|Town Of Lee, Oneida County, New York||Village of Lee Center|
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The village of Lee Center is centrally located in the town. Canada Creek flows through the village making it an ideal location for settlement. The original spelling was Lee Centre until changed by the post office in 1920.
It is uncertain the exact date the first settlers came to this area but it was within a few years of the settlement at Delta. In 1793, James Young settled just south of Lee Center and built a log cabin. His parents and their children joined him the following year. Shortly after John Hall settled near James Young. There has also been information written about Eunice Park, widow of Jacob Park, settling a mile west of Lee Center in 1795. Her sons, William and Abijah Park, purchased land in 1810 that later covered much of the present village of Lee Center. William Park later became Town Supervisor, elected into that office for 15 years in successsion, 1817 - 1833.
It has been noted that the first sawmill in Lee Center, and the second sawmill to be built in the town of Lee, was built on Canada Creek in 1796 by John Hall and Smith Miller. In 1798 Thomas and William Forfar, brothers from Scotland, built a grist mill on Canada Creek. In the early 1820s Ezra Hovey built a grist mill a short distance below the mill built by the Forfar brothers. Hoveys grist mill was later owned by Phineas Scothon, Lorenzo Dunster and Fred Morat. This mill stood for many years and was dismantled in February 1952. A sawmill across Canada Creek from the Hovey grist mill was in operation for a number of years.
In 1819 the Union Ecclesiastical Society was formed here. William Park donated the land for the building of the church, with the stipulation that the town have the use of part of the building for town purposes and the building be used for all religious denominations. This was the first house for public worship built in the town of Lee. This building was often referred to as the North Meeting House. The Methodist Society held services here until 1877. In 1910 it was remodeled into the Masonic Temple by the Baron Steuben Lodge when they had to move from Delta. This building is still being used by them today.
On March 7, 1820, the Harmony Library Association was formed. Dr. Elijah Ward, Charles Ufford, William Laney, Thomas E. Lawrence and James Young were elected trustees. It was resolved that 'The Harmony Library shall be kept within one mile of the North Meeting House in the Town of Lee.' James Young was the librarian. The library was kept at his farmhouse and he continued as librarian until his death in 1836. After his death interest slowly dwindled and the library finally became extinct.
The first post office was established in 1827 with Charles Stokes the first postmaster. Two express stage lines ran daily from Lee Center to Rome, carrying passengers and the mail. One ran through Lee Line (Lorena) and one through Stokes, Delta and Ridge Mills.
The first store in the village was built by William and Abijah Park and leased to Mr. Sherman. It changed hands several times until it was purchased by Charles Stokes around 1830. The store was demolished by A. A. Cornish in 1878, and a new building was erected.
In 1830/31 a small tannery was established by Asa Adams on Canada Creek. This tannery was later owned by Asa B. Sexton and then Eames & Smith in 1871. In 1872 Church Street was built to provide easier access to the tannery. The tannery burned in 1888 and was not rebuilt.
A large tannery was built by Newton, Nash & Co. of Boston just west of Lee Center off the north side of the Lee Center Taberg Road on a branch of Canada Creek. The ground breaking took place on September 10, 1868. They manufactured fine leather in the rough and did an extensive business. The main building was 100ft by 40ft with a 42ft by 50ft wing and a 62ft high chimney. The upright part of the building was three stories high, including the basement. The basement contained 75 tan vats, each holding 15, 000 gallons of liquid, a 15 horsepower steam engine and a 50 horsepower boiler. The second and third stories were used for grinding bark and drying rooms. The whole building was warmed by steam heat conducted into each room by 6” iron pipe. The leech house was 17ft by 70ft and had a capacity of 18 cords of ground bark every 24 hours. William A. Adams was the agent of the company and had charge of all the affairs of the firm. Business commend in May 1870 and employed about fifty men. The building burned in 1876 and was not rebuilt.
In 1839/40 George and Aaron Stedman operated a furniture, cabinet and undertaking business in the village.
In 1860 the Lee Center Hotel was built and continued in operation under several different managements until 1918 when the building was destroyed by fire.
By the 1880s the village contained 2 blacksmith shops, 2 dry goods and grocery stores, a variety store, a drug store, tinware and 2 hardware stores, a cooper shop, 2 shoe shops, a dentist, harness shop and a hotel.
On August 9, 1871, a contract was let to Cornelius Dingman to build a school house. The original school house, District 3, was located on the present site of the Methodist Church, on the corner of Church and Main Street. The Union Free School opened January 9, 1872, with William P. Robinson the first principal, and remained open until the town of Lee consolidated with Rome School District in 1957. Several years later the building was torn down and the Town of Lee Highway Garage was built on the site.
On November 25, 1869, Reuben R. Richmond sold a parcel of property to the Lee Center Spring Water Company for $30.00. This parcel of land was known as the Star Spring and was located off Sloan Road. From this spring the water was piped along Main Street providing water to the residents. In 1869 John G. Webster was Chairman and H. J. Hitchcock was Secretary of the Lee Center Spring Water Company. Local residents purchased stock in the company and were required to maintain the line into their house. On June 4, 1896 the Lee Center Spring Water Company was incorporated and continued to supply water to the village. At this time Henry Stokes was President and Carl Simon Secretary. In the 1960s the town began receiving water from the city of Rome.
The United Methodist Church was built in 1877 on the site of the old District 3 school. The schoolhouse was dismantled and rebuilt on a new foundation next to the church. This was used as the parsonage. The building was dedicated on October 18, 1877 and the first minister was Rev. James Stanton. On March 3, 1935 a fire broke out in the church, destroying both the church, the parsonage and several equipment sheds behind the church. Several nearby homes were also badly damaged. Through the determined efforts of the members of the congregation the church and parsonage were rebuilt within a year. The new church was dedicated on March 22, 1936.
In 1912 a canning factory was built to replace the one being demolished in the village of Delta. This was built and operated by Olney & Floyd and provided employment for many village residents for a good many years. The factory was closed in 1971.
In the early 1900s a railroad was proposed to run from Osceola to Rome, going through the village. The project was started, with some track being laid, but never completed. This railroad project was instrumental in the decision to relocate several business here from Delta.
About 1918, a sawmill was erected on Canada Creek, behind the Methodist Church. This sawmill was operated by the Swancotts and employed fifteen to twenty people. The mill and all its equipment was lost to a fire on September 16, 1933 and was not rebuilt.
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