moorsfield press banner

A sketch
                      of the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch of
                      the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch
                      of the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch of
                      the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch
                      of the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch of
                      the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch
                      of the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch of
                      the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch
                      of the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch of
                      the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch
                      of the history of the town of essex new york
A sketch of
                      the history of the town of essex new york




 

A Sketch of the History

of the

TOWN OF ESSEX

New York

With some account of the Mother Town

Willsboro

By

HENRY HARMON NOBLE

CHAMPLAIN

Privately Printed at the Moorsfield Prefs

1940

 

 


A Sketch of the History

of the

TOWN OF ESSEX

New York

With some account of the Mother Town

Willsboro

By

HENRY HARMON NOBLE

CHAMPLAIN

Privately Printed at the Moorsfield Prefs

1940


A Sketch of the

History of the Town of Essex, N. Y.

With some account of the Mother Town, Willsboro

 

By HENRY HARMON NOBLE

    For a proposed publication in connection with the Third Olympic Winter Games, held at Lake Placid, New York, in February, 1932, Henry Harmon Noble wrote this sketch of his native town of Essex, which lies on the west shore of Lake Champlain, in the foothills of the Adirondacks.

Mr. Noble was widely known as an historian of the Revolutionary and War of 1812 periods, and was considered the foremost authority on the history of the Champlain Valley. Besides such papers as A Loyalist of the St. Lawrence, an address delivered at Block House Point, North Hero, Vermont, (1913) and The Battle of the Boquet River, published by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society in 1915, Mr. Noble contributed to the press many items on historical matters. While in the office of the State Historian at Albany, from 1895 to 1904—the last four years as Chief Clerk—he assisted in the compilation and editing of some fifteen volumes of State publications on New York history, including the four volumes of the Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment.

Well equipped for genealogical and historical research, he was Registrar of the General Society of the War of 1812, and one of the incorporators in 1896 of the New York Society, of which he had been secretary since 1901. Mr. Noble was also secretary of the Clan Macneil Association, corresponding member of the Vermont Historical Society, and of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, and an honorary member of the New York State Historical Association.

Henry Harmon Noble was born at Essex, New York, on May 9, 1861, the son of Harmon and Laura Ann (Welch) Noble. He died on November 27, 1934. For nearly twenty-eight years, until his retirement in 1932, Mr. Noble was in the Customs Service as a special agent of the Treasury Department, stationed successive ly at Plattsburgh, New York, on the northern borders of New York & and Vermont, at Buffalo, and for the last twenty years in the Port of New York. He served, by appointment of Governors Hughes and Sulzer, on the Perry's Victory and Battle of Plattsburgh Centennial Commissions.                   Hugh McLellan.



THE EARLY HISTORY of the settlement of the “Two Towns", as they are generally called, is so intertwined that it is impossible to separate it. The two towns lie on the same terrain geographically and physically, being separated on the north from the town of Chesterfield, on the west from Lewis, and on the south from Westport, by ranges of mountains or foot-hills of the Adirondacks. And as the territory embraced in the town of Essex was a part of the town of Willsboro from its earliest occupation until April 4, 1805—when the town of Essex was erected—the narrative of the early settlement of Essex is that of Willsboro.


The story of the pre-Revolutionary settlement of Willsboro in 1765 by William Gilliland has been well told in The Pioneer History of the Champlain Valley,1  Gilliland's diary of the settlement. Also, in a collection of sketches on Northern New York and the Adirondack Wilderness,2 by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, and in various newspaper articles, more or less accurate.

1 Edited, with an introduction and valuable historical notes, by Winslow C. Watson, author of the History of Essex County, and published by Joel Munsell, Albany, 1863.

2 Troy, N. Y., 1877. Pages 129-134.

 

William Gilliland, a native of County Armagh, Ireland, came to America as a private of the 35th Regiment of Foot, British Army, and was honorably discharged therefrom at Philadelphia, April 15, 1758. He located subsequently in New York City, and on February 8, 1759, a license was issued for his marriage to Elizabeth Phagan, said to have been the daughter of a New York merchant of some substance, and with her he received a dowry of £1500 Sterling. He had evidently in the country of his birth conceived the idea of a baronial estate, such as those he had known. In fruition of this, he received from the colony of New York grants of land of considerable extent on the west side of Lake Champlain: one covering the lands now comprised in the present towns of Willsboro and Essex, extending on both sides of the Boquet River westward, from its mouth; and the other, known as the "Bessboro Patent", lying within the bounds of the present town of Westport. (The history of Westport has been narrated by Mrs. Caroline Halstead Royce, in her Bessboro, a History of the Town of Westport, which gives a fine and most accurate account of the pre-Revolutionary settlement of Bessboro Patent.)

Gilliland's settlement, once flourishing, was entirely obliterated by the Revolution, and his settlers scattered. Some, as narrated in the Canadian Archives, adhered to the Crown, and others, of which he was one, espoused the cause of the Colonies. He returned to Willsboro after the Revolution, but had become impoverished, principally through litigation over the titles to lands, and had been at one time thrown into jail in Philadelphia for debt. This litigation had apparently been instigated by those who questioned, unjustly, his loyalty to the American Cause. He died of exposure on February 2, 1796, on his return to Willsboro, on foot, from a visit made to Platt Rogers, Revolutionary soldier and early surveyor, at Basin Harbor, Vermont. The place of his death, by tradition, was on what is now known as "Coon Mountain", near the bank of the Boquet River, in the northerly part of the present town of Westport, and not far from "Merriam Station", on the Delaware and Hudson Railway.


The history of pre-Revolutionary settlements on the New York side of Lake Champlain and on Wood Creek is much the same, traces of about all being obliterated by the strenuous action of the Revolutionary War; but all spelling romance, as of Philip Skene at Skenesboro, the Jessups at "Jessups Landing" on the Hudson River, near Corinth, New York, "Raymond's Mills" in the Bessboro Patent, and on the Vermont side "Taquahunga Falls", now Swanton, Vermont.


The first permanent settlement in what is now known as the towns of Essex and Willsboro was made about 1785, by settlers [removed] from Dutchess County, New York. The most prominent among them was Daniel Ross, a son-in-law of Gilliland, who settled at what is now generally known as "Sandy Point", in the northern outskirts of the present village of Essex.  In 1785 he married Elizabeth, the daughter of William Gilliland, and left numerous descendants, one who is still living in Essex, Mrs. Winfield A. Townsend, (Mary Goldsboro Ross), who lives in "Hickory Hill", the General Howard Ross mansion in Essex village, owned and occupied by the Ross family since its erection in 1822. The last male descendant of this most ancient Essex family is James Henry Howard Ross of Denver, Colorado, son of Henry Howard Ross, 3rd, and Anna Laura Noble, and great-great-grandson of Daniel Ross and Elizabeth Gilliland.


Other early settlers were Isaac and Benjamin Sheldon; Benjamin Stafford, whose descendant Dr. John M. Stafford is a practicing physician in Essex; Hendrick Van Ornam, whose descendant Charles Eugene Van Ornam is the present postmaster at Essex; Dr. Colborn Clemmons, Essex's first physician; Abraham and Abner Reynolds; and Enoch Fitz Henry, Essex's first male school teacher, and an early surveyor of some note.


Daniel Ross was, in 1798, Member of Assembly from Clinton County, and sheriff of Clinton County, 1794-1797, before Essex County was set off from Clinton, and he was named in the first commission of the peace of Essex County, November 10, 1800, as First Judge3 of the Essex County Court of Common Pleas, which office he held until November 22, 1823. He was also commissioned Lieutenant-colonel Commandant of the first regiment of militia organized in Essex County, 1799, later known as the 37th Regiment, New York Militia, which participated in the War of 1812.


3 First Judge was a title, and did not refer to time. In each county the Court of Common Pleas was composed of the First Judge and several Associate Justices. It ceased to exist, except in New York County, in 1846.

His son, Henry Howard Ross, graduating from Columbia in 1808, and pursuing the study of law in New York City, was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Essex up to his death, September 14, 1862, and he was undoubtedly in his time the most eminent citizen of the town. Essex County Judge, Member of Congress from the District, and President of the Electoral College, and founder and first Senior Warden of St. John's Episcopal Church, Essex, March 21, 1853. He was in the service of the United States in the War of 1812 as Adjutant of the 37th Regiment, Infantry, New York Militia, and in the Battle of the Boquet River, May 13, 1814, and during the Seige and Battle of Plattsburgh, September, 1834. Subsequent to the war he became Colonel of the regiment, and Brigadier-general and Major-general of New York Militia.


General Ross married Susannah Blanchard of Salem, New York, of Huguenot descent, and a granddaughter of General John Williams of the Revolution. Two sons, James Blanchard Ross and Anthony James Blanchard Ross, practiced law in Essex, the former in later years in Denver, Colorado. Anthony was the father of Mrs. Townsend, present owner and occupant of "Hickory Hill".

Daniel Ross, Essex's first settler, was also its first merchant. He built mills at Boquet, on the river of that name which flows through the town, and a wharf, store, distillery, and "Potash" at Sandy Point, vestiges of some of which remained within the memory of the writer of this sketch, the timbers of the old wharf being still to be seen at low water.


Another early settlement in the present Essex village was that of the Eggleston brothers at what was formerly known as "South" and sometimes "Gould's" Bay, where they conducted a shipyard, and where were built by them some of the boats used as war vessels on the lake during the War of 1812.


Another son of Daniel Ross and Elizabeth Gilliland, William Daniel Ross, was for many years a merchant in Essex village, in the now so-called Williams store, formerly concluded by the late Fred H. Sherman, and previously by Stephen Decatur Derby. The wharf back of it was for many years the landing place of the ferry between Essex and "McNeils Ferry", Charlotte, Vermont, and also of the steamers of the Champlain Transportation Company. During an interval of fifty years these steamers landed at what was known as "Shipyard" or "Factory Point", but a few years ago they resumed their landings at the old William D. Ross wharf.


William D. Ross built and operated mills at Willsboro Falls—the site of "Milltown", Gilliland's settlement in 1765—and at the falls of the River Boquet, at the hamlet of that name in the central part of the town of Essex. He was in the United States service in the War of 1812 as Brigade Quartermaster of the 40th Brigade, Infantry, New York Militia, and was in service during the Siege and Battle of Plattsburgh, September, 1814. He married Mary Ann Gould, sister of Judge John Gould, an early merchant and mill owner of Essex and Lewis, Judge of the County Common Pleas, and Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier-general Daniel Wright, who commanded the Essex County Militia at the Siege and Battle of Plattsburgh.


The mills at Boquet, a rolling mill, a horse nail factory, and a woolen mill, were subsequently conducted by the firm of Ross, Low & Putnam — Henry H. Ross, 2nd, son of William D.; William Low, son-in-law of William D. Ross; and Henry W. Putnam, later of patent-right fame in New York City.


An early inn keeper in Essex was Nathaniel Rogers, a veteran of Revolutionary service from New Jersey, at whose "Inn" at "Rogers Corners", since so-called, on the present State Road from Essex village to the railroad station, was held the first town meeting, on the organization of the town. Others were: Delevan Delance, Sr., who served in the Revolution and War of 1812; and, the most notable, Daniel Wright, a native of Connecticut, a veteran and pensioner of service from New Hampshire in the Revolution, and who as Brigadier-general of the 40th Brigade, State Militia, commanded the Essex County Militia at the Seige and Battle of Plattsburgh. The writer of this sketch has seen the original order of Major-general Benjamin Mooers at Plattsburgh, calling out the Essex County Militia for that memorable service. The hotel kept by General Wright is now owned and managed by Victor J. Bruce.


Among the early merchants of Essex was the Noble firm, founded by Ransom Noble, a native of New Milford, Connecticut, who, migrating from that place, set down in his Family Bible that he "Came to reside" in Essex "JanY 3rd 1800." At first alone, he later took into business with him two of his sons, Harmon and Belden Noble, under the firm name of R. Noble & Sons; and was later succeeded by them as H. & B. Noble, continuing in business for a few years after the death of the senior partner, Harmon Noble, May 24, 1864. For years this firm concluded a general store at Essex in the stone building now occupied by the Free Library. They later opened one at Willsboro, and a "Catalan Forge", so-called, for the manufacture of wrought iron. At Essex they also operated a tannery and a boot, shoe and harness shop. But their principal business was the manufacture of sawn lumber, in their numerous mills in the town of Lewis; and they later operated in Lewis charcoal kilns and pits for the use of the forge at Willsboro.


The shipping point of their lumber was from a wharf and yards adjacent to their store in Essex, by water to Watervliet, formerly known as West Troy, New York. Ransom Noble, with far-seeing business sagacity, always claimed that to the southward was the natural outlet for lumber from the Champlain Valley region, and before the building of the Champlain Canal refused to engage in what proved to be disastrous operations in shipping lumber, timber, and shooks to Quebec, Canada. His father-in-law, Charles McNeil, of Charlotte, had been one of those who suffered insolvency through such operations. The Noble firm also operated extensive farms in Essex and Willsboro, breeding and selling horses and cattle.


Through the industry and business sagacity of Ransom Noble and his sons the business was from the first eminently successful, and the accumulations of the firm from their business were large. To such an extent that they concluded what was in a way a banking business, loaning money on notes and bond and mortgage—the judgment of Harmon Noble as to the personal integrity and responsibility of the borrower being remarkable. It is a fad, supported by the most indisputable documentary evidence in the possession of the writer of this sketch, that the Noble firm loaned in this way, on what might have been deemed insufficient security, other than the character of the borrower, to Henry J. Raymond the money which constituted his share in the founding of the New York Times.


Ransom Noble married October 10, 1800, Anne McNeil, then of "McNeil's Ferry", Charlotte, Vermont, a native of Litchfield, Connecticut, from which place her father, Charles McNeil, had migrated to Vermont in 1785. The family claim Scottish Highland descent, through her grandfather, Archibald McNeil, immigrant ancestor, who served seven years in the "Old French War" as a Captain of Connecticut Provincial troops, participating in all of the campaigns “For the removal of encroachments on His Majesty's possessions to the Northward", and taking of Quebec from the French.”


Another notable business enterprize in Essex village was the shipyard, founded by John Winslow, who worked at Vergennes, Vermont, on the building of the ships which comprised Macdonough's victorious fleet in the naval engagement at Plattsburgh, September 11, 1814. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, John Hoskins, later by Hoskins & Ross, (John Ross, son of General Ross). Later by the Essex Manufacturing Company, sash and blinds, and on the same site, in 1880, by the Essex Horse Nail Company, Limited, which carried on until the autumn of 1919, when the plant of this concern was completely destroyed by fire, and has never been rebuilt. At the Winslow and Hoskins & Ross yard were built many sailing vessels which plied the waters of Lake Champlain and its tributaries, and one steamboat, the Grand Isle, first used as a passenger boat, and later as a tug. John Winslow and the men employed in this yard were the founders of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Essex village.


Other merchants of Essex village, of more or less recent date, were William D. Ross (the stone store erected by him being still standing and occupied, now known as the Williams store), Welsey G. Lyon, Dwight E. Field, Andrew J. Tucker, Stephen Decatur Derby (known as "Commodore"), E. H. & C. H. Stafford, and Fred H. Sherman, who operated until his death the business now carried on in the old William D. Ross store.


A meteoric figure in the early business life of the town was Roger Alden Hiern, concerning whom history relates but little. He settled in the early days of the last century at what has since been known as "Whallon's Bay". Here he built the Colonial mansion now known as "The Poplars," standing back of a beautiful lawn, sloping eastward to the waters of Lake Champlain. He maintained what is from tradition a baronial estate, which comprised the site of the present Government Lighthouse at Split Rock; the present Middlesex Farms, now owned by A. Henry Higginson of Boston; and "Grog Harbor", south of Split Rock, a deep-water land-locked bay, mentioned in the Clinton Papers as "Grogs Bay". He also owned much territory to the westward from the lake.


Tradition and fragmentary existing records show that "Judge" Hiern (as he was called, having been a member of the old Essex County Court of Common Pleas) concluded an extensive lumbering business, in which he became insolvent. The last trace of him in the records of the county is as an "Absconding Debtor".


His son-in-law, Henry Baynham, mentioned in General Ross' narrative of the First Occurrences in Essex4 as an "English Episcopalian", held the first religious services in the town.


4 In H. B. Smith's History of Essex County. D. Mason & Co., Syracuse, N. Y., 1885.

A pathetic sight are the two graves in the garden of "The Poplars", of Sarah, wife of Roger Alden Hiern, and of her daughter Ann P. Baynham—the only remaining traces of the occupancy of this place by Judge Hiern.


It was he who caused to be made the "Hiern Map", so-called, of early lands and landowners in the eastern part of the town, now in possession of Mrs. Winfield Townsend at "Hickory Hill". This map is reproduced in H. P. Smith's History of Essex County, with names of owners of lands shown as of date of publication (1885) furnished by the late Anthony J. B. Ross. The date of the original map, 1785, attributed to it in this work, however, is evidently too early, as it shows "Willsborough Block House", which was not erected until 1794, as will be related.


Judge Hiern was succeeded in the ownership of "The Poplars", in 1814, by Reuben Whallon, a native of New Jersey, who came to Essex in that year from Washington County, New York. He concluded extensive business and manufacturing operations at Whallonsburg, a hamlet named for him, in the western central part of the town. He was one of the judges of the Essex County Court of Common Pleas, Member of Congress, and one of the most prominent and useful men in the development of the town. His sole surviving relatives are Antoinette Whallon (Mrs. Halsey Jones) and her daughter, of Willsboro. Mrs. Jones has many of the family heirlooms and some of the Judge's papers and correspondence, including that with the family, describing his life in Washington while in Congress.


Judge Whallon was succeeded in the ownership of "The Poplars" by the Bennett brothers, long since removed from Essex, and later by Wesley G. Lyon, though occupied by his son, Erving G. Lyon, who maintained for years all the beautiful antiquities of its earliest occupancy.


An outstanding happening in the history of Essex and Willsboro was the encampment at the mouth of the River Boquet, during the week of June 20, 1777, of General John Burgoyne and his whole army, later destined to defeat by American arms at Saratoga. It was here that he issued his famous "Bouquet Proclamation" invoking the aid of the inhabitants along his route; and here he made his treaty, offensive and defensive, with the Indian tribes he hoped to make his allies.


Much that has been related of this event by historians is garbled and incorrect, not being based on contemporary, documentary evidence. Fortunately, in more recent years the journals of a number of the officers on this expedition have been brought to light, and edited in a very fine manner and with most valuable historical notes, which give, sometimes in minute detail, the happenings of this eventful week. Some of these diaries are of Anbury, Digby, Pausch (of the Hessians), Hadden, Baron Riedesel, and of his wife. In addition to these, Burgoyne's own Orderly Book has been so published; and the State of the Expedition, the evidence taken in a Parliamentary inquiry into Burgoyne's conduct in America, published contemporaneously, is a source of first hand information. Copies of these works are in many libraries in the United States, but evidently overlooked by writers on the subject. A perusal of all of these is suggested to anyone wishing authentic, first-hand information on this, doubtless the most eventful happening on the soil and waters of the old town of Willsboro, the mother town of Essex.


Just two bits of the human interest with which these journals are filled. One—a Newfoundland dog which belonged to Lord Balcarras, a favorite of all the army, was supposed to have been killed or seriously injured by the felling of a tree to clear the camp ground; but the dog, happening to be in a depression of the soil, on the tree being raised "ran frisking and capering to his master", to the delight of the camp. The other—the note of a visit to an outpost at "Gallinel's Farm" (Gilliland's) at Willsboro Falls, the site of the present village of Willsboro.

 

The site of the camp on the north side of the river mouth is now owned and occupied by A. Gibson Paine, of the New York & Pennsylvania Company, owners of the pulp mill at Willsboro Falls. Just north of and adjoining this is "Flat Rock Camp" (owned by Augustus Gibson Paine, Sr., President of this company), a spot frequently mentioned in narratives of events in the Colonial Wars and the Revolution. There is a letter in the Canadian Archives, from a British officer, dated at "Flat Rock Camp, Mouth of the Boquet River." The encampment site on the south side of the river is occupied by "Camp Little Pines", built by the late William Belden Noble in the '80's, and now owned by his daughter, Yulee Noble Miles, wife of Major Sherman Miles, U. S. A.

 

    The narrative of this event leads to that of another, of not such momentous interest, however—the landing and repulse of a British "Boat Party", May 13, 1814, at what is now the site of "Camp Little Pines", an action in which from official accounts thirty-eight British were killed or wounded. The British, after their unsuccessful attack on Fort Cassin at the mouth of Otter Creek, in the attempt to destroy Macdonough's ships then building at Vergennes, Vermont, landed at Essex village. After a parley with the inhabitants, they proceeded up the Boquet River, in the attempt to destroy a magazine of flour at Willsboro Falls. They were intercepted at the mouth of the river by a party of New York Militia, hastily gathered under command of Lieutenant-colonel Ransom Noble of Essex, and defeated with signal loss, as above narrated. The American casualties were, from official accounts, "Two wounded, one severely, one slightly."


For many years this eventful happening on the soil and waters of Willsboro has passed with but garbled and incorrect accounts in printed histories of the locality; but in June, 1896, the writer found, among the Governor Tompkins manuscripts in the State Library at Albany, a letter from Brigadier-general Daniel Wright, of Essex, to Governor Tompkins, giving a detailed account of the affair. This, with other papers and contemporaneous accounts from various newspapers, was published in one of the Reports of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, and later as a separate brochure. This gives the first narrative of the real fads in the "Battle of the Boquet River" in any printed form. A bronze tablet to commemorate this event was cast some years ago, but has not yet been erected.


The soldier who was "severely wounded" was Private Job Stafford, of Captain Ezra Parkill's Company, 37th Regiment, Infantry, New York Militia; regarding the one who was slightly wounded, history does not relate. Job Stafford had the entire calf of his leg shot off by a cannon ball fired from the British sloop anchored in the lake, supporting the "Boat Party". He was pensioned for disability, and lived into the time of the writer of this sketch, the grandfather of a boyhood playmate of the writer, Frank A. Morse, now living in Essex village. Job Stafford pointed out to his son William, as the latter did to his nephew Frank Morse, the exact spot on which he, Job Stafford, stood when wounded—near the cookhouse of "Camp Little Pines."


An eye witness of the landing of the British Boat Party at Essex was Captain Martin Eggleston, an old-time fresh water sailor, who narrated the affair several times to the writer of this sketch, almost exactly as in General Wright's letter to Governor Tompkins. It was he who told that the man referred to therein as "one of the citizens" who bore the flag of truce was "Squire" Ralph Hascall, who, the Captain said, suspended his white neckcloth on his cane and held it up as the landing party approached the shore. He also said that the officer in command asked about the boats, as in General Wright's letter, and seeing a spar on the shore, told one of his men to get an axe and cut it up. Then, on second thought, he said, "No, damn 'em, they'll cut another." H. P. Smith gives the Captain's narrative of the British landing in his History of Essex County.


Another event in the history of Essex, as it was on its soil, was the building and subsequent use of Willsboro Block House in 1794. This was one of a chain of similar fortifications erected by the State of New York in consequence of the "Indian Scare" which ran over the country on the receipt of the news of St. Clair's defeat. Various dates had been ascribed to its building, as noted in Smith's History of Essex County, but the exact date was found by the writer in the State Archives at Albany, in a voucher for its building by Daniel Ross and William Bott on the date above noted, at a cost of £96. It was never devoted, however, to any warlike use, and by the Act creating the County of Essex, sessions of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace were directed to be, and were so held there from the erection of the County to the establishment of Elizabethtown as the County Seat.


The site of this fortification, long since demolished, is on a slight ridge of land opposite St. Joseph's R. C. Church, between the State Road from Essex to Willsboro and the shore of Lake Champlain, less than a mile north of Essex, and within the present township of Essex, on what has been known for many years as "Block House Farm".  The title is in the estate of the late John Hamilton Fulton, president of the National Park Bank of New York, through whose generosity the spot was marked in 1929 by a bronze commemorative tablet, unveiled by Anne Noble Proctor, great-great-granddaughter of General Ransom Noble.5 An address was delivered by the writer, at whose inception this site was marked, and a most interesting historical address by the Hon. Augustus Noble Hand, United States Circuit Judge, a great-grandson of General Noble and of Judge John Gould, two of the early settlers of Essex. The writer was informed by a daughter of General Henry Howard Ross that her father was born in the Block House, his father, Judge Daniel Ross, living there at the time as an official of Essex County; and that the family moved, five years after her father's birth, into what is now the oldest residence in Essex village, built in 1795 on the site of the earliest settlement there.


5 The residence of Ransom Noble was named in the early records as one of the boundaries of the "jail limits".


The railroad of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, as it was then termed, was completed and trains over it began operation in the early winter of 1875. The first station nearest to Essex was a passenger car on what was known as the Boynton Farm, some ways back of the road, near Willsboro village. Subsequently a station was built on the site of the present Willsboro station, but for ten years there was no station at, or named, Essex—only a siding and storehouse (at what the railroad men then called "Bokay"), for the store and hay press operated by the firm of C.W. & W.A. Tucker. This firm looked after the receipt, delivery, or storage of any freight shipped or left there, by previous arrangement with the railroad authorities.


"Thereby hangs a tale." The townships along the right of way of the railroad in Essex County, by vote, bonded themselves to assist financially in the building of the road. For some reason, said to have been through the influence of a resident of Whallonsburg now long since deceased, the right of way through the towns of Essex and Willsboro was changed from the original survey farther away from the two villages, so that the service did not accommodate them as it was deemed it should. The two towns refused to "take up" their bonds as voted. The railroad began suit against them to compel them to do so. This suit in time reached for decision the Court of Appeals, and was decided against the railroad and in favor of the two towns.


Incidentally, this case was ably prepared by the firm of Ross & Ross of Essex—Anthony J.B. Ross and James B. Ross, previously mentioned—who shared in the counsel fees allowed the towns by the Court; and it was argued before the Court of Appeals by the Hon. Samuel Hand, by birth a distinguished son, and of an eminent Essex County family.

 

It was said at the time of the decision that the President of the railroad was so incensed over it that he swore that Essex should never have a station as long as he lived. And as a matter of fact, it was not until his death, in 1886, that the first station was built by public subscription on the site of the present Essex station. The stopping of the first train, in the fall of 1886, and the putting up of the first sign (painted by a professional man of Essex), were events witnessed by the writer of this sketch, who, incidentally, contributed to the building of the station.

 

What has ever been to the writer a pathetic incident in the building of the railroad, was the coming to Willsboro, in the employ of one of the contractors, of Bernard Calzolari, a native of Italy, who had seen service in the cavalry of the Italian army. Near the right of way in the town of Willsboro lived John Bleecker Cuyler and his sister, Miss Susannah Cuyler—descendants of Stephen Cuyler, first Essex County Clerk, and of Charlotte, daughter of William Gilliland—one of the most highly respected families in town. During the building of the railroad near their home they befriended and came to know the Italian immigrant, and on the completion of the road he entered their employ, and remained with the family until his death, of pneumonia, which occurred at the Cuyler home. His remains were interred in the Cuyler plot in Lake View Cemetery, Willsboro. He died respected and beloved by all who knew him, a good man, a fine, upright citizen. Although the writer was a frequent visitor at the Cuyler home, and knew Bernard well, he did not learn his last name until, not long before his death, he became a member of the Masonic Lodge at Essex. His life was so bound up with that of the Cuyler family that he was just known as "Bernard", or sometimes as "John Cuyler's Bernard".

 






moorsfield press footer for
        publications