Captain William Helm Came From Virginia In 1796, And Brought With Him About 70 Slaves
By Dana P. Waldron
Wayne County was named after General Anthony Wayne and was set off from Ontario with addition of Wolcott from Seneca County. This was in 1822 and walk it at that time included Wolcott, Huron, Butler, and Rose. Wolcott was organized as a town 1810 and Huron formed from it in February, 1826. For a time here on was called Port Bay which was later changed to Huron in 1834.
It is quite probable that most of the early settlers were men who had served in Sullivan’s expedition and who began to filter in here perhaps as early as 1790 at which time Great Britain still claim this section of the country.
The first announced settler was the captain Williams Helm of Virginia who came in 1796 and who brought with him about 70 slaves. These were used in the clearing of the Forest, in building roads etc. A girl, Celia, was born to the Helm’s in 1803, the first child of white parents. In 1807-9 a great many families came, mostly from Massachusetts. Among them were names of those whom we know – the Sheldons responsible for the Sheldon pear; also Norman Sheldon was the town’s first supervisor, the Churches, Hydes, Upsons, Chapins, Lambs, Voughts, Sours, Demmons, and others.
In 1809 Elihu Spencer erected the first mill at North Huron (this was the same year it is reported that Jonathan Melvin built one at Wolcott Falls) and two years later Jason Mudge erected a mill and also the first store at the place we know his Rices Mills. For some reason the stream upon which these were located was named Mudge Creek. In later years there were other mills, also a tannery, a mint still, and cooper shops along its length.
John H. Newberry came in 1827 and bought a farm near East Bay and died in October 1878. It was in the house on this farm that that the writer was born in 1879.
The coast along the lake front deserves special mention. Here are found the famous Chimney Bluffs so called from the peculiar formation of chimneys. These are about 175 feet high and people come each year to see and admire their picturesque features. It was too bad a State Park could not have been obtained for Wayne County to care for the beauty of these formations.
The larger part of Sodus Bay called in early histories “Bay of the Cayugas” and by the Indians “Silvery Waters” lies within the township, as does most of Port Bay on the eastern edge.
East Bay in the center of the town near the lake also has good fishing facilities. On the west shore of this is located East Bay Park, a well-known resort for city people during the summer months. In Sodus Bay three islands, Leroy, Newark, and Eagle are known chiefly for their resort facilities, one of them (Eagle) being in the summer home of Donald Woodward of Leroy.
A part of the Shaker Tract which belonged to a religious society holding to what we consider peculiar beliefs is on the west side of the day in the town of Huron. Woods or Russells Island near Port Bay was for a time another resort. On this island in the early days was a brickyard, the remains of which on a still clear day maybe seen beneath the waters of the lake. Lake Bluff and Bonnicastle were resorts much patronized while steamboats plied the Bay. Bonnicastle for years was the seat of the Soldiers’ Reunion, an annual event in the life of the county when thousands gathered to listen to good music and speaking and enjoy visiting together. On at least one occasion this was held at Woods Island and twice in succession on Eagle Island in Sodus Bay.
In most histories we find frequent reference to Sloop Landing. This little village was located on what is now the George Deady farm and was a prominent shipping point. Here were docks, warehouses, a sawmill, a brickyard. I am reliably informed that most of the brick used in the building of early Oswego were made here. During the war of 1812 this village was bombarded and fired by the British. I have heard a friend tell of the finding of cannonballs on his uncle’s farm. (His uncle lived there near the close of the century.)
Afterward traffic was directed to nearer the head of navigation on the bay at Port Glasgow and for a time this was a prominent shipping point, the building of the Erie Canal took commerce another way. There was a ferry there, also a float bridge, later a regular bridge when this became a regular stage route from Oswego to Rochester.
There was a good road from Clyde and a canal was projected to run from Clyde to Sodus Bay. This was known as Adam’s ditch and a bit of it can still be seen in Rose Valley. This idea went into the discard and a railroad was chartered with this Port is its northern terminus, but this too failed of realization. When the R. W. & O. R. R. was to be built original plans called for a station at Port Glascow (now call Resort) but the town turned thumbs down on an issue of bonds and North Rose secured the plum.
The first church, the Presbyterian, was organized in 1813, the Methodist Episcopal in 1817 in a schoolhouse, and the Methodist Protestant in about 1840, and a Catholic church was projected and timbers for same framed during the sixties on what is known as the Lewis farm near Sodus Bay. Just why this was not completed I was unable to find out but in 1933 a small chapel for that faith was erected near East Bay Park.
Of the first three, only the Presbyterian remains. This was destroyed by fire, and was rebuilt in 1936.
In 1880 the population of the town was 2036, probably its high-tide, as it now numbers less than 1400 people.
Dana P. Waldron ( 1879-1957) served as Town of Huron Supervisor from 1928 to 1931. He also served as President of the Wayne County Home Bureau circa 1939. Waldron was active in the Huron Grange, and was an active leader of the New York State Grange. He was also an active member of the Wolcott Methodist Church and Wolcott Masonic Lodge. Waldron’s wife was Winifred Fowler Waldron. His daughter Laura was a teacher at North Rose Central School.
This article appeared in a local newspaper sometime between 1936 and the author’s passing in 1957. Location of exact newspaper and date have not been found to date. Transcript was taken from a clipping in the files of the Huron Historical Collection.