The area now known as the Town of Lee
lies just north of the center of Oneida County. The area of the town
covers 27, 771 acres. The Town of Lee was erected from the Town of
Western on April 3, 1811. On March 3, 1812, the first Town Meeting
was held. On April 12, 1823, a portion of Lee was ceded to the newly
created town of Annsville, leaving the present boundaries. For those
doing research in this area, Western was erected from Steuben March 10,
1797, and Steuben from Whitestown April 10, 1792. Census records
for 1790 would be under Montgomery County. Census records for 1800
to present are under Oneida County. The first census taken under
the Town of Lee was in 1820.
The first known settlement was made on the west side of the Mohawk River in the year 1790 near what later became known as Delta. These early pioneers were Esek Sheldon and his sons, Stephen, Reuben and Amasa. Stephen built the first house, a small log cabin, in the area of Potash Brook. Esek and the other brothers took up land west of the Mohawk River near what later became the road to Lee Center.
Another settler around the same time was David Smith and his sons, David Jr., and Rusell. David Jr. built the first saw mill in 1791/92 on the Mohawk River in Delta. Also in 1790 came Deacon Nathan Barlow and his wife and her sons, Smith, Eliakim, Dan and Luther Miller. They cut the first wagon path from Elmer Hill to their residence in Lee Center, a distance of about a mile and a half. Prior to this the only way through the dense forest was by Indian paths and travel was by foot.
By 1792 Edward Salisbury and his seven sons settled near Delta, as did Otis White, John Spinning, Luther Washburn and Benjamin Crittenden.
In 1796, John Hall and Smith Miller built a saw mill on the Canada Creek at Lee Center. Around the same time General William Floyd built the first grist mill in the town. This was located on Canada Creek about one and one-half miles south of Lee Center near the Rome town line. In 1798 the Forfar brothers built another grist mill on Canada Creek in Lee Center.
The first school house, called the West Schoolhouse, was erected in 1796 by the inhabitants of the area and the first school session commenced the following year. This was the first frame building in the town, and was located about 3/4 of a mile southeast of Lee Center. According to information found, this building was in Fonda's Patent, Lot. No. 1, which puts it in the vicinity of Hawkins Corners Road. In addition to being the local school this building was also used as the principal meeting place for public and religious services for over twenty years. The first school teacher here was Elijah Blake. By 1845 there
were 17 schools in the town. In 1957 Lee consolidated with the Rome City School District and the schools in Lee were discontinued. The old stone school house on the Lee-Point Rock Road, built in 1833, still stands.
The first religious society was the Order of Congregationalists and was organized in 1797. Members of this society held services in the West Schoolhouse for a number of years. On June 19, 1819, John Smith, of the Town of Lee, sold, for $15, a parcel of land in Fonda's Patent, in the north part of Lot. No. 24, to David Byam, Luther Miller and Benjamin Coddington, Trustees of the First Congregational Society of Lee. This description puts it in the area of Marsh Road, near the intersection of Thomas Road. The first minister was Rev. James Southworth. Some early members of this church were Deacon Nathan Barlow and his wife Lydia, James and Hannah Young, John Hall, Eliakim Miller, Dan Miller, Deacon Ebenezer Seymour and his wife, Hezekiah Elmer, Joshua Wells and Joseph Simmons, The church later fell into disuse and was demolished.
Over the next few years others came to the area, clearing land, building homes and creating roads through the forest. Due to a lack of written records no one will ever know exactly who these brave pioneers were or when they arrived.
In 1811 it was decided to divide the Town of Western. Proceedings were started to erect the Town of Lee. Henry Wager from Western, John Hall from Lee, and George Huntington of Rome were chosen commissioners to fix the boundaries with Benjamin Wright as surveyor. Boundaries were harmoniously agreed upon. The name of Lee was chosen as several inhabitants had emigrated here from Lee, Massachusetts. On March 3, 1812, the first Town Meeting was held at the West Schoolhouse, the only framed building in the town.
At this meeting the following officials were elected into office:
Town Supervisor James Young Jr.
Town Clerk West Waterman
Assessors Jesse Dutton, Earl Fillmore, Joseph White
Collector Samuel Hall
Overseer of the Poot John Hall, Dan Taft
Commissioner of Highways Jotham Worden, Dan Taft, Thomas E. Lawrence
Constables George Hawkins, Samuel Hall, Zebediel Wentworth
Fence Viewers Adonijah Barnard, Dan Taft, Asahel Castle
Poundmasters Dan Taft, Alpheus Wheelock
This was the beginning of the history
of the Town of Lee. Much has taken place in the 175 plus years since
the first Town Meeting.
On June 14, 1855, Isaac Shear and his wife Eunice, sold a parcel of land to Micah Richmond, Joseph Golly, Joshua O. Bushnell, Octvais Trenham, and George Tuthill, Trustees of the First Methodist Episcopal Society of Lee. This parcel of land was next to the Lee Valley Cemetery on Lee Valley Road. A church as built on the site and existed for many years.
On March 8, 1872, a grand 60th Anniversary Celebration was held in Lee. Seven of the original voters in Lee who took part in the first Town Meeting were still alive. Three were present at the celebration, William Park, Nathaniel Kenyon and Stephen Allen.
Many are not aware of the importance the Town of Lee plays in the City of Rome. In 1908, the City of Rome Water Works began construction of Kessinger Dam on Fish Creek in Annsville for the purpose of supplying Rome with water. A dam, gate house and tunnel were built on the site of the Chisam farm on Fish Creek in Annsville. The gate house at the dam diverts water into a tunnel over 5, 500 feet long, dug through solid rock. After leaving the tunnel the water enters a 36" concrete aqueduct which carries it to the reservoir at Stokes, a little less than 6 miles. This water line crosses the entire width of the Town of Lee.
The Wagar farm on the Stokes-Lee Center Road was purchased for the reservoir which was constructed in 1909. From the Stokes Reservoir water is piped along Turin Road to Rome. On January 10, 1910, water from Fish Creek entered the city mains.
There are several areas in the town which attracted the early settlers. We have chosen five of the larger hamlets as each one at some point in time had a post office. Of these, Lee Center is the largest and is the seat of the town government. Even though we have referred to these hamlets as villages none of them were ever incorporated.
Please join us on an historical tour of the "villages" in the Town of Lee. Some of them are lacking information for which we apologize. As we continue our research more information will be added as it is found so stop back again. If you have information you would like to see included please let us know. Any contributions are welcome.
Enjoy your tour.