"Natural Bridge"

Watertown Daily Times, March 13, 1872 - (Correspondence of the Daily Times and Reformer)

A few lines descriptive of this place may not be uninteresting to the readers of the Times and Reformer. This village is situated in the northeastern corner of the town of Wilna, on the Indian River. It is said to have derived its name from the fact that the river formerly ran some eighty rods underground, coming out upon the other side of the hill. The main stream now runs upon the surface around the hill. The old watercourse through the hill is yet open. It has been explored and is said to abound in geological specimens, bats, etc.

The village contains three churches, three stores, a gristmill, cloth dressing establishment, three wagon shops, three blacksmith shops, three shoe shops, a hotel, and of course a schoolhouse and six saw mills. These saw mills use the circular saw, and are propelled by water, with one exception, where steam is employed. They cut an immense amount of lumber during the year.

Two of the churches, the Universalistic and Methodist, were built last summer. The latter, which is a particularly fine looking structure, was built by Geo. Nelson - a first-class architect and millwright.

The "Bonaparte House" is one of the primitive structures of the place. It is a large, square, two-story house, and was built by Joseph Bonaparte in 1828-9, who resided here for two years.

The Wilna Tannery owned by T. E. Proctor, of Boston, and conducted by C.H. Starkey, formerly of Penobscot County, Me., employs forty hands. This tannery is heated by steam, and the machinery is run by steam, except the hide mill, which is propelled by water. It was burned twice in one year. The first burning occurred in the fall, necessitating the building in the winter, but Mr. Starkey, the energetic superintendent, proved equal to the emergency, and it was rebuilt and running by May, when it was again burned and again rebuilt. The present building is fireproof. It has the capacity of tanning 20,000 hides per year, which are shipped from Boston, and the leather is returned to that place. The proprietor, Mr. Proctor, has two other tanneries in this State, and is one of the largest leather dealers in Boston. This establishment is a great help to the place, paying a large of money monthly to the hands, which of course is ultimately distributed among the people. The amount paid for bark and labor for the month of February will be $1,000. The price of bark is $4 per cord, and they have now on hand 6,000 cords. There is a store connected with the tannery, which sells goods to the amount of $20,000 annually.

The Lumber Business of Graves & Averell, of Cooperstown, who own four or five thousand acres of land in this region, is conducted by P.E. Johnson and A. S. Russell. They employ a good number of hands and teams, and have a store for the accommodation of their customers as well as the public. They report one of the best seasons for the lumbering business that has been known for a long time. The average depth of snow has been but little over a foot. This firm gives employment to a large number of people, and distributes a good amount of cash among their employees.

The Railroad.

The village is immediately on the line of the tram railroad (Black River & St. Lawrence), which it was proposed to build from Carthage to DeKalb Junction, by way of Edwards. This railroad was completed to this point, and operated for a season. It is said that parties were only waiting for its completion five miles further, when they intended to build to extensive steam sawmills, but the construction of the railroads being stopped, of course the mills were not built. 

These parties own a large amount of timbered land in that region, on a section of 500 acres, of which it is estimated that there are 12 million feet of excellent pine lumber. It is said that there is a belt of excellent timbered land, from 5 to 10 miles in breadth, adjacent to the line of this proposed road and parallel with it, and it is estimated by competent judges, that were this road completed with iron track, the lumber trade would pay the running expenses the first ten years.

The town of Edwards was bonded for $25,000, and subscriptions were received sufficient to swell this amount to $40,000, with the condition that the amount should be paid when they commenced to lay an iron track on the Carthage end of the road. Pitcairn will bond when it is determined to build an iron track road, but as the plan of building a tram road has been abandoned, the whole project seems to have fallen through for the present. Should the project of building an iron track road be taken up soon, the work already performed upon the road is available, as also the amount subscribed by Edwards, with a good prospect of aid from Pitcairn, and the probability that even Wilna would consent to be financially squeezed a little more in order to make available what she has already contributed.

Watertown Daily Times, Feb. 8, 1874

Natural Bridge -The people here is looking forward to the time when they will have a railroad. They have tasted the "sweets" of bonding, without having any return. We have no doubt that five years time will see the "iron horse" on his daily passage through or near this village. There's a company seriously considering the project of building the road. This company, we understand, have received an offer of the road as it now stands, if they will iron it within a given time, and they have until some time next summer to determine whether they will accept the proposition or not.

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