Town of Brasher
From Child's Gazeteer of St. Lawrence County
Brasher(1)was formed from Massena, April 21, 1825(2), and a part of Lawrence was taken off just three years later. It lies in the north-east corner of the county, south of Massena, and contains 55,294 acres. The surface is generally level, being gently rolling in the west. The streams are St. Regis and Deer rivers and Squeak and Trout brooks. The St. Regis, the principal one, enters the town in the south-west corner and flows in a north-east direction through the town, a little west of the center. Deer River discharges its waters into the St. Regis from the east, at Helena, and Squeak Brook from the west, a little above that village. Trout Brook is a tributary of Deer River, with which it unites near the south line of the town. The soil in the north is a productive clay loam; in the east it is light and sandy and in the west, stony, with a mixture of sand. Bog iron ore is found in the east, where the sand is underlaid by deposits of clay.
The population of the town in 1870 was 3,342 of whom 2,511 where native, and 831, foreign, and all were white.
During the year ending Sept 30, 1872, the town contained nineteen school districts and employed nineteen teachers. The number of children of school age was 1,354; the number attending school was 1,019; the average attendance, 432; the amount expended for school purposes, $3,836.45; and the value of the school houses and sites, $5,525.
Brasher Falls(3) (p.v.) located upon the St. Regis, one mile below the station on the O.&L.C.R.R., in the south-west corner of the town, contains three churches, (M.E., Presb., and R.C.) eight stores, a hotel, a manufactory of carpet sweepers, grist mill, saw mill, cabinet shop, foundry and machine shop, pump factory(4), starch factory, two blacksmith shops, four shoe shops, a chair factory, several carriage shops, a shingle mill, tub factory(5), woolen mill(6), and had, in 1870, 450 inhabitants. The St. Regis affords an excellent water privilege, which is only partially utilized.
Brasher Iron Works(7) (p.v.) located on Deer River, two and one-half miles above its mouth, is eight miles north-east of Stockholm depot, and contains a church, store, hotel, school house, a manufactory of thrashing machines and other farming implements, such as plows, harrows, light and heavy wagons and scrapers, and horse and dog plowers, a blacksmith shop and saw and shingle mill. The population of the village in 1870 was 250.
Helena(8) (p.o.) is situated at the confluence of St. Regis and Deer rivers, and contains one churche, store, hotel, grist mill, saw mill, shingle mill, two blacksmith shops, a shoe shop and wheelwright shop, and had, in 1870, 150 inhabitants. St. Regis River is here spanned by an iron bridge, which is 284 feet long, and was built in 1871, at a cost of about $10,400; and Deer River, by a wooden bridge, 145 feet long, which was built in 1866, at a cost of about $5,500.
Brasher Center, located on the west bank of the St. Regis, about five miles below Brasher Falls, contains a school house, store, blacksmith shop, two shingle mills, two saw mills, eight houses and sixty inhabitants.
Brasher Center Lodge, No. 640, I.O of G.T. was organized June 12, 1868, with twenty six members, by J.A. Vance of Potsdam(9). There are now eighty members.
The first settlement in the town was made near Helena, March 17, 1817, by several families under Russell Attwater, of Norfolk, who was agent for Joseph Pitcairn, although a saw mill was erected on Deer River in 1815 by G.B.R. Gove. Attwater erected a saw mill in 1817, which afterwards contained a grist mill with a single run of stones. He was succeeded in the agency by Benj. Nevin, in May, 1819 at which time the inhabitants of the town consisted of the families of Wm Johnson, AMos Eldridge, Jeremiah Schoff, Enoch Hall, and ___ Brown, and a young man named Francis Nevin. Jeremiah Schoff came from Essex county, Vt., in 1817 and settled on the site of the Cottage Hotel in Helena. His son, Joseph P. Schoff, who is now living in the north-east part of the town, and was born Nov 14, 1818, was the first white male child born in the town. It was the intention of Mr. Pitcairn to make Helena his home, and he had erected west of the village a large stone dwelling with that view, but domestic afflictions prevented the consummation of this plan.
The bog iron ore in the east part of the town, of whose existence Mr. Pitcairn was aware, induced settlement in the vicinity of Brasher Iron Works. In September, 1825, Stillman Fuller, having previously examined the ores in this locality, at the insistence of the proprietor, and determined their reduction practicable, was induced to erect a furnace, which was 31 feet square, and of the same height, with an inside diameter of seven feet, and was got in operation sand the first casting of iron made October 29, 1826. By a contract of ten years' duration, Mr. Fuller was granted the exclusive right to dig the ore in Pitcairn's tract, upon payment of twenty-five cents per ton. Until 1843, much of the iron made here was exported, but about that time a machine shop was erected, and it was manufactured into various articles upon the premises. The property has undergone various changes in ownership, and has several times been wholly or partially burned, once by an explosion, to which furnaces in which bog ore is reduced are liable(10). Running fires devastated the surrounding country in 1849, and in 1857 nearly the whole village was destroyed by the same terrible agency.
The settlement at Brasher Falls was commenced by John Crapser, Sept. 2, 1826. He built a dam and saw mill at the falls, and was prepared to saw boards in December of the same year. Two or three houses were erected the following spring. But little further improvement was made here until 1839, in the fall of which year, Calvin T. Hulburd, of Stockholm, purchased 600 acres of land, lying on both sides of the river and including the site of the village. In 1841 he built a grist mill and dwelling, and a woolen factory was soon after erected. The improvements instituted by Hulburd inaugurated an era of growth and prosperity. Other improvements rapidly followed and to-day this is by far the largest village in the town. Its splendid water-power and accessibility invite capital and mechanical enterprise, and suggest much greater prosperity.
Among the early settlers were Jehiel Stevens, Downer Wait and Joseph Merrill. Wait, who is now living at Massena, moved from Isle La Motte, Vt, March 28, 1835, and settled on the place now occupied by his son, Horace Wait. He erected a log house near the site of the present one. This part of the town was then a dense wilderness. Joseph Merrill built the first house in Brasher Falls in 1827, and John Stevens built and kept the first hotel at the same place, in the building he now occupies. The first marriage in the town, says Joseph Schoff, was contracted by Henry Evans and Sophia Hilyard.
Jehiel Stevens relates that while engaged in surveying in the north-west part of the town in October, 1829, he was set upon by a pack of wolves which were attracted, doubtless, by the pork in the pack of provisions he was carrying upon his back to a temporary shanty. Though much frightened he escaped uninjured. These animals were a fruitful source of annoyance to the early settlers and large rewards were offered for their destruction. Mr. Stevens relates also that, at a later period, as some men were examining their traps, they discovered what appeared to be a wolf's den. Their attention was attracted by what they supposed to be the noise of whelps inside. Having closed the aperture and procured a spade they dug a perpendicular hole, and when a point which it was supposed would disclose the occupants of the den was reached, one of the party on stooping to get a handful of earth discovered the glaring eyes of the old wolf, which he shot and skinned. One of the party, divested himself of his shirt, and having tied up one end of it, put in the whelps, which he carried to Mr. Stevens, our informant, who was then justice of the peace and received $75, the reward then paid for the destruction of these animals.
The Methodists initiated religious exercises and Rev. Squire Chase preached the first sermon in the town. The first Church society was also organized by this denomination.
The First M. E. Church, at Brasher Falls, was organized at the house now occupied by Orrin Partridge, with 25 members, Jan 20, 1827, by Rev Elijah Wheeler. The Church edifice was erected in 1851, at a cost of $1,200, and will seat 250 persons. The Church is out of debt, maintains free sittings and is in a fair state of prosperity. Its property is valued at $3,800. The present number of members is 125, and 35 are on probation. The first pastor was Rev. Thomas Bevitt; the present one is Rev. Wm C. Goodwin, our informant.
The First Presbyterian Church, at Brasher Falls, was organized with 24 members, July 18, 1844, by the St. Lawrence Presbytery and Conservation. The church edifice, which will seat 300 persons, was erected in 1847 at a cost of $8,500, and was remodeled in 1871. The first pastor was Rev. Samuel S. How; the present one is Rev. J. Leonard Waugh. There are 55 members. The church property is valued at $10,000(11).
The North Brasher M. E. Church, was organized Nov 15, 1849, by the Rev. Ebenezer Arnold, its first pastor, and Downer Wait, G. Carter, Benj. Bell, Luther Carter and Thos. Andre, and the church edifice, which will seat 100 persons, and is located west of Brasher Center, was erected the same year, at a cost of $500. At its organization there were four members; now there are fifteen. Rev. A. Brumly is the pastor. The church property is valued at $1,200(12).
St. Patrick's Church (R.C.), at Brasher Falls, was organized with about sixty families, by Rev. James Keveny, about 1850, in which year the church edifice, which will seat 700 persons, was erected at a cost of $3,000. Rev. John McDermott was the first pastor; Rev. J.R. Scanlon is the present one. The society numbers about 1,100. The church property is valued at $8,000(13).
The First M. E. Church of Brasher Iron Works was organized with six members, Mar 7, 1859, by I.W. and J.F. Sinner, R. W. Thickins, Wm. H. Hamilton and M.B. Deene. The church edifice was erected in 1859 at a cost of $1,600. It will seat 175 persons. The first pastor was Rev. Ebenezer Briggs; the present one is Rev. Alonzo Wells. The present numbers of members is fifteen. The Church property is valued at $2000(14).
(1) Named for Philip Brasher, who, by purchase and marriage, became part owner. The town embraces Townships Nos. 17 and 18, or Grange and Crumack, of Great Lot No. II of Macomb's purchase.
(2) The first town meeting was held at the house of Benj. Nevin, June 6, 1825, and Benj. Nevin was elected supervisor; David McMurphy, Town Clerk; Wm Stowell, Jehiel Stevens and Benj. Watts, Assessors; John Burroughs, David Richardson and Peter Corbin, Commissioners of Highways; Benj. Watts, Constable and collector; Francis Nevin and David Richardson, Overseers of the Poor; Luman Kibble, Jehiel Stevens and Francis Nevin, Commisioners of Common Schools; and David McMurphy, Benj. Nevin and Wm Stowell, Inspectors of Common Schools.
(3) The Indian name for this place was Tiohionhoken, meaning "Where the river divides", referring to the east and west branches of the St. Regis.
(4) From 4,000 to 5,000 pumps are manufactured annually
(5) From 30 to 50 butter tubs are made per day
(6) About 25,000 yards of cloth can be made here per annum
(7) The Indian name was Tsitkarestonni, meaning "where they make iron".
(8) Known by the Indians as Oiekarontne, the same as Deer River. It received its present name from Helen, daughter of Joseph Pitcairn, of New York, who formerly owned a large tract of land in the town.
(9) The first officers were Ira Bell, W.C.T.; Maria Dawson, W.V.T.; N.W. Stearns, P.W.C.T.; T. Kinney, W.S.; Miss S. Wright, W.A.S.; T. Jennings, W.F.S.; and Jerusha Wright, W.T.
(10) This explosino occurred in September, 1843, and so burned one of the fireman that he died within a few hours in the greatest agony.
(11) Information furnished by H. F. Taylor
(12) Information furnished by D. Wait
(13) Information furnished by James R. Scanlon
(14) Information furnished by J. R. Skinner