Town History from Child’s Gazetteer of Jefferson County, N. Y.

pp. 401-419

ELLISBURGH was formed from Mexico, February 22, 1803, and named in honor of Marvel Ellis, an early proprietor, and Lyman Ellis, the first settler. It was originally “Minos” of the “Eleven Towns.” Henderson was set off February 17, 1806. It is situated in the southwestern corner of the county, and is bounded on the north by Henderson and Adams, on the east by Lorraine and Boylston in Oswego County, on the south by Sandy Creek in Oswego County, and on the west by Lake Ontario. Its area is about nine miles square. The surface is rolling and inclined toward the lake. A range of low sand hills extends along the shore, and these are succeeded by a wild, marshy region. North and South Sandy creeks, which take a general southwesterly course through the town, are the principal streams. Skinner Creek, in the southern part, is quite a considerable stream. North, South, Little Cranbury, and Little Sandy ponds are located along the western border of the town, the latter lying partly in the town of Sandy Creek, in Oswego County. The soil is sandy in the west, clayey through the center, and a slaty (sic) loam in the east. It is one of the wealthiest agricultural towns in the county, and is surpassed by but few in the state.

The first town meeting was held at the residence of Lyman Ellis, at which the following town officers were elected: Edward Boomer, supervisor; Lyman Ellis, clerk; Caleb Ellis and Amos B. Noyes, overseers of the poor; Jeremiah Mason, Samuel Rhodes, and Benjamin Boomer, commissioners of highways; Matthew Boomer, constable and collector; Abiah Jenkins, constable; John Thomas, Christopher Edmonds, and Dyer McCumber, fence viewers; C. Ellis, Jeremiah Mason, Timothy Harris, Benjamin Boomer, D. McCumber, Joseph Holley, overseers of highways.

April 11, 1796, Marvel Ellis, of Troy, N. Y., contracted with William Constable for the purchase of this town, excepting a marshy tract each side of Sandy Creek, near the lake, which was afterwards included, and a tract of 3,000 acres in the southwest corner, sold to Brown & Eddy. The sum of $22,111.50 was paid, and a deed given, March 22, 1797, upon which a mortgage was given back upon the balance, amounting to $98,943.85. This mortgage embarrassed the early sales, and confidence was not restored until the property had reverted to the Constable estate, some years afterwards.

The greater part of the town was surveyed by Calvin Guiteau, in 1796, except the eastern part, which was surveyed by Nelson Doolittle, and the 3,000-acre tract in 1800, by Benjamin Wright, of Rome; the latter, in 1808, surveyed the whole town.

The first school commissioners and inspectors for the town were elected at a special meeting held July 24, 1813, and were as follows: commissioners, Oliver Scott, Elijah Woodworth, and William Case; inspectors, George Andrus, Lyman Ellis, and George Jenkins. Asa Averill was subsequently appointed school commissioner in place of Oliver Scott, resigned. In 1813-14 the town was divided into 17 school districts, and public school buildings were first erected during those years. Previous to this school-houses were built and schools maintained by subscription.

The following account is taken from Spafford’s Gazetteer of 1813: --

“In 1820 there were four grist-mills, six saw-mills, one trip-hammer, a distillery, and a convenient number of common mechanics. There were six school-houses, which also served for worshipping assemblies. Ellis village, or Ellisburgh (?), contained a grist and a saw-mill, a fulling-mill, distillery, school-house, and about 14 or 15 houses and stores.”

From the same author’s Gazetteer of 1824 we quote: --

“In 1820 the taxable property was $242,465. There were 13,454 acres of improved land, 4,386 cattle, 682 horses, and 8,729 sheep. There were made in families 51,576 yards of cloth in 1821. There were in town five grist-mills, 14 saw-mills, one oil-mill, five fulling-mills, four carding machines, three trip-hammers, two distilleries, and 13 asheries. The school districts numbered 23, where were taught l,039 children. The schools were kept eight of the 12 months.”

In 1880 Ellisburgh had a population of 4,810. The town is located in the first school district of Jefferson County, and in 1888 had 31 school districts, five of which were joint, in which 34 teachers were employed 28 weeks or more. There were 939 scholars attending school, and the aggregate days attendance during the year was 85,067. The total value of school buildings and sites was $27,020, while the assessed valuation of all the districts was $2,130<815. The whole amount raised for school purposes was $9,071.06, $5,175.33 of which was received by local tax. S. Whitford Maxson was school commissioner.

ELLISBURGH (p. o.) village is located on the south branch of Sandy Creek, about four miles form its mouth, and is the oldest village in the town. A postoffice was established here in 1806, and Lyman Ellis was the first postmaster. Among the early industries here was a clothing works, by Joseph Bullock, Hiram Warren’s tannery, Lyman Ellis’s grist and saw-mill, above “Stone Mills,” and a grist-mill owned by Andrew Scott and Thomas Davis, and located where the Hudson furniture factory now is. The village is 23 miles from Watertown, 163 from Albany, and 305 from New York city. It contains three or four general stores, two drug stores, a hardware store, wholesale seed store, two hotels, two grist-mills, a saw-mill, sash, door, blind, and furniture manufactory, a number of shops, a cheese factory, telephone and American express offices, a daily stage to Pierrepont Manor, and population of about 400.

BELLEVILLE (p. o.) village is situated on the north branch of Sandy Creek, 20 miles from Watertown, and 175 miles from Albany. Settlements were commenced here by Metcalf Lee, Bradley Freeman, Joshua Freeman, Martin Barney, James, Benjamin, and Jedediah McCumber, and others who engaged in farming, about 1802. The place being favorably situated for mills it gradually grew to a village. Its name is said to have been suggested by Calvin Clark, an early merchant here, and taken from Belleville, Canada. It had first been known as Hall’s Mills, from Giles Hall, who, in 1806, purchased of J. McCumber a hydraulic privilege here. The first merchant was Laban Brown, and John Hawn kept the first tavern. The Sackets Harbor and Ellisburgh Railroad, completed in 1853, passed through this village and gave it a healthy impulse for a time. The road was discontinued in 1862. The first school was taught here in 1805, in a blacksmith shop, and in 1807 a log school-house was erected. This building was without floors, and its roof was made of elm bark. The Ellisburgh Agricultural Society’s fair is held here. Belleville village was incorporated in 1860, and at an election held on May 29, of that year, the following officers were elected: De Alton Dwight, Alcander (sic) Dickinson, Daniel Hall, Abner M. Durfee, Calvin Littlefield, trustees; Arthur J. Brown, clerk; William R. Pennell, Collins F. Armsbury, Henry F. Overton, assessors; James E. Green, treasurer; Cyrus N. Rowe, collector; Patterson W. Stevens, poundmaster. At this election 52 votes were cast. Although Belleville is located principally on the north bank of the north branch of Big Sandy Creek, the corporation includes a considerable territory on the south side of the stream. The village now contains the Union Academy, two grist and flouring-mills, a woolen-mill, a cheese factory, four general stores, a hardware store, one millinery and fancy goods store, two clothing stores, a hardware store, drug store, a dealer in agricultural implements, a furniture dealer, two wholesale seed dealers, two meat markets, tow blacksmith shops, a shoe shop, two dentists, two physicians, an hotel, and about 500 inhabitants.

PIERREPONT MANOR is a post village and station on the R., W. & O. Railroad, and is located in the eastern part of the town, 19 miles from Watertown, 164 from Albany, and 306 from New York city. Stages run daily to Ellisburgh, Woodville, and Rural Hill villages. The first settlement was commenced here in 1805 by Joseph Allen, Pardon Earl, and Arnold Earl, who came from Galway, N. Y., by way of Redfield to Adams, and thence worked their way though the forest to Bear Creek. William Tabor, William Case, and several others soon after settled here and engaged in farming. Mr. Allen opened the first inn, and Oliver Snow the first store. Mr. Allen also kept the first blacksmith shop. Pardon Earl became a local land agent and a man of extensive business, residing here until his death in 1844, aged 62 years. The first school-house here was built on the north side of Bear Creek, in 1811, and served the purpose of school-house-, church, and place for public meetings. The first school teacher was Orson Tuller. Thomas E. Williamson was the first postmaster. The village now contains one hotel, two general stores, one millinery and fancy goods store, two blacksmith shops, harness shop, meat market, a fruit evaporating establishment, a livery stable, two churches (Episcopal and Union), about 60 dwellings, and 300 inhabitants. It has telegraph, telephone, and express offices.

MANNSVILLE (p. O.) is located in the southeastern part of the town, on Skinner Creek, 21 miles from Watertown, 161 from Albany, and 303 from New York city, and is a station on the R. W. & O. Railroad. David I. Andrus, as agent for Samuel Wardwell, of Rhode Island, was the first settler here previous to 1811. In 1822 Daniel Wardwell, son of Samuel, came on and took charge of the purchase made several years previously by his father, and in 1823 commenced the erection of a cotton factory, which stood a short distance below the present village, and was fitted for 600 spindles. Major H. B. Mann soon after purchased an interest in the factory, which was burned February 16, 1827. Upon the establishment of a postoffice here the present name was given to the village in honor of Newton Mann, one of the early settlers. David I. Andrus erected the first saw-mill here, and afterwards the first dwelling, which was subsequently used as a tavern. The village now contains two general stores, two drug and grocery stores, a grocery, flour, and feed store, a grocery, bake stuffs and confectionery store, a hardware and agricultural implement store, a furniture and undertaking establishment, three blacksmith shops, a millinery and fancy goods tore, shoe shop, a cider and vinegar manufactory, grist-mill, saw-mill, tannery, two meat markets, an hotel, photograph gallery, a lawyer, three physicians, several churches and about 500 inhabitants.

WOODVILLE (p.o.) village is located on the north branch of Sandy Creek, about three miles from its mouth, 22 miles from Watertown, 170 from Albany, and 312 from New York city. The settlement was begun here by Ebenezer, Ephraim, and Jacob Wood, sons of Rev. Nathaniel Wood, of Middletown, Vt., who came in to look for lands with Orimal Brewster, Simeon Titus, Ephraim Wood, Jr., and Hezekiah Leffingwell, in the fall of 1803. May 25, 1804. Ebenezer and Ephraim Wood purchased a tract of 754 acres, for which they paid $2,294.80, and, in March, Ephraim came in with a daughter and three sons. Nathaniel Wood, father of Ephraim, came on in June, 1804. Obediah Kingsbury, Oliver Scott, and others came the same year. A small saw-mill was built and in 1805, got in operation. In 1805 Ebenezer Wood, Nathaniel Wood, Jr., Mosely Wood, Samuel Truesdale, and families, and several young men, came in. Oliver Batcheller opened the first blacksmith shop in the village about 1810. The first store and the first hotel were kept by Ebenezer Wood, in his dwelling. The postoffice was established here between 1820 and 1830. The village now contains one general store, an hotel, grist-mill, door, sash, and blind factory, wagon shop, blacksmith shop, paper-mill, saw-mill, cheese factory, a drug and grocery store, telegraph, telephone, and express offices, and about 100 inhabitants. J. F. Converse’s Riverside stock farm is also located here.

RURAL HILL (p. o.) is a small hamlet in the northwestern part of the town. The postoffice was established here in 1849, and Philo Hungerford was appointed postmaster. The first settlement was commenced here in the spring of 1815 by Jedediah Hill. The locality was once known as “Buck Hill.” Edwin Burnham opened a store here before the establishment of the postoffice, calling it “Rural Hill store,” hence the present name. It has had at difference times several stores and shops and a hotel, but at present has very little business.

WARDWELL is a settlement in the northeastern part of the town on the south branch of Sandy Creek, and was once considered of enough importance to have a postoffice, which has been discontinued.

Union Academy of Belleville. --- Some time previous to 1824 Rev. Joshua Bradley, an eminent Baptist divine, made a persistent effort to interest the people in the vicinity of Belleville on the subject of education. He canvassed the towns of Ellisburgh and Henderson, here and there, and everywhere, again and again, to influence the people to give from their limited means for the purpose of schools. Before the building was determined upon he opened a school of higher grade at Mather’s Mills, in the upper part of the house belonging to John R. Hawes, and employed Mr. H. H. Haff as teacher. This school was opened in the fall of 1824, and its prosperity awakened a greater interest, so that the people were anxious to establish an academic institution in Belleville. After a long trial Mr. Bradley presented a plan for a manual labor school, and stock was subscribed sufficient to erect a building. A lot of about six acres was given by Giles Hall to be forever after used for school purposes. April 13, 1826, an act of incorporation was obtained by which Jotham Bigelow, Orin Howard, James W. Kennedy, John Hagedorn, Amos Heald, Peter N. Cushman, Wesson Thomas, Pardon Earl, Samuel S. Haws (sic), Edward Boomer, Sidney Houghton, Benjamin Barney, Samuel Boyden, Ebenezer Webster, Israel Kellogg, Jr., Jesse Hubbard, Hiram Taylor, Henry Green, Rufus Hatch, Charles B. Pond, Calvin Clark, John Barney, 1st, Samuel Pierce, and Godfrey W. Barney were constituted, with such as might associate with them, a body corporate, under the name of “Union Literary Society,” to have perpetual succession, and limited in their powers to the support of an academic school; the yearly income of their estate might not exceed $5,000; the number of their trustees, from 24 to 30, to be elected annually, or until others were chosen. Elections were held on the first Wednesday of November, and the payment of $5 entitled to membership and one vote. The school moved into the upper part of the stone church in the village. The stone school building was erected in 1828, and dedicated January 1, 1829, and on the 5th of January, 1830, it was received under the visitation of the Regents, upon the application of the trustees and Benjamin Durfee, Nahum Houghton, James McCumber, Henry Shaver, Jesse Brewster, Matthew Green, Thomas Clark, Amos Pratt, Daniel Wait, Culver Clark, Jotham Littlefield, Wadsworth Mayhew, and Charles Avery, who had contributed to its erection. Charles Avery was appointed principal in 1829, and he served two years, being assisted the first year by Isaac Slater and the second year by W. D. Waterman. The academy flourished to a degree that justified the highest expectation of its friends, and attracted great numbers of students from distant parts of the county. A building was erected for a shop, partially furnished with tools, and a few students engaged on the manual labor plan. This was soon abandoned, however, and the building sold and converted into a dwelling. The second principal was George W. Eaton, a graduate of Union College, who was succeeded by La Rue Perine Thompson, who served two years, when Joseph Mullin (Late Judge Mullin), a graduate of Union College, became principal, remaining one year, he being succeeded by Hiram H. Barney, also a Union graduate, who remained about two years. Lyman E. Boomer became principal in 1836, and was followed by Truman C. Hill in 1837. Both were graduates from Union College. During this time the debt on the building had been accumulating by reason of the unpaid interest on a mortgage, and in the fall of 1837 the academy was closed by the mortgagee. The trustees engaged with much zeal to raise the required amount, and were greatly assisted by Rev. Jedediah Burchard, the noted evangelist. Their efforts were attended with success, and in 1840, after needed repairs had been made, the academy was reopened under the principalship of Rev. George I. King, who was assisted by his wife, Betsey Sprague, as a preceptress, and David Hunter. The school was well attended at once, and great joy was manifest among students and citizens that “Old Union” was again free.

In the fall of 1841 Mr. King associated with him Richard Ellis, a graduate of Hamilton College, as joint principal. Mr. Ellis had, during the academy vacation, been teaching a mathematical and classical school in the village. In 1843 Mr. King resigned and Mr. Ellis became principal, who the same year was succeeded by Orsemus Cole, a Union College graduate. In 1845 Calvin Littlefield became principal, and he was followed by G. W. Ramsey, in 1847, with Mr. Ellis as assistant; in 1848, Mr. Ellis; 1850, John P. Houghton, a young man who had prepared for college at Union Academy and graduated from Union College, became principal, with Miss Porter as preceptress the first year, who was followed successively by Miss A. E. Barret, Miss Charlotte M. King, and Mrs. E. A. Ellis (formerly Miss Barret). The old building being entirely inadequate to the comfort and convenience of the increasing patronage, the trustees erected the present commodious structure in front of the stone building, at a cost of about $4,000, and had it ready for occupancy in October, 1856. The principal and family moved into rooms arranged for them in the fall of 1857. The following is a list of teachers employed in 1856: Rev. J. Dunbar Houghton, A. M., principal; Rev. J. W. Whitefield, teacher of painting and drawing; N. W. Buel, M. D., physiology and anatomy; Miss Lois M. Searles, preceptress; Mrs. E. A. Houghton, music; Miss Amelia Brigham, ornamental. In the winter of 1858 A. J. Brown and wife were added to the corps of teachers. In 1859 J. P. Buckley and George Fox became teachers. In 1861 Buckley and Fox enlisted in the civil war; the latter was killed while on picket duty in 1861, and the former in the second battle of Bull Run. At the close of the academic year ending July, 1864, Prof. Houghton, who had been in charge of the school for 13 years, resigned his position. During his administration grounds for a beautiful park had been laid out, and valuable books and apparatus had been purchased for the institution. The attendance was large, being in 1852, 188; 1855, 287; 1858, 205; 1860, 227; 1862, 236; 1864, 219. In 1864 Rev. Benjamin D. Gifford became principal, and he was succeeded in 1865 by Rev. Buel A. Smith. The whole number of pupils in 1866 was 342. In 1868 R. L. Thatcher was principal; in 1869, ‘70, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73, W. W. Grant; in 1874, Henry Carver; from 1875 to 1881, George F. Sawyer. The next principal was William C. Joslin, who served until the fall of 1884, when Henry A. Gaylord, A. B., an alumnus of Amherst College, became principal, and is now serving in that capacity. Under Prof. Gaylord’s administration the school has been greatly prospered. His assistants are James G. Riggs, A. B., mathematics and natural sciences; Charles B. Durfee, book-keeping and penmanship; Miss Nora Blanchard, lady principal, English, French, and German; Mrs. H. A. Gaylord, vocal and instrumental music. The academy is delightfully situated in the midst of a rich farming community in the village of Belleville. It has an endowment fund of more than $34,000, and also the Frederick Williams scholarship fund of $3,000, and a scholarship fund of $2,000, the bequest of the late Eunice E. Shepardson. The library consists of about 1,675 well-selected volumes, of which histories and books of reference form an important part, though works of standard fiction are well represented.

Belleville woolen-mills, located on the north branch of Sandy Creek, have been in operation about 50 years. T. L. Peters is the proprietor, and here are manufactured woolen yarns, flannel cloth, etc., etc.

Stone mills, at Ellisburgh village, are located on the south branch of Sandy Creek, and were built by John Shaw for a cotton factory, but were not used for that purpose. The buildings subsequently became the property of Samuel Cook, who ran a grist-mill here a few years, when he sold to Henry Millard, who continued the business with his brothers George W. and Henry, they selling to a Mr. Gilbert, who in turn sold to the present proprietor, H. A. Hopkinson. The mills have three runs of stones, with an annual capacity of 25,000 bushels of grain.

Banner grist-mill, located at Mannsville village, on Skinner Creek, was built about 1869 by J. D. Finster. In 1886 Mesrrs. M. W. Bates and T. M. Rounds leased it of Winchester & Curtis. It is run by water and steampower, and does custom grinding.

John Grow’s grist-mill, leased by James N. Smith, is located on the south branch of Sandy Creek. It has two runs of stones and does a small amount of business.

William H. Phillips’s grist and flouring-mill (formerly Hall’s mill) is located on the north branch of Sandy Creek and is run by water-power. It has a thriving custom patronage.

Belleville grist and flouring-mill, William Mott, proprietor, is run by water-power, has two runs of stones, and does an extensive business.

Woodville flouring, grist, and cider-mill, owned by G. T. Converse, and operated by George Wood and J. F. Converse, is run by water-power, and has a capacity for grinding 8,000 bushels of grain annually.

E. L. Stone’s cheese factory, located at Mannsville village, was built in 1861-62 by Shepherd & Grinnell. It had various owners until 1874, when it was purchased by the present proprietor, who has since conducted it. The size of the building is 110 by 35 feet, and the factory has the capacity for handling the milk from 1,000 cows, manufacturing about 300,000 pounds of cheese annually.

C. H. Grave’s cheese factory, at Wardwell settlement, received the milk from about 400 cows.

Silver Spring cheese factory, owned by C. J. Curtis, has the patronage of about 300 cows.

A. J. Smith’s cheese factory, located in the Goodenough neighborhood, was built in 1886. It received the milk from about 350 cows.

Mannsville tannery was built by Daniel Goddard about 50 years ago. In 1874 it was purchased by J. H. & H. E. Root, who have since conducted it. It has the capacity of 50 sides of leather per day, giving employment to 10 men, the value of the product being about $60,000 annually.

Charles Cowden’s sash, door, and blind factory is located on Mill street in Ellisburgh village. It does a thriving business.

Mrs. G. W. Green’s saw and cider-mill was built by Daniel Goodenough. It is located on Lindsey Creek and does custom work.

Hopkinson & Dennison’s cider and vinegar works, at Ellisburgh village, were established in 1875. Capacity, 10,000 bushels of apples annually.

Hawley & Bemis’s cider and vinegar works were established in 1859. They are located on State road, two miles north of Pierrepont Manor; capacity, 10,000 bushels of apples per year.

Harvey C. Stacey’s saw-mill, at Belleville village, was built by Giles Hall in 1806. It does custom work only.

Barnes & Freeman’s saw-mill, located on Deer Creek, is operated by water-power, with a capacity for cutting 175,000 feet of lumber per year.

John Q. Johnson’s saw-mill, on Lindsey Creek, is operated by water-power, and does custom work.

H. C. & E. I. Caster’s mills, at Wardwell settlement, on the south branch of Sandy Creek, are engaged in the manufacture and planing of lumber. About 10,000 cheese boxes are also annually manufactured here.

C. F. Calkin’s saw-mill, located near Pierrepont Manor, does custom work.

Mannsville steam saw-mill was built by Finster & Woodward about 1872. The present proprietors are Curtis & Winchester. The mill has the capacity for sawing 10,000 feet of lumber per day.

George S. Hudson’s saw-mill and furniture manufactory, located in the north part of Ellisburgh village, were formerly known as Wild’s mills. Fifteen men are employed, and about $15,000 worth of furniture and sash and blinds are manufactured annually.

The first settlement in the town of Ellisburgh was made by Lyman Ellis, in the spring of 1797, and was the first settlement in the territory now embraced within the limits of Jefferson County*. (*Excepting a military settlement which was made on Carleton Island about 1778.) In the spring of 1797 Marvel and Lyman Ellis, brothers, both of whom were interested in the purchase of the town from Constable, previously noted, came to the town, Lyman with a view of permanent settlement. In the fall of the same year Caleb Ellis, having met with Lyman Ellis at Rome, was casually introduced with the expectation that a relationship existed, but none was found; yet the interview resulted in an invitation to settle in the town. Caleb Ellis accordingly visited the town and selected a farm on the south branch of Sandy Creek, at a place where one Waldo had the year previous erected a hunter’s shanty.

At the close of the same season Lyman Ellis had built a dam and saw-mill, three-fourths of a mile below the present site of Ellisburgh village, and the mill was got in operation the same fall, but was partly swept away the next spring by a flood. In the winter of 1797-98 William Hicks, with ______ Butler and B. Pierce, remained in the town, and in the spring of 1798 Caleb Ellis and family, Robert Fulton, Vial Salisbury, Isaac Waddle, Abram Wilcox, two men by the name of Thornton, and others came into town with Lyman Ellis to rebuild the mill and erect a grist-mill; but nearly all were taken sick, and the pioneers were reduced to great suffering from want of provisions and necessary medical attendance.

Mary Ellis, a young daughter of Caleb, was the first person to die in the town, and the first death of an adult was that of Samantha Howard. The first birth is said to have occurred in the summer of 1798---a son, who was given the name Ontario, to Hezekiah Pierce. The first female born in the town was Harriet Howard.

On September 11, 1798, Marvel Ellis wrote to Constable as follows: ---

“We have a good dam across the creek, which has been expensive; a good saw-mill well finished, and running, and have done considerable towards a grist-mill. We have on the same lot a large and handsome improvement, have had a fine crop of wheat, and have a very fine corn. The people that are on the land have good improvements for the time and are industrious. I inclose you an account of the small sales to the settlers, the price sold for, and what has been received, which is a small sum in proportion to what has been laid out on the land; if people, would have been satisfied of having a release from the mortgage, by paying you, we should have had sufficient to have made the present payment now due. The remainder of the money due from these settlers is due within a year. We wish you to give us some further indulgence, and something to convince the people that you will release from the mortgage on receiving payment, which will enable us to make payments for the land, and make a large settlement soon.”

Inclosed in the foregoing was the following list, with the number of acres taken up by each: Joseph Caldwell, 60; William Hicks, 51; John G. Hayward, 150; Caleb Ellis, 126; Neal Salisbury, 100; Elijah Pettibone, 100; John Paddock, 50; Isaac Southerland, 130; Asahel Humphrey, 419; Elisha Phillips, 100; Levi Root, 140; Hezekiah Pierce, 149.

The first corn and potatoes raised by the county by the present race of settlers was by Lyman Ellis in 1797, who, also in 1798, was probably the first to raise winter wheat.

During the severe winter of 1798-99, when the snow lasted from the 29th of October until April 20th, the pioneers suffered severely, and one Gideon Howard, who was overtaken by a storm near Little Sandy Creek, while returning from Rome, was detained in the woods three days and nearly perished from fatigue and hunger.

In the spring of 1799 Mr. Ellis’s dam was again swept away and the mill partly destroyed, when this and the frame of a grist-mill were removed to the present village above, and the grist-mill was got in operation about 1803.

James Constable, a brother of William, made tours through these northern counties in the summer months of 1803-06, on business connected with the estate of his deceased brother, of which he was one of the executors. In his diary, under date of September 7, 1803, he wrote: --

* * * “Mr. Ellis has lived here nearly six years, and all he has received from our testator has been $221 for commission on land sold. A lot was promised him upon condition of his coming to reside, but he never got a deed for it, though his mills were first erected there, from whence they have since been removed to where they are now. He now asks the ex’rs for a conveyance for the lot promised, being No. 94, and for time to pay the above balance, the security for which is ample, as his buildings are valued at $2,000, and the title of the lot they are on is still with the executors.

“There are about 40 families in the town, most of them poor, but of that description of people fit to settle a new country; few comforts about them, and they seem to have few wants; no liquor is to be had, and they have not yet begun to distill, nor are there any apples to make cider, so that their only drink is water, with which they seem content. They do not hesitate about the price of $3, but paying one-quarter down is very difficult for most of them. There are good horned cattle amongst them; the horses indifferent, but the only ones fit for a new country. They do not seem to regard distance, and go nine or 10 miles backward and forward daily, over roads that are nearly impassable.” * * *


At this time the town was not honored by the presence of a clergyman, and the nearest physician was 20 miles away.

Regarding his visit to Ellisburgh the following year, under date of August 21, 1804, Mr. Constable’s diary says: --

“Proceeded on to Ellisburgh, and found the road from Ellisburgh so extremely bad and so seldom traveled, and another route, shorter and better, presents itself, so that I have, by the advice of Mr. Wright, judged it advisable to alter the latter. * * * The road will be nearly direct from Rome to Ellisburgh, and about 43 miles.

“August 23. Went down Sandy Creek to the lake, and found the marsh covered with hay-stacks, the contents of which had grown spontaneously, and there are many horses and cattle at pasture, which proves that this place is of consequence. Some of it is indeed very fine and the people are very desirous of buying, but no judgment can be formed of the quality of good and bad, and L. Ellis is therefore to send me an estimate before the price is fixed. Went to Christopher Edmonds’ on the north side of the creek. He has a fine farm and has produced the best corn in town. He expects this year a yield of about 90 bushels per acre. This article is very fine throughout the place, but the wheat has been affected by the fly and rust. The establishment has flourished generally; many settlers have come in since last year, and more are expected. There are now 60 families, and though cases of fever and ague happen near the lake, and sometimes the lake fever, yet the country is a healthy one, and the soil so good that it will settle fast.”

The remainder of this year’s journal, and first of the following year, relates to other sections than the town of Ellisburgh, and are omitted. In 1805 his visit was made in August. His diary continues: --

* * * On the way to Ellisburgh found many settlers since last year, and the improvement considerable; the crops of wheat excellent, and the corn good, as they have suffered little from drought. Arrived at Ellis’ at noon to remain two or three days. The mills are in tolerably good order, but the water so low they can grind only part of the day. Grists are brought from a great distance, and in boats from Oswego, and lower. Ellis has built a small house for himself, and a good barn. * * *

“August 9. * * * A school-house is now building near Ellis’ Mills, on the same lot, to be two stories high, the upper of which is to be devoted to divine service, when any minister travels that way. The town have also subscribed towards building a bridge across the creek, at the same place, and we agreed to contribute $20, as they could not raise sufficient, but they have engaged to improve the road from the bridge, to the north line of No. 10. Dr. Dresser has but two patients, and there is less sickness than at any previous year in this season.”

The proprietors had adopted the practice of giving certificates, allowing people a certain time after exploring to go for their families before taking contracts, but it was found that in many cases these had bee transferred, and this having grown into a system of speculation, was discontinued as they were given to assist the first real settlers, and their transfer operated against the interest of both land owners and settlers. Mr. Constable’s journal of August, 1806, speaking of the settlements in Ellisburgh, says: ---

“From Asa Brown’s passed on to Andrews’ settlement, or Ellisburgh, through a very good road, four miles. He has made considerable improvement here. The saw-mill has been long in use, and has enabled them to erect frame houses, some good barns, and a large grist-mill, which is, however, not yet finished. * * * Ellis rents the mills for $400 per annum, and his affairs will soon be in good order. * * * There have been some cases of sickness during the season, but none fatal. Dr. Draper* (*In his diary under date of August 9, 1805, --- ....Mr. Constable mentions “Dr. Dresser.” We are not informed which name is correct.) is still on the town, and has considerable practice. He will continue here, and hopes to build a house next year, when he will require a deed for the 50 acres of land to which he is entitled. I should have remarked that 180 militiamen trained here yesterday (September 2), and it is said by some that one-third were absent. If so, the population has greatly increased.”

January 22, 1803, George Tibbets and James Dole, of Troy, were appointed agents for Ellisburgh, and in 1807 were paid for their services in land. In the same year Benjamin Wright, of Rome, succeeded as general agent for the estate, and fixed his resident at Pulaski, where he continued in the capacity of surveyor and agent until employed on the canal surveys.

The embargo act of 1808 received much opposition from the Federal party in this part of the county. In September 1808, an event occurred in this town that caused great excitement at the time. A party from Oswego, under Lieut. Asa Wells, entered Sandy Creek, and after seizing a quantity of potash, under the embargo laws, proceeded to the house of Capt. Fairfield, surrounded it, and seized and carried away a swivel. Capt. Fairfield being absent, his wife made complaint to a justice, who issued a warrant. The constable was intimidated and called upon his fellow citizens to aid him, when about 30 men took arms and went with him, but Wells’s men presented bayonets, when they desisted, and 20 of the men went off. Lieut. Wells ordered the remainder to be disarmed and bound, when they were taken, with the swivel, to Oswego. On the evening of the 25th of September the same party returned for the purpose of taking the magistrate and constable who had issued the papers. A warrant against Wells, and tow others, for felony, in breaking open a house, was issued at Sackets Harbor, and given to Ambrose Pease, a constable, to execute, who, after examining the law, raised the hue and cry, and assembled about 200 persons in Ellisburgh, where a consultation of several magistrates was held, and the next day at sunrise about 70 or 80 men, armed and equipped, volunteered to aid in the arrest, but the magistrates durst not issue the order for their march, being apprehensive that some excess or injury might be done; and the question having been raised whether a constable had a right to demand aid before he had been resisted, the armed men were advised to disperse, and the civil officer requested to proceed to apprehend Wells and the others, without the force of the county. This proceeding was charged, by one of the political parties, as an attempt of the other to resist, by force of arms, the execution of the laws, and mutual criminations were exchanged with much bitterness. To justify themselves and secure public opinion in their favor the civil officers who had taken an interest in the matter prepared the following statement, which was published in the newspapers of the day, at Utica, Albany, and elsewhere: --

“At a meeting of the inhabitants of the county of Jefferson, in the state of New York, suddenly convened (by command of the civil authority) in the town of Ellisburgh, to take into consideration the proper and legal mode to apprehend certain felons and robbers, who, in the town of Ellisburgh, in said county, being armed, and under the pretense of being in the service of the United States, to enforce the embargo laws, did there violently and forcibly enter into the dwelling house of Captain Fairfield of his property, contrary to the laws; that they refused to submit to the civil authority of the country, and did then and there, by force and arms, seize, bind, and carry away to Oswego 10 of our fellow citizens, who were commanded to attend a civil officer in the execution of process on the said offenders; which citizens have been kept since, in close confinement, in want of every comfort and convenience of life, without lawful authority, and constantly subject to insult of soldiery, who seem insensible of the rights, privileges, and liberties of Americans. Feeling the spirit of freemen, and viewing this and many other late acts of violence as rapid strides towards despotism and martial law among us, the establishment of which must occasion a total deprivation of rights for which our fathers and many of us have fought and bled; therefore,

Resolved, That we consider it a duty incumbent on us, for our personal safety, for the security of our lives and property, and for the support of our civil law and authority, to write* (according to ERRATA, this word should have read "unite") in all lawful measures to apprehend the said felons.

Resolved, That such of our fellow citizens who have assembled in arms to aid our magistrates and civil officers in the execution of lawful process against Lieut. Asa Wells, and others, who stand charged under oath of felony, be requested to disperse, until another trial be made by them to apprehend the said Asa Wells.

Resolved, That the magistrates and civil authorities of the neighboring counties be requested to aid us in apprehending and bringing to justice the said Lieut. Wells, and divers other persons concerned in said felony.

Resolved, That we will support the laws and magistrates of the country, and our civil officers in the execution of lawful process.

Resolved, That Augustus Sacket, Jesse Hopkins, and John Cowles, Esq., magistrates of the county, be appointed a committee to cause these resolutions to be published, for the information of our fellow citizens.


JESSE HOPKINS ) Committee.


“Ellisburgh, Sept. 27, 1808.”

In the spring of 1814 a detachment of troops under Lieut. Woolsey, guarding a quantity of military stores from

Oswego, were attacked by a detachment from the British feel near the mouth of Sandy Creek. The Americans were completely victorious, as will be seen by the details of this event given under the heading, “War of 1812.”

In 1828 the town was visited by a sickness remarkable for its fatality, especially in the vicinity of the lake, where the water was extremely high and overflowed the marshes. The disease assumed the type of a malignant typhoid fever, and was very general, extending along the entire frontier.

Many shipwrecks have occurred on the shore of the lake in this town since the country was first settled. The first of which we find record was in the fall of 1800, when a small schooner under command of Capt. Gammon was lost off Little Stony Creek and all on board perished. A boat with eight men, that was sent in search of the vessel, was also swamped and all on board drowned. About 1807 a family was located at the mouth of Sandy Creek to afford aid to shipwrecked persons, and this lonely dwelling sheltered many a suffering sailor who might otherwise have perished.

In the autumn of 1876 a life-saving station was established at the mouth of Big Sandy Creek. The building is of wood, 45 by 20 feet, and the station is provided with the necessary apparatus. The eastern coast of Lake Ontario is a dangerous locality in time of storms, and this station is a wise provision for the protection of the lives of the sailors on the lake.

A survey of the mouth of Sandy Creek was made in 1829, by order of the general government, with the view of improving it for a harbor. The cost of the work was estimated at $36,000, and was commenced and ended with the survey.

The journal of Rev. John Taylor’s missionary tour through the Mohawk and Black River countries, in 1802, mentions and describes several ancient forts in this town. They have been fully described in the County Chapter in connection with the subject of pre-historic fortifications.

The town records contain descriptions of several of the early roads. The first one, laid out October 7, 1803, is described as follows: ---

“Beginning near the end of a road cut out on the sixth town from Levi Schofield’s to Hungry Bay, and where said road intersects a division-line of Great Lot 54 on said town; thence (by courses given in description) to the south line of the town of Adams, meeting a road laid out by the commissioners of said town to the said line.”

Another road, laid out December 20, 1803, extended from “the road near the house of Lyman Ellis, on the north line of lot No. 76, thence north 81 degrees west along said line 164 chains and 66 links, until it intersects the road laid out for Christopher Edmonds’s to the town of Adams.”

A road was laid out May 12, 1804, surveyed by Lyman Ellis, “Beginning on the east line of lot No. 25 in said town, where the road that is laid out running from Jeremiah Mason’s to Joseph Holley’s intersects said line; thence north along said line 154 chains and 75 links, until it intersects the road leading from Asahel Hoisington’s up to the south side of north branch of the Great Sandy Creek, to the town of Adams, laid out by actual surveys.” The same year roads were laid out from the south line of the town of Adams to intersect the road laid out by the commissioners in 1803; and from the mouth of Bear Creek to the west line of township No. 1, 5-1/2 miles and 15 chains. Another road is recorded as “Beginning on the Ridge, so-called, where the road leading from the mouth of Bear Creek, so-called, to the west line of township No. 1, crosses said Ridge; thence (by bearings given) to the south branch of Big Sandy Creek, and to the road by Mr. Isaac Burr’s.”



The Baptist Church was the first to effect an organization in this town. Elders Colwell and Littlefield, Baptists, at an early date adopted a Covenant and Articles of Faith, and held meetings at Belleville. The Articles of Faith were decided by a council of brethren to be contrary to the faith of the Baptist Church, and the meetings were accordingly discontinued, and for some time there was no ministry of this order. About 1807 Joshua Freeman and Amos Noyes, two young men, commenced holding meetings at Belleville. They were joined by Deacon Edward Barney, and others, and in August of that year a regular Baptist church was organized. They enjoyed only occasional preaching until 1810, when Martin E. Cook, a licentiate, was called to the care of the church. He was afterward ordained and (with an interval of two years in which Elder Bradley was employed) continued to labor in the ministry successfully for 24 years. The following have since served as pastors: Daniel D. Reed, Abner Webb, Joel H. Green, A. Webb (2d time), John F. Bishop, David McFarland, J. M. Shotwell, A. Cleghorn, G. W. Divoll, F. E. Osborne, G. A. Ames, L. E. Spafford, P. D. Root, C. E. Becker, and Milton B. Comfort, the last named of whom assumed charge in the fall of 1881 and is the present pastor. At its organization the society consisted of 12 members. Their house of worship is a wooden building, will seat 400 persons, and was erected in 1836 at a cost of $5,000. The present value of church property is $6,000. The present membership is 171. W. B. Doane is superintendent of the Sunday-school, which has a membership of 100.

In 1819 a union meeting-house was erected at Belleville, costing about $3,300, but the society never perfected its organization, which led to litigation. In March, 1829, the building was burned. A Baptist society had been formed December 4, 1821, with Matthew Green, Benjamin Barney, and John Barney, 2d trustees. In 1831 the present Baptist Church was built at a cost of about $2,400.

The Baptist Church of Mannsville was formed about 1831, by the union of one in Lorraine and one in the west part of the town. The latter, styled the Second Baptist Church of Ellisburgh, was formed October 8, 1817, under Timothy Brewster, assisted by Elders Emery Osgood, of Henderson; Matthew Wilkie, of Wilna; Martin E. Cook, of Ellisburgh; and Elisha Morgan, of Rutland. In 1833 this sect, with the Congregationalists, erected a place of worship at a cost of $1,600.

The First Congregational Church of Ellisburgh was formed by David M. Dixon and Oliver Leavitt, January 1, 1817, of six members. The Rev. J. A. Clayton was employed soon after and was settled as pastor. November 11, 1823, a society was formed, of which the trustees were Amos Hudson, Hiram Taylor, Daniel Wardwell, John Otis, William T. Fish, and William Cole. The organization was given up in 1844.

The Congregational Church of Woodville was formed November 12, and a society December 14, 1836, of which Ebenezer Wood, Oliver Batcheller, and William Gray were trustees. A union house had been erected and partly finished previously; in 1837 it was taken down and a brick church erected at a cost of $1,100. Rev. Charles B. Pond became the first pastor, and was installed January 23, 1840. In four years Elisha P. Cook succeeded, since whom David Powell, J. Burchard, Frederick Hebard, and others have been employed. At its organization the church consisted of 18 members, and the present membership is 80, with Rev. J. K. Griffith, pastor. In 1868 the church edifice was rebuilt, and is now valued, including grounds, at $3,500. J. H. Wood is superintendent of the Sunday-school, which has a membership of 120.

The Second Congregational Church of Ellisburgh was reorganized at Mannsville, August 18, 1834, with Roswell Keeney, Benjamin G. Grenell, and Daniel Wardwell, trustees. The early records of this church were destroyed by fire. For a long time the society owned an interest in the only meeting-house in the place (the Baptist), but in 1856 they erected their present frame church edifice, at a cost of about $3,000. It will seat about 250 persons, is surmounted by a spire, and stands in the eastern part of the village.

The First Presbyterian Society in the town of Ellisburgh was formed August 28, 1820, and elected Nathan Barden, Isaac Burr, William T. Fisk, Amos Hudson, Liberty Bates, and Royce March, trustees. In 1830 it was reorganized, and the same year erected in Belleville a meeting-house at a cost of about $500. A church organization was formed at the house of Nathan Barden, December 18, 1829, by the Rev. Jedediah Burchard, of five males and six females, and on the 11th of February, 1830, it united with the Watertown Presbytery.

The Universalist Church of Ellisburgh was formed August 26, 1821, with 19 members. The persons chiefly instrumental in forming it were Isaac Mendall, Silas Emerson, John Clark, and Rev. Cornelius G. Persons. The society was formed September 2, 1833, with J. Mendall, Edmund M. Eldridge, Daniel Stearns, Edmund Palmer, and Richard Cheever, trustees. A house of worship was erected by Benjamin Bemis, at Ellis village, in 1843, at a cost of $1,500.

The Methodist Episcopal Society, in Ellisburgh village, was formed March 5, 1832, with Oliver N. Snow, Benjamin Chamberlin, Lyman Ellis, Jeremiah Lewis, and Hiram Mosley, trustees. In 1833 they built a church, which in 1850 was removed, repaired, and a steeple added. In 1836 a parsonage was built. The church is a neat frame building, surmounted by a bell-tower and spire, in the former of which is a splendid bell.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church and Society in Belleville was formed May 5, 1841, having Edward Boomer, Elias Dickinson, Thomas Ellis, Edward B. Hawes, Jesse Hubbard, Riley Chamberlain, Hall W. Baxter, Nelson Boomer, and John R. Hawes, trustees. A church was built near the Wardwell settlement, and afterwards removed to Belleville. This building has since been sold to the Catholics, and the Methodists purchased the church built by the Presbyterians. The parsonage belong to the society was taken in trade for the old church.

St. John’s Church (Roman Catholic), located at Belleville, was organized in 1875 by Rev. James Hogan, with 60 members. Their house of worship was purchased from the Methodists in 1875, will comfortably seat 250 persons, and is valued, including grounds and other church property, at $2,000. The present membership is 60, under the pastoral charge of Rev. James Haggerty.

Christ Church (Protestant Episcopal), is located in Ellisburgh village, was organized September 3, 1879, by Rev. J. Muir, John P. Houghton, Alva J. Smith, John J. Brown, and others, with 10 members, Rev. John Muir, LL. B., M. D., being the first rector, which position he has since retained. Their first house of worship, a wood building, was erected in 1879, and cost about $3,000. It will comfortably seat 200 persons, and is valued, including grounds, etc., at about $4,000. The present membership is 25.

Zion Church (Protestant Episcopal), at Pierrepont Manor, was organized with four members January 4, 1836, the building being erected and services maintained by Hon. William C. Pierrepont. Rev. A. Treadway was the first rector. Their first house of worship, a wood structure, was erected in 1835. This building was repaired and greatly improved in 1887, and cost about $4,500. It will comfortably seat 300 persons, and is valued, including grounds and other church property, at about $7,000. The present number of communicants is 60, and Rev. John Muir, LL. B., M. D., is rector. The Sunday-school has four teachers and 60 pupils. The church, in first instance, was planted here through the generous liberality of the Pierrepont family, and gradually drew to it a portion of the people of the neighborhood. Hon. William C. Pierrepont subsequently endowed the church, so that the services might not lapse at any time. In reference to the present rector of Zion Church the Dominion (Canada) Register (in its “Data respecting Canadian Public Men”) has the following: --

Rev. John Muir, born and educated at Glasgow, Scotland. Date of birth 5 May 1829. For many years connected with Canadian newspaper press; LL. B., 1863; Mem. Coll. Phys. and Surg., Ontario, 1869; M. D., 1872; vice-prest. (sic) Ont. Medical Council, 1873; provincial examiner in toxicology and sanitary science, 1873; minister of Grace Episcopal Church, Carthage, N. Y., 1875; rector of Zion Church, Pierrepont Manor, N. Y., for nearly 14 years.”



The subject of this sketch was born in Bridgewater, N. Y., October 2, 1825. His father and grandfather were natives of Belchertown, Mass. His father, Thomas Converse, came to Bridgewater at an early age and married Lydia A. Stratton. In 1835 the family moved into Ellisburgh, this county, and bought the farm upon which Mr. Converse now lives. It is beautifully located on the west bank of Big Sandy Creek, in the village of Woodville, and contains 255 acres.

Mr. Converse prepared for college at Union Academy of Belleville, N. Y. He graduated from Hamilton College at the age of 23 years. Owing to failing health he purchased the old homestead in 1848, and since that time has been actively engaged in a high order of farming. Mr. Converse is a pioneer in stock circles in New York state. His herd of thoroughbred Ayshires is second to none in the United Sates, having won prizes in several exhibitions from St. Louis to Boston. In his early career he made several importations from Scotland, which were the foundation of several noted families, representatives of which may still be seen in his stables. Eight Shetland ponies came with the last importation of cattle, which formed a nucleus of small horses from which have been raised some of the finest specimens of “little horses” found in the East. He has held the office of president of the Ayshire Breeders’ Association of the United Sates and Canada for a number of years.

In 1874 Mr. Converse built a mammoth barn, which accommodates 100 head of cattle and 60 horses, with room for fodder for the entire number, together with all the modern improvements for caring for fancy stock. He has always been an advocate of advanced farming. His farm is in a high state of cultivation, and is run on the high pressure principle. In 1876 he built a large and commodious house on a gentle eminence overlooking the village, and all things considered “Riverside” is a farmstead worthy of the labor, time, and money the proprietor has so judiciously expended.

He has always taken an active part in agricultural organizations, both local and state, having held offices in town, county, and state agricultural societies for many years. Being a ready speaker, in 1889 he was chosen conductor of the State Farmers’ institutes, thus doing all in his power to elevate his chosen profession to the desired standard. Mr. Converse early affiliated his political faith with the Republican party, and has been a staunch adherent to its principles ever since. He has been a member of the Congregational Church in his chosen village over 50 years.

November 12, 1857, Mr. Converse married Marietta Bull, daughter of Alvah and Louise Bull, of Rural Hill, N. Y. This union was blessed with two children, viz: Frank Alvah, born May 12, 1862, and Marietta May, born October 18, 1865. After a brief illness of typhoid fever Mrs. Converse died November 18, 1865. He married for his second wife Adelia C. Hopper, daughter of Samuel and Betsey Hopper, of Antwerp, N. Y. Two children were the issue of this marriage, namely: George Henry, born June 26, 1870, and Clara Jerusha, born July 27, 1874.

Mr. Converse is a public spirited, warm hearted man, and enjoys an enviable reputation among a large circle of friends and acquaintances.

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

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