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Column for 7.20.11
This year’s edition of the Lewis County Fair opened in Lowville on July 19th and will run until July 23rd. This is the 191st annual Lewis County Fair.
Any event that can last 191 straight years has to be top quality and fun.
In honor of the Lewis County Fair, I have revisited Lewis County history books to see how places were named, starting with the name of the county.
Lewis County, which was part of Oneida County until 1805, is named in honor of Morgan Lewis.
Lewis, who was of Welch ancestry, was a son of Francis Lewis, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Morgan Lewis was born in New York City on October 16, 1754. He graduated Princeton College in 1773 and joined the law office of the famous John Jay. Two years later, Lewis volunteered for the Army in Boston, was given the rank of captain, fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and eventually became a general.
General Lewis married Gertrude Livingston in 1777, a union that lasted 54 years.
Lewis was elected to the New York State Assembly, the Senate and served as the state’s attorney general, chief justice on the state Supreme Court and was the fourth governor of the state, 1804-1807.
Lewis, one of the founders of New York University, died in New York City in 1844 and was buried in Episcopal cemetery at Hyde Park.
Besides being honored by having a county named after him, the Town of Lewis in Essex County is also named after Morgan Lewis.
Here are the origins of a few other Lewis County place names:
NEW BREMEN – Bremen is a great port city in Germany and immigrants to Lewis County brought the name with them. In fact, at least 10 cities in the United States are named Bremen or New Bremen.
OSCEOLA – The town, formed in 1844, was named in honor of a Seminole chief. The suggestion for the name “at the request of a young lady of Brooklyn…” No information about this Brooklyn lady is in the history book.
MONTAGUE – The town was formed in West Turin in 1850 and was named in honor of Mary Montague Pierpont, daughter of Hezekiah Pierpont, who owned large tracts of land in the area.
LYONSDALE – Caleb Lyon was a prominent early settler, so prominent that the town was named in his honor in 1873, by dividing the Town of Greig.
LOWVILLE – The Town of Lowville was formed from Mexico in Oswego County in 1800 and was named in honor of Nicholas Low. Alas, the history book doesn’t tell us who he was. But Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, says that Low (1739-1826) was a merchant and developer from New York City who owned and developed property in Lewis County, including what was to become Lowville. Low, unlike his brother, was a supporter of the rebel cause during the American Revolution and would go on to serve in the New York State Assembly and he also attended the state’s 1788 convention that ratified the United States Constitution. Low died at home in New York City in 1826.
LEYDEN – Formed from Steuben in 1797, before Lewis County was even formed, thus making it the oldest town in the county, the town’s name comes from a settlement made under the auspices of the Holland Land Company whose members came from Leyden, Holland.
HARRISBURG – Named in honor of Richard Harrison, who owned land throughout what would become Lewis County. The town has gone up and down in size. In 1804 Harrisburg’s size was increased through the annexation of Handel, which had previously been part of Mexico. But Harrisburg went down in size by the formation of Denmark in 1807. It was again reduced in size when the Town of Pinckney was formed in 1808.
PINCKNEY – The town honors Charles Pinckney, a popular statesman of South Carolina. Again we turn to Wikipedia, which states that one Charles Pinckney was a signer of the U.S. Constitution, governor of South Carolina, U.S. Senator and minister to Spain. What Wikipedia doesn’t tell us is how Pinckney was involved with the northern New York town that has his name.