Town History from Child’s Gazetteer of Jefferson County, N. Y. (1890)

pp. 445 - 452

HENDERSON was formed from Ellisburgh, February 17, 1806, and was named in honor of William Henderson, to whose share this town fell in the vision of the “Eleven Towns,” of which this was No. 6. It is bounded on the north and west by Lake Ontario and a small part of Hounsfield, east by Adams, and south by Ellisburgh and the lake, and is the most westerly town in the county, if we except Galloe and Stony islands, which belong to the town of Hounsfield. Its form is irregular, being largely indented by Henderson Bay, which extends about five miles from northeast to southwest, forming an excellent harbor. The soil is either a light loam, or sand, or an admixture of each, easy of tillage, and productive. The principal streams are Stony and Little Stony creeks, which take a southwesterly course through the town and empty into Lake Ontario.

The surface of the town is much diversified. In the southwestern portion the land is low, but little elevated above the surface of the lake, and very fertile. Forming a ridge in its rear, and extending around to Henderson Bay, is the ancient lake-beach, rocky, and for some distance covered by a very thin soil. At Henderson Bay the shores are higher and more abrupt, the basin being nearly occupied by the water. A rolling territory stretches off to the south and east until the bluffs of Big Stony Creek are reached. This stream has cut a deep channel through the limestone rock, and aside from its interest to the geologists it presents many picturesque and attractive features to the seeker after the beauties of nature. East of Henderson village is a deep hollow, wherein a pond (Henderson Point) has been formed by an ancient beaver dam, the creek here spreading out and covering an extent of perhaps 300 acres. Passing a ridge between Big and Little Stony creeks, we reach the latter, which is but a small stream, yet has furnished power for several mills in the past. In the southeast part of the town the stream passes through Six Town Pond. In other portions of the town are found traces of ponds which formerly existed, and the remains of dams built long since by the beaver, which at an early day inhabited this region in vast numbers.

The area of Henderson is 23,501 acres. The town was surveyed into lots in 1801, by Benjamin Wright, of Rome. In 1805 lot No. 20, near Henderson Harbor, was surveyed into 20 lots, or four ranges, of 10 lots each, for the purpose of a village.

The first town meeting was held at the house of Reuben Putnam, March 11, 1806, at which Jesse Hopkins was chosen supervisor; Mark Hopkins, clerk; Lodowick Salisbury, Daniel Spencer, and Emory Osgood, assessors; Elijah Williams, constable and collector; John B. Carpenter and Samuel Hubbard, poormasters; Marvel Danley, Asa Smith, and Anthony Sprague, commissioners of highways; George W. Clark, Willes Fellows, and Jedediah McCumber, fence viewers; Reuben Putnam, poundmaster; Israel Thomas, James Barney, Levi Schofield, Thomas Drury, Calvin Bishop, Robert Ferrel, Benjamin Barney, John B. Carpenter, William White, and Simeon Porter, pathmasters.

Spafford’s Gazetteer of 1813 says of Henderson: --

“Settlement commenced in 1803, by four or five families, increased in 1804 to 10, in 1805 to 70, and in 1810 to 180 families. There was a grist and a saw-mill near the center of the town, and a saw-mill near the lake, and a grain and fulling-mill was built there about 1812.”

The same author’s Gazetteer of 1824 says of the town in 1820: --

“The taxable property was valued at $99,244. There were 12 school districts; 7,504 acres of improved land; 2,526 cattle, 333 horses, and 5,093 sheep; 18,274 yards of cloth were made. There were two grist-mills, five saw-mills, one fulling-mill, two carding machines, one distillery, and nine asheries.”

In 1880 Henderson had a population of 1,842. The town is located in the first school district of Jefferson County, and in 1888 had 13 school districts, in which 14 teachers were employed 28 weeks or more. There were 345 scholars attending school, and the aggregate days attendance during the year was 29,205. The total value of school buildings was $9,480, while the assessed valuation of all the districts was $945,010. The whole amount raised for school purposes was $3,122.75, $1,485.11 of which was received by local tax. S. Whitford Maxson was school commissioner.

HENDERSON (p. o.) is an incorporated village located in the central part of the town, on Stony Creek, principally on the north side of that stream. It is 18 miles from Watertown, 178 from Albany, and 320 from New York city, has telephone and American express offices, three churches (Baptist, Methodist, and Universalist), three dry goods stores, two drug stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, two millinery shops, a grist-mill, wagon shop, sash, door, and blind manufactory, a cheese factory, meat market, stove and tin shop, a furniture and undertaking establishment, a saw-mill, a jewelry store, and about 400 inhabitants. This village was started about 1807 by the erection here of a grist and saw-mill, by Deacon Fellows, on Big Stony Creek. The first store here was started in 1811, by Lodowick Salisbury. The second store in the town of Henderson was opened in 1809 or ‘10, about three miles southeast from Henderson village, by William & McCumber. Dr. Lowrey Barney was engaged as clerk in both of these stores. About 1808-09 Deacon Fellows built his house and opened a tavern, the first in the village. About 1810-11 the first distillery was built here, by a man named Calkins. Another was subsequently started by William Henderson, about 1815, who took corn in payment for land and manufactured it into whisky, which brought a fair price in cash. Previous to 1812 a postoffice was established at Henderson Harbor, with Mark Hopkins as postmaster. The office was shortly after removed to Henderson village and Rev. Holland Weeks, a Swedenborgian preacher, was installed as the first postmaster. Dr. Daniel Barney was the first physician in this village and the second in the town.

HENDERSON HARBOR is a post village situated on Henderson Bay, 19 miles from Watertown, 179 from Albany, and 321 from New York city. It has a telephone and American express office, is an important shipping port on the lake, and its business is increasing each year. It is quite noted as a summer resort, and numerous fine cottages dot the pleasant shores of the bay. Its hotels and cottages for summer boarders are the Brooklyn House, Edgewater Cottage, Frontier House, Gill House, Lakeside Hotel, Paradise Park Hotel, Snow-Shoe Hotel, and Bay View House. It has two commercial warehouses, one store, and a boat livery. A postoffice was established here about 1812, but it was soon after transferred to Henderson village, and the Harbor was without a postoffice until the establishment of one, with Charles Eggleston as postmaster, January 1, 1890. This village first bore the appellation of Naples, and when first laid out a lot of four acres was reserved for a public square and donated to the village by Mr. Henderson. On this lot a frame school-house was built.

SMITHVILLE is a post village 12 miles from Watertown (on the line between the towns of Adams and Henderson), 178 from Albany, and 320 from New York city. It has telephone and express offices, a daily stage from Sackets Harbor, two stores, one church (Baptist), one hotel, two truss manufactories, a grist-mill, saw-mill, carriage shop, two blacksmith shops, a cheese factory, furniture manufactory, and about 200 inhabitants.

BISHOP STREET (p. o.) is a small hamlet in the eastern part of the town. It has one church (Methodist Episcopal), saw-mill, wagon shop, wood turning works, a telephone office, and about 100 inhabitants.

Henderson grist and flouring-mill, Frank Hadcock, proprietor, is located on Big Stony Creek, at Henderson village. It is operated by water-power, and has the capacity for doing an extensive business.

John Chapman’s saw and shingle-mill on Stony Creek, has the capacity for cutting 200,000 feet of lumber and 700,000 shingles annually.

Rock Bottom creamery and cheese factory was established in 1886 by Benjamin Worthingham, Epenetus Alexander, Fred Whitney, and Lewis M. Truesdale. It has the patronage of 300 cows.

Highland Park, located on Henderson Bay, was established in 1880 by W. D. Arms, R. M. Jones, and Dr. M. D. Manville, of Adams. It is pleasantly situated, and is beautifully laid out with shady avenues and drives, making it an attractive summer resort. During the season steam yachts ply between Sackets Harbor and the bay, stopping at this place and others, making several trips each day to connect with trains. Many fine cottages have been erected here, and the summer brings many visitors to this charming place.

Paradise Park, beautifully situated on Henderson Bay, opposite Henderson Harbor, has an elevation of about 40 feet above the water. It affords a fine view of Sackets Harbor, and also of the picturesque scenery surrounding this beautiful bay. A large hotel and numerous cottages have been erected here, and withal the place is very attractive to those seeking a pleasant resort during the heated term. This park was originated by H. W. Millard, in 1880, and is now the property of Charles H. Sprague. It is supplied with good dockage and boats, has numerous shady walks and drives, and is well patronized by pleasure seekers.

The town of Henderson began to settle under the agency of Asher Miller, of Rutland, about 1802, the land books showing that Thomas Clark, Samuel Stewart, Philip Crumnett, John Stafford, and Peter Cramer had taken up lands in this town, to the extent of 1,195 acres, on October 26 previous. Moses Barrett, William Petty, Daniel Spencer, Captain John Bishop and sons Calvin, Luther, Asa, and Sylvester, Jedediah and James McCumber, Samuel Hubbard, Elijah Williams, Levi Scofield, William Johnson, David Bronson, John and Marvel Danley, Andrew Dalrymple, Luman Peck, Jonathan Crapo, George W. Clark, Thomas Drury, Anthony Sprague, Daniel Forbes, Emory Osgood, and many others settled within two or three years from the opening of settlement, being mostly emigrants from New England.

The first actual settlement in the town, however, was made in 1799 or 1800, by David Bronson, a trapper, who built a small house on the bank of Big Stony Creek, on lands afterwards occupied by Reuben Putnam, later by George Collins, and now owned by William P. Davis. During the winter of 1800 and 1801, and spring following, he cleared some 20 rods more than an acre, seeded it to timothy and red-top clover, and sowed a quantity of turnip seed. In August he fenced the lot with black ash rails, and it is said the same fence still remains on the west side of the lot. Mr. Bronson subsequently located on the farm now owned by L. Seaton, where he set out the first apple orchard in the town, the second being planted by Christian Salisbury. Levi Schofield is said to have been the second settler, and his daughter Rhoda was the first white child born in the town.

On Henderson Bay, three miles east of Henderson village, a Scotch settlement was formed in 1803 by John and Duncan Drummond, Charles and Peter Barrie, Duncan Campbell, Thomas Bell, James Crawe, Daniel Scott, and James McCraull, from Perthshire, in Scotland. A store was opened by C. Barrie in this same settlement in 1823, and was continued several years.

In 1803-04 but 10 families wintered in the town. In May, 1806, there were 70 families, generally middle-aged and young people, with small property, but industrious and contented, although many were quite poor, who had exhausted their means in getting into the town, and were destitute of provisions. A contract was made soon after for clearing 25 acres of land at the harbor, which the proprietor had hoped to establish as a commercial port, and caused to be surveyed into a village plot, to which he gave the name of Naples. Elias Skinner was the first physician to settle in the town, and Daniel Barney was the second, the latter having settled in 1807. Alfred Forbes is said to have taught the first school in town, in the winter of 1809-09. The school-house was built of logs, and stood one and a fourth miles south of Henderson village. Before the school-house was built at the Harbor Dr. Skinner taught school in one end of his dwelling. It is said the Doctor was a “brisk wielder of birch and rule.”

A paper showing the balance due from settlers in this town, January 1, 1809, contains the following names of those who were living in the town at that time: A. Jones, R. Favel, Jeremiah Harris, Horace Heath, Samuel McNitt, Amost Hart, Daniel Hardy, Benjamin Hammond, Samuel Jones, Daniel McNeil, Martin T. Morseman, Appleton Skinner, Asa and Ira Smith, Samuel Foster, William Waring, William White, Daniel Pierce, John B. Carpenter, Luther S. Kullinger, Lodowick Salisbury, T. Hundsen, W. White, and Thomas Bull, who owed an aggregate of $17,734.87 for lands. Dr. Isaac Bronson became an owner of a large tract in 1807, which was sold and settled by a separate agency. Abel French succeeded Miller a few months in the agency, and April 8, 1805, an agreement was made between William Henderson and Jesse Hopkins, by which the latter became the agent of this town and Pinckney, and continued in the employment of Mr. Henderson many years. Some difficulty, growing out of the agency, led to the publication of a pamphlet by Mr. Hopkins in 1823, which affords some interesting data relative to the early history of the town. Mr. Hopkins built a house and opened a land office near the town of Naples, which he laid out, the provisions used for his laborers being brought from Kingston and the lumber from Ellisburgh and Sackets Harbor. In 1807 a small store was opened, and several unccessful (sic) attempts were made to bring business to the place. Among other measures Mr. Henderson procured the passage of a law for the opening of a state road from Lowville to Henderson Harbor, which was laid out from Lowville into Pickney, but never completed. He also, in 1809, caused a dam and saw-mill to be built on Stony Creek, near the head of navigation, but the former gave way and the enterprise resulted in total loss. In the next season the dam was rebuilt and a mill erected at great expense. In 1811 a negotiation was held with General Matoon, of Massachusetts, for the sale of the township, but failed on account of the prospects of war. In 1812 Mr. Hopkins erected a large-sized school-house, at the Harbor, which was to serve also as a place for religious meetings. He also commenced the building of vessels at this place, the first of which was a vessel of 20 tons. In 1813 the Harbor contained two stores, two taverns, a tannery, and a shoe shop. In 1814 a second vessel of 40 tons and soon after two others were built, and the place began to present the appearance of considerable business. Mr. Hopkins continued in the agency until 1822, when, having fallen considerably in arrears, caused by unfortunate speculation, he was superseded in the agency, and his improvements taken to apply on his liabilities.

There was an ancient portage from the head of Henderson Bay to Stony Creek across this town, by which the exposure of passing Stony Point, which forms a cape difficult to navigate with small boats, was avoided. At the head of the bay there is said to be a trace, thought to be the remains of a kind of wharf or landing. The evidences of aboriginal occupation were noticed in one or two places in this town, and near an ancient trench enclosure there is said to have been found a golden cross, about two inches long, and furnished with a ring to be worn on the neck.

The remains of an old stockade, supposed to have been built by the French, was found on Six Town Point. It was square, with bastions at the angles, and its location was peculiarly adapted for defense. Six Town Point is a narrow neck, or peninsula, extending into the lake on the west side of Henderson Bay, and in high water becomes an island. Its continuance forms several islands, to the west of which lie the group including Galloe and Stony islands.

On Stony Point, the extreme western projection of Henderson, is a light-house, built in 1837, an appropriation of $3,000 having been made March 3 of that year. The lake shore, from the mouth of Stony Creek northward and eastward, is rocky, and free from bays of any kind between there and Henderson Bay. In the other direction from Stony Creek the shore consists of almost barren hills of sand, in the rear of which lie in many places extensive marshes. The beauty of Henderson Harbor is probably unsurpassed on the shores of Lake Ontario; and for extent, safety, and facility of access it has no superior on the lake.

On Friday, September 5, 1879, a sad casualty occurred, which resulted in the death of drowning of seven persons. Captain Byron M. and Nelson L. Wescott, owners of the sailboat West Wind, left Campbell’s Point with a crew of seven men, intending to go to Henderson Harbor to participate in a yacht race. Soon after starting their boat sprung a leak and was almost immediately capsized by a sudden puff of wind. The boat was heavily ballasted, and at once sank in 18 feet of water. Two of the men, Morgan Weeks and Charles Washburn, clung to the mast of the boat and were saved. The others attempted to swim to the shore, about 60 rods distant, and were drowned. The names of the unfortunate ones were Byron M. and Nelson L. Wescott, Allan Ramsey, Drake Lewis, Shuler Howard, Edgar York, and Edward Benjamin.



Henderson Baptist Church, located on Main Street, in Henderson village, was organized in 1822 by J. Cole, A. Brown, S. Atherton, and others, and at its organization consisted of 50 members, with Rev. Emory Osgood as first pastor. The first house of worship was built in 1826. The present wooden building was erected in 1853, at a cost of $2,400. It will comfortably seat 300 persons, and is now valued, including grounds and other church property, at about $2,000. The present membership is 28, under the pastoral charge of Rev. V. G. Shaffer.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Main street, in Henderson village, was organized February 26, 1844, with 40 members, with Rev. S. Slater as pastor. Their house of worship is a wooden structure, will comfortably seat 300 persons, was erected at a cost of $2,500, and is now valued, including grounds, etc., at $4,200. The church now has 71 members, and Rev. M. M. Rice is the present pastor. The Sunday-school has a membership of about 130.

The Smithville Congregational Church was formed January 3, 1824, by the Rev. Abiel L. Crandall, and at its organization consisted of 10 male and 22 female members. They united with the Baptists in erecting a church.

The First Universalist Society of Henderson, in Henderson village, was formed December 25, 1839, by Rev. Pitt Morse, the first pastor, and at its organization consisted of 150 members. Their house of worship, a wood structure, was erected in 1839, at a cost of $2,200, and is now valued, including grounds, etc., at about $6,000. The church has 40 members, and no regular pastor. The Sunday-school has a membership of 25.

The First Baptist Society of Smithville was organized in 1823 by Deacons Roswell, Mills, and John Gibbs, with Rev. Emory Osgood, pastor. Their house of worship, a stone structure, was built by the Baptists and Congregationalists in union, in 1832, and was occupied by each society on alternate Sabbaths until 1878, when the Baptist Society made arrangements with the Congregationalists to repair the house to the amount of $2,600, and they to give the Baptist Church full control of the building. The church was re-dedicated in 1878 as a Baptist church. The original cost of the structure, with the improvements, was $4,000. It will comfortably seat 400 persons, and is valued, including grounds, etc., at $3,000. The present membership is 78, with Rev. V. G. Shaffer, pastor. The Sunday-school has 14 officers and teachers and 85 scholars.

The First Congregational Church in Henderson (in Hough’s History erroneously called a Presbyterian Church) was organized July 17, 1810, at the dwelling of Thomas Drury, by Rev. Azariah Clark, mission pastor of the Congregational Church in New Canaan. It consisted of the following members: Willes Fellows, Sarah Fellows, Jonathan S. Alexander, Bathsheba Alexander, Olivia Bates, Rebekah Bates, Samuel Parker (father of Rev. Orson Parker, the evangelist), Thomas Drury, Rebekah Drury, Zoriah Hawkins, Sara Fletcher, Thankful Allen, and Rachel Skinner. The father and mother of the great revivalist, Rev. Charles G. Finney, were members of this church. Although the records are very meagre, yet two things appear prominent: discipline was carefully administered according to the custom of that early day, and also infant baptism was very generally practiced. Among the pastors of the church appears the name of Rev. David Spear, August 31, 1828, who was for 50 years a revered pastor of the Congregational Church at Rodman. The records show that the meeting-house was built previous to June, 1819, yet it is impossible to ascertain the exact date. This house continued to be occupied by the church until sometime previous to August 1, 1835, when it was sold and the meetings were afterwards held in the school-house of district No. 2 (the Whitney district). Here they continued to worship until August 23, 1836, when, their number having been reduced to 20 members, by unanimous consent of both churches, they became a branch of the Congregational Church of Smithville, N. Y., and afterwards worshipped with that body.

A society of the New Jerusalem was formed in this town and Ellisburgh in 1825. Rev. Holland Weeks, formerly a Congregational minister, was the promulgator of the Swedenborgian doctrines in this vicinity, and the church was kept up by him until his death, in 1845.

St. Michael’s Catholic Church, at Henderson Harbor, was dedicated September 5, 1889. The parish is in a flourishing condition, and the Catholics of this locality now have a very pretty little church.

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

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