New to the website: Historically Speaking- an article by Historian Leanna Hale on the changes Clarkson has experienced historically since 1975.

Excerpts from
by Hazel Kleinbach — former Historian for the Town of Clarkson



The original town of Clarkson included most of the northern half of the Triangle Tract, which was purchased four New York City speculators, LeRoy, Bayard, McEvers Clarkson, from Robert Morris. From 1808 through 1819 it was a part of the town of Murray. The first permanent settlers began arriving in the town in 1803, settling along or near Lake Road, the first road through the tract. After Ridge Road was constructed as a State Road in 1809, it, too, lured pioneers seeking homesites. By 1816 a small hamlet had formed at the intersection of the two roads, which became known as "Murray Four Corners".

Prior to 1812 there was little settlement in the town, due in part to the dense forests and swamp land north of the Ridge. Some pioneers, most of whom were Yankees or Yorkers, settled on land where they found salt springs, which provided a source of income in a cashless economy. Not until the conclusion of the War of 1812 did any real influx of people arrive. After Ridge Road was improved by the addition of bridges over the streams, which was completed in 1816, settlement progressed in the town and proceeded rapidly from that time, with small hamlets springing up along the Ridge and the town's major north-south roads. Many grist mills and saw mills were built on the streams running north to the lake, although the town was primarily agricultural as it is today.

In 1819 the growing town of Murray divided into two towns. The western portion retained the name of Murray; the eastern town was named for Gen. Matthew Clarkson, one of the four original tract proprietors. According to Rutherford D. Rogers, Director of the Monroe County Library System:

Matthew Clarkson was born October 17, 1758 in New York. He died April 25, 1825. He was the son of David and Elizabeth Clarkson and the great grandson of Matthew Clarkson who came to New York in 1690 as Secretary of the Province. Clarkson served in the Revolutionary War, first on Long Island, subsequently under Benedict Arnold. He was at



Saratoga and, later, on the staff of General Lincoln, was present at the surrender of Savannah (1779) and at the defense of Charleston (1780). He was also present at the surrender of Cornwallis. After the war when Lincoln became Secretary of War, Clarkson became his assistant. He married Mary Rutherford on May 24, 1785 and Sarah Cornell on February 14, 1792. He served as a member of the State Assembly for one term, 1789-90, during which time he introduced a bill for the gradual abolition of slavery in the State. He was a Regent of the University of the State of New York, U.S. Marshal, 1791-1792, State Senator, 1794-1795, on the commission to build a new prison, 1796-1797, President of the New York (City) Hospital, 1799, and President of the Bank of New York, 1804-1825. He was a Federalist candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1802 but was defeated by Dewitt Clinton. There is no evidence that he ever lived in Western New York ....

On April 2, 1819, the town of Clarkson was established by the Legislature. It was named in honor of General Clarkson.


Among the many settlers who had chosen to locate in the Murray wilderness in 1819 was David Forsyth, who cleared the woodland from the present corners, one-half mile west on the south side of the Indian-trailed Ridge. At the time it was just a deep rutted trail. All those who worked hard to open up the "Red Men's" forest, which had been the Seneca's hunting ground for centuries, found a place to live and raise crops. Many of the settler's frame or log dwellings were soon succeeded by cobblestone and brick homes when enough money from all the hard labor made it possible to afford the less rustic and more enduring architecture.

During the early years the first gift lay in the very trees the axes felled. Not only did these trees give logs for their primitive dwellings, but it provided the first source of actual cash. Daily the huge trees came down at the bite of the settlers ax and daily the huge potash kettles gave them one source of actual cash that went out for other needed things. It took 200 bushels of ashes from the fallen trees to make 100 pounds of potash, better known as "black salts."

The late Charles Oehlbeck told me that he had, at one time, a potashery in the rear of his work shop. The farmers bought the ashes and would place them in the large black kettle he had there. There is still a part of the foundation on the property today.

To show the value of real estate at an early date, it may be stated that the Deacon Palmer paid $15.00 an acre for his land and Captain Allen in 1825 paid $25.00 an acre for his farm.

Leanna Hale
Town of Clarkson Historian
(585) 637-1130