The Early History and Conditions of Oswego - Another Interesting Contribution to Our Early History
Lockport, (N.Y.) , January 18, 1877
To the Editor of the Palladium:
Sir: It was in 1808 or 1809 that my father, (Jacob Townsend) a member of the house of Gillet & Townsend, New Haven, Connecticut, who had been engaged in trade with the Southern States and West India Islands, wearied by the disregard of neutral right by Great Britain and France, resolved to abandon the Atlantic and seek an inland location, in pursuit of which he visited Oswego, Niagara, Black Rock, Erie and Pittsburg. Returning he met Alvin Bronson, just returned from a West India voyage.
Reporting his observations he proposed to him to "go West," to which B. consented if Sheldon Thompson of Derby Court would join him. Bronson had been connected with the firm of Gillet & Townsend previously and Thompson in their employment as master of the ship Keziah. Articles of agreement were signed at New Haven February 8th, 1810, creating the firm of Townsend, Bronson & Co., "for the purpose of transacting business in the State of New York and elsewhere of a mercantile nature in the various branches of vending goods, shipbuilding and coasting on the lakes Ontario and Erie, and any other business in which the partners collectively may judge best to engage."
In accordance with their design, Mr. Bronson engaged his carpenters, a Mr. Bassett being chief, and with them and such materials as he needed proceeded to Oswego Falls, where he cut the frame for a vessel which was built at Oswego, the CHARLES AND ANN, measuring about one hundred tons, and in the fall of 1810 she was running under the command of John Hall. She was perhaps the largest vessel on Lake Ontario excepting the brig ONEIDA built by the United States Government just prior to the War of 1812. The CHARLES AND ANN was sold to the Government for $5,800 and was known in the fleet commanded by Commodore Chauncey as the GOVERNOR TOMPKINS. At the close of the war she was purchased by Townsend, Bronson & Co., and was continued in their business until the dissolution of the firm in 1821.
With the completion of their vessel, Capt. Thompson took the carpenters and proceeded to the Niagara River above the falls and built the schooner CATHERINE near the spot where LaSalle had built the GRIFFIN, the first vessel navigating Lake Erie. The CATHERINE was completed and in commission early in June, 1811, commanded by Seth Tucker, so that in a little more than a year the two younger partners had completed two vessels which, when the circumstances they had to encounter are considered, is evidence of that energy by which they were distinguished in after life.
While the firm of Townsend, Bronson & Co. were engaged in the transportation business on Lake Ontario and the upper lakes, they were vending goods at Oswego and Lewiston, Bronson residing at Oswego and the two other partners at Lewiston. About 1815, the firms of Townsend, Bronson & Co. and Porter & Barton joined in forming a firm known as Silas Thompson & Co. at Black Rock, to which Thompson removed. Silas Thompson & Co. built the MICHIGAN and RED JACKET and were part owners of the Erie. While Bronson and Thompson were unmarried at their leaving Connecticut, my father had a family, a wife and six children, and in 1813 had disposed of his property and was waiting for sleighing to remove them. The news reached us that Fort Niagara was captured by the British and the frontier laid waste; consequently the family remained until 1815. In August they left by land conveyance for Salina, but being detained by sickness and death at Carlisle, between Schoharie and Cherry Valley, we did not reach Salina until September, when we were kept in waiting for a boat carrying salt to Oswego Falls.
Sheldon C. Townsend (Age 75)
February 3, 1877
Letter from Barbara Townsend, family decendant through marriage, who transcribed one of the letters dated 12/30, which was to Jacob Townsend from his junior partner Thompson re the sail of ships to Chauncey (Commod. Chauncey) for war 1812
Lewiston Dec. 30th.,1812 ..
Mr. Townsend Dear Sir
Yours of Dec 10th. and 15th are at hand
And I have one from Mr. Bronson of the ? which mentions that he will start for this place in three or four days as it reflects the purchase of salt I shall not give an opinion until Mr. B. arrives, it will depend some on the price that it can be bought for at the works and the prospect of forwarding. The British is said launched a thirty two gun ship at Little York a few days ? Your fence is the great part burnt and your wheat something injured I shall pay attention to it and do all in my power to have you awarded for the damage. I sold your oxen to R. ?, for $55.00 to be applied on our bond, which I thought the best for you as I would not winter cattle for them, I think Morrison will make the first payment on his farm he has given me an order on the pay matter for $100 is good our books stand in favor of Towsend about $100. My opinion of living at this place at this time is very poor, we don't sell goods enough to pay our board and it is impossible to calculate accurately. However I do not think goods bad property they will sell well for cash at Buffalo and high. I think we should move our goods or part of them there when Mr. Bronson comes on as to Smith Farm I do not think it could be purchased at a fair price. I have done nothing with him and shant until Mr. B. arrives. Chauncey * was here on Saturday last has gone to ? I went up and got a draft of $5500 for the Catherine** but it came hard he says Bronson is a clever fellow that they agreed for the C. and Ann*** at once but ? he says have no conscience. I told him a man to deal with war, gentleman, ought not to have. In price they got her $500 less than what I intended her to go for. Mr. Miller lost his girls, it is very sickly about this river, more citizens have died since you left, than did 4 years previous they say there is about 400 Regular troops at Fort Niagara, we have 14 at this place, 14 at ?. 300 Black Rock and about 12 hundred out to ? Creek. I have collected nothing yet and I am not calculating to get in much this season
From your humble Servant S. Thompson . ****
* Commodore Chauncey of U. S. Navy, fought in war and purchased their ship which was renamed GOVERNOR TOMPKINS IN WAR OF 1812.
** CATHERINE, merchant ship they built and used for their business trading on the Great Lakes and they sold to the U. S. Navy during the war and bought back from Government after war.
*** CHARLES AND ANN another merchant ship of theirs that they sold to the U. S. Navy..
**** First elected Mayor of Buffalo 1840.