff. Co., p.31.} This led to the erection of an additional building, with excellent arrangements for both the security and convenience of prisoners. The first poorhouse was erected on the Dudley Farm, in Le Ray, about 5 mi. N. of Watertown, in 1825; and it was used until 1833, when the present spacious buildings were erected in Pamelia, 1 mi. below Watertown. In 1852 a special act was passed for the supervision of the poor in this co.

The first newspaper in the co., called the "American Eagle," was established at Watertown, in 1814, by Henry Coffeen. Its name was soon after changed to the "American Advocate." {see end note 1} This county is all embraced in the Macomb {Alexander Macomb, Daniel McCormick, and Wm. Constable, of New York, were the parties owning this purchase. The first two failed, and Constable became chief agent and party to the sales that were subsequently made.--Hough's Hist. St. Law. Co.} purchase of 1791, except the islands in the lake and river, a small reservation at Tibbits Point near Cape Vincent, and a tract 10 mi. square, with one corner extending to the St. Lawrence at French Creek, reserved by the Oneida Indians in the treaty of 1788 for Peter Penet, and called Penet Square. That part N. of a line running E. from Chaumont Bay, in the line of the S. bounds of Diana, was known as Great Tract No. IV., and was sold to the Antwerp Company, of Holland. Gouverneur Morris became the first agent, and afterward, Jas. D. Le Ray de Chaumont became extensively interested in the title, and under him much of it was settled. The land between No. IV and Black River (210,000 acres) was purchased by Peter Chassanis, of Paris, for a company of capitalists; a romantic scheme of colonization was formed, and settlement begun at its southern point, near the High Falls, in Lewis co. A few years after, the emigrants returned to France. Ellisburgh was mostly purchased by Marvel Ellis, of Troy, in March, 1797, but it afterward reverted to Constable. A tract known as the "Eleven Towns" was purchased in 1795 by Nicholas Low, Wm. Henderson, Richard Harrison, and Josiah Ogden Hoffman: it was divided by them and sold by their agents. Penets Square was mostly settled by squatters, with whom the owners afterward had much difficulty. With the exception of Carlton Island, the first settlement in the co. was made in Ellisburgh, in 1797, and within 10 years nearly the whole of this town and of the Eleven Towns was taken up by actual settlers. Settlement commenced under Le Ray in Wilna, Antwerp, Le Ray, and Philadelphia, about 1806, and in the N. part of the co., along the St. Lawrence, after the War of 1812-15. But a small part is now owned by the original purchasers or their heirs, much the greater portion having long been owned in fee by actual settlers. {see end note 2.}

The embargo and non-intercourse laws were quite unpopular along the N. frontier, and met with open hostility or secret evasion in many cases. The declaration of war filled the co. with alarm, and some families hastily prepared to leave. Ft. Carlton {On Carleton or Buck Island. It was built by the French, and during the Revolution was an important rendezvous for scalping parties of tories and Indians.} within the American boundary, had been held until this time by the British, and was immediately captured by a small volunteer party and the buildings burned. A regiment of drafted militia, under Col. C. P. Bellinger, was stationed at Sackets Harbor in May. A fleet of 5 sail of the enemy was repulsed from that place July 19, with loss. On the 30th Capt. Forsyth was stationed there with a fine company of riflemen, and, Sept. 20, made a descent upon Gananoqui, Canada, and destroyed a large quantity of provisions. The details of the operations upon the N. frontier belong to general history. Sackets Harbor became the principal seat of military and naval preparations, and from this post were fitted out the armaments that captured Little York and Ft. George, and the disgraceful expedition, under Gen. Wilkinson, that descended the St. Lawrence late in the fall of 1813. {see endnote 3} Large bodies of troops were stationed here during most of the war; and a fleet of frigates of the largest class was fitted out at this point, to cope with one, equally formidable, built at Kingston. The enemy were repulsed in an attack upon Sackets Harbor, May 29, 1813, and were subsequently defeated at Cranberry Creek and Sandy Creek and in several minor engagements. After the war the costly navy was left to rot, or was sold for commercial purposes; and, in accordance with the provisions of the convention of April, 1817, but one armed vessel was left afloat upon the lake. Extensive barracks were built in 1816-19 at Sackets Harbor. A considerable body of regular troops was stationed here until withdrawn for service in the Indian wars of the Northwest and of Florida. In the abortive scheme known as the "Patriot War", in 1837-40, this co. became the scene of intense excitement, and the seat of many grave as well as ludicrous events. Hunter Lodges were formed in every village to promote the Patriot cause, and large sums raised for the same purpose found their way into the pockets of the leaders, most of whom evinced a cowardice as little creditable to their honor as was their financial management to their honesty.

The earliest market of this co. was down the St. Lawrence, which has ever been the route of the lumber trade. Several State roads were built through the co. before the war, and a military road was laid out and partly worked from Sackets Harbor to Plattsburgh. Soon after the introduction of canals and railroads many projects of internal improvement were formed, and surveys were made in this co., without result. The Watertown and Rome R.R. extends from Cape Vincent S. through Lyme, Brownville, Pamelia, Watertown, Adams, and Ellisburgh, connecting with the N.Y. Central at Rome. The Sackets Harbor and Ellisburgh R.R., a branch of the preceding, extends from Sackets Harbor through Henderson to Pierrepont Manor. The Potsdam and Watertown R.R. extends N.E. from Watertown through Pamelia, Le Ray, Philadelphia, and Antwerp, forming a connection with the Ogdensburgh R.R. at Potsdam. In 1848-51 about 170 mi. of plank road were built within the co., by over 20 companies; but most of the lines have been surrendered to the towns in which the roads were laid. Steam navigation commenced upon Lake Ontario in 1816, and commodious lines have since been run, touching at Sackets Harbor, Cape Vincent, Clayton, and Alexandria Bay, within this co.

Endnote #1.


: The Jefferson and Lewis Gazette was started at Watertown in 1817 by D. Abbey & J. H. Lord, Jr., and continued until 1819.
The Independent Republican, commenced in 1819 by S. A. Abbey, was continued until 1825.
The Herald of Salvation semi-mo., (Univ.) was commenced in 1822 by Rev. Pitt Morse, and continued 2 years.
The Watertown Freeman was established in 1824, and continued until 1833, and was then changed to
The Democratic Standard. In July 1835, it was united with the Watertown Eagle, and became
The Eagle and Standard.
Thursday's Post was commenced in 1826 by Theron Parsons&Co., and in 1828 was sold to Henry L. Harvey, who changed it to
The Register. It was afterward united with the Genius of Philanthropy, and in 1830 it became the
Watertown Register and General Advertiser. In 1831 it passed into the hands of B. Cory, and in 1835 it was changed to the
North American. It was published by J. Huxton a short time, and afterward by H. S. Noble, by whom in 1839 it was issued as
The Watertown Register. In 1843 Joel Green became proprietor, and changed it to
The Black River Journal, and continued it until 1846.
The Genius of Philanthropy was started in 1828 by Henry L. Harvey, and was afterward united with The Register.
The Censor was started at Adams in 1828, by Theron Parsons, and was soon after removed to Watertown. In 1830 Enoch E. Camp became its proprietor, and changed it to
The Anti-Masonic Sun. Shortly after, Dr. R. Goodale, becoming proprietor, changed it to
The Constellation, and continued it until 1832, when it passed into the hands of Abner Morton, who published it as
The Jefferson Reporter until 1834. It was then discontinued.
The Independent Republican and Anti-Masonic Recorder was published at Watertown, from 1828 until 1830.
The Voice of Jefferson was published during the summer and fall of 1828.
The Watertown Eagle was commenced in Sept. 1832, by J. Calhoun. In 1833 Alvin Hunt became associate editor; and in 1835 it was united with the Democratic Standard, and issued as
The Eagle and Standard. In 1837 it was changed to
The Jeffersonian, and afterward to
The Watertown Jeffersonian, and continued until 1855, when it was united with the Democratic Union, and appeared as
The Jefferson County Union. By this title it is now published by E. J. Clark & Co.
The Veto was published during the campaign of 1832.
The Spirit of Seventy Six was published a few months in 1834.
The Patriot and Democrat was published during the campaign of 1838.
The Aurora was published by Alvin Hunt during the campaign of 1840.
The Daily Journal was started in 1843 by Joel Greene. It was soon after changed to
The Watertown Journal, tri-w., and continued until 1846.
The Democratic Union was started in 1846, by T. Andrews, and continued until 1855, when it was united with The Jeffersonian.
The Northern State Journal was started in August 1846, by Ambrose W. Clark. It was afterward changed to
The Northern New York Journal, and is now published by A. W. Clark.
The Watertown Spectator was established in Jan. 1847, by Joel Greene, and continued until 1849.
The New York Reformer was commenced in Aug. 1950 by Ingalls, Burdick & Co. and is now published by Ingalls&Haddock.
The Daily News was commenced in March, 1859.
The Daily Jeffersonian was published about 1 year, in 1851.
The Monitor and The Student were issued a short time. All of the above were published at Watertown.
The Sackets Harbor Gazette and Advertiser, the first paper published at Sackets Harbor, was commenced in March, 1817. by Geo. Camp. In Feb. 1821, it was changed to
The Jefferson Republican, and was continued about a year.
The Farmers Advocate was started in 1824, by Truman W. Hascall, and continued until 1828.
The Courier, afterward called
The Sackets Harbor Courier, was published by J. Howe.
The Jefferson County Whig was published in 1837, by E. H. Purdy.
The Sackets Harbor Journal was established in Oct. 1838, by E. M. Luff, and continued until 1851.
The Harrisonian was published by E. M. Luff during the campaign of 1840.
The Sackets Harbor Observer was founded in March, 1848, by O. H. Harris. In 1852 it was changed to
The Jefferson Farmer, and continued 2 or 3 years.
The Carthaginian was started at Carthage in Dec. 1839, and in 1843 it was changed to
The Black River Times. It was discontinued soon after.
The People's Press was commenced in 1847 by M. F. Wilson.
The Carthage Standard was commenced in Jan. 1858 by W. R. Merrill. It was discontinued in 1859.
The Jefferson County Democrat was established at Adams in June, 1844, by J. C. Hatch. In 1847 it passed into the hands of E. J. Clark. It is now published, as
The Jefferson County News, by J. Eddy.
The Theresa Chronicle was started Jan. 14 1848, by E. C. Burt, at Theresa, and continued about 6 months.
Le Phare des Lacs (the Beacon of the Lakes) was commenced at Watertown in May, 1859, by Petit&Grandpre.
The Cape Vincent Gazette was commenced in 1858 by P. A. Leach.

Endnote #2.

The present names of these towns are in most cases different from those applied by the landholders. Their names, numbers, and owners under the allotment of 1796 are as follows. Harrison and Hoffman held their interests in common several years later.
No. Original Names Present Names Owners
1. Hesiod. Hounsfield Har.&Hoff.
2. Leghorn Watertown Low.
3. Milan Rutland Henderson
4. Howard Champion Har.&Hoff.
5. Mantua Denmark Har.&Hoff.
6. Henderson Henderson Henderson
7. Aleppo Adams Low
8. Orpheus Rodman Har.&Hoff.
9. Handel Pinckney Henderson
10. Platina Harrisburgh Har.&Hoff.
11. Lowville Lowville Low
The several tracts were appraised by Benj. Wright, of Rome, the surveyor, and their value equalized from a part of Worth.

Endnote #3.

The following is a chronological list of the principal events which took place at Sackets Harbor and vicinity during the war:--
1812, May.--The Lord Nelson, a British schooner, was taken, and condemned, for violating the revenue laws. Her name was changed to "Scourge."
1812, Col C. P. Bellinger was stationed here with a regiment of Militia.
1812 June 14, Schooner Ontario taken, and discharged.
1812 July 19, Village attacked by 5 vessels of the enemy. No injury done the Americans, and the British retired with loss.
1812, July 30, Capt. Benj. Forsyth arrived with the first regular troops.
1812, July 31, Schooner Julia sailed for Ogdensburgh, and encountered two hostile vessels at Morristown.
1812, Aug. 20, Col. Bellinger's regiment were disbanded before they were paid.
1812 Sept. 20, Capt. Forsyth started upon an expedition against Gananoqui.
1812 Sept. 21, Gen. Dodge arrived, and ordered Gen. Brown to proceed to Ogdensburgh.
1812, Oct. Commodore Chauncey and Gov. Tompkins arrived, the former having been appointed commander of the naval forces on the lake.
1812, Oct. 12, Capt. Forsyth's company and others were sent to Ogdensburgh. 1812, Nov.8-14, Com. Chauncey cruised upon the lake before Kingston, and took several vessels.
1812, Nov. 26, Ship Madison was launched 45 days after commencement. Fort Tompkins and barracks were completed about the same time.
1813, March.--Gen. Dearborn arrived and took command.
1813, April 7, Brig Jefferson launched.
1813, April 10, Brig Jones launched.
1813, April 19, The Growler sailed to reconnoiter.
1813, April 22, Gen. Pike's forces embarked for Little York.
1813, April 25, Expedition sailed.
1813, May 13, Expedition returned laden with spoils.
1813, May 22, Com. Chauncey sailed with the fleet for Niagara.
1813, May 29, Sackets Harbor attacked by the enemy, who were repulsed with the loss of 150 men. The Americans lost a large quantity of military stores, including the spoils of Little York, from the accidental burning of the storehouse.
1813, June 1, Com. Chauncey returned with the fleet.
1813, June 12, Ship Pike launched.
1813, June 14, Lieut. Wolcott Chauncey went on a cruise, and took a schooner laden with stores and arms.
1813, July 2, Maj. Gen, Morgan Lewis arrived and took command.
1813, July 3, A secret expedition to burn the Pike was defeated.
1813, July 14, The Neptune and the Fox sailed on a privateering expedition down the St. Lawrence. (See text)
1813, July 20, Com. Chauncey, with the Pike, sailed for Niagara. The Sylph (built in 33 days) accompanied him.
1813, Aug. 26, Gen. Wilkinson held a council to decide upon offensive measures.
1813, Sept. 5 - Gen. Armstrong, Sec. of War, arrived.
1813, Oct 26 - Gen. Wilkinson sailed on an expedition down the St. Lawrence, with disastrous results.
1813, Nov 2 - The Pike and other armed vessels sailed on a cruise among the Thousand Islands.
1813, Dec. and 1814, Jan - The remaining part of the fall and winter was spent in shipbuilding and in strengthening fortifications.
1814, May 1 - Frigate Superior, of 66 guns, was launched in 80 days from the commencement of building.
1814, June 15 - The crew of the ship Congress began to arrive from Portsmouth.
1814, June 15 - An expedition under Lieut. Gregory sailed, and a few days after captured the gunboat Black Snake in the St. Lawrence, for which act Congress awarded $3000 in 1834.
1814, June 26 - Another expedition, under the same, sailed, and in a few days burned a vessel on the stocks and a quantity of stores near Prescott.
1814, July 31 - The American fleet sailed for Niagara.
1814, Sept. 14 - Gen. Izard arrived from Lake Champlain.
1814, Sept. 30 - A gig, belonging to the Superior captured several boats laden with goods for Kingston.
1814, Oct - Great alarm was felt for the safety of the harbor, which led to the assembling of large bodies of militia.

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