1864 Map of Ox Bow

History of Ox Bow, New York

1864 Map of Ox Bow
1864 Map of Ox Bow

This little village is located on the left bank of the Oswegatchie, at the southernmost point of the groat bend in that river. It lies due north of Antwerp village seven and one-half miles, and its communication with the latter place is over an excellent turnpike-road. Ox Bow, at the present time, contains a post-office, one hotel, four stores, one physician, one drugstore, one wagon-shop, three blacksmith-shops, one harness- and saddlery-shop, a good school-house, two churches, and about 300 inhabitants.

The Cooper Tract

That the first settlement on this ground was made nearly three-fourths of a century ago by Peter Vrooman from Johnstown, New York, we have already seen; and we have also seen how, for several years, it was hoped and believed by the earliest settlers that Gen. Lewis R. Morris, the first proprietor, would remove his family hither and make this his permanent residence. Such an idea was probably never entertained by him, though he did cause a small clearing to be made and a log house erected. He not long after sold a tract of forty-one lots of land — about 18,000 acres, including the site of this village, and extending eight miles towards Theresa — to Silvius Hoard and others. This became known as the “Cooper Tract,” from having been purchased in 1817 by Abraham Cooper, then of Trenton, New York, who may properly be called the founder and father of the village of Ox Bow. He came here in the spring of 1818, and entered upon the business of merchandising in the “old yellow store,” which he erected on the main street a short distance below the present hotel and square; this being the first store in that portion of the town of Antwerp. The first physician of the village, Dr. Abner Benton, one of the prominent citizens of Ox Bow, also came in 1818; and the first white child born in the village, or in that portion of the town, dates his nativity to the same year. This was Nicholas Cooper, son of Abraham, now one of the best-known and most respected inhabitants of the town of Antwerp.
In the following year Abraham Cooper built the stone store which is now the Methodist meeting-house. It was a solid building, with a quadrangular (hip) roof, which seemed a large one for so small a place; but his trade was large in the goods which lie sold and the produce which he purchased, and so his new store was always well filled.
The second store in Ox Bow was opened in 1825 by John J. Gilbert and Rufus H. King, two of Mr. Cooper‘s clerks. This stood on the main road, directly opposite the yellow store where Mr. Cooper commenced business in 1818.
About 1820, a brick building twenty-five by forty feet was built by Mr. Cooper, solely at his own expense, designed as a school-house and place of religious worship. The use of this building he gave to the public for these purposes without remuneration for ten years; and about 1830 he sold it to the Presbyterian society. For many years this was the only place in Ox Bow or vicinity where religious meetings were regularly held. It has been stated that in the early days Pulpit Rock, a short distance out from the village, was used as a place of religious meetings, and it is told that a sermon preached there from- Matthew xvi. 17: “And upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” was peculiarly impressive. This, however, was probably upon the occasion of some rural religious festival, and it is not likely that meeting there for religious services was ever a common practice. This Pulpit Rook is situated about a half-mile from Ox Bow, on the Evans’ Mills road. It is a high, perpendicular precipice of rock, in the face of which, at considerable distance from the ground, is a niche or hole, or rather a section of such cavity, which has the appearance of having been worn by the long-continued rolling of stones in a pool of water. From a fancied resemblance of this cavity to a pulpit, the rock obtained its name. The published descriptions of its height and sublimity have generally been greatly overdrawn.
The public-house at Ox Bow — a part of the present hotel — was built by Mr. Cooper in the year 1819. Its first landlord was Solomon Loomis. After him came Lucas Gillett, John Pierce, Enos Brainard, 1834 to 1850, and Charles S. Green; the last-named being the builder of the huge southern wing which fronts on the village square. Other landlords of the house have been Geo. W. Wheeler, John Dodge, and Ransom Howe. At this house, for a long period of years, the town-meetings were held alternately with Antwerp village; and here for a still greater number of years the mail-coaches made their halts for change of horses and refreshment of passengers. Abraham Cooper, in addition to his other enterprises, was for a long time proprietor of the stage-line from Denmark to Ogdensburgh, passing through this village. Vrooman‘s tavern (which in its best days was but an insignificant affair) was discontinued at a very early day, and his lands were purchased by Abraham Lewis, who kept no public-house, and who afterwards sold and removed to Somerville, where he died.
The post-office at Ox Bow was established in 1819, the first postmaster being Dr. Abner Benton. The office was first kept in Cooper‘s store; afterwards removed to the store of King & Gilbert. After Dr. Benton, the appointment as postmaster was given to Rufus H. King, who held it for a long term under Democratic administrations; then followed Enos Brainard, Elius P. Cooper, and Martin Brainard. The present postmaster is Earl B. Green.
Soon after his settlement at Ox Bow, Abraham Cooper donated to the public a lot of land, forty by seventeen rods in extent, lying on the south side of the main road, to remain vacant forever as a village green. This gift was prompted by public spirit and good judgment, but the plat has not been properly cared for. The two churches and the hotel stand fronting upon this ground.
There is no water-power on the Oswegatchie at this point; a want which was much lamented by Mr. Cooper, who at one time had in contemplation the purchase of a site upon the river some two miles above, and the erection there of a dam, from which to bring the water in an artificial head-race to the village; an enterprise which could not have failed to greatly promote its prosperity; but this scheme was brought to an abrupt ending by the death of the party with whom he was negotiating for the purchase. In consequence of this lack of power there are no mills or manufactories within the village. A short distance to the westward, however, upon the shore of Vrooman’s lake, and near enough to be regarded as belonging to Ox Bow, is the steam sawmill of Mr. Roselle Payne, built in 1850, chiefly with view to the cutting of hemlock plank for the plank-roads which were then in process of construction. It was carried on for a few years by John Frazer, until destroyed by fire, after which it was rebuilt by Mr. Payne, and is still operated by him.

History of The Presbyterian Church

On the 15th day of May, 1820, the Ox Bow Presbyterian society of Antwerp and Rossie, a body corporate, was formed, with Abraham Cooper, Reuben Streeter, James Ormiston, Abraham Lewis, James Douglas, Abner Benton, Orren Matthews, and Percival Hawley, as trustees. During the same summer a church organization was formed with forty members, principally people from the south of Scotland, who had then recently settled in this and in the neighboring town of Rossie. Their first pastor was Rev. James Sandford, from Massachusetts, who continued with them for ten years, and was succeeded by Rev. Mr. McGregor, after whom came Reverends Stowell and Nicol. Following these came other pastors, under whose ministrations there grew up a dissatisfaction which resulted in a dissolution of the church’s allegiance to the Assembly, and a change of name to that of “The Associate Reformed Church of Antwerp and Rossie.” This took place in May, 1837, when a reorganization was made, with Andrew Culbertson, James Dickson, Robert Darling, John Barrow, William Fleming, and William Turnbull, trustees. Their first minister after the change was Rev. Mr. White, who remained more than a year, and was followed by Rev. Alexander Proudfit, who labored but a short time, and was succeeded by Rev. James Williamson, who ministered to them as stated supply for a period of more than ten years. Their first settled pastor, after the change in 1837, was Rev. J. S. Cowper, a native of Scotland, who came to them on the first Sabbath in January, 1852.
Since that time (the precise date cannot be given) they have resumed their original relations to the General Assembly, as a regular Presbyterian church. The present pastor is Rev. Alexander Adair, who has now served them for about ten years.
During the first eighteen years of its existence this congregation worshiped in the brick school building erected by Abraham Cooper; but in the year 1838, during the ministry of Rev. Mr. White, they erected the stone edifice which they still occupy, fronting on the village green. Some changes and improvements have since been made in it, as the addition of twenty-five feet to its length and an increase in the height of its spire, giving it greater symmetry. Its first cost was $2500. Auxiliary to the church is a large and flourishing Sabbath-school, under the superintendency of Dr. Wood.

History of The Methodist Episcopal Church

A Methodist church organization existed at Ox Bow village more than forty-four years ago, the society there having been formed May 14, 1833, with Ira D. Shepard, William H. Collar, Samuel Bonfy, Ebenezer Beardsley, and Abraham Lewis, trustees. Among their earliest preachers were Revs. Gibbs, Crary, and Reuben Reynolds. Their meetings were held in the school-house or in private dwellings, and they had no church edifice until the winter of 1872-73, when they first met in the basement of their present church, — the stone “store of Abraham Cooper, which they had purchased and remodeled, at a cost of about eight thousand dollars. It fronts on the village green, and is a neat and appropriate meeting-house. This was erected during the pastorate of Rev. Clarke. Succeeding him in charge of the church was Rev. Mr. Crofoot, who was followed by Rev. James Smith, of Wegatchie, the present pastor.
Connected with the church is a flourishing Sabbath-school, under the superintendency of Mr. Joseph Graves.

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.

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