Parishville survives fires, ice storm to celebrate 200th year
Saturday, July 26, 2014 - 8:24 am

By MATT LINDSEY

PARISHVILLE – Having survived numerous destructive fires and the ice storm of 1998, Parishville is celebrating its 200 years of history with a bicentennial celebration continuing on Saturday and Sunday.

Parishville was once inhabited by the Mohawk Indian Tribe. The state made a treaty with the Mohawk Indians on March 29, 1791, in which they surrendered the title to their lands. The lands were put up for sale according to an act of the legislature with the principle purchaser being Alexander Macomb.

The land was eventually sold to David Parish Dec. 2, 1810.

“David Parish was of English descent but was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1778. It is likely that his fortune can be credited to his father, although he and much of his family were quite successful in commerce and banking,” says Parishville Historian Joe McGill.

He came to America in the early 1800's with the intention of land speculation. After the purchase of a 200,000 acre tract of wilderness in Northern New York State in 1808, a town would soon be formed and eventually given the name of Parishville, according to McGill.

According to records, there is a possibility that the Russell Turnpike had already been cut and that a road or path was connected with it. In 1810, workers enlarged this path into a road wide enough to permit horses and wagons for hauling building materials. In the meantime, the town had been surveyed and cut into lots.

The first settler was Luke Brown.

“Brown and several others came from Springfield, Vermont to work on the above mentioned road. Parish had offered him a substantial piece of land at a very low price for the purpose of settling and farming and he thus became Parishville's first settler,” McGill said.

In March, 1811, he brought his family to the farm, which is now owned by Gary and Jane Snell, located on State Highway 72.

The following March, the first child was born and named Luke Parish Brown. Parish gave the child 50 acres of land for his name.

The Township of Parishville was formed March 18, 1814.

Parishville once had 14 mills located by the Gorge in the hamlet of Parishville and several others outside but still in the township. The industrial era lasted only about 35 years.

The first of the seven destructive fires occurred in 1854 and resulted in the destruction of the Academy (school), the Congregational Church and the Baptist Church, as well as several sheds, fences and a small house, all located on the west side of the river, McGill says.

“This fire was due to a very dry spring season coupled with spreading of fires that had been intentionally set as a means of clearing land. The Academy and churches were not rebuilt,” McGill said.

The Parish Tavern burned in 1875.

“Built in 1813 by agents of David Parish, it was a favorite stopping place on the route from Ogdensburg to Plattsburgh. The tavern was never rebuilt,” McGill said.

On July 20, 1897, over 17 buildings, mostly in the business section of town, were badly damaged or destroyed by fire.

“The only means of fighting fires consisted of a bucket brigade and a small pump owned by local businessman S.L. Clark. The business section was eventually rebuilt,” McGill said.

The fire of December 10, 1910 destroyed several stores and businesses. The cause of this fire appeared to be an overheated chimney at Newton & Gilmore's store. Stores were once again rebuilt, McGills says.

The fire of December 2, 1912 broke out in the barns of the Eagle House Hotel.

“The blaze spread to the hotel, which was completely destroyed, as was C. S. Adams' General Store, D.S. Tupper's Store, W.H. Hatch's Harness Shop, E.P. Collins' Jewelry Store, J.J. Campbell's Grocery Store and several homes, barns and out-buildings. Businesses were rebuilt once again,” McGill says.

The following year, on April 18, 1913, a fire destroyed a sawmill and a planing mill belonging to Mr. Pliny J. Clark.

“Mr. Clark's home is the building that is now used as the Parishville Museum,” McGill says.

On March 27, 1923, an overheated pipe in the attic of a home on Catherine Street caused a fire that spread and destroyed several businesses and six homes.

“Over the years, various businesses and some companies of volunteers operated small capacity water tanks mounted on hand carts, but it was not until 1934 after the high school burned down that town board appointed a group of five local men as fire commissioners to organize an official fire department,” McGill says.

At one time, there was a small village school plus sixteen common, one-room, schoolhouses throughout various sections of Parishville.

“It wasn't until 1942 that centralization went into effect, and most of these smaller schools, including those in Hopkinton, combined to form the present day PHCS, consisting of grade levels K – 12,” McGill said.

The 1950s saw several organizations form including fire department ladies auxiliary, historical association and the recreational town park and beach.

A major construction project to expand the high school was completed in August of 1968.

Dr. Max Thayer, Parishville’s last town physician, announced his retirement in 1988.

Most of St. Lawrence County was devastated by an ice storm in 1998, including Parishville.

The effects of the ice storm lasted from January 4 through 24 causing power outages for residents that lasted about two to three weeks for some.

The high school baseball team won the Class D State Championship in June of 2001 by defeating Union-Endicott by a score of 11-9. The team finished the season with a record of 23-3. Star pitcher Aaron Zellweger was named New York State Class D Player of Year.

In 2001, the Parishville Amvets Post 265 was organized.

The town has an active fire department, ladies auxiliary, emergency squad and dive team. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are still active too, according to the towns website.

The town recently built a new Parishville Highway Department building on Rutman Road.

Businesses currently in Parishville include the Kunoco Food Mart, 1721 State Hwy. 72a, which offers gas, food and convenience items.

There is also the SunFeather Soap Factory Outlet and Roadside Market which sells an assortment of gifts made on side and other local and New York State made items.

High Peaks Winery is located at 2442 State Highway 72 and produces a variety of wines ranging from dry to sweet onsite. Products can be found in liquor stores all over the county as well as in Franklin County, Watertown and Lake Placid.

In September 2008 Riverwalk Park was constructed in downtown Parishville and includes a gazebo which is located across the town hall on Catherine Street.

Historical landmarks in Parishville include its first road, which is marked at Safford’s Corners on State Highway 72. The road was originally called Luke Brown Road. The home of Brown, Parishville’s first home, is located on State Highway 72.

The town’s first bridge is located next to the Old Gorge Bridge and was built in 1809.

The first church in the town stood at the corner of State Highway 72 and Chapel Hill Road. It was moved to the central community in 1846.

The old Parish Tavern was built in 1815 next to the Main Street Bridge on State Highway 72 but burned in 1875.

Parishville will celebrate their bicentennial with a parade, history presentations, competitions and activities for kids throughout the town July 25-27.