Stone Mills[edit | edit source]
This is the front of the Collins home. On the left is the Ellis family. Charlie, Paul and Dora Ellis. William Collins in the chair and two unidentified women.
The Hamlet of Stone Mills is located in the Town of Orleans on route 180 with latitude - 44.114 & longitude - 75.974. The settlement was originally named Collins Mills after the Collins family which were early pioneers.
The Collins family came by a covered wagon that was drawn by a team of oxen from Stonington, Conn in 1801-1802. William & Polly Ross Collins and their 8 children settled there because of the densely forested area with beautiful mountains. It was part of what was known as Penet's Square. At the time it was thought to be un granted land, by most people. The boundaries moved when in 1805 Jefferson County was formed from Oneida county. In 1817 John La Farge offered lots for sale in Penet's Square which set off land title disputes which lasted for years. It was found in favor of John La Farge but because of the problems it caused he didn't live there long. Collins Mills then was in the Town of Brownville. In 1821 The Town of Orleans was set off from the Town of Brownville, then Collins Mills was in the Town of Orleans. Not until 1840,and the Collins family had moved on to Collins Landing, was the name changed to Stone Mills in honor of all the beautiful stone homes built of blue limestone from the stone quarry nearby.
It is believed that possibly as early as 1806, when Roderick Fraser settled there that a school house was built of logs. Not only was school taught there but they also held church services. In 1819 Dr. Reuben Andrus with John B. Collins and his partner Peter Pratt built the first sawmill and gristmill on a stream later known as Stone Mills Creek. Peter Pratt had settled there in 1807 and had built the first stone house.
One of the early stone buildings was the Blacksmiths shop run by John Seeber. The largest building was the Tavern which was built in 1819-1820 of blue limestone. A wing was added before 1827 and a store was opened there. The tavern was to be a half way house for the stage coach between Clayton and Watertown. The roads were so bad it was hard for the stagecoach to travel. In 1875 W. B. Irwin & Sons bought the store and Mr. John Irwin tended it for 71 years.
By 1837 they had built the stone church. And in 1838 a stone school house was built. Also a cheese factory was built there. The first post office was opened in 1820 with post master Lee Lord until 1829 when Moses Huse took over as postmaster. He held that title until his death in 1831 then his wife's cousin Daniel C. Rouse was appointed on Nov. 8, 1831 and he was re-appointed post master on April 5, 1832.
In 1969 The Northern New York Agricultural Historical Society, at the urging of a descendant of the Collins family Josephine Fredenburg, established a museum in the old stone church at Stone Mills. It is devoted to preserving the local history. The old stone building that once held the school burnt in 1964 and a wooden structure replaced it which is known as the Shimel school.
The Stone Mills Cemetery is across the street from the stone church where many of the first settlers including Elijal Horr and family and Revolutionary War veteran William Collins and family are buried.