For prehistory go here 11,500 years of human history on one page.
Early History For much of the 17th and 18th centuries, Jefferson County was a hinterland contested by the Huron, Algonkian, Iroquois, and French. It is believed that in 1615, Samuel de Champlain landed at the foot of Stony Point and portaged to Henderson Bay, making him the first European to set foot on Jefferson County soil. His route, however, is debated by scholars. In 1683, Antoine-Lefebvre, Sieur de la Barre, the Governor of New France, led an ill-equipped army from Fort Frontenac, past Jefferson County along the coastline, and south to attack the Onondaga. When sickness set in crippling his troops, he backtracked, finally landing at a place believed to have been Ellisburg. Leaving his troops to "procure and send supplies" de la Barre returned to Montreal. His troops survived the winter by slaughtering their horses, and managed to make their way back to Fort Frontenac but not before dubbing the place they landed Baie de la Famine, or Hungry Bay. The location of Hungry Bay has been debated ever since.
In 1754, the French constructed an outpost on Six Town Point. It was here that British prisoners of the Capture of [http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Oswego|Fort Oswego]] were mustered on their way to Montreal. Earlier in the year, Lt. Gaspard Joseph Chaussegros de Lery had led a successful raid on Fort Bull. Leaving Ogdensburg, he followed the Indian River as far as Fort Drum, before crossing the Black River at Deferiet and following the river to his target. The French were victorious in severing English supply lines, but they failed to win the war. The French also had an outpost on Deer Island.
In 1778, the English refortified the old French outpost and renamed the island Carleton Island. Their new Fort, Fort Haldimand, was a staging ground for British/Indian raids into the Mohawk Valley under the command of Sir John Johnson and Joseph Brant. The Fort, although clearly within territory surrendered to the Americans at the Treaty of Paris, continued to be occupied by British troops until the War of 1812.
The Americans gained control of what became Jefferson County through the 1788 Treaty of Stanwix. In 1791, northern New York was organized into six Great Tracts, and auctioned in New York City. Alexander Macomb, a merchant at the head of a company of land speculators, cast the winning bid for all six tracts, totaling 3,670,715 acres. Macomb's Purchase included all of northern New York, less Penet's Square, the St. Lawrence Eleven Towns, and the Military Tract. It was the largest land purchase in America until the Louisiana Purchase. Macomb defaulted on payment for the purchase the following year, and in 1792, his company's holdings were divided among his creditors who made good on the deal. Townships were surveyed in 1796-1799, setting the stage for settlement.
Organization (Taken From - "History of Jefferson County, New York" ; published 1878)
The Town of Watertown was organized from Mexico March 14, 1800, and comprised, at that time, of townships Nos. 1, 2 and 3, or Hounsfield, Watertown, and Rutland. The name, Watertown, was probably suggested by the great amount of water power at the rapids where the city now stands. It is not on record who suggested the name.
Up until 1869, the Village of Watertown formed part of the township. During that year, the Village of Watertown was erected into a city and a portion of the Town of Pamelia was included in the chartered limits.
The Town of Watertown was surveyed in 1796 by Benjamin Wright and sub-divided into 52 lots, ranging in size from 450 to 625 acres and having a total of 26,485 acres. A subsequent survey, by Robert McDowell gave 26,667 acres.
In 1801 the town was again sub-divided by Joseph Crary under the direction of Silas Stow.
During 1806, Benjamin Wright surveyed the "Black River Eleven Towns". Of the lots upon which the Village of Watertown has been built, he remarked: "7. This is a very good lot and has excellent mill-seats on the river, without expensive dams and with the greatest safety to the mills." "8. This is a very good lot and is well timbered; has fine mill seats and land of the first quality; some few stone and some pine timber." "9. (Above village) This is an excellent lot, some beautiful land along the east line and some pine timber on the south; some maple, beech, bass, elm and ironwood." "10. (corner lot) This is an excellent lot; has a fine flat along the beach which is very fine soil."
Drawing from 1842