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The Growth of a Century
AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE
History of Jefferson County,
FROM 1793 TO 1894
“The war-worn lived content upon his unmenaced pension, with no anxious thought as to penury or the poor-house. And when his work was done it was left to the historian to write that in material prosperity, in moral force, in the power which comes from the respect of other nations, the United States held a position never before attained.”—[1880-92]
DANIEL WEBSTER once wrote: “There may be, indeed, a respect for ancestry which nourishes only a weak pride. But there is also a moral and philosophical respect for ancestors which elevates the character and improves the heart-a respect which is laudably manifested by perpetuating their lineaments and describing their virtues.”
COMPILED FROM STATE, COUNTY AND TOWN RECORDS, WITH MANY ORIGINAL ARTICLES UPON INTERESTING SUBJECTS,
JOHN A. HADDOCK
PRINTED BY SHERMAN & COM.
PREPARED BY MAJOR JAMES H. DURHAM.
CAPE VINCENT was erected from Lyme, April 10, 1849, being the youngest of the towns composing Jefferson county. It was named in honor of Vincent LeRay, son of James Donatien LeRay de Chaumont, a distinguished and early proprietor. It embraces the northwest corner of the county, and includes Fox, Grenadier, Carleton and Linda islands. It covers all that territory lying west of a line running from the mouth of Little Fox creek N. 48¾° E., 646 chains; thence N. 57° E., 235.56 chains to the town of Clayton, its boundaries being the St. Lawrence river on the west, north and northwest, Clayton on the northeast and east, Lyme and Lake Ontario on the south and southwest.
The surface of the town is generally level, or slightly undulating until the lake is approached, when the surface is broken into valleys and terraced ridges, showing the outlines of the lake-shore during an early period, indicating that the summits of the present ridges were islands at a time long past. There are now but few streams in the town, the principal one being Kent’s creek, which, rising in the eastern part of the town, flows in a southwesterly direction and empties into Lake Ontario. There are numerous sulphur springs, some of which have been analyzed and found to contain ingredients of great curative power. It is also believed that a flow of natural gas could be reached by boring to a moderate depth, so as to penetrate the same deposit in which the gas supply of Sandy Creek is found, and which underlies the surface-rock of birds-eye limestone. This belief is strengthened by the fact that no less than two wells in the town, one of them on the principal street of the village, were formerly so impregnated with hydrogen that the water was unfit for use; and from one of them a current of gas sufficient to ignite was known to flow.
The earliest settlement within the present limits of Cape Vincent was made on Carleton Island, which became a British trading post of no small importance 119 years ago. In 1778 a strong fortification was begun, and named Fort Haldimand, in honor of Gen. Sir Frederick Haldimand, who succeeded Sir Guy Carleton in command in the Canadas, and by whose orders the fort was built. The island was known to the French as “Isle aux Chevereaux,” or Goat Island, but was by the English mistaken for “Isle aux Chevereuils,” (Roebuck, now Grenadier,) and hence for many years it was called Deer Island; but on its selection as a place to fortify, the name was changed to Carleton Island. A more detailed account of Fort Haldimand will appear further on.
Originally Cape Vincent was a part of the Alexander Macomb purchase, which embraced the greater part of Franklin county, the whole of St. Lawrence, excepting Massena and the “ten towns,” and the whole of Jefferson excepting Penet Square and 600 acres on Tibbett’s Point, which latter was patented to Captain John Tibbett, of Troy, and surveyed in 1799. In the cession to Macomb, the State also reserved Carleton Island.
The earliest settlement on the main land was made by Abijah Putnam, who came from Rome in 1801, and settled at a point about two miles below the present depot, where he projected a village, and established a ferry to Wolf Island. The place was named “Port Putnam,” but can hardly be said to have had an existence, except in the mind of the projector, until the next year, when Mr. Putnam sold his interest in the village to John Macombs and Peter Sternberg, of Little Falls, who laid out the village and proceeded to sell lots. The Great Black River State road was extended from Brownville to this point, and, by 1803, had been partially cut out. In May, 1803, Mr. John B. Esselstyn, of Montgomery, settled a mile below Port Putnam, and in 1804, Daniel Spinning came from Western, and shortly after him came two families by the name of Smith, a Mr. Sheldon, Jonathan Cummings, and several others, whose names cannot now be ascertained, all of whom located at Port Putnam or near by. In 1806, Richard M. Esselstyn settled near his brother, below the village.
Port Putnam, as originally laid out by Macombs and Sternberg, was intended for a place of some importance. According to one of their maps, yet in existence, it was laid out in the form of a parallelogram, with a public square of about six acres in extent in the center, at the upper end of which, facing the river, a space was reserved for public buildings. Parallel with the river was Water street; the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh streets, and intersecting these at right angles were Green, Montgomery, Herkimer, Washington, Jefferson, Clinton and Hancock streets. Pleasant street occupied both sides of the square. In their prospectus, which was attached to and formed a part of their map, Messrs. Macombs and Sternberg set forth some of the advantages of their village as follows: “Lumber of all kinds is rafted from this village to Montreal and Quebec on a large scale, taking from nine to 13 days only to make a trip. Besides this, the great Black River State Road from Johnstown, Montgomery county, receiving in its course the roads from Little Falls, Herkimer, Utica and Rome, runs through the middle of this village, and connects with Kingston and Upper Canada by ferry.”
The attempt, however, to boom Port Putnam into a place of importance was a failure. Through the influence of LeRay, the site was abandoned for that of “Gravelly Point,” where there were already five or six houses, and where, in 1811, he caused a village plot to be surveyed, which was named after one of his sons, as already noted. At this time, other points were designated as “Hubbard’s Bay,” now Riverside; “French Creek,” now Clayton; “Catfish Falls,” Depauville; “Fish Island,” Dexter; and “Long Falls,” now Carthage. At this time the families at Port Putnam and below, had been increased by Elnathan Judd, Norman Wadsworth, E. Cole, Caleb Lobdell, Mr. Phelps, William Hollenbeck, Charles Gillett, Orison Butterfield, Daniel Nicol, Samuel Britton, Abner Hubbard and a Mr. Dodd, several of whom removed to the new village at Gravelly Point.
Eber Kelsey was the first settler on the present site of the village, having come here from Turin in 1809, and cleared for LeRay a tract of 50 acres along the river, built a small wharf, erected a block house, a dwelling house, a barn, and also a tavern where the Rathbun House stands; the block-house being further toward the river. The wharf was at the foot of Market street, and some of its remains are yet visible. Mr. Kelsey came originally from the town of Lyme, Connecticut, and it is thought that his influence gave our town of Lyme its name. Mr. Kelsey was shortly followed by Dr. Avery Ainsworth, who came from Vermont. He was the first physician here, and built a house and store the same year. About this time Richard M. Esselstyn built a house and store, and began business under the firm name of J. B. & R. M. Esselstyn. Their store was at the foot of James street, where Mr. Richard Davis’ coal house now is, and Dr. Ainsworth’s store was near where the stone shop now stands, facing James street. That LeRay had early designed Gravelly Point for the site of a village of some size, there is no doubt; principally because of its close proximity to Wolfe Island and the comparative ease with which Kingston could be reached, but it was not until 1811 that he directed Mr. Musgrove Evans, one of his surveyors, to survey and plat a mile square for the proposed village, which, as after events proved, was amply sufficient, as the present corporate limits, established April 14, 1853, occupy scarcely one-half of the original plat. A ferry was early established by Eber Kelsey, while as early as 1807 Peter Sternberg secured the exclusive right of ferrying from Carleton to Wolfe Island, which was, of course, discontinued during the war which followed. The business of lumbering was begun in 1809 by Richard M. Esselstyn and a man from Augusta, Canada, by the name of Murray; they bought their timber from LeRay, manufactured it into staves and hewn timber, and exported it to Montreal. This traffic gave employment to many men, and increased the growth of the village rapidly. The business extended in a short time to the Genesee and Niagara regions, so that in 1810 about 200,000 staves were brought here by water and then rafted to Montreal. At the end of the season 80,000 or 90,000 staves were detained here by the embargo; and when that was taken off, the business of building arks for the Montreal trade became very brisk, and was followed as late as 1811 by the Esselstyns alone, though not as largely as before; and though whisperings of war had begun to make themselves heard, the opportunities for money-making were so great and so attractive, that they passed almost unnoticed; and though the embargo was again laid in 1812, preparations went steadily forward to raft the staves which remained of the trade of 1810-11. But the war came; the rafting was not done, and the staves were mostly used for fuel by the soldiers. An extract given below from a letter written by Eber Kelsey to his wife, then in Leyden, Lewis county, will bring the stave trade clearer to view. After acknowledging the receipt of a letter from Mrs. Kelsey, in which she expresses fears for his safety, Mr. Kelsey says: “If you enjoy as much peace as we do, you have no reason to complain, as we have not seen nor heard of any movement of the enemy on the river, but I understand there has been a British spy boat to Sacket’s Harbor, and took a boy from there who was hunting ducks, and carried him to Kingston; and they have stopped twice at Grenadier Island and tarried some time, but never offered to molest any of the inhabitants. You write that there is no prospect of peace, but Mr. Esselstyn tells me that there is a prospect of an armistice taking place soon, to continue during the negotiations; and if it does, he has no doubt of trade being resumed on the river soon; and he is so far induced to believe it, that the is now out to get his staves rafted that lie along this shore, and wants my assistance with team and otherwise; and I do not know but I shall undertake to raft two cribs, so as to save those cribs I made for Taylor, which are yet lying along this shore; but it will be extremely difficult to get help. He offers me $100 to repair those cribs and fill them with his staves, and also to pay for collecting what staves are scattered.” Mr. Kelsey speaks of purchasing the “Kindrick lot,” which adjoins one which he has already bought, and on which there is as “good a sugar place as I ever saw; on which Captain Rogers and Hans Van Housen have made about 800 weight of sugar this season.”
Just at this time there were but six or seven families remaining here, the others having removed to escape the probable dangers attending a state of war, the news of which had spread terror throughout the settlement. At the laying of the embargo, Captain Farrer, with part of a company of militia, was sent here to enforce it, and on the breaking out of the war, Major John B. Esselstyn was directed to assemble a body of militia, and three companies were placed here under his command. A company of militia, from the Mohawk valley, under Captain Getman, were stationed here for a time, and also a battalion under the command of Major Alllen, with a detachment of riflemen under Captain Forsyth, a section of light artillery and detachment of dragoons.
During the winter of 1812-13, a line of sentries was established along the bank of the river, from Tibbett’s Point to Hubbard’s Bay (now Riverview), which gave rise to a laughable incident, and served to greatly relieve the monotony of sentry duty. A corporal by the name of Dean had crossed over to Wolfe Island and made the acquaintance of a fair one by the name of Button, after whose father Button Bay is named—and taking her heart by storm, the gallant corporal brought her away with him, a prisoner for life. One night a waggish sentry, whose love of fun overcame his fear of military discipline, sang out: “Button! Button! Who’s got the Button?” “Corporal Dean!” was the answer; which, clear as a bugle note, rang out upon the still air of the night, until forest and stream fairly echoed to the cry of “Corporals,” “Deans” and “Buttons.”
The soldiers’ barracks stood, one building on the corner of James street and Broadway, and another at the foot of James street; while a building standing on Murray street was used as an hospital. These buildings, together with a store belonging to Henry Ainsworth, and one belonging to the Esselstyns, two or three small vessels, Major Esselstyn’s house, which stood below Port Putnam, several barns and a large quantity of lumber, were burned by the British at different times during the war. They also burned a tavern and store, and destroyed an orchard belonging to Samuel Britton, which stood on the farm now owned by Robert Percy, Esq., opposite Linda’s Island. Indians destroyed the house and barns belonging to Dr. Avery Ainsworth, in Pleasant Valley. The Doctor, with the rest of his family barely escaping in time to save themselves. These Indians came over from Wolf Island. For the most part, the burning and plundering was done by the crews of British gun-boats, which frequently passed up and down the river. One morning, however, just in the grey of dawn, a gun-boat landed at the foot of James street, for the purpose of plunder. The crew leaped ashore, eager to begin their depredations, when they were met by a detachment of Forsyth’s riflemen, who had followed their course up from Port Putnam, and a sharp skirmish ensured, in which nearly all the boat’s crew were captured, and several killed and wounded; only four or five escaped to the boat, which they got out of harm’s way as rapidly as possible. The prisoners were sent to Greenbush-on-the-Hudson, and the dead were buried at the corner of Broadway and Murray streets. It was about this time that a man named Draper, belonging to Captain Getman’s company, obtained permission to dislodge a party of Indians on Wolfe Island; but the raid was badly managed, Draper was killed, and, it is said, scalped; two of his men were wounded, and the party retreated, leaving the victory with the redskins. Just before the British attacked Sackets Harbor, a gun-boat landed at Cape Vincent in the night, and surrounded a private dwelling which stood near the corner of Broadway and Esselstyn streets, where Dr. E. M. Crabb’s house now stands, in which were three dragoons from Sackets Harbor; one of them was a Sergeant Moore, who had formerly been in the British service. By some means the enemy had learned that Moore was in the house, and they demanded his surrender, which was refused. They then broke into the house, and Moore, grasping his saber, backed into a corner of the rooom [sic] while his cowardly comrades fled to the chamber. He was an expert swordsman, and so gallantly defended himself, saber against bayonet, that finally the cowardly order was given to shoot him down. It was done, and with his last breath he anathematized both comrade and assailants as the veriest cowards. Some years ago, when the house was moved, the bullet which destroyed the life of the gallant sergeant, was found embedded in the planking.
The Royal George, a British vessel of war, carrying 24 guns, touched at the Cape once, but retired without making any hostile demonstrations, although for a time there was no little excitement, and great fear was expressed as to what would be the outcome of the visit. A boat loaded with flour was captured by the British fleet, while on its way from Cape Vincent to Sackets Harbor, May 28, 1813. Although no great events transpired here, its situation made it a place of much importance.
As already stated, most of the early settlers left the town during the war, and not half of them ever returned; and this fact had the effect of greatly retarding settlement generally. Until 1825, Warren Settlement was an untrodden wilderness. In that year Sheppard Warren and his brothers, James and Asa, made a clearing, and were soon followed by Edwin Tuttle, Joel Torrey and John Howland; and not until a still later period was the St. Lawrence region occupied; the first settlers there were Jacob St. Oars, Silas Mosier, Eli Wethey, Horatio Humphrey, Hamilton C. Wallace, Samuel Killen, Jerome Wethey, Daniel Corse, Charles Cummings and Dyer Pierce. A little later, and the names of Curtis, Campbell, Carpenter and Wheeler, appear among the list of settlers. The settlement was called Rogers’ Corners, because James Rogers built the first tavern there; next it was Gotham Corners, and then Crane’s Corners—until finally the mail route was established, when, in honor of a Miss Lawrence, of New York, who owned a large lot of land adjoining, the name of Lawrenceville was sent in, but as there was already a post office of that name in the State, St. Lawrence was finally decided on, and is probably a fixture. In what is yet known as the “French Settlement,” the first comers were nearly all Americans, and Yankees at that. Among the first were Thomas Shaw, Samuel F. Mills, Jacob Van Nostrand, Aaron Whitcomb, Asahel and Phineas Powers. These sold out their lands and gave place to a number of French families, whom LeRay or his agents had induced to emigrate to this country, and many of whose descendants still occupy the farms which their fathers and grandfathers cleared in the wilderness.
By 1818-20, Joseph Cross, Benjamin Estes, Dr. Brewster, Dr. Sacket, Captain Merritt, John Vincent, Willard Ainsworth, Captain Caton, Michael Van Schaick, and others, had located in different parts of the town; some of them, it may be, came a year or tow earlier; and very soon after came James Borland, Jacob Bedford, James Buckley, Abner Rogers, Ira Hadley, Oliver Pool, Philip Gage, Abner Gage, Messrs. Hoff, Van Housen, Marshall, Holman, Pigsley, Converse, Hassler, Green, Fuller, and many others, whose names are not now accessible. Most of these were farmers, and many of their descendants are yet living, either in the village or in the adjoining country.
About the year 1815, several educated and accomplished French families located at Cape Vincent. Among these were Count Pierre Francois Real, who was chief of police under the First Napoleon, and his son-in-law, Gen. Roland, Camille Armand, Col. Jermoux, Prof. Pigeon, private secretary to Count Real, and Capt. Louis Peugnet, of Napoleon’s body-guard, and an officer of the “Corps d’elite”. That these brilliant and daring, but somewhat reckless exiles, were engaged in a plot to abduct their beloved emperor from the Island of St. Helena, and bring him to Cape Vincent, has something more than mere tradition to support it. It is but a few years, since there were old citizens yet alive who had themselves heard from the lips of these enthusiastic Imperialists, that such was their object. Count Real and his fellow-exiles were just the men to entertain a scheme so daring, and which, with the aid of an American sea captain of oft-tried skill and undoubted bravery, they hoped to successfully accomplish.
The letter written by Count Bertrand to Joseph Bonaparte, on the death of Napoleon, shows that the exiles on the lonely island of St. Helena were awaiting a welcome summons from America. After announcing the sad news of the death of his adored chief, Marshal Bertrand says: “The hope of leaving this dreadful country often presented itself to his imagination. We sometimes fancied that we were on the eve of starting to America; we made plans; we read travels; we arrived at your house; we wandered over your great country, where we might hope to enjoy liberty.”
As a further confirmation, the negotiations of Joseph Bonaparte with James D. LeRay, for lands in and around Cape Vincent, may be referred to; but a stronger evidence is the building of that unique edifice, known far and wide as the “Cup and Saucer House.” This was erected by Count Real in 1816, ostensibly for his own private residence. It was octagonal in form, and crowned with a cupola and tower, the whole combined so closely resembling a cup and saucer, that it gave rise to the name which it ever after retained. The house, which stood on Real street, at the head of, and looking down Gruvello street, was burned on the 14th of October, 1867. It was richly furnished and contained many valuable relics of the deceased emperor, almost all of which were stolen at the time of the fire—such, at least, is the statement of one who resided in the house at the time. Count Real was an accomplished scholar and philosopher, and had furnished his house with the best astronomical, philosophical and chemical apparatus of that tie, all of which was destroyed. An upper room, containing this apparatus, together with a great number of curios, was known as the “museum.” A valuable library and some rare paintings were a part of the contents of the house, all of which were lost.
Count Real, among other accomplishments, was a fine musician, and was the owner of a valuable “Stradivarius.” On his return to France, the home and its contents were left in the care of Mr. Theophilus Peugnet, including the costly violin. ON one occasion, at a party given in the village by a prominent lady, a wish was expressed by the young people to have a dance. It chanced that there was a young musician from Watertown present, who was willing to play for them, but he had no instrument, so Mr. Peugnet very kindly sent for the “Stradivarius,” and the dance was enjoyed by all. When the violinist returned to Watertown he took the violin with him, promising to return it in a short time, when he came again. But he never came. He left Watertown, was heard of occasionally in Detroit and other cities, became dissipated, and died in a short time. The violin was twice heard of afterward, but with so heavy a bill attached that Mr. Peugnet refused to settle it, and so in time it was wholly lost sight of, and now some on probably rejoices in the possession of a “Stradivarius” worth its thousands, and it may be with no knowledge of its real value. It is affirmed, but with how much truth the writer cannot say, that there are at this time, many articles in the possession of families living in or near the village, which were once the property of the Bonaparte family. Mrs. Frasier, now living in the village, has a fowling piece which once belonged to Joseph Bonaparte, and was by him presented to Mr. Theophilus Peugnet, her first husband. She has also a small military camp-chest, which belonged to the Emperor himself, and was by him presented to Capt. Louis Peugnet, and she avers that at the burning of the “Cup and Saucer House,” many relics of the deceased monarch were appropriated by some one, but by whom, and where they are, is not know.
The store kept by John B. & Richard M. Esselstyn, stood on the site of Mr. John Buckley’s shingle mill, now used as a coal house. Between the Horr house and the stone blacksmith shop, was a store, first occupied by Dr. Avery Ainsworth, and later by Henry Ainsworth. This was the first store opened in the village. The principal wharf was at the foot of James street. On the beach of the river at the foot of Point street, there stood, in 1815, a beautiful grove of elm trees, and on the lot now owned by Mr. John B. Grapotte, Esq., was an extensive “deer lick,” where, 85 years ago, the crafty hunter lay in wait for his game, and the crack of his rifle was often heard.
John and Samuel Forsyth built the first black smith shop across the street from where the stone shop now stands, and there they made the iron work for the first large schooner—the Merchant—built at Cape Vincent. Subsequently they built the stone shop, and afterward added a foundry, a machine and boiler shop, and an axe factory. They carried on a large business in all the branches. They also manufactured here the first cooking stove ever invented—the “Rotary.”
About 1818, Joseph Cross erected a tannery on Market street above the old cemetery, which he carried on for several years, and finally sold it to a man by the name of Powell, who, in addition to the tannery, carried on a boot and shoe factory, in which a number of men were constantly employed. IN the days when the rafting trade was at its best, there was a great demand for able-bodied and skillful raftsmen, and many young men from other places were attracted to this point, as the demand was great and the wages good. In those days, to be a skillful raftsman on the St. Lawrence river was as great a distinction as it was to be a successful harpooner on board a whale ship. Among the skillful pilots of those days, the ones who gained the greatest distinction were Elisha P. Dodge and Christie Irving; and many are the tales of venturesome runs and narrow escapes encountered in the rapids between Cape Vincent and Montreal. Gradually the lumber traffic was transferred to Millen’s Bay and thence down to Clayton, where it finally ended.
The first mill in the town of Cape Vincent was built on Kent’s creek. Before this it was no uncommon feat for a settler to shoulder a bushel of corn, carry it to Chaumont and have it ground and return with the meal in the same manner. This first mill was built by a man named Perkins, just below where the present saw-mill stands. It was a primitive affair, with scarcely a piece of iron in the whole structure, its gears and shafting may yet be seen. It was made of a granite boulder, the like of which may be found in many places in the town, havingbeen brought from the far north and deposited here during the ice period. A Mr. Powers erected the first saw-mill on the site of the present one, and sold it to Henry Shaw, father of Hon. A.D. Shaw, of Watertown; Roswell T. Lee purchased the grist-mill of Perkins, but finally built a new one on the opposite side of the creek from the saw-mill and fitted it up with all the then “modern improvements,” and for years it was the grist-mill of the country. Justus Esselstyn was the miller. Later it was sold to Henry Shaw, and finally to Mr. Remy Dezengremel, and his son Louis became the manager. It was, unfortunately, burned in 1876.
A steam saw-mill and grist-mill were built by a Mr. Noble, where the Sacket boat-house now stands. It finally became the property of Mr. Peugnet, and later on was burned. The “Old Stone Mill,” recently purchased by the United States government for a fish hatchery, was built by George Bartlett and Antoine du Villard, some time in the fifties. It was the best equipped mill that had been built up to that time; but unfortunately it did not succeed—probably for want of capital to carry it on. Lastly, a steam grist-mill was erected on the site of the old shipyard, by the late Alfred Burnham. That, too, was burned some years since, but was rebuilt and fitted with modern roller machinery and is now running, with Mr. Will. Burnham as its manager.
In the days of which we are writing, there were no hotels. Places kept as houses of public entertainment were known as “inns,” or “taverns,” and of these Cape Vincent has had its share. It has already been noticed that the first tavern in the town was built by Eber Kelsey, where the Rathbun House now stands. General John Tabor built a small hostelry where the Horr House stands; indeed the present dwelling is the old Tabor tavern, enlarged by a Mr. Ferrin. Still later Mr. Joseph Cross built a tavern on the corner of James street, where the house of Mrs. Fuller now stands, which soon became, because of its locality, the principal tavern of the place. At that time a great traffic was carried on with Kingston, and as many as 20, and sometimes 30, teams might be seen at one time in the tavern year; some of them were from Little Falls, some from Utica and some from Rome. Among these there were sure to be three for four loaded with oysters. Cross’ tavern was also the stopping place for the Watertown stage, the Kingston ferry being close at hand. Later a hotel was built on the west corner of Broadway and Market streets, where the undertaking rooms and insurance office of Mr. L. C. Kelsey are. This was built by Fred Folger, although there was one on the opposite corner, where the old Crevolin building is. Still later, the St. Lawrence was built on the southeast corner of Market and Broadway, by Buell Fuller; this was burned in 1882, and in its place was erected one of the finest hotels on the St. Lawrence river, by H. J. Crevolin, now deceased. This passed into other hands, and its name was changed to the Algonquin. It, too, was burned lately, and only a heap of ruins shows where an elegant hotel once stood. On the remaining corner of the square stood Jerome’s Hotel, a large building not yet finished. It was here that the late disastrous fire originated, but how, is a mystery; at all events no blame attaches to any one, and Mr. Jerome has, at his writing, a fine brick structure well under way. At present, however, there are but two hotels in the village.
In the early days, however, there was no lack of taverns. In the “French Settlement,” just beyond the old cemetery, Betise Robeair kept a very popular tavern, which was sure to be well patronized, especially on Sundays, owing to its close proxim9ity to the church. Peter King kept a tavern and store combined, near the mills, and on the same street, Antoine Seymard had a drinking place and a small gin distillery.
The earliest settlement was made within the present limits of the town of Cape Vincent, and indeed, so far as is known, within the limits of Jefferson county, with a single exception (the old French redoubt on Six Town Point), was on Carleton Island, then known to the English as Buck, or Deer Island. The island lies in the center of the American channel of the St. Lawrence river, about three miles east of north from Cape Vincent village. Some time during the year 1774, the island became a depot of supplies for several Quebec merchants, who were engaged in the rapidly growing and very profitable trade with the Six Nations, and also with the Indian tribes of the Northwest; several stores were opened, and in connection with similar houses in Niagara, and other points on the lakes as far north as Mackinaw, a brisk trade was carried on. By 1775 the British government had located a government supply-store on the island, to which quartermaster stores were shipped from Quebec and Montreal, and thence up the lake wherever needed. In 1776, when the war broke out between the colonies and Great Britain, the island became at once a rendezvous for the Tories of the Mohawk Valley, and especially for the tenants and retainers of their leader, Sir William Johnson, and also of those Indians friendly to the King. Among these Sir John Johnson recruited a regiment, known as the Royal Greens, a detachment of which was for some time stationed on the island. In 1777, Burgoyne’s great campaign, which was to end the Rebellion, was organized. The plan, in brief, was to make a descent on Albany, by the way of Lake Champlain, with a strong force under Burgoyne’s immediate command, while Col. Barry St. Leger was to ascent the St. Lawrence river, rest and recruit at Deer Island, and then proceed by way of Oswego to the capture of Fort Stanwix (now Rome), thence down the Mohawk to a junction with Burgoyne at Albany. At the same time Sir Henry Clinton was to cooperate from New York, by sending a strong force up the Hudson.
The intelligent reader is already aware that this grand scheme miscarried, and how; hence a recital of the particulars is unnecessary, only so far as they relate to the matter in hand. Suffice it to say, that Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga, St. Leger was defeated at Fort Stanwix, Sir Henry Clinton failed to connect, and the campaign was a failure. St. Leger, however, landed on Deer Island, and encamped there for 10 days on his way to attack Fort Stanwix, but history is silent as to whether he halted there on is retreat. Sir Guy Carleton, who was Governor General of the Canadas, and commander-in-chief of the forces, was relieved at his own request, and superseded by Sir Frederick Haldimand, who deemed it advisable to take some steps toward the better protection of His Majesty’s interests in this part of the country. Kingston was too far out of the way to be of any service in checking a force which might attempt the passage of the river, and in any case additional fortifications were necessary. Acting upon this idea, General Haldimand sent Lieutenant Twiss, who was Burgoyne’s chief engineer, Lieut. Schank, of the navy, and Capt. Aubrey, of the 47th Regiment, with is own company and a detachment of the Royal Greens, and a body of artificers, to select such a place as was in their judgment the best for the purposes required, which were to build a fort, establish a ship yard, build gun-boats and vessels, and, in short, to do everything necessary for the good of His Majesty’s cause in this part of the country. After a careful examination of the different localities in this vicinity, these officers pitched upon Deer Island, and begun operations. This was in August, 1777, and at that time they changed the name of the island to Carleton, in honor of Sir Guy Carleton, and when the engineer had completed his plans, he gave them the name of Fort Haldimand. The work was not fully completed in 1783; but was discontinued by order of General Haldimand, on the cessation of hostilities, pending a treaty of peace, and was never resumed. The work occupied three-eighths of an octagon, extending from the edge of the cliff on which it was built, which faces to the southwest. The rear was protected by a strong earthwork, a ditch, and an outer parapet of stone, evidently quarried from the ditch, a glacis of the same material, and a strong abatis. In the center of each face of the ramparts, midway between the salients, was a strong bastion constructed for four guns’ two of which in each bastion could enfilade corresponding angles of the ditch, which was cut to a depth of nearly five feet in the limestone rock, with an average width of 24 feet. The scarp was vertical, and was protected by a cheveaux-de-frise of cedar logs sharpened at the outer ends, extending beyond the berme, and held in place by the earth of the parapet. The counter-scarp, was also vertical, and beyond it was a couvert way of about the same width as the ditch. The outer parapet and glacis were of stone, the parapet being about four feet in height, and the glacis from six to eight rods in width. Bomb-proof barracks and magazines were constructed, and a well was dug, reaching below the level of the water in the bay at the foot of the cliff. It is not at this time easy to determine the character of the fortification along the face of the cliff, although it is presumable that it was protected by a strong wall, probably of stone, backed with earth. At all events there was at least two heavy batteries on that side, while there were also strong water batteries on the point under the cliff. This peninsula is flanked by a bay on each side, and is connected with the main island by a comparatively narrow neck of land, which, with the peninsula itself, was devoted entirely to the use of the engineer and naval departments, and was designated as Government Point. The following extract of a letter from Gen. Haldimand, dated Quebec, April 17, 1780, to Capt. Fraser, then in command on the island, explains matters clearly:
* * * * “No part of the head or neck of land which lies under the fort, and is called Government Point, shall be deemed in any way private property, nor shall any hut, house or stable built thereon be sold; because I propose that the whole of this ground shall be appropriated for lodging the artificers belonging to the naval and engineers departments; and the commanding engineer shall have orders to lay it out during the spring so as to form commodious workshops, saw-pits, timber yards, rope walks, etc., after which provision stores are to be built. * * * * Every other part of Government Point, after these services are provided for, must be given up entirely to the officers and seamen of the naval department, and all officers, commissaries, etc., belonging to the garrison, must have their gardens and other conveniences you may think proper to allow them, on some other part of the island.
I am yours, etc.,
Much more might be written of the passive part played by Carleton Island during the war of the Revolution, but space forbids. We may say, however, that it was a most important point in many respects. It was here that the bloody raids upon Wyoming and Cherry Valley were planned and organized. It was the home of Joseph Brant, the noted Chief Thayendanegea. Here the savages assembled to receive their ammunition, don their war paint, dance their scalp-dances, and then set forth, bent upon massacre and bloodshed’ but space forbids further enlargement on this head. On the breaking out of the War of 1812, Abner Hubbard, of Hubbard’s Bay, collected a few of his neighbors and captured the fort, sending its garrison, two old and decrepit ordnance sergeants and three old women, prisoners to Sackets Harbor, and then setting the old barracks on fire. There was at that time no armament in the fort, the guns having been sent years before to York, now Toronto.
By 1820, Carleton Island, which was reserved in the sale to Macomb, had become a busy place, with a population of 150 souls, which, in another year, increased to 200, all of whom were squatters, attracted by the lumber trade, in which a large business was done. On the head of the island there was a school-house, a postoffice, a shoe shop, a blacksmith shop, three stores and a tavern. Professor Shumway was the school teacher; James Estes kept the tavern; Abijah Lewis, James Wood and a Mr. Shaw, were the storekeepers, and a Canadian, whose name is now forgotten, did the blacksmithing. So great was the business carried on at that point that it was not unusual thing to see from 10 to 15 lumber vessels anchored in the bays at the head of the island at the same time.
Five hundred acres of the head of the island was a military class-right or grant, belonging to a Revolutionary soldier, William Richardson. Matthew Watson and William Guilland purchased the right, and Guilland sold to Watson, who died, leaving it to his three children, John, Margaret and Jane; John and Jane died, leaving Margaret sole heir; she married Jacob Ten Broeck, and the sold to Charles Smyth, who purchased the remainder of the island from the State. In 1823, Mr. Fred Hassler, who for many years had charge of the United States coast survey, was appointed to survey the island, and he reported the total area to be 1,274 acres, mostly appraised at $4 per acre. Today there are several fine farms on the island. Captain Wyckoff, of the well known firm of Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict, which handles the Remington typewriter, himself a gallant soldier of the late rebellion, now owns the military grant of 500 acres earned by the soldier Richardson in the war of the Revolution. That it should have been owned by a soldier who fought in the rebellion of the colonies, and is now owned by one who fought in the rebellion of States, is eminently proper. On the head of the island (the Government Point of 1778,) Mr. Wyckoff has at this writing, well toward completion one of the finest cottages on the St. Lawrence river. Other elegant cottages and the Utica Club grounds and houses make up the present occupation of the Point.
During the war of 1812-15, residents along the St. Lawrence river, near the eastern boundary of the town, were not wholly free from British visitation. At this time the great Black River State road, which touched the St. Lawrence at Port Putnam, extended down the river to Ogdensburg; and, instead of taking a comparatively direct course, it followed more or less closely along the shore, touching the river at a point opposite Linda’s Island, and also at a point below, on which a fortified block-house was erected and a small garrison stationed. This point is one of the most picturesque spots on the river, and is now the property of Mr. Alfred D. Percy, whose father, David F. Percy, purchased and settled on the same farm more than 60 years ago. Near the Point stands a thin marble slab, bearing the inscription: “Ebenezer Sexton. Died Oct. 1, 1828, aged 51 years, 7 months and 23 days.” Deceased was a sutler for the garrison, as well as a general storekeeper. On the Point above, and opposite Linda’s Island, Samuel Britton built a dwelling house, which finally became a tavern, and a very convenient stopping place for people passing to and fro between Cape Vincent and Gananoque, between which places there was considerable trade at that time. He also planted an orchard and had begun to make extensive improvements before the breaking out of the war. His tract embraced all of that lot of land now owned by Alfred D. Percy, and up the river, including the James Linda farm. Mr. Britton had been a Revolutionary soldier, entering the service at the age of 14, with the Vermont troops, and serving throughout the war. He was at the battle of Bennington, and participated in the engagements which finally resulted in the defeat and surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777. Like thousands of others, at the close of the war he found himself homeless, paid off in Continental scrip, a thousand dollars of which would not purchase a meal of victuals nor a night’s lodging; and like thousands of others, he became somewhat embittered toward the government which he had served for seven long years. True, it had promised him a “class-right” or grant of 500 acres of land, but even that was not forthcoming, and the young soldier was left entirely to his own resources. On his first arrival in this vicinity, his home for a time was with Major John B. Esselstyn, who was ever ready to extend a helping had to new comers, until he finally made his home as already stated. He was a man who looked carefully to his own interests, and in consequence tried to maintain a strict neutrality during the War of 1812, treating both sides with the utmost impartiality. But the plan worked disastrously. As is always the case, a neutral is looked upon with suspicion by both sides, and Mr. Britton was no exception to the rule. The Americans were inclined to regard him as a Tory, although they had no positive proof of the fact, while the British, at first regarding him as a friend, finally came to doubt his loyalty to their cause, and treated him accordingly. For this belief they appear to have had some grounds. The arrival at his house of deserters from Canada was of frequent occurrence, and they were sheltered, fed and sent safely on their way. Often they reached Britton’s in the night, with feet badly frozen from traveling on the ice, and many times has Mrs. Briton acted in the capacity of a surgeon, and amputated a frozen toe with a skill that some young surgeons might envy, and finally sending her patients on their way rejoicing. Deserters from the American army were cared for in like manner. But there was to be an end to al this. One night at midnight, a British gun-boat landed, robbed Sexton’s store, burned Britton’s tavern and dwelling, cut down and burned his orchard, getting away unharmed. The little garrison, half a mile away, dare not leave their fortifications lest the enemy should take possession; and so the work of destruction went on unchecked.
Linda’s Island took its name from a daughter of Britton’s who, in a log hut on the island, nursed and cared for a sick officer who had deserted, either from Sackets Harbor or from the troops stationed at Cape Vincent, it is not positively know which. At all events, the episode, with all its consequences, gave the young lady’s name to the island, which it still retains. At first it was thought best to fortify the island, and with that end in view a block-house was begun, but wiser counsels prevailed and the work on Cedar Point was erected.
Another island possessing much historical interest, is Grenadier Island, lying at the foot of Lake Ontario, to the left of the course from the head of the St. Lawrence river to the mouth of the Welland canal. This island was visited by Charlevoix in 1621, and probably by Champlain in 1615, although this is not certain. In 1760 the great expedition under General Jeffrey Lord Amherst, which set out from Oswego with 10,000 soldiers and a large Indian contingent, for the capture of Fort Levi, a French fort below Ogdensburg, made this island its general rendezvous previous to the final start. The next important expedition, which included Grenadier Island as its rendezvous, was that ill-managed affair, the result of folly, incapacity and drunkenness on the part of its commander, General Wilkinson, late in the fall of 1813; so that Grenadier Island has an actual history, fully supported by documentary evidence, reaching back 273 years, with a fair presumption of 30 years more, which connects Jefferson county with the earliest history of America. The island is about the same in extent as Carleton Island, and is occupied by excellent farms. The first settler was John Mitchell, and at the time of the War of 1812 the island had several inhabitants. Fox Island lies near Grenadier, and consists of a single farm, which is owned by Wm. Grant, Esq., of Cape Vincent.
The conscientious historian is often required to give reasons for certain results, or, in other words, having described certain conditions, it devolves upon him to explain the causes which led to them. Thus far it has been shown that the village of Cape Vincent was not only prosperous, even in early times, when the whole country had been impoverished by a war; but was a village which bid fair to become a place of no little importance in the near future. So certain did this seem to be, and so large and increasing was the trade from the central portions of the State, that as early as 1832 the building of a railroad from Rome to Cape Vincent was agitated, and in fact, a company was formed to construct the road. Again, in 1846, another trial was made, but it also failed. Finally, in 1848, work was actually begun, and early in the spring of 1852 the last rail was laid to the St. Lawrence river, and in April the first train appeared, amid the most enthusiastic rejoicings. Would Cape Vincent have fared better without the road? Let us see. As a matter of fact, up to and some time after the opening of the Rome & Cape Vincent Railroad, the village promised to become, next to Watertown, the most important place in the county. This was the general opinion of the people, irrespective of locality. The railroad company constructed 3,000 feet of wharfage, a freight house 600 feet long and a passenger station, including a fine hotel 200 feet long by 50 feet wide. A fleet of fine propellers connected the road with the Michigan Central at Detroit; the magnificent line of steamers, Bay State, Northerner, Cataract, Niagara, Ontario and New York, touched at Cape Vincent every day, the Bay State and New York running between Lewiston and Ogdensburg, while a ferry line between here and Kingston brought us into direct communication with other steamboat lines on the Canadian side, and a large fleet of sailing vessels found ample employment in conveying freights. As a further stimulus to the trade with Kingston, a canal was but across Wolfe Island, and so lively was trade and so great the amount of business done, that there is not wonder that the general opinion of the people took the direction it did.
But a change was to come, which was to seriously affect the future interests of the growing town. The real owners of the railroad, having other interests demanding their attention, left its affairs in the control of a committee of its directors, but one of whom is now living, who, fearing that Cape Vincent might rival Watertown in growth and importance, proceeded to check its growth at once. At all events, the checking process was begun and effectually carried out. The view these gentlemen took of the situation appears now to have been narrow, and their policy short-sighted. They should have considered that Watertown, with its immense water power, could easily hold first place; and they might have seen, also, that with a prosperous port within so short a distance and so easy of access, so well situated for the reception and delivery of the raw material, however rapid its growth and great its prosperity might have been, was but an entrepot to Watertown, the manufacturing center. Cape Vincent had no manufacturing advantages, and whatever importance it gained could only have been secondary to the point where the traffic centered and the machinery was located. In a less degree, perhaps, but equally disastrous in its effects, was this policy upon the villages of Three Mile Bay, Chaumont, Dexter and Sackets Harbor, all of which were tributary to Watertown, increasing its prosperity in director proportion to their own. Cape Vincent was but a gateway to the coming city of the county. She received the raw material and sent it to Watertown to be manufactured, and receiving back the manufactured article, she shipped it to a market. Had the policy of these directors been governed by broader views and by a more comprehensive foresight, they would have seen that they were damaging the interests of Watertown as well as those of the railroad itself. Had the growth of Cape Vincent been promoted instead of checked, it is fair to presume that now we could boast of the best harbor on either lake or river; and instead of a single track between Cape Vincent and Watertown, perhaps four would have been needed, while along the banks of Black river, from Carthage to Dexter, there would have been many more factories than now. The larger Cape Vincent became and the more its traffic increased, the greater Watertown would have become; and instead of being a small city today, it would have rivaled Utica, Syracuse or Rochester, and the holdings of those men would have been worth thousands where today they are worth but hundreds. [The editor of this history gives these remarks as the views of Cape Vincent people. As to his own opinion Watertown and its jealousies, the reader is referred to page 360.]
The first newspaper published in Cape Vincent was the Cape Vincent Gazette, Paul A. Leach, editor and proprietor. In one of the issues before us, the “Breakwater” is alluded to, showing that the subject is no new thing to the people of Cape Vincent. What is still more interesting, however, is the number of arrivals at this port, on the day of the issue of the first number of the Gazette. They were: Schooner Royal Oak, Whitby, 9,116 bushels of wheat; schooner Jem Milford, 9,018 bushels of wheat, nine barrels of pork; steamer Highlander, Kingston, 52 head of cattle, 11 casks of ale; propeller Mink, and barges Kingston, 350,000 feet of lumber for F. A. Cross; schooner Anne Maud, Port Hope, 3,600 bushels of wheat; schooner Greyhound, Kingston, 1,551 pounds of flour; sloop Greyhound, Kingston, 2,429 bushels of rye. A vast difference between then and now.
The Gazette was succeeded by the Frontier Patriot, May 10, 1862, P. H. Keenan, editor and proprietor. Mr. Keenan became patriotic, and entered the army the same year, and the name of Robert Mitchell appeared as editor, though Keenan was yet proprietor. Some time in the fall, Mitchell deemed it necessary to lay in a stock of paper, and went after it, but he forgot to return.
On the whole, Editor Keenan’s paper was a well-edited, newsy sheet. Ten years later, on the 18th of April, 1872, the Cape Vincent Eagle appeared, with Ames & Hunt, editors and proprietors. Hunt shortly sold out to his partner, who continued to publish the paper until 1877, when he sold out to Charles B. Wood. Mr. Ames published a good village paper, under many difficulties, and it is gratifying to know that he has since become a prosperous newspaper editor. Mr. Ames had always conducted the Eagle along a neutral line, politically, but the new editor, Mr. Wood, chose to make it a strong partisan sheet, and changed its title to the Democratic Eagle, but in a few years he again changed to the name Cape Vincent Eagle, which the paper still retains. Mr. Wood has been once burned out, but the Eagle, like the Phoenix, whatever that may have been, arose from its ashes, better than ever before. It is in excellent quarters, has a fine power-press and steam, and a good, all-around outfit. In short, it is in better shape by far than the average country office ever gets to be. Mr. Wood edits a very readable local page, and having too much sense to attempt to run a nine-column paper in a six-column town, has been fairly successful financially.
The first Masonic lodge, of which there is any record, ever opened within the present limits of Cape Vincent, or indeed of Jefferson county, was held on Carleton Island as early as January, 1783; at which date, on the evening of the 7th or 8th of that month, no less than five candidates were initiated; so that it is highly probable that the lodge was instituted the previous year.
The first lodge established in the village of Cape Vincent, was chartered March 8, 1822, as Cape Vincent Lodge No. 344. The officers were installed on the 10th of July, by Isaac Lee. The following were the charter members: John B. and R. M. Esselstyn, Elnathan Judd, Zebulon Converse, Elisha Johnson, Henry Ainsworth, James Buckley, Andrew Estes, William Palmer, John Nash, Count Pierre Francois Real, Joseph Cross, S. P. Sheldon, Samuel Doxsee, William Merritt and D. Slocum. The officers were: John B. Esseltyn, W. M.: Elnathan Judd, S. W.; Zebulon Converse, J. W.; Henry Ainsworth. Treasurer; Richard M. Esselstyn, Secretary; Philip D. Eage, S. D.; James Buckley, J.D.; Joseph Cross and William Palmer, Stewards, and Elihu Johnson, Tyler.
The records of the lodge end abruptly with the last entry in the minutes of a meeting held May 26, 1831; and whether the charter was surrendered, or in what way the organization was broken up, can only be solved by referring to the records of the Grand Lodge. A reference to the Masonic history of the county at this time, shows that nearly every lodge had surrendered its charter; the cause being the prevailing Anti-Masonic excitement, which, in 1831, was at its height. To show to what extent anti-Masonry had become a political factor in Jefferson county, it is only necessary to state that in 1830 there were 13 Masonic, and only five anti-Masonic supervisors elected, and that in 1831 the board was equally divided; so that it is fair to presume that Cape Vincent Lodge No. 344 went down in the great anti-Masonic onslaught of that time. The present lodge of Cape Vincent is the fortunate possessor of the jewels and records, so far as they went, of the old lodge.
The officers present at the last recorded meeting of the lodge were: Calvin Wright, W.M.; William Estes, S.W.; James Cummings, J.W.; Ward E. Ingalls, Treasurer; Samuel Forsyth, Secretary; Simon Howard, S.D.; J.W. Forsyth, J.D.: and Ira Hadley, Tyler.
From lack of space many interesting matters concerning the old lodge are omitted.
Cape Vincent Lodge F. & A. M., was chartered June 11, 1853. Its charter members were; Zebulon Converse, Otis P. Starkey, Jacob Berringer, Roswell T. Lee, Charles Smith, Robert C. Bartlett, Ward E. Ingalls, Ira Hadley, Sidney W. Ainsworth, Willard Ainsworth, Walter Collins, Frederick Orton and James Forsyth. The first officers elected, and which were installed by Hon. Lysander H. Brown, of Watertown, July 28, 1853, were: Zebulon Converse, W.M.; Otis P. Starkey, S.W.; Jacob Berringer, J.W.; Ward E. Ingalls, Treasurer; Robert C. Bartlett, Secretary; Roswell T. Lee, S.D.; Charles Smith, J.D.; Sidney W. Ainsworth and D. B. Kellogg, Stewards, and Ira Hadley, Tyler.
The present officers (1895), are as follows: Lloyd Woodruff, W.M.: Charles B. Wood, S.W.; Wayne B. Brewster, J.W.; Erastus K. Burnham, Treasurer; Will A. Casler, Secretary; Roy Allen, S.D.; Joseph C. Gregor, J.D.: Charles A. Jerome, S.M.C.; Fred Johnson, J.M.C.; Laban Barrett, Tyler.
Rising Virtue Chapter No. 96, R.A.M., was chartered February 3, 1825, and the officers were installed February 15, by M.E.H.P. Isaac Lee. The officers installed were: Stockwell Osgood, H.P.; H.H. Smith, K.; R.T. Lee, Scribe; Rev. Jedediah Burchard, Captain of the Host; Zebulon Converse, Principal S.; D.W. Slocum, R.A.C.; P.P. Gaige, M. 3d V.; James Buckley, M. 2d V.; Elnathan Judd, J. 1st V.; Daniel Smith, Treasurer; and E. Johnson, Tyler. This Chapter continued to work until 1830, when its charter was surrendered. The same casue that broke up the first Blue Lodge, no doubt operated in this case, as it did with most of the Chapters throughout the county. In 1851, however, on the 3d of July, the charter was returned and renewed, and the following Companions were installed: R. T. Lee, H. P.; Frank Rell, K.; Z. Converse, S.; J. Berringer, Captain of the Host; O. P. Starkey, P. S.; James Homan, R. A. C.; P. P. Gaige, M. 3d V.; James Buckley, M. 2d V.; Truman Blodgett, M. 1st V.; P. P. Gaige, Treasurer; James Cross, Tyler. L. Gaige was elected Secretary in December of the same year.
The Chapter has now an active membership of 35, and is in a good condition. The principal officers are: Companions L. R. Dezengremel, H. P; J. B. Grapotte, K.; and William Carnes, S.
For much of the foregoing Masonic information, and for extracts from old-time records, the author is indebted to Companion L. O. Woodruff, who has been of material aid in getting at some very interesting and historical information.