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The Town of Pinckney
By Susan C. Townsend
August 24, 1999
The Township of Pinckney in Lewis County, New York was formed on
February 12, 1808. It was the second town formed, Denmark being the first,
after Lewis County was created. (At the time of it formation, Lewis County
consisted of only 5 towns, namely: Leyden, Harrisburg, Lowville,
Martinsburg, and Turin.) Pinckney was formed from tracts of land taken
from the Towns of Harrisburg and Harrison (now the Town of Rodman) and
named by the state legislature in honor of Revolutionary War General and
statesman, Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina.
Settlement was mainly by Americans, from the New England states, and
began several years before the township was formed. The first known
settlers were Samuel and Joseph Clear, who located in the southwest part of
the town in about 1803, They soon left, however, and the next known to
settle in-were Ethan Russell and J. Greene of Rhode Island in·1804. Then in
1805 Levi and Elisha Barnes, from Middleton, Connecticut settled in what
we now know as Barnes Comers, which Was named for Elisha. They also
later left the area either just before or after the War of 1812, sources differ.
When Ehsha left, he apparently sold his property to Eber Lucas, also from
Middleton who had arrived in 1806.
By 1809, John W. Lucas, James and Stephen Hart, James Armstrong,
Phineas Woolworth, Joel Webb, Silas Slater, David Canfield and several
Stoddard families had come into the town. Mr. Canfield made the first real
improvement in the town when he cleared a large area of land in what is now
known as New Boston, erected a sawmill and built a bridge over Deer River.
Other early settlers were Richard Dye, Asa Cooley, Elijah Yarrington,
Henry Warner, Noah and Jesse Merwin, Reuben Waite, lra P0ollack, Amos
Barrett, Mr. Needum, Daniel Hall, Orasmus Streeter, and ita Odell, who
built the first saw mill in Barnes Corners.
As the town grew and changed, so did the families. The first birth
occurred in the family of James Hunt or John Stoddard and the first death
was Mrs. Elisha Moody.
Schools and churches were built and a Grange Hall was erected. Town
government was formed, post offices assigned and businesses created.
The first school in Pinckney was the Dye Schoolhouse, which was built
near the Richard Dye home. The first church services were also held in this
schoolhouse. The first school ih Barnes Cornes was held in the log cabin
built by Elisha Barnes, where the Barnes Comers Hotel now stands. As the
years progressed schools were located in several areas of the town.
There were schools at New Boston, Cronks Corners, on the 7x9 Road (White
School District), Pinckney Corners, the Hardscrabble School located about
two miles down the Copenhagen Road from Barnes Corners, the River Road
School and one at Barnes Corners
There were several churches in the town at different times. The First
Methodist Episcopal Society formed and erected a meetinghouse at
Boynton's Comers on August 8, 1831. The Pinckney Corners Methodist
Episcopal Church was built in 1851. The First Baptist Church of Barnes
Corners was built in 1856 and a Methodist church was built in Barnes
Cornets in 1857. Also started in 1856 and finished in 1860 was the Roman
Catholic Church at New Boston. The first building for the Catholic Church
was originally 1 1/2 miles from New Boston. At present, only the Methodist
church survives to conduct services.
When the town government was formed in 1808, The first meeting
was held at the home of Stephen Hart, where Ethan Green was elected the
first supervisor. An interesting note; although there had been a town clerk
for many years, the first marriage license wasn't issued until l1908. It was
issued by Charles D. Lucas for the marriage of Hattie Edwards to Harry
Post offices were first located at Boynton's Corners, Cronks Corners and
Barnes Corners, which was the last to close; the residents now receiving
their mail rural route from Copenhagen.
As in any period of history, the first settlers in an area are often farmers.
So it was in Pinckney. The economy was agriculturally based (as much of it
is also today) and most everything for a family's use was produced at home.
Before businesses were developed and built within the town, most people
had to travel to Watertown, Copenhagen or Lowville for the things they
couldn't provide for themselves. By 1840, though. businesses had started to
The first Tavern and Hotel was built by Horace Lucas in 1846. It was
located in Barnes Comers on South Main St. (7x9 Road) Just south of Elisha
Barnes' log cabin on the comer. The first building used as a store in Barnes
Comers was-built in the 1840"s by a Mr. Delano. It Was located where the
cheese factory now stands, but was bought, moved and turned into a store by
Joseph Davis. William Mahar built and conducted, for many years, a store at
New Boston and Amos Stoddard was engaged for many years in the
mercantile business in a store located about 3 1/2 miles from Barnes Corners
on the Copenhagen Road.
Many more stores, shops and businesses opened and closed over the
years. There were general mercantile stores, feed stores, harness shops,
blacksmith shops, a carriage shop, and two more hotels, the Savell House,
built in 1887, (later called the Hotel Curtis and then the Barnes Comer's
Hotel, now closed) and the Central House. The Central House was built in
New Boston in 1888, and operated as a hotel until September 1, 1917 when
it was turned into a store. Also there were a drug store, barber shops,
weavers, dressmakers, milliners (hat makers), grocery stores, a meat store,
cheese factories, a creamery (where the Grange Hall in Barnes Corners now
stands), saw mills, a manufacturer of agricultural implements, a furniture
factory (made and repaired furniture, also made sleighs and skis), a hoop
factory, a printing press, a shingle mill, a grist mill (the grist mill was tater
changed into a potash and cooper factory), a gun shop, an opera house and
poolroom, and even a 10 Cent store. At different times, there were four
doctors who practiced in the town, a watch repair shop, and (for when the
doctors could do no more and your time had run out) undertakers.
The residents of Pinckney were-not without amusements and-pleasures.
The Grange at one time had a ball club that played at several surrounding
communities. Plays, dances and programs of interest were put on by the
Grange. The Churches and Ladies Aid Society held dinners, socials and
bazaars. The schools held field days and dances were held at nearly all the
hotels in town on a weekly basis. Then, for ten years, 1933-1943, Barnes
Comers held a community Old Home- Days that was sponsored by both the
Grange and-the Methodist Church.
History, they say, repeats itself. The Town of Pinckney was settled and
then nearly abandoned. Many businesses that prospered no longer exist.
Today there are few commercial businesses in the town outside of Barnes
Comers. Although these businesses. are concentrated in a small area, they
serve all the residents and also a fluctuating but growing population of
campers, hunters and tourists. Perhaps Pinckney is again being slowly
settled, for oft times they come for the weekend and stay a lifetime.
Sources: History of Lewis County by Franklin B. Hough
History of Lewis County 1880-1965, Edited by G, Byron Bowen
Tyler Notebooks by Ella O. Tyler
Gazetteer& Business Directory of Lewis Co., N.Y. 1872-1873by Child Hamilton
Business Directory of Lewis Co., N.Y 1895-1896 by William Adams
History of the North County, Vol. 1 by Henry F. Landon