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History of Adams Village, New York

History of Adams Village, New York
1864 Map of Adams Village New York

1864 Map of Adams Village New York

The location of this large and thriving village of 2000 inhabitants is on Sandy creek, one and a half miles from the Rodman town-line, and extending on its south to the towns of Lorraine and Ellisburg. The principal part of the village is in the valley of the creek, mostly on its north bank, although some of the private residences are on the terraces along the stream, giving the place an elevated appearance beautiful to behold, and admitting the display of much fine taste. The streets are wide, graded to a considerable extent, and cleanly kept. Outside of the business part of the village they are lined with rows of maple, beech, and elm, or the handsome mountain-ash trees. The private dwellings are fine, varied in architectural construction, and indicate refinement and denote wealth. They almost invariably stand removed from the road, and the dooryards are adorned with shrubbery, native trees, and statuary. The business houses are substantial, and, without being ornate, present a fine appearance. In healthfulness, beauty of location, and the reputation of its citizens for culture and morality, the place has few equals; and Adams deservedly ranks as one of the finest villages in the State.

The settlement of David Smith in 1800, and the desirable improvements he made, attracted a large number of settlers within the next few years, so that in 1806 nearly every attendant element of an older community existed.

From this time the growth of the place was steady, but not remarkable, until the completion of the railroad quickened the business life, and the building of its churches and schools brought that refinement which has since characterized the general tone of the village. David Smith lived in town until his death; and nearly all of those who were pioneers with him have long since departed. None live to tell the story of the founding of the town, and but a few to recount the struggles of its early life. In the village, Perley D. Stone, C. J. Witcomb, and Erastus Hale yet remain of the hundreds that came three-quarters of a century ago.

Municipal Government

An effort was made in 1823 to obtain an act of incorporation for the village, but failed to receive the necessary support. The application bore the names of Elihu Morton, David Smith, Benjamin Wright, and John Burch. It was finally incorporated under the general act, Nov. 11, 1851, and confirmed by a vote of 79 to 51, on Dec. 19, the same year. The original plat of 812 acres has never been enlarged. A special election was held in February, 1852, but the first regular election was held March, 1852, and resulted in the choice of the following officers: Jeremiah Griswold, J. H. Whipple, C. Skinner, C. R. Totman, W. Benton, trustees; William Merriam, Samuel Harmon, Samuel Greene, assessors; Mason Curtiss, clerk; Nelson Greene, collector; Spencer Woodward, treasurer; Alonzo Maxon, Seelye Hungerford, Perley D. Stone, fire-wardens; and Samuel B. Bliss, pound-master. Since 1852 the following have been trustees and clerks of the village, — the last named in each year being the clerk:

  1. Thomas P. Saunders, J. H. Whipple, Justus Eddy, William Grenell, Julius K. Bartlett, and Nelson Greene.
  2. Calvin Skinner, Samuel M. Bond, William A. Gilbert, C. K. Totman, B. S. Salisbury, and Hart Grenell.
  3. Justus Eddy, Jeremiah Griswold, William Grenell, S. J. Mondell, S. M. Bond, and Graham G. Grenell.
  4. William M. Johnson, David Smith, E. Y. Morton, H. Grenell, William H. Wheeler, and William D. Fox.
  5. J. C. Cooper, Norman Wood, R. P. White, W. H. Wheeler, R. O. Clark, and G. G. Grenell.
  6. Calvin Skinner, O. N. Smith, Spencer Woodward, E. Y. Morton, S. J. Mendell, and G. G. Grenell.
  7. Q. W. Bond, Asa Lyons, O. N. Smith, C. M. Totman, E. S. Salisbury, and William D. Fox.
  8. William A. Gilbert, E. Y. Morton, Nelson Greene, S. M. Bond, Seelye Hungerford, and A. J. Lovelee.
  9. W. A. Gilbert, A. Kellogg, N. M. Wardwell, Seelye Hungerford, G. W. Grant, and G. B. R. Whipple.
  10. T. P. Saunders, G. W. Bond, O. N. Smith, A. Kellogg, J. H. Doane, and G. B. E. Whipple.
  11. T. P. Saunders, A. Kellogg, George Frasier, T. C. Chittenden, H. P. Overton, and A. D. Ripley.
  12. H. F. Overton, T. C. Chittenden, G. W. Bond, A. Kellogg, George Frasier, and G. B. R. Whipple.
  13. R. H. Huntington, Philip Sterne, William H. Withington, A. J. Lovelee, G. G. Wilcox, and G. B. R. Whipple.
  14. Norman Wood, J. A. C. Kellogg, H. F. Edmonds, George B. Nolton, W. H. Wheeler, and G. B. R. Whipple.
  15. H. F. Overton, G. G. Wilcox, T. O. Chittenden, A. Kellogg, S. N. Bond, and G. B. R. Whipple.
  16. J. M. Cleveland, R. B. Smiley, H. R. Phillips, Nathan Vickery, J. C. Kellogg, and T. C. Chittenden.
  17. J. M. Cleveland, W. A. Gilbert, S. N. Bond, H. R. Phillips, A. Kellogg, and J. A. C. Kellogg.
  18. J. M. Cleveland, W. A. Gilbert, C. K. Stone, O. N. Smith, A. Kellogg, and T. T. Carter.
  19. W. A. Gilbert, A. W. Ingraham, D.B. Lookwood, O. N Smith, H. R. Phillips, and Hart Grenell.
  20. Norman Wood, J. M. Cleveland, D. B. Lockwood, W. E. Overton, S. H. Pitcher, and Hart Grenell.
  21. Norman Wood, W. H. Wheeler, S. H. Pitcher, Hart Grenell, A. B. Huson, and T. T. Carter.
  22. Hart Grenell, A. Kellogg,. H. O. Kenyon, A. B. Gilbert, George Frasier, and B. Ingraham.
  23. J. M. Cleveland, W. H. Withington, N. M. Wardwell, George Frasier, Frank W. Estes, and S. P. Armsbury,
  24. J. M. Cleveland, N. M. Wardwell, S. H. Pitcher, T. P. Saunders, A. B. Huson, and S. P. Armsbury.
  25. J. L. Greene, A. B. Gilbert, Asa Lyons, D. B. Lockwood, L. G. Fish, and L. M. Ripley.

On May 27, 1852, the village was divided into five wards, and a code of by-laws adopted. These laws have been frequently revised, to meet the changes brought on by the growth of the place. The village was also divided into three fire wards, and rules adopted to insure its safety from fire. April 23, 1852, an appropriation of $650 was voted to purchase a fire-engine and its necessary apparatus. A short time after, a Button machine was purchased, and on May 24, 1853, the ” Tempest Fire-Company” was formed, with 44 men. The organization has been preserved to the present. Lester Fish is foreman, and T. C. Chittenden is chief engineer. In 1853 two reservoirs, of 500 barrels capacity each, were constructed in the northern and the southern parts of the village. The following year a brick building on the south side of Sandy creek was purchased for an engine-house and lock-up, or village jail. This is the only building controlled by the corporation.

A fire-company was formed in Adams about 1836, and a small crank-engine purchased by voluntary subscriptions. These provisions against the destructive element have materially lessened the damage caused by the several fires which visited the place in 1860 and 1866. On the night of Dec. 15 of the first-named period, Webster Bros.’ store, in the middle of the row of buildings on the west side of Main street, was burglarized and set on fire, presumably to destroy the evidence of the crime. A strong wind, amounting almost to a gale, prevailed at the time, and before the progress of the flames could be stayed the entire row was consumed. Among the buildings destroyed were Saunders & Holman’s machine works. Carter’s block, Skinner’s block, Rosa’s store, and Doxtater’s corner store. David Mitchell was apprehended for the crime, and, upon trial, was sentenced to the penitentiary for life. Equally destructive was the fire which desolated the east side of the street in April, 1866. All the buildings, from the mill, north, to the corner, including the old Whipple block, a good two-story brick, erected in 1845, as well as the old Whitney House, a stone structure on the northwest corner, were destroyed. Instead of retarding the growth and prosperity of the village, these fires purged the place of a poor class of buildings, and caused the erection of the splendid business houses now lining the principal business street.

Among the most active and enterprising builders and business men of the village is T. P. Saunders. It was owing to his energy and foresight that the first public hall was erected, in 1851, before the future of the place was assured. It was a large frame structure, with a hall 45 by 75 feet in the fourth story. This building, in common with his large factory, in the same locality, and many others, was destroyed by fire. Nothing daunted, Mr. Saunders began at once to build the large brick block which now occupies the site of the old factory. Other buildings followed, until almost the entire west side of Main street was reconstructed by him. In 1866 he began his largest and most noteworthy enterprise, — the building of the “Cooper House Block,” on the corner formerly occupied by Doxtater’s store. This is an imposing three-story edifice, 52 by 148 feet, with a basement. The lower portion is fitted up for a first-class hotel, with elegant parlors, dining-rooms, and offices. A portion of the upper floor, 52 by 90 feet, was prepared for a public hall, with the usual appointments of such places, and a seating capacity for 1000 persons. On the 1st of January, 1867, the hotel was formally opened by a public meeting, when the ladies of the village bestowed Mr. Saunders’ name upon the hall, in honor of the builder.

On the opposite side of this building is the Whitney Block, now Huson House, erected in the most substantial manner, 40 by 60 feet, three stories high, and admirably arranged for hotel purposes. On the east side of the street is the large Hungerford and Bond Block, fitted up for stores and offices. ” Jackson Hall,” in the Mendell Block, erected in 1854 by Sidney J. Mendell, deserves mention in this connection. The building is a large frame, and was designed for stores and offices. The hall was commodious, and was used for public meetings until Saunders’ was completed. The location of the building, being away from the business center, has prevented its use for its intended purpose, and it is at present occupied as a carriage-factory.

The Post Office at Adams was established about 1806. That year a mail-route was established from Rome, through Redfield via Adams, to Sacket’s Harbor. April 28, 1810, a new route was established from Utica, via Camden and Adams, to Brownville; and on March 3, 1825, from Watertown, via Adams, to Sandy Creek. The mail service at present is by railroad to points north and south, and by stages to Lorraine, Belleville, and Henderson. A man by the name of Perry was one of the first postmasters. He was succeeded by Lyman Munson. Among others who held the office were George Andrus, T. C. Chittenden, Jason Marsh, Calvin Skinner, Zelotes Barney, Mason Curtiss, T. P. Saunders, J. D. Smith, E. S. Salisbury, Nelson Green, T. C. Chittenden, and T. T. Carter, the present incumbent.

A postal money-order office was established in 1872. The amount of the orders drawn for the year ending Oct. 1, 1877, was $7697; paid, $6279; number of registered letters received, 200; sent, 324; stamps and stamped envelopes sold, $2300. Letters received daily, 250; sent, 260. Papers distributed weekly, 1200. This last item does not include papers mailed in bags.

Source:  Durant, Samuel W. and Henry B. Peirce. History of Jefferson County, New York, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1878. p 251-253.

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