LeRay, Jefferson, NY

LeRay Villages and Hamlets, Part I

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LeRay Villages and Hamlets


This place, located one mil below Le Raysville, on Pleasant creek, consists of a saw-mill; grist-mill, store, and woolen-factory, owned and operated by Caleb Slocum, son of Samuel G. Slocum, from whom the place received its name.

The commencement here, made in 1813, under the patronage of Mr. Le Ray, was the erection of a powder-mill by a young Frenchman, named Desjardines, whom the proprietor had sent hither from France for the purpose. He was a pupil of the Polytechnic School of Paris, and was supposed to have discovered a new process of manufacturing the explosive.

But if the process was new it was certainly not an improved one, for the powder produced was of the most inferior quality, though it was utilized to some extent for blasting purposes. The experiment proved a failure, and was soon abandoned. At the collapse a large quantity of alder wood, prepared for charcoaling, was left on hand, as also about 1000 kegs, intended for powder, but afterwards put in use by the people of the vicinity as sapbuckets. The grist-mill, built about the same time, contained the first burr-stones in Le Ray, they having been sent from France for this especial purpose. The flour it made was excellent, and its custom was consequently very large. The first miller was a Frenchman, named Bidrot, imported expressly for this service. A brick house was erected, and is said by some to have been the first dwelling-house of that material built in Jefferson County; but this is not clearly authenticated the powder-mill was converted into a manufactory of potato-starch, which never proved more than moderately successful. The property afterwards went into the possession of S. G. Slocum, as mentioned, and from him descended to the present owner. The factory, the only establishment of the kind in Le Ray, manufactures coarse woolens, and is operated with success. It is the successor of an old-time chothiery-mill, put in operation there many years ago.

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Black River Village is located in the towns of Le Ray and Rutland, being divided by the Black river, which at this point is spanned by a fine iron bridge, built in 1875, a previous bridge of the same material having been carried away by flood. An account of that part of the village which lies in Rutland will be found with the history of that town.

The site of the Le Ray portion of the village, lying on the north bank of the river and about 2-1/2 miles southeast from Sanford's Corners, was embraced in a tract of 150 acres, purchased in about 1828 by Christopher Poor, from Alexander Le Ray, as agent for the Chassanis tract; this purchase, of course, covering all the water-power of the north side, which was Mr. Poor's chief inducement in making the selection of this spot. He had been an early settler in Rutland, from whence he removed to his new purchaser in Le Ray on Christmas day, 1829. The house which he had erected to receive his family was where J. T. Davenport now lives. During the preceding summer he had, with some assistance from other residents of the vicinity, built and completed the first bridge across the river, at the point where it is crossed by the present iron bridge. That, and several succeeding bridges in the same place, have been carried away by freshets.

The first grist-mill was built by A. Horton, about 1836, on the river-bank, a little distance above the bridge. This mill afterwards became the property of Christopher and Peter Poor, and during their proprietorship, it was destroyed by fire about 1842-43. The present flour-moll, known as the Lockport mill, and standing at the northerly end of the iron bridge, was commenced about 1845, by Oliver A. Ferguson. He, however, advanced no further in its construction then the building of the wheel-pit and preparation of timber for the superstructure. It was afterwards taken by Matthew Poor, R. G. Vaughn, and Henry Chapman, who completed it in 1849. From these proprietors the mill passed to A. H. Herrick, then to Jewett Bros., and from them, through various hands, to the present owners, Messrs. Warren & Ingraham. It is equipped with four run of burrs, and does excellent work.

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The first saw-mill was built at the time of the construction of the dam, in 1831, jointly by Christopher Poor and Coburn & Hubbard. The mill was erected solely by the firm. They carried it on for some years, then sold it to Wm. K. Butterfield, and his brothers. This was burnt at the same time that Poor's grist-mill was destroyed. It has never been rebuilt. The second saw-mill, occupying a site on the river-bank below the Coburn & Hubbard mill, was built by Wm. K. Butterfield, and was destroyed also by fire with the grist-mill, to which it was adjacent. It was rebuilt by Joseph Fuller, and afterwards carried away by the flood which destroyed the first iron bridge. It has never been rebuilt since that time. A planing-mill and wood-working machine-shop was built by Peter Poor, about 1848. After a time it passed to the possession of Andrew Poor, the present owner, who at one time used it as a chair-factory. It is now used as a box-factory, and for other wood working purposes. It has thus far escaped destruction by flood or fire.

The wood-working shop and box-factory of D. H. Scott & Son, standing on the river below Poor's, was built by Hinman & Middleton about 1860. It was afterwards purchased by D. Dexter & son, of Rutland, and by them used for a time in their business of chair-manufacturing. It was for two years used as a place of worship by the Free Methodists of Black river. From Dexter & son it passed to the present owners.

On the river bank, upon the lower side of the iron bridge, at its head, is a building which was erected for a machine-shop (iron-working) by Isaac and Joseph Howe, who carried on that business for some years, then sold to Thomas Matthews, who used it as a joiner's shop. It is now owned by the Lockport Mill proprietors, and used by them for storage.

The first to commence merchandising in the Le Ray section of the village was Robert H. Van Shoick, who in 1832 or '33 built and opened his store on the westerly side of the main street, a short distance above the head of the bridge. It passed to the hands of the present owner, Mr. P. Thurston, who, about 1848, transformed it into a hotel, the first and only public-house of the village. This has been abandoned, and the store-tavern is now a private dwelling. The second store was opened by S. L. Mott, about 1852. It stood between the hotel and the head of the bridge. Matthew Poor became its proprietor in November, 1866, and continues such until the present time.

Besides the establishments above mentioned, the village of Black river, in Le Ray, comprises a school-house, a church (the Free Methodist), a wagon-shop, two blacksmith-shops, and about 250 inhabitants.

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It is a frequent remark by the old inhabitants of Le Ray, that this cross-roads cluster of buildings instead of being called Sanford's should have been named Woodruff's corners, from Roswell Woodruff, its first settler, who came in 1804. Later on it was for some years known generally as "Jewett's Corners," "Jewett's School-House," and "Capt. Jewett's," from Ezekiel Jewett, who purchased the farm of Mr. Woodruff, and, became, in that particular, his successor.

Mr. Sanford, from whom the Corners were named, erected there a stone building, with the intention of opening a store, but this was never done. The brick hotel, which is still standing west of the railroad track, and is now, or has recently been, used as a Limburger cheese-factory, was built and opened by Oliver Pierce about 1825. The postoffice was established in 1828, and was kept in the brick tavern, Mr. Pierce being the first who was appointed to the office of postmaster. The present postmaster is Harlan Dunn, who is also the station-agent. The first school-house in Le Ray was built at Sanford's Corners. The Union church edifice, built in 1853, will be found noticed elsewhere in this volume.

At the opening of the Watertown and Potsdam, now the R. W. and O., railroad, in 1854, the station was, for some cause not easily explained, established more than half a mile to the southwest of the settlement of Sanford's Cornes, and received its name. The business of the place is represented by a hotel and small store at the station. (Jefferson County History by 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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