Excerpts used with permission from "St. Lawrence County Almanac," Vol. 1, by Bob LaRue.

A Brief History of Norfolk

"Before the town of Norfolk was formed and settled in the early 1800's, the Indians called it "new village."  At the time, most of Norfolk was inhabited by migrant 'timber thieves' who entered the vastly uninhabited territory and harvested large quantities of timber that were shipped across the St. Lawrence River to markets in Canada.  Erastus Hall bought the first contract for land in the southern part of the town of Louisville, which later became Norfolk.  History records say Hall and a companion attempted to raft across a swift section of the Raquette River, only equipped with poles for steering, and ended up at the mercy of the rapids."  Their salvation was achieved when they tossed their cargo to shore, clung to overhead branches and inched their way across the river.  Hall's first shelter after arriving in Norfolk was one of the shanties built and later abandoned by timber thieves.

"The town's first grist mill, erected in 1816, was three stories high.  The uppermost level was regularly used for religious services.

"Officially establishing the town of Norfolk from Louisville was not an easy accomplishment.  In 1817, the first attempt failed to establish the town of Norfolk as a six-mile square with the hamlet of Norfolk at the center.  Proposals to divide the land were debated for six years.  There were many disputes over exact boundaries for the new town.  On April 9, 1823, the town of Norfolk was officially formed by dividing the original town of Louisville into two nearly-equal territories.  Later, parts of the town of Stockholm were annexed, which brought Norfolk to its permanent configuration.

The town's name is pronounced "Nor'-folk." One possible explanation may be nothing more than local folklore.  "In the early days before Norfolk was separate from the town of Louisville, the area may have been referred to as "North Folk" for a fork in a local road or a fork in the local river."  The Raquette River bends at a near right angle in Norfolk hamlet where a brook once met the river.  "When the name 'Norfolk' was formally bestowed in 1823, it was thought that the settlers simply continued the sound of fork at the end of the title and it simply became part of the local vernacular.  The origin of the name is uncertain, but historians believe the town was probably named for Norfolk, England."

"While there are no monuments to the town's founding fathers, several Norfolk streets and roads were named to preserve the memory of prominent early townsfolk whose contributions were notable in the community's development.  Like most communities, Norfolk has a Main Street and a River Street named for obvious reasons.  However, in Norfolk, there is Attwater Street, named for Russell Attwater, the man who erected the town's first mills and served as a local judge.  Attwater also founded the town of Russell, which was named in his honor.  Hepburn Street pays tribute to A. Barton Hepburn, the man who financially supported construction of the Norfolk Hepburn Library.  Morris Street was named for Gouverneur Morris, the man who penned the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution and who owned a ten-acre clearing in the southern part of the town.  Crabb Street was named in memory of Town Supervisor Leslie Crabb, who died in one of Norfolk's worst fires that swept half of the Main Street business district in 1918.  Dr. Alfred Wheeler sold some of the first pasteurized milk to Norfolk residents.  Wheeler Lane is named in his honor."

A Brief History of Raymondville

"The local Indians called a location in the northern part of the town of Norfolk, 'Tsiiakoontiata,' which meant 'where they leave the canoe.'  The first white settlers called the community 'Rackerton' for the nearby Raquette River.

"Benjamin Raymond, the man who founded and was instrumental in the development of the town of Potsdam, moved his family to Rackerton in 1816.  Several years later, to honor Raymond's influence and leadership in establishing some of the early Rackerton mills, residents permanently renamed the community Raymondville.

"Historians say Rackerton was a growing settlement during the early part of the 1800's, due to the accessibility and use of the nearby river for transportation and waterpower.  In 1814, the first bridge over the Raquette River was built.  Local citizens often boarded small boats there for passage to the St. Lawrence River, about 15 miles to the north.

"Along the river's edge, a type of clay was found in great abundance, which gave the community an ideal advantage in early brick making.  Many homes in Raymondville were built from this brick.

"During its heyday in the late 1800's, Raymondville boasted of two butter tub factories; woolen, grist, shingle and sawmills; a creamery, brickyards, starch factories and blacksmith shops, along with general stores and numerous homes.  In the early 1900's, many of the residents were employed at the Raymondville paper mill."

More by Bob LaRue


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