New to the website: Historically Speaking- an article by Historian Leanna Hale on the changes Clarkson has experienced historically since 1975.
HIGHLIGHTS of CLARKSON HISTORY
by Hazel Kleinbach — former Historian for the Town of Clarkson
IN THE BEGINNING
original town of Clarkson included most of the northern half of
the Triangle Tract, which was purchased four New York City speculators,
LeRoy, Bayard, McEvers Clarkson, from Robert Morris. From 1808 through
1819 it was a part of the town of Murray. The first permanent settlers
began arriving in the town in 1803, settling along or near Lake
Road, the first road through the tract. After Ridge Road was constructed
as a State Road in 1809, it, too, lured pioneers seeking homesites.
By 1816 a small hamlet had formed at the intersection of the two
roads, which became known as "Murray Four Corners".
to 1812 there was little settlement in the town, due in part to
the dense forests and swamp land north of the Ridge. Some pioneers,
most of whom were Yankees or Yorkers, settled on land where they
found salt springs, which provided a source of income in a cashless
economy. Not until the conclusion of the War of 1812 did any real
influx of people arrive. After Ridge Road was improved by the addition
of bridges over the streams, which was completed in 1816, settlement
progressed in the town and proceeded rapidly from that time, with
small hamlets springing up along the Ridge and the town's major
north-south roads. Many grist mills and saw mills were built on
the streams running north to the lake, although the town was primarily
agricultural as it is today.
1819 the growing town of Murray divided into two towns. The western
portion retained the name of Murray; the eastern town was named
for Gen. Matthew Clarkson, one of the four original tract proprietors.
According to Rutherford D. Rogers, Director of the Monroe County
Clarkson was born October 17, 1758 in New York. He died April 25,
1825. He was the son of David and Elizabeth Clarkson and the great
grandson of Matthew Clarkson who came to New York in 1690 as Secretary
of the Province. Clarkson served in the Revolutionary War, first on
Long Island, subsequently under Benedict Arnold. He was at
Saratoga and, later, on
the staff of General Lincoln, was present at the surrender of Savannah
(1779) and at the defense of Charleston (1780). He was also present
at the surrender of Cornwallis. After the war when Lincoln became
Secretary of War, Clarkson became his assistant. He married Mary Rutherford
on May 24, 1785 and Sarah Cornell on February 14, 1792. He served
as a member of the State Assembly for one term, 1789-90, during which
time he introduced a bill for the gradual abolition of slavery in
the State. He was a Regent of the University of the State of New York,
U.S. Marshal, 1791-1792, State Senator, 1794-1795, on the commission
to build a new prison, 1796-1797, President of the New York (City)
Hospital, 1799, and President of the Bank of New York, 1804-1825.
He was a Federalist candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1802 but was
defeated by Dewitt Clinton. There is no evidence that he ever lived
in Western New York ....
April 2, 1819, the town of Clarkson was established by the Legislature.
It was named in honor of General Clarkson.
the many settlers who had chosen to locate in the Murray wilderness
in 1819 was David Forsyth, who cleared the woodland from the present
corners, one-half mile west on the south side of the Indian-trailed
Ridge. At the time it was just a deep rutted trail. All those who
worked hard to open up the "Red Men's" forest, which had
been the Seneca's hunting ground for centuries, found a place to
live and raise crops. Many of the settler's frame or log dwellings
were soon succeeded by cobblestone and brick homes when enough money
from all the hard labor made it possible to afford the less rustic
and more enduring architecture.
During the early years the first gift lay in the very trees the
axes felled. Not only did these trees give logs for their primitive
dwellings, but it provided the first source of actual cash. Daily
the huge trees came down at the bite of the settlers ax and daily
the huge potash kettles gave them one source of actual cash that
went out for other needed things. It took 200 bushels of ashes from
the fallen trees to make 100 pounds of potash, better known as "black
The late Charles Oehlbeck told me that he had, at one time, a potashery
in the rear of his work shop. The farmers bought the ashes and would
place them in the large black kettle he had there. There is still
a part of the foundation on the property today.
To show the value of real estate at an early date, it may be stated
that the Deacon Palmer paid $15.00 an acre for his land and Captain
Allen in 1825 paid $25.00 an acre for his farm.
Town of Clarkson Historian