Penet Square is an integral part of the
history of the Town of Orleans. In 1788 an
Oneida Indian treaty ceded a tract ten miles
square to Peter Penet "for services rendered".
Penet gave his name to the land, but soon sold
it, and it passed through many purchasers before
it came into the hands of John La Farge sometime
between 1817 and 1823. Litigation clouded
settlers' titles to their farms until 1830.
Penet Square, as it is called, lay wholly within
the original Town of Orleans, but when the Town
of Clayton was formed, the new town included two
fifths of Penet Square.
Settlement began, despite the legal
squabbles, around 1806 by squatters, who took
the land and developed their farms, knowing they
had no real title but hoping for the best. John
La Farge had little sympathy with the squatters,
some of whom disputed his ownership. The first
of the farmers was Roderick Frazier, who built
his log cabin in 1806 about two miles north of
what is now Stone Mills. Peter Pratt followed in
1807, making his clearing south of Stone Mills.
Word of this "free land" spread in the Mohawk
Valley, drawing many penniless settlers from
that area. No record has been kept of them, and
when La Farge demanded payment, they left the
Dr. Reuben Andrus and Benjamin Page, both
Vermonters, settled in 1816, heading a flood of
legal settlers. On 3 April 1821, the Towns of
Brownville and Le Ray gave birth to the Towns of
Alexandria, Philadelphia and Orleans, Orleans
being the only one to be created wholly from
Brownville. Thus researchers find that people
recorded in Brownville in the census of 1820 are
found in Orleans in the census of 1825, without
ever having moved.
Orleans is located in the northernmost
range of towns, with a neck of land giving it
access to the St Lawrence River, and cutting
Wellesley Island in two pieces. The Town of
Clayton is its west boundary, Brownville and
Pamelia are on the south, while Le Ray, Theresa
and Alexandria make up the eastern boundary. The
St Lawrence River and the Town of Alexandria lie
to the north, giving Orleans a Canadian border,
made more important by the international
Thousand Islands Bridge.
The principal village of the Town of
Orleans is LaFargeville, named for the early
proprietor of the town. Originally called Log
Mills, it is the site of a once impressive stone
mansion, now in ruins, built by Mr. La Farge.
Stone Mills, originally Collins' Mills, was
probably the first settlement in the town.
Today, the Northern New York Agricultural Museum
in Stone Mills houses extensive exhibits of
early farming and housekeeping in the area, as
well as a restored church, school and cheese
factory. Orleans Four Corners, formerly
Shantyville, is a crossroads in the eastern part
of the town, today reduced to a church and a
cluster of houses. More populous and developed
are the later settlements on Wellesley,
originally Wells, Island, one of the larger of
the Thousand Islands. In the 1870s, a Methodist
camp meeting association laid out lots on the
upper end of the Island, today known as Thousand
Island Park, a summer resort also having a year
round population. Grand View Park and Fine View
are other communities on the island, which also
holds a large state park. Other places on the
mainland are Fisher's Landing, De La Farge
Corners, Port Orleans and Collins Landing.
Collins Landing is now occupied by the
approaches to the Thousand Islands Bridge.
1864 Map of the Hamlet of LaFargeville
1864 Map of the Hamlet of Omar
1864 Map of the Hamlet of Stone Mills
Selected Photos of Stone Mills