LeRay, Jefferson, NY

Evans' Mills

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EVANS' MILLS

This village is situated at the confluence of West and Pleasant creeks, one mile south of the point where their united waters fall into Indian river. It is also a station on the R. W. & O. railroad, distant from Watertown 11 miles. It received its name from Ethni Evans, from Hinsdale, N. H., who came to Jefferson County in 1802, and engaged in the employ of Jacob Brown, at Brownville. He became acquainted with the water-power on Pleasant creek at this point and, being himself a millwright, he purchased a tract of land on both sides of the stream for the purpose of erecting mills upon it. For this tract, which contained 192 acres, and embraced the present site of the village, he paid three dollars per acres; the date of the purchase being July 9, 1804. No blow of axe had been struck upon this tract, but he at once made a clearing, built a log house, and commenced the construction of a dam across the creek. Among those whom he employed in this work and in the preparation of timber for the mills were Robert Sixbury and Solomon Parker, who came to him after their engagement with Cadwallader Child, in surveying the road route from Alexandria Bay to Great Bend. The saw-mill and grist-moll were built and completed during the years 1805 and 1806. The grist-mill stood a little northeast of the present site of Mr. Casse's paint-shop. The saw-mill occupied the spot where its successor stands today. In 1807 or 1808 a store and a public-house were opened by Jenison Clark, in a frame building, which stood where the brick hotel now is, at the corner of Main and Noble streets.

Upon the opening of the War of 1812, the inhabitants of the vicinity became alarmed in view of the possibility of Indian incursion and massacre; several of the settlers having come from the valley of the Mohawk, where the remembrance of savage atrocities was still fresh in the minds of the people. In this state of apprehension, a strong block-house was commenced, to serve as a general shelter and defense against the attacks which they thought probable. This strong work was located on the westerly side of West creek, near the present residence of Mr. Madison Cooper. It was, however, never used nor even completed, as the intensity of the first alarm soon wore off.

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Eighteen years after its first commencement, Evans' Mills had grown to be a place of considerable importance. Its business in the year 1822 was as follows. The mills built by Evans were in successful operation, the saw-mill running night and day, the sawyers in charge being Pierce Macomber and Omrod Evans, son of the proprietor; and the grit-mill, also constantly at work, with ------ Stearns (father of Rev. John G. Stearns) as miller. A fulling-mill and clothiery stood adjoining the grist-mill, and was then operated by George Oaks. This was probably built in 1810 or 11. A small tannery, built and carried on by John Macomber, stood on the spot now occupied by the stone house of Edwin Chamberlain. A potashery, owned by John Hoover (started probably about fifteen years before), stood where E. Hungerford's dwelling-house now is, and another establishment of the same kind, owned by William palmer, was just south of the site of the railroad station. Upon the spot now occupied by W. S. Cooper's store stood Ziba Henry's distillery, built some years earlier by Jesse Smith. Another distillery was located by a little stream at the south end of the village. This had been built and was then owned and operated by Wm. H. Granger, and Capt. Sanderson. It was afterwards sold to Millard & Palmer. Sackett Comstock had a blacksmith-shop on ground now the yard of the brick hotel. Nearly on the site of the Railroad House Sewell Hill carried on the business of blacksmithing, and the manufacture of hoes, axes, and other steel tools. Farrington Stiles manufactured spinning wheels (both small and large), looms, warping-bars, and all equipment for the home manufacture of cloth, but the location of his shop cannot be definitely given. A wagon shop by Harry Weed and a cabinet-shop by Joseph Pryor (a Quaker) were also among the business enterprises of the village. The store of the place was then kept by William Palmer, in the building which ad been the tavern of Jenison Clark, on the spot where Capt. Hoover, six years later, built the brick-yard. Another establishment, which perhaps might be called a store, though whiskey was the principal article dealt in, was kept by Heman Millard and Hiram Becker where the furniture store now is, at the northwest corner of Noble and Main streets.

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Of public-houses, Evans' Mills at that time had two; the older being the stone tavern across West creek, built about 1816, by Adam and Peter Bellinger, and the other was the stone tavern then just completed and occupied by Capt. John Hoover. This was the same building now occupied by the store of S. M. Cook, and the harness- and saddlery-shop of F. Waddingham. Its erection was commenced in 1821, the stone being quarried principally on the farm afterwards owned by H. N. Eddy, but a few being brought from the vicinity of Ox Bow. The stone-mason was Josiah Fuller, and the carpenter and joiner William Delaware. Among the landlords who occupied it after Hoover, during its existence as a public-house, were Daniel Thomas, George Oaks, Parker Rulison, Elisha Root, Alexander Lappon, Nelson Clarke, and Benjamin Jackman. The Bellinger tavern too has ceased to exist as a public-house, though still standing, and as solid and perfect as it was fifty years ago. During its long term of service it was kept by many different landlords after Bellinger, among whom may be mentioned Elias Holbrook, David Kilburn, Oliver Pierce, Edwin Hungerford, Henry Lawton, and Jacob Davis. Of the first public-house at the Mills, opened by Jenison Clark, we are able to give the names of only two other landlords, viz., William H. Granger and John Hoover.

The first physician of the village was Dr. Ira A. Smith. He was here in 1822, and remained here in practice and in great popularity for many years afterwards. At various times during his practice here he had other physicians in partnership with him. Dr. Wm. G. Comstock was the last of these. Dr. Henry Munson, who died in Texas, was a student and partner of Dr. Smith, and another of his students is Dr. Isaac Munson, of Watertown.

From the list which we have given of the business of Evans' Mills in 1822, it would seem that very little progress in that direction has been made from that time until the present.

About 1832, Peter H. Ryther came to the Mills, commenced blacksmithing, and erected a stone blacksmith-shop on the corner of Church and Le Ray streets, and a dwelling-house where Mr. Clifford now lives. Later (about 1826-27) he started a seythe, axe, and how manufactory, with trip-hammer worked by water-power, in a two-story building just below the dam and on the south side of the creek. This was afterwards destroyed by fire. Also, about 1825, Samuel Ryther started a wagon-shop on Church street, nearly opposite the Presbyterian church, and about 1827 removed the business to the shop which he had erected on the creek. This being the same building now standing in the read of W. S. Cooper's store, and occupied by Mr. Zimmerman as a horse-rake manufactory.

The saw-mill was rebuilt by Judge Evans in 1822-23, and is still in operation, by Charles Holbrook, a grandson of Ivah Holbrook. The present grist-mill was also commenced by Evans, in 1822, and went into operation in 1824. The plan of locating it on its present side, at a considerable distance below the dam and road, was the subject of much adverse criticism at the time, but the owner was confident of the correctness of his plan, and resolutely executed it. The old mill had been equipped with two run of stones, which were manufactured at the Parker lodge, in Antwerp, but the new one was fitted with burrs, of which it has four run. This, as well as the saw-mill, is owned and run by Mr. Holbrook.

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The brick hotel, still standing at the corner of Main and Nioble streets, was commenced by Capt. John Hoover, in 1827. The bricks were manufactured and laid by Benjamin Barnes, of Theresa, at the price of $5 per thousand in the wall. The place where Barnes established his kiln for the purpose was to the northeast of the village, on the opposite side of Pleasant creek. The carpenter and joiner work was done by Alfred Vebber. The house was finished and opened by Reuben Wilmot and John Hoover about Nov. 1, 1827, within a few days of the election which resulted in the elevation of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. On the front of the building there were placed, and still remain, the letters "J. H.," very large, and made of iron. These were fashioned by P. H. Ryther, a hot anti-Jackson man. When applied to forge out these letters, his suspicions were instantly aroused that it was a device of the enemy, and that they were intended to signify "Jackson Hotel," where upon he refused point-blank to furnish them; and it was only after much persuasion, and the positive assurance that they had no more sinister signification than the proprietor's name, John Hoover, that he was induced to make them. Since Wilmot and Hoover this house has known many different hosts, a few only of whom can be recalled to mind. Among these have been R. H. Tozer, Thomas Bones, Henry R. Morey, Thomas Benjamin, John Morris, S. J. bingham, Benjamin Jackman, Willard Spalding, L. Biddlecom, William Brown, Fayette Granger, Roland S, Lawton, Jacob Davis, N. J. Mackey, S. & J. burtis, J. D. Burtis, E. Vebber, and William Forbes, 1877.

About 1827, a public-house was also opened by Benjamin Collins, at the place where Henry Walradt now resides. The house had been built as a private dwelling, and only continued to be kept as an inn for about two years. The Railroad Hotel was opened by A. Beebe, in the dwelling-house has had been several different landlords. Its present proprietor is ________Parker.

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The establishment of the post-office of Evans' Mills was about the year 1824. The first postmaster was William Palmer, who held the position for many years. He first kept the office at his store in the old tavern building of Jenison Clark. Afterwards he built the store now occupied by O. E. Hungerford, and removed the office thither. In 1846 the name of the office was changed to Evansville, but five years later the original name was restored. The present postmaster is Wesley Rulison. The receipts of the office during the past year have been about #$1,000; money orders sold, about $5,500; money orders paid, about $3,000.

The Watertown and Potsdam railroad (now the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburgh) was completed and opened to Evans' Mills in the autumn of 1854. The first station buildings were the same now used for wood and water, on the south side of the track. Next was built the fright-house portion of the present buildings on the north side, and in 1855 the passenger-rooms and offices were added. The valuation of the railroad property in Le Ray is, in round numbers, $105,000. The following figures show, approximately, the business of the road at this station for the past financial year: Freight forwarded, $95,000. Tickets sold, $4,000. The first agent of the company at Evans' Mills was Lewis W. Sanderfurth, who was succeeded in September, 1863, by George Ivers, who has held the agency until the present time.

On Pleasant creek, a short distance above Evans' Mills, but hear enough to be considered a part of the village, are the saw-mill and cheese-box factory of James M. Henry. The commencement at this place was the erection of a saw-mill by Asa Hall, about 1821, upon a site purchased by him of Sylvanus Evans. Hall's successor was George oaks, who about 1830 rebuilt the dam farther up the creek, bringing the water down by canal; also rebuilt the saw-mill, and added clothiery works. He was succeeded by Albert Granger and Stutley Miller, under whom the works were destroyed by fire. Miller withdrew, and Granger rebuilt the saw-mill, after which the property came to the hands of the present owner, by whom the cheese-box factory was added.

Clifford's brewery, on Le Ray street, at the eastern side of the village, was commenced many years since by Martin Boos. It is now carried on by Carleton Clifford.

Evans' Mills became an incorporated village in 1874, the incorporation being ratified by a vote of 54 to 49, at a legal meeting held September 7, in that year. The territory embraced in the surveyed boundaries was 720 44/100 acres. A. M. Cook was elected president of the corporation, and Geo. Ivers, B. M. Strong, and Bowen Root, trustees. The last named declined to serve, and William M. Reese was appointed in this place. But notwithstanding that the incorporation was legally accomplished, and the officers properly elected and qualified, the organization never went into effect. An Adverse feeling spring up, a new meeting was called at which the vote of ratification was rescinded, the village was shorn of the dignity of incorporation, and still remains in statu quo. Its population is now 450, and it contains besides the mills and manufactories above mentioned, 4 church edifices, 2 school-houses, the post-office, 2 hotels, 4 general stores, 5 groceries, 3 drug-stores, I harness- and saddlery-shop, 4 blacksmith-shops, 2 wagon-shops, and 1 cheese-factory. (Jefferson County History, L. H. Everts, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Html by Debbie

December 26, 1999

[Jefferson County ALHN][NY ALHN]

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