A Clarkson Mosaic - page 8

sword of surrender from General Burgoyne. [NOTE. Trumbull's famous painting of that
surrender hangs in the Capitol rotunda in Washington.] In 1798, he was promoted to Major
General. His great, great grandson, Robert Livingston Clarkson, was a Trustee of the College
from 1942 to 1967, and his great, great, great grandson, Bayard Clarkson, currently is a
University Trustee.
Continuing his service to his country, General Matthew introduced the first bill to free the
slaves, and even after it was defeated once, he continued to push for its passage. Even though the
entire family stood against slavery and wrote vociferously against it, contrary to legend the
Potsdam estate never became a station on the underground railway.
After the Revolutionary War, many Tories with their pro-English sentiments fled north,
and settled along the banks of the St. Lawrence River under the leadership of Sir John Johnson.
This "pocket" of pro-English people was viewed as a potential threat to the rest of the state. To
create a buffer zone of protection for the Mohawk Valley from an invasion from the British in
Canada, the New York State Legislature in 1785 enacted legislation authorizing the sale of the
land as townships of 64,000 acres (10 miles square) divided into mile-square lots along the upper
reaches of the state. Two years later, the legislature divided this zone again into 10 towns, five
along the St. Lawrence River, and five more just south of these five: Louisville, Stockholm,
Potsdam, Madrid, Lisbon, Canton, DeKalb, Oswegatchie, Hague (Morristown), and Cambray
(Gouverneur). These 10 towns were sold at public auction in New York City at the corner of
Water and Wall Street on July 10, 1787.
Alexander Macomb was the principal purchaser, but financial woes forced him to sell
them to William Constable in 1799. To survey his new purchase, Constable hired six surveyors,
one of whom was Benjamin Raymond. Later, in 1802, Constable conveyed to David M.
Clarkson, Garrit Van Horne, and their associates all the town of Potsdam, except for a two-mile
strip on the north side adjacent to Madrid. Then, in 1821, this Clarkson purchase was sold in
separate parcels to various proprietors, including Levinus Clarkson, John C. Clarkson, Thomas
S. Clarkson, Garrit Van Horne, William Bayard (all cousins or in-laws), and Nicholas Fish.
In 1803, acting as land agent for the Clarksons, Benjamin Raymond erected a sawmill a
half-mile down river from where Potsdam now stands. Then he laid out roads, including the
main wagon road from Stockholm through Potsdam to Canton. Two years later he and his family
and others cleared and settled the land. By 1805 he had built his home on the west bank of the
river near the present Maple Street bridge. A story and a half structure 62 feet long with two
wings forming a Greek cross, his home commonly was called Fox and Geese House because it
resembled the playing board used in the game of that name. Costing about $2,000 to build, it
served as land office, home, hotel, general headquarters, and as church on Sunday. He also built
a farmhouse on his large farm on the east side of the river.
Around 1834, David L. Clarkson bought this farm, and erected the stone house called the
Castle, now on Castle Drive. An inscription on a beam in its cellar reads "Anno Lucis 5830"
which has been assumed to mean the house had been erected around 1830. In 1835 or 1836, after
the original farmhouse burned, David Clarkson erected the large house on Leroy Street facing
south, now called the Merritt Apartments. Ten years later he sold all his interests in Potsdam and
moved to New York City.
Earlier, in 1821, John C. Clarkson built Holcroft House, originally called the Mansion
House. It was remodeled in 1883 and a mansard roof was added. Soon after his arrival in
Potsdam, John formed a religious organization called the Trinity Church Society. By 1835, the
Trinity Church Parish had been formed, and all the land on Fall Island south of the turnpike was
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