Vast quantities of iron and lead ores have been mined in the town, the former in the east part, near Somerville, and the latter in the west part, near Indian River. Mining operations in iron ore were commenced in 1812 and have been continued with some interruptions till the present time. The Caledonia mine has been most extensively wrought and ore is now shipped hence by railroad. At this mine in March, 1873, a boring was made below the present workings with a diamond drill, which, after passing through sixty-five feet of rock, struck a vein of iron ore, which it penetrated to a depth of forty-eight feet without passing through it. This ore yields sixty per cent of pure iron of the best quality(3). There are two iron mines in the vicinity of Somerville which are very productive, yielding 200 tons of ore per day and fifty-five per cent of pure iron. Iron of an excellent quality is made from the ores obtained here, and when the iron is reduced by a cold blast it possesses in a high degree those qualities imparted by the chilling process, which render it especially fitted for those applications which require hardness combined with strength.
A blast furnace was erected at Rossie in 1813 and got in operation in 1815, and was the first one built in Northern New York. Although the existence of lead in the town, as is traditionally reported, was known to and used by the Indians, no measures to work it were instituted until 1835, on the 11th of December of which year, Bliss T. Nash, having previously united with four others from Oswegatchie, for the purpose of making mineral explorations, and discovered the locality of the lead, entered into a contract with David Parish, ostensibly for the purpose of searching for ores, by which it was stipulated that he should pay a tribute of fifty cents per ton for iron ore and seventy-five, for lead ore, should mines of either be found, that all the ore should be smelted in Rossie and that a ten years lease should be granted under these conditions. Mr. Nash soon after sold the right to John C. Bush. His associates disapproving this action applied for redress, and a compromise was subsequently effected which resulted in the organization of two companies, which were incorporated May 12, 1837, with equal capitals, privileges, and limitations, styled respectively The Rossie Lead Mining Company, and the Rossie Galena Company. Both companies commenced operations upon a vein in a ridge of gneiss rock, about two miles south-west of Rossie village, and one mile west of Indian River, upon what was known as the Coal Hill Vein, and notwithstanding the vast extravagance which characterized them, the products of the mines enabled the companies to distribute large dividends. The average yield of pure lead was sixty-seven percent. The ore was remarkably free from any foreign substance in intimate connection with it, and hence was easily reduced. Both these companies ceased working in 1840. Three other veins known as the Victoria, Union and Indian River veins were opened by Mr. Parish and worked by him. In 1852 R. P. Remington leased a portion of the premises, and a company styled the Great Northern Lead Company, of which he was a director, was incorporated under a general act of Sept 8, 1852, with a capital of $500,000, and under a limitation of fifty years. Operations are now suspended, the last mining having been done by a company of English capitalists, styled the Rossie and Canada Lead Company, formed under a special act June 1, 1856, and working under a ten year's lease. Numerous splendid minerals occurred in these mines and gave them a peculiar interest to the mineralogist. Many fine specimens have been taken to furnish cabinets. The population of the town in 1870 was 1,661, of whom 1,321 were native, 340 foreign, and all white.
During the year ending Sept 30, 1872 the town contained ten school districts and employed ten teachers. The number of children of school age was 644; the number attending school, 448; the average attendance, 198; the amount expended for school purposes, $2,208.87; and the value of school houses and sites, $3,640.
The Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg R.R. crosses the east corner of the town.
WEGATCHIE(4) (p.v.) located on the Oswegatchie, four miles north-west of Keenes Station on the R. W. & O. R. R., in the midst of some good farming lands, is the seat of a fine water privilege, which is only partially improved, and contains a store, hotel, one wagon and two blacksmith shops, one grist mill, two saw mills(5), one cheese-box and one spoke factory, a woolen factory(6) and had, in 1870, a population of 201.
ROSSIE (p.v.) situated at the head of navigation on Indian River, which affords a good water power, and in a fine grazing country, seven miles north of Ox Bow, (Jefferson county), is a village of about 330 inhabitants and contains two churches (Catholic and Presbyterian), one hotel, two stores, three shoe shops, one wagon and two blacksmith shops, one grist(7) mill and two saw mills, a cooper shop and a half blast furnace, owned by the Rossie Iron Company, of New York, which has facilities for manufacturing sixteen tons of pig iron per day, and connected with which is a large machine shop and foundry, with facilities for doing any kind of casting and machine work, neither of which are now in operation.
Rossie Lodge, No 766, I. O. of G. T., was organized in December 1868, with twenty-one members. The present number of members is 127. Meetings are held on Friday evenings of each week.
SOMERVILLE (p.v.) situated in a good grazing country in the south-east part, two miles from Keenes Station on the R. W. & O. R. R., contains two churches (M. E. and Universalist), a store, hotel, shoe shop, wagon shop, two blacksmith shops and 150 inhabitants. About half a mile south-west of this village is quite an extensive cheese factory. It is owned by C. Freeman, contains fourteen presses and is capable of making about thirty-six tons of cheese per annum.
Somerville Lodge, No. 431, I. O. of G. T. was organized Oct. 17, 1867 with thirty-six members. There are now fifty members. The lodge meets every Saturday evening.
SPRAGUES CORNERS (Shingle Creek p.o.) is situated in the south-east corner, near Keenes Station on the R. W. & O. R. R. and contains two churches, (M. E. and F. W. Baptist) two stores, one hotel, telegraph and express offices, one shoe, two wagon, two blacksmith, one paint and one cooper shops, an extensive cheese factory and about 200 inhabitants. The county line divides the village about equally, one-half lying in this, and the other in Jefferson county. Keenes iron mine lies on the edge of Jefferson county, within half a mile of this place, and is worked with profit. There are two other iron ore beds within a short distance of the place.
KEENES STATION, on the R. W. & O. R. R., on the line of Jefferson county, is chiefly noted for its iron mines.
The White Marble Lime Works, located on the old plank road, about three miles north of Ox Bow, manufacture from six to seven thousand bushels of lime per annum. This lime is said to be of a very superior quality, and held in high repute for making a hard finish.
There are two saw mills on Grass creek, about two and one-half miles from Rossie village, one owned by Geo. V. Webster, capable of sawing one million feet of lumber per annum, the other owned by Oliver Patterson, jr., and capable of sawing 700,000 feet of lumber per annum. Connected with the latter is a shingle mill, capable of making 400,000 shingles per annum, and an ashery, in which two tons of potash are manufactured per annum.
Settlement was begun in 1807, by Joseph Teall and Reuben Streeter, the former from Fairfield and the latter from Salisbury, Herkimer county. They contracted with Lewis R. Morris, nephew of Gouverneur Morris, for a tract lying east of the Oswegatchie, and extending from the south line of Gouverneur to the county line. The first improvement was made by Reuben Streeter, about half a mile east of Wegatchie, in 1807, and in 1808 he commenced the erection of a ill on the Oswegatchie. Ambrose Simons, Oliver Malterner, Amos Keeney, Jr., Samuel Bonfy, Silvius Waters, Joshua Stearns, Jerome Waldo, Geo. W. Pike, Benj. Pike, Jr., Ebenezer Bemis, and David Shepard, mostly from Herkimer county, visited the town in 1806, and selected lands which they purchased October 1st of that year. Dec 2, 1808, David Parish purchased a tract of 26,804 acres, including this town, and under his liberal measures the settlement of the town was accelerated. In the spring of 1811, the following named persons, in addition to those previously mentioned, were living on the tract purchased by Teall and Streeter, viz.: David Freeman, James Streeter, Diamond Wheeler, Eli Winchell, Simeon Stevens and John, Wheaton and Daniel Wilcox, all of whom, except the last, had families. The apprehensions awakened by the war of 1812 determined the settlers in the south part of the town (which was then in Russell) to construct a block house on the road between Somerville and Wegatchie, and there they sought refuge at night when their fears were aroused by alarms which were frequent and often groundless. The block house was 24 by 30 feet, and was well built of hewn timber. It stood until 1840, though it was only used in 1812. A similar one was built of round logs, near a small stream a few rods north-east of Somerville, but was occupied only a few nights. The mill erected by Reuben Streeter was burned in 1812, during the night, and the excitable state of the public mind at that period readily induced the belief that the Indians were the authors of the act, though there was nothing to indicate that this was the fact. Subsequent events, however, removed this suspicion, and pointed to a man who lived in the edge of Gouverneur, and left the country about that time, as the author. The mill was immediately rebuilt by Mr. Parish as was owned by him until purchased by James Howard about 1817. The settlement at Rossie village was commenced late in the summer of 1810, by seven men, under the superintendence of Daniel W. Church, who were sent from Ogdensburg by David Parish, to erect mills and make arrangements for settling lands. They proceeded by bateau to the head of navigation on Indian River, with furniture and tools, accompanied by the wife of one of the party, who cooked for them, and arrived at sunset at an island, upon which a rude shelter was constructed for the married couple by placing sails upon poles in the form of a tent, near where the foundry stands, while the others spread their blankets upon a fine flat rock around a fire they had kindled(10). The following day a commodious hut, with two compartments, was erected, and by winter a saw mill was got in operation. They broke up camp in December and abandoned further operations until spring, though parties were engaged during the winter in getting out timber, which was conveyed to Ogdensburg and used in the buildings constructed there, and in the frame of the Genesee Packet, built soon after at that port. The following summer the lumber business was prosecuted with vigor and that winter a bridge was built. In 1813 the furnace before adverted to was commenced under the direction of James Howard, and gave vast importance to the place. In 1818 the families of Robert Ormiston, James Dickson, Wm. Fackney, James Fairbairn, Corlan McLaren, Donald McCarrie, Thomas Elliott, James Henderson, James Douglass and Andrew Dodds, who emigrated from Scotland that year, made the first settlement between Oswegatchie and Indian rivers. They came by way of Quebec and the St. Lawrence, without any definite destination in view, and while proceeding up the river in a Durham boat, they stopped a short time at Prescott, where they were visited by an agent of David Parish and induced to cross to Ogdensburg. While the men went to view the lands in Rossie their families were liberally provided for in Ogdensburg. To assist these emigrants Mr. Parish, with his accustomed liberality, caused ten acres to be cleared, a comfortable log house to be built and a cow furnished to each family, an ox team provided for every two, and seen, wheat and provisions supplied for the first year, for which they were to pay when their farms netted them something; but owing to the high prices which then prevailed and the depreciation which followed, their debts accumulated faster than their earnings, and becoming disheartened they contemplated the abandonment of their improvements. To avoid this Mr. Parish, with almost unparalleled magnanimity, assembled these settlers at Rossie village in the winter of 1823-4, and having ascertained the indebtedness of each, cancelled all above $500, and thus placed them on an equality. Encouraged by this generosity they returned to their homes and worked with renewed energy. This settlement formed a nucleus for others of their countrymen, who flocked in in considerable numbers during the next twelve or fifteen years, and from whom the name of Scotch Settlement was acquired for that locality. In 1819 the families of James Ormiston, Andrew Culbertson, James Lockie, Robert Clark, John Tait, Wm Laidlow, John Henderson, John Dodds, Andrew Fleming, David Storie, and James Hobkirk; and in 1820 the Turnbull brothers (Thomas, Michael, Adam, Andrew and William) and John McRobbie, all Scotch emigrants, settled in this town, where many of their descendants still reside.
The first school in town was taught by Mr. Maynard about a mile west of Somerville. The first inn at Rossie was kept by Horatio G. Berthrong. The first birth in town was that of Geo. W. Smith, a farmer now living in the north-west part of the town, who was born Nov. 27, 1813.
St. Patrick's Church (Catholic) was organized with twenty-five families in 1852, in which year was erected, at a cost of about $2000, their church edifice, which will seat 200 persons. The first pastor was Rev. Michael Clark; the present one is Rev. John McDonald. The Society consists of eighty families. Its property is valued at $2500.
The First Presbyterian Church of Rossie, at Rossie village, was organized with eighteen members in October 1855, by George Lockie and R. H. King. Their house of worship was erected in 1856, at a cost of $1,600. It will seat 250 persons. The first pastor was Rev. John M. McGregor; the present one, Rev. Wm M. Robinson. The Society numbers forty members. The Church property is valued at $2,000.
The M. E. Church at Rossie village, was organized with about seventeen members, in 1868, by Rev. Lemuel Clark. The first pastor was Rev. O. F. Nicholls; the present one is Rev. H. W. Dann. The Society consists of about thirty members, and worships in the school-house.
(1) Pronounced Ros-see, with the accent on the last syllable, and named from Rossie, daughter of David Parish, the proprietor.
(2) The first town meeting was held at the house of Reuben Streeter, Sept. 16, 1813, and the following named officers were elected: Reuben Streeter, Supervisor; Geo. W. Pike, Town Clerk; H. G. Berthrong, Jedediah Kingsly and Benj Pike, Assessors; Simeon Stevens, Diamond Wheeler and Alvin Wright, Commissioners of Highways; Elias Teall, Constable and Collector; Samuel Bonfy and Silvius Waters, Overseers of the Poor; and Isaac Austin, Pardon Babcock and Diamond Wheeler, Justice of the Peace.
(3) "The Rossie Iron Company has taken out during the last year (1872) 40,000 tons of ore, at a profit of $2.70 per ton." The Ogdensburg Journal, March 22, 1873.
(4) This place has been variously named Caledonia, Howard's Mills and Church's Mills. Wegatchie is the name of the post-office and by that name the village is becoming generally known.
(5) One of these mills is owned by L. C. Bolton and combining a saw mill, shingle mill and cheese-box factory, is capable of sawing 500,000 feet of lumber and manufacturing 1,000 cheese-boxes and 200,000 shingles per day.
(6) This mill was built by Daniel Church at a cost of $14,000 in place of one built in 1836 or '7, by R. T. Church & Bro., which was used as a carding mill and burned in 1867. It has been leased by different parties. The lease is now held by McIntosh & Wright, who work 50,000 pounds of wool per annum.
(7) This mill is a large stone structure, with five runs of stones, and is doing a good business.
(8) The first officers were Wm Allen, W. C. T.; Mrs. Allen, W. V. T.; W. W. Leonard, Sec; Wm Tennant, F. S.; Mrs. Elizabeth Scott, T.; Levi Backus, M.; A. Drury, I. G.; Henry Dority, O. G.; Daniel Drury, C.; Esther Backus, A. S.; Mary Jane Carver, D. M.; W. W. Weaver, P. W. C. T.; George Scott, R. S.; S. B. Leonard, L. S.; Wm Allen, L. D.
(9) The first officers were P. M. Crowley, W. C. T.; Delia Freeman, W. V. T.; Rev. A. Blackman, C.; C. W. Hall, Sec; Mrs. Emma Witt, A. S.; W. Emmons, F. S.; Libbie Bowtell, T.; H. W. Johnson, P. W. C. T.
(10) "The early settlers found traces which indicate that the English or French had at some time contemplated the erection of some station at Rossie. It being at the head of a navigation of 27 miles towards Fort Stanwix, rendered it important. A Durham boat laden with stone, was found sunk in the river, with every appearance of having been a long time submerged, and an excavation apparently for a cellar existed where the stone store at Rossie now stands" - Hough's History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties.
(11) Dr. Hough, in his History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties and J. H. French, in his Gazetteer of the State, both state that Wm Rossie Williams, who was born March 31, 1814 was the first child born in town. The above data was taken from the family record of Mr. Smith.