Town of Watertown

Child’s Gazetteer of Jefferson County, N. Y. p. 702 - 714

WATERTOWN, No. 2, or “Leghorn,” of the “eleven towns,” was formed from Mexico, March 14, 1800. Rutland was taken off in 1802, and Hounsfield in 1806. It is situated upon the south bank of Black River, southwest of the center of the county, and its present boundaries are as follows: ---

“Beginning in the middle of Black River, on the line between the old survey townships Nos. 2 and 3, of the ‘Eleven Towns’; thence south to the southeast corner of township No. 2, six and a third miles; thence west to the southwest corner of No. 2, six and a half miles; thence north to the middle of Black River, seven miles; thence easterly along the center of said river, two and a half miles, to the city boundary; thence southerly, westerly, and northerly along that boundary, at various angles, but in a general semicircular direction, for six and a half miles, to the center of Black River, striking two and three-fourths miles from the point of deflection; and thence easterly along the center of the river, two miles and a quarter, to the place of beginning.”

The surface of the town is moderately broken in the central and western parts, rising into hills of considerable height in the southern and eastern portions. Black River, which, as just shown, runs along the north side of the northeastern and northwestern sections of the present town, is a rapid stream, affording abundant water-power, which is now being generally utilized. Besides this the principal stream is a branch of Sandy Creek, which rises in Rutland, enters Watertown about two miles south from its northeastern corner, runs southwesterly about four miles, and then passes across its southern line into Rodman. Another stream called Mill Creek rises near the center of the town, whence it takes a southeasterly course, finally discharging into Black River Bay, near Sackets Harbor. A narrow marsh, known as “Long Swamp,” extends from the western line of the city across the northwestern part of the town. The soil of the west part of the town is a dark loam interspersed with gravelly ridges, while in the eastern portion the gravel becomes largely predominant, and small bowlders (sic) are abundant. The original growth of timber in the east was largely sugar maple, with smaller quantities of beech, basswood, and elm, and some pine near the river. In the west the maple became less abundant, and considerable birch was found on the low ground.

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

“There are about 200 dwelling homes, eight school-houses, eight grist and saw-mills, one paper-mill, one wool-carding machine, five distilleries, two breweries, a printing office and a weekly paper, and a large number of common mechanics; population, by the census of 1810, 1,849.”

The same author in 1824 says: --

“Watertown is a very prosperous and opulent township, having good roads and all the conveniences of social life. Population, in 1821, 2,766, of which number 604 are employed in agriculture and 314 in manufactures; taxable property, $270,428; acres of improved land, 13,012; 3,554 cattle, 758 horses, 5,880 sheep; 27,901 yards of cloth were made in families. There are four saw-mills, 10 grist-mills, three fulling-mills, four carding machines, two cotton and woolen factories, two paper-mills, one furnace, one iron works, three trip-hammers, four distilleries, and three asheries.”

In 1880 Watertown had a population of 1,264. The town is located in the second school district of Jefferson County, and in 1888 had 14 school districts, in which 17 teachers were employed 28 weeks or more. There were 269 scholars attending school, and the aggregate days attendance during the year was 15,372. The total value of school buildings and sites was $5,400, while the assessed valuation of all the districts was $7,790.84. The whole amount raised for school purposes was $12,434.08, of which $1,169.56 was received by local tax. Truman C. Gray was school commissioner.


BURRVILLE (Bur’s Mills p.o.) is a small village six miles from Watertown, near the Rutland line, and contains one church (Congregational) a grist and saw-mill, a blacksmith shop, an axehelve, whiffletree, and neck-yoke factory, one hotel, and about 30 dwellings.

EAST WATERTOWN (p. o.) is a small hamlet in the northeastern part of the town, near the Rutland line. The postoffice was established here about 1870, and Benjamin Andrews was the first postmaster. The village is composed of a school-house, one hotel, a blacksmith shop, meat market, and eight or 10 dwellings.

WATERTOWN CENTER is a small hamlet about two miles south of the city limits.

FIELD’S SETTLEMENT is a small hamlet in the western part of the town, near Hounsfield line.

HUNTINGTONVILLE is a small hamlet on Black River, east of the city limits.

RICE’S is a postoffice and station on the R., W. & O. Railroad, in the southwestern part of the town.



East Watertown cheese factory was established about 1868, by Samuel Wilson, who operated it six years, when it was burned. It was rebuilt in 1876, and was purchased by John G. Parker, who has operated it the greater part of the time since. It receives the milk from about 400 cows.

Watertown Valley cheese factory, located in the southeastern part of the town, was erected in 1881 by Henry Neighbergall, who operated it one year, when it was taken by C. B. Wilson, who operated it for

four years. It receives the patronage of about 400 cows, and is owned and conducted by Devendorf and Babcock.

Brookside butter and cheese factory, located in the southern part of the town, was founded about 1877, by H. W. Freeman. It contains all the latest improvements, and receives the milk from about 500 cows.

Ayer’s cheese factory, located at Rice’s Corners, one-half mile west of Rice’s station, was erected in 1865 by E. A. Ayers, and is still operated by him in the manufacture of American Cheddar cheese. Capacity, 650 pounds daily.

Wescott cheese factory, the first ever established in Jefferson County, was built by Edgar Wescott, at the head of Coal Creek. It has a capacity of 400 cows. Except about two years A. P. Sigourney has been secretary and treasurer of the concern without intermission up to 1888.

Burr’s Mills axehelve, whiffletree, and neck-yoke factory was established in 1866, by Alexander St. John, who bought the building at this time. The building had been erected by Joseph Todd in 1859, for a sash and blind factory, but was never used for that purpose. It is now owned by Brown & Son.

Deacon Oliver Bartholomew, a native of Connecticut and a Revolutionary soldier, made the first settlement in the present town of Watertown, in 1800, in its northwestern corner. He was 42 years of age at this time, and resided in the town until his death in June, 1850, aged 92 years. Almost simultaneously with the advent of Mr. Bartholomew Watertown was formed by an act of legislature. It comprised townships Nos. 1, 2, and 3 of the “eleven towns,” now known as Hounsfield, Watertown, and Rutland, and the main part of the city of Watertown. The first town meeting was held in Rutland. Owing to the burning of the early records the names of the first town officers cannot be given; but they doubtless lived in Rutland.

Deacon Bartholomew had purchased his land in this town in October, 1799, and at the same time purchases were also made by Simeon and Benjamin Woodruff, E. Allen, James Rogers, and Thomas Delano. During the year 1800 the two Woodruffs, Jotham Ives, and perhaps others came on and built cabins preparatory to settlement, but Deacon Bartholomew was the only one who remained during the winter. In 1801 Simeon and Benjamin Woodruff came on with their families, being accompanied by their father, Jonah, and their younger brother, Frederick. Their location was a short distance northeast of Burr’s Mills. Jotham Ives also made a permanent location this year, in the district now called Field’s Settlement, being accompanied by his two brothers, Joel and Dr. Titus Ives. It is said that Jotham Ives raised the first wheat in the present town of Watertown. He was one of the prominent men of the county. Numerous other settlers came in during 1801 and ‘02, among whom were William Sampson, Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle, Thomas and Job Sawyer, John Blevan, Abram Fisk, Lewis Drury, Sherbiah Fay, Aaron Bacon, Jonathan E. Miles, Jacob Stears, Seth Peck, Henderson Howk, Silas Howk, Job Whitney and Caleb and Nathaniel Burnham. These settled in the eastern part of the town. In the central part were Eli Rogers, Aaron Brown, Elijah Allen, James Rogers, and others; while in the west were Joseph Wadleigh, Bennett Rice, Thomas H. Biddlecom, John and Zebediah Buell, Friend Dayton, and others. The following also purchased land here in 1800, and it is known that some of them, though not all, settled in the town during the next two years: Herman Pellet, Silas Alden, David Bent, Luther Demming, Ira Brown, Calvin Brown, Abram Jewett, James Glass, N. Jewett, Benjamin Allen, Henry Jewett, Ephraim Edwards, and John Patrick. All these purchases were made by contract, and it was not until August 20, 1802, that the first deeds in the township were given to Jothm Ives, Elijah Allen, David Bent, Ezra Parker, William Parker, Joseph Tuttle, and Joseph Moors.

Meanwhile Mr. Stow, as agent for the proprietor, anticipating the wants of the pioneers, who were rapidly coming into the new town, contracted with Hart Massey for the erection of a saw-mill and rude grist-mill for grinding corn, to be built that season. Massey was to furnish three acres of land and erect the mills, while Stow was to contribute provisions, mill-stones, irons, and, in short, whatever cost money. The expenses were to be equalized when the work was done, and the mills to be owned in partnership by Stow and Massey. The site chosen for these mills was on the branch of Sandy Creek, before mentioned, a few rods below the cascades, just within the present town of Watertown, on its eastern edge. The saw-mill was built according to contract, and the grist-mill was completed about 1802. These were the first mills in Jefferson County south of the river. In 1802 they were sold to Capt. John Burr, who, with several sons, located there at that time, and remained for many years. From this family the place received the name of Burrville, which it has since retained.

Immigration was very rapid, and in 1802 there were about 60 families in the present town. The first minister in the town, and one of the first in the county, was Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle, who came in 1801 or 1802, and, oddly enough as it sounds to modern ears, owned the first distillery in town, situated at Burrville. He is supposed to have built it. In 1803 he sold it to Thomas M. Converse, who soon after opened a store at Burrville (the first in the present town of Watertown) in company with Hon. Jabez Foster, the firm name being Foster & Converse. After Mr. Foster’s removal to Watertown village, about 1807, Mr. Converse continued the business alone, also managing his distillery and an ashery, and being the leading man in the village until his death in 1811.

The first birth in town was that of a son of Adam Bacon, of Watertown Center. He was given the name of the proprietor of the town, and the proprietor, to reciprocate this favor, gave the child the munificent sum of 50 cents. Sally Rogers, daughter of Eli, was the first female child born in town. Her parents resided near the Center. The first death, it is believed, was that of John Arnold, who resided on the creek below Burrville.

In 1805 Jefferson County was erected, and the county seat was fixed at the little village of Watertown, the growth of which rapidly increased, and the surrounding town, of course, had a considerable access of immigrants, who desired to be near such a promising market. Among those who located in the eastern part of the town from 1803 to 1812 were Capt. Tilley Richardson, Timothy and Anson Hungerford, Jonathan Baker, William Huntington, John Gotham, Seth Bailey, Doris Doty, Cyrus Butterfield, Cyrenius Woodworth, Levi Cole, Samuel Thurston, Capt. Job Whitney, Anthony and Andrew Sigourney, William Fellows, and Samuel Thurston. In the center were Corlis Hinds, Reuben Scott, Benjamin Green, and many others. In the west was Elijah Field, of Woodstock, Vt., who gave the name of Field’s Settlement to the neighborhood where he located in 1805, Adam Blodgett, Samuel Bates, _______ Bates, ______ Spencer, and Asaph Butterfield. In the northwest was Capt. James Parker and others. In the south, on “Dry Hill,” was Joseph Sheldon, who came on with Capt. Richardson in March , 1803.

Burrville, in the early days, was an important rival of Watertown. An axe factory and trip hammer, run by water-power, was built by William Lamson, the pioneer blacksmith, who engaged in the manufacture of edge tools. James Mann built a tannery there in 1806, which passed into the hands of Deacon Theophilus Redfield, who also conducted a shoe shop. A carding-mill was started about 1809, and soon after this, before the War of 1812, a cloth dressing-mill. Septimus S. Adams was one of the earliest tavern-keepers. These establishments, together with the store, ashery, and distillery of Mr. Converse, made quite a lively little village. The first church in town, and perhaps the second in the county, was organized in Burrville by Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle in 1803. Meetings were held in Caleb Burnham’s barn, and were attended by the settlers from Watertown village for a number of years. Hart Massey made the journey quite regularly, he and his sons walking, and his wife riding on horseback, with her daughter behind her on a pillion. In 1811 the settlers in other parts of the town becoming tired of traveling so far to church, it was proposed to build a house of worth at Watertown Center, by an organization styled “The Religious Society of Watertown.” This project was interrupted by the War of 1812. Dr. Craft P. Kimball, who located in Burrville before the War of 1812, was the principal physician in town, and continued in practice there until his death in 1872.

The manufacture of potash was an important industry during the settlement of the town (as was the case in all heavily wooded sections of the country), and was about the only production of the settlements that would pay the expense of transportation to market and leave a fair margin in favor of the producer. When the embargo was declared in 1808, stopping intercourse with Canada, and thus preventing the exportation of potash by the only available route, which was down the St. Lawrence River, the people of Jefferson County felt as if they were ruined, and many of them did not hesitate to evade the law by every means in their power. Not only was an immense amount of potash illegally exported to Canada, but large quantities of manufactured goods were imported in the same way. Hart Massey was collection of the district, and had many exciting skirmishes with the smugglers. A Dutch farmer named Folts, who resided on Folts Hill, is said to have been one of the most successful evaders of the law, and on several occasions narrowly escaped detection.

By the time of the War of 1812 Watertown looked very much like an old settled country. On the principal roads more than half the houses were of frame, the trough-covered log school-houses were replaced by frame ones, and the whole town was pretty well cleared up, except on some of the hills and along the river in the northeastern part. The tract between the State road and the river, in the northeastern part of the town, was the latest considerable section to be settled. A man named White moved there in 1820, and in 1821 William Huntington settled at the point now called Huntingtonville, where he built a dam across to Huntington Island and erected a large saw-mill. Shortly afterwards a scythe factory was built at the same point, which was soon followed by a shingle machine and clover-mill. These buildings were carried away by the floods of Black River, between 1840 and 1850. The dam soon after shared the same fate, and Huntingtonville, as a manufacturing place, ceased to exist, although at one time it bid fair to be of considerable importance in that line.

The first uniformed military company in Jefferson County was the Watertown Rifles, formed principally in the eastern part of the town in the spring of 1813. William Sampson, of Burrville, was the first captain; Jonathan Miles was the first lieutenant; and John Gotham (afterwards Colonel Gotham) was orderly-sergeant. Most of the young and middle-aged men of the locality were members. When Sackets Harbor was attacked in May, 1813, this company responded promptly and participated in the battle. The company organization was kept up until 1846, when it was disbanded on the repeal of the old militia law.

In March, 1803, a State road was laid out from Rome to Brownville, running through the western part of this town, and another running down Black River through the northeastern part. Both were speedily constructed, and each has since been called the State road. The building of other roads advanced proportionately with the settlement of the town. In 1848 the Watertown and Sacket’s Harbor plank road was laid. It was soon followed by plank roads radiating in almost every direction from Watertown village. The Watertown Central plank road, which extended from the pavements of the village to Watertown Center, was designed to connect with a line of roads to Syracuse, but the early completion of the railroad prevented the consummation of the enterprise. In September, 1851, the Watertown & Rome Railroad was completed to the former village, running for about five and a half miles through the present town. In 1873 the Carthage, Watertown & Sackets Harbor Railroad was completed to Watertown, and in 1874 extended to Sackets Harbor, which gave this town five miles more of railroad. Both roads are now under the management of the R., W. & O.



The First Congregational Church of Watertown, organized at Burrville, June 3, 1803, was the first church in town and probably the second in the county. The organization was accomplished by Rev. Ebenezer Lazelle, with 15 members. The meetings were held in barns, school-houses, and private residences. No regular pastor was employed, the preaching being done by missionaries until October, 1815, when Rev. Daniel Banks was ordained and installed pastor of this church, and remained until 1821. In January, 1821, the form of government was changed to Presbyterian. Three churches have sprung from this---a Congregational one in 1830, since extinct; the Second Presbyterian, of Watertown village, in 1831; and a Congregational Church at Burrville in 1834 or ‘36.

In 1833 the “Burrville Society” was organized by persons of the Congregationalist, Methodist, and Universalist denominations for the purpose of erecting a union church edifice. Dr. Craft P. Kimball, George M. Jenks, and Elnathan Lucas were the first trustees. The next year a small house of worship was erected by this society at Burrville, at an estimated cost of $1,550. This, it will be understood, was a secular society, merely having charge of the house. For many years this edifice was used by the three denominations before mentioned, the Congregationalists being the last to occupy it.

The Burrville Congregational Society, at Burrville village, was organized in 1834 or ’36, by Rev. David Spear, the first pastor, and at it organization consisted of 20 members. It will comfortably seat 250 persons and cost about $1,500. The present membership is 10, and Rev. William T. Stokes, of Watertown, is the pastor. The church is in a prosperous condition and is partially supported by a legacy of $2,800.

The Gazetteer's next feature for this town is the Biographical Sketches and these are availabe on Nan Dixon's Jefferson County, N Y GenWeb site.


The City of Watertown text may be found on the chart under City of Watertown.

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© Shirley Farone, December 25, 2001