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Charles Rufus Skinner.

Watertown, N.Y. : a history of its settlement and progress, with a description of its commercial advantages : as a manufacturing point, its location, its unsurpassed water power, its industries and ge online

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Online LibraryCharles Rufus SkinnerWatertown, N.Y. : a history of its settlement and progress, with a description of its commercial advantages : as a manufacturing point, its location, its unsurpassed water power, its industries and ge → online text (page 1 of 13)
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COMMERCIAL



ADVANTAGES



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ILLDSTRATED



AND



DESCRIBED



EDITED BY CHARLES R. SKWNER.



Times and Reformer Print, Watertown, N. Y,




TiJ^ACK HJYJEI^ .b\A:LJ,S AJ^'D ::) L'^I'JEIs^^J 02^ lijRII^UJE,
WATERTOWN, N. Y.



WATERTOWN, N. Y.



A HISTORY



OF ITS SETTLEMENT AND PROGRESS, WITH A DESCRIPTION OF ITS
COMMERCIAL ADVANTAGES,



AS A



ifSlai^ H^



MANUFACTURIM POINT,



ITS LOCATION,



ITS uj^^sijrpassed avater power,



ITS INDUSTRIKS AND GKXKRAL FEATUKES OF ATTRACTION



TO CAPITALISTS AND MANUFACTURERS.



rSV^x\t\^Y,^ unax\e-S Kurusj



WATERTOWN, N. Y. :

PUBLISHED BY THE WATERTOWN MANUPAOTUKEKS AID ASSOCIATION.

1876.



,W>3S4






TO

®ne of tl)e Jalnst of Cities,

WHOSE PEOPLE,

BY EARNEST INDUSTRY AND EN TERPRISE

HAVE IMPROVED SO LARGELY
THE ADVANTAGES WHICH NATURE HAS SO LAVJS/l^V BESTOWED

AND TO WHOSE PUBLIC SPIRIT

SHK OWES HER (iOOD XAME AND HKR PROSPERITY,
THIS LFl'TLE BOOK IS MOST COHDTALLY DEDICATED.




JEFFERSON COUNTY COURT HOUSE.



^M.PHOTO-LITHOBmfHK CtH Y/OSSORntSfinceiD



THE WATERTOWN

liNCFiciiiiErs ill) mmim

OEaANIZED JAN. 25, 1875.



ARTICLE 1 OF ITS CONSTITUTION :

" The o/^'ec-/ of the Association shall be to make an organized and
systematic effort to develope and aid the manufacturing interests of
the city of Watertown."

CiEN. Bradi.kv Winslow President.

J )r. H. M. Stevens Vice-President.

Charles R. Skinner Corresponding Secretary.

W . C. Haven Recording Secretary.

John F. Moffett Treasurer.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES:

BRADLEY WINSLOW, MOSES EAMES,

JOHN C. STREETER, ROZELL H. HALL,

CHARLES W. SLOAT, LEVI A. JOHNSON,

C. D. PALMETER, THOMAS S. GRAVES,

A. D. REMINGTON.
CORRESPONDENCE SOLICITED.



TO THE READER.



We urge you most earnestly to examine with care the con-
tents of the following pages, which are intended to set forth — perhaps
hastily, but we trust fairly — some of the attractions which our city
possesses as a desirable location for all classes of persons.

The officers ot this Association will take great pleasure in furnish-
ing additional information to all who may desire, not only by prompt
attention to correspondence, which is urgently invited, but by per-
sonal eftbrt and attention to all who may visit our city with- a view
of locating with us, giving the additional assurance that all will be
heartily welcomed and hospitably entertained.

If what is said shall produce a favorable impression upon any
person, in any quarter ; inspire any intention to consider our claims,
or arouse a spirit of favorable inquiry, to all such we give the assur-
ance that we most cordially invite candid correspondence and
inquiry, and that we have tnore to say.



Of ALf. Things Water is the Best." — Pindar.



INTRODUCTION.



The primary object of this pubHcation is to present in an impar-
tial, although incomplete manner, some of the many advantages
possessed by our city as a manufacturing point. While thus seeking
to carry out the fundamental object of the Association, as expressed
on a preceding page, a mutual benefit may result to our own city and
its people by adding to its industries, and to those seeking new fields
of labor by calling their attention to Watertown as a healthy,
lively and energetic city. To this end the following description ot
it location, its resources, its inducements, and its industries, is intend-
ed to invite the attention of live and energetic capitalists, manufac-
turers and others seeking opportunity for investment, or desiring a
home in a growing and healthy community, to its manifest
attractions, as a favorable location, and as an excellent field for the
development of industrial talent, and the profitable production of
skilled labor.

First among the claims of our city, stands pre-eminently its unsur-
passed wafer power.

In this connection it may be said, if comment is necessary, that
modern science has demonstrated that water is the cheapest., safest^
surest and best power known, and any facts bearing upon it are be-
coming to be earnestly and candidly considered. The value of a
falling stream to the manufacturing interests of the world is entirely
l)eyond calculation. Its flow is ceaseless, nature exacts no royalty
and it seems the perfection of power, inasmuch as the advance of
civilization and enlightenment interferes not with its strength, less-
ens not its force, and suggests no possible improvement.

Black River, which has its source in the midst of the myriad
lakes which abound in the great forests of the North, and which
flows with steady and rapid course through the very heart of our city,



8 VVATERTOVVN. N. Y.



falling one hundred and twelve feet in its flow through our borders,
presents alluring charms to the progressive manufocturer. and invites
him to seize a share of the wealth which she so freely distributes to
such as are willing to curb her power and make good use of her
strength. This power, the finest and most available in the country,
froms the foundation of our desire to attract the attention of intelli-
gent and industrious strangers to us.

It furnishes almost a natural water-power, with a full and rapid
flow, requiring little outlay in any artificial direction, and we believe
it no exaggeration to claim that no other river in the State or nation
furnishes as much and as available power in the same distance, as
Black Rivei' supplies in its passage throut^h our corporate limits.

In addition to this important natural advantage we claim for our
city a most favorable location in a thickly settled, prosperous, fertile
and healthy portion of the State, surrounded by a wealthy and
industrious population, who have grown up with the country and
contributed to its prosperity and good name by an active and ear
nei^t mdustry in the various pursuits which engage the attention of
an honest, careful and prudent people.

We believe a careful perusal of what may follow, with incpnry as
to what may have been omitted, will convince strangers now unde-
cided where to locate in manufacturing or other enterprises, that we
have some honest claims upon their consideration.

We have here a surplus of power sufficient to turn the wheels of
scores of manufactories yet unbuilt, which only awaits more skilled
hands of j^ractii-al workmen to develope industries which shall yield
abundant profit and rich reward. We believe that nothing is want-
ed but more organizing minds, more willing hands, more practical
direction to make our city one of the leading manufacturing cities
of the country. Her manufacturing interest is to-day one of her
brightest possessions, but it may be doubled with tenfold profit, and
our noble river is already here, ready to do its part in the work.

In this work we have also sought to present in an unprejudiced
manner, the general attractions of our city from many standpoints —
our aim being not to attract manufacturers only, but good citizens of
all classes. To this end we have devoted many pages to the consid-
eration ot \ arious topics of local interest, with a view of giving all
in(|uirers all the information possible in reference to every attractive
feature of our city, its growth and present condition.



9



SOME OF THE



GENERAL ADVANTAGES AND ATTRACTIONS



OF



^V^TERTOAVI^r,



I St. Its unsurpassed and almost unlimited water power, furnished
by Black River, which falls nearly 112 feet within the city limits.

2d. It is located in the most fertile and productive portion of
Northern New York, and in one of the most thriving and prosperous
agricultural counties in the State.

3rd. It is the virtual centre of a railway system which has its out-
lets at favorable points in the interior of the State, and at the best
ports on the ^' Great Lakes of the North."

4th. It therefore possesses the advantages of railway competition,
all competing lines expressing and showing a liberal .spirit toward all
manufacturing enterprises.

5th. It is situated in the midst of vast and valuable mineral
deposits, chief among which are inexhaustible beds of the finest iron
ore to be found in the United States, many of which are in full and
successful operation.

6th. Within the limits of the city lie portions of a ridge of lime-
stone miles in extent, which, it has been demonstrated, has no super-
ior as 2ifiux for use in the reduction of iron ore.

7th. It has direct railroad communication with the vast coal
regions of Northern Pennsylvania, by two competing railroad lines.

8th. It has direct railroad communication with the lumbering
interest of adjoining counties, with lake and river ports, receiving
lumber from the West, and with the great pine forests of Canada.



10 WATER TOWN, N. Y.



9th. It is within ten miles of one of the best harbors on the great
lakes, with which it is connected by rail, thus affording direct com-
munication by water, with the grain, lumber and mineral industries
of the North West.

loth. It is situated in the midst of the most productive tanning
interest of the State — ^Jefferson and adjoining counties being large
producers of live stock, and the material for reducing hides to leather.

nth. The government of the city is based on the strictest ideas of
economy, consistent with safe and sure progress, and the spirit of the ,
people is decidedly in favor of every measure intended to make the
rate of taxation low. The officers of the city are pledged to carry
out this idea.

1 2th. Statistics show that it is one of the healthiest cities in the
Union, subject to no contagious diseases, and free from prevailing
sickness. The rate of mortality in 1875 was only one in seventy.

13th. Its public school system has been placed upon a satisfactory
foundation, and affords excellent educational facilities.

14th. The cost of living is much less than in larger cities.

15th. Its social advantages are numerous, the tone of society
healthy, and the morals of the community beyond dispute.

1 6th. Its great wealth, which is just now seeking investment in
desirable and well conducted manufacturing pursuits.



WATERTOWN, N. Y. 11



GEOGRAPHY.

Watertown is the capital of Jefferson county, one of the most
thriving counties in the State of New York. It is situated upon both
banks of Black River, seven miles from its mouth, where the river
mingles with the waters of Lake Ontario. The river divides the city
into two unequal portions, which are connected with each other by
three bridges, two of wood and one an iron suspension.

It is 250 miles N. W. of New York City, 147 miles W. N. W. of
Albany, 72 miles N. of Rome, 90 miles N. W. of Utica, 69 miles
N. of Syracuse, 60 miles N. E. of Oswego, 76 miles S. of Ogdens-
burg, with all of which cities it has direct and unbroken railroad
connection. It is also 10 miles East of Sackets Harbor, one of the
finest harbors on Lake Ontario, and 25 miles South of Cape Vin-
cent, a fine port on the St. Lawrence river, opposite Kingston, Ont.,
and one of the prominent outlets of a flourishing Canadian trade.
With both the last named points Watertown has direct railroad con-
nection. It is also connected by rail with Clayton, a thriving village
on the St. Lawrence river, opposite Gananoque, which is also an
outlet of Canadian trade — and with Morristown a prosperous village
a few miles farther down the river, opposite Brockville, Ontario.
Kingston, Brockville and Gananoque, with Prescott, opposite Ogdens-
burg, are important points on the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada.
Kingston is the terminus of the Kingston and Pembroke railroad^
penetrating a productive lumber country. Brockville is the terminus
of the Brockville and Ottawa railroad, and also of the Rideau canal,
both passing through important lumber districts. Prescott is the
terminus of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa railroad.

It will be seen that nothing can be more favorable than the geo-
graphical location of Watertown, commercially considered. It is an
element of strength which cannot be well overlooked by those who
look at the question of location with commercial eyes.

The city is situated in the very heart of one of the richest agricul-
tural regions in the State, to which fact is largely due the substantial
growth, thrift, enterprise and prosperity which have become its recog-
nized features with those who know its history best. Its prosperity
is second to no city of its size in the United States. It is in fact the'
leading commercial city of Northern New York.



12 WATERTOWN, N. Y.



HISTORY.

It is hard to resist the temptation offered by a study of local his-
tory, to enlarge more fully, and entirely beyond the scope of this
small book, and beyond the main object in view, upon the interest-
ing and attractive history which surrounds our city and county. We
sacrifice local desire which would eagerly grasp it to the necessity of
a plain statement of facts connected with the " first days of Water-
town," and confine ourselves to the consideration of a few truths and
statements which bear more directly upon present issues.

THE FIRST SURVEY.

The town of Watertown was first surveyed in the year 1796 by
Benjamin Wright, a native of Connecticut, who was employed by
the State to survey the northern and central portions of New York
State, and who later in life was the originator of the first legislative
steps toward the construction of the Erie canal, of which subsequently
he was one of the chief engineers. His work in Jefferson county was
performed through fatigue and hardships. Trackless forests contested
every step of progress, and savages by day and wolves and panthers
by night disputed his rights and were unwelcome visitors at his camp
fires.

THE FIRST SETTLERS. ^

Settlements commenced in this vicinity in March, 1800, at which
time Henry Coffeen, a native of Vermont, and Zachariah Butterfield,
having during the previous fall visited the town and purchased farms,
removed here with their families, and began improvements upon the
site now occupied by the city. Mr. Coffeen was first to arrive, hav-
ing penetrated from Lowville, Lewis county, forty miles east, through
the woods with his family and household goods drawn on an ox-sled.
He erected his hut at a point near where Court street now enters
Public Square. Mr. Butterfield settled and built where Washington
Hall now stands. Oliver Bartholemew, a native of Connecticut and
a revolutionary soldier, arrived in town in March, 1800, and settled
a few miles to the northward. In the ensuing winter, 1 800-1, but
three families wintered here, those of Coffeen, Butterfield and Bar-
tholemew. They were soon followed by many others, among whom
were Hart Massey, Asaph Mather, Jonathan Cowan and Thomas
Butterfield.



JVATERTOWN, N, Y. 13



THE EARLIEST OPINION.

Mr. Benjamin Wright who made the survey of the town in 1796,
made the following report concerning one of the lots upon wiiich the
city is built :

" [Watertown.] Along the river there is some good land and
some that is broken and rocky. The river is amazing rapid and
rocky ; some falls along the river which may be made good mill
seats, and some excellent pine timber along the river. On the east
line is a fine country. The west line is of good quality. There are
some fine mill seats in this town which on the map are marked ' falls '
and ' rapids.' To speak generally I think this to be an excellent town-
ship, and scarcely any poor land upon it. Will settle very fast, if laid
in lots and sold to settlers."

ITS NAME.

The river then, in its primitive strength and beauty, was first to at-
tract the attention of the settlers, and from the extraordinary amount
and convenience of its water power, so early discernible to the keen
minds of the pioneers, the city derived its name, a name which she
has borne with honor for more than three-quarters of a century. To
this cause, coupled with the foresight and energy of its founders, may
be mainly attributed the early and rapid growth of the city, and the
superiority in wealth and business which the city so rapidly devel-
oped, and which is still one of its distinguishing characteristics.

The confident expectation of the good men who came through the
forests to build their humble huts upon the banks of Black River,
that the fine water power here found would develope industries
which would make the spot the centre of a large and prosperous
business city in the years to come, have been well realized.

EARLY GROWTH.

The years 180 1-2 witnessed quite a lively immigration into the
county, many of the settlers coming from Oneida county, and locat-
ing in Watertown, attracted hither by the same causes which first led
to its settlement, and which gave the spot its name. In addition to
this the fertility of the soil was an element which impressed favorably
those who were disposed to " pitch their tents " and cast their fortunes



14 WATERTOWN, N. V.



here. The land books of the county during the years 1 799-1 800-
1801 and 1802 showed an mcreasing demand for lots in this region,
and hundreds of sales were recorded. The earliest records in the
County Clerks office were made in 1805.

In September, 1802, over eighty families had arrived from the east-
ern States and counties and settled in the little hamlet or its vicinity.
In the next succeeding two or three years, scores of other families,
whose names are identified with the early history of the region, and'
with its growth and progress, many of whom were mechanics, came
into the then new " Black River Country," bought their litde farms,
erected their humble dwellings, and began anew their labors to
reduce the wilderness into a fertile valley, and enjoy the delights of
their new homes. During the year 1802 a hotel was opened by Dr.
Isaiah Massey, and Jonathan Cowan built the first dam across Black
River at a point now known as Beebee's Island.

PRIMITIVE MANUFACTORIES.

During the first summer of the settlement of Watertown, it being
entirely impossible to procure grinding at any mills nearer than Can-
ada, from twenty-five to fifty miles distant through the wilderness, a
stump standing upon what is now known as Public Square, a few
rods east of the American Hotel as it exists to-day, had been formed
into a mortar, with a spring pole and pestle attached. This served
the purpose of a grain mill for the settlement, and was no doubt the
era of " low tolls." This primitive implement suggestive of rustic life
and the privations of a new colony, relieved the pioneers in some de-
gree from long and perilous journeys "to mill" through a pathless
forest abounding in more game in the shape of wolves and panthers
and their kind, than was especially pleasant to honest and frugal and
happy toilers who had a future to look to and provide for.

The settlers of the region were mostly poor. There were no bloated
bondholders in those times, " banks discounts " were an unknown
luxury, the bulls and bears had not been let loose in Wall Street — the
honest Continental currency had scarcely passed out of circulation,
and speculators were mostly confined to speculations as to how they
could best earn an honest living. But although they possessed few
of the comforts of life and none of its luxuries save industry, the pio-
neers had but few wants. The needful articles of the household were



WATERTOWN, N. Y. 15



mostly made with their own hands, the bread they ate was wrought
from the productive soil they found, and artificial grades of society
existed only in books. The little " stump grist mill " should have
been preserved in its simplicity as an evidence of the birth of that
spirit of enterprise which now displays a round half dozen flourishing
flour mills, kept ever busy to meet the growing demands of the times.

GROWTH.

The subject of manufacturing, using Black River as the motive
power, received the early and careful attention of the pioneers. They
were quick to see the powerful agent which nature had placed within
their reach flowing so noisily past their humble dwellings, and they
were prompt in making diligent use of the advantage offered. In
1802 Jonathan Cowan, a millwright, came herefrom Saratoga county,
and began the erection of a grist mill at the bridge which crosses to
Beebee's Island. This island (which is shown on the map") formed a
part of Cowan's original purchase, and is said to have been offered
by him at an early period for ten dollars. The customer offered five
dollars, but the contracting parties being unable to agree, the bargain
failed. They little dreamed that the same island commanding as it
does the finest power the river, would within a few years be worth
more than their united fortunes.

In 1803 a bridge was built below the village (the lower bridge
shown in map and illustrations) by Henry Coffeen and Andrew Ed-
munds, and in 1805 a dam was built below the bridge, which is still
standing. In 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 erected on the south side soon after, and a saw and
grist mill by H. H. Coffeen.

THE FIRST STORE.

In 1805 John Paddock and William Smith who were among the
more recent arrivals, opened to a wondering and well pleased public,
the first " store " in the place, bringing their goods from Utica, ninety
miles in wagons. An idea of the hardships attending the mercantile
interest of that day may be drawn from the fact that in March, 1807,
seventeen sleighs laden with goods for these pioneer merchants were



16 WATERTOVVN, N. Y.

twenty three days in coming from Utica to Watertown — a distance
now traversed in less than four hours, many times each day by two
flourishing railroad lines.

The pioneers of Watertown turned everything to account for
trade, and as in other sections, the manufacture of potash formed
the first means of realizing cash. Many paid in whole or in part for
their lands by this means. In 1806, $3,500 ; in 1807, $6,000; and
in 1808, $9,000 v/orth of this staple was exchanged, the market being
at that time in Montreal. In 18 10, the firm of Paddock & Smith,
the first merchants, purchased 2,800 barrels, averaging $40 per barrel,
making for that period the enormous aggregate of $112,900. The
declaration of war in 1812, entirely prostrated this industry, and in
fact many others for many years.

THE WAR OF 181 2.

The close proximity of Watertown to Sackets Harbor during the
"unpleasantness" with Great Britain in 1812-15, the latter point
being at that period an important naval station of the U. S. Govern-
ment, and the scene of one or two spirited battles, was sufficient rea-
son for a very general interest on the part of her people in the pro-
gress and result of the contest. Within hearing of the cannon which
finally drove the enemy from the scene, there were many outbursts
of excitement and patriotism, and the people contributed of their
number and their means to carry on the conflict to a successful issue.

By an act of March 27, 1809, an arsenal was erected in Watertown
in that year, and five hundred stand of arms deposited therein. The
arsenal was built by Hart Massey, then collector of the district of
Sackets Harbor, at an expense of $1,940.99. This was before the day of
" contracting, corruption and investigation." The street upon which
it stood was patriotically called Columbia Street, now Arsenal Street,
and the building was maintained as an arsenal until it was sold
by act of April 9, 1850, and used for more peaceful purposes. Bodies
of troops were stationed at Watertown for short periods, and the sick
were often sent hither for the attendance which could not be secured
at Sackets Harbor. The Academy which was built in 181 1 was used
as a hospital for a considerable time during the continuance, of the
war.



WATERTOWN, N. Y. 17



EARLY MANUFACTURING ENTERPRISES.

It was early apparent that Watertown possessed extraordinary
inducements to manufacturers, and after the erection of Cowan's grist
mill — the first manufacturing enterprise of which record is made,
other institutions sprang into existence within a few years, many of
which have been in active operation ever since.

From the only records attainable, the following brief account of
the earlier manufacturing industries is made:

PAPER MILLS.

In 1808 a paper mill was built above CoAvan's gristmill by Gurdon
Caswell from Oneida County. Other paper mills were built soon
after, and in 1824 Knowlton & Rice commenced the business which


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Online LibraryCharles Rufus SkinnerWatertown, N.Y. : a history of its settlement and progress, with a description of its commercial advantages : as a manufacturing point, its location, its unsurpassed water power, its industries and ge → online text (page 1 of 13)