Town of Clayton

History from Child’s Gazetteer (1890)

pp 366-379

CLAYTON was formed from Orleans and Lyme, April 27, 1833, and was named in honor of Hon. John M. Clayton, United States Senator from Delaware. It embraces two-fifths of Penet’s Square, a gore west and another north of that tract, and Grindstone and several small islands in the St. Lawrence. The surface of the town is level or slightly rolling. The principal streams are Chaumont River, which takes a southwesterly course through the town a little south of its central part, and French Creek, which takes a northeasterly and northerly course through the northwestern part, emptying into the St. Lawrence River. The town is bounded on the north by the St. Lawrence River, on the east by Orleans, on the south by Brownville, and on the southwest by Cape Vincent and Lyme. Among the smaller islands lying within the limits of this town, and occupied as summer homes, are Governor’s* and Calumet* islands, opposite Clayton village, Round Island, upon which is located the Frontenac Hotel, one of the finest hotels in this famous region, Washington Island, Little Round Island, and Bluff, Robbins, Hemlock, and Maple islands. The latter has recently been purchased by Messrs. Charles H. Pierce and W. Allen Butler, of Syracuse, who contemplate the erection of an elegant park here. The topography of the island and its location are favorable for such an enterprise. Jefferies and Grennell islands, constituting Grennell Island Park, are also in this town.

At the first town meeting held at the house of Isaac L. Carter, June 4, 1833, the following town officers were elected: Hubbell Fox, supervisor; B. F. Faxton, clerk; Gurdon Caswell and Stephen Martin, justices of the peace; Jesse Noyes, Abram Burdick, Bariah Carpenter, Jr., assessors; Caleb Closson and James Barney, overseers of the poor; Samuel P. Payne, Lloyd B. Farrar (or Traver?), Elkanah Corbin, commissioners of highways; Alfred Fox, John Consaul, Jr., and Joseph Mason, commissioners of schools; Josiah Farrar, David Baker, and B. F. Faxton, inspectors of common schools; Erastus Warner, collector; Erastus Monroe, T. Haskell, Sydney Spencer, and Eldridge G. Tilton, constables.

In 1880 Clayton had a population of 4,214. The town is located in the third school district of Jefferson County, and in 1888 had 25 school districts, in which 33 teachers were employed 28 weeks or more. The whole number of scholars attending school was 1, 063, while the aggregate days attendance during the year was 96,909. The total value of the school buildings and sites was $21,295, and the assessed valuation of all the districts was $1,141,563. The whole amount raised for school purposes was $7,704.21, $3,699.12 of which was received by local tax. Charles E. Whitney was school commissioner. The town has an area of 49,244 acres.

CLAYTON (p. o.) village was incorporated April 17, 1872, by a vote of the citizens, as provided in an act passed by the state legislature, April 20, 1870. The vote stood 140 for and 51 against, the assumption of corporate honors. The first election for village officers was held at the Walton House, May 8, 1872, at which the following were elected: Elijah McCarn, president; S. G. Johnston, William Hawes, and S. D. Johnston, trustees; Stephen Hill, treasurer; Charles M. Marshall, collector; and C. H. Ross was appointed clerk. The village is situated on the St. Lawrence River, at the mouth of French Creek, and was the scene of a brief conflict during the War of 1812. The advance of General Wilkinson’s army, under command of General Brown, reached French Creek on the afternoon of November 1, 1813, where it was attacked by a British force of two sloops, two schooners, and a strong infantry force in boats. Captain McPherson, with a battery of three 18-pounder guns took position on Bartlett’s Point, now Prospect Park, and returned the fire of the enemy, who were repulsed, but renewed the attack in the morning, when they were again defeated and forced to abandon their purpose. Three Americans were killed and two wounded, while the loss of the British was never fully known, although it was afterwards ascertained to have been very severe. The safety of the Americans lay in the fact that the British vessels, with their heavy 32-pounders, fired too high, and thus overshot their foes. Some of their shots have been plowed up on what is known as the Kline farm, now within the corporate limits of the village.

The village was in 1823 named Cornelia. In 1831 the name was changed to Clayton, which it has since retained. It was at one time very generally known as French Creek. In the primitive patent of Penet the creek and bay is named Weteringhra Guentere.

The village is a terminal station on the Utica & Black River division of the R., W. & O. Railroad, and is a popular stopping-place for visitors to the Thousand Island, who pronounce a summer stay at Clayton the height of enjoyment and repose. Here within sight are many of the beautiful isles forming that most wondrous of all archipelagoes---The Thousand Islands.

The village was surveyed by Clark W. Candee, in 1824, and resurveyed in 1833 by Oliver Child. It now contains five churches, one of the best graded schools in Jefferson, two prosperous banks, several fine hotels, numerous manufacturing institutions, a weekly newspaper, telegraph, telephone, and express offices, electric light plant, and a population of about 1,800.

E. G. Merick in his day probably carried on the most extensive business of any man who has ever lived in Clayton. He and his associates since 1828 conducted a very large business here in rafting, lumbering, ship building, and merchandising. Mr. Merick came to Clayton soon after the village began to develop, and remained until about 1860, when he went to Detroit, where he died.

From the Appendix, submitted too late to be inserted:

On November 6, 1887, occurred the most disastrous conflagration that ever visited the village of Clayton. The fire originated about 4 P. M. in the Porter block, on James street, and spread rapidly on that street and on John street. The principal sufferers were D. C. Porter & Son, W. A. Webster, George H. McKinley, M. E. Frame, J. T. Hubbard, Whitney & Walt, Wilcox & McCarn, W. D. Clark, G. M. McCombs, Dewey Brothers, C. P. Bass, James Boyd, S. M. Shimberg, Philo Clark, W. P. Hawes, Dr. McIlmoyl, John Johnston, A. F. Barker, James Hayes & Co., James Hayes, Charles A. Shaver, United Liners Telegraph Co., S. D. Johnston, George Hill, Sr., Robinson, A. Reed, and John Tilton. The loss aggregated nearly $1000,000 upon which there was less than $50,000 insurance. Since the fire better buildings have been erected and the village is much improved.

DEPAUVILLE, named in honor of Francis Depau, an early settler here, is situated on Chaumont River, at the head of boat navigation, six miles from Chaumont Bay. The place was once known as “Catfish Falls,” and above the falls the river was known as “Catfish Creek.” It has a telephone and express from Chaumont, two churches (Methodist Episcopal and Freewill Baptist), an hotel, grist-mill, saw-mill, several stores and shops, and a population of about 300. The first improvement here was made by Simon and Jared White, who came on as trespassers to get out lumber; but, being warned off by the agent, left a quantity of hewn lumber and removed to Three Mile Point, on Chaumont Bay, from which place they started, in May, 1817, for the West in an open boat. The party consisted of the brothers, their mother, wives, and children, ---eleven in all, ---and had arrived in Hounsfield, a mile or two beyond Sackets Harbor, where they put up for the night. After leaving this place they were never seen alive. Their boat was found robbed of household goods, several hundred dollars which the men had was gone, and their bodies exhibited unmistakable marks of violence. The children were found drowned, but the bodies of the women were never found. The first house in this village was erected in 1818 by John Smith. The first store was kept by Peter B. Beadle, agent or clerk for Stephen Johnson. The first mills were built in 1824; the first tavern was kept by one Winthrop in 1820, in which year, and in the same building, was also taught the first school. The first church edifice was built about 1825, by the Episcopal Methodists.

CLAYTON CENTER is a hamlet situated a little northeast of the central part of the town. A postoffice was once established here, but has been discontinued.

CORBIN’S CORNERS is the local name for a settlement about a mile northwest from Depauville.

THURSO (p. o.) is on the north side of Grindstone Island, near which are located extensive granite quarries.

Bank of Clayton. ---The first bank in this town was organized as a private institution in the fall of 1876, by A. F. Barker and R. P. Grant, under the title of Bank of Clayton. A. F. Barker was president and Mr. Grant was cashier. The bank was so continued until the fall of 1882, when it was reorganized as a state bank, under the same title, with a capital of $26,000, and remained so until July, 1884, when Mr. Grant and others purchased Mr. Barker’s interest, and it was soon after merged into the Exchange Bank.

The Exchange Bank of Clayton was organized in 1884, under the state law, with an authorized capital stock of $100,000, and a paid up stock of $40,000. The present officers of the institution are those elected at its organization, and are as follows: John Johnston, president; Jacob Putnam, vice-president; and R. P. Grant, cashier. The directors are, in addition to the officers of the bank, Lucien J. Strough, William H. Lingenfelter, Alfred D. Lowe, George H. McKinley, John Faley*, and William D. Clark. The Bank of Clayton was merged in the Exchange Bank soon after the organization of the latter, and the business of the old organization was discontinued. The Exchange Bank is one of the prominent financial institutions of the northern part of Jefferson County, and its officers and directors are men of recognized business ability, experience, and integrity. The office of the bank is pleasantly located on Water street, commanding a fine view of the famous St. Lawrence River. According to the quarterly report, dated September 7, 1889, the surplus of the bank was $10,000.

The Citizens Bank of Clayton was started in December, 1884, by A. F. Barker, as a private bank, with William Rees, president; A. F. Barker, cashier; and O. L. House, assistant cashier. The bank was thus continued until October 4, 1887, when it was reorganized as the

First National Bank of Clayton, with a paid up capital of $50,000. The officers were originally and are now as follows: A. F. Barker, president; William Rees, vice-president; H. W. Morse, cashier; A. A. Warner, assistant cashier. The directors are A. F. Barker, William Rees, George H. Strough, Charles A. Ellis, Frank L. Hall, James J. Belden, R. B. Biddlecome, and W. F. Ford. The surplus is now $9,000.

The Security Building, Loan, and Savings Association, of Clayton was incorporated in 1889, under the building and loan association laws of the state of New York, with a capital stock of $1,000,000 with shares of $100 each. The officers are Hon. James Johnson, president; Thomas E. Walt, vice-president; A. F. Wood, secretary; William D. Clark, treasurer; Charles E. Hocknel, manager.

Thousand Island Electric Light and Power Company was organized in 1887 and reorganized in 1888. The new company went into effect January 1, 1889. The plant is at Strough & Brook’s mill. Twenty-eight arc lights and 100 incandescent lights are now in use. The capital stock of the company is $15,000. C. A. Ellis is president; C. E. Rees, secretary; and Seymour B. Barker, treasurer.

St. Lawrence River Skiff Canoe, and Steam Launch Co., successors to A. Bain & Co., is located in Clayton village, where an extensive business is done in the manufacture of all kinds of small water craft. A specialty is made of skiffs, canoes, and steam launches. The fame of the St. Lawrence River skiffs is known, not only throughout the United States and Canada, but also in England, Australia, and other foreign countries. The boat building industry in Clayton was begun in a desultory way about 20 years ago by Xaviar Colon. His means were limited, and his appliances for skillful and economical work were crude, yet his genius was in the right direction, and led to splendid results. As the island population increased the demand for boats grew rapidly, until finally several men were employed in their manufacture. Finally Dr. A. Bain conceived the idea of united the entire boat building business under one head. In 1873 the first shop was built for Xaviar Colon, and the business was prosecuted with much vigor. In 1887 the present company was formed under the firm name of A. Bain & Co., backed by capital in the hands of wealthy citizens of New York city, which was followed by the erection of the present extensive factory, 50 by 100 feet in size, three stories high, with a basement, and an extensive garret, or dormer story. One year after the formation of the company the present comprehensive name was given to it, and the manufacture of steam launches, canoes, and other special forms of boats was undertaken. The business is still under the management of A. Bain, and Mr. Colon, who laid the foundation of the business in 1870, is still with the firm.

The Jefferson County fish hatchery, formerly known as the St. Lawrence fish hatchery, and owned by M. B. Hill, was established in 1881, and is located at Prospect Heights, near the western part of the town, on road 50. It is now a state institution, in the jurisdiction of Superintendent Monroe A. Green. M. B. Hill is the local superintendent.

Clayton Furniture Manufacturing Company, on Theresa street, was organized in the spring of 1889, with a capital stock of $12,000. The company is at present engaged in the manufacture of chamber suits, the power being furnished by the Electric Light and Power Co. Frank L. Hall is president; William H. Consaul, vice-president; C. A. Shaver, secretary; and H. S. Barker, treasurer.

Gardiner M. Skinner, at Clayton, is engaged in the manufacture of trolling spoon bait, and his goods have acquired a national reputation for their sterling worth. Besides being attractive lures, they are uniformly made in such substantial manner as to win the confidence of the angler, and withstand the struggles and throes of greedy and powerful fish.

Strough & Brooks. ---The business of retailing lumber in the village of Clayton was first entered into by Luther Eddy, who may be considered as the pioneer in that line. In April, 1880, he associated with him George H. Strough, a school teacher, who purchased the business for his son, Arthur B. Strough, having no intention of engaging in the business himself. During this copartnership the firm name was Eddy & Strough. The first year’s business aggregated but little over $6,000. The third year it was over three times that amount. Mr. Strough, who had continued teaching up to this time, then decided to give his whole attention to the lumber trade, and on January 1, 1883, purchased Mr. Eddy’s interest, and for the next four years his trade increased to over five times the amount done in 1880. January 1, 1887, wishing to add manufacturing facilities to his increasing business, Mr. Strough entered into partnership with Otis Brooks, a well-known and experienced lumberman and manufacturer, formerly a member of the firm of Roberts & Brooks, of Philadelphia. January 20, 1887, Strough & Brooks bought out the lumber and manufacturing business of the firm composed of J. B. Flynn and Myres Thompson, who occupied the extensive mill and factory at the corner of Mary and Theresa streets, where a rock projects out into the bay, forming a natural dockage, surrounded by water from six to 12 feet deep. Messrs. Strough & Brooks proceeded at once to inaugurate a system of improvements which cost them thousands of dollars, but which added correspondingly to their facilities. Among the improvements have been the erection of a store-house for dressed lumber, etc., a fine office building, in which is also a hardware and weighing room below and a large room on the second floor for priming and glazing purposes; also docks, a coal-house, an engine-house in which the Electric Light and Power Company have an 80-horse-power boiler and a 60-horse-power engine which propels the machinery for Strough & Brooks. The factory is furnished with the latest improved machinery for manufacturing sash, doors, and blinds, wood turning, and for the manufacture of all kinds of joiner goods, furnishing employment to from 20 to 30 skilled workmen. The transactions of Strough & Brooks during their first year were about $20,000 more than the aggregate of both concerns before the purchase of property of Flynn & Thompson. Arthur B. Strough is the efficient foreman of their factory, and John W. Williams is employed as architect and supervising foreman on all their job work outside. A large part of their contract work is in the erecting of buildings planned and drafted by him.

Syracuse Granite Company, incorporated, has a capital stock of $50,000. The quarries of the company are located on Grindstone Island, and the business office is in Syracuse. John H. Tolman is president, and William Van Auken, secretary.

The following relating to the ship building interests of Clayton is a revision of the sketch published in the

History of Jefferson County *1878).

Ship building began at Clayton in 1832, by Smith & Merick, and has since been continued, sometimes giving employment to as many as 100 men. From two or four vessels have been here annually, making a total of from 75 to 100, including most of the splendid steamers of the old Ontario and St. Lawrence Steamboat Company’s lines. This business began here at about the time of the burdensome tonnage duties upon the lakes, amounting almost to a prohibition, had been removed in part by Hon. Joseph Hawkins, of Henderson, who represented this district in Congress. From this time there existed no limit to the size of the vessels but that of the locks of the Welland Canal. The first vessels built here were the Jesse Smith

From the Appendix of this book - received too late for printing:

In addition to what has been said regarding ship building in Clayton we add that S. G. Johnston built the steamer St. Lawrence for the Thousand Island Steamboat Co.; the steam yacht Sirius for Johnston & Son; the steam yacht Edith May for Robbins & Peabody, which is now owned by Hamilton Child, of Syracuse; and the yacht Mabel for James Stebbens, of New York. His son built the yacht Alert. Mr. Johnston has also rebuilt a number of boats in the past 12 years. He is now constructing a steamer for himself, the dimensions of which are 75 feet over all, 13-1/2 feet beam, and six feet hold, and it will be capable of carrying from 125 to 140 passengers.


Note: On p. 372, is a sketch of the “steamer United States, launched at Ogdensburg in November 1831, at that time was the largest and most important American vessel navigating the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. She was captured by the Patriots, at Ogdensburg, in 1838, and took an important part in the battle at Wind-mill Point. The engraving is from a painting by Col. Jonah Woodruff. (photo not shown with this text).




and Horatio Gates, commenced by Captain Pickering and completed by George S. Weeks, for Smith & Merick, in 1830. G. S. Weeks continued building for the same firm, and built the steamer Black Hawk, and the schooners Franklin, Jefferson, Morgiana Willets, Monroe, Gazelle, Madison, Lucinda, Cleopatra, Western, Chesapeake, Robert Wood, E. G. Merick, Sylph, and others, besides the steamer Swan. Mr. Weeks subsequently built vessels in Oswego, and later in Chicago.

John Oades commenced building for E. G. Merick & Co. and Fowler & Esselstyn in 1841, and built the schooners St. Lawrence, John Oades, D. N. Barney, Superior, Invincible, New York, Quebec, America, Flying Cloud, Sovereign of the Lakes, Northern Light, White Cloud, Northerner, Sky Lark, Republic, Clayton, Amelia, Adriatic, Northern Belle, Dashing Wave, Monticello, Adirondack, Radiant, Clayton Belle, M. F. Merrick, Montana, Kearsarge, and others, and the steamers Niagara, Cataract, Ontario, Bay State, New York, Jenny Lind, British Empire, British Queen, Midge, and Widgeon.

Thomas Rees built the schooner Mountaineer, and Harrison Persons the schooner Marshfield. In 1863 John Oades built the schooner Portland for A. F. Barker. In 1867 John Cantwell built the schooner F. D. Barker, and in 1868 Simon G. Johnston built the schooner Hoboken for A. F. Barker. Simon G. Johnston commenced building for Fowler & Esselstyn in 1854, and built the schooners Greyhound, Eagle Wing, Watchful, Mediator, Senator, Snow Bird, Brooklyn, Montpelier, Montcalm, Montgomery, Montmorency, Mont Blanc, Irene, L. B. Stone, Scud, William Home, Hattie Johnson, Henry Falger, and Black Diamond. He also built the steamers T. S. Faxton, H. S. Johnston, and Island Belle.

Mr. Johnston is the only one now engaged in ship building at Clayton, Messrs. John Oades and Fowler & Esselstyn having removed to Detroit, Mich. The St.Lawrence River Skiff, Canoe, and Steam Launch Company has recently been organized, and the company will continue the business of Dr. Bain in the building of skiffs, and will also include small steamboats. During the last few years Mr. Johnston has built several steam yachts.

Hough’s History of St. Lawrence County is authority for the statement that in 1799 there was a single log hut in this town, probably that of some lumber thieves, who plundered the frontier without restraint or limit during many years before any one appeared to show title. Mr. Nathan Ford, the pioneer of Ogdensburg, in a letter to Samuel Ogden on this subject, dated December 27, 1799, wrote: ---

“There are several person now cutting timber upon the two upper townships. I have no authority to say anything about the matter; but vast injury will take place upon the townships, and if there are not measures taken immediately, not less than 30,000 or 40,000 staves, over and above the square timber which is now getting, that will be taken off. Mr. Wilkins took down the names of several who pretended to settle; their motive was only stealing off the timber. The thing is now working as I told him would be the case, and if something is not done about this business great destruction will arise. An example ought to be made, and this can not be done without sending an officer from Fort Stanwix. They have got the timber so boldly that they say there is no law that can be executed upon them here.”

The first permanent settlement in this town was commenced in 1801 or 1802, by a Mr. Bartlett, at a place called Bartlett Point, about a mile above Clayton village, at the mouth of French Creek. The point has recently been surveyed and laid out for summer homes, and is known as Prospect Park. Bartlett had been placed here by Smith and Delamater, land agents at Chaumont, to keep a ferry to Gananoque, but after staying a year or two set fire to his house, as tradition says, and ran away by its light.

In the winter of 1803-04 Smith and Delamater undertook the erection of a saw-mill, near the mouth of Wheeler Creek, upon which it was built. The expense attending this measure embarrassed them considerably, and contributed to their subsequent failure.

In 1816 Nathaniel Norton, Jr., who had previously been a merchant at Russia, N. Y., came as agent for C. H. and E. Wilkes, owners of 12,000 acres on Penet’s Square, and adjoining the present village of Depauville.* (*His power of attorney is dated June 20, 1820.) Soon after David and Nathaniel Holbrook came to the falls, and with their father, under a contract of Alexander Le Ray, the agent of Depau, erected a rude apology for a grist-mill, but upon failure of payment the premises were sold in 1824 to Stephen Johnson and Peter Martin, who had located as merchants and lumbermen. At this time there were but two or three log houses and the rude mills where Depauville now is.

In 1817 Phineas Osborn, father of Thomas S., Schuyler, and Phineas A. Osborn, came in from Herkimer County and settled about three miles northwest of Depauville, on what is known as Elm Flat. In 1818 Jerry Carter came in and settled near Clayton Center. He came with his father, who was a great hunter, and told marvelous tales connected with his hunting expeditions. In 1819 James D. Gloyd came in with his father, Amos, from Vermont, and settled on lot No. 39. In 1820 Adam Fry came from Denmark, Lewis County, and settled in this town. Gaylord Enos came in from Herkimer County in 1824, his first purchase of land being 50 acres from Depau. The first justice of the peace in the town was Gurdon Caswell.

Grindstone Island is one of the largest of the Thousand Islands, being more than five miles in length and from two or three in width. This island, with many others, was claimed bv the St. Regis Indians at an early day, and leased by their agent to British subjects for a long term of years. Upon survey of the boundary in 1818 they were found to belong to our government, and in 1823, upon these islands being patented by the state, in pursuance with an agreement with Macomb, difficulties arose that threatened for the War of Grindstone Island. A quantity of pine timber had been cut and prepared for rafting, which was claimed by the patentee, but was refused to be given up by those in possession. Finding it probably that any attempt to serve legal papers upon the parties alleged to be trespassers would be resisted, a detachment of militia from Lyme, under Capt. S. Green, was called out. The timber had mostly been passed over into British waters, and after some firing the party in charge of the timber dispersed. One of the militia men was accidentally killed by the discharge of his own gun. The question subsequently became a subject of litigation, and was finally settled by arbitration. The first court on Grindstone Island was held April 30, 1889, when S. H. Slate, justice of the peace, was called upon to investigate a charge of assault and battery between two women, sisters-in-law, whose husbands were employed in the quarries at Thurso. The defendant in the case was fined $30, which was paid.

The islands in this vicinity have many associations connected with the War of 1812, and affairs growing out of the Patriot movement, which are detailed in the County Chapter. During the embargo period of 1808 the old French road, that had been cut through from the High Falls to the river at this point, became a thoroughfare for teams laden with potash, and this contraband trade continued with comparative impunity till the commercial restriction was removed.



The Freewill Baptist Church, of Depauville, was organized March 20, 1820, by Amasa Dodge, the first pastor, with 15 members. The primitive structure in which the society first worshiped (sic) was built of logs, in 1820, and was the first house of worship in the town of which we have any record. In 1835 the present stone structure was built at a cost of $3,000. It will comfortably seat 250 persons, and is valued, including grounds and other property, at $8,000. The society now has a membership of 65, under the pastoral charge of Rev. Barton G. Blaisdell. The Sunday-school has a membership of eight teachers and 80 scholars.

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Depauville. --- A Methodist class was organized at Depauville as early as 1821, and it is mentioned as one of the 23 appointments in the old Black River district, and within the Genesee Annual Conference, in 1822. The society was organized November 25, 1834, with Martin Spicer, Abel F. Low, Caleb Closson, Wareham P. Case, and Timothy O’Connor, trustees. Meetings were at first held in private dwellings, and in the old frame school-house. The present church edifice was erected in 1851, at a cost of about $3,000, and was dedicated by Rev. A. J. Phelps. The present value of church property, including building and grounds, is $6,500. The present membership is 150, and Rev. Leroy Grant is the pastor. The Sunday-school has 25 teachers and 88 scholars.

The Second Methodist Episcopal Church of Clayton, located on the corner of John and Jane streets, in Clayton village, was organized October 5, 1840, by Rev. Hiram Shepard and seven trustees, with eight members. The first pastor was Rev. Benjamin Phillips, who was succeeded by Rev. Hiram Shepard. The first church edifice, the present wood structure, was built as a union church by the Methodists and Baptists in 1840, at an original cost of $4,000. In 1846 the present society purchased the Baptists’ interest in the building, which will comfortably seat 350 persons and is valued, including grounds and other church property, at $1,000. The present membership is 155, under the pastoral charge of Rev. S. O. Barnes. The Sunday-school has a membership of 18 teachers and 175 scholars.

The First Baptist Church of Clayton, located on John street, in Clayton village, was organized October 6, 1840, by five trustees, and at its organization consisted of 17 members. The first pastor was Rev. E. G. Blount. The church edifice was erected of wood in 1850, at a cost of $2,000. It will comfortably seat 250 persons, and its present value, including grounds and other church property, is $3,500. The present membership of the church is 50, under the pastoral care of Elder Thompson. The Sunday-school has a membership of 11 teachers and 75 scholars.

Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, located in Clayton village, was organized in 1868, by the rector, wardens, and vestry, and at its organization consisted of 10 members. The first rector was Rev. H. R. Lockwood (now D. D.), present rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Syracuse. Their house of worship was erected in 1869 at a cost of $10,000. It is built with a stone basement and brick superstructure, will comfortably seat 250 persons, and is valued, including grounds and other church property, at about $12,000. The church now has 60 communicants, and Rev. J. E. Walton is the rector. The Sunday-school has 13 teachers, and about 60 or 70 scholars.

The German Methodist Episcopal Church, located in the eastern part of the town, was organized in 1880, with Rev. Samuel Bean as the first pastor. Rev. W. J. Merle, of Orleans, is the present pastor. The Sunday-school as (sic) a membership of five teachers and about 50 scholars.

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, located on James street in Clayton village, was organized in 1838 by Rev. Francis Gouth, the first pastor, and at its organization had 15 families in its parish. Occasional services were held by missionaries in private dwellings and in the school-house some years prior to the regular organization of the church. The first house of worship was erected in 1841 or ‘42. The present elegant stone structure was commenced in 1885, was dedicated December 11, 1889, and cost about $23,000. The exterior of the church presents a fine appearance, and the interior is appropriately furnished and decorated. The aggregate cost of the three marble altars was about $1,250. The church will seat 1,200 persons, and is valued, including grounds and other property, at $25,000. The present number of families in the parish is 300, under the pastoral charge of Rev. Edward G. Brice.

From the Appendix, submitted too late to be inserted:

Rev. B. G. Blaisdell, a descendant of the Blaisdells who settled Western Maine, and of Dr. G. W. Munsey, one of New Hampshire’s pioneers, was born in Gilford Village, N. H., April 17, 1850. At the age of 13 he commenced to learn the blacksmiths’ trade, attending the district schools as opportunity was afforded. At the age of 18 he entered New Hampton (N. H.) Institution, where he fitted for college, graduating in June, 1871. In September of the same year he married Miss C. M. Smith, of Laconia, N. H. He assumed the pastorate of a Free Baptist Church in Belmont, N. H., in 1872, and during his labors there he was superintendent of the public schools for two years. In 1875 he entered Cobb Divinity School, of Lewiston, Me., graduating therefrom in 1877. He supplied the Free Baptist Church in the city of Gardiner until his graduation, when he assumed its pastorate, continuing his labors until August, 1878, when he accepted a call from Spring Vale, Me., church. Closing his labors here in 1882 he became the pastor of the Free Baptist Church in Dickinson Center, N. Y.; where large additions were made to the church membership. He located in Depauville, this county, in 1886, where he still (1890) resides, as pastor of a flourishing church, whose membership has more than doubled under his labors. The church edifice has been remodeled, and a parsonage built at an expense of $6,000. Rev. Mr. Blaisdell has been one of the trustees of the Central Association of Free Baptists, was county C. T. of the I. O. G. T. in 1886-87, and was chosen president of the Northern New York Christian Union in 1887. He holds an eminent position among his associates.

From the Appendix, submitted too late to be inserted:


Alden Farnsworth Barker, the subject of this sketch, was born October 21, 1822, in the town of Walden, Caledonia County, Vermont---a town nestled among the Green Mountains. He was the eldest of nine children---five sons and four daughters. His parents were descended from English stock, and were as rugged and hardy as the hills that witnessed the birth of these children. Here young Alden passed his early boyhood, doing chores on the homestead and going to the district school at odd intervals, until 1833, when 11 years of age, he went to the village of Pierrepont, St. Lawrence County, this state, to work on his father’s farm of 60 acres, of that place, and the following year he went to the town of Potsdam, came county, to live with Aaron Eddy, and in May, 1837, moved with Mr. Eddy to Clayton and was clerk in the grocery store of A. & L. Eddy, of that place, until 1842, when, with his savings aggregating the modest sum of $100, and the credit obtained through strict honesty and sober and industrious habits, he purchased the stock of that firm, and thus may be said to have got his first start in his business career.

In August, 1844, he married Laura D. Smith, who was then teaching a district school in the town of Clayton, and a daughter of the late Hon. Benjamin Smith, of Russell, St. Lawrence County, N. Y. Three sons and one daughter have been the issue of this marriage, all of whom are now living in Clayton.

Henry S. Barker, the eldest son, is engaged in the mercantile trade at that place. Seymour B. Barker, next youngest, is secretary of the Thousand Island Steamboat Company, and is engaged also in the vessel business. Frank D. Barker, the youngest son, is an alumnus of the Syracuse University and the Albany Law School, and occupies the position of deputy collector of customs at Clayton, to which office he was appointed in October, 1885, under President Cleveland’s administration. Celinda, the daughter and youngest child, is married to Solon H. Johnson, only son of the Hon. James Johnson, of Clayton.

Mr. Barker continued in the grocery trade at the old stand known as the “Cataract House,” on Water street, until 1845, when he, together with A. & L. Eddy, put up the building now known as the “Hayes House,” and conducted the business with them until 1847, when he built a store of his own and carried on a general merchandise business in this building until it was destroyed by the great fire of August, 1853, but this was replaced by a brick structure the following year, and which is still standing. In 1856 he formed a partnership with Simeon D. Fobes (sic), then clerk in the store, and continued this relationship up to the year 1860, when the partnership was dissolved, Mr. Barker continuing the business, together with other and larger interests, up to the year 1873, when he was succeeded by his sons, H. S. and S. B. Barker.

In 1856 Mr. Barker purchased his first interest in vessels, engaging in the grain trade on the chain of lakes between Chicago and Ogdensburg. During the years, 1863, 1867, and 1868, respectively, and while having an interest in other vessels, he built at Clayton the schooners Portland, Frank D. Barker, and Hoboken, and continued in the business up to the year 1887.

But the enterprise with which Mr. Barker’s name was prominently associated, and with which the interests and prosperity of his town have been most closely connected, with the building of the Clayton and Theresa Railroad. The bonding of the several towns along the line for this project was commenced in 1871, but on account of the strong opposition made by many of the taxpayers it was only accomplished after a hard fought and closely contested struggle. But the organization of the Clayton and Theresa Railroad Co. was effected that year with Mr. Barker as president, and Russell B. Biddlecom, of the town of Orleans, as secretary and treasurer, which respective offices these gentlemen held until the road was merged into that of the Utica and Black River Railroad in 1885. The building of the road was commenced soon after the towns were bonded and was pushed forward with great vigor, and was completed in October 1873, but only after many formidable obstacles had been overcome.

An appeal had been taken from the decision of Judge Sawyer (then county judge), that the several towns along the line had taken all the necessary steps to qualify them to issue bonds in aid of the construction of this road; and while this appeal was pending the bonds, which nevertheless had been issued, had no market value. As it was necessary to realize on these bonds to buy the iron and carry the project forward, Mr. Barker bought $25,000 of them with his own means, and thus enabled the company to carry on the work to a successful termination. It is not too much to say that while this road, which has been the great source of the prosperity of the towns of Clayton and Orleans for the past 17 years, would have ultimately been built in the then distant future, its building would have undoubtedly been many years postponed had it not been for the indomitable pluck and perseverance, the untiring labors and generous support of Alden F. Barker and his able coadjutor, Russell B. Biddlecom.

In 1873 he, together with S. G. Johnston and L. A. Holt, built the steamer T. W. Faxton for the excursion business on the St. Lawrence, and in 1877 they built the steamer Island Belle to run between Cape Vincent and Alexandria Bay in connection with trains on the R., W. & O. Railroad at Cape Vincent. In 1884 Mr. Barker associated himself with the Folger Brothers, of Kingston, Canada, in building the magnificent steamer St. Lawrence, to take the place of the Island Belle, and an organization was effected under the name of the “Thousand Island Steamboat Company,” which still owns this steamer and several others, controlling as it does most of the steamboat traffic on the river. Mr. Barker is at present vice-president of this company. Prior to 1876 Clayton had had no bank, but that year Mr. Barker formed a partnership with R. P. Grant and conducted a private bank, styled the Bank of Clayton, Mr. Barker being the president and Mr. Grant, cashier, and continuing the same to January, 1883, when it was organized into a state bank and with the same officers. In July of the following year Mr. Barker sold his interest in the bank, and in December following organized a private bank known as the “Citizens’ Bank” and conducted the same to October, 1887, when he organized the “First National Bank of Clayton,” with over 70 stockholders and a capital of $50,000, and with himself as president; William Rees, vice-president; H. W. Morse, cashier; and A. A. Warner, assistant cashier, who are the present officers of the bank. It is doing a large and profitable business, and is now counted one of the leading financial institutions of the county. Mr. Barker is also a trustee of the Jefferson County Savings Bank. Thus this account of Mr. Barker’s long and successful business career is largely the history of the village of Clayton.

In politics Mr. Barker has always been a ardent Democrat, casting his first vote for James K. Polk for President in 1844. He has uniformly declined office, and has only accepted a nomination when he knew his party was in a hopeless minority. He was nominated for member of Assembly in 1866, but declined the nomination, although he could have undoubtedly been elected. He has always encouraged home enterprise, and has contributed largely of his efforts and means to that end. He built the large three story brick block on Water street, and his large brick residence on John street, recently completed to take the place of the one destroyed by the great fire of 1887, is one of the handsomest in the county.

* - from ERRATA at the end of Part Second of this volume, appears the following entry:

CLAYTON. Page 369, 11th line from top, read John Foley instead of "Faley."

Note: The family sketches followed. Those are presented on Nan Dixon's NYGenWeb site for Jefferson County, N. Y.

Return to Child's Town Histories Index

Return to Shirley Farone's Homepage