Town of DePeyster
From Child's Gazeteer of St. Lawrence County
Depeyster(1) was formed from DeKalb and Oswegatchie, March 24, 1825(2). It is an interior town, lying in the west part and contains 27,432 acres, being the smallest in the county. The surface in the north is level, and in the south it is broken by parallel ridges. The principal streams are Oswegatchie River, which, with Black Lake, forms the north boundary, and Beaver Creek, which forms the south boundary of the town. Nearly three sides of the town are bounded by water. Mud Lake, in the south-west part, covers an area of about 600 acres. The "Old State Road", the first traveled route through this part of the county, extends through this town.
The population of the town in 1870 was 1,138, of whom 889 were native, 249 foreign and all white.
During the year ending Sept 30, 1872, the town contained nine school districts and employed the same number of teachers. The number of children of school age was 378; the number attending school was 313; the average attendance 159; the amount expended for school purposes, $1959.63; and the value of the school houses and sites, $2,763.
DePeyster (p.v.) is located on "Old State Road", a little south-east of the center, and contains two churches, (Cong. And M.E.) one hotel, two stores, two wagon shops, two blacksmith shops, a cooper shop and about 100 inhabitants.
DePeyster Lodge No 573 F. & A. M. was instituted July 4, 1865, and has 68 members(3).
Edenton (p.o.) is a hamlet near the center of the west border.
Kings Corners is a hamlet near the center of the town.
The settlement of the town was commenced in November, 1802 by Samuel Bristol, a native of Sandgate, Vt., who had previously resided a short time on the St. Lawrence, four miles above Ogdensburg. He came with his family (which was a large one) at the instance of Judge Ford, who desired to establish a stopping place for the accommodation of travelers from the central and southern parts of the State, who were then coming in in considerable numbers. He erected a house for a tavern, and cleared thirty acres of land, three of which he sowed with wheat, the first summer. This family remained the only occupants of the town until the winter of 1803-4 when Thomas Wilson, from Hebron, N.Y., Joseph Rounds, Samuel Barnard, Robt. Hill, Ichabod Arnold and ____ Green, from R.I., Frederick R. Plympton, from Sturbridge, Mass, and David Day, all of whom, it is believed, except the later, had families, moved in. The following winter a school was opened and was taught by Bela Willis, who was also the first local preacher in the town. This school was kept in the house of Samuel Bristol. Philo Hurlbut and Joshua Sweet came in 1805. A tavern was opened by Silas Kellog, west of DePeyster in 1806. Rufus Washburn, who was one of the first settlers, removed this year to Macomb. Smith Stilwell, a native of Saratoga County, removed here from Albany and purchased lands in 1809, but did not remove his family till the next year. Other early settlers were Mansfield and Levi S. Bristol, Lemuel Day, Josiah Thornton, John Parker and C. Hurlbut. The latter came in 1812. Some of the difficulties which taxed the energies of the early settlers are detailed in the following extract from Hough's History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties.
"This town suffered its full share from the cold and backward seasons which form a striking epoch, from which many of the oldest settlers are able to date events. In 1815 little was raised in consequence of the cold, and most of that little was claimed by the birds and squirrels, which in that year are said to have been extremely numerous.
"In 1816 many families were obliged to live without bread, as flour was very expensive and difficult to be bought at any price. During this year, the first barley in town (about two acres) was raised by Mr. Stilwell. While it was still growing it was watched by the neighbors with great interest, and they would stand by the fence which enclosed it, and count the number of days that would elapse before it would be suitable to cut, with an anxiety which proved how much their hopes depended upon that little field for food. It was scarcely ripe, when with the owner's permission, it was reaped, dried, threshed and ground in small quantities by his neighbors. Oats and potatoes sold for $1 per bushel, and wheat at from $2 to $3 a bushel."
Reuben Hastings, Jonathan Curtis, Wm. B. Wheelock, Moses, Amasa and Zenas King, (the latter two were from Vermont), Lewis Dimick and Nathan Deam were among the first who settled in the vicinity of Kings Corners. Eli White kept an inn there previous to 1820.
Mrs. Julia Ann Hurlbut, daughter of Joshua Sweet, and Mrs. Betsey Day and Oliver Rounds, also early settlers, are still living. Form the former we learn that in 1812, all the inhabitants in the town, some seventy in number, including men, women and children, collected at Kellog's tavern, on the Old State Road, in consequence of a report that the Canadian Indians had crossed the St. Lawrence. This was one of the many frights to which the border settlements were subjected at that period. The first store was kept by James Averell, 2d, a lad of eighteen years, near Kellog's tavern. He was established in business by his father.
Deer, wolves and other wild animals were very numerous in this town at an early day and were a constant source of annoyance and anxiety to the early settlers. Few, perhaps, of the many daring adventures with wild beasts which are recorded display more courage, or rather, perhaps, a lack of the sense of fear, then the following which we extract from the author above quoted:
"A son of one of the pioneer settlers who on sundry occasions had evinced that acuteness which led to his being called by his father, "his ingenious", was distinguished for nothing so much as for personal courage, and a disregard for consequences, in the attainment of his objects. This lad, being at the time of the incident about to be related, but seventeen years of age, was out with a dog and gun hunting, late in the fall of the year (about 1821). A light snow being on the ground, he discovered the tracks of an unknown animal, which he traced some distance, to a place where they entered a cave. Determined not to be hindered from the attainment of his object, and finding the opening of convenient size for entering, he crept in some distance, with gun in hand, keeping his dog behind, until having reached a part of the cave where it was quite dark, he discovered at no great distance from him two globes of fire like brilliancy, which gleamed in the dim obscurity full upon him. He here paused, and bringing his gun to bear upon a point directly between them, he deliberately fired. His dog upon this rushed past him to attack whatever the enemy might be, while he retreated, and was soon followed by his dog. Hearing no noise, or signs of life within, he, after a short delay, again ventured into the den, and listened for some time, but heard no noise, and at length ventured up nearer, and groping in the dark, he laid his hand upon the paw of an animal, evidently dead, which he with much difficulty dragged out, and found to be a panther, or large size, which on being measured, was found nine feet four inches in length. The ball had entered a vital part of the brain, and proved instantly fatal."
The First Congregational Church, at DePeyster Center, was organized with fourteen members, by Rev. W. Hurlbut, in 1822. The first house of worship was the one before alluded to. It was erected in 1829 by this and the Methodist Society. The present house was built in 1862, at a cost of $5,000. It will seat 500 persons. There are sixty-five members, who enjoy the ministrations of the Rev. S. Nelson, our informant. The church property is valued at $5,000.
(1) Named from Frederick DePeyster, a merchant of New York city and former proprietor, who acknowledged the compliment by contributing $300 towards the erection of a Union church in the town. In 1840 his son presented a fine bell weighing about 700 pounds. It was at first proposed to name it Stilwell, from Smith Stilwell, a prominent resident, but he declined the honor with the suggestion that a handsome present might be obtained for the town if named from one of the proprietors.
(2) The first town meeting was held at the house of Thomas Morris Tuesday, May 3, 1825. Smith Stilwell was elected Supervisor; Timothy Morris, Town Clerk; John Wilson, Moses King and Horace Plympton, Assessors; Jonathan Morris and Bela Bell, Overseers of the Poor; Levi Fay, Philo Hurlbut and Ransom Armstrong, Commissioners of Highways; Smith Stilwell, Timothy Morris and George Barber, Commissioners of Common Schools; Eli White, Constable and Collector; George W. Barber, Edward Plympton and Ransom Armstrong, Inspectors of Common Schools; and Samuel Bristol and David Day, Pound Keepers.
(3) Jacob H. Bellinger was the first Master, Wm. Perry, the first Senior Warden, and Gates Curtis, the first Junior Warden.