When counties began forming in New York State in 1683, Lewis County originally belonged to Albany County, which extended into present day Vermont. The large county began to split in 1766, resulting in Lewis County being separated from Oneida County in 1805. In 1791 Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and parts of Herkimer and Oswego Counties, were part of the Macomb’s Purchase – roughly four million acres of land at about 12 cents an acre. The land included most of northern New York, along the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands.
In 1794, William Topping from Meriden, Connecticut, came to the first settlement in the area, the town of Leyden, near Talcottville. Over the next few years, settlers, mainly from Massachusetts and Connecticut, came to this same area.
On March 4, 1805, Benjamin Wright introduced a bill for the formation of Jefferson and Lewis counties, naming Lewis County in honor of Governor Morgan Lewis. The town and village of Lewiston and the town of Lewis in Essex County were also named after Morgan Lewis. Lewis, a former New York legislator and governor of New York from 1804 to 1807, was also an officer in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He served as president of the Historical Society of New York from 1832 to 1835.
- 1800s – Spruce gum was a seasonal business; manufactured by the Adirondack Spruce Gum Company in 1888
- 1808 – The Lowville Academy was formed
- March 10, 1864 – The county seat was relocated from Martinsburg to Lowville
- 1855 - The Lowville Courthouse was completed
- 1890 – Blackberries were a cash crop
- Late 19th Century/early 20th Century – Hops were a cash crop for breweries in the Utica-Rome areas
- 1900s – Potatoes were a cash crop
- 1904 – The Climax, an incubator for hatching chicken eggs, was perfected and manufactured in Castorland
- 1931 - Lewis County received its first historical marker to mark the location of an “Underground Railroad” from the Civil War era
- November 30, 1947 - The Lowville Courthouse was damaged in a fire and later reopened on November 3, 1949
Hough’s cave was a shelter for slaves on their way to freedom in Canada. The cave was located on the old Horatio G. Hough farm, a mile south of Martinsburg on Route 12-D. Horatio Hough used this cave to hide the slaves during the day. Once it was dark, he loaded the slaves into his wagon and took them to the next depot.
Tales surrounding the cave are few and vague. Across the road is a deep cut in the limestone, which is so deep that bottom has not been found. This is believed to have a connection with the Hough cave, passing under the present main highway, but this has never been proven. Eventually, the boulders that partially block the entrance to the cave may be removed in order to explore its contents.
In a quiet corner of New York's Adirondack Region, the unspoiled America of an earlier age awaits the traveler willing to stray a little from the beaten path. The Lewis County landscape, hills, valleys, rivers, and lakes are the perfect relaxation setting for visitors and residents alike. Ours is the land of the great outdoors. Lewis County offers solace from the hectic pace of the surrounding world.
Halfway between the St. Lawrence River and the New York State Thruway, Lewis County is bordered on the west by the Tug Hill Plateau and on the east by the Adirondack Mountains. It is a land of prosperous dairy farms, quiet woodlands, clear streams and lakes, and clean air. It is a place where friendly, honest people go about their business with a cheerful word for the passing stranger.
Lewis County still maintains the spirit of the early settlers. Many of their original dwellings still stand, and our people proudly remain close to our past. Lewis County boasts a number of fine old houses dating from the early 1800s. Most are in private hands today or serve as area museums.