History of the Town of Wilmurt
From Nathaniel Benton's History of Herkimer County, 1856.

 

Is the largest town in the county, and probably in the state, and contains that part of the county commencing at the southwest corner of the town of Morehouse (in Hamilton county), and running westerly on the north line of the Jerseyfield patent, until it strikes the West Canada creek; thence continuing the same course of said Jerseyfield line, until it strikes the west line of Herkimer county; thence northerly, on said line, until it strikes the north boundary line; thence easterly, along the north bounds of said county, until it strikes the northwest corner of the town of Morehouse; thence southerly, on said line, to the place of beginning.

Within these boundaries are all those parts of Remsemburgh and Vroman's patents, Adgate's, Brown's, Nobleborough, Moose river and Watson's tracts, and Totten and Crossfield's purchase, which lie in the county.

This town has trebled its population in five years, to be attributed to the increase of the lumber business, under the direction of the Messrs. Hinckley and others, who are largely engaged in that trade in the north part of the county. The legislature have heretofore appropriated $5000, to remove obstructions from the West Canada creek; obstructions which hindered the floating of logs and unsawed lumber from the sources of the creek, during the spring floods, to an extensive set of mills in operation near Prospect, Oneida county, where many millions of feet of boards, plank and other sawed lumber are cut out annually, and sent to market.

The machinery of these mills, and all the arrangements for booming and securing the logs, bringing them to the ways, where they are to be taken on to the saw carriages, and for removing the plank and boards when sawed, and disposing of the refuse stuff, are spoken of as being equal to any similar establishment in the county. The mineral regions of this town will be approached, if not immediately intersected, by the Saratoga and Sackets Harbor rail road.

In 1792, Alexander Macomb, of New York, purchased of the state 1,920,000 acres of land, at nine pence per acre, lying in the northern part of the state, and the same year John Brown, of Rhode Island, bought of Macomb, or obtained the title to, about two hundred thousand acres of that purchase, which was afterwards divided into eight townships, numbered from one to eight inclusive, and townships number one, two, six and seven were also subdivided into small lots. This tract does not lay on Moose river proper, and only a small triangular point of township number eight extends into Hamilton county. The westerly parts of towns one, two, three and four are in Lewis county. This has been many years called Brown's tract. According to Burr's map of the county, a northerly branch of the Moose river runs through the southern portion of the tract. Mr. Brown visited his lands near the close of the last century, made some improvements in the way of opening roads, building houses and erecting mills, intending and expecting to make sale of them. Mr. Brown died, however, before he realized any of his anticipations, and no doubt a great many more men will die before that wilderness will be seen "to blossom as the rose." In 1846, the commissioners of the land office were offered five cents an acre for a considerable portion of townships one and two, but they refused to take less than eight cents an acre.

A son-in-law of Brown, Mr. Charles F. Herreshoff, went on to the tract a few years after the death of Brown, for the purpose of making permanent improvements upon it and bringing the lands into market. This project was quite as visionary, far more expensive, and in the end, more fatal to the projector, than the antecedent one had been to Brown. Herreshoff expended a large sum of money in clearing up the lands, repairing the former mills built by Brown, and erecting new ones, in building houses and opening roads, and at one time had gathered around him some thirty or forty families. He also erected some iron works in township number seven, and actually succeeded, it is reported, in making about one ton of iron. But Herreshoff's outlays were large, and it required something more "to speed the plough" than could be raised on the tract, or from the proceeds of the iron; he therefore resorted to the expedient, which he doubtless had often indulged in before, of drawing on his friends in Providence for the needful means to consummate a dearly cherished object. The draft was returned to him protested; he felt dishonor keenly, and deliberately shot himself through the head with a pistol. He was ardent, ambitious, probably visionary, and could not have had much practical experience of the business he was engaged in; and if he died "as a fool dieth," it was a choice of evils with him. He preferred death, a suicidal exit from the world, to the crushing endurance of mortified feelings, groping his way through life in poverty, and as he thought, covered with dishonor.

After Herreshoff's death the people he had brought there left the settlement, and iron works, mills, barns and houses, with one exception, went rapidly to decay. It is understood that sometimes one and then another family has been found bold and hardy enough to keep watch and ward on the tract since Herreshoff died. A great portion of the tract, if not all of it, has been sold for arrears of taxes and bid in by the state.

In 1815, a Mr. Noble, a venerable patriarch, and nephew of the patentee of Nobleborough patent, had found his way there through the woods, and was enjoying a wilderness life as he best could in a green old age. It will be observed that this large tract was purchased of the state by Arthur Noble in 1787; he made some improvement on these lands as early as 1790, and then erected a sawmill and had some boards sawed out which he took to Ireland. The settlement broke up and another effort to colonize the tract, in 1793, was made with the like success. The remains of a grist and sawmill were seen at this setllement about the year 1811 by Mr. William Bensley of Newport. Mr. Noble must have been influenced by a monomania like that of John Brown's, when he caused a carrigae road to be cut and cleared to his lands, over which he passed in his coach. Mr. Noble sojourned for a time at Little Falls while his experiments in the woods were going on, but finally returned to Scotland, where he died many years since. There are large quantities of excellent timber on the lands in this town, of almost every description, except pine, found in our northern latitude. Portions of the suface are broken and stony, and other portions can be brought under cultivation and will make fair grazing lands. The iron mines of this region are spoken of as rich and inexhaustible.