The first settlement and improvements upon the site of the present village of Antwerp were made under the direction of General Lewis R. Morris. On the 23d of December, 1804, he had purchased a tract of forty-nine thousand two hundred and eighty acres of land within the present boundaries of the town, comprising more then two-thirds of its entire area, and including the location on which the village stands. It was not until the year 1808 that David Parrish became proprietor of a part of these lands, by purchase from Morris.
In the year following his purchase (1805) General Morris decided on the establishment of a settlement and the erection of mills at this point, where the road leading to Long Falls (Carthage) crossed the Indian river; and accordingly at once commenced the erection of a dam across the river, the work upon this being done by and under the supervision of Lemuel Hubbard. The following spring (1806) the erection of a saw-mill upon this dam was commenced by Silas Ward for Morris, and a small frame house was built and opened as an inn at the place where the Proctor House now stands. Its first landlord was Gershom Mutoon. After him and during the first few years of its existence the house was kept by Jeduthan Kingsbury, William Fletcher, and Francis McAllister.
The settlement here was first and for many years known as Indian River; and, as having reference to the commencement of its settlement, we again quote from the diary of James Constable an entry made during his annual tour of the counties, made in the year 1806:
“August 8,–Passed from the Long Falls to the bridge at Indian River, where we spent the night. The country generally remains as last year, except at this place, where they are building a saw-mill for General Lewis R. Morris, who has gone to Vermont, his family not having yet moved to this town.”
At the commencement of the year 1807, John Jenison was appointed local agent for General Morris, and he was continued in that position by David Parrish, after that gentleman became proprietor in 1808. The land-office, established under Jenison for the sale of the Parrish lands, was located at the southerly end of the village, nearly opposite he present site of the residence of George D. McAllister, Esq., where it remained until its removal from the town. Jenison’s successor in the agency was Silvius Hoard, who in turn was succeeded by William McAllister, Esq., who held until the close of Parrish’s business in Antwerp.
Dr. Samuel Randall came to Indian River in 1808, and was the first physician not only of the village, but also of the town of Antwerp. In 1809 the first post-office in the town was established here, and Dr. Randall received the first appointment as postmaster. He located the office in his dwelling, which was nearly opposite where the stone church of the Congregationalists now stands. He continued to hold the appointment for many years.
The first grist-mill at Indian River was built in 1810, by Ezra Church, on the spot where the flour-mill now stands. The old mill was equipped with a single run of stones, which had been quarried from Parker’s ledge. Church was a professional bridge-builder and millwright, and a man of great enterprise. It is said that he built the mill with the expectation of purchasing it from Parrish, and with a contract to that effect; it is certain, however, that it never became his property, but that the title remained with Mr. Parrish until 1849.
About 1812, Church also built a clothing-mill on the same dam, but on the south side of the river, where Bethel’s planing-mill now stands. This he carried on until 1828, when Thomas and Ezra Wait became proprietors. After a time they demolished it and built a new mill upon the same site, and this was used in the same business until 1856, when its machinery was taken our and removed to Wegatchie. During this time it had been operated by various proprietors, viz.: Milo Shattuck and Reuben Wilmot, from 1832 to 1934; by Wilmot alone from 1834 to 1840; by Elijah Fulton, 1840 to 1852; and by Church Brothers from that time until its discontinuation as a clothing-mill.
About 1812, Isaac L. Hitchcock built a tannery in the village, on he westerly side of the road, on land now owned by Stephen Conklin, and nearly opposite the head of Railroad street. This he sold in 1815 to Luther Conklin, who removed here in 1816. He afterwards demolished the old tannery and built another upon its site. This was destroyed by fire, many years after. The first distillery in the town was built by Emmons & Bissell, not far from the Hitchcock tannery, about 1820. The first wagon-shop was started at nearly the same time, by Henry Welch. This was on the south side of the river, and the old building is still standing, adjoining the present wagon-shop of Mr. Welch.
The first merchant in the village, and in the town of Antwerp, was Zebulon H. Cooper, who, out 1910, opened the ‘yellow store,’ on the ground now occupied by Chapin’s block. A small store was opened as early as 1812 by Dr. Randall (who included an assortment of drugs with his stock), and a third by Orrin E. Bush.
The only buildings in the village on the north side of the river, in the spring of 1811, were the grist-mill built by Church, the public-house where Proctor’s now is, a building which stood just above the present post-office, and kept as a boarding-house by a Frenchman named Bordeau, the yellow store of Cooper, the post-office, and dwelling of Dr. Randall, and further north, the dwelling of Major John Howe.
Upon the opening of the War of 1812 considerable alarm was felt in view of the probability of an invasion, and on the 2d of July in that year a special meeting of the inhabitants of the town was held, “for the purpose of making fortification against an expected enemy,” At this meeting it was—
“Resolved, that there be built a fort 36 by 20 in the lower story, and upper 40 by 22, for the security of the inhabitants of said town.” and “that it be set north of Indian River 30 rods, in front of Sylvius Hoard’s house,”
The committee appointed to prosecute the work were John Howe, Oliver Hoard, and Silas Ward. Fifteen days later (July 17, 1812) another meeting was held at Francis McAllister’s inn, to devise a “proper method of our defense through a tragedy of war which is now beginning action between the United States and Great Britain,” and it was then—
“Resolved, that there be a block-house built for the defense of the inhabitants of said town,”and “that the building standing north from Indian River bridge, in front of Hoard’s house, formerly owned by Asher Seymour, shall be finished and appropriated for the benefit and use of said town.”
“Resolved, That there shall be fifty cents per day payed for each day’s work, and each one finde himself during the space of time in which the block –house shall be a building which is for the Town Defense.”
A tax was also voted to furnish arms and ammunition for the defenders.
The block-house was completed, and stood in the road, nearly in front of where Fosters hotel now is; but no enemy came to besiege it, and so after a time the fears of invasion being allayed, the “fortification” was demolished.
About 1813 a school was commenced in a small building which was erected on the east side of Main street, north of the present site of Foster’s Hotel. This was not only the first educational institution in the village but also the first in the town. This was superseded about 1816 by a new school-house upon the hill, which is still standing on the premises of Welcome Payne.
In 1816-17 the old brick church, now owned and occupied by the Catholics, was built by Mr. Parrish at an expense of nearly $10,000; all borne by himself, and by him made free to all Christian denominations. A committee, consisting of Major John Howe, Silvius Hoard, and Dr. Randall, were appointed by the town to take charge of it when it was completed. This was the second church edifice in the county of Jefferson; it was also the first brick building erected in the village and town of Antwerp. the bricks being manufactured in the immediate vicinity. It was but a few years later that the brick school-house (still in use) was built on the hill, within a few rods of the Parrish church.
The second public-house was erected upon the westerly side of Main street, and was first kept by Reuben Nott, then by John P. Hind, afterwards by John C. Foster, who was also its last landlord. It was destroyed by fire, and not rebuilt.
Foster’s hotel, on the easterly side of Main street, was built and opened by General T. R. Pratt, now of Watertown. The town elections and special meetings have often been held in this house. John C. Foster was its proprietor for many yours. It is now kept by T. M. Foster. The hotel, which stands where Mutoon opened his inn seventy years ago, was kept for many years by Smith Copeland and by his son, Clewly Copeland, who realized a handsome competence from it, and is still living, almost an octogenarian, in the village. After him the house was kept by several different persons, among them being John N. Green and Edward L. Proctor. It is at present kept by J. B. Proctor. The town-meetings have been held here more frequently than at any other place.
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 277-278.