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Lyme Town

Jefferson County, New York

Lyme Town Hall is located at 12175 State Route 12E, Chaumont, NY 13622; phone: 315‑649‑2788.


Beginnings [1]

The site of Lyme, long part of the vast Iroquois hunting grounds in the eastern Lake Ontario region, was ceded to the United States by the Oneida and Onondaga tribes in 1788. In an effort to settle the north frontier and prevent border warfare with Canada, the New York State Office of Land Commissioner sold most of what was to become Jefferson County to speculator Daniel Macomb in 1792. The lands soon passed to William Constable, who sold part of the tract to Peter Chassanis, sponsor of the ill-fated attempt to establish a community of French refugees at "Castorland." In 1801, Chassanis' brother-in-law James LeRay de Chaumont, an ardent Americophile, and his associate Gouverneur Morris acquired and divided the vast territory between them, with LeRay's share covering some quarter million acres between the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Soon afterwards LeRay established a land office and home base in LeRaysville near Watertown and began to sell or lease the lands to the incoming tide of settlers from New England and lower New York State.

In many respects 1818 was a banner year for the town of Lyme. It was in this year that Lyme was officially formed from Cape Vincent and Brownville and named by settler Eber Kelsey for his hometown of Lyme, Connecticut. It was also in 1818 that Point Peninsula was first settled by the numerous Wilcox family, also from Connecticut. This period also saw the beginnings of a number of local industries which supported Lyme's economy throughout the nineteenth century. Fishing emerged as an important export industry; from about 1816 until the time of the Civil War, approximately 10,000 barrels of "ciscoes" (lake herring) and whitefish were exported annually from Chaumont. Lyme's first stone quarry opened in 1825 at Chaumont, soon renowned for the fine texture and durability of its marble-like limestone. Saw and grist mills lined Horse Creek east of Chaumont, on what became known as "Sawmill Bay."

  1. John A. Bonafide, New York State OPRHP Field Services Bureau, Town of Lyme Multiple Resource Area, Jefferson County, NY, nomination document, 1990, National Park Service, national register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.