Wednesday, December 1, 1948
The housing question was as much of a problem to those few families as young couples have now, with this exception: upon arriving into this wilderness if no dwelling could be found, they went at it and made one. They either cobbled up a crude shanty or a log cabin after clearing a spot large enough for a house. They helped each other both in chopping down trees and making housing sufficient for a time at least. Daniel Hoard writes in April 20, 1813: "I send you a list of the lots which have houses on them. All the streets in the village are named for members of the Parish family: Elizabeth St. 2 houses lot No. 1 Lot 4, same St. Daniels Church, 4 houses. Daniel Forbes, lot 5. Russell Foote, lot 6. John Thomkins, lot 7. Ira Ransome, lot 8. Reuben Roys, lot 8, Harriet St. Lot 1, John St. Moor, lot 4."
It will be seen that quite a variety of trades was represented by this small population. There were several carpenters, a shoemaker, a tailor, a hatter, a wheelwright, a nailer, a copper, a merchant, a miller, a tavern keeper, a boarding house keeper, a sawyer, a brick maker, and a joiner. In existence in 1814 were a grist mill, distillery, storehouse, all made of field stone sturdily built with masonry between. The latter still stands in good condition, and used as a home in upper story by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Foster. There was also the brick barn on the county road, the tavern of wood construction, and on the Common a large building used for several purposes, for religious and other meetings. Also David Parish's own house must have been in existence, as on October 7, 1814, Smissaert wrote Parish a letter of grievance against the servant who had been obtained for waiting on the two agents and Mr. Parish himself if he should wish to stop there. The latter, however, almost always stopped at his tavern. Among the furnishings which had been brought to the house which stood on the County road near the site of the house now occupied by the Bradish family, and near the four corners and within sight of the stand-pipe at the powerhouse at Allens Falls, were mattresses, carpets, candle-sticks and candles, cutlery, "casseroles," pillows, sheeting, pewter candle-sticks, rugs mirrors, soap, snuffs, saws, tea kettles and many other objects nearly all of which were expensive. One bill alone which was sent Parish for such like furnishings came to $1846.42.
Smissaert, the agent, and friend complained in several of his letters of the character of the native workmen, calling them lazy and dishonest, likewise of the great amount of money Parish was spending without looking after his affairs himself. Mr. Parish, himself, as nearly as I have been able to learn from old residents here, was well liked, although his residence here was rather fitful. He was especially interested in the manufacture of fine whiskey in his distillery and the raising of a breed of merino sheep in which undertaking he was joined by James Leray DeChaumont of Jefferson County. This undertaking was a dismal failure, owing to the cold climate, wolves and inadequate shelters. The house built by Parish was pleasantly located, well built and nicely furnished. Much of the material had to be brought from a long distance away for those times, especially the furnishings. Built during the War of 1812, some trouble was experienced by loads being "pressed," their contents sometimes dumped into the snow, the rigs confiscated for use of armies. This house was the farm-house, but dear to the heart of David as he had contemplated enlarging his estate into a fine manor, on it a large, fine manor house, himself the "lord of the manor." We can picture him driving here from his elegant home in Ogdensburg often on horseback, as roads were not yet made. The latter George came in fine coaches. David would be planning his house and his fine mansion, and enlarging his plans for a small empire in America such he had seen in Europe. Parks, waterfalls, game were already at his hand, and it remained for him to finish the scene by elegant buildings, their contents, expensive horses, equipages, servants, and other accompaniments of a gentleman's aristocratic establishment. But alas, for human schemes. His farm-house was built, his pioneers were happily settling his lands, paying in grain for the distillery. And down there on the lovely St. Regis River, a dream of an island lay above it the imaginary scene of future building operations surrounded by rich fields of vegetation native to those fields when the great forests should have disappeared. With such a picture in his mind, David Parish one day set off on another expedition such as G. Smaissaert deplored, mayhap to New York, maybe to Germany. At any rate, while he was gone a new road was laid out past his new house. The records of Frank Daniels, former highway superintendant of Parishville, show that on April 27, 1815, John Tomkins and Luke Brown, highway superintendants, with A. Colburn as surveyor, laid out the road to Stockholm line. In doing this job they passed the Parish land and his house, but instead of following the crude road as it was, and which ran several degrees west by north, they set their compasses and ran the line of the road 24 chains and 34 links due north, putting the Parish buildings off the road and with his house with its back to the road. Neither road nor house was ever changed but the history of this town was perhaps vitally altered. For when Mr. Parish returned from his travels it was to wind up his affairs, look once more on the accomplishments of less than ten years of planning and the non realization of a dream, and take his departure for his European home never to return.
I have often pondered on this story. Why did David Parish tire of his enterprises in Northern New York? Did the complaints of G. Smaissaert discourage him? About the mail service, the roads, the shiftless, dishonest natives? Had his expenses begun to worry him? Perhaps, for in 1826 after being involved in a Vienna bank failure he committed suicide by drowning in the Danube River. Maybe he felt that he and his pioneers could never be happy together, as he was used to the European peasantry, and the pioneers were liberty-loving free Americans from Vermont and New Hampshire. What would there ever be in common between an aristocratic European and independent Americans? No one can ever answer all the questions, but one can only ask others. Just how would this town have developed if Parish had lived and carried out his plans? He crowded much into his 46 years. He must have had an adventurous imagination and boundless energy, but he must have grown very weary of body and spirit. Can we feature a lovely mansion down on the brow of the hills overlooking the river on the county road? Should our enterprises have fashioned themselves as they did? Should we have now our quiet village electrified, with its fine roads, its central school just as they are now?
The farm and house of Parish was next owned after George I and George II by William Abram, a name familiar to older dwellers of this town. Here his family was raised. His daughter was married from the house to George Everett. Her children, George and Fred Everett and Mrs. Fred Duffy of Hartford, Conn., are well known here. The next owners were Nelson Crouch, then Robert McEwen. Mr. McEwen gave the farm to his daughter for a Christmas present. She sold it to Orin Wilson who owns it now. King Rhodes was the tenant in 1926 when the house burned.
I have never learned how the house came to burn, but have heard much about its appearance and interior. The right wing was for spinning, the left for laundry and butter making. There were sanded floors walked on until they were white, and the living room was very large, with lively hardwood furnishings. Many fireplaces were in it and the plaster was fine and solid. In the back yard were pear and cherry trees. During Mr. Abram's day the farm was a self supporting little state. In Parish's day he would come for reports abut his sheep and hogs. The old barn was spared when the house burned and still stands. You pass it every time you drive here on the county road from Potsdam. It has a foreign look, the roof sloping down close to the ground. It is 96 by 56 feet, and only 7 feet above ground at the eaves. It has been covered by boards, but underneath it is of bricks, probably made on the farm. But gone are the workmen, gone the man who founded Parishville who had his dreams there where the old barn stands, but left us only a few old buildings and his name to indicate that such a person ever lived. What hopes failed, what in his life failed to satisfy that the swift waters of the Danube must quench the spirit of such an adventurous one as he?