Early Town meeting records (1787-1799) reveal a forgotten, but interesting slice of our past.
Though earliest Town offices had some familiar titles, i.e. Supervisor, Assessors, Town Clerk, Collector (presumably of the Tax variety), others are more intriguing. Take the titles of:
- Fence Viewers,
- Constables of Northern District,
- Overseers of the Poor.
- Commissioner of Roads in the Northern District,
- By 1788, we had “Commissioners of laying out Highways”,
- “Commissioners for Keeping in Repair the Highways”,
- Pound Master;
- In 1789 -Trustees of the Public Lots was added.
In those early years, Town meetings were held just once each year on the first Tuesday in April except on rare occasions or when an emergency arose. The titles are generally self explanatory and help illustrate the development of the community over time.
Fence Viewers may be somewhat a mystery, but legislation approved at the 1792 meeting sheds some light on this:
“Voted that all fence well (sic) erected of good Rails four and a half feet shall be lawful fence and all fence made of Logs, Potts Stones Boards or Brush equal impassible with the first described fence to be deemed lawful.
Voted All and every Seed horse or Stallions running at large shall pay and forfeit for every offence forty shillings, one half for the use of the Town and the other half for Complainer, to take effect from the first day of May next.
Voted All rams running at large after the first day September next until 15 November following shall be forfeited one half to the Complainer and the other half to the Town. Any ram or rams found running at large in said time to be taken to the Pound and at sold at Vendue within 48 hours by the Pound Keeper and other half paid to the Town Treasurer for use of the town.
Voted That if any hogs or sheep be found in any inclosure may be pounded and the owner or owners place be liable to pay all damages.
Voted That no man shall catch any Salmon after the 15th October, no Gil nets be set accross the river Saranac under the penalty of twenty shillings for each and every offence to be applied as above
Voted That fence Viewers shall have 4/. pr day when on duty
Records were hand written with quill pens, often in haste so that letters were left off and words were often misspelled because few people had a formal education. Clerks might write as words sounded. As a result, there were often variations in spelling of the same person’s name from year to year.
Path Masters were evidently responsible for monitoring sections of roadways in their neighborhood. Many were needed to cover the roads of the Town at a time when the horse was the most efficient means to cover any distance. Thus, in 1793, the Town record lists Wm Coe as responsible for the “South side of Cumberland Head”, “Abraham Travis for the North side”, “Binjm Graves from Dead Creek to Mills”, “Chas. Durham from Sailley South side Town”; “Chas. Platt from Hill bidlow to Lake”; and several others covered other areas.
That same year, they voted “that eight pounds currency be raised for building a Pound to be set near the Court House. Judge Platt as Treasurer to receive the money and to have the direction of building the Pound.”
We’ll take another look at other slices of early Plattsburgh life in later editions.