Google maps link – https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-75.645131,470m/data=!3m1!1e3
If you have ever had the occasion to drive through the streets of Morristown NY, you probably have “discovered” this already. – if not, here’s an excuse for a road trip. Morristown is located on the St. Lawrence river, and is directly across from Brockville Canada.
The lands that would later become Morristown were originally settled in 1804- 1808. In 1817, a wharf was constructed, and a ferry crossed the river to Elizabethtown (which we now know as Brockville). The Morristown township was officially formed in 1821, on property originally purchased by Alexander Macomb. It was later purchased by Gouverneur Morris, who was a signer of the declaration of independence. His name was the source of Morristown’s name as well as nearby Gouverneur NY. Morris had a mansion built at Natural Dam, on the outskirts of Gouverneur (this can still be seen today from NYS RT58). Morristown was an important port during the war of 1812. On the last day of July, 1812, Morristown was the site of a naval battle between the USS Julia, and the HMS Earl of Moira. The stone windmill was built by Hugh McConnell in 1825, on one of the highest points in the town. Hugh McConnell had worked as a miller in his home country of Scotland, and windmills were commonly used there. Most gristmills at the time were water powered, but there was no reliable water source in the area. The mill was constructed of local stones, and measures 40 feet tall and 77 feet in circumference. The mill’s use soon came to a sudden halt as McConnell drowned while crossing the St. Lawrence river in a small boat.
It is not clear if the stone windmill was ever used again as a gristmill, but it has served other roles through the years. The mill served as a jail for some time, before the basement of the fire department was later converted to jail cells. One of its more interesting uses was when in was converted to a World War II observation tower. In September on 1941, the Civilian Defense Office organized the Ground Observation Corps for the First Fighter Command of the U.S. Army. The property was then owned by Charles Chapman, an artist of renown. Chapman, who summered in the town, offered up the mill for use as an observation tower in 1941. Construction began quickly, and was done under the supervision of Leonard Phillips- a local construction contractor. Morristown air warning system No.69C was in 24-hour daily operation by November 25th, 1942. Over 150 local men and woman manned the post, under the supervision of Thaddeus Cater. Women worked the day shift, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and men worked the night shifts. Two people would be stationed at a time for the four- hour shifts. Funds for the conversion were raised by a scrap metal drive. Over 25 tons of scrap were collected, and local Boy Scouts assisted on the trucks. $212 was raised by the scrap drive, and the town board added another $150 – enough to see the project’s completion. The scrap was used to aid the U.S. war effort.
After the war’s end, the building was idle until 1948, when the town of Morristown loaned the site to the local American Legion chapter. The legion soon began work on the grounds to create a park.
I recently was contacted by Richard “Rick” Johnson, who was able to fill in the details of the windmills blade names. A Big thank you to him for his help on this, it is greatly appreciated.
Today the grounds still house a park, (fittingly named Chapman Park in 1974) several signs with the history of the area, and a commemorative statue. The blades on the mill have the names of families on them, likely from a fundraising campaign (I could find no definite documentation on this). It is a great spot to visit, and the grounds are well kept. There is plenty of history along the St. Lawrence river, and this is an important piece of that. You will also find the Gateway Museum in town. http://www.morristowngatewaymuseum.org/about.html .
The physical address of the windmill is 406 Morris street, Morristown NY.
Gouverneur Museum – http://www.gouverneurmuseum.org/articles/people/morris/morris.html
The Gateway Museum
Town of Morristown Historian
NYS Historical Newspapers
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About the Author
I am a life-long resident of the north country, calling Edwards my home. I have always had a passion for the outdoors, and for local history. I recently started this site to share places that have been part of our local history and heritage. I hope you get a chance to hike some of these trails for yourself, and reflect on the rich history of those that walked here before you. And if not, sit back and experience these from where ever you are right now. Either way, enjoy!