Nina Daniels



Wednesday, November 17, 1948

Parish was taken up with the surroundings at the site of this village, and on March 15, 1810 he wrote his agent, Rosseel, that he might give his name to the village where he expected to grow up. It was known as Cookham then. The river especially seemed to hold his admiration, although no bridge had been built across it at that time. He wrote: "The falls at Parishville are 80 feet high and a very romantic sight." That was way back, you know, before the streams in Northern New York had been stripped of the timber growing beside them, before lumbermen had cut down the splendid forest, before paper mills, and before our lovely St. Regis had been imprisoned in the penstock which now winds from the "Little Bridge" to Allen's Falls. Older folk in the village remember the tumultuous journey of the river over the rocks, through the gorge, and on to other falls beyond where it finally became smooth and peaceful again. The year before a road was started from Potsdam to here. It is now known as "The State Road," and was the first one to be built in the town. Folks in the pioneer days were not as fussy as they are now. David Parish succeeded in founding his estate in a roadless, houseless, folk-less wilderness absolutely devoid of everything people of to-day regard as necessities. It is a far cry from Mrs. Luke Brown's shanty at The Center into which she moved in 1811 to the electrified homes in the town of 1948. Mrs. Luke had the crudest kind of a heating plant with a pipe running out of the roof on which to prepare her meals. Mrs. Madam now insists on the latest model, electric or a bottled gas one, shining and beautiful. Mrs. Luke had only a half floor in her shanty. Mrs. Madam worries if her nice hardwood boards are not waxed to perfection. Probably Mrs. Brown washed at the nearby brook; Mrs. Madam has the latest washer which also dries the clothes. If the Browns had any soap at all, they made it with wood ashes and fat.

The modern family is in a dither if "the lights go off" and instant telephoning brings an engineer to remedy the lack; Mrs. Brown made her own lights out of tallow and a tin mold. We have found it impossible to induce a doctor to come here and settle down, even though a nice modern house and office are available. It is too far from movies, etc. We wonder how Mrs. Brown got along in that wilderness peopled by wild animals and with neighbors no nearer than eight miles. But those men and women were made of stuff necessary in order to settle this glorious land of ours.

Our village was surveyed in 1812 by Sewell Raymond of Potsdam, although a grist mill and distillery had been erected the year before. Mr. Parish seemed to love his domain here. The river, with its waterfalls, the hills, and the fine timber appealed to him. He had been a guest in the fine manor house of Leray de Chaumont near Watertown, already improved and beautified. His family was landed gentry in Bohemia, and the idea of building up a fine estate in this New World with himself at the head was a dream he entertained until its final accomplishment. On Sept. 5, 1812, he wrote to Joseph Rosseel, his first agent as follows: "I returned yesterday from an excursion to Madrid, Potsdam, Cookham, Russell and DeKalb . . . I have some idea of laying out a farm and building a small house for myself there," meaning at Parishville.

(To be continued)



North Country