Written by Rex Ennis
posted on May 12, 2010 22:29
The Treaty of 1783 defined the first boundary in the Thousand Islands as a line “along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario, through the middle of the said lake until it strikes the communication by water between the lake and lake Erie…” When the Treaty of Ghent was signed to end the War of 1812, both sides expressed doubt about the location of the “the middle of the said River, Lakes and Water Communications and where certain islands lying in the same were within the Dominions of His Britannic Majesty, or the United States.”
The “truce map” of the boundary designated by the Sixth Article of the Treaty of Ghent was signed in June 1812. The boundary commissioners signed their Agreement and the islands in the St. Lawrence River became officially Canadian or American. However, it was not until 1825 that Grindstone Island was securely part of the United States. There were squabbles back and forth including the famous “War of Grindstone Island”. Shortly after New York State claimed Grindstone and the rest of the US Thousand Islands and it became part of the State to be sold by Elisha Camp of Sackets Harbor.
War of Grindstone:
… Upon survey of the boundary in 1818, upon these islands found to belong to our government, and in 1823, upon these islands being patented by the state, in pursuance of an agreement with Macomb [Alexander Macomb], difficulties arose that threatened for a time to result in serious measures, and which have been known locally as the War of Grindstone Island. A quantity of pine timber had been cut, and prepared for rafting, which was claimed by the patentee, but was refused to be given up by those in whose possession it was. Finding it probable that any attempt to serve legal papers upon the parties alleged to be trespassers would be resisted, a detachment of militia from Lyme, under Capt. S. Green, was called out. The timber had mostly been passed over into British waters, and after some firing, the party in charge of the timber dispersed. One of the militia men was accidentally killed by his own gun. The question subsequently became subjects of litigation, and was finally settled by arbitration.
A History of Jefferson County in the State of New York, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time by Franklin B. Hough, 1854.
Grindstone was divided into 36 “big lots” and these lots were sold off, except for some small properties which had already been settled and claimed. Samuel Johnson Sr. purchased 50 acres of Lot #6 for $502.40. As compensation for her husband being the only causality of the War of Grindstone; Betsey Fitch of Rutland, NY was given Lot 16. Lots 19 and 20 were sold to William Wells of Augusta, Upper Canada for a total of $1,340.00. Lot 33 was sold to Zeno Allen, guardian for Augustus Sackett, who was judged to be a “lunatic” for $212.00. Aside from these deals Charles W. and Mary S. Sanford purchased the rest of Grindstone from Camp in 1825. Sanford held the Island until 1831 when he sold it to Eliza Evertson the widow of Nicholas Evertson. Sanford sold the entire island excepting the above lots for $14,759.00 including some lots on Wells (now Wellesley) Island.
Exactly why Eliza Evertson purchased Grindstone is unknown, but it can be speculated that she intended to subdivide and sell the properties for a profit.
Recently the Grindstone Island Research and Heritage Center (Grindstone School House Project), undertook to the daunting task of tracing ownership of all 36 Big Lots beginning in 1825 and working forward. Diana Horning is conducting the research. She has not completed her work, but has traced ownership of most lots up to the late 1800’s.
Whether Eliza Evertson succeeded in making money will be determined in the future. She hardly needed to worry much about it in 1831, the year she purchased Grindstone; her net worth was $150,000. In terms of 2009 dollars it is over $29 million! Yet the purchase was substantial as it represented 10% of her net worth.
The Evertson Family has a long and distinguished history. Commodore Evertsen was a Dutch naval hero in 1666. The Evertson or Evertsen Family played a large part in the history of our country; members of the family where distinguished in military, literary and governmental positions. Nicholas Evertson arrived in New Amsterdam in about 1690 aboard the King David. In 1704 Captain Evertson led an exposition against French privateers. After four generations in New Amsterdam, another Nicholas Evertson, Eliza’s husband was an attorney and graduate of Yale University. Nicholas died at 42 from a “fever” in 1807 and Eliza managed his estate for another 30 years as executor.
After purchasing Grindstone the Evertson Family remained landowners for more than forty years. Eliza did not have much time to sell her property as she passed away in 1837. Various law suits tied up the Nicholas’ estate until 1865 when settled by the New York State Court of Appeals.
After Eliza’s death the Grindstone Lots were divided up among her three children. They began to slowly sell off the lots to non-family members. Edgar Evertson, Nicholas’ son, purchased lot 24 from his mother on 2 December 1831, the day after she bought it from Sanford, and sold it at once to Daniel Ripley for $350.00. Perhaps Edgar was in ill health as he passed away in 1838, at just 38. Edgar’s grandson was Edgar Evertson Saltus a noted author; two of his books were made into films during the silent film era.
Today all of the 36 original “big lots” have been subdivided many times. The Evertson’s were the last family to own most of Grindstone. Betsy Fitch sold her lot to Orville Hungerford of Watertown four years after she got it as compensation for the death of her husband in the War of Grindstone Island. Legend, substantiated by Franklin’s Hough’s research for the History of Jefferson County, has it that Fitch killed himself cleaning his gun!
Rexford M. Ennis, Grindstone Island
© Copyright Rexford M. Ennis 2010, All Rights Reserved
* 20th Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans Vol. 9
*Crosby Connections Data Page
*Deeds of Grindstone Island 1825 On
*Internal Genealogical Index
*Lineage book - National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution
*Monticello NY Republican Watchman
*New York Genealogical and Biographical Record,
*New York Spectator
*Reports of cases argued and determined in the Court of Appeals of New York
*Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale
*Register of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York
*Treaty of Ghent
Rex Ennis has written several articles for TI Life. His bio is recorded in Contributors in December, 2008. Rex is long-time member of the Grindstone Island Research and Heritage Center and compiles genealogy material on the island. He is also a volunteer with the Thousand Islands Museum in Clayton NY. Rex recently completed a biography of Charles G. Emery which will be published this summer.