Camden was formed from Mexico (Oswego Co.), March 15, 1779. Florence was taken off in 1805, Vienna in 1807, and a part of Annsville in 1823. It lies upon the west border of the County, near the north-west corner, its surface is rolling, gradually rising towards the north, where it is broken by hIlls whose summits rise several hundred feet above Oneida Lake. The west branch of Fish Creek flows towards the south-east, diagonally through the town. Mad River, from the north, unites with it near Camden village; and Little River, a tributary of Fish Creek, forms part of the south boundary. There is quite a variety of soil, as well as of surface, in Camden. On the border of Mad River it is a sandy loam and very fertile, while in some other parts of the town it is gravelly and stony, but well adapted to grazing.
Camdem, (p. v.) situated between Mad River and a branch of Fish Creek, contains five churches, viz., Methodist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Catholic, a union school, six hotels, about a dozen stores of all kinds, two foundries, two flouring and custom mills, two sash and blind factories, one woolen mill, two saw mills, a tannery, four blacksmith shops, two carriage shops, a chai r factory, a distillery, a harness shop, a corset factory and about 1,800 inhabitants. West Camden, (p. v.) in the north-west part, on Fish Creek, contains a church, a hotel, a tannery, a saw mill and about twenty houses. It is a station on the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad.
Henry Williams was the first permanent settler of this town. Jesse Curtis had previously erected a saw mill, but his family did not arrive until afterwards. Other early settlers were Levi Matthews, Daniel Parke, Seth Dunbar, Joel Dunbar, Aaron Matthews, Thomas Comstock, Jesse Curtis, Elihu Curtis, Samuel Royce, Noah Tuttle, Andrew Tuttle, Benjamin Barnes, Sen. and Jr., Phillip Barnes, Israel Stoddard and Mr. Carrier.
The first birth was that of a daughter of Henry Williams; the first marriage that of Elihu Curtis and Anna Northrup, and the first deaths were those of Mrs. Bacon and child, drowned while crossing the river in a canoe. Elihu Curtis kept the first inn, in 1799, and Timothy W. Wood the first store, about the same time. The first religious society (Congregational) was formed February 19, 1798, by Rev. Eliphalet Steele, pastor of the Congregational Church at Paris Hill. It consisted of eight members, four males and four females. The following are the names of the members of the church at the time of its organization: Benjamin Barnes and his wife Jemima, Noah Tuttle and his wife Thankful, Philip Barnes and wife Laura, Ruth Barnes and Benjamin Barnes, Jr. At an early period the society received a donation of land from the heirs of John Murray, the avails of which bring an annual income of $112.00. The first frame house was erected in 1797 or 1798, by Jesse Curtis, grandfather of A. Curtis, the banker of Camden village. It was located on the corner of Main and Mexico streets, where F. Snow’s store now stands. There were not men enough to raise it, and Miss Margaret Dunbar assisted in the operation. The first male child born in the town was Noah P. Tuttle, now living in Ohio. The first mills were erected by Jesse Curtis in 1797, on the site of the present Camden Mills. Previous to this their milling was done at Paris.
The first foundry was erected in Camden in 1832 by H. McIntyre. In 1840 George Wood bought him out and made important additions. Mr. McIntyre then started the foundry where the firm of Tripp & Fifields are now located. Several destructive fires have occurred in the village of Camden. On the 28th of June, 1856, a fire on the east side of Main street extended from the store of Cook, Brother & Co., north, to the Park. It has since been rebuilt with brick and is an ornament to the place. June 22, 1859, a fire, on the same side of the street, extended from McCabe’s store, north, to T. D. Penfield’s, destroying both the Episcopal and the Congregational churches.
Among the curious relics of other days is a piece of rock in the possession of V. V. Becker, containing a small iron ball imbedded in it.. The rock was taken from the quarries about a mile northeast of Camden village, the ball weighs about an ounce and is coated with rust about an eighth of an inch thick. On the north-west corner lot, on the barks of Fish Creek, are two springs upon opposite sides of the stream; one is a strong sulfur spring and the other is clear pure water. At high water both springs are overflowed. The flats along the stream are an alluvial deposit, but just at the point whence the springs issue the land is hard and stony.
Tradition says that during the French war a field piece was loaded with specie and sunk at the junction of Fish and Wood Creeks. Search has been made by the lovers of “filthy lucre,” and though some have affirmed that they have found the cannon by reaching it with a pole, the precious contents have not been brought to light. It is probably destined, like many other precious treasures, to remain beyond the reach of mortal hand.
April 25th, 1868, this town was the scene of one of the most atrocious and cold-blooded murders recorded in the annals of criminal trials. The victim was Abbey Elizabeth Sanders, a girl aged eight years and six months, the murderer was William Henry Carsweli, a young man residing in the neighborhood. The deed was committed in the day time and only a short distance from her father’s house. Carswell was tried at Rome in November following, convicted and sentenced to be hanged. The population of Camden in 1865 was 3,533, and its area 31,382 acres. The number of school districts is thirteen, employing eighteen teachers. The number of scholars is 1,284; the average attendance, 427; and the amount expended for schools the past year, $4,826.88.
Carriage House Museum