(Child’s Gazetteer, pub. 1890, p. 117)

The first effort to improve the facilities for travel in this section of the state was probably made in 1791, when Arthur Noble and Baron Steuben petitioned the legislature of the state of New York for a road “from the Little Falls on the Mohawk River to the falls on the Black River which runs into Lake Ontario.” The committee in the legislature to whom the petition was referred reported in favor of the project, but we have not been able to ascertain that anything further was accomplished. The first settlers found their way into the country by using the navigable channel of Black River from the High Falls to the present village of Carthage, or by the tedious and perilous navigation of the lake, by way of Oswego.

The French road. -- In anticipation of settlement Rodolph Tillier, agent of the French Company, had caused to be opened a route from the High Falls, east of Black River, to near the great bend, from which it continued in a line nearly direct to the present village of Clayton. A branch from this diverged from the head of navigation on Black River Bay, but these roads, though cleared and the stumps removed, had no bridges, and consequently were of no use to the early settlers. This road fell entirely into disuse, and it is doubtful whether a rod of it is now traveled.

The Oswegatchie road. -- The first traveled road in the county north of Black River owes its origin to Judge Nathan Ford, of Ogdensburg. The road extended from Ogdensburg to Turin, in Lewis County, and thence to Albany. It entered Jefferson County at Ox Bow, in the town of Antwerp, where it met the Black River road, on the opposite side of the river. Judge Ford, in a letter to Samuel Ogden, announced “having finished cutting the road, and all the logs turned, excepting about eight miles, and the party goes out to-morrow morning to finish that; after which, I think, the road may be said to be passable for sleighs, although there is considerable digging yet to be done, as well as crossways.”

The road was first opened by a subscription among the landholders, and its continuation through Lewis County was long known as the Oswegatchie road. The sums raised by these means proved inadequate to build the road of the character which the county demanded, and narrow, sectional, and local jealousies were found to embarrass the enterprise.

It was next attempted, with success, to obtain state patronage for this work; and on April 9, 1804, a lottery was created for the purpose of raising the sum of $22,000 to construct a road from Troy to Greenwich, and “from or near the head of Long Falls, in the county of Oneida, to the mills of Nathan Ford, at Oswegatchie, in St. Lawrence County.” The latter was to be six rods wide, and Nathan Ford, Alexander J. Turner, and Joseph Edsell were appointed commissioners for making it. Of the above sum $12,0000 was appropriated for this road. The summer of 1805 was devoted to the location and opening of the road, and on October 26, 1805, Judge Ford wrote: “I have just returned from laying out the State road between Ogdensburg and the Long Falls, upon Black River, and I am happy to tell you we have made great alterations (from the old road) for the better, also as well as shortening the distance.”



An act was passed March 26, 1803, for opening and improving certain great roads of the state with the proceeds of a lottery, to be drawn under the supervision of Philip Ten Eyck, Thomas Storm, William Henderson, Matthias B. Tallmadge, and Jacobus Van Shoonhoven. The fund so raised was intended to be chiefly applied to the opening of the roads in the Black River country, and was limited to $41,500. Nathan Sage, Henry Huntington, and Jacob Brown were appointed commissioners for opening a road from Salina, and thence through Redfield to Champion and St. Lawrence County, and these were, by an act passed April 9, 1804, authorized and empowered to make such deviations on said route as they deemed proper, notwithstanding the provisions of the original act.

Jacob Brown, Walter Martin, and Peter Schuyler where (sic) appointed under the act of March 26, 1803, to locate the road through the Black River valley, which, for a long time, was known as the State road, and $30,000 were expended under the act. Silas Stow acted a short time as one of the commissioners, both on the Black River and the Johnstown section, with Brown, Martin, and Schuyler. By an act of April 8, 1808, Augustus Sacket, David I. Andrus, and John Meacham were empowered to lay out a public road four rods wide, “commencing at such place in Brownville and Hounsfield as shall, in the opinion of the commissioners, best unite with the great road leading from Rome to the River St. Lawrence at Putnam’s ferry, and pursuing such route as in their opinion shall best accommodate the public in general, to the village of Salina.”

By an act of April 2, 1813, the surveyor-general was “authorized and required to sell and dispose of so much of the unappropriated lands of this state, on a credit of 12 months, lying in the county of Oneida, called the Fish Creek land, as shall raise the sum of $4,000; and the same is hereby appropriated for improving the road from Sackets Harbor, on Lake Ontario, to the village of Rome, in the county of Oneida, being the road heretofore laid out by commissioners appointed by the state, and pay the same over to Henry Huntington, Clark Allen and Dan Taft, who are hereby appointed superintendents to take charge of the expenditure of said sum, for the objects aforesaid.”

An act was passed April 1, 1814, appointing William Smith, George Brayton, and Benjamin Wright to lay out a road from Salina to Smith’s Mills (Adams), to intersect at that place the State road from Rome, through Redfield, and Lorraine, to Brownville. The road was completed to Adams, and was long known as the Salt Point road. In 1816 a State road was directed to be laid out from Lowville to Henderson Harbor, which was surveyed, but the whole of it was not opened. A road from French Creek to Watertown was, by an act of April 1, 1824, directed to be made under the supervision of Amos Stebbins, Azariah Doane, and Henry H. Coffeen. By an act of April 19, 1834, Loren Bailey, Azariah Walton, and E. G. Merrick were appointed to lay out a road along the St. Lawrence, from near the line of Lyme and Clayton, to Chippewa Bay, in Hammond. The cost, not exceeding $100 per mile, was to be taxed to adjacent lands; and in 1836, 1838, and 1839 the act was amended and extended. April 4, 1841, a State road was authorized to be laid out from Carthage to Lake Champlain, which was subsequently surveyed and opened the whole distance.

The enterprise of individual proprietors led, at an early day, to the opening of extended lines of roads, among which were the Morris and Hammond road, the Alexandria road, etc. The tour of President Monroe in 1817 probably led to the project of uniting the two prominent military stations of Plattsburgh and Sackets Harbor by a military road, which was soon after begun. A report of John C. Calhoun, then Secretary of War, dated January 7, 1819, mentions this among other nations works then in progress. The labor was done by relief parties of soldiers from these garrisons, who received an extra allowance of 15 cents and a gill of whisky daily. The western extremity, from Sackets Harbor, through Brownville, Pamelia Four Corners, and Redwood, to Hammond, and from Plattsburgh to the east line of Franklin County, only were completed. The care of the general government ended with the opening of these roads, and the portion in this county has been maintained as a town road.



The Oneida and Jefferson Turnpike Company was incorporated April 8, 1808, for the purpose of making a road from Rome via Redfield and Malta (Lorraine) to Putnam’s ferry, on the St. Lawrence. The persons named in the act were Nathan Sage, Peter Colt, Augustus Sacket, Jacob Brown, David Smith, and Eliphalet Edmonds; capital, 4,700 shares of $25 each. A company with the same name and a capital of $20,000 was chartered May 3, 1834, but never got into efficient operation. The commissioners named were Elisha Camp, Thomas C. Chittenden, Clark Allen, Ira Seymour, Nelson Darley, and Alanson Bennet.

The St. Lawrence Turnpike Company, formed April 5, 1810, of 29 leading landholders of Northern New York, headed by J. Le Ray, built in 1812-13, a turnpike from a point five and a half miles north of Carthage to Bangor, Franklin County. They were, in 1813, released from completing the termini, which had originally been intended to be the Long Falls and Malone. The road was opened under the supervision of Russell Attwater, and built from the proceeds of lands subscribed for its construction along the route. During the war it was a source of great profit, but afterwards fell into disuse, and the company was, by an act of April, 1826, allowed to abandon it to the public.

The Ogdensburg Turnpike Company, formed June 8, 1812, capital $50,000, and mainly sustained by David Parish, soon after built a turnpike from Carthage to Ogdensburg, by way of Antwerp, Rossie, and Morristown. This was also, by act of April, 1826, surrendered to the public. By an act passed March 30, 1811, the governor was to appoint commissioners to lay out two turnpikes. One of these was to pass from Lowville, by way of Munger’s Mills and Watertown, to Brownville; the other from Munger’s Mills to Sackets Harbor.

On February 13, 1812, James Le Ray asked permission of the legislature to make a turnpike road from Chaumont, in the town of Brownville, to Cape Vincent, and from the Black River, opposite the village of Watertown, to intersect the St. Lawrence turnpike road at or near where the same crossed the Indian River, in the town of Le Ray. On April 12, 1816, he was allowed to extend the road to Brownville village. By an act of April 21, 1831, this road was surrendered to the public, and with it ended the era of turnpikes in the county.


The first plank road in the county was completed in 1848, and extended from Watertown to Sackets Harbor. The Lowville and Carthage Plank Road was inspected August 4, 1849. The Carthage and Antwerp Plank Road was inspected November 13, 1849. The Sterling Bush and North Wilna Plank Road, connecting the last road with the village of Louisburg, or Sterling Bush, in Lewis County, was finished about 1854. The Gouverneur, Somerville, and Antwerp Plank Road was inspected November 14, 1849. A continuous line of plank roads connected this with Ogdensburg, Canton, and the depot of Canton and Madrid on the Northern Railroad, and one mile from Antwerp village with the Hammond, Rossie, and Antwerp Plank Road, inspected October 24, 1850, 20 miles in length, passing through Rossie vallage (sic), and connecting with the village of Morristown. At the village of Ox Bow it connected with the Evans Mills and Ox Bow Plank Road, 17 miles long, completed in June, 1852. The Pamelia and Evans Mills Plank Road, continuing this route to Watertown, was completed in June, 1850. Antwerp and Watertown were connected by the Antwerp, Sterlingville, and Great Bend Plank Road, completed in August, 1849, and the Watertown and Great Bend Plank Road, completed late in the same year. The latter passed through the villages of Black River and Felt’s Mills. At the village of Great Bend this and the former road connected with the Great Bend and Copenhagen Plank Road, completed in November, 1849. This road passed through Champion village, and connected with the Rutland and Champion Plank Road, which extended from Copenhagen to within three and a half miles of Watertown village, and was completed in August, 1849. This line was continued to Watertown village by the Watertown Plank and Turnpike Road, which was completed in September, 1849.

The Watertown Central Plank Road, two miles long, completed in August, 1849, was at first designed to connect with other roads, forming a line of plank roads to Syracuse, but the building of the railroad necessitated the abandonment of the plan. The Adams and Ellisburgh Plank Road was completed in June, 1849, and connected with roads to Syracuse, Oswego, etc. The Dexter, Brownville, and Pamelia Plank Road, connected Pamelia village with Dexter, was completed in October, 1850. It was continued by the Dexter and Limerick Plank Road to the town line of Lyme, towards Cape Vincent, completed in May, 1850. It also connected with the Dexter and Hounsfield Plank Road, which ran from Dexter to the Watertown and Sackets Harbor Road near the latter place. A line of roads from Alexandria Bay to Watertown was projected, and mostly finished, consisting of the Theresa and Alexandria Bay Plank Road, 12 miles long, completed in December, 1849, and the Theresa Plank Road, towards Evans Mills, of which about four miles were completed in July, 1852. The Theresa and Clayton Plank Road, between these places, was completed in June, 1850. This road passed through La Fargeville.

These roads generally contributed much to the prosperity of the country for a time, until the railroads were extended through the county, when the system was abandoned and the lines transformed into graveled or ordinary turnpikes. Nothing now remains to remind the traveler of their existence, save here and there a piece of scantling or broken plank.



(Child’s Gazetteer (1890) - pp. 122-127)

The Watertown and Rome Railroad was incorporated April 17, 1832. The company was empowered to build a railroad from Rome to Watertown, and thence to St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario, or both, with a capital of $1,000,000, in shares of $100. The charter, which was repeatedly revived and amended, was never allowed to expire, and after years of patient and preserving effort the road was opened. Work was commenced at Rome in November, 1848, and soon after at other important points, and the road was so far completed as to allow the passage of trains to Camden in the fall of 1849. May 28, 1851, the road was completed to Pierrepont Manor, and a large party from Watertown, Rome, and other sections assembled to celebrate the era of the entrance of the first railroad train into Jefferson County. The first engine reached Watertown September 5, at 11 o’clock at night, and on the 24th of the same month its completion to that place was again celebrated with festivities. On November 20 it was finished at Chaumont and in April, 1852, to Cape Vincent. The first officers were Orville Hungerford, president; Clark Rice, secretary; and Orville V. Brainard, treasurer. Mr. Hungerford died before the road was completed, and on April 10, 1851, Hon. William C. Pierrepont was elected president. The total length of the line was 97-1/2 miles, and its total cost $1,957,992.

In January, 1852, a company was organized to construct a road from Watertown to Potsdam Junction, a point on the Vermont Central Railroad, which latter extends from Ogdensburg to Rouse’s Point, at the foot of Lake Champlain. The Potsdam branch, 76 miles in length, was completed in 1854, and up to 1860 was called the Potsdam and Watertown Railroad, when it came into the possession of the Watertown and Rome Railroad Company. In 1861-62 the latter company put down a track from DeKalb Junction, a point on the Potsdam and Watertown road, to Ogdensburg, a distance of 19 miles, and the roads were consolidated and the names changed by the legislature to the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad Company.

In 1866 the Oswego and Rome Railroad, extending from Oswego 29 miles to Richland, was put in operation and leased to the R., W. & O. The Syracuse Northern Railroad, running from Oswego west to Charlotte (Rochester’s port of entry), and to its western terminus at Niagara Falls and Suspension Bridge, on the Niagara River, 150 miles, was also merged in the R., W. & O. in January, 1875.

The Utica and Black River Railway was opened from Utica to Boonville, Oneida County, a distance of 35 miles, in 1855. In 1868 the line was put in operation to Lowville, Lewis County, a further distance of 24 miles. In 1872 it reached Carthage, 16 miles farther. The original plan to construct a line to Clayton, Morristown, and Ogdensburg, on the St. Lawrence River, was not immediately carried out. While the division between Lowville and Carthage was in course of construction a company was organized in Watertown, under the title of Carthage, Watertown, and Sackets Harbor Railroad Company, and a road constructed in 1872, from Watertown to Carthage, 18 miles, which was completed about the time the Utica and Black River Company reached the same point. Upon the completion of the road from Watertown to Carthage it was leased to the Utica and Black River Company.

In 1873 the Clayton and Theresa Railroad was completed, mainly through the efforts of Alden F. Barker and Russell B. Biddlecom and in 1885 was consolidated with the Utica and Black River system. In 1874 the Carthage, Watertown, and Sackets Harbor Company completed a road from Watertown to Sackets Harbor, which was the same year leased to the Utica and Black River line.

The Black River and Morristown Railway filed articles of incorporation with the secretary of state March 22, 1870. The capital stock was fixed at $600,000, and Philadelphia, in Jefferson County, and Morristown, in St. Lawrence County, were made the termini of the road. The length of the proposed line was 37 miles. The railroad was opened from Philadelphia to Theresa, a distance of eight miles, in December, 1872, and by October, 1873, the work was nearly completed. On October 29, 1873, the company contracted with the Utica and Black River Railway Company to complete the road, giving that company the use of the road for eight years, and transferring to them the unexpected balance of $500,000 in bonds issued by the Black River and Morristown Company. Under this contract the road was completed and opened to Redwood in November, 1874, and to Morristown in November, 1875. Connection was soon after made to Ogdensburg. It remained under the control of the U. & B. R. R. R. until the latter was leased to the R. W. & O.

On April 15, 1886, the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad leased the lines of the Utica and Black River Railroad, and since that time the lines have been under one management, the system being known as the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad Company. The general offices of the company are located at Oswego, and the following are its present officers: Charles Parsons, president, New York; Charles Parsons, Jr., vice-president, New York; J. A. Lawyer, secretary and treasurer, New York; R. E. Smiley, assistant secretary, Watertown; E. S. Bowen, general manager, Oswego; Edwin Parsons, assistant general manager and general purchasing agent, New York; M. B. Sloat, auditor, Oswego; L. A. Emerson, general traffic manager, New York; F. W. Parsons, general freight agent, Oswego; Theodore Butterfield, general passenger agent, Oswego; H. T. Frary, paymaster and traveling agent, Oswego; G. H. Haseltine, superintendent of motive power and machinery, Oswego; W. W. Curries, superintendent transportation, Oswego; W. S. Jones, superintendent middle and eastern divisions, Watertown; H. W. Hammond, assistant superintendent eastern division, Carthage; J. H. McEwan, assistant superintendent eastern division, Carthage; J. H. McEwan, assistant superintendent western division, Oswego.

In 1837 the Trenton and Sackets Harbor Railroad was chartered, but no work was ever done. In 1850 the Sackets Harbor and Ellisburgh Railroad Company was organized, and June 1, 1853, was completed to Pierrepont Manor and opened for the regular passage of trains. It was run to connect with the R., W. & O. Railroad at the Manor, and with the Ontario and St. Lawrence Steamboat Company at the Harbor. The road was abandoned in 1862.

A company called the Sackets Harbor and Saratoga Railroad Company was incorporated in April, 1848, for the purpose of building a road from the first named point via Watertown, Carthage, and Castorville, and through the wilderness, to Saratoga, and eventually to Boston, Mass. No part of the road in this county was ever built.

The Carthage and Adirondack Railroad. -- The building of this road was the consummation of a project conceived by George Gilbert, of Carthage, N. Y., as early as 1865. At that time very little lumbering had been done in the country now tributary of this road. A tannery had then recently been erected at Natural Bridge village, and at Harrisville, Lewis County. The large lumber interest at Gouverneur, St. Lawrence County, that has now for more than 20 years drawn almost entirely from this section for its supply of logs, was then in embryo. Little was then known of the large mineral resources of this locality; yet small quantities of very excellent iron ore had been mined, and the sanguine predicted its existence in endless quantities. By occasional trips through this section Mr. Gilbert had become acquainted with the large resources of the locality in its forests, and the great wealth that might be derived therefrom if some adequate mode of transportation could be provided. The importance of penetrating this country with a railroad, having its starting point at Carthage, began to be discussed by him, and while every one conceded the desirableness of such an enterprise if it could be accomplished, yet the poverty of the country to be directly benefited was so great as to lead most people to view it as a quixotic undertaking. Nevertheless the project found some friends who thought it worth while to try and see how much interest could be developed.

Acting upon this idea Mr. Gilbert prepared a bill and submitted the same to the legislature of 1866, providing for the incorporation of a company with power to construct a railroad from Carthage, Jefferson County, N. Y., to some point on the Oswegatchie River, at or near Harrisville, in Diana, Lewis County, and to purchase timber lands in unlimited quantities and engage in the business of lumbering. This bill was amended by the legislature by striking out the provision empowering the company to purchase lands, etc., and then passed it. It became a law, but without the element that in the judgment of its author made it of any particular value. Nevertheless it served the purpose of forming a nucleus which was of some service in working up the scheme. In the fall of 1866 very thorough preliminary surveys were made between Carthage and Harrisville. Statistics were collected, and in the following winter a report showing the feasibility of the route and the resources of the country was made and published. This report was very generally circulated and attracted much attention. Carthage was then a village of nearly 2,000 inhabitants, nearly equal to the number of inhabitants in all the remaining country along the line of this proposed road. The proposition was then to build a railroad about 20 miles in length through a section of country containing no men of large means, and where the business necessary to its maintenance would have to be created to a very great extent. Nevertheless confidence in the scheme began to increase. In the following year the Clifton Company began the construction of a railroad from its mines, in the town of Clifton, St. Lawrence County, to De Kalb Junction, on the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad, using wood rails instead of iron. This was a new idea, and seemed to be a feasible one for a pioneer road in a country where timber was abundant. In the fall of this year preliminary surveys were made from Harrisville to a point of intersection with the Clifton road in the town of Russell, St. Lawrence County, and soon after the work of securing pledges for a sufficient amount of stock to organize a company under the general law for the incorporation of railroad companies was set about in good earnest, and prosecuted with a zeal that seemed to preclude all doubt of success.

In December following the persons pledging subscriptions for stock in the company to be organized met at the hotel in Harrisville and selected a board of directors; but the articles of association then adopted were not signed, and the 10 per cent was not paid in until the latter part of June, 1868. It was provided that the company should be known by the name of the Black River and St. Lawrence Railway Company. The length of the proposed road was to be 38 miles, and was to extend from the Black River at Carthage to the point of intersection above named. The length of the proposed road was to be 38 miles, and was to extend from the Black River at Carthage to the point of intersection above named. The amount of capital stock as fixed in the articles of association was $380,000. The board of directors selected to serve the first year was composed of George Gilbert, Hezekiah Dickerman, Richard Gallagher, Jackson Weaver, Samuel H. Beach, Joseph Palmer, William Palmer, William Hunt, Silas Bacon, George M. Gleason, Henry Rushton, Lucius Carr, and George Smith. Samuel H. Beach was made president; George Gilbert, vice-president and secretary; and Henry Rushton, treasurer. In the winter of 1868 laws were passed authorizing the company to use wood rails instead of iron; also authorizing the several towns along the route of the proposed road to issue bonds, and subscribe for and take stock in this company. In pursuance of the provisions of the last named law the town of Wilna subscribed for stock to the amount of $50,000; the town of Diana, Lewis County, subscribed for a like amount; and both of these towns paid their subscribed for stock in the amount of $35,000, but paid only a small part of its subscription. The work of building this road was let to Row, Fields & Co., of Brockville, Canada, in the winter of 1868-69.

The work of construction was actually commenced on April 29, 1869, and prosecuted by the contractors until about the middle of October of the same year, when some difficulty arose between the directors of the company and the contractors, resulting in the directors assuming the work of construction and the discharge of the contractors. Litigation ensued, but was subsequently settled; work was suspended during the winter, but resumed in the spring and prosecuted in a very moderate way until late in the fall, when further operations were stopped for the want of funds. The road was operated, so far as completed, for a part of one year, when it was practically abandoned, and nothing further of any moment was done with it until the organization of the Carthage and Adirondack Railway Company in the spring of 1883. For sometime previous to this Byron D. Benson, of Titusville, Pa., had been investigating the extent and character of the deposits of iron ore at Jayville, Fine, and other points in St. Lawrence County, the title to which had been secured by Joseph Palmer, of Harrisville, to be used in aid of the completion of this road. Mr. Benson and his associates became satisfied that these ores were of sufficient value to warrant the construction of a railroad from Carthage to Jayville, and a company was organized for that purpose, as above stated. The property and franchises of the Black River and St. Lawrence Railway Company were transferred to the new organization, and the work of construction was commenced and prosecuted for a short time, and then suspended until 1886, when the road was completed to Jayville, a distance of about 29 miles. In the summer of 1887 an extension was commenced from Jayville to Little River, in the township of Chaumont, St. Lawrence County, which was completed in the summer of 1889.

Although not as much iron ore has been transported over this road as its promoters expected, yet in other respects the widsom (sic) of its construction has been fully demonstrated, and the shipment of ore will undoubtedly be greatly augmented at no distant day. The present company is an outgrowth of the former one, and it is evident that neither would have been formed and the road not constructed but for the untiring efforts of Mr. Gilbert from the first conception of the enterprise until the fall of 1869, subsequently reenforced by Mr. Palmer’s efforts in directing attention to the mineral resources of the country penetrated by it.

The Rome and Carthage Railroad is a contemplated line, with terminal points at the places named. The company has been incorporated, and J. C. Smith, of Rome, is president; Chester Ray, of Martinsburg, vice-president; A. W. Orton, of Rome, secretary and treasurer.

The Dexter and Ontario Railroad is also a contemplated line to extend from Dexter village to connect with the R., W. & O., about two miles from Brownville village. James A. Outterson is president of the company.