Talk:Bellmont, New York

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I have removed the following large section that was pasted in on December 21, 2006 by User:Hunsmire. It is nice material, and is public domain, but it does not belong in an encyclopedia article. It needs a bit of work... -- Mwanner | Talk 16:15, 29 November 2007 (UTC)


A Brief Sketch of the Drew Family, the First Settlers - Hardships and Trials of the Pioneers

[Written by Mr. J. S. Kirby, and read by him at a meeting of the Franklin County Historical Society, Nov. 6th, 1903]

Allow me to contribute a few facts pertaining to that part of Bellmont in the neighborhood of the Lower Chateaugay Lake. I am aware that many of the items that will enter into the early history of any neighborhood will be uninteresting, except to those to whom they relate directly, or those who may now live in the locality.

Bellmont has not had the honor of raising many men or women who have figured prominently in the state or nation; yet men who could leave home and friends in civilized New England one hundred years ago, tie all their personal effects in pocket handkerchief and walk three hundred miles into the wilderness to make a home had in them the stuff of which heroes are made. And they are indeed heroes, winning in their fight by the sacrifice, not only of all the luxuries, but many of the common comforts, and to us the necessities of life. Not for a day, nor a month but for long years and even a lifetime they toiled early and late summer and winter, scantily clad, poorly fed, living with hope in the future.

The town of Bellmont was incorporated March 16th, 1833, and embraced townships Nos. 8, 9, and 10 of the Old Military Tract. In 1836 a part of No. 10 was made into the town of Franklin. In 1838 the southern tier of mile square lots of township No. 7 was annexed to Bellmont, so that the present town comprehends township No. 8 and portions of 7 and 9.

The town was named in honor of William Bell, who was an adopted son of, and came to this country with Wm. Constable in 1783. Mr. Bell engaged early in the mercantile business in New York and later in life was employed as super-cargo in the China and East India trade. He was a frequent visitor at the home of Samuel C. Drew, sold several of the earlier settlers their farms, and was a kindly, benevolent and easy landlord.

I am indebted to Charles W. Collins, secretary of this society, for the following information concerning Mr. Bell, who was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1760, and died in New York City on May 29th, 1843. This obituary notice appeared in the New York American of the same day:

Death of an Old Citizen

William Bell, whose retired, habits of late years have secluded him from the acqui8antance of the present generation, but who was well-known and truly loved, and as truly honored by a few friends - no longer young - paid the debt of nature the morning, in the 83d year of his age. Mr. bell was an honest man and a gentleman in the largest and best sense of the words - and, as a link of the times that are past, will be missed.

Sixty years ago he went to China as super cargo of the ship Empress, of, this port, owned by Robert Morris. William Constable and other eminent men of that day, and he made several trips in that capacity.

Having acquired a modest competency, he retired from active business, and has been the friend and companion of his early contemporaries, all of whom, almost, have preceded him to the grave.

Mr. Bell was a Scotchman by birth, and has lived in this city, with occasional absence, since 1783 - known then, and for many years afterwards to all its chief inhabitants, and now, perhaps, to very, very few.

He was well yesterday morning, was seized with some violent spasmodic malady of the stomach yesterday, which left his faculties until the evening, when paralysis ensued, and, after midnight, death.

He will be buried tomorrow from his late residence, next to Grace church - Broadway, (then 651 Broadway.) He lived with Mrs. Plummies at the time of his death. He was over six feet in height and of late years enormously stout.

By his last will, dated June 3d, 1841, he bequeathed to William C. Vicar, his godson, and grandson of Williamson Constable, all of his Bellmont lands and $500; to Magdlen Bell (sister) of Perth, Scotland, $1,000; to Helen Porteous (niece) $1,000; to John Bell (nephew) London, $1000; to Sarah L. Ogden, (dear friend) $5,000; to Harriet Constable, Duane, (friend) $500; to Mrs. Emily Moore (friend), daughter of Wm. Constable, $500; to Wm. Bell Constable, (friend) son of John Constable, $500; to Thomas Wm. Ogden, (godson) $500; the remainder of his estate to John Bell, of London, above mentioned.

Wm. Bell’s relation to Franklin County resulted from his purchase of part of the old military tract in Clinton and Franklin counties. Townships 6 and 7, O. M. T. were patented by the state to James Calwell, merchant, of Albany Feb. 25, 1795. March 6, 1795, James Calwell sold to Col. McGregor, merchant, of New York City. Mr. McGregor sold undivided parts of these townships to different merchants of New York (of whom William Bell was one) Dec. 19, 1795. These lands were at once divided "by ballot" and Wm. Bell drew 10 lots in township No. 6 in Clinton count and 10 lots in township No. 7 in Franklin County. His lots in township No. 7 were 43, 32, 66, 29, 74, 36, 52, 60, 31, and 89.

Township 8, O. M. T., Franklin County, was patented to Col. McGregor, Feb. 25, 1795, who sold to Mr. Bell, and others. Mr. Bell drew 25 lots in this township. Mr. Bell thus owned 35 square miles (91 km2) of land in Franklin County and 10 square miles (30 km2) of land in Clinton County. At the time of his death I believe only his Bellmont land remained unsold. He was active in the work of selling the lands, making annual trips to them for many years. On each of these visits he used to go up to Duane from Malone to visit Mrs. Duane, usually taking a chest of fine tea as a present.

Mr. Bell sold to Samuel C. Drew 50 acres of land and gave to Henry 50 acres more for his name, and on one of his visits to Bellmont brought a small package of lucifer matches to the Drews, the first that had ever seen, and a great curiosity. Joseph Guff made the first survey of township No. 8 in 1801.

Samuel C. Drew and his wife, Judith from Gilmanton, New Hampshire, were the first permanent settlers in the township. Joseph Sanborn, who settled on the farm later owned by Hiram Bellows, and who went away in 1830, claimed to have been the first settler, but the weight of evidence favors Mr. Drew. Mr. Sanborn desired to have the town named Sanborntown. The hill about one mile (1.6 km) east from the lake, crossed by the county line, was named from this Mr. Sanborn. When Mr. and Mrs. Drew left Gilmanton, they had no definite locality selected for their new home, but were admonished by their friends "not to go beyond reach of Plattsburgh." On reaching Plattsburgh they decided to go on to Chateaugay "Four Corners" where they arrived on the 2nd day of July 1816. Here Mr. Drew consulted with Hon. Gates Holt, who had come from New Jersey as agent for the several landowners. Mr. Drew and Mr. Holt visited the lake, and, on the second day out selected his farm on the west side of the lake near the north end. He moved into a small hunter’s shanty, near the present site of the Banner House, and, on the 26th day of July, paddled a canoe across the lake and took possession. On getting into his canoe his good wife cautioned him that when he chopped down a tree he must strike three heavy blows with his axe that she might know all was well with him. His house was, of course, made of logs, and well chinked with moss driven hard into the cracks. A large white ash tree was cut and split into fairly good boards for a floor. The roof was covered with good cedar shingles made by him. Into this house, just above the large spring, Mr. and Mrs. Drew moved October 1st. During the fall and early spring he cleared enough land to put in some potatoes, two bushels of oats and a peck of peas; also one bushel of wheat. The oats at Chateaugay "Four Corners" cost two dollars per bushel; the peas at the Portage in Canada cost one dollar for the peck. The wheat was bought in Malone at what has since been known as the Merriam place, and carried by Mr. Drew on foot to Chateaugay "Four Corners," and from there home. The soil was excellent, the yield, enormous.

On the 11th day of March 1819, Mr. and Mrs. Drew’s first son was born. William Henry Jackson Drew, to us known for years as "Uncle Henry." Three others sons and three daughters later made up the family. Henry was the first child born in town. All the children, except Henry, moved out, leaving him with the father and mother. He never married. He was endowed with great natural ability. He was absolutely unselfish, caring nothing whatever for money, only that he might use it for some benevolent purpose. He was scrupulously honest. He spent much time visiting the sick and needy and did not accumulate property. He could see no value in any person except character. There was neither below nor above him. He was a radical of the radicals on temperance. He was an earnest advocate of dress and health reform and a vegetarian; in politics, a Prohibitionist; in religious thought a Unitarian. Several years were given to the care of his aged and invalid mother. He was familiar with the best thoughts of Emerson, Thoreau and Longfellow, and enjoyed the personal acquaintance of Horace Greeley and Peter Cooper.

Several other families from Gilmantown soon followed Mr. Drew - Enoch Merrill in 1819, David Young in 1820 and Paul Merrill in 1823. Joseph Lamper, a son-in-law of David Young, Smith Bunker, John B. and Joseph H. Jackson, John P. Hill, Philip Heath, Aaron Bennett, Jacob and John Otis and James Cogswell came within three or four years. Enoch Merrill settled on the east side of Bunker Hill, on the farm now owned by George Cheyne. Paul, his brother, chose his farm on the west side of the lake, a little way below the present village of Chateaugay Lake. Both cleared up and made large and good farms; both raised large families of superior intelligence and worth; both were types of the New England Puritan. David S. Young "took up" land on "Bunker Hill" in 1820. His son, John D., married Adaline, a daughter of John D. Miles. Smith Bunker also located on Bunker Hill and gave to that locality its name. Aaron Bennett and James Cogswell, neighbors in New Hampshire, were neighbors on Bunker Hill. Francis Thurber, from Beekmantown, Clinton county, also settled on the eastern slope of Bunker Hill prior to 1830, where he afterwards died at the age of 90 years. His son Nathan Coarser, lived for years and died on what is now known as the old homestead on the Lake road. Three sons of Coarser Thurber, a daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren now live in the neighborhood. Francis Thurber was a Revolutionary soldier, was in the battle of Bunker Hill, also under General Washington in the summer of 1776 at the evacuation of New York.

Jonathan Bellows, from South Charlestown, NH, came into the present town of Constable some time between 1805 and 1813, and from thence to Chateaugay Lake in 1820 or ‘21. He was a direct descendant from John Bellows who was registered on the good ship "Hopewell," from London, England, in 1635. Jonathan Bellows was fond of hunting and trapping, and soon after his arrival in Constable established several sable lines, one of which led through Hawk’s Hollow in the town of Burke and struck the Chateaugay River near where Abraham Reynolds afterward lived. Following the river up to the lake he found the hunter’s shanty, in which, in the summer of 1816, Samuel C. Drew and his wife lived. This was the first "summer hotel" at Chateaugay Lake, and, as far as can be ascertained now, was built by Gates Holt. Mr. Bellows bought land and made his future home here.

Following close upon the close of the Pappineau rebellion in 1837 and ‘38, a number of English officers came up across country from Montreal and summered with Mr. Bellows. The accommodations were limited and they lived in tents brought with them for the purpose. A little later the house was enlarged and the names of several prominent families from Montreal, among them the Steven family, appear on the register. The names of AF Tait and Chester Harding, painters, appear for several seasons. Mr. Tait had a studio, and, among others painted a large picture, entitled, "Arguing the Point," in which is an excellent portrait of Jonathan Bellows. The painting was lithographed and sold extensively. Wm. Gunn, of Springfield, Mass., Dr. Bethine, a cousin of James Russell Lowell, Mr. Ashman, chairman of the convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for the presidency, were regular guests of Mr. Bellows’ house.

The Bellows genealogy contains many eminent names, among them the Rev. Henry W. Bellows, of New York, founder of All Souls Church, Miss Harriet Hosmer, the famous sculptress, and the Rear Admiral Robeson. Mr. Bellows’ second son, Lewis, still further enlarged the house, and, succeeding to the ownership, it was kept as a summer hotel until his death in 1886. A. M. Bennett and the writer [J. S. Kirby] bought the property from M. S. Bellows, oldest son of Lewis bellows, in 1891, since which time it has been under the name of the Banner House and owned by the writer.

John D. Miles, from Bath, NH, settled on land adjoining Mr. Drew’s in 1825. He was a stone cutter by trade, and cut out and finished up the stones for the first grist mill in town, built by John Jackson; also two or three sets for the Douglass mill in Chateaugay, and another for a mill in Huntington, Canada. These stones were cut from large granite boulders, loose on the surface of the ground, abounding in this locality. Mr. Miles was for several years supervisor of Chateaugay, before the formation of Bellmont, and of Bellmont; also justice of the peace many years. He was a man with a deeply religious nature, strongly Calvinistic, a life-long member of the Baptist church, and, from the formation of the party, a Republican in politics. He was a man of positive convictions, tenderhearted as a child and of sterling integrity. He was a soldier in the war of 1812, enlisting in Bath, NH. His children were, Adaline, married to John D. Young; Martha Jane, married to Charles F. Kirby; Olive, who was married to William P. Cantwell; William Bell, married to Lydia Kirby; Abner, who died a young man, in Boston, and Josephine, married to F. H. Percy. He died at the age of 84.

The first saw mill was built by Gates Hoit, acting as agent for the different landowners. Among these were P. Van Loon and J. P. Douw, of Albany, who had bought, in 1795, from Col. McGregor, lots 6, 8, and 11. The mill was built in 1825, at the outlet of the lake, and had an English gate and an edger. Daniel Wood, who was a brother of Rachael, wife of Abraham Reynolds, was the sawyer and is believed to have had a small interest in the mill. John B. Jackson, purchasing 200 acres (0.8 km2) of land here, came into possession of the mill and moved it lower down to a point 25 or 30 rods above where the iron bridge now crosses the river. This was done to avoid raising the water in the lake. Mr. Jackson later built a gristmill on the west side of the river here. The first store was built about this time by Mr. Jackson and Dr. Hiram Paddock, of Chateaugay, and stood about 30 rods southeast from the house once owned by Hiram Huntley and late known as the Lewis Tucker house. Elias Beman, a brother of Deacon Beman, of Chateaugay, was the merchant and also made large quantities of potash in an ashery a little way below the store. Later, William Elimore was the storekeeper. In these days also, Elder Ephrain Smith from Chateaugay, and Dr. Ashbel Parmelee from Malone occasionally preached in Mr. Drew’s house. At one service Elder Smith preached to every soul in the township - eight in all.

In 1830, Roswell A. Weed, from Plattsburgh, came into the neighborhood, worked by the day for Mr. Jackson in his mill and later bought the land below the lake, together with the sawmill and gristmill. Mr. Weed was an active and hard-working businessman. He enlarged the sawmill and did a thriving business. During the time of Mr. Weed’s ownership of the mill large quantities of pine lumber were cut for Meigs & Weed of Malone, who owned several lots of land around the upper lake. This lumber was drawn over Ellenburgh Hill to Champlain, about forty miles. There was no market for either spruce or hemlock at this time, but good cherry was sought after, and nearly all our forefather’s bedsteads, tables and other household furniture were made from cherry. Later, basswood was used.

Roswell A. Weed was the father of Smith M. Weed, who was born here in 1833. Mr. Weed returned to Plattsburgh in 1839, leaving his business interests with his brother William, who had come from Essex, VT. in 1838. Wm. Weed was born in Lebanon, VT, Oct. 3, 1802, and died at his home in Bellmont April 28th, 1883. While living in Vermont he was elected to the legislature of that state, and held several other positions of trust and honor. He was supervisor of Bellmont for several years, and for a good many years a justice of the peace. He managed his brother’s lumber business until 1854, when it was sold to a Mr. Hughes. For a few years Mr. Weed was proprietor of a hotel at Chateaugay Lake. Perhaps no village of its age has had more names than this. At first it was known as The Lake, then Weed’s, after Mead’s, next Popeville, then Moffitt’s, then The Forge, and since then Chateaugay Lake. William Weed was very fond of fishing, and fly-fishing was his specialty. It was commonly understood that no man could match him in throwing a fly. He was a man of rare intelligence, genial disposition, kind and sympathizing nature, and an earnest, consistent Christian gentleman.

In 1848 Joseph Clark from Plattsburgh, built a mill of the west side of the river, and opposite the Weed mill, on the same dam, in which he put an English gate and a shingle mill. The shingles were split from the block by two large knives, similar in shape to a shingle maker’s froe. These knives were bolted to either side of a wooden wheel, eight or ten feet, in diameter, which was turned by the water. Roswell Weed sold out in 1854 to Mr. Hushes, a well-to-do farmer of Middlebury, VT. He tore down the mill and built larger, putting in a gang, an English gate, an edger and two clapboard machines. Soon after building, Mr. Hughes took in Messrs. Parsoss and Kellogg, from Northampton, Mass., as partners. In about two years after, this mill burned and another was built in its place, with an extra gang of saws. Mr. Hughes soon after this failed and Mr. Bennett, brother-in-law of Mr. Hughes, closed up the affairs of the company. Property reverted to Roswell Weed. The mill was stocked and the business managed by his son, William, for nearly two years, and then sold to Erastus S. Meade and Geo. W. Palmer, of Plattsburgh. Mr. Weed died in Plattsburgh, June 19, 1860, from a cold contracted in Bellmont. Mr. Meade was a son of Smith Mead, Esq., and his oldest sister, Sarah, married Roswell Weed. Mr. Palmer was a lawyer. They built the large house on the west side of the river. Mr. Palmer remained in the firm about two years and then returned to Plattsburgh. The old mill on the west side, had gone down at this time and Mr. Meade built a small mill, in which he put two clapboard machines and one shingle machine, new and improved. He employed 40 to 50 men, and sawed immense quantities of spruce lumber, which was drawn to Chateaugay station.

Later Mr. Meade formed a co-partnership with Samuel F. Vilas of Plattsburgh under the firm name of Meade & Vilas. They built a large store, in 1869, which was later enlarged and owned by the Chateaugay Ore & Iron Co. Mr. Vilas remained a member of the firm about two years. On his retiring, Gilbert L. Havens of Brainardsville leased the mill and run it for one year. Mr. Meade retained the mill property until its purchase by Pope, Williams & Co. in 1874. During Mr. Meade’s ownership he was closely identified with the educational, neighborhood and town affairs, doing an extensive mercantile, as well as farm business, in addition to his lumbering.

Pope, Williams & Co. built a forge and large sawmill, and were succeeded in about one year by Smith M. Weed and Andrew Williams under the firm name of The Chateaugay Iron Co. The iron ore was brought from Lyon Mountain; other forges were operated at Standish, Russia, Clayburgh and Plattsburgh. The ore was of superior quality and Ws largely made into Bessemer steel. In 1880 a new company was organized with a capital stock of one and a half million dollars. This company was made up principally of members of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co., and was called The Chateaugay Ore & Iron Co. They enlarged the forge in Bellmont to sixteen fires, making it the largest Catalan forge in the world, having a capacity of 5,000 tons of iron daily. This required the consumption of about 37,500 cords of wood, making 1,500, 000 bushes of charcoal. The iron was made into billets and blooms and shipped mostly to Pittsburgh, Pa., and Cleveland, Ohio. The manufacture of iron at the Bellmont forge was stopped in 1893. The High Falls and Chateaugay Pulp Companies have leased the water privilege for several years, as a means for controlling the waters of the lakes.

Among others places showing strong for iron ore, the hill on the east side of the lake above Mr. Bellows’ house was one. Lewis Bellows and Edgar H. Keeler, of Chateaugay, located [the ore some] time before 1875, found and dug [...] which they sold and drew to Irona, in Clinton county, to a forge owned by Asa Reynolds, of Highgate, VT. This mine was on land owned by Alanson Roberts. Two years later Mr. Reynolds leased the mine and raised a large quantity of ore, which was drawn to his forge. He built a separator in the neighborhood of the mine on the Thurber brook, where he separated some ore. At Mr. Reynolds’ death, which occurred in a few months after this, Dr. and Wm. Edgerly, brothers, living in Mineville, Essex county, leased the mine and built a new separator on the shore of the lake near Mr. Bellows’ house. Here they separated ore during one summer and the following winter and sold perhaps more than a thousand tons. There were two mines operated perhaps no more than 75 or 80 yards (70 m) apart, and the ore from one was strongly magnetic, while that from the other had no attraction whatever. Dr. Edgerly, dying soon, the work stopped and never has been resumed.

At some time previous to 1820 iron ore was found and dug around Chateaugay Lake. William Bailey seems to have been the pioneer in this business. Mr. Bailey was a surveyor and had been employed by the state to survey the lands set apart for the Canadian and Nova Scotian refugees in 1784 and 1786. These tracts, surveyed, sub-divided, occupied under the state grants, and mostly forfeited for want of actual occupation, were later patented to other persons. The tract set apart under the act of 1782 "for such of the inhabitants of the state as served in the United States army and were entitled to land bounties, and known as the Old Military Tract," was also sold for the same reasons. William Bailey purchased a large tract of this land lying in the bounds of the present town of Chateaugay and moved onto it in 1800, clearing up and cultivating a large farm near the ‘Four Corners." He built a forge on the Chateaugay river at a place near the High Falls, expecting to get his ore from the hills south of the Upper Lake. This bed soon became exhausted, only a small quantity of iron was made and the forge was abandoned. Mr. Bailey removed to Plattsburgh in 1811 and died in 1840.

At this early date hunting for ore had assumed quite a craze. Someone had found a strong attraction on the west side of the narrows on lot 41. About 1826 Elias Beman, a merchant at Chateaugay, formed a co-partnership with the view of purchasing said ore bed and operating the same. The agent of lot 41, Mr. Fellows, lived in Madison county, N.Y.; the owner lived in England. Ezra Stiles, then a young man, was a clerk for Mr. Backus. Mr. Beman and Mr. Backus selected young Stiles to go to Madison county and purchase lot 41. They suspected that other parties were looking after the same lot, with the same end in view, and Mr. Stiles was instructed to make all possible haste and use his best judgment and tact in effecting its purchase. Mr. Sties, well aware of the importance of his mission, and of the possible difficulties of effecting it, represented to Mr. Fellows immediately upon his arrival that he wished to purchase lot No. 41 for the purpose of building there a summer hotel. Mr. Fellows’ suspicions were, of course, aroused by the improbability of this. He deferred answer till the following day, looked up what maps he had of the territory, coming to the conclusion that there was something of a "nigger in the fence."

Now, about the time that Beman and Backus decided to obtain this bonanza Colonel Jonathan Stearns of Malone, a merchant doing business where the Hogle house stood in later years, also decided to go to Madison county for the same purpose. Mr. Stearns set off on stage and arrived at the home of Mr. Fellows a few hours after the interview with Mr. Stiles above referred to, and while Mr. Fellows was studying his map. Mr. Sterns on obtaining his interview, at once stated that lot 41 was thought to have on it a valuable deposit of iron ore, and that the object of his coming to Madison county was, if possible, to effect some arrangement, whereby it might be worked, either by purchase or lease. The smart summer hotel scheme collapsed and Colonel Stearns brought home the desired lease. He soon after opened the mind, built a boarding house, blacksmith shop and stable. The ore was good quality and promised abundance. Work was stopped during the winter of 1826, but resumed the following spring. Mr. Stearns, enthusiastic with the prospect, had made arrangements for building a forge at the outlet of the lower lake, when, to his dismay, the bottom was dug out of his ore bed. The work was at once abandoned.

This school district, No. 1, was formed August 17th, 1833. The first school in town was taught by Mrs. Paul Merrill, and the first school house was on a lot then owned by John B. Jackson, since owned by William Weed, and stood in what is now the yard of the barn now on the premises. The second school house was northwest from this on the road leading over Bunker Hill. The third school building, and the one now used, was built in 1874, has two good rooms on the lower floor with two teachers, and a hall for religious service above. The schools have been exceptionally good and the district noted for the number and excellence of the teachers sent out from it. Among the many I will mention Mrs. Paul Merrill, Abigail Wellington, D. D. D. Dewey, Martha Winsley, Lucy Ann Backus, Adaline Dewey, Nelson Mason, Cutler Carpenter, S. F. Storrs, Dewit C. Backus, Cyrus and Huldah Merrill, W. H. J. Drew, Martha Williamson, Abigail Jackson, Samuel Beman, a great-uncle of Hon. S. A. Beman, Harriet Holt, sister of Hon. Gates Holt, Luther Smith, son of Rev. Ephraim Smith, Theodore Beman, Lewis Moses, Martha Ann Shepard, mother of ex-Sheriff Douglass, Adaline, Martha Jane and Olive Miles, Darius Merrill and Myron T. Whitney.

Chateaugay Record, Friday, Dec. 4th and 11th, 1903

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