Sandy Creek Historical Stories

Early Sandy Creek Village History

Little remains from the earliest events and habitation in the town. Samuel de Champlain and a band of Hurons landed on the lake shore in 1615, but left after being defeated in battle with the Onondagas. Relics, found near the Lake Ontario shore, are all that remains of an early Indian village in that area.

The early settlement of the town, beginning in 1803, was inhibited by the War of 1812. Sandy Creek’s strategic location halfway between the fort at Oswego and Sacketts Harbor was cause for fear of invasion, driving off established settlers and discouraging new ones.

After the war, settlement by pioneers from New England increased. Lumbering and potash production were the first industries, aided by water powered sawmills on Little Sandy Creek. As the forests were cleared, the topography and fertile soils proved ideal for dairy farming and the cultivation of hay, corn, potatoes and fruits.

By 1853 the village of Sandy Creek had fifty dwellings, five general stores, four blacksmith shops, three shoe shops, two harness shops, two carriage shops and a hotel. It also had two tanneries, a grist mill, a saw mill and three churches.

Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

(NOTE: Today’s Sackets Harbor used to be spelled as  Sacketts Harbor.)

California Block

This photo is quite interesting and is probably the earliest view of the California Block in the history archives. Years ago I came across this article in Sketches dated May 18, 1938 and pretty much forgot about it until I began research for the Sandy Creek Village book.

“When California Hall was dedicated in 1854” M. H. Thomas is named as proprietor of California Hall where dances were held. A ticket held by Mrs. Cora Thomas advertised the dedication ball, the reader being “respectfully invited to attend a Dedication Party at the California Hall in Washingtonville, on Friday, October 13, 1854 at 5 o’clock P. M. supper at the Hotel of M. H. Thomas. Tickets $2.00. Music by the Watertown Sax Horn Band. This is a new room and 60 couples or 15 cotillions can dance at a time.”

California Hall was located on the third floor of the California block, built in the summer of 1854 by Minot Pruyn at a cost of about $7,000 at the then low price of labor and building materials, and its extreme height and size for the times caused people to come from miles around to inspect it during construction and after it was finished, and so the dedication ball, even at $2.00 per couple, was doubtless well attended and it seem safe to believe Mr. Thomas’ statement that 60 couples or 15 cotillions could dance there at one time had a chance to be tested.

The California Block received its name from the fact that the money with which it was built came from California by the builder who was what is known as one of the old Forty-Niners.

The block had many times been threatened by fire during its years, including small fires from defective chimneys at various times and the burning of nearby buildings such as the P. D. Clark Hotel, the Seeley corner, Bulkley block, Scripture barns and several minor fires. Never did the gong blow or the fire bells ring but what it was expected it must be the California Block, F. N. Sargent recalled, and the end finally came on January 9, 1912.

Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

Ainsworth Library

Hon. Danforth E. Ainsworth grew up in this area and married Annie Porter in 1874. They settled in this community where he began his law practice. After leaving Sandy Creek they lived in Albany for many years where he was a member of the State Assembly, the State of Education Department, the State Attorney General’s office and later in private law practice. Because both of the Ainsworth’s were civic minded and generous they planned a memorial, a library in their former home town.

Mrs. Ainsworth died suddenly April 14, 1927 and her husband then outlined his plan to the townsmen of Sandy Creek. A special election was held and passed easily. Work on
the colonial brick building began in the Village Park. Construction was well under way when Ainsworth died on October 25, 1927 at his home in Albany. Exactly one year later October 25, 1928 the library was opened and formally dedicated.

 The Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Library is located at 6064 South Main Street, PO Box 69, Sandy Creek, NY 13145.

Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

Corse Press, Sandy Creek News, Holstein-Friesian World

The first newspaper was published by F. E. Merritt in December, 1862, called Sandy Creek Times. Upon the removal of the editor in 1864 to Gouverneur, the paper was discontinued. One year later a job printing office was opened by Edwin Soule, who, after conducting the business for six years became associated with Alvara F. Goodenough as partner. The first number of the Sandy Creek News was published by the new firm April 1871. In six months thereafter, Goodenough sold his interest to Henry Soule, father of Edwin, the firm becoming known as Henry Soule and Son. After six years of publishing it was bought by F. E. Mungor and C. V. Washburn, and later by Mungor alone.

On January 8, 1885, F. Dudley Corse became editor and proprietor. The business increased a hundred fold, having modern facilities that compared with printing establishments in the cities.

The Holstein-Friesian World was also printed by the Corse Press, with M. S. Pre

scott, Editor. It had a large circulation and was considered one of the best publications of its kind in the United States. The Corse Press was synonymous with efficiency, good workmanship and economy.

Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

Colonel Thomas Meacham

Who was Colonel Thomas Standish Meacham? His parents were Isaac and Lucy (Standish) Meacham. His brothers John and Simon were among the first pioneers to the wilderness that was to become the Town of Sandy Creek. The title “Colonel” probably came from his drilling of troops on the village green. Colonel Meacham was elected as an assessor at the first town meeting for the Town of Sandy Creek in 1825 and later served as Associate Judge of Common Pleas for Oswego County from 1841-1845. Meacham is best known for the “Big Cheese” that was sent to President Andrew Jackson in 1835. 
 
Colonel Meacham’s farm was on the Salt Road, about a mile from the Richland line in the Town of Sandy Creek. The buildings and dairy were considered the most pretentious and extensive in the township. The milk from this dairy was converted into cheese in his own factory.
 
Early in 1835 he had an idea that would bring fame to himself, the town and state in which he lived. His idea was to make the largest cheese ever produced in the state and send it to President Andrew Jackson. His plans were set in motion and by September of that year the preparations began. He hired a carpenter to build a special structure, containing a frame, hoops, and press several feet in diameter. The frame was lined with special cheese-cloth and for days the curd made from the milk on his 150 cow dairy farm was put into this frame. Each day the whey was squeezed out and the end product weighed 1,400 pounds. The cheese was boxed, sealed and ready for delivery to President Jackson in Washington.
 
With a flare for the dramatic, he selected a large wagon which he had brightly painted and selected a team of forty-eight gray horses. The local residents joined the procession the day it started on its eventful journey. The procession reached Port Ontario by way of Pulaski and on November 15, 1835 it was loaded on a sailing vessel. As the Colonel stood on deck, a band played and cannons were fired. The trip to Washington began by way of Oswego, Syracuse, Albany and New York and the enthusiasm did not wane along the route. In due time it reached the Capital and was formally presented to the President of the United States in the name of the “Governor and the people of the State of New York and the Town of Sandy Creek.”
                                                                          
The “Big Cheese” was left in tact until February 22, 1836, when the President issued an invitation to all the people of the capital to “eat cheese.”
 
The Mark Twain of that day summoned his humor and wit to describe the occasion, published in a Washington newspaper: “This was Washington ’s Birthday and the President, the departments, the Senate, and we the people, have celebrated by eating the big cheese. The President’s house was thrown open, the multitude swarmed in. The Senate of the United States adjourned. The representatives of the various departments turned out. Representatives in swarms left the Capital…all for the purpose of eating cheese. Mr. Webster was here to eat cheese. Mr. Woodbury, Mr. Dickerson, Colonel Benton and the gallant Colonel Trowbridge were eating cheese. The court, the fashion, the beauty of Washington, were all eating cheese. Officers in Washington, foreign representatives in stars and garters; gay, gorgeous, joyous and dashing women, in all the pride and panoply and pomp of wealth, were eating cheese. Cheese…cheese…cheese…was on everybody’s lips and in everybody’s mouth. All you heard was cheese. All you saw was cheese. All you smelt was cheese. It was cheese, cheese, cheese. Streams of cheese were going up the avenue in everybody’s fists. Balls of cheese were in hundreds of pockets. Every handkerchief smelt of cheese. The whole atmosphere for a half a mile was infected and reeked of cheese.”
 
According to old account books kept by the Colonel and found many years later, the cost of making and delivering the cheese was $1200. Four more large cheeses, each of 700 pounds were manufactured and delivered to Vice-President Van Buren, Governor Marcy and the Mayors of New York City and Rochester.
 
This story can be found in a book written by Hayes Johnson, “The Working White House.”

Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

Map of Washingtonville (Sandy Creek)

Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

Sandy Creek Wood Manufacturing Company

   Among the older residents, the tannery, established by John B, Smith in 1826, destroyed by fire in 1883, which involved a loss of $150,000, is well remembered.  The tannery furnished employment to a large number of men, and it was an irreparable loss to the community when its operation ceased.  Upon the site of the tannery, buildings were erected by the Sandy Creek Wood Manufacturing Company, Ltd., for the manufacture of pie plates, hardwood veneer and butter dishes.  It commenced business Oct. 1, 1884.  Upon the death of W. P. Sandford its general manager, the buildings were dismantled and erased with nothing as a reminder of its tall smoke stack, revolving machinery and busy workers, save rein and desolation. The picture shows the wooden plates. (was located behind Sandy Creek Diner on North Main Street)

Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

Sandy Creek Fair

Oren Earl began the Sandy Creek Fair in 1857 as an agricultural fair to bring people together in the areas of Sandy Creek, Richland, Orwell, and Boylston. The fair was much like today’s fair with rides, judging of farm animals, 4-H demonstrations, quilt competitions, and history displays. In 1888 there was a balloon ascension and in 1995, the fair had an elephant ride. Other entertainment included music, baby contest, talent show, and games for children such as pie eating contests. There was a demolition derby and tractor pulls. There have even been three weddings at the fair!

The image at top shows the Sandy Creek Fair back entrance, on Franklin Street. View map of the area. This is near where the historical societies display their artifacts.

 Oren Earl was the founder of the Sandy Creek Fair.

Balloon ascension at the Sandy Creek Fair.


Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian

BLOUNT LUMBER COMPANY OF LACONA

   The Blount Lumber Company of Lacona (1894-1993) was one of the oldest companies in this part of the state. It was established in 1894 by George R. Blount and his brother Andy. At that time the sawmills were in the woods and shipped lumber to Lacona by wagon and sleigh. 
The company produced flush doors, window and aluminum storm doors and kitchen countertops. They also shipped other items such as pine moldings, wood window units, steel doors, kitchen cabinets and builders hardware which had many brand names.

(Photo is the Blount Log Train that lumber was shipped from the woods to the Blount Lumber Company.)
Submitted by: Charlene Cole, Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian)