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Sure, up in Northern New York, it is not often that we get tornadoes. Most people have never felt the winds or rains of a hurricane. We do not experience building-demolishing earthquakes, and have never seen tsunamis. Mass flooding is a rarity, though will happen periodically, and volcanic eruptions are a thing of our imagination. But Northern New York isn’t completely free of natural disasters. Up here, we experience Northern New York Winters.
People around here see the effects of natural disasters around the United States, and many wonder why people would choose to live in a place that annually gets hit by hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. They seem to forget that they chose a similar location to settle. Every winter, we experience heavy snow storms, sometimes building up to four, five, even six feet of snow. Temperatures below zero are the norm; there are rumors that it has been so cold that a glass of water thrown into the air would freeze before it hit the ground. Temperatures like that are much too cold for children to be playing outside.
I can remember a New Years Eve with all of my cousins, sitting around the kitchen, watching the thermometer in our snow suits and boots and hats and mittens, waiting for it to read 0 degrees so we could go out and play because our parents told us that below zero was too cold playing outdoors. But people up here don’t realize that our winters are equal to hurricanes and tornadoes in the south. We have found ways to adapt.
When it starts getting cold, we start stocking up on canned goods, candles, flashlights, batteries, blankets, and heating oil or wood. Heavy winter coats, hats, and mittens adorn everybody from babies to great-grandparents. Plows are fitted onto trucks and tractors and snow shovels are perched next to the front door. Vehicles are fitted with snow tires and bags of sand and salt are purchased. Kids start praying for snow days and dream about snowball fights and snow forts. Nearly everybody takes part in these annual preparations. Here in Northern New York, if you don’t get ready for the winter, the winter will plow you over.
But there is a definite beauty associated with the snow. After the first big snow fall of the year, everything looks so peaceful and beautiful underneath the heavy blanket. Trees get their winter coats, children cover the yard in snowmen, snow angels, and snow forts, and snow plows make banks all along the roads to ensure that if a car is tricked into a patch of slick black ice, it has a buffer between it and a telephone pole. Sometimes the snow and ice do get the better of us, but the Northern New York Winters are definitely one of a kind.
Many people complain about the cold and the snow, but year after year, they are here for the winter, despite the abhorrence. But I would take a Northern New York Winter over a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake any day.
Some information in the month's Spotlight has been borrowed from Fred Schneider's article "Along the Black River."
Three Way Bridge The first bridge over the chasm at the top of the High Falls was
constructed in 1835 and 1836 by Cap. John Whittsley, head of one of
the pioneer families of Lyons Falls. According to records, the bridge
looked like “a devil on two sticks”. However, it was actually
remarkably well constructed according to standards of the day. It was
a wooden structure that spanned the Black River at High Falls. The
first Lyons Falls Bridge was in use during a colorful period of North
Country history. Its use spanned the years during which controversy
over the constuction of the Black River canal was raging. Twice daily,
the mail was carried to and from Lyons Falls over the bridge by stage
coach. The Post Offices for the area were located at Lyonsdale, Greig
With the opening of the Canal, the state decided to construct bridges
at key locations along the route. In 1853, a decision was reached to
construct a new wooden bridge that would better serve the growing
traffic brought on by the Canal. The new bridge had three approaches,
one on the west shore of Black River, a second on the east shore of
Moose River and the third at the confluence of the two rivers. It was
originally constructed with high side walls that were later removed.
The bridge was called the White bridge for years by the residents
because of the high white board side walls. Bridges of this type were
called covered truss bridges. Gradually, as transportation methods
became modernized, the White bridge became outmoded.
With the advent of the automobile, the bridge was no longer considered
safe for highway travel. The old wooden bridge was torn down and was
replaced in 1916 by another Y bridge that was featured in the
newspaper column, “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”. In October 1963,
construction began on two new spans, one over the Moose River and the
other over the Black River. The spans replaced the Y bridge, which was
then torn down. Cement supports for the three way bridge can still be
seen peeking out from the Black River.
The Big Barn The Big Barn
Fragments of history are often lost over time as new and interesting pieces of modern history surface. However, the Big Barn is not one of those items that disappear as time moves on. Although construction began on the barn in 1859, the memory of the barn that was once the largest in the state of New York has not been tarnished or forgotten in the past 153 years.
The Big Barn was designed and built under the supervision and instruction of Lyman Rasselas Lyon, the namesake of Lyons Falls. The son of Caleb Lyon Senior owned most of the land that is now called Lyons Falls. His brother, Caleb Lyon Junior, owned the land that became Lyonsdale. Lyman R. Lyon was recognized as a fairly strong architect as well as a civil engineer. This knowledge, combined with the desire to be a farmer, led Lyman R. to embark on one of the most startling adventures of his life; building the Big Barn.
Lyman R. Lyon built the barn on his 800 acre farm in order to house his 90 cows. The barn was 221 feet long and 48 feet wide. On the side of the barn overlooking the beaver meadow, the barn was four stories high. The basement of the barn was large enough to hold 200 head of cattle. Thirteen ventilators ran from the stable to the top of the building to circulate the air and keep the animals safe. The highest peak on the roof reaches 80 feet. The basement of the barn is said to have had a root cellar and machinery for doing the strenuous farm chores that did not yet have machinery to replace men, such as threshing, cutting roots, and carrying feed to the animals. This machinery was powered by water power. The barn was completed in 1868 after the workers who had served as soldiers during the Civil War returned home to Lyons Falls.
The barn cost around $12,000 to build when all the supplies and laborers were factored into the cost of construction. There were around 500 men who contributed to the project. Since Lyman R. was against smoking and drinking, the men who helped raise the barn were served an endless supply of donuts and coffee, but not an ounce of alcohol. On completion, the barn was the largest barn in New York State.
The barn was torn down in 1929 on the orders of the Hone family, who were the current owners of the property. The lumber was sold to construct three new barns and three camps. The money was used by the Hone family during the Great Depression. Although the barn no longer stands today, parts of the foundation still exist on what used to be part of the 800 acres Mr. Lyman R. Lyon owned outside of Lyons Falls.
St. Johns Church of Lyons Falls
Walking or going by horse and carriage for three miles to Port Leyden was how Lyons Falls Catholics attended mass before the year 1909. Mass was celebrated once a month in the Shaw & Ryan Hall, Gaffney Opera House and later the Burkhart Opera House. An altar was made by putting planks over two sugar barrels. Mrs. Ed Ryan and Mrs. John Cronin were in charge of the altar for many years. Mrs. Ryan would take down one of her lace curtains from her parlor to cover a white sheet on the planks. This altar was used for several years until Frank Hoskins made one with a high back. After 1909 this new altar was taken to Port Leyden and used for masses at Calvary Cemetery.
Under the leadership of Reverend John Dean plans were established to build a church in Lyons Falls. Bazaars, fairs, suppers, dances and card parties were held to start a fund for the new church. A picnic was held on every Fourth of July at the Riverside Park on Laura Street. Trains brought in people and others came by horse and carriage. A goodly sum was realized from these affairs. Bazaars and dinners were the highlights of the day. In the evening a crowd gathered to enjoy the display of fireworks and later a dance. Nearly 1000 people attended this affair each year.
A site was chosen at the crest of the hill south of the school on McAlpine Street. Much blasting had to be done on this site. Work began in July 1909 when the foundation was laid. The Gothic Style church is built of brick with limestone trimming. Money was raised for some of the leaded windows by holding a contest. The prize, a diamond ring, was won by Julia Collins House of Lyons Falls.
In 1910 St. John's was dedicated by Bishop Gabriels (Article by Mary Teal)
It is evident that the Black River Canal played a major role in the economy of Lyons Falls in the late 1800s, but it is unclear to people today as to how great an impact this truly was. This influence is exemplified by a one Watson Shaw and his general store in 1895.
Watson Shaw was the son of Abraham and Mary Reid Cook Shaw. He was born in Lowville and came to Lyons Falls when he was young. He never left. In 1891, he married Florence Higby Jones and they lived together until Mrs. Shaw’s death in 1935. He died in 1943 after a long battle with an illness.
Mr. Shaw opened Shaw’s general store when the Black River Canal was booming. The original store was located on lower McAlpine St, right on the bank of the Canal. The purpose of the store was to manage the lively canal trade. There were four stories at the back of the store, reaching down to the canal and specially designed to lift goods from the boats to the store. In 1895, a new store was built on Center St to accommodate the switch in business from the Black River Canal to the Black River Railroad and the new local business, Gould Paper Co.
The new building contained two floors for the retail business and basements for storage. The store contained groceries, drugs, medicines, boots, shoes, crockery, clothing, and furniture. Plus, Shaw was a wholesaler, meaning he sent boatloads of goods, such as potatoes, on the canal to New York City. He was the leading merchant in Lyons Falls for 54 years, until he was forced into retirement as a result of a broken hip.
In 1940, the Village bought the building. The ground floor soon became the Lyons Falls Free Library while a bowling alley was put in the basement. The front of the ground floor became the fire house. The second floor became the center for the village board, club rooms for the Vigilant Hose Co., American Legion, and the Auxiliary and Women’s Club. The building was torn down to accommodate the expansion of the paper mill in 1981, but people still remember Shaw’s general store.
Rees-Potter Family Anybody familiar with the Turin, Lyons Falls, and Constableville area is typically familiar with Potters Corners. Potters Corners is located at the intersection of Route 26, Route 12D, and the Powell Road in West Turin. This “famous” location just outside of Lyons Falls is a frequently traversed ground for travelers, yet the history of the name is usually a mystery to those who pass through the area. The roots of Potters Corners can be traced back to the Rees/Potter family, a family joined in the marriage of Mary Permelia Rees and Marshall Ney Potter in 1882. Mary and Marshall Potter gave birth to Reese Marshall Earle Potter, father to H.E. Reese Potter. A daughter of Reese Potter, Emily Potter Lodestro, lives in Falconer, New York and a son, Reese M. Potter, lives in Heber Springs, Arkansas.
The Rees family originated in Wales; William and Mary Rees, both born in the 1770s, traveled to America and settled in Lewis County in 1801. William was a stone mason who contributed to the construction of Constableville’s famous Constable Hall. In return for William’s help in building Constable Hall, he was given a large tract of land in Lyons Falls. This became a bustling farm complete with two large stone houses, both of which remain today. The larger of the two homes is occupied today by Oren and Elizabeth Cook, as is a portion of the farm land that had originally belonged to the Rees family.
Potters Corners is located just up the road from the Rees farm. It is believed that the area was named for Eugene Potter, a farmer of the area who had been active in politics. The first mention of the name “Potters Corners” in newspapers was found in a paper from 1922. Since the Potter family and the Rees family were joined in 1882, it is logical to believe that this area was named for a relation of this family.
McManus's Hotel Like most of the buildings and businesses in Lyons Falls, McManus’s has a rich history. The property on which McManus’s currently stands originally belonged to Caleb Lyon Sr., the original founder of Lyons Falls. He transferred the property to his daughter, Laura, in 1867.
In 1880, the property was sold to Stephen Gaffney and, in 1881, was transferred to his son, John Gaffney. John Gaffney made additions to the property and kept a hotel there until his death in 1921. The hotel was called Gaffney’s and was a large influence on Lyons Falls.
After John Gaffney’s death, the property and hotel was transferred to his daughter, Elizabeth Gaffney Farney and her husband, Joseph Farney. The two made more additions to the hotel and changed the name to Farney’s Hotel around the 1940s. Joe Farney sold the hotel to Bill McGee in 1961. Bill and his wife, Emily, ran the hotel under the name of McGee’s until they sold it to Mary Ellen and Tom McManus April 1, 1975.
Mary Ellen and Tom changed the name of the hotel to McManus’ and changed the focus of the hotel from that of a boarding house to a bar and a restaurant. After they changed the ownership of McManus’ to their son, Fred McManus, the focus of the business has been more of a restaurant and a nutrition center. McManus’ is a site of the Lewis County Meals on Wheels Nutrition Program that helps supply food to the elderly in Lewis County five days a week.
But despite the new role of McManus’ in the area as a nutrition center, it still plays a large role in the Village as a restaurant. Mary Ellen McManus stated: “Over the years… [McManus’] has supported and helped with various community benefits,” including the events with the fire department, athletic banquets, academic banquets, and numerous other organizations. She says that all four of her boys, Paul, Fred, Jake, and Doug (now deceased) and their families have helped to build and maintain the business. In addition to the restaurant and the nutrition center, McManus’ also does catering events both on and off the premises. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 10:00-2:00. Be sure to stop by and check them out!
Mary Lyon Fisher Memorial Chapel
The Mary Lyon Fisher Memorial Chapel, located in Wildwood Cemetery on the outskirts of Lyons Falls has been added to both the National and State Register of Historic Places. The process for this honor is a long one and thankfully, Susie Hammecker was willing to fill out the numerous forms and follow all of the procedures that were necessary for this development.
The chapel was designed by Gouge & Ames of Utica and was built in 1921 by W.H. Rich & sons of Lowville. The building models a Gothic style of blue limestone, twenty inch thick walls, and dark red asbestos-cement shingles. The only things separating the chapel from the road are five stone pillars and a low fence. Four steps covered by a small porch lead to the carved, double wooden door that leads to the main room. Above the door is a white marble tablet inscribed with the words “Mary Lyon Fisher Memorial Chapel, 1921.” Maple floors cover the interior and six windows allow light to enter the chapel through the warm, amber glass. There is a trap door in the center of the room that contains an elevator apparatus to move caskets from upstairs to downstairs where up to 15 caskets can be stored in the winter in built in shelving units. In the outside rear of the chapel, there is a double door hatchway that leads downstairs.
Behind the chapel lies the Wildwood Cemetery. The land for the cemetery was donated by Mary Lyon Fisher, Julia Lyon DeCamp and Florence Lyon Merriam in 1906. The chapel was given by Clarence Lyon Fisher and Florence Fisher Jackson in memory of their mother, Mary Lyon Fisher. It was built in 1921 and dedicated in September of 1922.
Mary Lyon Fisher was born November 20, 1841 to Mary B. Northrup and Lyman R. Lyon. In September 1873, she married William Hubbel Fisher of Cincinnati, Ohio. He died in 1909. It is said that Mrs. Fisher was a noble, generous, and unselfish Christian, always ready to lend a hand to the needy. She died suddenly in 1913. Both her church, Forest Presbyterian Church and her home, The Pines, are on the State and National Register of Historic Places, and now the her chapel is on the Register as well.
Lyons Falls School
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Lyons Falls did not have one
consolidated, stationary school system; rather, it had a series of
smaller buildings that served as a school until a larger one was
built. The most well-remembered of these schools was located on Gorham
Street (pictured left). The school had been built in 1893 and was used until the high
school was built on McAlpine Street. Classes at this school were
taught by Maurice Walsh.
The townspeople knew that one combined high school would be more
beneficial to the community than the system the Village had then, so
in 1900, land was purchased on McAlpine Street and a new high school
was built. Classes at the new school were taught by Anna Volovic,
Samuel Neff, Lillian Burnham, and Mary Cox. The first graduating class
from the new school was the class of 1903, which consisted of four
students. However, this school was soon outgrown, requiring the
construction of another new school building.
In 1927, the current building was erected at the same location. This
served as both the elementary and high school for the youth of Lyons
Falls until South Lewis High School was built in 1963. The building
continued to serve as an elementary school until it was closed in
1983. The building still remains as a reminder to the people of Lyons
Falls of what once was a small town's fondest memory (pictured right).
The Sheldon Girls
Lyons Falls, originally known as High Falls, became known as Lyon(later Lyons) Falls in honor of the Caleb Lyon family. Caleb Lyon, acting as land agent for John Greig, his wife Maria Dupont and six children, arrived here in 1819, (their youngest child, Caleb, Jr. was born in 1822). He built his home, mills, and a bridge across the Moose River, and founded the settlement called Lyonsdale. Caleb was instrumental in attracting many settlers to the area and purchased 10,000+ acres for himself. He died Sep.15, 1835, in the woods near Lyons Falls. A memorial plaque was placed near the spot he died, and it can be seen today from the River Road. He was buried on an island at Lyonsdale and a large monument was erected.
However, his son, Caleb,Jr., always at odds with his brother Lyman, had his body secretly removed and interred in Greenwood Cemetery, in New York City. Caleb,Jr. became a well known national figure and in1864 President Lincoln appointed him governor of Idaho.
In 1839 Caleb,Sr.’s oldest son, Lyman Rasselas married Mary Brinsmade Northrup and built a large clapboard house just north of Lyons Falls. By 1862 he had built a splendid stone mansion and maintained a large dairy farm for which he built the renown “Big Barn.” Lyman and Mary had three daughters: Mary Lyon Fisher, Julia Lyon deCamp, and Florence Lyon Merriam. Lyman was active in public affairs, one of the largest land owners in the state, owned the water power of the High Falls and worked diligently for the construction of the Black River Canal. He died in 1869 in Georgia where he had gone for his health. In 1876 his daughter Florence Isabella married Charles Collins Merriam and they lived in the Lyon Mansion until it burned in 1886. Florence then had a new home constructed which she named “Florissant“, this remains in use today as an occasional bed and breakfast and is known as “The Mansion." Caleb, Sr.’s eldest child Laura Eliza married Francis Seger, who was also a large land owner and an active participant in public affairs. About 1830 they built their home over looking the falls and named it “The Pines." This lovely home is still occupied today as a private residence. The Pines and The Mansion are connected by a wooden walkway. This was built on the orders of Florence Lyon Merriam and Mary Lyon Fisher so the sisters could visit the other's home more easily. Considering the influence the Lyon family had on the development of the area it was indeed appropriate that the name High Falls was changed to Lyons Falls.
Lost Historic Bible Returns to Lyons Falls This is our featured Spotlight of the Month:
Lost Historical Bible Returned to Lyons Falls
By Katherine Ziemke
LYONS FALLS - The trek
of a 150-year-old Bible
back to its origin in Lyons
Falls began with but a simple
e-mail transmission. A
resident in Massachusetts,
where the Bible had been
found, knew that the origin
of the historical Bible was
Lyons Falls, New York,
because of the following
hand-written dedication on
the second page: From: Mother
Nov. 20th 1862
Mary L. Lyon
Lyons Falls, NY
Nance Moran searched
online for an organization
that might have interest in
the Bible. When Nance
located the Lyons Falls
History Association’s website,
she e-mailed a note
to the Village’s unofficial
historian, Shirley VanNest,
saying, “My father was
working in a local town
waste dumping station and
he pulled a Bible from the
garbage piles… Do you
know of any family members
or historical society
that would like this
Bible?… I know I would
like it if it were my family
Shirley received the message
and began alerting
the rest of the History
Association that the Mary
L. Lyon Bible had been
found. Within a single day,
the historical community
was buzzing with excitement
about the fact that
the treasure had been
found and that it was destined
to return home to
Lyons Falls where it
The significance of the
Bible’s return to the community
of its origin lies in
the historical prominence
of the Lyon family within
the Village of Lyons Falls
and the Town of
Lyonsdale. Mary Lavinia
Lyon was the daughter of
Mary B. Northrop and
Lyman R. Lyon, and
granddaughter of Marrietta
DuPont and Caleb Lyon.
Mary’s grandfather, Caleb
Lyon, established the first
permanent settlement at
Lyonsdale in 1823. His
son, Lyman R. Lyon,
acquired large tracts of
timber land in the western
developed the water power
of the Black River, giving
his name to the mill community
of Lyons Falls.
While a member of the
state legislature, Lyman
actively promoted construction
of the Black
River Canal as a regional
transportation artery to
Rome and the Erie Canal.
From her parents, Mary L.
Lyon, who after marriage
became Mary Lyon Fisher,
inherited large and valuable
timber holdings in
and around the area. As
a prominent land holder
in the area, Mary Lyon
Fisher actively managed
her holdings from the late
1880s until her death in
The Lyon-Fisher family
remained the region’s
and timber industrialists
through several generations
until the 1950s.
Essentially, the return of
Mary Lyon Fisher’s Bible to
the Village of Lyons Falls
marks the return of a local
historical treasure to the
community which was so
appreciably affected by the
Lyon family’s contributions.
Clearly, by the handwritten
inscription on the
second page of the Bible, it
was given as a gift to Mary
L. Lyon by her mother. To
the casual observer, the
date is otherwise meaningless.
Mary L. Lyon was born on
November 20, 1841 and
the date the gift was
given was November 20,
1862, it appears to be
given as a 21st birthday
gift. Because the gold
guild on the pages is well
worn and there were many
passages marked within it,
it can be surmised that the
gift was a frequent and
treasured companion of
Mary L. Lyon’s.
Because Mary L. Lyon
Fisher was a devoted
lifetime member of historic
Church, the Bible’s return
to Lyons Falls creates as
much interest and excitement
for members of
Forest Church as it has
for the History Association.
When the ornately embossed
Bible was taken to
be shown to church-goers
a few weeks ago, the interest
was intense, perhaps
even passionate. Churchgoers
noted the small size
of the Bible, approximately
5 inches high, 3 inches
wide, and 2 inches thick.
It was deduced from the
petite size that the Bible
must have been one that
traveled with Mary Lyon.
Church members noticed
that Mary Lyon hand wrote
her favorite Biblical passages
in the back most
pages of the book. They
admired her neatly hand
scripted notes in the margins
throughout the Bible.
They noticed that Mary
Lyon had book-marked
several pages, perhaps for
the purpose of swift effortless
look-up. Some church
members might have pondered
whether the Bible’s
marked pages, scripted so
lovingly and devotedly, are
something that only
occurred during bygone
eras. Or perhaps, the
return of this community
treasure to its origin is a
sign of things to come.
After Shirley VanNest
received the inquiry and
spread the news, she wrote
back to Nance Moran asking
for more details about
how the Bible had been
found. Nance responded
that sometime between the
years 1977 and 1978 her
father, Lester Zakrzewski,
was working as a heavy
equipment operator in
The town had a special
location for recycling,
where many books were
deposited. Lester spotted
the Bible on top of the
recycling pile and wondered,
“Why would someone
throw away a Bible?”
He picked up the ornate
leather-bound Bible and
browsed through it. When
he noticed the dated
inscription on the second
page, indicating its historically
significant link to the
Village of Lyons Falls,
Lester decided to salvage it
by taking the Bible home.
One might wonder how
the historical Bible ended
up approximately 300
miles due east of Lyons
Falls in Wellesley,
Unfortunately there was no
clear answer to this question,
as no one knew what
really happened. One
rumor has it that a Lyon
family member moved to
possibility is that it could
have been inadvertently
disposed of in an estate
sale. Unfortunately, it is
likely the truth will never
As luck would have it
Lester knew about the historic
Village of Lyons Falls.
Earlier in his life, Lester
was employed as a truck
driver hauling cars to dealerships
to be sold. His
route often took him
through Utica, up New
York State Route 12 to
Watertown, and then on to
the Thousand Islands
region. Because Lester had
driven through Lyons Falls
many times, he thought he
would return the Bible to
the Village on one of his
trips. Lester did not bring
the Bible home to Lyons
Falls because he never
drove through the Village
thereafter. Nevertheless, he
stored the historical Bible
for safekeeping, with the
hope that he would be able
to return it one day.
Nearly 20 years later, in
1996 after his wife passed
away, Lester sold his home
to his daughter, Nance
Moran. Instead of clearing
out his belongings, Lester
left most of the contents of
the house, including Mary
L. Lyon’s Bible, with his
Nance found the Bible
while cleaning out a closet
a few years ago. She questioned
her father about it
and Lester relayed the
same story. Instead of tossing
the Bible away, Nance
kept it. She says, “I read
through Mary’s notes
about passages and her
favorite quotes.” Through
the years, the Bible and its
quoted passages became
personal to Nance. She felt
a yearning to connect with
those who might have
searched for the lost Bible.
Nance began searching
online to learn more about
Lyons Falls, its history,
and its people. She
searched for contact detail
of a person or organization
that could appreciate the
value and who would be
interested in preserving the
Fortunately for Lyons
Falls, Nance persevered
and finally connected with
the Lyons Falls History
At long last, more than
30 years after it was found,
the Mary L. Lyon Bible
arrived via certified parcel
post at the Lyons Falls
Post Office a few weeks
ago. Roy and Susie
Hammacker, President and
Secretary of the Lyons
Falls History Association,
respectively, picked up the
treasure, and brought it to
the Lyons Falls History
where it is now displayed
in a place of prominence.
A follow-up note from
the finders arrived after the
historical Bible had been
returned. Nance wrote
that she and her father
were so happy that after all
the many long years gone
by, the treasured historical
Bible had finally found its
way back home to Lyons
Falls where it belongs. As
they were sentimental
about the Bible, Nance and
Lester began talking about
coming to visit Lyons Falls
and the History Association Museum soon
after sending the treasure
on its way. Needless to
say, Lyons Falls Village,
the Lyons Falls History
Association and Museum,
Church, and the owners of
the historic Mary L. Lyon
Fisher homestead all welcome
their visit with open
Kathy Ziemke resides in
Lyons Falls and was a
town correspondent for the
Library Prior to 1909, Lyons Falls did not have an organized library. Rather, the village had a popular reading room and lending library, which had been started by the Men’s Club. Due to the success of the reading room and the lending library, William Elliman organized a group of young people to secure funds for the new library by selling subscriptions, hosting social events, and playing movies for the villagers. The library started out with a small collection of books, most of which were gifts from local villagers. On October 28th, 1909, the Lyons Falls library was granted its Provisional Charter. The library started out with a small collection of books, most of which were gifts from local villagers. Mrs. O.E. Davis led the library for many years. Mrs. H.P. Gould who served for 38 years succeeded her.
In 1923, the library was granted an absolute charter from the State of New York. At this time, the library was funded by grants from the village board. This system changed in 1948 when the library was granted membership to the North Country Library System. Under the new library system, Lyons Falls library was able to offer more services to the patrons of the library. Until 1981, the library made its home in several locations around the village. In 1981, the library found a more permanent home in the old fire hall on Center Street. Also housed in this building was a bowling alley. The library made its final move to the old carriage house next to the Gould Mansion when the old firehouse was to be torn down. Mark Folino, a local Boy Scout who wanted to win his Eagle Scout Award, made the move to the Carriage House on High Street possible.
The Library Remains in the Carriage House of the Gould Mansion under the management of the Mrs. Carolyn Le Van. The library offers a variety of services to its members of the community. Community members are able to enjoy high speed internet, access to a fax machine, copier, and a photo printer, a large variety of books, magazines, audio books, and large print books, as well as access to the interlibrary loan system for any books Lyons Falls does not own. The library is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 3:00 to 7:00PM, Thursday and Friday from 1:00 to 5:00 PM, and Saturday from 8AM to 12PM. The Library is closed on Sunday and Monday.
Lyons Falls Library
3918 High Street
Lyons Falls, NY 13368
(315)348-6180 (phone and fax)
Gould Paper Company GOULD PAPER COMPANY
Gordias H.P. Gould was the founder of the Gould Paper Company. After
previously owning a saw and pulp mill a mile up the Moose River in
partnership with the daughters of Lyman Lyon, he purchased property at
the junction of Black and Moose Rivers at Lyons Falls and built a
paper mill there. The paper mill opened in 1895. In 1902 Mr. Gould
built a home of Gouverneur marble across from the mill under the
supervision of the architect of the Forest Presbyterian Church on
Center Street. His son Harry P. took over operation of the Gould Paper
Company following his father’s death in 1919. Gordon H.P. Gould became
president of the company in 1938. The Mill soon became the largest
employer in the area. In 1945 Continental Can purchased the mill and
produced specialty paper and newsprint. In 1956 the Lyons Falls Paper
Corporation took over operations. They put in a hardwood pulping
plant. They were the first paper maker in the country to use this type
of process. In 1962 the Mill was purchased by Puget Sound Pulp and
Paper Company. A year later, the mill changed hands again when it was
taken over by Georgia-Pacific. In 1985 Georgia-Pacific sold the mill
to the Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper Company. The mill closed for good in
2000. It remains a skeleton on Center Street, reminding the people of
Lyons Falls of what once was the village's largest enterprise.
Gould Family Christopher Gould, one of the early pioneers of Lewis County, and patriarch of the renown Gould family of Lyons Falls, arrived in the county in 1829. With him were his wife, Catherine Van Valkenburgh, and their six children. Four more children were born to them (two sons died in infancy). Their farm was near Fish Creek in what is now the Town of Greig. Christopher was a farmer, carpenter, and an expert mechanic. He followed these trades on his farm until 1859 when he moved to the village of Lyons Falls. He died there in 1882 at the age of 92, just eighteen hours after the death of his eldest son Gordias Henry.
Gordias Henry Gould had learned the trade of wheelwright and in about 1840 established a sash and blind factory in Lyons Falls on the creek that ran through village. Gordias was said to be very gifted mechanically and could do anything requiring the use of tools. He is credited for building the first steamboat to be put to use on the Black River. Although Gordias Henry Gould never sought public office he was active in politics and community affairs. He built the Walton House in Lyons Falls and he built all of the lockhouses between Lyons Falls and Boonville. He married Mary Elizabeth Plumb in 1847 and they were the parents of three daughters and one son, Gordias Henry Plumb Gould.
Gordias Henry Plumb Gould was known as G.H.P. Gould, and he became one of the wealthiest men in New York State. Following school G.H.P. Gould worked as a bookkeeper for Snyder brothers tannery in Port Leyden and in 1869 he purchased a tract of timber on the Moose River. He built a sawmill and sawed his own timber until 1874 when he formed a partnership with the three daughters and heirs of Lyman R Lyon. The firm Lyon and Gould purchased a mill just up the Moose River from Lyons Falls, Gould settled there and founded the hamlet known as Gouldtown. He soon bought out the Lyon interests and continued to buy mills and forest lands in the United States and Canada. In 1894, he built the pulp and paper mill at Lyons Falls and then built the magnificent home near the mill known as the Gould mansion. G H P Gould was very active in public affairs and was elected to the State Assembly for four terms even though he was a Democrat in a very Republican county. He was instrumental in securing protection for the Adirondacks by helping establish the Adirondack Preserve. Gordias Henry Plumb Gould had three daughters and one son Harry P. Gould, who after his fathers death in 1919, took over the business interests. Harry P. Gould died in 1938 . Although the once thriving Gould Paper Company in Lyons Falls no longer exists, the memory of the family responsible for it will long remain.
Forest Presbyterian Church Forest Presbyterian Church has been an important part of the history
of Lyons Falls since it was first organized in 1826 by a group of
twelve men and women meeting in private homes. In the summer of 1853,
the Reverend Dr. Thomas Brainerd, a native of the town of Leyden and
pastor of Pine Street Church in Philadelphia, came home for a visit.
He was so impressed in the interest of the people for a building of
worship that he sent plans for a suitable building and helped raise
the money needed to build the church. The church building was to be
built on a point of land where the Black and Moose Rivers join near
the waterfall. This church was a small wooden building dedicated on
August 6, 1854. Standing in a pine grove, it was appropriately named
Forest Church. This first church was on the east side of the Black
River and required crossing a bridge to get to the village.
By 1892, the little church was badly in need of repairs and the
village had developed on the other side of the Black River. It was
decided a new church should be built in the heart of the village to
better serve the people. During the winter of 1892-1893, plans were
drawn for the church to be built alongside existing parsonage on
Center Street. On Thursday, July 12, 1894, the new church was
dedicated. Of the 375 persons who attended, 20 were people who had
attended the dedication of the original Forest Church in 1854. On the
dedication day, G.H.P. Gould, Treasurer, announced the church was free
of debt as a result of his own generous donation. The cost of the
church was $6,549.37. The old bell from the first church, presented by
Lyman R. Lyon, was installed and is still in use today. Several of the
windows are from the 1854 church.
The Parish House was added in 1926 and was dedicated on the 100th
anniversary of the original church, September 1,1826. It was used as a
center for church and community activities. The Parish House continues
to serve this purpose to this day.
In 1902, the original manse, which had been built in the village when
the church was still in the forest, was moved from the lot adjacent to
the newly built church, to the end of the block and replaced with the
existing larger manse to accommodate the pastor's large family. The
new manse was built "in harmony with the architecture of the church"
(O'Hara). There is no evidence that the church architect was directly
involved, however, he was at the same time building the Gould Mansion
Complex (National Register Listed) just a block and a half away. In
addition to the 1894 church and 1902 manse, there is also a 19th
Century barn located behind the manse.
Falls Pharmacy If you live in Lyons Falls or the surrounding area, chances are you’ve heard of the Falls Pharmacy. But there is a lot more to the Pharmacy than most people are aware.
The Pharmacy was first opened in early 1899 under the ownership of Thomas Reed. It was located on Center Street between the present day Dorrity’s Restaurant and the old paper mill building. At this time, the Pharmacy was operated by Ben Reed and Louis Hilligas. The ownership of the drug store changed hands later on to Bernard and Bertha Reed and Elizabeth Hilligas Murphy and Helen Hilligas Payman. Under these owners, the drug store invested in an ice cream fountain and sold homemade ice cream as well as penny candy.
In 1933, the Reeds leased the business to Otto Meekum. Eddie Emdin worked for Otto Meekum as a registered pharmacist until Nov. 1, 1938. During 1939, the Reeds leased the pharmacy to Horton Hammecker. In 1948, Horton bought both the business and the building from the Reeds. After Mr. Hammecker died in 1964, his son, Roy Hammecker, took over.
In 1979, Roy & his wife Susan moved the pharmacy relocated from its location on Center St. to its current location on the corner of McAlpine Street and Cherry Street. This building has also housed a clothing store, a hair salon, an antique shop, furniture store and a museum, to name just a few of the many businesses the building has seen through the years. Currently, the Disabled Persons Action Organization and the Lyons Falls History & Pharmacy Museum are taking advantage of the convenient location in the rear of the Pharmacy. Also in the building is a Liquor Store owned by Ron and Mary Dorrity.
One could say that the Pharmacy has become a family tradition to the Hammeckers. After Roy’s retirement in 1998, his daughter, Lori Farquhar and pharmacist Curtis E. Ernst took over the business. Recently, Lori bought out Ernst. Time will tell whether a fourth generation of Hammeckers will take over the Pharmacy, when it comes time for Lori to retire many years from now.
The work on the bridge by the bank on Center St. in Lyons Falls was very inconvenient for many of the Village businesses at the beginning of the summer in 2011. One of these businesses is Dorrity’s Restaurant, owned by Cindy Dorrity. Like all of Lyons Falls, Dorrity’s has an eventful past.
The building that houses Dorrity’s Restaurant was originally Alfred Rocker’s Store. This store was built after the big block fire that destroyed half of Center St. in December 1949. The original Rocker’s Store was destroyed in the block fire, but the new building was built in the location of Dorrity’s in 1950. The store offered merchandise from shoes to clothing and many people remember buying shoes there.
Florence and her husband, Henry LaLonde bought the building from Alfred Rocker and converted the shoe store into Flo’s Restaurant. Terry and Ann Dorrity bought the restaurant from Flo LaLonde and changed the name to Dorrity’s. The restaurant changed hands again from Terry and Ann to Maggie Dorrity, and then to Dale Dorrity. Altogether, the Dorrity family owned the restaurant for around twenty-two years. After a fire around 1995, Dale sold the restaurant to Catherine Buckingham and Dorrity’s became the Strawberry Patch. This restaurant closed December 13, 1997. Cindy Dorrity bought the restaurant in August 1998 and opened her new restaurant September 3, 1998 once again bearing the family name.
Now, Dorrity’s Restaurant is a popular morning breakfast spot for some Lyons Falls’ residents. The construction on the bridge didn’t deter them from their morning treat. If you haven’t eaten at Dorrity’s before, be sure to stop down. There is great food in a casual environment. Dorrity’s is definitely Lyons Falls’ version of a hometown diner. Business hours are from 5:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Fridays, and 5:30 to noon Saturdays and Sundays.
Dolhof's Hardware In 2006, Utica, New York was dealing with the sad departing of one of its favorite businesses: Doyle Hardware. This sad ordeal marked the end of a legacy that began in Constableville in 1872 by James Doyle and Terry Gormley. After Gormely’s death in 1878, John Doyle joined his brother to manage the firm. A third brother, Thomas Doyle joined his brothers in 1880, and the three changed the name of the firm from Doyle Hardware to Doyle Brothers.
The store sold goods that included everything from paints and oils to drugs and medications to liquors and wines to stoves and other appliances, such as machines for farming. They also sold sleds, skis, skates, toboggans, sinks, irons, and other goods.
In 1899, the brothers decided to open a branch of their store in Lyons Falls. At this time, Lyons Falls was booming with business, thanks to the new local business enterprise, Gould Paper Co. The Lyons Falls branch was the center of business for many years.
In 1901, James Doyle’s son, Frank, joined the firm. He urged his uncles and father to expand the variety of merchandise being sold in the store to encourage new customers to become part of the hardware business’s clientele. Not long after this, the firm took over the hardware business established by Lewis Riggs in Port Leyden.
In 1923, the last of the original Doyle brothers passed away, leaving the business to Frank Doyle. He changed the name back to Doyle Hardware and opened more branches throughout New York. In 1943, James T. Doyle became a partner of Doyle Hardware. At this time, the company had its main offices in Utica, New York. At its peak, the firm had stores in Utica, Newport, Dolgeville, Lyons Falls, Constableville, Port Leyden, Richfield Springs, Norwich, Fort Plain, and Cazenovia.
But sadly, the prosperity of Doyle Hardware began to dwindle. The last store of the once prosperous Hardware chain was located in Utica. As for the branch in Lyons Falls, in 1976, Larry Dolhof and his parents bought the business. They changed the name to Dolhof and, in the early 1980s, Larry Dolhof bought out his parents for full ownership of the store. At this time, Larry was only in his thirties. Now, Larry has ten employees and loves the store. He says that owning a business in Lyons Falls is great because it is in his hometown, the residents are very supportive of him and his business, and in return, he loves being an active member in the community. And although Doyle Hardware is no more, Lyons Falls is fortunate to have such a great business in its place.
Black River Canal
The Black River Canal is one of the most influential aspects of Lyons Falls' history. The story of the canal began in 1836, when the construction of a canal was authorized to be built from the Black River to Boonville. The canal would be continued from Boonville south to Rome and north to Lyons Falls. The contract for the canal from Rome to Boonville was signed in November of 1837 and would be 14 miles in length. The canal started toward Lyons Falls in 1838. The canal was finally completed in 1855. It had six aqueducts, twelve waste-weirs, eighteen culverts, thirty-six road bridges, forty farm bridges, three tow bridges, and two dams, and stretched about ninty-five miles. Within thirty-five miles, there were 109 locks, a world record. The canal brought a lot of industry to Northern New York, including Lyons Falls. Hazel C. Drew wrote about the influence the Canal had on the Village of Lyons Falls in her book, Tales From Little Lewis. An excerpt is attached: ...mrsdrewcanal.pdf
People like money. That’s not a ridiculous statement. This statement is proven true by the amount of banks in society today: HSBC, Key Bank, Community, Northern Federal Credit Union, etc, etc. But there are some who remember when Lyons Falls wasn’t a part of the name-brand banking system. Some people remember when Lyons Falls National Bank was the center of Lyons Falls’ banking needs.
The Lyons Falls National Bank originated in September of 1925 on Center Street in Lyons Falls. At this time, it was directed by a group of men and President, George Cannon. After a bank robbery, the bank was reorganized in 1930 by Harry P. Gould, president of the Gould Paper Co. Mr. Gould served as President while Clarence L. Fisher served as Vice President. Throughout the years, there were many other directors and leaders of the bank, including Gordon H. P Gould, James Doyle, May Gould, Seth Burdick, Fred Sheldon, Lou Cain, Jane Allen, Charles Taylor and Roscoe Reeder. Some cashiers that may be well remembered are Francis Maloy, Clifford Beadle, and Francis Cox. In 1982, the Lyons Falls National Bank was sold to Key Bank. Since then there have been two other banks in charge before the Lyons Falls branch of Community Bank was opened.
Running a bank is no easy feat, especially in today’s society. People seem to be making a lot more money nowadays, but the penny isn’t going nearly as far as it did previously. Even interest rates were drastically different back then. Jane Allen commented how, when she was President, interest rates on a standard savings account would be close to 15%. Now, most savings account had an interest rate of about 1%. That is quite a change! When asked what made the bank so profitable, Mrs. Allen told that Gould Paper Mill Co. had quite a few accounts there, but what really made the bank succeed was the support and loyalty of their customers: “It was a real friendly place, you know.
Doing the research for the different SpotLights, all the business owners have professed how wonderful the people in the Village really are. Like Jane Allen says, Lyons Falls has “a lot of loyal customers” and “good employees.” Those are a few of the reasons why Lyons Falls is such a nice neighborhood.
Lyons Falls History Association | lyonsfallshistory.org