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

pp. 714 - 816

THE CITY OF WATERTOWN is the metropolis and county seat of Jefferson County, and is most advantageously located for the utilization of the almost unlimited and inexhaustible water-power furnished by Black River. The river divides the city into two unequal parts, the larger portion being on the south side of the stream. Two large islands, Beebee’s and Sewall’s, beside several smaller ones, are encompassed by the various channels within the city limits. Of these Beebee’s contains about five and Sewall’s 15 acres. The total area occupied by the city approximates 6,5000 acres, nearly three-fourths of which is upon the south side of the river.

Since its organization the original bounds of the city have not been changed, and are given in section 2 of the charter as follows: --

“The territory within the following boundaries shall constitute the city of Watertown: Beginning at a stone monument marked ‘City B,’ on the left bank of Black River, 75 links from the water’s edge, and in the prolongation of the center of the Cold Creek cross-road, and running thence along the center line of said road, south 13 degrees 22 minutes, west, by the true meridian; variation of the needle 8¼ degrees west, 12 chains and 29 links, to a point on the stone bridge over Cold Creek; thence south 11 degrees 16 minutes, four chains and 29 links to a point at an angle in the above mentioned road; thence south 14 degrees 22 minutes west, 28 chains and 94 links to the intersection of the center line of State street, by the center of the Cold Creek cross-road; thence along the center line of State street, south 68 degrees and 45 minutes east, one chain and 81 links to the point intersected by the center of the Gifford road; thence along the center of Gifford road, south five degrees west, variation of needle seven and a half degrees west, 17 chains and 61 links to an angle in said road; thence south three degrees and 45 minutes east, six chains and 47 links to a point in the center of the Gifford road, where it is intersected by the prolongation of the southerly line of George W. Lawrence’s land; thence south 65 degrees 46 minutes west, 167 chains and 55 links to a stone monument four links north 45 degrees west from a soft maple tree four inches in diameter on the westerly side of Washington street; thence north 56 degrees and 10 minutes west, variation 12 degrees west, 160 chains and 84 links, to a pine tree 30 inches in diameter standing in the swamp on the land owned by Orrin Graves; thence north four degrees and 35 minutes east, variation seven degrees west, 59 chains and 76 links to a stone monument marked ‘City B’ in the southerly line of the Sackets Harbor road; thence north 30 degrees and 31 minutes east, variation eight and a half degrees west, 71 chains and 77 links to a stone monument marked ‘City B’ in the southerly line of the Brownville road; thence north 69 degrees and six minutes east, 114 chains and 11 links to a stone monument marked “City B’ in the westerly line of the road to G. C. Bradley’s, in Pamelia; thence south 67 degrees and 15 minutes east, 189 chains and 60 links to a stone monument marked ‘City B’ on the northwesterly side of the R., W. & O. Railroad, near W. Ishams; thence south six degrees and 30 minutes west, 48 chains and 27 links to the place of beginning.

Section 3 of the charter gives the bounds of the four wards as follows: --

“The city shall be divided into four wards, as follows, to wit: All that part of the city lying within the angle formed by the center line of State street and the center line of Mill street, and the prolongation thereof known as North street, shall be the first ward. All that part of the said city lying within the angle formed by the center line of State street and the center line of Washington street shall be the second ward. All that part of the said city lying within the angle formed by the center line of Washington street and the center line of Arsenal street shall be the third ward. All that part of the city lying within the angle formed by the center line of Arsenal street and the center line of Mill street, and the prolongation thereof known as North street, shall be the fourth ward.”

Watertown was incorporated as a city under an act passed May 8, 1869. Since its incorporation the following have served as city officers: --

Mayors. --G. W. Flower, 1869-71; Gilderoy Lord, 1872; W. F. Porter, 1873-74; Bradley Winslow, 1875; Levi H. Brown, 1876; W. F. Porter, 1877; John C. Streeter, 1878; Denis O’Brien, 1879; Byron B. Taggart, 1880-81; Nelson Burdick, 1882-83; De Witt C. Middleton, 1884-85; Henry M. Allen, 1886; William E. Hart, 1887-88; John Nill, 1889; Wilbur F. Porter, 1890.

Recorders. -- Laban H. Ainsworth, 1869-81; Henry Purcell, 1882-85, Joseph A. McConnell, 1886-90, present incumbent.

City Clerks. -- Edward M. Gates, 1869-70; A. D. Seaver, 1871.

Treasurers. -- Louis C. Greenleaf, 1869-70; J. A. Quencer, 1871.

Chamberlains.* -- George Smith, 1872; Byron D. Adsit, 1873-75; Charles A. Settle, 1876; John L. Phelps, 1877-78; William J. Shepard, 1879, ‘80, ‘81, ‘82, ‘83; William D. Hanchette, 1884, ’85, ’86, ’87, ‘88; John C. Lewis, 1889, present incumbent.

Overseers of the Poor. -- Clark Weatherby, 1869-71; Solon B. Hart, 1872-75; Daniel McCormick, 1876; James H. Wood, 1877, ’78, ’79, ’80, ’81, ’82; Solon B. Hart, 1883-84; James H. Wood, 1885-86; Patrick Redmond, 1887-90, present incumbent.

Justices of the Peace. -- Lysander H. Brown, 1869-72, 1875-76; Thomas Baker, 1873-74; H. H. Wilbur, 1877; William H. Hotchkin, 1879, ’82; Charles M. Paris, 1883-86; Laban H. Ainsworth, 1883, ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’88; Charles M. Paris, 1887-90; Brayton A. Field, 1889, for four years.

The present officers of the city area as follows: --

Mayor. -- Wilbur E. Porter.

Chamberlain. -- John C. Lewis.

City Attorney. -- Charles L. Adams.

Recorder. -- Joseph A. McConnell.

City Surveyor. -- Francis S. Hubbard.

Street Commissioner. -- Richard B. Adams.

Overseer of the Poor. -- Patrick Redmond.

Sealer of Weights and Measures. -- Joseph T. Lynch.

Poundmaster. -- Walter D. Tyler

Aldermen. -- First Ward, L. M. Babcock, Philip Riley; Second Ward, James B. Wise, W. H. Mould; Third Ward, H. F. Inglehart; F. D. Roth; Fourth Ward, D. J. Hewitt, H. L. Stimson.

Police Commissioners. -- Wilbur F. Porter, chairman; J. M. Carpenter, James A. Ward, Richard Marcy, E. C. Van Namee, J. C. Lewis, clerk.

Police Department. -- Charles G. Champlin, chief; William McCutchin, assistant chief; Miles Guest, J. O. Van Wormer, Charles G. Witt, policemen.

Assessors. -- George Castle, M. Horton, D. W. Baldwin.

Justices of the Peace. -- Charles M. Paris, Brayton A. Field.

Board of Excise. -- A. M. Farwell, Frank Goulding, T. C. Chittenden, clerk.

Board of Education. -- Henry Purcell, S. F. Bagg, George Adams, L. C. Greenleaf, George S. Hooker, Sidney Cooper, T. C. Chittenden, F. R. Farwell, S. T. Woolworth, John Lansing, A. H. Sawyer, president; Fred Seymour, superintendent and clerk.

Board of Health. -- Mayor W. F. Porter, chairman; Dr. E. S. Sill, George H. Mowe, H. M. Ball, J. E. Bergevin, B. A. Field, George Castle, Dr. H. H. Deane, health officer; C. S. Adams, Clerk.

Fire Department. -- Charles E. McClare, chief engineer; J. E. Gray, first assistant; B. C. Bauter, second assistant.


*Since 1872 the office of Chamberlain has combined the offices of clerk and treasurer.


Supervisors. -- R. Holden, Jr., First Ward; J. Atwell, Jr., Second Ward; R. E. Smiley, Third Ward; Solon Wilder, Fourth Ward.

Water Commissioners. -- J. C. Knowlton, Fred Emerson, E. B. Sterling, Patrick Phillips, F. A. Hinds, A. Salisbury, superintendent; N. P. Wardwell, clerk.

What has made and maintains the city of Watertown as a place of commercial importance is principally the excellent water-power furnished by Black River. This stream has its source almost in the very heart of the Adirondack wilderness--a region abounding in forests and containing hundreds of lakes. The actual source of the river is a small lake in Hamilton County., situated in a direct line about 100 miles from Watertown. In its winding course the river must traverse a much greater distance. Within its first 25 miles it receives the out-flow of numerous lakes of various sizes, most prominent of which are the South Branch, North Branch, Chubb, Bisby, and Gull lakes. The latter is 2,018.88 feet above tide water. These lakes, with their out-letting streams, drain a large portion of Herkimer County and the northeastern portions of Oneida County. About 30 miles from its source Black River receives the contents of Moose River, a formidable rival which has its source in Lake Fonda, in the northwestern part of Hamilton County. It flows across Hamilton County and unites with Black River at Port Leyden, Lewis County. Moose River is about 50 miles in length, and among a score of others receives the contents of Moose Lake (2,239.21 feet above tide water), Lime Kiln Lake, the Fulton chain, comprising the 4th, 7th, and 8th lakes, so called, Shallow Lake, etc. A few miles farther on Black River receives Fish Creek, which latter is the outlet of Brantingham Lake. Besides other smaller inlets near the last mentioned, its next contribution, is received within a few miles, when Independence River empties into it, the contents of a lake of the same name situated near the eastern boundary of Herkimer County. Ten miles farther on, at Croghan, Lewis County, Black River receives the contents of Beaver River, which has its source in Smith’s Lake, in the extreme northern part of Herkimer County. This river is the outlet of almost innumerable smaller lakes, among the more prominent being Albany, Rock, Burnt, and Salmon lakes, and the Red River chain. Deer River enters from the south. There are other considerable branches entering Black River from the south, and it is estimated that this stream, with its numerous tributaries, drains a territory of 2,000 square miles, or 1,280,000 square acres. It will thus be seen that Black River gives abundant assurance of never ending water-power. For miles above and below the city the river flows rapidly over a solid bed of Trenton and Birds-Eye limestone; but coming as it does from a granite region it is almost as soft as the purest rain water. The rocky nature of the bed and banks of the stream in the vicinity of Watertown is the fullest guarantee against all disasters arising from the washing away of banks or the undermining of dams. An almost natural water-power is furnished here, with a full and rapid flow, requiring little outlay in any artificial direction. Just above the suspension bridge on Mill street the Black River Falls are to be found, which in times of high water furnish one of the most picturesque scenes imaginable. A beautiful and useful stream is Black River, and not one-quarter of its power in Jefferson County has been utilized. The city is situated in the midst of a rich agricultural district, which fact has also contributed largely to its growth and present prosperity.

The erection and organization of the town of Watertown and Pamelia, from which the city was formed, have been recorded in preceding chapters. Our province under this heading will be the compilation of materials pertaining to the territory comprised within the present limits of Watertown city. The first to acquire lands and establish homes here, and whose rude habitations formed the nucleus of the present beautiful and prosperous city, were Henry Coffeen and Zachariah Butterfield, who arrived in March, 1800, both coming from Schuyler, Oneida County. Coffeen arrived a little in advance of Butterfield, coming via Lowville, with his family and household goods upon an ox-sled. The same year, and soon after Coffeen and Butterfield, came Hart Massey, who purchased 90 acres fronting on Washington street, to which he soon after added 100 acres adjoining and including the site of the present railroad station. Mr. Massey removed his family to his new home in March, 1801. In describing the locations of these and other pioneers, and the early structures erected by them, we quote from an article published in the Watertown Daily Times, April 14, 1887, from the pen of Marcellus Massey, a son of the early settler. --

Mr. Coffeen’s first cabin was built almost exactly upon the site where the National Bank of Watertown now stands. His land extended westerly from that point along the road leading on the south side of the river to Brownville,---including all between the street subsequently bearing his name, and Black River, ---to where later he built a dam and mills; thence to and beyond the present fair grounds, to the farm at the top of Foltz hill, where his son, Henry Hale Coffee, afterwards lived and died. Mr. Butterfield placed his house on the spot where the building known as Washington hall now stands. The location or extent of his lands are not known. Mr. Massey built upon his land near where the front entrance to Paddock’s arcade now is, his land commencing at the corner of Arsenal street, then called Columbia; and extending Washington as far as the present Presbyterian Church; thence westward a mile or more beyond the present crossing of the tracks of the Rome Railroad.

Mr. Coffeen presently sold lots on the front for dwellings and business purposes. Among other buyers were Judge Egbert Ten Eyck and Chauncey Calhoun, both of whom built houses well back from the street. Fronting this street, further north, was laid out the first burial-place in the village, where the evidences denoting former use may still be seen on the fenced plot in the rear of the Episcopal Church. As opportunity offered, Mr. Massey made sales from his land fronting Washington and Arsenal streets, compelling him, not many years later, to vacate the cabin and move into a new and larger house built on his ground further up the street. The first considerable section of land sold by him consisted of many acres extending westward as far as the present Massey avenue. The purchaser of this was a lawyer of some eminence from the East, named Amos Benedict. The land was for the most part cleared, and the rear portion used by Deacon Jesse Stone, the father-in-law of Mr. Benedict, for tillage and pasturage. Mr. Stone subsequently acquired other land, west of Massey street, on both sides of the Sackets Harbor road. The street opened later bearing his name--which was exceedingly appropriate---had for many years previously been used by him as a lane or driveway in passing from his barn to the farm beyond. His house on Washington street, of wood, occupied nearly the site upon which the brick house of Pearson Munday (sic) was built not many years ago. Orin Stone, his son, was a merchant here for many years. His store, of brick, stood one or two doors east of the National Bank of Watertown, with narrow steps leading up to the door as for a dwelling, for which it had perhaps previously been built

“There are still in existence printed copies of a map, or sketch, drawn by the late Dyer Huntington in 1804, showing the streets in use, the buildings of every kind in the village, by whom and for what purpose occupied. There appears upon it, among others, a frame dwelling built and occupied by Hart Massey, on the plot on Washington street on which stands the present mansion of Edwin Paddock. The frame dwelling referred to is believed to have been the first of that character built in Watertown. It was not very long after the land was sold to Mr. Benedict before a similar plot adjoining, of about the same dimensions, was sold to Judge Jabez Foster, including that which Judge Jabez Foster, including that on which Mr. Massey’s house had been built. The latter was not included in the sale, and before long it was removed by its owner and rebuilt at a distant and more central location upon his farm.

“The buyers of the plots named each set about building the most spacious and elegant residence by far yet undertaken in the village, if not in the county. Quite a considerable portion of that built by Mr. Benedict forms, at the present time, a conspicuous part of the mansion occupied by many years by the late Oscar Paddock, and now by his family. The one built by Judge Foster was occupied by him till after the death of his wife, when it was sold to, and occupied by, Levi Beebee. After his removal it became the property and the residence of the late Loveland Paddock till his death, when it succeeded to his son Edwin. It was torn down by the latter and replaced by the elegant residence now occupied by himself and his family. The well dug on the place, and used during the occupancy of Mr. Massey, is still in use.

“No better evidence can be adduced of the abounding faith and confidence of those big-headed and sagacious men, in the future and ultimate growth and importance of the section where they had planted their homes, than the exceedingly liberal release of land fronting the Square, by the owners, for the free use of the public forever as a grand plaza, or common park. In all the years of the past, and, if possible, more now than ever, it is regarded with pride by the citizens, and is the admiration of visitors. The same spirit is alike manifest in the appropriation of land for Washington street, as far as it then extended in the village. All beyond was known only as the road to Adams. The allowance of width in the laying out of Washington street extended only as far as the jog yet seen opposite the Presbyterian Church, which also marks the bounds of the original purchase of land by Judge Massey in this direction.

“South of the fine houses of William Benedict and Judge Foster, the next was a frame dwelling, every way neat, with piazza on front and side, built by Orville Hungerford, a prominent merchant and business man, near the present corner of Clinton street, quite a number of years before that street was opened. It was occupied by Mr. Hungerford till the larger and more elegant stone house, still occupied by the family, was built farther south upon the same street. After the removal thereto the former was occupied for several years by Dr. Henry H. Sherwood and Dr. Alpheus S. Greene respectively, both of whom were in the practice of their profession, and each for one or more terms received the appointment of postmaster at Watertown. The house was afterwards purchased and occupied by Edwin Paddock, by whom it was materially changed and improved.

“First a gateway, and afterwards a lane, used in common by Mr. Hungerford and his next neighbor south, were the incipient steps leading to the opening of Clinton street. The first building erected on the street for any purpose besides barns, sheds, etc., was one of brick, used for a dwelling. The materials used for this purpose were the same made use of in building the first academy, in 1811, removed in 1820 to give place to the church about to be erected on the same ground. The new building was erected under the charge or direction of Mr. Hungerford, intended for a young ladies’ school, and when completed was used as such by the Misses Hooker, who afterwards became Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Wood. It was some years later before other buildings were built upon Clinton street, or it was known by that name.

“The next house was built for, and occupied by, Rev. George S. Boardman, the second Presbyterian minister settled in Watertown. This house is of stone, but clapboarded, giving it the appearance of being of wood. Olney Pearce, a merchant, owning the adjoining lot fronting Washington street, built upon it a fine house, which was subsequently destroyed by fire, and very soon after replaced by him with a larger and more expensive one of stone. The latter, after the death of Mr. Pearce, was purchased and occupied by Gen. W. H. Angell, and later sold to George Paddock, who modernized and enlarged it, and it has since been looked upon as among the finest and most picturesque residences on the street.

“A few years later Gardner Keyes erected a stone house on Washington street, a short distance below Clinton, the same now occupied by the family of the late Robert Lansing. About the same time the family of the late Adriel Ely built a similar dwelling on an adjoining lot, where he dwelt till the end of his life, and his family for many more years. It is now owned by E. Q. Sewall, Esq., whose wife is a niece of Mrs. Adriel Ely. It has been changed by Mr. Sewall to the Swiss chatelet style, to the extent that those formerly knowing it best would scarcely recognize it as the same.

“Before the Presbyterian Society had completed their house of worship they had also erected, nearly opposite their church, a plain brick dwelling, intended for a parsonage, and so occupied for a time by the Rev. Daniel Banks. His successor, Rev. George S. Boardman, was without family, hence there was not further present use for the parsonage. It was then rented for a number of years to a Mr. Seward, a bookbinder, who with several members of his family were in the employ of Knowlton & Rice. It was later sold to and occupied by the family of Judge Egbert Ten Eyck, whose death there occurred in 1844. It then became the property and home of his son-in-law, the late Hon. Joseph Mullin. It was then enlarged to almost or quite double its former proportions. It remains the property of the family, and is occupied by such of them as are yet unmarried.

“There were not, at the early period of which we speak, very many other notable dwellings, and the few others were widely scattered throughout the village. The two erected by the Honorable Micah Sterling, one on the street and the other in the park bearing his name, were both at different times occupied by Mr. Sterling. The former is now the residence of the family of the late John Clarke, and the latter is occupied by those who yet remain of the Sterling family.

“The residence of the Whittleseys on Court street was large and pretentious, but never home-like in appearance. After the removal of the family of Esquire Calvin McKnight lived in it till after his death, when it was torn down, and the high ground on which it stood leveled to a grade with the other buildings upon the street. The elder Amasa Trowbridge, distinguished as a physician and surgeon throughout this section of the state, erected on Arsenal street a large, fanciful building for a residence and office combined, in which he lived till his acceptance of a professorship in the medical college at Willoughby, Ohio, whither he removed with his family.

“Last, not least, we shall be excused for mentioning one other residence, and perhaps as well worthy of note as others which have been mentioned. The house referred to is the one built of brick by Hart Massey, in 1812, on his farm, at a considerable distance from the center of the village. For the time it was looked upon as large, and in every way exceedingly fine and expensive. On many accounts it was thought well worth a visit from those visiting the town. The glass for it, procured in Albany, was the best English Crown brand, size 12 x 18, which had rarely if ever before been seen so far away in the country. Moreover, it is believed to have been the first brick dwelling in the town, if not in the county of Jefferson. The arsenal, academy, and several stores had been built previously, but none intended solely for a dwelling. If this be as stated it is certainly no trifling cause for distinction on the part of the builder to have been, as is claimed in this instance, the builder, owner, and occupant of one of the first three log-houses, the first frame and the first brick house at the commencement of an humble settlement, since become one of the most beautiful interior cities in the state.

“At this time there were no streets, as such, or even roads leading to this dwelling in the fields, except by following Arsenal to and thence along the Fields Settlement road to a lane leading 30 or 40 rods to the house. It was by many thought, singular, at least, that so practical a person as Judge Massey should build so fine (sic) and expensive a house so far away away (sic) from the village, and withal placing the main door of entrance (with its brass knocker) upon the back side of the house. His reply, when spoken to on the subject, was characteristic, and to the effect that in the course of time the house would be found to face in the right direction and the front door appears on the right side. It is still standing, no longer alone and unabashed by any of its present surroundings in the modern and model city of Watertown. It is still, as it has ever been, owned by the family.

“There was not at that time, nor for many years afterwards, anything more like streets than the common roads, designated only by the places to which they led, as to Brownville, to Sackets Harbor, to Adams, and to other well known localities in the country.

Mr. Coffeen, with most of his interests in land and property at the north end of the village, seemed to have become aware of the fact that the spacious public square at the center was of considerable consequence, as a matter of pride and convenience to those having already or were seeking to locate in that section. He thereupon set about securing a similar advantage to the business and property nearer to the location in which he was more largely interested. This was sought to be and was finally accomplished by procuring for that purpose a large space, commencing at the north near the original court-house, extending in the other direction as far as the crossing of the Sackets Harbor road of the same width as it now appears. Inasmuch as the great name of Washington had been appropriated to the former, it was thought that the name of ’Madison’ would be quite suitable for the street and square of the west end. Aside from the evidence given of the liberality of its donors it is not believed to have conferred the material benefits expected, or proved to any perceptible extent attractive to those who were seeking locations, either for business purposes or residences. On the contrary, it is not certain that the location of the court-house, and especially the jail, was not at the time, and long afterwards, a detriment rather than an advantage to that section of the village. It did, however, provide for the citizens in general a capital base-ball field, and also a convenient place for military parades.

“As soon as the question of the site of the county buildings had been settled there was commenced the erection of three taverns on either side of the river, six in all, in order to be ready in time to secure business and patronage from those who might visit the courts at a distance. About the same time, or a little later, Mr. Coffeen proceeded to erect near by an immense structure of wood, afterwards known as the old sugar-house. There was not, as far as known, any design in regard to its use, unless as a make-show of growth and business in that vicinity. It was later at one period used as a refinery, and for casting into molds sugar for table use in place of that of English make obtained through Canada. This having proved a failure the lower part was next used as a grocery store and afterwards as a bakery, conducted by a man named Ingraham. It was finally destroyed by fire.

“Besides the attempted diversion from the center referred to a singular movement was made in favor of the Factory Square, or village at a later period. This was after the cotton factory was completed and in motion; also the woolen-mills of Lovell Kimball, the foundry and machine shops of George Goulding and N. M. Wiley, the removal hither of the immense tannery of Jasan (sic) Fairbanks, and various accessions of mechanical and other enterprises about that time, together gave much encouragement, inclining those most earnest in the movement to be both confident and aggressive. In the early and later growth of Watertown it is interesting, especially to those who have ever made it their home, to note the fact that in selecting names for streets, old and new, after a few in honor of distinguished statesmen, and as many more indicated by local considerations, the rest have been chosen from among the foremost citizens of the different decades, first of the village, and afterwards of the city. However that may be it is entirely within the bounds of truth to say that whenever and by whomsoever the choice was made they are good names, all of them.”

The autumn previous to their location here Henry Coffeen and Zachariah Butterfield had visited the country and purchased farms. Oliver Bartholomew arrived in March, 1800, and settled one and a half miles from the present village of Brownville, and his family, with those of Coffeen and Butterfield, were the only ones to spend the winter of 1800-01 in the town. During the following season many others who had previously purchased farms came on, and the settlement on Black River rapidly became a place of importance.

During the first summer of the settlement, in lieu of mills, the most accessible being in Canada, a huge samp mortar, with a spring pole and pestle attached, was erected on the Public Square, by hollowing out a large stump. This served the purpose of a grain-mill to the settlement. In 1802 Jonathan Cowan began the erection of a grist-mill at the bridge that crosses to Beebee’s Island, which he got in operation the following year. In 1802 Dr. Isaiah Massey opened an inn, probably near the site of Paddock’s arcade. Hough’s History says: “During two or three succeeding years John Paddock, Chauncey Calhoun, Philo Johnson, Jesse Doolittle, William Smith, Medad Canfield, Aaron Keyes, William Huntington, John Hathaway, Seth Bailey, Gershom Tuttle, and others, several of whom were mechanics, joined the settlement, and at a very early day a school-house was built on the side of the Universalist Church, which served also as a place of religious meetings. In 1805 John Paddock and William Smith opened the first store in the place, their goods being brought from Utica in wagons. An idea may be had of the hardships of that period, compared with modern facilities, from the fact that in March, 1807, 17 sleighs, laden with goods for Smith & Paddock, were 23 days in getting from Oneida County to Watertown, by way of Redfield. The snows were in some places seven feet deep, and the valleys almost impassable from wild torrents resulting from the melting of snows. The winter had been remarkable for its severity and the destructive spring floods.”

In 1803 a bridge was built below the village, near the first court-house, by Henry Coffeen and Andrew Edmonds, over which the State road afterwards passed, and in 1805 the dam was built below the bridge, at which, the same year, a saw-mill was built on the north side, and in 1806 a grist-mill by Seth Bailey and Gershom Tuttle. A saw-mill was built on the Watertown side by R. & T. Potter a little below, and a saw and grist-mill soon after by H. H. Coffeen.

The first brick building in the county was erected by William Smith in the summer of 1806. It was two stories in height, with a stone basement, Mr. Smith working upon it with his own hands. The bricks were manufactured by Eli Rogers, on the point of land between Public Square and Franklin street. The site of this building is now occupied by Washington hall.

In 1805 Henry Coffeen, Zachariah Butterfield, Hart Massey, Isaiah Massey, Jesse Doolittle, Medad Canfield, Aaron Keyes, and Jonathan Cowan, who owned the land now comprising Public Square, and believing this location would in time become an important village, held an informal meeting, at which they agreed to give forever to the public, for a park or place, a piece of land 12 rods wide and 28 long, and another running south at right angles to this, nine rods wide and about 32 long. A map of the premises was made by John Simons, a surveyor, and deposited in the town clerk’s office, but this was afterwards lost. Mr. Cowan subsequently attempted to resume title to a portion of the land, but his mercenary actions were without effect, Judge Nathan Williams decided in court that, although the claimant had never deeded land on the Public Square, yet he had acknowledged its existence by bounding certain conveyances upon it.

The business of the place early centered around Public Square, especially at its west end, and on Court and Washington streets; and in 1815, John Paddock erected a three-story block, which was the first edifice of its size in the village. The corner of Arsenal and Washington streets became, at an early day, the site of a two-story wooden tavern, and was occupied until 1827, when an association of citizens, desiring to have a hotel in the place that should compare with those of the first-class in cities, was formed under the name of the Watertown Hotel Company, having a capital of $20,000. In the same year they erected the American Hotel, and this establishment continued to be owned by the company until it burned, in 1849, when the site was sold for $10,000, and another building of the same name was erected on its site by individual enterprise.

The Public Square of to-day is surrounded by the principal commercial institutions of the city. It is laid out into two large oval parks, shaded with large trees, and sodded as lawns, with a small one between the two, containing an elegant fountain. Spacious driveways pass completely around the three ovals, the large ones being provided with neat stands where, on pleasant summer evenings, the music of the city band lifts the weight of business from the minds of the weary workers and fills their hearts with melody.

The following sketch relative to the old New York state arsenal was prepared by Andrew J. Fairbanks and read before the Jefferson County Historical Society in 1887: --

“Prior to the construction of the Watertown arsenal the nearest depot available was at Utica. In 1808 Gov. Daniel D. Tompkins notified by letter Captain Noadiah Hubbard, of Champion, that 500 stands of arms, 350 sets of accoutrements, and 7,5000 rounds of ammunition, etc., had been for sometime stored at Utica awaiting some place of deposit, which was not, however, provided, and their destination was, by an act of March 27,1809, changed to Watertown. The selection and purchase of the site and the supervision of the building of the Watertown arsenal were entrusted to Mr. Hart Massey, a prominent citizen of Jefferson County, who, at that time, held the position of collector of customs for the district of Sackets Harbor. A site was selected on the south side of Columbia street (now Arsenal street), near its intersection with Madison street (now Massey street), in the present 3d ward. This portion of the town at that time was but recently cleared of the forest, and there were but few dwellings in the vicinity. The west line of Madison street bordered on a dense forest, extending to Black River Bay, with but few clearings or roads. During the year 1809 the arsenal was erected and completed. The structure was of brick, with cut stone trimmings; size, 40 x 60 feet, two stories in height, with high attic. On the eastern slope of the roof was a platform, on which was surmounted two six-pounders, unlimbered, standing muzzle to muzzle. These guns (quakers) were very real and artistic. Strong iron bars protected the lower windows, and two tall masts supported lightning rods. In the rear was a one-story guard-house of wood. The whole premises were enclosed by a strong stockade constructed of cedar posts set into the ground, with two sides hewed, to make the joints somewhat perfect, and the tops cut off about 12 feet from the ground and sharpened. A gateway through the stockade on Columbia street led to the rear and guard-house A sentry box stood just within the gateway. The cost of the arsenal was $1,940.99. On the completion of the arsenal the arms and ammunition, etc., heretofore stored at Utica, were brought from there, and additional supplies from Albany were added, together with a large quantity of cannon balls and shells from a foundry at Taberg, Oneida County. From this time forward, and during the War of 1812-14, the supply was continually added to and drawn from according to the necessity of the times.

“The general appearance and arrangement of the arsenal up to its sale and final abandonment may be described as follows: The ground floor of one room was heavily planked for the storage of a complete battery of artillery and appendages. Along the eastern and southern sides on the floor were piled pyramids of cannon balls and shells. The walls above these were filled with hundreds of knapsacks and canteens, the former made of canvas, painted lead color; on the outer flap was painted in white letters the legend in monogram S. N. Y.; the canteens were of wood, cylindrical in form, composed of hoops and staves, with leather support straps. On the western wall were suspended some 400 to 500 pairs of snow-shoes; these were discarded, and left here by General Pike’s brigade after the long and tedious march overland through the northern wilderness to join Dearborn’s army at Sackets Harbor prior to the descent on Little York (now Toronto) in winter of 1812-13. The ravages of time and mice soon despoiled the snow-shoes of the netting and thong so that they became worthless, and so remained untouched or undisturbed for 37 years, or until 1850. On the second floor were stored the muskets on the four walls, and on racks extending from floor to ceiling on double hooks, two by two, with bayonets fixed, were ranged many hundreds of muskets, all of one pattern smooth-bore, flinklocks of calibre 16 to 18 to the pound. Prominent in the assortment were many old brass-mounted relics and trophies of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane; also a few old continentals. On the rafters in the attic were hung many sets of cross-belts, cartridge boxes, and bayonets scabbards; above these were a number of drums, the heads and strainers long since departed by age and neglect. On the drums were painted the state coat of arms and the number of regiment.

“By act of legislature, April 9, 1850, the old arsenals of the state were ordered to be sold, the sites by private sale and material by auction, except the artillery, which was sent to headquarters at Albany. Accordingly sales by auction were advertised and took place soon after. The arms were quickly sold, and mostly carried off by farmers and boys; the belts, etc., were sold in lump to a shoe dealer, who utilized the material in his line of business, but disposed of the old brass breast-plates to a brass foundry. The site and building were purchased by Messrs. O. and E. L. Paddock, who soon leased the premises for a tobacco factory, for which purpose it was used for several years. Later it was sold to C. A. Holden, who made use of it for storage. Finally the structure along was disposed of to W. G. Williams, who demolished it for the excellent material it contained, and which now forms a portion of a fine brick cottage on Ten Eyck street, owned by C. W. Simons. To-day not a stick or stone marks the old site. To those interested we would say that the lawn on the western side of the premises of Mrs. C. A. Holden, No. 49 Arsenal street, marks the site, and the fine stable in the rear occupies the site of the old guard-house.”

The present state armory on Arsenal street was built In 1879, by George W. Flower, contractor, and cost about $30,000. The county furnished the site and appropriated $5,000 for that purpose. It is a imposing brick structure, amply sufficient for the requirements of the excellent National Guard company which now occupies it. The size of the drill room is 155 by 77 feet.

The history of the National Guard in Watertown started with the 35th Regiment Infantry, which was organized before the civil war, about 1850 or “55. March 17, 1874, companies A, C, D, E, G, and K were mustered out, leaving companies B, H, I, and F, which were designated as the 35th Battalion. On April 21, 1875, Co. C was organized with the following officers: James R. Miller, captain; Lewis F. Phillips, first lieutenant; and Thorne J. Corwin, second lieutenant. The battalion was at this time composed of companies A, B, C, and D, the latter of which was located in Theresa village. Lieutenant-Colonel Charles B. Fowler, at this time commanded the battalion. He was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred J. Cass, who was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel James R. Miller. In June, 1881, companies A, B, and D were mustered out, Co. C being retained as a separate company and designated as the 39th. After Colonel Miller’s promotion Charles A. Settle was elected captain of the company, and continued in command until the battalion was mustered out in 1881, and of the 39th Separate Company until his death in December, 1884. On the 24th of February, 1885, James R. Miller again took command and served until March 28, 1888. The present officers are William R. Zimmerman, captain, elected April 13, 1888; James S. Goyer, first lieutenant, elected at the same time; Charles R. Murray, second lieutenant, elected December 2, 1888; and Mason L. Smith, first lieutenant and assistant surgeon, appointed October 23, 1883. The muster roll of the company contains the names of four officers and 87 men, many of whom are representative and interprising (sic) citizens.

During the War of 1812 bodies of troops were stationed at Watertown for short periods, and the sick were often sent here for that attendance which could not be procured at Sackets Harbor. The old brick academy building, erected in 1811, which stood just in the rear of the present residence of B. B. Taggart, on the corner of Academy and Washington streets, was used as a hospital for a considerable time.

Soon after this war there occurred in the village an event which excited extraordinary interest throughout the country, and one which well-nigh wrought the financial ruin of two of the most honorable and respected residents of the county. The affair referred to is that in which Samuel Whittlesey, a prominent lawyer, who, in collusion with his wife, a most vicious and designing woman, attempted to retain for his own use, by declaring it had been stolen by others, a large sum of money which had come to him in his official capacity as brigade paymaster of the militia, thereby making his sureties, Jasan Fairbanks and Perley Keyes, responsible for the amount. Not having space here to give the details of this deplorable affair, we refer the reader to the accounts published in previous histories of Jefferson County.

It is to be regretted that lack of space will not allow the publication of many interesting incidents connected with the earliest settlements in Watertown, especially those preserved to history by Solon Massey, than which none others could be more authentic.

Before making our acquaintance with Watertown, after she had assumed the dignity of an incorporated village, we will reproduce from Spafford’s Gazetteer of 1813 a description of the village as it then existed. In a newspaper article published in 1887 Marcellus Massey said that “Watertown” was the only name by which the village had ever been known. It will be seen by the following that it also claimed, at this early day, the appellation of “Jefferson Village”: --

“Watertown, or Jefferson Village, is a flourishing post-village of Watertown, Jefferson County, on the south bank of Black River, four miles from Brownville, and the same distance from navigable water communicating with Lake Ontario. Here are the county buildings, consisting of handsome court-house and jail, and a State arsenal now building, within the village, beside a Mark Lodge, a paper-mill, two grist-mills, three saw-mills, one or two carding machines and fulling-mills, and an air-furnace now building. The village contains about 50 dwelling houses, some quite elegant, handsomely finished, and painted, six stores, two breweries, three tanners’ works, a printing press which issues a weekly paper, and a great variety of mechanics. Nearly opposite the village of Black River falls about 20 to 24 feet perpendicularly, and continues very rapid for three or four miles, and is thence smooth to the lake. Jefferson, therefore, enjoys great advantages for water-machinery, is within four miles of boatable water to the lake, and but 10 from good navigation on the lake. A quarry of good building, limestone, and clay, and sand abound in the vicinity of the village. Pine and other timber plenty. In short, it is a busy, thriving place, and the public improvements, the state of the roads, bridges, etc., of this and the surrounding towns, together with the improved state of the farms, and every field for enterprise and industry, do very great credit to the inhabitants.”



The village of Watertown was incorporated April 5, 1816. The act provided for the election of five trustees, who were to possess the powers and immunities usually vested in similar corporations. These extended to the formation of a fire department, the construction of water works, regulation of markets, streets, etc.; the building of hay scales, supervision of weights and measures, and whatever related to the preservation of health, or the suppression of nuisances. Three assessors, a treasurer, collector, and five fire wardens were to be elected. Fines not exceeding $25 might be imposed. The annual election was to occur on the first Monday of May, and the trustees were to choose one of their number for president. The president, with the advice of the trustees, was to appoint a company, not exceeding 20, of firemen, and to enforce, in the name of the trustees, the ordinances and regulations which they might establish. The village of Watertown was constituted one district, and exempted from the jurisdiction of the town commissioners.

On April 7, 1820< an act was passed altering the bounds of the village, and amending the charter; and on April 17, 1826, and April 26, 1831, the charter was still further amended. March 22, 1832, the trustees were empowered by an act to borrow a sum, not exceeding $2,000, to improve the fire department of the village, and supply it with water to be used in fires, and April 21, 1832, the doings at an election were confirmed. An act was passed April 23, 1835, granting additional powers to the trustees, repealing former provisions of the charter, and authorizing the erection of a market. The village charter was amended by an act of April 16, 1852, by which its bounds were increased, the district included being directed to be divided into from five to seven wards. A president, three assessors, a clerk, treasurer, collector, and two police constables were to be elected annually, and one trustee to each ward, of which there were five. Elections were held on the first Monday of March, and the powers and duties of the trustees were much extended.

The first village election was held at the house of Isaac Lee, in May, 1816, David Bucklin, Esq., presiding, and the following officers were chosen: Timothy Burr, Egbert Ten Eyck, Olney Pearce, Marianus W. Gilbert, and Norris M. Woodruff, trustees; Reuben Goodale, William Smith, Orville Hungerford, assessors; Micah Sterling, treasurer, Seth Otis, collector; Jabez Foster, Samuel Watson, Jr., Rufus Backus, William Fletcher, Joseph Henry, five wardens.

During the existence of the village corporation the following served as presidents: 1816, Timothy Burr; 1817, Isaac Lee; 1818, Orin Stone; 1819, William Smith; 1820, Egbert Ten Eyck; 1821, Olney Pearce; 1822, David W. Bucklin, 1823-24, Orville Hungerford; 1825-26, Olney Pearce; 1827-31, Norris M. Woodruff; 1832, Jasan Fairbanks; 1833-35, Orville Hungerford; 1836, Jasan Fairbanks; 1837-38, Dyer Huntington; 1839, David D. Otis; 1840, George C. Sherman; 1841, William Wood; 1842-43, William H. Robinson; 1844, Benjamin Cory; 1845, Dyer Huntington; 1846, Orville V. Brainard; 1847, Stephen Boon; 1848, Peter S. Howk; 1849-50, David D. Otis; 1851, Joshua Moore, Jr.; 1852, Kilborn Hannahs; 1853-54, Joseph Mullin; 1855; Randolph Barnes; 1856-58, Henry H. Babcock; 1859, Ambrose W. Clark; 1860-63, Henry H. Babcock; 1864-65, John M. Carpenter; 1866, George A. Bagley; 1867, Wilbur F. Porter; 1868, Lysander H. Brown; 1869, Edmund B. Wynn.

The trustees at their first meeting divided the village into five wards, to each of which a fire warden was to be assigned, and each was to be supplied with four ladders. A series of regulations providing against fires and making provision for the several objects named in the charter was also adopted. A fire company was organized May 28, 1817, and at a meeting of free holders called for the purpose, June 10, the sum of $200 was voted for a fire engine. February 6, 1818, $500 was voted to assist in building a bridge near Newel’s brewery. May 4, 1818, a committee of three was appointed to confer with the supervisors conering (sic) the purchase of a bell for the court-house. October 27, 1823, a plan for a cemetery, previously purchased of Hart Massey, was accepted, and on December 6, 1825, the lots, one rod square each, were balloted for, each taxable resident being entitled to one share. To non-residents lots might be sold, the proceeds to be applied to the building of a tomb. Four lots were drawn, one for each of the clergy of the village. June 14, 1828, $150 was voted for the improvement of Public Square. A hook and ladder company was voted to be formed in May, 1826.

At a meeting held November 24, 1831, the inhabitants advised the trustees to purchase a new fire engine, and the sum of $50 was directed to be drawn out of the village treasury, and presented to Messrs. Barrett and Parker for their prompt and efficient exertions with their new engine at the late fire in the village. A fire company, to be attached to the engine belonging to the Jefferson Cotton Mills, was formed August 6, 1832. Dyer Huntington was at the same time appointed chief engineer, and Adriel Ely assistant engineer, of the fire department.

June 19, 1832, a special meeting of trustees was held to adopt measures to prevent the spread of the Asiatic cholera, which at that time was spreading terror throughout the country. One trustee, one fire warden, one physician, and three citizens were appointed in each ward to take efficient measures for enforcing sanitary regulations. A special meeting of citizens convened at Parson’s hotel on the next day, and after the reading of several papers from Albany, Ogdensburg, and Prescott, a “committee of health,” consisting of 12 persons, was appointed, and Drs. Crawe, Trowbridge, Wright, Green, Goodale, Sykes, Bagg, and Safford were named as a committee to consult with the health committee. The state and national legislatures were petitioned for a law preventing the landing of foreigners, and for powers similar to those given to cities. The surrounding towns and villages were invited to cooperate in the adoption of sanitary measures. Three days after the passage of the act of June 22, for the preservation of the public health, the following persons were appointed a board of health: Marianus W. Gilbert, Levi Beebee, John Sigourney, Orville Hungerford, William Smith, Norris M. Woodruff, and Peleg Burchard. Dr. I. B. Crawe was elected health officer. May 3, 1833, William Smith, Levi Beebee, P. Burchard, N. M. Woodruff, and John Sigourney were appointed the board of health, with Dr. I. B.Crawe, health officer. In compliance with the act of 1832, and in pursuance of the proclamation of the governor, on June 19, 1849, the trustees of Watertown organized a board of health, to adopt sanitary regulations as preventives of the Asiatic cholera, then ravaging some sections of the Union.

A census of Watertown taken in April, 1827, gave 1,098 males and 941 females---a gain of 500 in two years. There were 321 buildings, of which 224 were dwellings; three stone churches (Methodist, Universalist, and Presbyterian), court-house, jail, and clerk’s office; arsenal, a cotton factory with 1,3000 spindles, another (Beebee’s) then building; one woolen factory, three paper-mills, three large tanneries, three flouring-mills, one furnace, a nail factory, two machine shops, two fulling-mills, three carding machines, two distilleries, one ashery, two pail factories, one sash factory, two chair factories, one hat factory, four wagon shops, two paint shops, four cabinet and joiner shops, eight blacksmith shops, four tailor shops, seven shoe shops, three saddle and harness shops, eight taverns, 15 dry goods stores, two hardware stores, two hart stores, two book stores, two leather stores, one paint store, two druggists, two jewelers, two weekly papers, seven public schools, six physicians, and 10 lawyers.

In 1829 an association was formed for boring for water on Factory Square, and a hole two and a half inches in diameter was drilled to the depth of 127 feet, when water was obtained that rose to the surface, and having been tubed discharged a copious volume of water slightly charged with sulphur and iron. On Sewall’s Island a similar well was bored, which at 80 feet discharged water and inflammable gas; but on being sunk further these were both lost.

Among the early enterprises of Watertown was the Black River Cotton and Woolen Manufacturing Company. This company was organized December 28, 1813, with a capital of $100,000, in 1,000 shares, the stockholders being William Smith, Jabez Foster, Marianus W. Gilbert, John Paddock, Egbert Ten Eyck, Amos Benedict, William Tanner, Jasan Fairbanks, and Perley Keyes. The company purchased the right of way for a road to Factory Village, and of Ezekiel Jewett, for $10,000, a tract of 400 acres, with the adjacent water-power, and here, during the summer of 1814, they erected a dam and stone building for a cotton factory, and commenced spinning in November. The cost of the factory was $72,000. It was erected and put in operation under the supervision of William Smith, and continued three years. It was afterwards hired and run three years longer, and was subsequently sold for $7,000.

The erection of the Jefferson cotton-mills, by Levi Beebee, in 1827, gave a strong impulse to the growth of Watertown. Mr. Beebee effected the purchase of the small properties which comprised most of Cowan’s Island (since called Beebee’s Island), and from Mr. Le Ray 120 acres on the north bank of the river opposite for the nominal price of $1,500. Early in the spring he commenced the erection of a large and substantial stone building, which was completed, and the water-wheels and shafting inserted under the superintendence of William Smith. The building was 250 by 65 feet, three stories high, besides a high basement with a projection before and behind, and connected with this were several offices and stores (sic) rooms, and in the vicinity two large stone buildings for boarding-houses. Under the main building two wheel pits, each 24 by 32 feet, and 24 feet deep, were blasted in the rock, and a canal, 10 feet wide, 6 feet deep, and 250 feet long, were made, which furnished water from the smaller or south branch of the river. A legal company was formed April 14, 1829, under the style of the “Jefferson Cotton-Mills,” having for its nominal trustees Levi Beebee, W. T. Beebee, L. S. Beebee, E. Faunda, and Horace Hunt. To secure the exemptions from taxation, which the statutes afforded in certain cases, Mr. Beebee obtained, April 7, 1830, an act of incorporation, in which himself and sons Levi S. and Washington T. were constituted a company, with a capital of $250,000 in shares of $50, and under the management of three trustees. On Sunday, July 7, 1833, the premises were discovered on fire, and such progress had been made before discovered that no effort was attempted further than to protect surrounding buildings. The fire was probably of incendiary origin. The loss was estimated at $200,00; insurance, $25,000.

The Watertown Cotton-Mills Company, capital $100,000, was formed in 1834, with Isaac H. Bronson, Jasan Fairbanks, Samuel F. Bates, John Sigourney, and Joseph Kimball, trustees. This continued several years and was replaced by the Watertown Cotton Company, capital $12,000, formed in 1846, with E. T. Throop Martin, Daniel Lee, S. Newton Dexter, Hiram Holcomb, and John Collins, trustees. Their plant contained 50 looms, and occupied the buildings erected for a cotton factory in 1814, at Factory Village.

In 1835 the Hamilton Woolen-Mills, capital $50,000, was formed by Henry D. Sewall, George Goulding, John C. Lasher, Simeon Boynton, and John Goulding. March 10 of the same year, this was reorganized under the name of Hamilton Manufacturing Company, capital $100,000. A factory was built the same year and put in operation in 1836. In May, 1842, it was bought by the Black River Woolen Company, which was formed in 1836, with a capital of $50,000, by Isaac H. Bronson, S. N. Dexter, O. Hungerford, John Williams, Hiram Holcomb, and Daniel Lee. These erected a factory, which was burned in 1841(?), loss of $36,000, insurance about $12,000.

The Watertown Woolen Company, capital $100,000, was formed in 1834, with I. H. Bronson, John A. Rodgers, John Williams, S. Newton Dexter, and Hiram Holcomb, trustees. The Watertown Woolen Manufacturing Company was formed in 1835, capital $25,000, the trustees being J. Williams, I. H. Bronson, H. Holcomb, D. Lee, and Silas Clark. This soon ceased to exist. In 1836 the William Woolen Company was formed, capital $10,000, by I. H. Bronson, S. N. Dexter, J. Williams, H. Holcomb, and Charles Weber. The company was engaged for a short time in manufacturing coarse goods, the premises subsequently, being occupied by a tannery.

Other early manufacturing enterprises will be described in different portions of this work. (See “Paper-Mills” in County Chapter, and “Present Manufactures” in connection with the sketch of Watertown city, a few pages subsequent.)