MORE LOCAL HISTORY      

 

   
   
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GOUVERNEUR, N.Y.


The town and village of Gouverneur were named for Gouverneur Morris, an avid reader and book collector who loved the outdoors and was a very successful businessman. Morris was the youngest man to serve in the Continental Congress at age 24. He framed the initial Articles of the Confederation in 1781, became a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 and penned the final version of Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. Morris’ brother-in-law, Samuel Ogden, founded Ogdensburg. Morris was a partner of another prominent North Country landowner, William Constable. In the 1790’s, Morris also acquired large tracts of land in western St. Lawrence County. He toured these areas in 1800, but it was the summer of 1808 when he finally visited his Cambray holding. During his first visit, Morris established a summer home at Natural Dam, a mile west of the village. The residence was built into the side of a hill and is now considered a historic site."

"In the summer of 1805, Dr. Richard Townsend was hired by landowner Morris to lead a team of men into the survey-town of Cambray for the purpose of establishing settlements. In the fall, they returned up the Oswegatchie River to the small island at the site of the present village of Gouverneur. In April of 1810, the name was changed from Cambray and the town of Gouverneur was formally created by an act of the New York State Legislature and named for its landowner. Dr. Townsend was elected the town’s first supervisor."

"Most of Gouverneur’s first settlers were Baptists. The community’s first Baptist Church was organized in 1811 at the home of Isaac Austin. The current church, built of Gouverneur marble, was erected in 1895. A 1974 fire destroyed most of the building, but most of the structure was rebuilt to resemble the previous structure."

"During the settlement of Gouverneur, the pioneers passed over many fields because the land was littered with grey limestone. Later called Gouverneur marble, the stone was found to have a strong quality and could be highly polished to an elegant finish. It is believed Gouverneur’s first mill for cutting marble was erected by Jasper Clark near Mill Creek around 1825. The Whitney Marble Company owned several quarries between 1865 and 1940. The marble industry brought great prosperity to the town. The stone was used to construct public buildings in Gouverneur, the state hospital buildings in Ogdensburg and the St. Lawrence County courthouse in Canton. A large shipment was sent to Chicago for construction in the 1880’s. The quarries were shut down for a time in the 1930’s."

"The first fair in Gouverneur was held in 1859, organized by the Gouverneur Agricultural Society. For many years, the county fairs have been held during the first or second week in August, on grounds behind the Gouverneur High School."

A large replica roll of LifeSavers® candy was erected at one end of the narrow triangular strip of land that comprises the municipal park in downtown Gouverneur. The success of the "Candy Mint with the Hole"™ can be attributed to the efforts of Gouverneur native son Edward John Noble who was born in 1882. In 1913, Noble approached LifeSavers® inventor Clarence Crane of Cleveland with an advertising campaign for the mint, but was instead offered an opportunity to buy the failing business for just $2,900. Problems with preserving the flavor in cardboard packages threatened to end the LifeSavers® business. After acquiring the business, Noble devised an easy-to-open foil wrapper that preserved the flavor. As a result, sales of the candy soared. Profits increased sevenfold in the first year, then tripled again in the second year. Within ten years, sales had reached $11.5 million. Years later, Noble acquired the Beechnut Chewing Gum Company and merged its products with LifeSavers®.

The Gouverneur Memorial Arch, erected in the center of the downtown village park in 1905, was funded by the local Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) and from the proceeds of special postcards depicting the architect’s design for the arch. Nearly 200 families made additional donations. Their names were placed on a list that was sealed inside the cornerstone before it was laid. The memorial arch was dedicated on August 30th,1905, as part of the town’s centennial celebration. Over the arch is engraved "Lest We Forget," the theme and purpose of the monument. Various plaques list the names of Gouverneur’s first settlers from 1805-1807, and local residents who made the supreme sacrifice during the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Atop the arch is a bronze eagle that was not part of the original design. It was contributed by Jeannie Dean and mounted in 1906.