Wednesday, May 27, 2009

History of Le Ray, Benjamin Brown

The pioneer of Le Lay was Benjamin Brown, brother to General Jacob Brown1 the latter the first permanent settler in the county north of Black river. Both came to the region and made their respective improvements while the territory formed a part of Oneida county. In the fall of 1801 Benjamin Brown visited this town in quest of a suitable site whereupon to erect a mill, and after casting about for a time selected a location on Pleasant creek, about on the site of the hamlet of Le Raysyule. He made a clearing and prepared timber for a dam across the stream, but the severity of winter compelled his party to return to Brownville. Early in the following spring work was resumed by cutting a road from Brownville to the mill site, General Brown going in advance of the party with his surveying implements, marking the course, while they followed with the work of construction. After many incidents and some misfortunes and hardships, the road was built to Le Raysville and work on the improvement was renewed. In due time the dam and mill were completed, and if local tradition be true the "raising" was a notable event in the annals of the town. A log house was also built for the accommodation of the workmen, and to this humble abode in July following Benjamin Brown brought his bride, the pioneer woman of the town, with whom he had just married at Brownville.

The erection of the mill on Pleasant creek was a fortunate event in the early history of the town, and had the effect to induce settlement by families from the east and elsewhere, who were anxious to come to the region, as it assured them they were to locate in an inhabited country, where the means of living were provided. At this time, too, the proprietary was advertising the land in Albany and elsewhare and otherwise using every endeavor to dispose of and settle them. Settlement during the year 1802 appears to have been limited to Benjamin Brown and members of his household, but the year 1803 witnessed the arrival of several families, among whom were men of prominence and. who afterward had an active share in both county and town history, and made for Le Ray a prominent place among the towns in the region. Prominent among the settlers in 1803 were Joseph Child and his three sons, Daniel, Samuel and Moses, all of whom came from Pennsylvania and were associated with many early events. Their surname has ever since been known and respected in the county. Thomas Ward, Daniel Coffeen, William Cooper, John Petty and Robert Sixbury also caine in this year.

This Child family located between pioneer Brown's mill and the settlement at Watertown, while Thomas Ward bought and settled on land between Le Raysville and Evans' mills, as afterward known. In 1804 Samuel Child and Mr. Ward made the first clearing in the present town of Philadelphia, working for Cadwallader Child. Daniel Coffeen was one of a prominent family bearing that name who were identified with the early history of at least half. a dozen towns. His improvement was southeast of Evans' mills, but in 1804 he settled on land near Sterlingville. Robert Sixbury had become acquainted with this region while with a surveying party, and in 1804, with John Hoover, bought the Coffeen improvement below Byans' mills. Later on he removed to a farm in the north part of the town, and while he was an industrious pioneer he also gained much prominence as a hunter and a man of great physical strength. His life was passed in the town, and he died in 1875 at the advanced age, it is claimed, of 112 years. John Petty lived in the town only one year, then removed to Philadelphia, where he was also a pioneer. William Cooper was a Frenchman, whose correct name was Guillaume Coupart, but to the settlers he was best known as "French Cooper." He was a refugee from his native place (Normandy, France,) and experienced many vicissitudes in life before he found freedom in Connecticut, from whence he came to the Black river country in 1798, locating first in Pamelia. In 1803 he settled between Le Rayville and Ingerson's corners, and ultimately became a large land owner and a man of influence and worth In the town. Some of his descendants are still in the county.

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