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Town of Wilna

(pp. 299 - 305)

This town was erected from Le Ray and Leyden, April 2d, 1813, by an act which altered the line of the two counties, and annexed a part of Lewis to Jefferson. The first town meeting was directed to be held at the house of Thomas Brayton, Jr., and the poor moneys of the three towns were to be equitably divided by the last tax list. For many years the town meetings have been held at the Checkered House, four miles from Carthage Village. The first town officers elected were: Thomas Brayton, supervisor; Elihu Stewart, clerk; John B. Bossout, Caleb Fulton, and Enoch Griffin, assessors; Robert C. Hastings, collector; Henry Lewis, and Alfred Freeman, overseers of the poor; Henry Lewis, Freedom Gates, and Thomas Brayton, commissioners of highways.

Supervisors. -- 1814-15, Thomas Brayton; 1816, Alfred Freeman; 1817, Francis Lloyd, T. Brayton to fill vacancy; 1818-19, Nathan Brown; 1820-2, Thomas Brayton; 1823-7, Eli West; 1828-9, Thomas Baker; 1830-2, Eli West; 1833, Walter Nimocks; 1834, William Bones; 1835-6, Walter Nimocks; 1837, William Bones; 1838, Oliver Child; 1839, Walter Nimocks; 1840-1, Eli West; 1842, Jonathan Wood; 1843, Walter Nimocks; 1844, Milton H. Carter; 1845, Charles Strong; 1846, Hiram McCollom; 1847-9, Simeon Fulton; 1850-1, William Christian; 1852-3, Horace Hooker.

In 1815-6-7-9-20-3, w wolf bounty of $5. In 1827-8, of $10, with $5 for wolf whelps. In 1831, the path masters were allowed to lay out three days’ labor in destroying noxious weeds. In 1846, strong resolutions were passed in favor of the Black River Canal.

Settlement was commenced in this town about 1798, by Henry Boutin, who had purchased 1000 acres of Rodolph Tillier, agent of the French Company, on the east side of the river, at the village of Carthage, and made a considerable clearing, with a company of men, in this year and the next. Jean Baptiste Bossout,* (*Generally known as Battise. He was a native of Troyes, in France; came to American with Steuben, and died in Champion, July 26th, 1847, aged 93.) from the High Falls, settled at about the same time; and after the abandonment of the clearing, remained the sole inhabitant several years, keeping a ferry and inn for travelers. This ferry he kept up till a bridge was built.

Boutin was drowned below the village, a few years after his first settlement, and J. Le Ray was, July 17, 1815, appointed to administer the estate, which was sold at auction, and purchased by Vincent Le Ray,* (*Jefferson Deeds, liber P, p. 511.) from whom the titles in Carthage Village and vicinity, have been since derived. The place which had previously been known as the Long Falls, was, on the erection of a post office, called Carthage. In 1806, David Coffeen† († Mr. Coffeen died at Carthage, January 30th, 1828.) built a grist mill on the west bank, and constructed a dam partly across the river, and this was subsequently completed by those owning the forge, &c., on the east bank. A forge was built in 1816, above the site of the furnace, afterwards built, which was burned the same year; and soon after, James Barney, Francis Lloyd, and Nathan Brown, from Fort Ann, New York, having leased, for ten years, the water power, with privileges of ore, coal, &c., erected a forge in the lower part of the village, which was got into successful operation, making chiefly mill irons and anchors. This business gave the first impulse to the growth of the place, but Mr. Barney having soon after died, the property reverted to Le Ray. The purchase money for lands sold by the Antwerp Company having been invested in United States stocks, was subsequently realized by the company in money, and on the 20th of May, 1816, loaned to Mr. Le Ray for the purpose of building a furnace, and opening a road between the furnace and the St. Lawrence, with such other improvements as might be necessary to enhance the value of their remaining lands. The Alexandria road, and other communications, were opened accordingly; and in 1819, a blast furnace was erected under the supervision of Claudius S. Quilliard. A refining forge, with two additional fires, was built in 1820-1, and in the fall of 1820 the furnace was got in operation, making in 10 weeks, 141 tons of iron. The stack was 30 feet square at the base, 24 feet high; inside diameter from 7 to 10 feet. At first, bog ore was used, which was procured from swamps in this county, and from near the river in Lewis County. Ferrigenous bowlders (sic) of gneiss were at first employed as flux. About 1838, specular ores from St. Lawrence County, and from Antwerp and Philadelphia in this county, began to be used, either alone or mixed with bog ores. From the beginning till 1836, cold air was used in the blast, when an imperfect apparatus for heating the air was introduced; and in 1840, a more efficient heating apparatus was employed. In 1845, the cold blast was again used. The premises have been four times burned, and the accident known as “blowing up,” had several times happened, being caused by the clogging up of damp loomy (sic) ores, below which a cavity will form. When the supports below melt away, the mass above falls, and the dampness in the ore being subjected to a sudden and intense heat, is changed instantly into steam, and explodes with terrific violence. The accident is known only where bog ores are used along. Upon using rock ores, the height of the furnace was increased to 28 feet, and two tewels or pipes for air were used instead of one. The Kearney ore was drawn 24 miles, and cost from $1.25 to $2.25 on the bank, and about $3 for drawing. The ore from the Shurtliff bed, in Philadelphia, 17 miles distant, cost $1.50 to $2 for drawing, 50 cents for raising, and 50 for the ore. It was worked alone sometime; yielded about 35 per cent, and made a very hard metal, known as “cold short.” The Carthage furnace produced from 2 to 3 tons of iron daily, from 8 to 10 months a year, until 1846, when it was abandoned, and has so fallen into decay that it would require rebuilding throughout to be used. It belongs to the Antwerp Company.

Nail works were erected in 1828, and continued about ten years; the nails being made from bar iron. In 1846, an extensive nail factory and rolling mill were built, by Hiram McCollom, which have since been continued, and in 1849-50, an extensive building by the same for a factory, which has not been put in operation.

The state road to the Oswegatchie, opened in 1802-6, afforded the principal avenue to St. Lawrence County, and made this point a thoroughfare of much importance, as through it must pass all the travel to the central and southern parts of the state. The St. Lawrence turnpike, built in 1812-13, added another avenue to the northern settlements, and made the erection of a bridge necessary.

An act was passed, June 8, 1812, authorizing Russell Attwater and associates, “to build a toll bridge, over Black River, at the place where the state road, leading to Oswegatchie, crosses the same, being at the head of the Long Falls, in Champion, in the county of Jefferson.” The principal party in this enterprise, is understood to have been David Parish, the eminent financier and extensive purchaser of northern lands. The act required the bridge to be sixteen feet wide, well built, and completed before November, 1813. Before opening, it was to be examined by the road commissioners of Champion; and the act was to continue in force twenty years. If damaged, and not repaired within twelve months, it was to revert to the state. A bridge was accordingly erected in 1812, the architect being Ezra Church, and maintained till 1829. On the 28th of March, 1829, the act was extended twenty years, as the bridge was so decayed that it required to be rebuilt. Early in 1829, an effort was made to secure by subscription the means of building a free bridge; a meeting of the towns was called, and the piers of the toll bridge were purchased for $500. At this time, those interested in the lower part of the village, among whom the most active was Joseph C. Budd, started a project of erecting a bridge across the river, among the islands, which abound in the river at the Long Falls, and this project, aided by Mr. Le Ray and others, led to the erection of a passage across the river, by five bridges, thrown from island to island. At the next spring flood, this bridge was injured, but it was again repaired. The next flood, this bridge was injured, but it was again repaired. The next flood so injured the work, that it was never repaired, and it soon mostly fell into ruin. The upper bridge, on the former side, through the influence of Dr. Eli West and others, was built by subscription the same summer (1829), as a free bridge, at a cost of $1,600, and lasted eleven years, when, in 1840, it being found necessary to rebuilt, a meeting of Champion and Wilna was called, which procured an act, May 7, allowing a loan from the school fund of $2,500 to Champion, $750 to Le Ray, $2,000 to Wilna, $750 to Pamelia, for bridges; among others, this. The load was to be repaid by eight installments, with legal interest. A covered bridge was built, at a cost of $5,000, which lasted till 1853, when preparations had been made to rebuild, and the contract was let. An act was passed, April 11, 1853, assuming it as a state work, on the ground that it was over a portion of the river, which is acknowledged to be a part of the Black River Canal. During the summer and fall of 1853, a substantial bridge was built by the state.

Within ten years from the first improvement in this town, settlements had begun along the main road north, and inns had been opened by Alfred Freeman, at the Checkered House, and Henry Lewis, nine miles from the river. Few farms were located before the war. The iron business, with the several branches of industry which it fostered, with the advantages of a valuable water power, and the vicinity of an early settled district, on the opposite site of the river, gave a gradual growth to the village of Carthage.

The prospective advantages which the Black River Canal promised to this point, have created hopes of future importance, and in some instances led to investments and speculations in real estate, to an extent that the event did not warrant; yet, there are few localities, that combine so many elements of prosperity as this. The canal, though so long delayed as to have lost much of its importance, is now as certain of speedy completion as the Empire State is of existence, and will afford a slow but cheap and certain access to markets, for lumber and mineral products. Three rail roads, one or more of which appear certain of being soon opened, will afford at all seasons a ready communication with central markets; and an unlimited water power, and fertile region around, present a combination of advantages, which can not fail of being greatly improved.

The hydraulic power of Carthage is but partially occupied, and supplies 2 axe factories, 2 cupola furnaces, 1 rolling mill, and nail factory, 1 large tanner (erected in 1830, by Nimocks & Peck), 2 saw mills, 1 grist mill, 1 forge, and several establishments for planing, turning, &c. There are, in the village, churches of the Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian order, and from 1000 to 1200 inhabitants. In 1850 the census gave 800. In 1842, a building was erected by Harrison Miller, for an academy, and has since been held as private property, and occupied as a high school. It is now owned by Mr. B. F. Bush, and is in successful operation.

The Village of Carthage was incorporated May 26, 1841. The bounds were made to begin at a point south 45° east thirty chains from the south corner of the stone nail factory; thence north 45° east sixty chains; thence north 45° west sixty chains; thence south 45° west to the line between Champion and Wilna, and thence to the place of beginning. The charter is after the model of that of the village of Seneca Falls, and provides for the election of five trustees.

The first village trustees elected were, in 1841, Virgil Brooks (president), Suel Gilbert, Ebenezer Hodgkins, Amos Choate, and Walter Nimocks. In June, Elijah Horr elected in place of Nimocks. In July, 1841, a fire company of twenty persons was formed, of which Samuel A. Budd was chosen captain. Another company was formed, in place of this, Aug. 2, 1842, called the Washington Fire Company. The following persons have since been elected trustees; the one first named in each year, in italics, being chosen president.

1842. Virgil Brooks, Amos Choate, Elijah Horr, Eben Hodgkins, William Blodget.

1843. Hiram McCollum, Joseph C. Budd, Theodore S. Hammond, Samuel J. Davis, Alvah H. Johnson.

1844. Hiram McCollum, Joseph C. Budd, J. P. Hodgkins, Kellogg E. Parker, Clark Dodge.

1845. Eli West, Hiram McCollum, Clark Dodge, Suel Gilbert, Amos Choate.

1846. Eli West, Hiram McCollom, Amos Chaote, Samuel A. Budd, Samuel J. Davis.

1847. Hiram McCollom, Eli West, Clark Dodge, Suel Gilbert, Seth L. King.

1848. Hiram McCollum, Alvah H. Johnson, Clark Dodge, Seth L. King, Suel Gilbert.

1848. Hiram McCollom, Alvah H. Johnson, Clark Dodge, Seth L. King, Suel Gilbert.

1849. Hiram McCollom, Clark Dodge, Suel Gilbert, R. Rice, S. P. Davis.

1850. Patrick S. Stewart, Walter Nimocks, Horace Hooker, Hiram L. Chambers.

1851. John B. Johnson, R. Rice, Joseph Crowner, Minor Guyot, Charles H. Kimball.

1852. Eli West, H. C. Rice, John Hewit, Samuel C. Hopkins, Seth French.

1853. Eli West, John S. Edwards, Herman Rulison, Walter Nimocks, Charles H. Kimball.

Near the extreme eastern edge of this town, on Indian River, and nine miles by the nearest road from Carthage, is the little village of Natural Bridge. A reservation, of a mile square, had been made here, and a village plat surveyed by Edmund Tucker. Improvements commenced here in 1818. In 1819 and 1820, mills were erected; the early settlers being Zebina Chaffee, Arnold Burr, Abel Bingham, Teunis Allen, Stephen Nutting, Charles R. Knight, and others. Bingham opened the first store in 1820, and Knight, the first inn in 1821and 1822. After the purchase of a large tract of land in this vicinity, by Count Surveilliers, he caused a framed house to be built here, for his summer residence, and on one or two summers, he made a short sojourn at this place. The village derives its name from the fact, that, in dry seasons, the water of the river finds its way by a subterranean passage, under a mass of white lime stone, that here constitutes the rock at the surface. In floods, the excess flows in an open channel on the surface, over which a bridge passes. From the soluble character of this rock it has been worn into grottos of some interest, which, in low water, may be entered a short distance, and here, as elsewhere along the junction of the white or primary lime stone and the gneiss rock, there occurs a great variety of minerals, which afford an inviting field of research, and will be more fully described in our account of the mineralogy of the county.

Somewhat extensive operations for copper mining were undertaken in the fall of 1847, by a Boston company.

Carthagenian Library was formed May 12, 1818. Sylvian Bullard, David Wright, Nathan Brown, Lanis Coffeen, Ebenezer Sabins, Seth Hooker, John Wait, Elijah Fulton, Walter Nimocks, S. E. D. Angelis, John Hodgkins, and John D. Belmot were elected first trustees. The collection of this society amounted to 500 volumes, was sold at auction June 14, 1845.

Religious Societies. A Catholic church (St. James’) was built in 1819, at a cost of $2,000, on a lot of three acres, given by Le Ray, who also contributed largely to its erection. A society was formed July 20, 1821, with Claudius S. Quilliard, Edward Galvin, John Tuley, James and Vincent Le Ray, John Daley, and James Welch, first trustees. The priests have been, the Rev. Messrs. John Farnham, James Salmon, _______ Fitz Simmons, M. Kelley, M. Gilbride, ______ McFarlane, M. Powers, John Gallagan, and Morris Roach.

First Baptists Society of Carthage, was formed February 9, 1839 with Joel Miller, Joseph P. Ellis, Theodore S. Hammond, Harvey Farrington, Jeremiah Lauphear, John Chase, Alvah H. Johnson, Samuel W. Gilbert, and Hiram Lauphear, trustees. A church was built the next summer, at a cost of about $4,000.

A church organization had been previously effected, which began to report to the association in 1833, and continued seven years, at the church of Wilna. That of Carthage began in 1840 to report to the association.

The First Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Carthage, was formed November 28, 1839, with Allen Peck, Elijah Horr, Hiram Chambers, Nelson Ruloson, Joel Miller, Ebenezer Wheeler, Willard Barrett, William L. Chambers and Joel P.Rice, trustees. A church was built the next summer.

A Methodist Episcopal Society was formed at Natural Bridge, and, about 1840, erected a church.

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Wood’s Settlement (Wilna) was formed March 26, 1849, with Jonathan Wood, Peter Hanson, and Samuel Barnum, trustees.

The First Presbyterian Society in Carthage was formed November 11, 1851, with Hiram McCollom, John Hewitt, and Suel Gilbert, trustees. Rev. H. Doane is the present pastor of this church, and H. H. Waite the stated supply of the former. A Presbyterian Church was formed at Natural Bridge, and a society formed, July 13, 1840, with John Camcross, John J. Lasher, and Lewis Decker, trustees. A church was soon begun, but not finished for several years. This Church belongs to the Ogdensburgh (Old School) presbytery. The Presbyterians have a small church edifice at Carthage.

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