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The Town of Alexandria
This town was erected from Brownville and Le Ray, April 3, 1821, by the same act that formed Philadelphia and Orleans, the first town meeting being at the house of Wm. Merrill. By the first act its limits included Theresa. An act of Feb. 6, 1840, restored to the town of Orleans a small part that had been annexed to the latter.
The town derives its name from Alexander, a son of J. D. , who obtained a Colonelís commission in the Texan revolution, and feel in a duel in 1836. It is the most northern town in the county, and lies opposite the Thousand Islands, which here present the LeRaymost delightful scenery.
Supervisors. -- 1829, John D. Davidson; 1833-5, Jason Clark; 1836, J. D. Davidson; 1837, J. Clark; 1838, John W. Fuller; 1839-40, Michael Lewis; 1841, Alexander Salisbury, at a special meeting in May, J. Clark;1842, J. Clark; 1843-9, Harvey D. Parker; 1850, Gen. W. Clark; 1851, Moses C. Jewett; 1852, H. D. Parker; 1853, Andrew Cornwell. A loss of the early records has prevented the above list from being perfect.
The first improvement in this town was made about 1811, by Le Ray, who caused a clearing to be made at Alexandria Centre, and this plan was adopted to some extent in Theresa, to afford facilities to first settlers, by supplying them with grain, until it could be raised by themselves. He paid $12 per acre, with the ashes, and half the first crop, for these jobs, and built a log barn. In 1811, the proprietors made the Morris and Hammond road, extending from Hammond village to the Red Tavern, near Theresa, where it intersected another road, from the river to Philadelphia. The former was cleared four rods wide, bridged and seeded with grass, but had become nearly closed up, when it was reopened as a part of the Military Road, in 1820-3.
Cranberry Creek, about three miles from its mouth, was, during the war, the scene of an engagement that will be detailed in its place. Sales of land commenced in this town and Theresa in 1816, under Mr. Le Ray, the proprietor. The first contracts were made payable in seven years, and required the settlers, within one year, to build a house, equal to a log house 18 feet square, and to clear one twenty-fifth part of the land contracted, in a farmer-like manner. Prices begun at $3, and after 1820, mineral reservations were inserted in contracts and deeds. James Carnagie, Samuel Youngs, Wm. Martin, Moses George, Leicester Hoadley, ____Root, John W. Fuller, Jerre Carrier, and others, were early settlers. The town continued to improve rapidly until 1828, when a sickly season checked its growth, and gave it a reputation from which it was slow in recovering. Several incidents are related of this town, at the period of its first settlement, among which was the following encounter with a panther, in 1819, as related by Jairus Rich, the hunter. It occurred near Hyde Lake, about three miles from the village of Plessis. He had set his traps for wolves, and had arrived within a few rods of one of them, when he observed a panther spring up and run with a trap to one of his hind legs. He fired, but missed the mark, and his game made off into the thicket, when he returned to a house nearly a mile distant, procured a small dog, and having again repaired to the place, and stationed himself where he could start the entrapped animal, he observed the hear of a panther emerge from the bushes about five rods distant, upon which he fired and killed him instantly. He soon found that this was not the one in the trap, and a heavy shower of rain coming on, he found it difficult to lead his rifle again, which he at length did. The dog, meanwhile, had engaged the other panther, upon which he fired and wounded him, and finding he could not reload, on account of the rain, he threw down his piece, and seizing his hatchet, sprung upon him, when there ensued a fearful struggle, in which, finally, the beast got under, with one of the manís hands in his mouth; the hatchet was lost, but with the other hand he drew from his pocket a knife, opened it with his teeth, and finally succeeded in cutting the throat of the ferocious animal. The hunter was badly torn, but made out to crawl to the nearest house, where, after many weeks, he recovered, but carried the scars of the conflict with him to the grave. We have condensed this account from the one published soon after the occurrence, in the Independent Republican. The bounties for the destruction of wild animals were then so great, that the inducements for gain led to ingenious measures for securing the rewards, and it is related of the same person, that having trailed a she wolf to her den, and killed her, he found in her cave ten young whelps, but too small to be entitled to the bounty. He accordingly built a pen in the forest, and fed them daily upon wild meats which he obtained in hunting, until they were grown. He became strongly attached to one of them, who would follow him like a dog, but the temptation of $50 was too strong to resist, and he slew his favorite pet, to gain the premium.
This breeding wolves for the market, had its parallel in an instance in this town, in which a hunter, to gain the reward that might be offered for the secret, professed to know of a salt spring, to which he was induced to conduct a certain person, and in which he had a little previous buried a bag of salt. The water being duly ďanalyzed,Ē by measuring, evaporating, and weighing, a purchase of nearly 800 acres was made, without a knowledge of the spring by the landholder, nor was the trick discovered before the bargin (sic) had been sealed and sale perfected.
Alexandria Bay was selected by Caldwallader Child, in 1804, while surveying a road from the Friends Settlement to the St. Lawrence, as an eligible site for a port, and accordingly a reservation of a mile square was made by Mr. Le Ray, for a village, which was surveyed out for that purpose by Edmund Tucker, about 1818. Mr. Le Ray erected a tavern and ware house, and for many years a thriving lumber trade was carried on, which continued as long as the supply lasted. This consisted of oak staves, and square oak and pine timber. A considerable amount of valuable timber had been stolen from this town, in common with the whole front of the state on the St. Lawrence, before there was any one to assert the title of the proprietors. The lower wharf at this place was built by Fuller and Walton, in 1823, and the upper one by Walton and Hamblin in 1840. The port has always been a landing place for the American steamers, and is an important wooding station. A custom house was established at this port in 1828, subordinate to the Cape Vincent district, while John B. Esselstyn was in charge of that office. The deputies here, have been Hiram Davis, Azariah Walton, John W. Fuller, A. Walton, Edwin Tanner, and Martin J. Hutchins, the present incumbent. Mr. Walton has held the office 18Ĺ years, Fuller 1ľ< FONT FACE="Times New Roman" SIZE=2> years, and Tanner 4 years. For many years the receipts of the office did not pay the expense of collecting. Sunken Rock Light House, in front of this port, was built in 1847. The village of Alexandria Bay contained by the census of Mr. Rottiers in 1850, 27 dwellings, 30 families, and 164 inhabitants. This vicinity has within ten years, become a fashionable resort for fishing parties, and the romantic scenery of the islands present attractions for those who take pleasure in observing the quiet and beautiful in nature, which has scarcely a parallel. Nor is the geology and natural history of this section without its romance, and the observer can scarcely advance a step, without having his attention arrested by some interesting feature, which affords subject for thought and admiration. The larges island before this town is Wells Island, which contains 8,068 acres, and in 1850 had 334 inhabitants, of which 101 were in this town. The rock formation is, like most of the Thousand Isles, primitive, and it presents a fertile soil, and its vicinity several attractive mineral localities. Until the running of the national boundary, the British exercised jurisdiction over most of the islands, including this. A locality of highly chrystalized magnetic iron ore, occurs 4 miles above the Bay, and 1ľ from the river, which has been purchased and opened to some extent by parties in Morristown. Sufficient labor has not been expended to determine its extent or value.
Plessis, a small village, midway on the Alexandria and Theresa plank road, and 3 miles from Redwood, derived its name from a place in France. It is often known as Flat Rock, from the prevalence of the Potsdam sandstone formation in the vicinity, which presents a considerable surface of naked rock. In 1817, Mr. Le Ray erected a grist mill on Plessis Creek, at this place, which, having been purchased by W. Shurtliff, and Jason Clark, was in 1830 rebuilt. A store had been opened by Lull and Walton in 1820, but the place increased very slowly, and ten years after contained but four families. It now contains an inn, 3 stores, 1 grist mill, 3 saw mills, 2 wagon shops, 2 blacksmiths shops, 1 cabinet shop and 130 inhabitants. John Powell was tried for the murder of Wm. Merrill at this place, in 1826, and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
Redwood, a small village near the line of Theresa, owes its origin to a glass factory, established by John S. Foster who for several years had been engaged in this business as agent, at Boston, Burlington, Vt. and Redford, Clinton County. In April 1833, he visited the county, examined several localities, and finally selected this, which is on the stream connecting Mud and Butterfield lakes, the former of which is about 94 feet above the latter, affording a limited amount of water power, that had several years previous been improved by the erection of a saw and grist mill by David Smith of Adams. Foster contracted with Francis Depau, for a tract of about 10,000 acres, as agent; borrowed several thousand dollars of Depau, and the same summer erected the present glass factory, and on the 30th of Sept. 1833, the first glass was made. A village was surveyed by Thomas Clark, and named Jamesville, but Mr. Foster gave the place the present name, from its similarity to Redford, his late residence, in hopes of this being able to compete in the sale of glass with an establishment from which he claimed to have been unjustly discharged. His death, which occurred Jan. 2, 1834, put a stop to operations, and the tract and improvements according to the contract, reverted to Depau. The factory was afterwards run by Schmauss & Co., Gerlach & Son, Ingleson, Forbes & Co., H. W. White, and from 1844 by Zeng & Co., from the Clyde glass factory. This firm at first consisted of Lawrence W. De Zeng, A. Burlingame, and Theodore Hinman. The latter was succeeded by A. Salisbury, and this firm continued operations till July 1, 1853, when a joint stock company of $12,000 capital, went into operation, entitled the Redwood Glass Manufacturing Company.
The company employs about 30 men, and makes $40,000 worth of glass, annually. The glass is sorted into qualities as follows, commencing with the best; viz. Patent 1st; Patent; Lake; Cylinder; Boston.
The material for these various qualities is the same, and an effort is always made to obtain the first quality, but there are so many contingencies unavoidable in the manufacture, that a considerable portion from each blowing belongs to the poorer qualities. The sand used in making glass is procured by calcining and crushing the Potsdam sandstone of the vicinity, which is found to afford a material well adapted to the business. The wholesale prices of glass vary from $2 to 4$ per 50 feet for the small sizes. The three better qualities alone are cut to large sizes, the prices of which become more than double, as the dimensions reach 26 by 36 inches and upwards. The labor of blowing into cylinders, flattening and cutting, is paid by the 100 feet, and wages vary with the skill and luck of the laborers, some of whom receive high wages. Redwood has, besides a Catholic and Episcopal church, two inns, three stores, one gristmill, two saw-mills, two wagon shops, and several other shops with water power. In 1850 it had 58 families, and 332 inhabitants. It is on the Military Road, 13 miles from Hammond, and distant 7 miles from Alexandria Centre, 3 from Plessis, and 6 from Theresa. Alexandria, Alexandria Centre, Plessis and Redwood are post offices in this town. The Alexandrian Library was formed June 2, 1823, having for its first trustees Jerre Carrier, Willard Merrick, William Merrill, Hiram Mills, Jonathan B. Thompson, Joseph Ingham, Jr., Samuel J. Bingham, Nathaniel Goodell, Jacob Elwood. It has been discontinued.
This town set a commendable example by the holding of a town fair and cattle show, for the encouragement of agriculture, in 1838 and 1839, the first of which was held at Plessis, and the second at Theresa Falls, then in Alexandria. The notice of the first of these was issued in March, several months in advance, and promised the distribution, as premiums, of not les than $130, the most of which was given by the land proprietors in originating the first fair, while the second was a popular movement. They were held but two years.
Religious Societies. -- The First Presbyterian Church of Alexandria was formed at Plessis, August 11, 1821, by Rev. Nathaniel Dutton, and consisted of seven members. The clergy since employed, have been the Rev. Messrs. Wm. B. Stowe, John Sessions, Wm. Chittenden, Lewis M. Shepard, L. Wilcox, Henry Smith, and C. W. Treadwell., It has belonged to the Watertown Presbytery since February, 1823. A union church was built in Plessis, in 1833, at a cost of $2,100, of which Francis Depau gave $1,000, the Antwerp Company $100, and citizens the balance. It is open to all denominations one quarter o the time, to Presbyterians one-half, to the Free Will Baptists one-eighth, and to the Universalists one-eight of the time.
A Congregational Society was organized at the Bay, in 1823, with J. Carrier, N. Goodale, A. Goddard, Wm. Merrill, and Jas. Carnigie, trustees. A Methodist Society was formed Dec. 22, 1825, the first trustees being Samuel J. Brooks, Alexander Morgan, and Benjamin Barns. This denomination has a chapel at Alexandria Centre, which was erected about 1839.
St. Peterís Church (Episcopal, was formed at Redwood, Aug. 12, 1850, with Daniel Slack and Matthias Harrison, wardens; Richard Grey, L. W. DeZeng, Chas. Clark, James Wright, and Josiah Bucklee, vestrymen. Rev. Wm. Allen Fisk was at that time missionary. The present one is the Rev. B. W. Whitcher. A small Gothic church was erected in 1851, after the designs of R. Upjohn of New York. The church now reports 98 individuals. The Baptists have two organizations in town, the first of which began to report to the B. R. Associations in town in 1830, and the second in 1833. Their last report gave 21 and 34, respectively, and neither have a house of worship. The Free Will Baptists have an organization in town, but their numbers are much reduced.
St. Francisí Church (Catholic), was erected about five years since, at Redwood, and is supplied by priests from Watertown and Carthage.
A Reformed Protestant Dutch Church was organized at Alexandria Bay, under the following circumstances. In the summer of 1846, the Rev. George W. Bethune, D. D., of Brooklyn, having occasion to spend a few days at the place, and learning that among a scattered populations of 2000, on the island and main land, there was no place of worship, and few religious opportunities, except one service a month by a Methodist circuit preacher, formed the plan of organizing a church here. He called the inhabitants together, and preached to them on the sabbath, and at the close of the service he suggested to them the establishment of a sabbath school, promising them a supply of books for the purpose. The suggestion was complied with, a school opened, 40 to 50 scholars gathered into it, and it was kept up about a year. In 1847, Rev. Jerome Davenport was induced by Dr. Bethune to visit the place as a missionary, being partially supported by a few friends of the mission, until, in 1850, the care was assumed by the Board of Domestic Missions, of that order. In the fall of 1847, Mr. D. raised $1275 in New York, Brooklyn, and adjacent places, and $275 from residents at the Bay. He remained three years, a considerable time abroad, soliciting aid, and in the fall of 1848 the erection of a church was begun, and May 25, 1852, it was opened for worship. It is of stone, 35 by 55 feet, and has a truncated tower 60 feet high. It will seat from 350 to 400 persons, and cost $2,821-88, besides $170 for a bell, of which all but $286-91 was raised abroad. Since August 1850, the Rev. Anson Du Bois has had the pastoral care of the church. On the 1st of August, 1851, the church was regularly formed, the Rev. Charles Wiley, D. D. being present as a committee representing the Classis of Cayuga. It consisted of 13 members, of whom 5 were males; present number 20. Alva Ford and James Wadsworth were appointed elders and deacons, and the organization was named The Church of the Thousand Isles. The sites for a church and parsonage were given by the heirs of Depau, and a parsonage was built in 1852, at a cost of $800.