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Town of Le Ray.

pp. 190 - 195

This town, embracing all that part of Brownville, as it previously existed, lying east of Penet’s Square, continued to Black River, was erected Feb. 17, 1806; the first town meeting being directed to be held at the house of Abiel Shurtleff. By an act of April 4, 1806, all that part of Leyden, in Jefferson County, was annexed to Le Ray, and by the erection of Antwerp, Wilna, Alexandria, and Philadelphia, it has been reduced to its present limits. The town derives its name from James D. Le Ray de Chaumont, the distinguished landholder, who made the town his home many years.

The following officers were elected at the first town meeting, in 1807. James Shurtliff, supervisor; Thomas Ward, clerk; John B. Bossout, Ruel Kimball, Richardson Avery, assessors; Daniel Child, Lyman Holbrook, Daniel Sterling, commissioners highways; Thos. Thurston, constable and collector; Joseph Child, Eldad Evans, overseers of the poor.

Supervisors. -- 1807-15, James Shurtliff; 1816, Ruel Kimball; 1817, Ethni Evans; 1818, Alvin Herrick; 1819-25, Horatio Orvis; 1826, Wm. Palmer; 1827-29, John Macomber; 1830, Stephen D. Sloan; 1831, J. Macomber; 1832, S. D. Sloan; 1833, Lybeus Hastings; 1836, Ira A. Smith; 1837, S. D. Sloan; 1838, Daniel D. Sloan; 1839-40, Joel Haworth; 1841-42, Elisha Potter; 1843, L. Hastings; 1844-5, Hez. L. Granger; 1846-7, Alfred Veber; 1848-49, Joseph Boyer; 1850, Wm. G. Comstock; 1851, Joseph Boyer; 1852-53, Alonzo M. Van Ostrand.

Wolf bounties of $5, were voted in 1809, 12, 14, 16, 18; in 1818 $5 for panthers; wolf bounties of $10 in 1810, 13, 15, 20; fox bounties for 50 cents voted in 1810, 16, 17, 18; of $1 in 1821. In 1817 voted that the overseers of the poor, and justices of the peace, build or hire, a work house for indigent people, and that the sum of $50 be levied for that purpose.

In the summer of 1802, Benjamin Brown, a brother of Gen. Brown, commenced the erection of a saw mill on Pleasant Creek, in the present village of Le Rayville (sic). The party left Brownville, April 17, to cut a road through to this point, led by Jacob Brown, who preceded with a compass to mark the line, and after a few miles returned, leaving word that he would send on a team with provisions. From the difficulties of the route, these supplies did not arrive till the second day, when the parties had reached their destination, half famished. In July Mrs. B. Brown arrived, the first woman in the settlement, and in the fall the mill was completed. At the raising, men were summoned from great distances. These occasional reunions for mutual aid, afforded in these primitive times the only opportunities which they enjoyed for exchanging the news, comparing progress, and speculating on the probabilities of the future, nor could thirty or forty men in the prime of life, and many of them accustomed to the stimulus of ardent spirits, allow those meetings to pass without a frolic. Our chronicle relates, that on this occasion “the party feasted upon a fine buck, that, when dressed, weighed 238 pounds.” This game was very common in town at that period.

The silken cord which binds two willing hearts, will sometimes chafe and irritate, as happened in this town, more than half a century since, when a lady of many advantages, having wedded a Frenchman, accustomed to the rough fare of common life, had found the hut of the backwoodsman a poor place for the enjoyment of life’s comforts; in short, got sick of the bargain, and sent for a magistrate to come and untie “the knot.” As this request required deliberation and council, the justice invited one or two of his neighbors to accompany him, and remembering the scripture, that “wine maketh the heart glad,” took with him a bottle of Port, and repaired to the dwelling, with the design of negotiating the question, and, if possible, of settling it by mutual compromise. The ills of single life were contrasted with the discomforts of marriage, in such a light as to produce conviction in preference of the latter, and the parties having consented to remarriage, were again pledged for life, and the umpires returned home with an empty bottle, and a consciousness of having merited the blessings upon peace makers. The current of wedded life thenceforth flowed quiet and uniform till old age, and the parties have but recently been separated by the hand of death.

Scattered settlements had begun in various parts of the present town of Le Ray in 1803-4, among whom were Joseph Child, and sons Daniel, Samuel, and Moses; Benj. Kirkbride, Thos. Ward and others. Wm. Cooper settled at a very early day, resided till his death, January 11, 1851. Dr. Horatio Orvis was the first practicing physician who located in town about 1808. Roswell Woodruff, settled in 1804, about six miles from Watertown, in the direction of Evans Mills, where he purchased a large farm, and resided till his death in 1830.

The first general agent from abroad, sent by Mr. L Ray, to look after his lands, was M. Pierre Joulin, the Curè of Chaumont, in France, who was one of the faithful few who would not take the constitutional oath, and was sent to America by Mr. Le Ray, to save him from the guillotine, and to have a fair prospect for providing the means for a comfortable subsistence. Joulin was loved and respected by all who knew him, and after the troubles in France, had subsided, he returned.

Moss Kent was early appointed by the agency of lands, and continued in that capacity several years, living in Mr. Le Ray’s family until the departure of that gentleman from Europe in 1810, when he remained with his son Vincent. When Joulin first met Mr. Kent, they would have been unable to communicate, had it not been that both being classical scholars, they were enabled to converse in Latin.

In 1806, Dr. Bawdry, another Frenchman, was sent by Mr. Le Ray to select the site of a house, and superintend its erection. This vicinity was probably chosen from its central position, and the locality was one of much beauty, near the edge of the pine plains, within sight of the little village of Le Raysville, and in the midst of a native growth of timber, which was carefully thinned out, and the premises adorned with every appendage that fancy could suggest. Mr. Le Ray came in with his family to reside here in 1808, and began a liberal system of settling his lands, by opening roads, building bridges and mills, and offering fair inducement to the first settlers of a new neighborhood. If he had a fault as a land holder, it was in being over indulgent in allowing payments to pass by, and too readily listening to the complaints of settlers, by which both himself and his purchasers were eventually the losers. He was uniformly liberal in aiding religious societies and schools, the most of whom, on his tract, received, gratuitously, the side for buildings, and many of them substantial aid besides.

About 1819, Mr. Le Ray sent a young and talented scholar of the Polytechnic School, by the name of Desjardines, who had invented a new mode of manufacturing powder, and caused to be erected, under his direction, a powder mill, a mile below Le Raysville, which run a few seasons, making a large quantity of coarse quality, which had the reputation of being “lazy” but strong, and well adapted for blasting. Its slowness gave remark to a saying “that on a time, man having a considerable supply, accidentally discovered it on fire, and being distant from neighbors, before it could be extinguished, it had half consumed.” The mill was afterwards changed to a starch mill, for making potato starch, and the site is now occupied by Slocum’s grist mill. The charcoal used was made of alder wood, carefully peeled, and charred in close iron vessels.

Le Raysville continued to be the seat of the land office until about 1835, when it was removed to Carthage, since which the place has lost much of its importance. It is but a small village, and is nine miles from Watertown, three from Evans Mills, and two from the Great Bend.

Evans’ Mills is a small but pleasant village, situated at the junction of West and Pleasant Creeks, the latter of which affords a limited amount of water power, and is one mile from Indian River. It owes its name to Ethni Evans*, (*Judge Evans died February 22, 1832, aged 62.) a millwright, from Hinesdale, New Hampshire, who came into the country in the employment of Jacob Brown, about 1802, and July 9, 1804, purchased of Le Ray a tract of 192 acres, for $577. About 1805 or 6, mills were commenced, and in 1809 the place contained but a saw and grist mill, and a small tavern. The first merchant and inn-keeper at the village was Jenison Clark.

In June, 1812, the inhabitants of Evans’ Mills commenced the erection of a block house, for protection against Indian massacre, but the alarm subsided before the body of the house was finished, and it was never used. Several families from the Mohawk had settled here, and the traditions they possessed of savage warfare, of which some had been witnesses, doubtless originated the alarm.

A post office was established here about 1823-24, which, in 1846, was changed to Evansville, and in 1851, to the original name of Evans’ Mills. This village, at present, contains two inns, thre stores, two groceries, one hardware store, three blacksmith shops, one cabinet shop, two wagon shops, one grist mill, one saw mill, the usual variety of mechanics, four physicians, about sixty dwellings, and from 300 to 400 inhabitants. There are here churches of the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic orders. The village is three miles from La Raysville, seven from Sterlingville and Philadelphia, ten from Theresa, twelve from Stone Mills, thirteen from La Fargeville, three from Pamelia Corners, eleven from Brownville, twn from Watertown, by plank road, six from Black River Village, and twelve from Carthage. The Potsdam and Watertown Rail Road will pass through the village.

The Pine Plains, a very interesting feature, due to geological causes, extend into this town from Wilna, and were, when the country was first explored, covered with a most valuable growth of pine timber. Immense quantities have been cut off, and fires have run over more or less of the tract, every few years, since 1804, so that between the two agencies, they have been mostly stripped of their timber, leaving alight, barren, sandy soil, of little value. Perhaps the most destructive fire that has occurred on these plains was in July, 1949, but running fires have occurred in almost every season of extreme drouth. With the exception of these and plains, the town is fertile and well cultivated. Like several adjoining towns, it is underlaid by vast quantities of water limestone, which has been manufactured to a considerable extent at one or two places.

A union library was formed in May, 1810, with Abner Pasell, James Shurtliff, Horation Oris, Ruel Kimball, Olney Pierce, Isaac Ingerson, and Jonathan Miller, trustees.

Religious Societies. -- The Baptist church of Le Ray was formed in 1814, about two miles from Evans’ Mills, by Elder Maltby, and in 1818 was removed to that place. A society was formed November, 1823, with E. Evans, Asa Hall, Levi Read, John Macomber, Stephen D. Sloan, and Chauncey Morse, first trustees. A church edifice was begun and nearly finished, when it was accidentally burned. Mr. Le Ray gave the society a substantial donation in lumber, with the aid of which the present Baptist church at Evans’ Mills was erected. Elders Matthew Wilkie, John Blodget, Thomas A. Warner, John F. Bishop, ______ Tillinghast, ______ Adams, _______ Ford N. Bishop, ______ Ward, and others have been employed here. In 1835 the society was reorganized.

The Congregational Church of Le Ray, at Evans’ Mills, was formed, January 13th, 1814, at the house of Elisha Scofield, by Rev. N. Dutton, of Champion, o 12 members. It soon joined the Black River Association, and February 12th, 1825, became Presbyterian. In 1841, it united with the Ogdensburgh (old school) Presbytery. Rev. Ruel Kimball was employed the first ten years, and Rev. C. G. Finney, 6 months, in 1825-6, since which, John Sessions, R. Pettibone, T. C. Hill, John Eastman, Thomas Bellamy, and Joseph A. Rosseel, have been employed. Mr. Eastman has alone been installed pastor. The First Associated Congregational Society of the town of Le Ray was formed, March 3d, 1823, with David Burhans, Milton W. Hopkins, Clark W. Cande, Dr. Ira A. Smith, Silvenas Evans, and Silvester Kelsey, trustees. In 1826, the present church was built at a cost of $2,600, of which Mr. Le Ray gave $200.

The First Reformed Church of the town of Le Ray, was formed July 13th, 1824, with James Ward, Wilson Pennock, Elijah Smith, William Taggard, P. S. Stewart, Henry Churchill, Parker Chase, John Y. Stewart, and Daniel Smith, trustees. They have been once reorganized, and have a church at Evans’ Mills. The second society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Le Ray was formed October 25th, 1824, with Francis Porter, Seneca Weed, Curtis Cory, John Humphrey, Daniel Burden, and Elijah Cory, trustees. This society has also been reorganized.

A Union Church has been recently erected at Sanford’s Corners in this town.

The Friends have a meeting house between Evans’ Mills and Le Raysville belonging to the Le Ray Monthly Meeting, of which denomination a more particular account will be given in our account of Philadelphia.

In 1848, the Catholics erected a church at Evans’ Mills (St. Michael’s), the attending priest being the same as at Watertown.

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