02 May 2021

Dexter, New York - Incorporated One Hundred Years 1855-1955

Wasn't really sure where to put this, since it's not related to the rest of my posts. But this will do for now. The book is long out of print and hard to find, so I wanted to make the info available. 

Dexter, New York
Incorporated One Hundred Years

by Marion H. Evans


  1. This text includes only the main text of the book. Sponsor pages, images, maps, etc. are not included. A low-quality scan of the book is available here (scan of what appears to be a copy of a copy) .
  2. I fixed scanning artifacts (although I'm not done proofing), but as a rule did not correct typos in the original text.
  3. I did not take many liberties with formatting, but I did delete the leading space before semi-colons.
  4. Two asterisks (**) denote illegible text.
  5. Words in [brackets] are best guesses about illegible or missing text.

History of Dexter, New York
Compiled by
MARION H. EVANS, Village Historian

Dexter, New York, is located on the north shore of the Black River at the head of Black River Bay on Lake Ontario. It is in the town of Brownville, Jefferson county, 8 miles west of the city of Watertown. The incorporated village limits are roughly rectangular, extending for one mile east to west along the river, and for one-half mile northerly from the river bank. According to the incorporation map it contains nearly four-tenths of a square mile, being 255 and 79/100 acres. The village is situated on a series of river carved terraces which rise from an elevation of 260 feet above sea level at the dam, to almost 400 feet at the water tank on the northern limits of the village. The underlying structure is the limestone common to this region.


A definite date for the settlement of Dexter is not given in old history books, but most sources would indicate that it should be set as 1812. Dexter, which took that name in honor of Simon Newton Dexter, was first known as Fish Island from the island in the river where vast quantities of fish were taken. It was part of the lands of John and Jacob Brown -and was unbroken forest. In 1811, the Browns began the first development by constructing a wooden dam which was swept away by flood. In the spring of 1812, the dam was rebuilt, a saw mill erected, and the first house completed for the first family to settle in the locality, on Fish Island.

The first settlers in Dexter were Jeremiah Winegar and his wife and their three children, the youngest five months old, who came from Brownville. They came so that he might work on the dam and she cooked for the men likewise occupied. They lived at first in a board shanty on the island, until the frame house was completed. When the saw mill was completed and began operation in February, 1813. Mr. Winegar ran it making lumber which was rafted to Sackets Harbor and used in building the barracks.

Jere Winegar had come to Brownville in 1799, at the age of 20, from his birthplace in Herkimer. Leah Burwell was born Aug. 28, 1788 in the Mohawk Valley and came with her family to Brownville in 1799, the year that General Brown began his settlement. They were married in 1803 and their first child, Hannah, was born in 1805; their second, Ann, in 1808 or 1809; their third, Charles, in 1811. They had seven sons and four daughters, all of whom grew up and all married save one, and there are a number of direct descendants of this first family now living in the village. According to family tradition, the Winegar's first grandchild, Lydia, daughter of Jedidiah and Hannah Winegar Corey, was the first girl born, in. 1827, in. Dexter in a log cabin located where "Memorial Field" is now situated. Jere Winegar died in 1865 and Leah, May 30, 1878 when nearly 90. Their gravestone in Dexter Cemetery is marked "First Settlers of Dexter".

Other early settlers in the Dexter area, mentioned in a sketch of Dexter's history written at the time of Mrs. Winegar's death, were David Little who took a contract from the Browns to clear 100 acres along the river and also erected the "red tavern"; Jeremiah Phelps, Shubael Little, a Mr. Rogers, Elam Rockwood, Matthias Howk, Aaron Rhodes, Elijah Emerson, Abram Bull and Amos Wheeler. All these settlers were reported as coming to the area before 1823, the year in which the grist mill was built on Fish Island. Most of them built log houses.

Dexter had a post office established on Jan. 25, 1838, with Joshua Eaton as the first postmaster. A mail route from Whitesboro, with mail brought by horse-back carrier, was set up for the area in 1810.


On March 1, 1837, a joint stock company termed "The Dexter Village Co." was formed. The Articles of Association filed in the county clerk's office list the stock holders, and the number of shares as : Simon Newton Dexter of Whitesborough (59); Edmund Kirby of Brownville (59); John Bradley of the U. S. Army (59); John Williams of Utica (59); Jacob Brown of Brownville (59; James Watson Williams of Utica 1). Enos Cutler, colonel in army of U. S. (2); Thomas G. Mower, surgeon in the army of the U. S. (1); and Alexander Copley of Lyme (1). The first five named were the first directors of the company for a one-year term from the first Monday of February, 1837. The 300 shares were worth $500 each.

The purpose of the company was that "of improving the Village of Dexter and for laying out same into Village lots for selling the same to actual settlers and such other persons as may wish to make investments in said village". Among the powers of the company: "to make such improvements by lay-ing out streets and avenues and by repairing buildings, mills and darns as they shall deem expedient".

Description of the land included 249 acres on the south side of the river, in the town of Hounsfield and "about 800 acres in 37th, 38th, and 39th west ranges of great lot 5 of Macombs purchase called Beaverland,--together with one-half of the water of Black River to be used on north side of said river at the Fish Island dam--water subject to rights of Solon Stone for clothiers establishment and subject also to the rights of the Black River Navigation Co.".

"In 1840 the company commenced making dividends of the property and on the 6th of Jan., 1846, it was finally dissolved", according to Hough's History of Jefferson County. All unsold property of the company on that date, went to Enos T. Throop Martin, of Utica for $5,012. The locality had grown from a settlement of about a dozen houses in 1837 to a community of over 500 population when the incorporation took place in 1855.


The incorporation papers on file in the county clerk's office include a map and survey certificate made by W. A. Lyttle on Feb. 24, 1855; a census taken by Heman Wood on Mar. 1, 1855 which included 111 names as heads of households and showed a total population within "certain limits" of 528 persons; a petition to incorporate dated April 14, 1855 and signed by 79 men; the order of the Court of Sessions, dated April 16, 1855 for an election to vote on the incorporation; and a notice that at an election at the home of John E. Shelly on-May 8, 1855 from 10 A. M. to 4 P. M. 34 votes were cast for and none against incorporation. The election inspectors were John T. Wood, William H. Brown and Dr. Edward Sill.

The first trustees elected were Sylvester Reed, Franklin J. Hall, John T. Wood, William V. Morgan, and James A. Bell. The trustees chose one of their own number by ballot to be president of the village for a year, and Sylvester Reed was chosen as the first one for the post.

The village government was first organized to include five trustees, three assessors, three street commissioners, a treasurer, a collector, clerk, and pound master. The original minute book, after the incorporation, records the first business to concern the electors of the village in 1855 was the construction of stone or plank sidewalks and cross walks, and providing a pound for straying animals, such as cattle and geese. It would appear that the job of street commissioner was somewhat rugged in the beginning, judging from the frequency of resignations from the position.

The election system changed in 1898, and the president was elected by the public, as well as the trustees, collector, and treasurer. However, the clerk was appointed by the board, instead of being elected as previously. William Henry Winn spanned the period of transition, being first elected clerk in March 1873 and serving continuously until his death March 20, 1902. The first publicly elected president was Gaylord S. Casler.


The first industries in the community were developed to meet the natural demands of a pioneer settlement and to utilize the natural resources. A sawmill, belonging to the Browns, the first industrial building erected on Fish Island, began operations in 1813. Although most of the first houses in Dexter were of logs, several of the early ones were frame and, of course, demand for lumber and saw mill products continued for many years.

As in many other early settlements, a grist mill was needed and one was built by John E. Brown. The site of the first grist mill is undoubtedly at the south end of the short dam, over the north branch of Black River, now occupied by the ruins of the Warren Parchmen Co. mill. On May 15, 1855, Luther D. Hurd of Holley and Henry H. Hurd of Utica bought the property for $7,000 from John and Ann Harris. Sometime in the 1860's the mill burned.

Another form of early industry was the woolen business. Edgar C. Emerson's "History of Jefferson County", 1898, contains reference to a wool carding mill having been built "about or before 1830 by Solon Stone. This was the first utilized water power in the village". A clipping from the Vernon, Michigan "Advocate", dated July 31, 1903, tells of Solon Stone's death at the age of 102. It relates that "in 1826, Solon Stone and his father bought a cotton mill at 'Sackets Harbor, but during the same year they. sold the cotton machinery and put a woolen mill in its place. The next year the father died and Solon moved the machinery to Dexter, where he set up a woolen factory which he operated until 1850." The site of this mill was at the west end of Lock Street. Later, Nutting and Company conducted a business on this site and in another shop on the Hounsfield side, doing wool carding and manufacturing cloth, flannel and blankets.

Jesse Babcock moved to Dexter in 1835, according to his obituary notice in 1885, and "with Davis & Poole built and operated a linseed oil mill but the hard times of1837-8 forced them to abandon the manufacture of oil, and the building and power were converted into a plaster mill and planing works by Mr. Babcock." According to old village assessment rolls of 1859 through 1864, Babcock & Morgan ran the plaster mill and a grist mill, and so continued until 1874 when the mill burned. Babcock continued to be active at the plaster mill until 1883.


The first grand scale industrial development began in 1836 and greatly influenced the growth of the villlage. Hough's "History of Jefferson County" 1854 gives 'this description : "On the 7th of November, 1836, the Jefferson Woolen Company was formed with $100,000 capital, in shares of $100. It originally consisted of S. N. Dexter of Whitesboro, John Williams of Utica, Edmund Kirby and John Bradley of Brownville, Rodney Burt and O. V. Brainard of Watertown. The number of stockholders was 59. In 1837 this company built the present extensive woolen factory at a cost, including appendages and machinery, of $140,000; capital paid in $96,000. This enormous expenditure, with the low prices which followed, could not be sustained, and in January 1842, the company failed with liabilities exceeding assets of $33,000. The property was sold and bid off by a new company, styled the Jefferson Manufacturing Co. formed in February 1842, with capital of $50,000 which is still in operation. The main building is of stone, 50 x 170 feet, and four stories high, besides attic and easement, and is stocked with seven sets of cards and a proportionate amount of machinery. The building is of sufficient capacity to accommodate ten sets. It makes from 7,000 to 8,000 yards per month, and has been for a year or two run on contract. It employs about 75 hands, and since the beginning has been principally employed in making broadcloths and cassimeres." A number of young girls and women were among the employes in the early years.

The Jefferson Manufacturing Co. sold the mill property to Thomas H. Maghee of New York on Nov 5, 1853 or $25,000 and $12,280 unpaid on a $30,000 mortgage held by Seth Grosvenor of New York. On March 8, 1884, John H. Maghee, executor of T. H. Maghee's will, sold the property (long idle) for $6,000 to Talcott H. Camp of Watertown.

A newspaper clipping of about 1868 describes the mill, then known as Ontario Woolen Mills with Franklin J. Hall as agent, as follows; "The greatest institution of Dexter is of course the Woolen Factory, which is claimed to be the most complete in the state. This immense factory which was built and fitted up in 1837 at a cost of $140,000 has been added to considerably. A change has recently taken place in the stockholders and management of it, and it now is doing a larger business than ever. I was kindly shown over the Factory by its manager, Mr. **llingham. The building or buildings are divided to three mills, in which are employed 145 hands. Its main power is from a 150 horse power Jonval Turbine Water Wheel and two others of 50 horse each which drive 4 fulling mills, 2 washing mills, a soaking machine, 2 Hydro-extractors, a bluing apparatus, 3 gigs, 40 looms, 2 warpers, 20 spinning machines, 12 spinning jacks and 2 mules. These "mules" were the first ever introduced into America. They were brought from Scotland at great ex-pense, but were thrust aside after awhile and again are put into use giving great satisfaction. The business now going is entirely blanket making, and these are being manufactured at the rate of 150,000 a year."


Establishments for woodturning and manufacturing, with the saw mills, were the main business concerns of the village for many years. For the twenty years after the closing of the woolen mill in 1869, they provided the chief source of employment in the village. Emerson's history lists "James T. Wood and sons, Gilman, Charles and Ira.;, Keyes & Hungerford; Thurman, Gunn & Co.; Kirby & Loomis; John Bradley; Joseph Huntington; and Potter & Hammond all engaged in lumber business and were important actors in the early history of the village." Patter & Hammond had a shop for manufacturing hubs,. spokes and wagon material. Deacon Joseph Huntington, beginning in 1861, had a sash and blind factory and also made cheese boxes on the site of the old sawmill of Kirby & Loomis. James Frost's sawmill, producing principally fish staves, shingles and lath, was opened in 1860.

Henry Binninger's shop was first listed on village assessment rolls in 1863. His business developed into a large enterprise in the manufacture-of doors, sash and window blinds, and he also had a shingle mill on Fish Island producing more than 4,000,000 shingles a year. He and Thomas J. Strainge formed a partnership and the firm was prominent in the village for a number of years. Mr. Strainge was an undertaker for many years until he sold to A. B. Chidester in 1911, and caskets were made at the company's factory. Both men had their early homes on Fish Island, later building larger, new ones on William St. and Factory St.

Edgar Leonard, who was engaged in wool carding business until 1860, then joined his father-in-law, Joseph Huntington, in the lumber business until 1863. He re-entered the business in 1870, bought it in 1874. A fire in that year destroyed the saw-mill and cheese box factory, as well as Babcock & Peck's grist mill and plaster mill. He built the large factory at the north end of the short dam. In 1882, the firm of Leonard, Gilmore & Co. was formed with his son-in-law, James A. Gilmore, and sons, George and William. Upon the death of George Leonard in 1895, the firm was incorporated as Leonard-Gilmore & Co. and continued so until 1906. In 1886 the company had bought the old woolen mill property for $8,000 from T. H. Camp and sold it to Charles Campbell that year and began building houses on their lots. Many of the homes in the village were built by Leonard and Gilmore.

The last of the woodworking plants was the Dexter Woodworking & Builders Supply Co., incorporated in 1906 with capital of $8,000, under directorship of William E. Leonard, Charles S. Moyer, B. W. Alverson and B. B Fairchild. The plant was located in the building, near the New York Central freight station, south of William St., now owned by I. R. Poole. The company had an unusually large outfit of moulding knives both old and modern pat-. terns. The firm's assets were sold at auction in 1941 to settle the estate of Charles S. Moyer.


The era of the pulp and paper mills in Dexter brought the period of greatest activity and prosperity to the village. Reputedly the first pulp made in the Dexter area was on June 23, 1888 at the small Jones and Hunter groundwood pulp mill which was at the south end of the main dam in the Town of Hounsfield.

On June 24, 1886, Dr. Charles Campbell of New York bought from the Leonard & Gilmore Co. the long idle woolen mill for $15,000. Campbell sold the looms and machinery of the woolen company for $5,000. On October 8, 1887, the Dexter Sulphite Pulp & Paper Company was incorporated with. $100,000 capital, by Dr. Campbell, E. Frederick Bermingham and James Outterson, to produce pulp -hv the Mitscherlich chemical process. The company was one of the first in this country to make chemical pulp and had a wide reputation for its product.

Two concrete wings were added to the original four story stone building; the old dye house was raised and became the digester room. The dams were rebuilt in 1888, and in 1899 the canal was extensively rebuilt and enlarged. A saw mill, boiler house and Jenssen acid towers were added. An explosion of a digester in January, 1903 resulted in the death of George Hunter and extensive damage which made rebuilding necessary before resuming operations. A ground wood mill was built on the Leonard & Gilmore pulp mill site in 1907.

About 1908 the company bought the Howland Bag & Paper Co. at North Tonawanda and moved the machinery to Dexter. Bag machines were made here by 20 to 25 skilled machinists. A number of women were employed in the bag factory which produced about 4,000,000 bags of different kinds daily. This enterprise was discontinued in 1938. Dr. Campbell's two sons, Dr. James E. and Dr. Clarence W., owned and managed the mill before 1920 when it was sold to William Randolph Hearst, They continued to manage it for him. For a few years the company was in receivership prior to March, 1942, when K. C. Irving of St. John, New Brunswick bought it. A new steam turbine plant was built in 1948 and during World War II the company did a profitable business. The mill ceased ,merations on May 30, 1953 and has been idle since that time.

The Frontenac Paper Co. was incorporated Sept. 12, 1889 with $60,000 capital, by Dr. Charles Campbell. F. W. Spicer, Herbert S. Rice and James Outterson. Richard Marty of Watertown was presi-dent; Fremont W. Spicer of Dexter, vice-president and general manager; L. S. Lansing of Watertown. secretary-treasurer. A mill was built on the site of the first saw mill on Fish Island at the north end of the main dam. The first paper was made in March 1890. Sometime before 1899, the Frontenac Paper Co. leased the groundwood pulp mills of Jones & Hunter and the Leonard-Gilmore Co., thus controlling the pulp making plants with the exception of the three-grinder plant of the 'St. Lawrence mill.

The walls of the first Frontenac mill building were made almost completely of glass, but after the Dexter Sulphite Co. took over the interests, a stone building was erected in 1900-1901. The mill was operated by the Sulphite Co. until it was sold on Dec. 31, 1947 to I. Lawrence LeSavoy of New York. He formed the Frontenac Paper Corp. and operated the mill until July, 1949, when it closed. The building was almost completely destroyed by a $100,000 fire on May 17, 1950. Abe Cooper of Watertown later bought the property and now it is owned by Raymond Frank, who has a small generator plant near the dam amidst the ruins.

Henry Binninger rebuilt the Binninger &. Strainge shingle mill property on the western end of Fish Island in 1888. On October 9, 1889, he, with Charles M. Otis, Joseph S. Greene, Charles L. Parmelee, and J. Atwell, Jr. of Watertown, incorporated the St. Lawrence. Paper Co. with capital of $50,000. The officers were Binninger, president; Otis, vice-president; and Greene, secretary-treasurer. The company failed in 1898 and Darwin B. Gotham bought it at a referee's sale. It was leased to the Sulphite for two years. In 1903, it was sold by Gotham to William P. Herring of Watertown and in 1905 he passed title to the Jefferson Power Co. of Wilna.

On October 11, 1911, the Warren Parchment Co. bought the St. Lawrence mill property after it had been idle for a time and began operations, making grease-proof paper. In 1931, the Ron-Noc-O Paper Corp. of New York took the mill, but after two years, the title went back to J. J. Warren, who in 1936 sold it to Robert E. Read, Inc. Mr. Read designed a unique machine to manufacture paper products directly from pulp, the machine occupy. ing the, full three and one-half stories of the building. The mill manufactured containers, plates, dishes and other products from molded wood pulp and other fibers. This company went through bankruptcy in 1942, and the Water Falls Paper Mills of Maine acquired title which they sold in 1946 to the Dexter Sulphite Pulp and Paper Co. Abe Cooper bought it when he took the Frontenac ruins.

The only industrial property active at present is the Dexter Hydro-Electric Corp. owned by Raymond B. Frank, Hydraulic Engineer of Limerick. He now owns the Frontenac and St. Lawrence mill sites and the former ground wood mill building of the Sulphite which had been converted to a power plant. The power generated is sold to Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.


During the development of the village numerous smaller business establishments flourished as there was demand for their services and products. William Ross had a carriage shop on Lock St.; Thomas Hunter's harness shop was on a site near the Dexter Hotel. Solomon Moyer, William Wright, Martin Williams, Abner Reeves ran the early blacksmith and wagon shops in various locations.

Dexter's location on the river, near Black River Bay, brought the natural sequence of boat building and boat liveries, fishing, boating and sum-trier resort trade. Details of boat building in Dexter are few, but old news items give some information. In Nov., 1874, "the schooner Augustus Ford of Oswego, built at Dexter in 1853," was wrecked in a gale at Port Maitland, Ontario. A. M. Baldwin had a boat works for a number of years in the 80's and 90's, building many skiffs and small pleasure boats.

The Brownville Steamboat Company, incorporated in 1891, operated a boat for freight and passenger traffic between Brownville and Dexter for about three years. Older residents remember the large launches which were well patronized, particularly before the advent of the trolleys in 1899, as transportation to Brownville and later for pleasure cruises. Some of the boats recalled were: Pastime, which made her first voyage on May 24, 1892; Grape Island Belle, Bass Island Belle, Winona and Konoskioni. Boat excursions on the Bay and outings at Camp Foster and Bailey's Park down the river brought large crowds and flourishing trade to the locality.


One of the first successful merchants was James Bell who rose to a place of prominence in the state as well as in the village. He built a large storehouse on Water St. on what is now Sulphite property and operated a store there. Later he moved the store to the little building at the southeast corner of Lakeview Dr. and Liberty St. "Family Grocery" can be seen faintly on a clapboard of the building, now a dwelling. In April, 1852, he bought the site at the northeast corner of Canal and William St. from Lawrence Hayes for $800 and erected a brick store. This property was acquired on March 5, 1870 for $3,000 by 0. M. and G. W.Wood, who ran a successful business for many years. Their sign is still to be ,seen on the south side of the structure.

Early assessment rolls, directories and news-paper clippings give the names of some of the merchants during the 1800's. F. W. Winn & J. B. Kimball, general store; Josiah A. McWayne, N. P. Gould, William Houghton, Edwin S. Clark & Wallace Hill, drygoods and general merchandise; John T. Wood and Heman F. Wood, boots, shoes, groceries and drugs, hides and skins, and pork packers; J. H. Roseboom, G. S. Casler, tin & stove shops and hardware; Jacob Bass, furniture and butcher; Moyer & Yerrington, butchers; J. H. Stokes, 0. L. Kane, G. H Kimball, Farnham Corey, Robert Thompson, boot and shoe makers.


Taverns existed in Dexter from the earliest days as in most pioneer communities. The first tavern, referred to as the "Old Red Tavern" was erected by David Little, the second settler in the village,. in 1815 or 1816. The site is referred to as being back of the 1878 location of the post office which was in Gayk)rd Casler's tin shop in the W. H. Winn building.

In 1831, M. H. Stafford was operating a tavern "near the locks" which was probably in the same building erected by Little. Other hotel-keeper's names as they appeared on early assessment rolls —were: Peter Wolf, 1860; Jay D. McWayne, 1874; A. **inaca, 1863; Jr. R. Alexander, 1864; Thomas Maldoon, 1865; Elias Smith, 1865; Chas B. Bowers, 1866.

Emerson's history refers to Peleg Mattison as an early hotelkeeper and deeds show he purchased lots 4 and part of 6 on William St. where the post office and Marsaw's store now stand. This hotel burned in 1856.

The northwest corner of Water and Brown Sts. was the site of a succession of hotels. The first was run by J. E. Baker, J. P. Shelley, Henry Craw-ford, A. Vinaca in succession. J. R. Alexander rebuilt a hotel on the site after a fire and this, in turn, was burned. The last and perhaps the most elaborate on the site was built by 'Charles B. Bowers in 1866. A news clipping of about 1868 described it as "one of the largest country hotels in the county. Its frontage is 92 feet, while the rear is 140 feet. Since 1866 several additions have been made, and recently a very extensive hall 36 by 62 feet has been added. This hall which is arched and nicely frescoed will accommodate two hundred couples at once. This is a favorite resort during summer months for fishing parties and pleasure seekers. Mr. Bowers, the agreeable landlord, keeps boats, fishing tackle and all utensils necessary to health and amusement; and as the fish in the river and bay are very plenty, great numbers avail themselves every season of the facilities here to be enjoyed in the piscatorial way". The Bowers House burned in 1874 and no hotel was rebuilt there.

Thomas Maldoon, beginning in the 1860's ran an eating house and billiard saloon in what is now the Dexter Hotel. Others operating a hotel in the same place later included: Matilda Maldoon, Thomas and Mayme Jackson, William Carroll, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Black, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Kitto, and the present proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. James Kirch.

The Underwood House, which stood at the southwest corner of Canal and Lock Sts. was built about 1883 by William H. Underwood and run by him until 1898. After his retirement it had a succession of proprietors, including H. D. Reed, Charles Cummings, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Fagg. In 1913 it had the name Kahuahgo Inn. It was burned in 1933, and razed later.


River traffic being important to the locality, the state legislature authorized construction of locks and canals around the rapids and falls. The Black River Lock and Navigation Company was formed in 1810. Wooden locks were constructed in 1815, large enough only for the passage of Durham boats. About 1828, larger stone locks were built. The one at Dexter ran from a point near the north end of the short bridge along the northerly side of the Leonard-Gilmore property. The Woolen Mill built a long power canal which crosses Canal St. at the business section and runs parallel with Water St. to the mill building.

Since navigation of the river was important to Dexter there was considerable interest in the work at the mouth of the river in keeping an open channel. Appropriations from Congress were made in 1836, 1837 and 1838 for construction of piers on either side of the river in the marsh, and a number of Dexter men were engaged on the project. Much of the material and lumber supplies for the wood-working establishments and for the Sulphite mill were brought up the river on small vessels in the earlier years. The first large digesters for the Sulphite mill were floated along the lakes from Cleve-land and up to the mill site in 1888.

Dexter's location required the erection of bridges for its growth and prosperity, particularly [once] part of the Dexter Village Company's property was on the Hounsfield side. Before 1836, ferry service or a floating bridge were the only means of transportation to Fish Island and across the river. Hough notes that "money was raised for a bridge at Fish Island in Dexter in the years 1835, 1848, 1849 and 1850." The long covered bridge over the main channel was erected in 1848. This and the short covered bridge over the north channel were replaced by steel spans in 1900, at costs of $22,000 and $7,000 respectively. In 1935, the short bridge was replaced by a concrete and steel structure.

Public Services


The village has had planned protection from fire since 1874, when the village board took action after there had been two serious fires that year. There had been an attempt in 1866 to organize for the purchase of a fire engine, but the committee failed to carry through and "all went by default." Following the destruction of the Bower's House in January, 1874, the Village Board appointed a com-mittee to examine the stovepipes and chimneys in the business part of the village. Later in the year, the Leonard pulp mill, Babcock & Peck's grist mill, and several smaller buidings were destroyed in a conflagration on Lock St. On Dec. 29, the village eiectors passed a resolution by a 29 to 23 vote to raise $500 for purchase of a fire engine. On May 5, 1875, a fire engine was delivered from Rumsey & Co. of Seneca Falls, cost $50025. Attempts in August of that year to "raise $100 to purchase lot, $100 to erect engine house, $100 to buy hose" resulted in negative votes.

In December 1876, the Village Board "resolved that George Babcock act as a committee on building house for fire engine, also that the Clerk be hereby instructed to collect amount subscribed for said pur-pose and pay for said house." The house must have been built, for in March, 1879, Joseph Underwood was instructed to to repair it. There was an $8,000 fire on Feb. 10, 1879, which destroyed several blocks on Canal and Water St. "The fire engine was frozen up, which of course was a drawback" the news account stated. On March 18, it was resolved by the Village Board that "Leonard, Whitney & Frost be a committee to see that the Fire Engine is kept in order and organize a fire company."

It was on Nov. 26, 1886, that a meeting was held at the Underwood Hotel to organize a Fire Department. W. H. Underwood was chairman and Dr. Charles Douglass, secretary. Thirty four men turned in their names at that meeting as prospective members, and a committee was appointed to secure more. On Dec. 19, 1886, Winfield Scott Bayley was elected the first chief. The Department was incorporated during 1889 and on March 12, 1890, it became a member of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.

On Feb. 14, 1887, the village electors approved by a 34 to 30 vote the raising by tax of $400 for con-struction of a fire house. In March of that year a lot on Water St. was bought from Mrs. Betsy Bell for $40 and the present building was completed late that year. The building has been used as a meeting hall and numerous village activities have been carried on there through the years. The Department has always been active socially and in area Volunteer Firemen's affairs.

A Ladies' Auxiliary was organized Sept. 9, 1948, to assist in sickness, disaster, legislation, and to aid the firemen as needed. The first officers were Oleta Lamon, chief; Jean Cean, assistant; Mabel Butler, secretary; and Irma Liddy, treasurer. The local Auxiliary is a member of the State Association and of the Jefferson County Auxiliary which was organized at Dexter in November, 1949.


Most modern public utilities and services became available about the turn of the century. Electric power and lighting was available somewhat earlier, however. In December, 1899, G. V. Cornell of Newark, N. J, who was connected with the U. S. Electric Light Company, installed electric light plants in the Sulphite and Frontenac mills. January 17, 1892, "the business section of the village is now lighted by electricity, also several private resi-dences."

A special election in November, 1901, resulted in a vote favorable to taxing to provide the street lights. A franchise was granted on Nov. 30, 1901. A news clipping of Dec. 3, said "The bids for lighting the streets of Dexter by 20 electric arc lights were opened Saturday and the contract awarded to Hunter & Osborne, who will at once begin setting poles and stringing wires. The contract is for five years at $1,000 a year, lights to burn all night." August, 1902, "Hunter & Osborne's electric light plant is a success. The Village is now lighted as well as any city or town in Jefferson Co." The Dexter Electric Light & Power Co. was incorporated in May, 1905, with $100,000 capital by Edward and Catherine Hunter, Celestin and George H. Burns. In 1913, other direct9rs added were J. B. Taylor, C. C. Burns, F. A. Rogers, and 0. A. Kline. The Niagara-Mohawk Power Corp. now serves the village.


A franchise was granted on Feb. 27, 1899 to the Brownville & Dexter Street Railway Co. to extend the electric railway from Brownville to Dexter. The first trip was made with great ceremony on July 5, 1899, and for a number of years there was heavy excursion travel on the line as well as its regular service to residents. The last ride was on March 8, 1931, and since then public transportation to Watertown has been by bus. The Dexter and Northern Railroad provided one passenger train daily from 1909 when the run started, until March 23, 1925, when passenger traffic was discontinued.


There had been telegraph service for a number of years before the advent of telephone service, which may have been around 1901-1902. On Nov. 13, 1901, the Village Board granted the petition of James K. Whittaker of New York City to construct a telephone system. A news clipping of June 4, 1902, stated "the Bell Telephone Co. have a gang of 30 men at work setting new poles through the village," The first phone service was by direct wire from Watertown to O. M. Wood's store.

A franchise was granted Feb. 20, 1908 by the Village Board to H. A. White and. Edward Mullin of Dexter with "the right and privilege of setting and maintaining poles, wires, cables and fixtures for the purpose of conducting a telephone business." The Township Telephone Co. was incorporated iii November 1909 by Wiggins & Clark of Chaumont. The Dexter exchange of this company was first located in Brayton C. Foster's coal office an Water. St. The first regular operater was Mrs. Mayme Jackson who started in 1911 when there were 197 patrons. The location of the office shifted to the Underwood Hotel in 1918 when night service was begun, and in 1933 to its present location at 121 Canal St. The company has continued to expand and on April 16, 1955 the Dexter exchange was converted to a dial system.


Dexter had its own newspaper for 45 years in the "Dexter Free Press", which was founded in 1899 by George W. Hubbs as a monthly paper. In 1900 it was purchased by T. L. James of Syracuse who ran it as a weekly for a brief period before selling it to J. F. Kimball. It was soon resold to Hubbs who formed a partnership with Claude 0. Phelan. The next owner was Fred H. Gee of Syracuse who built in 1906 the three story concrete structure on the north side of William St. across from the Hubbs Block. In 1914 Emerson C. Smith bought the paper and in 1916 the block. The final edition was run off April 26, 1944; the paper having been run for a few months by Smith's sons, following his death in October 1943. Now the community is served by the "Watertown Daily Times", with a Dexter Correspondent.


The First National Bank of Dexter was organized Oct. 19, 1906 with capital stock of $30,000. Austin A. Phelps was elected president at the meeting on Nov. 8, 1906 and James Outterson, vice president and J. W. Northrup, cashier. There were 73 original stockholders for the 300 shares. In December 1934 stock was increased to $50,000. Those who signed the articles of association were Charles Foster, Herbert V. Clark, James A. Gilmore, Gilbert A. Foote, William H. Underwood, James T. Outterson, A. A Phelps, Clarence W. Campbell, De-witt C Middleton, George A. Ruttan and William F. Lee.

Business was conducted in the Eveleigh block on William St. On April 17, 1912 William Underwood sold a 40' x 60' plot at the west corner of Brown and Water •streets for the present site of the cement block structure which was opened for business in 1913.


The municipal water and sewer system was installed in 1926-1927 after authorization for a $150,000 bond issue was approved by a 136 to 105 vote on March 19, 1925, and $5,000 more on March 15, 1927. There had been previous unsuccessful at-tempts to secure approval of a bond issue. A well was drilled on the Zimmerman property, East Grove St. and the main pumping, purification and water softening processes are still conducted there. Further expansion of the water system took place in 1940 when a second well was opened on the Game Farm Road, outside the villlage limits. The reservoir tank is 60 feet high and 30 feet in diameter with a capacity of 317,000 gallons. Located on the former Hilliker Farm property at the highest elevation in the village, it is an airview landmark with the name "Dexter" painted on two sides.


The village has been served by one or more doctors, usually in residence, since about 1836. Probably the first, Dr. William A. Wood, who was born in Vermont in 1805 and studied under Dr. Bates of Brownville, came to Dexter in 1836. He remained until 1844 when he moved to Wisconsin.

Dr. Edward Sill came to Dexter about 1853 and practised here until 1876 when he went to Watertown. Edward Hungerford of railroad fame, native of Dexter, recalls his grandfather as a man well beloved by all whom he served in other roles as well as doctor. Dr. Sill was village tax collector and also served as a deputy sheriff. His home was at the corner of Orchard and William St. where Henry Binninger later built a large house.

Dr. Arthur J. Benedict is mentioned as practising here in 1877. Dr. Charles E. Douglass came in 1877 nad practiced in Dexter until after 1890. He was active in village affairs, particularly the Fire Departmment. Dr. Albert L. Morgan, a Civil War veteran, and an 1873 graduate of the University of Michigan, came to Dexter in 1883. He was also prominent in village affairs, serving as clerk for some years, president of the board of education and health officer for 35 years. He retired in 1927 and died March 29, 1929 aged 83.

Dr. Charles C. K. Phelps opened his practise here in April 1899, but the next year went to Oneida County until 1905 when he moved to Sackets Harbor where he was prominent until his death in 1938. Dr. Gilbert A. Foote practised here for 50 years before his retirement in August 1940. His first office was a small building on Canal St. near the telephone office site. He built the Foote block in 1902. He was a trustee of the village for several terms, health officer for a number of years and was a director of the Dexter bank when it was organized He died August 16, 1941 aged 82.

Dr. Clarence T. Fowler, a 1903 graduate of Dexter High School, practised here from 1928 until his death in 1941 at the age of 58. He was mayor of the village in 1924, school physician for eight years and health officer for a year. Dr. Mark R. Harwood took over Dr. Foote's practise in 1940 and was here until 1941 when Dr. Gustav J. Lowenstein took his place. Dr. Lowenstein went to Rochester in January 1944 and his office in Dexter was taken over by Dr. Samuel Marritt who had assumed Dr. Phelp's practise in Sackets Harbor in 1938. Dr. J. B. Bickel bought Dr. Marrit's practise in June 1946 and maintained an office in Dexter until November of that year.

The only resident physician in the village now is Dr. Harold C. Livington who came to Dexter in November 1947 and in November 1950 opened a new suite of offices on William St. Dr. Bruce D. Babcock established his practise here in 1948 in his glrandparents' old home on 'Canal St. He left in December 1952 for duty in the Air Force and has not yet returned to Dexter. Dr. Alexander R. Penn came in April 1954 to practise with Dr. Livingston and was here until his accidental death in December 1954.


A school was one of the early institutions of the village but it has not been determined exactly when or where the first public school was established. No early records of the school district have been found and deeds are not completely traceable for the first public school buildings. Traditionally, the first schoolhouse was part of what is now the residence of Charles Avery at 128 West Grove St. If the building stood on that site before 1851, it [was on S. Newton Dexter's farm][missing two or three words of text] Dexter sold to Job Hayward for $175 a two acre plot which includes the present Avery and Frank [F.] Smith homes. This was part of the land reserved [with] the farm sold by Mr. Dexter to William Hilliker. Perhaps the school building stood on the "Public Square," designated on the original village map for "religious and educational purposes", and was moved when it was converted to a dwelling.

It is known that from about 1846 to 1869 district 7 schoolhouse was at the northwest corner of Kirby and Liberty streets. It still exists as the main part of the home now owned by Mrs. C. Robert Smith. In 1870 the property was sold to James Bigwood by Edwin S. Clark, Josiah A. McWayne, George H. Rounds, school trustees. The deed reads in part "and is the same lot that has been occupied by said school district No. 7 of the Town of Brownville by district schoolhouse for the past 20 years."

The first brick building was erected in 1869 on the corner of Liberty and West Bradley St. (part of the Public Square) and forms the south east section of the present building. Crowded conditions forced the construction of a large addition to the west side of the building in 1896. On March 9 of that year, the Union Free School was organized and on June 24 was granted membership in the University of the State of New York by the Board of Regents, and an academic department was set up. It was advanced to a high school in 1899.

In 1906 expansion was again necessary and a [brick] high school building was erected to the north of the original building. Continuous growth of the school required further building in 1922 when the two structures were joined and two additional rooms added. In 1940, the shop, shower rooms and extra classrooms were constructed in an addition to the northwest side of the high school building. The latest move in school improvement has been the merging of Dexter Union Free School with Brownville-Glen Park Central district and planning for erection of a new junior-senior high school building of the General Brown Central district.

Burt W. Alverson, who became principal in 1894 and served until 1935, was the school head through its greatest period of development and was largely responsible for its reputation as a fine educational institution. It was during his tenure that the Training Class was organized in 1916 and continued until 1933. Mrs. Alverson, who had joined the faculty as Addie Bigwood in 1896, was the director and teacher of the Training Class. In a one year, post graduate course students earned a teacher's certificate good for three years.

At present the school serves a wide rural area, as well as the village, for most common district schoolhouses have been closed and the pupils are transported by bus to the village. The present enrollment is 416 with a faculty of 20 full time and 3 co-operative plan teachers. Melvin W. Allison is principal.

An Alumni Association was formed in 1900 with 14 members. A banquet for alumni and honoring the graduating class has been held annually during Commencement week since 1902. A unit of Parent-Teacher Association of the State and National Congress was formed in 1945, with Mrs. Garnet Elliott as the first president. The Association initiated several special projects at the school, including dental inspection and care, dancing classes and parties and assembly programs. The members took an active part in the campaign for the school merger and bond votes in 1954.


Dexter's library is a relatively new addition to the educational facilities of the village. It might be said that the Dexter Free Library was "founded with grocery coupons", collected largely through the efforts of Mrs. Ellington Crysler, Mrs. Harry Liddy and Mrs. Leta Williams. An advertising contest in 1924 offered volumes of the classics as prizes. The Herbert V. Clark Co. in Dexter was headquarters for the contest in this area and the store staff helped the women secure the labels and cartons of various grocery products for "ballots" in the contest. Dexter won the second prize of 250 volumes.

An organizational meeting for a library had been held Sept. 7, 1923 at which Frank Morgan was chairman and Mrs. Bert Wood, secretary. The nineteen persons present voted to form the Dexter Free Library Association with membership dues of one dollar. Officers elected on Sept. 25, 1923 were Oscar E. Schultz, president; C. L. Bowman, vice president; Mrs. H. W. Dorr, secretary; Mrs. Leta Williams, treasurer. Trustees were J. A. Lee, 0. E. Schultz; C. L. Bowman, Mrs. Herbert Long, Mrs. Liddy, Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Dorr. In the first year 151 members were enrolled. Later, funds were appropriated by the Village and Town of Brownville and membership dues were discontinued.

Mrs. Liddy was the first librarian, serving until 1928, and was followed by Mrs. Mayme Jackson, Mrs. Dorr, Mrs. Ethel VandeWalker, and Miss Marjorie Barbour, present librarian. The library opened first in the Eveleigh block on William St. and was successively in the Hamburg block; the small building at the rear of the present Markham block; at Mrs. Dorr's home an Water St.; the Chidester block on Lock St.; and its present location in the Smith block on William St. In 1948, the Dexter Library joined the Regional Library Association. The Library was given property on Kirby St. by the Fremont W. Spicer heirs and a building fund is currently being developed.


Religious groups were formed early in the village's history and good records are generally available for each church.


The records indicate that the first society to officially organize and continue without interruption was the Presbyterian. It was formed on July 2, 1839 with the assistance of Rev. Marcus Smith and Rev. Isaac Brayton of Watertown and Rev. Dexter Clary of Brownville. The eighteen persons who started the society were Alfred Knapp, John and Sarah Bell, James A. Bell, John and Harriett Knapp, Persis Wood (first wife of J. A. Bell for 18 days), Oliver D. Freeman, Joseph and Eliza Hungerford Huntington, Johias Hinman, Maria Hinman (married Ora Haskell), Joseph D. Bealls, Mary A. Bealls (married Oliver Freeman), Dr. William A. and Betsy Ann Wood, and Joshua Eaton, Jr. The incorporation of the church took place Sept. 20, 1842, and the trustees elected were Joshua Eaton, Joneph Huntington, David H. Freeman, Harvey Crocker and Levi Smith.

Services were first conducted in the early school house in which the organization took place. After the Episcopal church was built in 1840 the Presbyterians worshipped there for a time; then in a vacant storeroom belonging to J. A. Bell; and later in the "new" school house. Finally a brick church was built in 1849 on the northeast corner of Liberty and West Kirby St.

The building was extensively remodeled and refurnished in 1893 when the old gallery and hall and the high pulpit were removed and the box-seats with doors were replaced by modern pews. On Feb. 20, 1916 as Rev. G. T. Wood was conducting evening service, fire broke through from the furnace in the basement and the building and furnishings were damaged to the extent of $2,500. The building was repaired and the annex at the rear of the church built about the same time.


It is likely that the Episcopal Church had been holding services for some time prior to the meeting at 3 P. M. on July 14, 1839 at which it was incorporated. The meeting, held in the district 7 school house where services had been held, was presided over by Rev. Ferdinand Rogers, the first rector. John Bradley and Gilman Wood were elected wardens, and Edmund Kirby, Jesse Babcock, Ora Haskell, Solon Stone, James A. Bell, Andrew Wood, Israel I. Griffin, and Robert Anderson were vestrymen. The incorporation papers in the name of "The Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen of All Saints Church in Dexter, Jeff. Co." were signed by Rogers, Bell and Bradley. It is certain that All Saints was the first church building in the village. On Aug. 23, 1839 a committee composed of Capt. Bradley, Major Kirby, S. Woad, Andrew Wood and J. A. Bell were authorized to contract for the erection and completion of a building "including the bell and fixtures, stove, furniture, dressing of the pulpit, etc, at a cost not to exceed $2,300." The church is located on West Bradley St. on the southwest corner of the "Public Square". The church was consecrated on Aug. 31, 1840 by Bishop Delaney. Extensive repairs were made in 1874, and again in 1900 the church was rebuilt and refurnished and stained glass windows installed. The original high steeple was toppled in a severe wind storm on Feb. 10, 1939 and the present low, cupola-type steeple surmounted by a cross was set.


The Universalist Church was the second to incorporate and to erect a building, antedating the Presbyterians in both these events. The incorporation of the "First Universalist Society of the Village of Dexter, Jeff. Co." [took place at a meeting] Sept. 5, 1841 at which Ralph Lascell and Thomas Broadbent presided. Notice had been posted "at session room in Dexter where the society statedly meet to worship", but the location of the room is not known. Itinerant preachers of the Black River Association had held services occasionally from 1839 and fairly regularly during the year before incorporation. The first trustees were H. Boughton, minister; Thomas Broadbent, John Maynard, Solon Stone, David Baker, Francis W. Winn and Eleazar Parker. Subscription of funds for building was started and a frame structure seating 250 and costing $1,500 was erected on East Kirby and Brown St. and dedicated on Dec. 22, 1841. The church usually has been served by the pastor of the Universalist Church in Watertown. There was a rededication program on April 2, 1893 following the completion of substantial repairs and improvement of the audience room. In 1901 it was noted that, although a small church organization, the Dexter society held a unique position in having had a proportionately larger number of students at Canton Theological School than other Universalist parishes in the state.


Although it was claimed in 1876 by Rev. Sanger Dewey that "the M. E. Church was the first of any religious denomination in Dexter, a class being organized in 18--, when the place was known as Fish Island", proof is not at hand. The first incorporation of the Dexter Methodist Episcopal Church occured on Aug. 11, 1856. On that date "all male members of full age belonging to said church and congregation and not already incorporated met at the residence of Daniel Cole, where they statedly attend for Divine Worship in the town of Brownville in said county and did elect Henry Bailey, H. J. Harris, David Cole, Richard Edgerly, Rufus Day as trustees of said church congregation to take charge of the estate and property, belonging unto and to transact all affairs relative to the Temporalities thereof, they and their 'successors to be known as 'Trustees of the Dexter Methodist Episcopal Church'.

It would seem that this took place in Limerick for early church records state that "preaching for many years was in Limerick, one and a half miles distant. In 1869 it was restored to Dexter when Rev. S. M. Warn was pastor who occupied the 'Good Templars Hall' as a place of worship" This would have been the second floor of the Bloom building.

A second incorporation took place on Aug. 10, 1874 the papers being signed by Rev. S. F. Danforth and O. L. Kane. The first trustees were Farlin Ball, Henry Binninger and A. T. Knox. Property on West Kirby St. was purchased from Peter LaRock and a church seating 200 was erected in 1874 at a cost of $1,750, which was nearly paid for before dedication and the balance of about $50 in 1876. By 1899, under Rev. F. G. Severance, membership had increased to such an extent that a larger church was deemed necessary. Subscriptions of $2,000 were secured and the new building was dedicated on Nov. 22, 1899. From 1874 to 1912 the pastor served both the Brownville and Dexter charges. Rev. Philip Tonkin came to Dexter as the regular pastor in 1912. When the Pillar Point Methodist Church closed in 1927 many of its members joined Dexter. In 1949 the basement of the church was renovated for class rooms and dining and kitchen facilities at a cost of over $22,000. The new facilities were first used at an anniversary celebration on Nov. 22, 1949.


The youngest religious organization in Dexter is St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church. The church was incorporated March 26, 1906, by Rt. Rev. Henry Gabriels, Bishop of Ogdensburg; Rt. Rev. Joseph H. Conroy, vicar-general; Rev. Joseph Pontur, pastor; and Joseph McNeely and William J. Sloane, trustees. Catholics had been attending mass at Brownville before this date, and were served by the priests of the Brownville church. After the organization of St. Elizabeth, named for Rev. Father Pontur's mother, services were held every other Sunday in Bloom's hall.

A cement block building 50 ft. x 37 ft., with interior finish of steel, seating 150 was constructed on East Bronson at Orchard St., and was dedicated on. March 14, 1909, by Bishop Gabriels. Rev. Father Lehane of Sacred Heart Church of Watertown delivered the sermon, and Rev. Father Pontur celebrated the mass. The priests who served Dexter and Brownville were Rev. Father Pontur and Rev. James J. McGowan. Later, Chaumont and Dexter were served by the same priests, who have been Rev. Father Condon, Rev. Edward Bernier, Rev. Edward Pierce and the present priest, Rev. Edward Burns.


Dexter's cemetery is situated one mile outside the village limits, to the east, on the Game Farm Road. Since the earliest records of the Association were destroyed by fire in 1870, it is not certain when the cemetery was laid out, but the first land was purchased in 1850. Although markers dated as early as 1821 are found in the cemetery, they doubtless were moved from some other cemetery, at a later date. Over a period of years the grounds have been expanded until at present there are about 10 acres.

The first soldiers and sailors monument to be raised in this part of the state was erected in 1865 in the southwest section of the cemetery. One face of the tall marble shaft bears the inscription "This monument is erected by the citizens of Dexter and vicinity to perpetuate the memories of those who sacrificed their lives in defense of our country against the slave-holders' rebellion". The other three faces of the pedestal are filled with the 26 names of the citizens who did not return. A smaller monument in the small park in the center of the village was given by Charles L. Gunn "in remembrance of his comrades of the Civil War". It was unveiled on May 30, 1918 with the Sons of Veterans in charge of the program.

Washington Sargent of Dexter, who was sexton for 18 years before his death in 1918, was active in securing funds by subscription and superintending the erection of the stone vault-chapel near the main, south entrance of the cemetery.


After World War II, Memorial Field was developed through community effort to commemorate the services of all who served the United States in the armed forces at any time. The Village took title to the nine and a half acre plot on West Grove St., near Brainard St., on April 29, 1947 for an athletic field and outdoor recreation center.


Social and fraternal activity was especially vigorous in the village during the last quarter of the 19th and first of the 20th century. The early center of much of this activity was the Opera House near the short bridge. First known as Wood's Opera House, the hall was on the third floor of the building which housed stores on the street level on Canal St. All types of entertainment were offered there and a number of the lodges and patriotic groups held their meetings in the roams. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1894.

The new, Jones Opera House was built in 1900 at a cost of $6,500 and this burned in June 1902. Again rebuilt, it was owned by Mrs. C. E. Jones when it was destroyed by fire on New Year's Eve 1932, and never rebuilt. The Firemen's Hall and Bloom's Hall on Water St., and after their erection at later dates, the Grange Hall and Odd Fellow's Hall, were centers of much community activity.

Early fraternal organizations which have been disbanded for some years included the Julius Broadbent posts of G. A. R. and Sons of Veterans; Sons of Veterans Auxiliary; Red Men, Konoskioni tribe; Degree of Pocahontas, Leahtawanta lodge; Foresters Lodge 490; Maccabees and Lady Maccabees; and the Independent Order of Good Templars, a temperance group.

The oldest of the currently active organizations is Dexter Grange 724, which was started Jan. 30, 1891 with 33 charter members. H. O. Gilmore was master; W. H. Everett, lecturer; Albert Allen, secretary. A hall was built at a cost of $1,369 by Leonard & Gilmore Co. and dedicated Oct. 25, 1894. Total membership is now 186, with 11 golden sheaf members and two with more than 60 years of membership. A Juvenile Grange, first organized in 1936 with Mrs. Oren Banks as first matron, was reorganized in 1954 with Mrs. Leonard Walker as matron and Gary Lidster as master.

Dexter Lodge 767, I. O. O. F. was instituted Dec. 14, 1896 and Frank B. Williams is the only one living of the 74 charter members. The lodge first met at Wood's Opera. House and later at the Grange Hall. The Odd Fellow's Hall was built in 1905 at a cost of $5,000. Rivergate Rebekah Lodge 526 was started May 14, 1914 with Mrs. Gaylord S. Casler as first noble grand.

The Twentieth Century Study Club was started Oct. 7, 1902. when Miss Mabel Strainge was elected president; Addle Bigwood, vice president; Celestine Rounds, secretary; and Mary L. Winn, treasurer. Sixteen charter members signed the club book. The local club had two delegates at Gouverneur on May 21, 1908 when the Northern New York Federation of Women's Clubs was formed. The Study Club joined the federation and Miss Winn was its first treasurer.

Jesse E. Smith Post 583 was the second American Legion unit formed in Jefferson Co. when it was organized in August 1920, with 23 charter members. Sherman Anderson was the first commander and Bert Steele and Willis Bellinger the other officers. The Post purchased the Walter Ayles house in 1944 and dedicated it as a Legion Home on Dec. 6 of that year. The Auxiliary was organized March 15, 1925 with 12 charter members. Mrs. Ross Liddle was the first president.

Dexter Lodge 1072 F, & A. M. was chartered Dec. 24, 1925 with 52 original members. It was instituted May 6, 1926 and Bert B. Fairchild was the [pa]st master; Elon H. Gardner, secretary; and Os[car] E. Shultz, treasurer. The Masons have shared the Odd Fellows Hall and now the Grange Hall for lodge meetings.

The sportsmen incorporated the Dexter Rod and Gun Club on June 26, 1922 with C. D. Babcock, A. E. Emerson and M. S. Maynard as the directors. Their first club house was near Bailey's Park on the south side of the river, after the group was formed about 1915. A club house was built on the Limerick road at a costof $1,900 in 1923.

Home Bureau units have been active for some years in the village. The first Boy Scout troop was started here in 1929 with Ross Liddle as scoutmaster. The Girl Scouts' first troop was organized in 1930 with Miss Blanche Livermore as leader. Both groups have been reorganized several times and at present there are a Boy Scout troop, Cub Scout Pack, and Intermediate Girl Scout troop and a Brownie troop.

Each church has organizations which assist the church and community; Catholic Sodality; Methodist Women's Society of Christian Service, Ever Ready Class, Youth Fellowship, Kum-Join-Us Class, Methodist Men; Presbyterian Ladies Aid, Missionary Society, Church Helpers Class and Youth Fellowship; Episcopal Ladies Auxiliary; Universalist men's Reed Club and Association of Universalist Women. A Couples Club for all the Protestant churches was formed recently.

The Dexter Youth Recreation Committee administers a summer and winter program for all youth, under the direction of the Village Board and with aid from the New York State Youth Commission. A Chamber of Commerce formed a few years ago is not presently active. A new group known as the Dexter Area Industrial Development Association was formed in 1954.


The village has a number of interesting old houses associated with families prominent in Dexter's development. The Jesse Babcock house built in 1832 was a station on the "Underground Railway". One of the two stone houses still standing built about 1839 by Capt. John Bradley, was later occupied by Elisha Parker a village trustee, and then for many years by the William H. Everett family. The other stone house was built about 1850 by the Terentia Edgerly family and was owned for over 50 years by the Northrup sisters. The only brick house was built in 1840 by James A. Bell who served in the state congress from 1859 to 1868 as well as aiding Dexter's developmment.

Three of the old frame houses were the homes of men who came to Dexter to work in the woolen mill and became prominent in village affairs. George W. Walters built the house at 502 Lakeview Dr. in 1848. George H. Rounds, president of the village in 1864, had built his home on West Grove St. in 1851, and it has never been occupied by others than members of the family. Francis W. Winn, long active in village affairs as were his son and daughter, bought his home adjacent to the Babcock house in 1849 from G. H. Rounds who had acquired it in 1844 from Nathan W. Brown.

Although altered when converted to dwellings, two old houses were originally schools. The house at 128 West Grove St., the original school, was visited between 1857 and 1861 by President James Buchanan when he called on his cousin, Mrs. Margaret Buchanan Bell, who then resided there. The second schoolhouse on West Kirby St. was also the Methodist parsonage at one time.

"The Mansion", onetime show place of the village, probably was built for the Woolen Mill owners, but the date has not been determined. Thomas H. Maghee acquired the holdings in 1853. On a map of 1864 a house on the site is labeled as the home of Franklin J. Hall, agent for the Ontario Woolen Mills. It has been included with the mill property in all transfers of title.


It is unfortunate that the limitations of this book prevent the mention of all persons, families, places and events which have contributed to the history of our village. More complete accounts of many items mentioned and those which it has been necessary to omit, lists of village officers and postmasters, and complete histories of most of the organizations have been prepared and are on file in the Dexter Free Library, as supplements to this history.

Appreciation is expressed for the co-operation of all who assisted in any way in the preparation of this book. Family scrapbooks and documents in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Casler, Mrs. Mayme Jackson, Mrs. Tom Jumps, Claude and Fred Maldoon, William Lindsey, Miss Leila Savage, Mrs. Merton Angell and Mrs. Bruce Majo were most helpful. Material was secured from records in the Jefferson County Clerk's office, official village records, the files of the "Watertown Daily Times", and the following "History of Jefferson Co." by F. B. Hough 1854; by L. H. Everts 1878; Haddock 1894; E. C. Emerson 1898; and the "Jefferson Co. Gazeteer" 1890. In Appreciation

The Dexter Centennial Committee wishes to thank all those firms and individuals whose advertisements and contributions have made possible the publication of this book and the celebration of Dexter's one hundredth year as an incorporated village. --

1812—Browns built dam; Winegars first settlers 1813—First sawmill in operation in Feb. 1815—David Little cleared 100 acres, built "Red Tavern" 1816—Wooden locks built 1823—Grist mill built 1827—Solon Stone set up wool carding mill 1828—Stone locks built 1835—Babcock, Davis & Poole linseed oil mill 1836—Jefferson Woolen Co. formed Nov. 7; $500 for bridge; Appropriation for piers in marsh 1837—Dexter Village Co. formed Mar. 7; Building woolen mill 1838—Post office established Jan. 25; Babcock plaster & planing mill; Population 600 1839—Thomas Broadbent started f i r s t loom through which wife drew first thread at Woolen mill; Episcopal & Presbyterian societies started 1840—Woolen Co. failed; Episcopal, first church built 1841—Universalist society formed and church built -1842—Jefferson Mfg. Co. formed in Feb. to run woolen mill 1843—Mrs. Eloise Mills Abbott, wife of Rev. G. S. Abbott, Universalist pastor, held young ladies boarding, school in her home for 3 terms 1844—Liberty (Abolition) party convention held in Dexter 1846—Dexter Village Co. dissolved Jan. 6; Pop. 500-600 1848—Long covered bridge built 1849—Dexter Cemetery Assoc. incorp. Sept. 21; Presbyterian church built 1850—Ship building, steamer "Telegraph", 12 schooner; propellers 1853—"James Wood" and "Clifton" . 1855* Village Incorporation voted May 8; Pap. 528 1861—Dexter said to have sent more volunteers to Civil War than any other village in county 1865—Babcock & Peck grist mill started; Amend incorp. Jan. 28. Soldiers monument in cemetery raised 1866—Bowers House hotel built 168—Brick school built; Julius Broadbent post of G. A. R. formed 1869—Woolen mill closed 1874—Bowers House burned Jan. 7; Leonard's saw-mill & factory, Babcock & Peck's grist & plaster mills burned Nov. 28; Methodist church incorp. and built 1875—Whitney & Francis flour mill built. Fire en-gine bought 1879—Winn, J. T. Wood, Bass and other buildings burned Feb. 10; Fire company authorized 1886—Dr. Charles Campbell bought woolen mill property for $15,000 1887—Dexter Sulphite Co. incorp. Oct. 8; Fire house built 1888—Dams rebuilt; railroad branch built 1889—St. Lawrence & Frontenac mills built; Fire Dept. incorp. 1890—First paper made at Frontenac; steam engine for Fire dept. 1891—Dexter Grange formed 1892—Steamer "Pastime" first trip from Brownville May 24 1894—Wood's Opera House fire; Grange Hall built. 1896—Union Free school, annex built; I. 0. 0. F. formed 1898--Change in village elections; Pop. 800 1899—Trolley service began July 5; "Dexter Free Press" founded; New Methodist church dedicated Nov. 22 1900—Jones Opera House built 1902—Opera House & Randall block fire; Electric street lights 1903—Explosion at Sulphite in Jan., rebuilding of digester plant 1906—St. Elizabeth church formed; Bank organized; High school built; Leonard-Gilmore Co. closed; Dexter Woodworkers incorp. 1908—Howland Bag Mill factory moved here 1909—Catholic church dedicated Mar. 14; Dexter & Northern R. R. started 1913—New bank building opened 1918—Gunn monument dedicated May 30 1920—Wm. R. Hearst bought Sulphite mill; Pop. 1164 1922—Addition to school, two buildings joined 1923—Lawton and Bass blocks burned Jan. 30 1926-1927—Water and sewer system constructed; Pop. 1155 1931—Last trolley ride 1933—Jones Opera House fire, Jan. 1; Underwood House & Foote block damaged 1939—Clark Bros. store fire, Jan. 30 1940—Addition to high school. Pop. 1109 1942—Schreiner grist mill fire, Feb. 17 1944—"Dexter Free Press" discontinued Apr. 26 1950—Frontenac mill burned May 17; Pop. 1038 1954 School merger with Brownville voted May 20 1955—Dial telephone system Apr. 16; Centennial celebration July --