From Child's Gazetteer of St. Lawrence County
COLTON(1) was formed from Parishville April 12, 1843(2), and a small part of that town was annexed Nov. 18, 1851. It is a long narrow town, lying in the south-east part of the county, and extends from the center to the south border. Next to Hopkinton, it is the largest town in the county. It contains 123,229 acres. The surface is broken and hilly, and nearly covered with forest, the north part only being inhabited. It is watered by the Racket, Oswegatchie, and north, middle and south branches of Grass Rivers, and their tributaries. Racket River crosses the north part in a circuitous course; the Oswegatchie forms a bend in the south part, entering on the west border and leaving it on the same, and the three branches of the Grass River cross it about the center, in a north-west direction. In the south part are numerous lakes, the principal of which is Cranberry, through which the Oswegatchie flows. Lumbering and tanning form the chief pursuits of the inhabitants. In 1870 the population of the town was 1719, of whom 1403 were natives, 316 foreign, and all, white.
During the year ending Sept 30, 1872, the town contained eight school districts and employed ten teachers. The number of children of school age was 734; the number attending school, 532; the average attendance, 264; the amount expended for school purposes $2,184.62; and the value of the school house and sites, $3,600.
COLTON(3) (p.v.) situated on both sides of Racket River, in the north-west corner of the town, ten miles above Potsdam and thirteen east of Canton, is a thriving village of 633 inhabitants.(4) It is an important lumber station, and contains three churches, (Baptist, Catholic and M.E.) one hotel, six stores, two blacksmith and mill ironing shops, a grist mill, wood eaves-spout manufactory, a cabinet war manufactory, a large saw mill and one of the largest tanneries in the state. (5) Racket River, which here plunges down a steep declivity of about sixty feet, furnishes an excellent waterpower.
SOUTH COLTON, (p.o) is located at “Three Falls”, about four miles above Colton.
The first settlement was made March 24, 1824, by Abel Brown and his son James, who located a little south of Colton, and were soon followed by Asahel Lyman and Wm. Bullard. Horace Garfield, of Potsdam, erected a saw mill in 1825, and Samuel Garfield, of Potsdam, erected a saw mill in 1825, and Samuel Partridge, a forge in 1828. The latter was built on the east bank of the Racket River, near the head of the falls, and was kept in operation till about 1840, magnetic ores being used chiefly. A grist mill was also built the latter year by Jonathan Culver. A factory for making starch from potatoes was built in 1844, and operated a few years, about thirty-five tons being made annually. Several extensive gang saw mills were erected at Colton, in 1850-52. The first school was taught by Miss *** Young, in 1826. The first death, which occurred in 1829, was that of a child of James Brown.
The first religious meetings were held at the “Christians” at the house of Asahel Lyman. The Methodists and Universalists were the first to erect houses of worship. Both these societies were engaged in the erection of churches in 1852.(6) That built by the latter is now owned and occupied by the Catholics. There are three churches in the town, all of which are located at Colton Village.
The M.E. Church separated from Parishville Church with seventy members, July 26, 1856. The organization was effected by Revs. Peter D. Gorrie, the Presiding elder, and David Ferguson, the first pastor. The church edifice will seat 300 persons, and was erected at a cost of $2,000(?)(7). There are seventy-five members, who are ministered to by Rev. Wm. Riley Helms, our informant. The church property is valued at $3,000.
St. Patrick’s Church (Catholic) was organized with 144 members in October, 1864, in which year the house erected by the Universalists in 1852 was purchased for $1,200. It will seat 275 persons. The first pastor was Rev. P. J. McGlynn; the present one is Rev. Joseph Tanney. The number of members is the same as when organized. The church property is valued at $1,500.(8)
The First Baptist Church was organized with fifteen members by Rev. I. N. Hobart, in 1869. The church edifice will seat 300 persons and was erected in 1860 at a cost of $2,500. The church numbers forty members, but is without a pastor. Its property is valued at $3,000.
(1) Its name is derived from the middle name of Jesse Colton Higley, an early settler. It embraces Townships Nos. 1, 4, 7, and 10, or Sherwood, Harewood, Granshuck, and Matildavale, of Great Lot No. II of Macomb’s purchase.
(2) The first town meeting was held on Tuesday, Feb 20, 1844, and Paine Converse was elected Supervisor; James H. Bridge, Town Clerk; Zina E. Hepburn, Silas Hawley and Hiram Pierce, Justices of the Peace; James S. Ellis and Clark D. Norris, Assessors; Israel C. Draper, Pliney Hepburn and Henry Gibbins, Commissioners of Highways; Jesse C. Higley, Superintendent of Schools; Hiram Leonard, Constable and Collector; and Hiram Pierce, Overseer of the Poor. The whole number of votes cast was 67.
(3) Originally called Matildaville. The name was changed soon after the erection of the town, to correspond with that of the latter.
(4) Census of 1870.
(5) The St. Lawrence Tannery is owned by E. A. Spaulding of Boston and managed by Mr. A. Young, to whom we are indebted for these facts. The main building is 400 feet long and 42 wide. It contains three leaches, each 18 feet in diameter, 8 feet deep, and capable of holding 22 cords of bark, and 320 vats. Allen & Warren’s Patent Sprinkler is used. Thirty-five men are employed, 5,000 cords of hemlock bark used and 40,000 sides of heavy leather tanned annually. Five hundred cords of wood and a quantity of leached tan bark equal to 800 cords of hard wood are annually consumed to generate steam, with which the building is warmed.
(6) Hough’s History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties
(7) We are not advised when this building was erected, but it is probably the one erected by the Methodists in 1852.
(8) Information furnished by Michael Brennan.