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
"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