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The Town of Lyme
By an act of March 6, 1818, the Town of Lyme was erected from Brownville, embracing the present Towns of Lyme and Cape Vincent, adjacent islands, and so much of Clayton, as lies west of Penet's Square. The first meeting was directed to be held at the house of Luther Britton. The name was selected by Eber Kelsey, the pioneer of Cape Vincent, originally from Lyme, Ct.
At the first town meeting, March 3, 1818, the following town officers were elected. Richard M. Esselstyn, supervisor; John Dayan, clerk; John B. Esselstyn, Luther Britton, and Benjamin Estis, assessors; R. M. Esselstyn, James M. Craw, and Benjamin T. Bliss, commissioners schools; J. B. Esselstyn, L. Britton, overseers of the poor; John M. Tremper, Eber Kelsey, and Thadeus Smith, fence viewers and pound masters; Elnathan Judd, John Dayan, and Joseph Rider, commissioners highways; Alexander Gage, Daniel Robbins, constables.
Supervisors. - l818-22, Richard M. Esselstyn; 1823, John B. Esselstyn; 1824, Willard Ainsworth; at a special meeting in September, J. B. Esselstyn; 1825-32, Willard Ainsworth; 1833, Otis P. Starkey; 1834-35, Jere Carrier; 1836, Minot Ingalls; 1837, Isaac Wells; 1838, Philip P. Gaige; 1839, Roswell T. Lee; 1840, P. P. Gaige; 1841, Timothy Dewey; 1842, William Carlisle; 1843, Alexander Copely; 1844, William 0. Howard; 1845, Theophilus Peugnet; 1846-7, Isaac Wells; 1848, A. Copley; 1849, P. P. Gaige; 1850, Henry Cline; 1851, Ezra B. Easterly; 1852, David Ryder; 1853, William Carlisle.
In 1822, a bounty of $15.00 was offered for wolves, and $10.00 for their whelps. From 1824 to 1849 inclusive, the town has voted a school tax of double the sum received of the state, except 1830, 31, when it was equal. A poor tax of $100 was voted in 1818, 20, 21, 23, 33, 34; of $150.00 in 1819; of $200.00 in 1825; of $300.00 in 1848; of $350.00, at a special meeting October 11, 1847; total poor tax $1,600. A tax for roads and bridges of from $100.00 to $300.00 has been often voted, amounting in the 11 years, in which taxes were laid for this purpose, to $2,400.
The first settlement in Lyme, was commenced by Jonas Smith, and Henry A. Delamater, agents of Le Ray, from Ulster Co., with several men, among whom were Richard M. Esselstyn, T. Wheeler, Peter Pratt, James, David and Timothy Soper, and a few others, who in the spring of 1801, came in a boat by way of Oswego, with a few goods, entered Chaumont Bay (On old maps called Niahoure, Niaoenre, Niaoure, Nivernois, etc., and is sometimes on old maps named Hungry Bay. Both terms were used to designate all within Point Peninsula and Stony Point. It was probably named in honor of the Duke de Nivernois, a French nobleman.), and, by direction of Le Ray, ascended Chaumont River two and a half miles, and on the north bank commenced a settlement, built a double log house for a store and dwelling, and a frame building. There is said to have been an Indian trail and portage from the head of boat navigation, a short distance above this, to French Creek (about six miles), which was easily traced, when the country was first settled. The colony returned to winter, and the next spring came on to continue improvements, but finding their location inconvenient, and especially liable to sickness, from the malarious emanations of the stagnant stream, they were compelled to abandon it. Early in 1803, they established themselves at the present village of Chaumont, which the same season was surveyed into a town plat. Smith and Delamater built in 1803 a saw mill, on the site of A. Copley's mill, and Samuel Britton opened a tavern in a log house, and a ware house was erected. Several families now for the first time located for permanent settlement, mostly from Ulster County, among whom were several mechanics, and young men without families, and deserters from Kingston. The settlement for a year or two prospered, but in 1806, Smith and Delamater failed in business, the settlers were greatly reduced by lake fevers, several died, and the growth of the place was checked. In 1805 a small vessel had been begun by ____ Jacobs, of New York, who died before it was finished. The first death had been that of T. Soper, who was drowned in 1802. A school had first been begun by Nancy Smith, in the summer of 1805, south of the bay, in the house of Jonas Smith.
In 1802, Delamater cleared the first land on Point Salubrious, on a farm now owned by Harry Horton, who settled here in 1810. The first settler on the point was James Horton from Colchester, Delaware County, in 1806, and its delightful and healthy situation, with the importance of the fisheries on its shores, soon led it to be occupied. The sickness resulting at an early period from the noxious miasmas of Chaumont River, did not extend to this place, which suggested its present name, first applied by Mr. Le Ray.
In 1805, Daniel and John Tremper, from Ulster County, settled on Point Salubrious, and Henry Thomas had located at the village of Chaumont with a store of goods. David and Joseph Rider, Silas Taft, Stephen Fisher, and others, were early settlers on Point Salubrious.
From the extreme badness of the roads, the settlers of Chaumont were obliged to depend upon a water communication with other places. Milling was for some years procured at Sackets Harbor, and the difficulty of passing Pillar Point in rough weather was so great, that small boats were sometimes delayed a week. A case of this kind occurred in 1807, when a small party in an open boat got thus blockaded, which occasioned distress.
The first Fourth of July celebration in the county, is said to have come off at Chaumont in 1802, at which from one to two hundred mustered. The proceedings have not been recorded, further than that there was no lack of food or drink, and probably there was no less intemperance and disorder than has since disgraced similar occasions. The exercises were probably not dissimilar from the following that occurred in Lewis County at about the same period, as described by one present. "The dawn was ushered in by a discharge of powder from a hole drilled in the rock, and the firing of muskets at the scattered huts of the settlers, and the inhabitants, one by one, at an early hour assembled at the appointed place to honor the day by a celebration. Here in a shanty had been set a table of rough boards, on which was placed a number of glasses, a cake of maple sugar, a pail of water, and a jug of rum; and a fife and snare drum had been provided for the double purpose of awakening patriotism by recalling the memories of the olden time, and of drowning the discordant noises that the ardent stimulus might occasion. As most of the old men had been soldiers in the revolution, they rehearsed by turn their stories of the war, and fought over the battles of their youth; the middle aged and young joined in wrestling and other athletic games, and towards nightfall the company dispersed for their homes. We are not informed how many could the next day give a clear account of how they arrived there."
At the occurrence of the war there were less than a dozen families in the settlement; Luther Britton was keeping an inn north of the bay, but with the exception of these few the country north and west, to near the St. Lawrence, with but few exceptions, was an unbroken wilderness. In June, 1812, with the advice of General Brown, the inhabitants begun to build a block house, on the north shore of the bay, in front of the stone house of F. Coffeen, which had been commenced in 1806, but was unfinished. During the summer the place was visited by the British, and their fort was demolished by the inhabitants, under an assurance that in this case their property should be respected. An iron cannon had been found on the isthmus of Point Peninsula, which Jonas Smith had purchased for two gallons of rum. Mr. Camp, of Sackets Harbor, subsequently purchased it for $8.00, and finally succeeded in getting it, after one or two attempts. It was afterwards taken to Ogdensburgh, and finally captured by the British.
In 1818, Musgrove Evans, who had for several years been engaged in surveying for Le Ray, came on as an agent, and with him settled quite a number of Quaker families from Philadelphia, who gave a new impulse to the place, but finding it sickly, and it not meeting their expectations, they mostly emigrated. In 1823, Evans removed to Michigan, and founded the town of Tecumseh. As the country gradually became cleared, the sickness ceased, and since 1828 (which was remarkable for malignant fevers), the district has enjoyed exemption from these evils. In 1803, a state road was laid out from Brownville to Putnam's Ferry, through the town, and on the 31st of March, 1815, an act was passed authorizing James Le Ray de Chaumont to build a turnpike from Cape Vincent to Perch river, at or near where the state road crossed the same, in the town of Brownville. The road was to be surveyed and laid out under the direction of Elisha Camp, Musgrove Evans, and Robert McDowell, or any two of them, and nothing in the act was to be construed so as to oblige Mr. Le Ray to build a bridge over Chaumont river.
By an act of April 12, 1816, Mr. Le Ray was authorized to extend the road to the village of Brownville, the same commissioners being appointed as before. A turnpike was accordingly built, the crossing at Chaumont being by a ferry, until 1823, when Vincent Le Ray, and associates, procured an act (March 12th), authorizing the erection of a toll bridge, which was to be at least sixteen feet wide; built in a substantial and workmanlike manner, and provided with a draw, to allow the passage of vessels. The proprietors were not to prevent the crossing of the stream on the ice in winter, and were to keep a free and open passage to the river, within five rods from the bridge, and at least one rod wide. The bridge was to be completed before December, 1824, and if damaged by floods, or otherwise, it was to be rebuilt by the proprietors. The act authorizing the bridge having expired, the period was extended twenty years, by an act passed May 6, 1835. This work having reverted to the state, by reason of the parties in the two acts last cited, not having complied with their provisions, an act was passed April 11, 1849, authorizing the commissioners of highways of the town of Lyme, to borrow on the credit of the town, a sum of money not exceeding $5000.00, for the purpose of rebuilding the bridge, which had become impassable. The supervisors were directed to tax the town of Lyme, then including Cape Vincent, for the means to repay this loan, in five annual instalments. The comptroller was authorized to loan a sum not exceeding $6000.00, for this purpose, out of the capital of the common school fund, upon application of the supervisor and commissioners of highways of the town, and the commissioners of the land office were directed to release whatever interest the state might have in consequence of the reversion.
With the means thus acquired, an elegant and permanent stone bridge has been erected, being mostly a solid pier, with a draw to allow the passage of vessels. The turnpike was kept up until an act was procured, April 21, 1831, authorizing Mr. Le Ray to surrender it to the public, and directing it to be laid out into road districts.
Chaumont Village, in July, 1853, contained fifty dwellings, five stores, several shops and warehouses, four saw mills (two driven by steam), a grist mill, rail road depot, and two school houses, Presbyterian church, etc. It is quite scattered, the former business portion near the north side, at the landing, having decreased, while that near the depot has grown since the completion of the rail road.
The village of Three Mile Bay, situated on the old turnpike, three miles west from Chaumont, began to increase about 1836, and at present contains about seventy dwellings, five stores, two taverns, three warehouses, and wharves, two churches, and the usual variety of mechanics. It is situated about a mile south of the depot of this name, on the W. and R. Railroad, and since the completion of this road, has diminished rather than increased in business. The village extends about half a mile along the turnpike, west of Three Mile Creek, a tributary of Chaumont Bay.
Three Mile Bay has been a station of some importance for ship building. Since 1835, the following vessels, all schooners, unless otherwise designated, have been launched at the yard of Asa Wilcox, whose tonnage, in the aggregate, amounted to 6,410 and 1/2 tons. They mostly varied from 112 to 395 tons, the latter being nearly the capacity of the locks on the Welland Canal:
1835, Florida, Elon Bronson.
1836, Pennsylvania, Kentucky.
1841, Asa Wilcox, Havanna.
1842, D. D. Calvin, Rocky Mountains.
1843, Cambridge, Empire (brig), Neptune.
1844, Cuba, Oregon, Ontario (brig).
1845, Milan, Hampton (brig).
1846, Clifton (propeller), Champion, Iroquois (brig), Rio Grande.
1847, Palmetto, Seminole, Portland, Acadia, H. R. Seymour (brig).
1848, Saxton, Ocean (brigs).
1849, D. J. Schuyler.
1853, Hungarian (three-masterr).
Besides these, several club boats for regettas have been built, from thirty-two to fifty feet long, some of which have repeatedly won prizes. The Star, Wave and Banner, are names of three of these prize boats. In 1836, Mr. Wilcox built the Congress, 140 tons, on Pillar Point.
In 1832, 5. Howard built the New York, 80 tons, on Point Peninsula. In 1834, G. C. Rand, built at the same place the William Buckley, 112 tons; in 1836, the Bancroft, 112 tons, and in 1837, the G. C. Rand, of 112 tons. In 1843, Schuyler & Powers built at Three Mile Bay, the Col. Powers, 80 tons, and William Combs, the Bogart, 80 tons. In 1844-45, E. Cline, at the same place, The Rush, 50 tons, and Peter Estes, the Breeze, 100 tons.
The following vessels have been built at Chaumont: 1832, by William Clark, the Stephen Girard, 60 tons; by Robert Masters, in 1835, the Alleghan, 100 tons; by S. & A. Davis, in 1839, the R. C. Smead, 75 tons; and by Copeley & Main, the following: In 1847, the Rip Van Winkle, 235 tons; in 1848, the Oxford, 244 tons, Palmyra, 180 tons; in 1851, the A. L. Hazleton, 230 tons.
Near Chaumont Bay, are important stone quarries, where in 1825-26, in 1837-40, and in 1851-53, vast quantities have been taken to Oswego, for canal locks and piers, and to that and other places for building. The quarries occur in the strata corresponding with the Isle La Motte marble of geologists, and the stone i~ broken by driving wedges into holes drilled in lines along the surface about six inches apart. But little powder is used, and this principally in breaking up the superficial mass to get to the solid, even-bedded layers, which alone are used. These blocks are usually dressed upon the ground, to the desired form, and loaded upon vessels at wharves, constructed for the purpose, adjacent to the quarries. These operations employ the labor of from one to two hundred men, of whom those employed in breaking the blocks from the quarry are paid by the day, and those in cutting, by the foot. The stone is sold at 25 cents per cubic yard in the quarry.
The fisheries of Chaumont Bay, have afforded, from an early period, a leading pursuit for many persons living in the vicinity, and have been productive of much benefit to the locality and the public generally. The earliest enactment relating to this branch of industry commences with the century. It having been represented that people from Canada, and other places, were doing injustice to the fisheries at the east end of Lake Ontario, by obstructing the rivers and streams by seines, a law was passed March 28th, 1800, prohibiting the placing of obstructions to the passage of fish, under a penalty of $25.00. This was probably from representations of citizens in Ellisburgh as this was then without inhabitants.
In 1808, fishing with scoop nets, called here scaff nets begun, and has been more or less constantly practiced since. This net is about 12 feet square, stretched by two long bows crossing each other, and let down horizontally into the water, being balanced on a long poll poised on a post on the banks. When fish pass over it, the net is suddenly raised and swung round on the bank. Sometimes 300 fish or more are thus caught in a night. Seines were soon after introduced, the first one being brought from the Hudson by Daniel Tremper. These seines are from 10 to 100 rods long, from 20 to 100 feet broad, wider in the middle, and narrower at the ends, where they are attached to rods called jack stakes. To the cords along one side are attached floats, and to the other leaden sinkers, and to each staff is fixed a long rope. When used, the seine is taken out in a boat one rope being left on shore, and when a few rods out it is allowed to run off in a wide circuit, until it is all off, when the other line is taken ashore, and both ends are drawn in by windlasses erected for the purpose, and turned by hand, or more recently sometimes by horse power. The meshes of the net which are from 1 to 1 1/2 inches square, allow the smaller fish to escape, while the larger ones are scooped out when the seine is drawn into shallow water. From 1 to 3 hours are occupied in drawing the seine, and the products of a haul vary from 0 to 75 barrels, the average being 6 or 7. These seine fisheries are mostly around Point Salubrious, but other places inside of the bay are found eligible to a less extent. They are considered the property of those who own the adjacent lands, and the seines are owned, and labor done, by the resident farmers, assisted by laborers who come in from adjacent towns for the purpose. The principal fish caught for market are lake herring, locally known as ciscoes and white fish, and the season for taking them usually begins about the first of November, and continues three or four weeks. This is the spawning season for these fish, and the shores are then lined with immense quantities of their ova. Seines are drawn by preference in the evening, or night. No positive data can be obtained showing the average or aggregate quantity taken, but the opinion of those most acquainted with the business is, that since 1816 about 10,000 barrels of herring and white fish have been caught annually. Seasons vary in the abundance of fish; it is observed that the best yields occur in high water. Of late years, the yield is less then formerly, which is attributed to the use of gill nets, and the mixture of saw dust and other matters in the water. Gill nets have been introduced since 1845, are from five to eight feet (about fifty meshes) wide, from ten to fifteen rods long, uniform in width, and furnished with staves at the ends. These are provided with sinkers on the lower and floats on the upper side, and connected together form lines several hundred rods long. When in use they lay near the bottom, and their places are indicated by buoys. Once daily they are drawn up, and the fish removed, which sometimes amount to a barrel in ten rods. As the fish become entangled by their gills, respiration ceases, and they are almost invariably found drowned, for which reason they are justly considered inferior for food, and more liable to spoil when put up for sale. These nets are generally set in November.
A small business is done early in spring, in fishing for pike in seines, gill nets, and by spearing, and the shores and coves of Chaumont Bay have long been the favorite resort for the disciples of Izaak Walton, who at most seasons find an ample and inviting field for the use of the trolling line and the spear; a romantic cruise by torch light, and inducements to lounge away the lazy hours of day light, with reasonable hopes of a nibble. Pike, pickerel, muskelunge, perch, bass and sunfish, are caught readily by the hook, and the former at all seasons. The seines used here, are generally made on the spot, of linen or cotton twine, and cost from $100.00 to $300.00.
In 1818, April 15, a law was passed requiring all fish barreled for sale in the county to be inspected and branded; and the size of barrels and quantity of salt to be used were prescribed. In 1823, April 23, another law relating to this subject was passed; March 8, 1830, an additional inspector was appointed, and April 15, 1835, the inspection of fish was discontinued. Calvin Lincoln was appointed inspector June 11, 1817; M. Evans, March 19, 1818; Benjamin T. Bliss, on Point Salubrious afterwards. The early laws were disregarded, but the latter strictly enforced; yet the restriction was always considered odious by the fishermen, who sought many ways of evasion and finally procured their removal.
Religious Societies. - The first church in town was formed on Point Salubrious, by Elder Joseph Maltby, of the Baptist order, September 25, 1816. Delegates from two churches in Brownville, and Rutland; and one from Rodman, Le Ray, Lorraine, Henderson, Watertown, were present and twenty-six persons united. The Rev. Messrs. Thomas Morgan, A. Lawton, John J. Whitman, R. T. Smith, L. Rice, and B. C. Crandall, have been successively employed. The First Baptist Church and Society was formed March 6, 1839, with Nathaniel Wells, Richard Guile, Charles Wilcox, Henry Powers, Epenetus Cline, Isaac Wells, and Roswell Herrick, trustees. This Society built the following year, at Three Mile Bay, a church at a cost of $1800.00.
A Free Communion Baptist Church was formed at Three Mile Bay about 1827, by Elder Amasa Dodge, but the records could not be found.
On the 6th of July, 1841, ten members, being the greater portion, formed a Free Will Baptist Church under Elder Amasa Dodge, since whom Elders Overocker, McKoon, Padding, Hart, Gnffith, and Abbey, have been more or less constantly employed. A society was formed December 18, 1843, with Charles Leonard, Rufus H. Bartlett, Henry Leonard, William Northrup, and Charles Caswell, trustees. A church was built in 1844, costing about $1,000.00. Present number twenty-six.
The Peninsula Baptist Church was formed about 1834, and has never reported but twice to the association; it numbered about eighteen.
The First Universalist Society of Chaumont was formed September 8, 1850, with David Bowman, Elijah Graves; and Andrew Inman, trustees.
A Presbyterian Church was organized at Chaurnont, August 31, 1831, by the Rev. John Sessions and the Rev. G. S. Boardman, acting as a committee from the Presbytery of Watertown. It consisted of 18 members, 4 males and 14 females. Meetings for reading sermons, conference and prayer, were maintained, under the direction of Solon Massey, one of the elders, but they had no stated preaching until the summer of 1839, when for a few months Rev. Samuel W. Leonard was employed for alternate sabbaths. In the summer of 1841, Rev. William Chittenden was employed for a few months in the same manner. The present pastor, the Rev.
J. A. Canfield, commenced his labors on the first sabbath in September, 1842, preaching on alternate sabbaths, till the fall of 1847; since that period his whole time has been devoted to this church. A society was formed March 20, 1844, with Philip Beasom, Ozias Bauder, and Jeremiah Bennet, trustees, who erected for $1500.00 their present house of worship, which was dedicated on the 18th of September, 1845, and their present and only pastor was ordained and installed at the same time. There is connected with the society a flourishing sabbath school, of about 140 scholars, and a library of 410 volumes.
A Methodist class was formed at Chaumont, Dec. 13, 1839, of 19 members. Meetings are held at a school house.