A Clarkson Mosaic - page 13

Coming to Potsdam in 1840 at the age of three when his parents moved from his birthplace of New
York City, Clarkson University's Thomas attended the St.Lawrence Academy, but finished his education with
private tutors. He and his brother Levinus ran the Clarkson farm of more than 1,000 acres until Levinus died
unexpectedly in 1876. Deeply saddened by the loss of his devoted brother, Thomas gave up farming and
focused his time on other business interests in Potsdam. By 1880, he owned and ran sandstone quarries along
the Raquette River employing about 50 people at the main quarry located near the present power plant in
Hannawa Falls; further down river in 1886 he opened a second quarry which employed over 100 men.
These sandstone quarries, worked since 1809, had furnished stone for many buildings in Potsdam
and the area. Potsdam's first sandstone building, a store at the corner of Market and Elm Street (now a
jewelry store), was erected as an experiment to prove that the stone was practical for buildings. Later, three
stone houses were built along Elm Street, followed over the years by other houses, by stores along Market
Street, by the St. Lawrence Academy, by the David L. Clarkson house (now Merritt Apartments on Leroy
Street across from the Junior and Senior High Schools), and in 1835, by Trinity Church on Fall Island. All of
these were built of the slab and binder type of stone cutting.
Half a century later, after 1876, under Thomas' leadership and guidance, quarries began cutting stone
in rough ashlar form for other buildings in Potsdam: Potsdam's Town Hall (Civic Center), Universalist
Church (now the Museum), Old Main (Clarkson's first building), St. Mary's Church, the chapel and facade of
Trinity Church, Bayside Lodge, Potsdam's Depot, and the Zion Episcopal Church in Colton. From Thomas'
sandstone cutting sheds on Pine Street, sandstone was shipped all over the United States for such buildings as
the All Saints Cathedral in Albany, N.Y., which cost over $2 million. It even was shipped to Canada where it
was used in the construction of the $4 million Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
Concerning this red sandstone, Prof. Newberry of Columbia College, New York City, said in 1898:
It is stronger than any granite, and much more durable, since granites are composed of quartz, feldspar, mica, and
hornblende, all of which, except quartz, are liable to decomposition on exposure. From this danger this stone is free; composed
as it is of pure silica, it will bid defiance to the tooth of time, and had the obelisk now standing in Central Park [New York City]
been composed of as dense and homogeneous stone as Potsdam sandstone, it would today be as perfect as when erected at
Tanis 1,500 years BC.
During the Civil War, Thomas was the main inspiration in St. Lawrence County to raise over a
million dollars to help the Union cause. He was equally dedicated to his county and village. When
improvements were needed, he would assume public office to see that they were secured. For example,
recognizing that every community has its unemployables, he became a member of the building committee for
a new county farm in 1865. His influence helped rehouse the poor of the county from an old and run-down
building to a fine new structure along the banks of the Grasse River just north of Canton. Considered one of
the most modern of county homes in its day, this building survived until the early 1980s when, after standing
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