Many of the other riverside homes were abandoned by the end of the nineteenth century as the convenience of improved roads made their locations obsolete. The Wall family simply built a long driveway to the nearby road.
Large amounts of processed potash were shipped from De Kalb down the river to Ogdensburg then on to Montreal where Cooper’s agent Forsythe, Richardson and fils forwarded them to Liverpool. On the return trips bales of consumer goods were shipped to De Kalb. Pearl Ashes were the most valuable local commodity until the late 1830’s and their most profitable and only practical market was by river to Montreal. Local settlers like Russell Goff also traveled to Montreal, in this case to purchase a new blade for his sawmill.
In 1810 the government offered 75 cents per pole for cedar Long Poles (about 18 to 20 feet) delivered down the river from De Kalb to Ogdensburg for building a new stockade.
Even in the winter when the Oswegatchie was covered by ice it was still the best roadway in the town. When Salmon Rich and Jonathan Haskins left Old De Kalb and traveled up stream to start the settlement of Richville they traveled on the frozen river in late winter. The frozen river provided a smooth hard surface that was used by many early settlers for transportation.
A detailed history of the bridges over the Oswegatchie in the town of De Kalb has been covered in a previous article that is available on line. Briefly the first bridge at Kendrew was built in 1817 and the first bridge at Richville in 1849. A bridge was built at Coopers Falls in 1852 as part of a private Plank Road. The last bridge there was washed away in 1872. There was also a private iron bridge erected in the nineteenth century by a local farmer half way between Richville and Old De Kalb. The private bridge was sacrificed to a WW II scrap drive.
By the mid nineteenth century the Oswegatchie lost much of its importance as a transportation route. However in 1864 its waterpower was harnessed to run the bellows of the Coopers Falls Iron works blast furnace. This was a short-lived enterprise ending in bankruptcy in 1869.
Shortly following its demise D A Moore and his family began to buy up the land near the river between Coopers Falls and Old De Kalb. Moore became the NYS Senator representing our county in Albany. The Moore family established a camp on the river and began bringing local dignitaries to visit the area.
The Oswegatchie was a favorite fishing spot. In 1885 the Reverend C H Munson and William Breese strung a line of hooks across the river near the Breese farm on the Old Northern Road. In the morning they had caught 14 catfish, 4 eels, one bass and one pike. The whole catch weighed in over 30 pounds.
Ara J Moore, De Kalb merchant and son of D A Moore, in 1882 married Minnie Day the daughter of a prominent Congregational minister. Soon the St Lawrence County Congregationalist were using the Moore property to host church camps.
The general interest in outdoor recreation fed interest in the Oswegatchie River in De Kalb, especially in the area from Coopers Falls to Kendrew. In July 1889 the Gouverneur Free press ran this item. “What is that? The stranger in our town asks as he hears the shrill whistle of A J Moore’s new steamer. Mr. Moore makes the trip from Richville to this place (Old De Kalb) in one hour and five minutes.” Ara Moore purchased the first motorboat to navigate the river in De Kalb, the steam launch Katie Lee.
By the next year, 1890, there were numerous reports of visitors with Senator Moore touring up and down “our beautiful river” on his sons steamer. The same year Professor Gunnison and L. P. Hale passed through town in a canoe en route from Gouverneur to Ogdensburg.
By 1894 the number of tourists on the river had grown to the extent that Emory Cross had developed Camp Jolly at Cooper’s Falls near the old bridge abutments. The Ogdensburg Journal reported “ The constant visits of pleasure seekers at Camp Jolly show a decided interest in its growing popularity, fast approaching what is termed a summer resort.” Mr. Cross had spent a great deal of time and money to fix the grounds as a private tourist park. “That visitors may enjoy full benefits and beauty of its romantic scenery.”
The romantic scenery included the towering walls of the old gristmill and the thirty-foot high chimney of the old blast furnace.
Camp Jolly became a popular destination for all kinds of picnickers over the next few years. However the river was still being used for one commercial purpose the driving of logs down stream to mills. In the spring of 1903 many logs were hung up at the old mill sight on the river. Ara Moore had finally purchased the burnt out mill buildings from the Union Iron Company of Buffalo in 1900. Following the logjam at the Mill in 1903 he decided to remove the mills. He dynamited the furnace and gristmill 8 times before the 30-foot chimney and walls collapsed. Moore had the stone hauled away to use in various construction projects. This drastically changed the scenery at the Falls.
However the tourists kept coming. The automobile was the new pleasure vehicle of choice. Notices of people motoring to the Falls from all over the county begin appearing in the press in 1904. Included on the grounds of Camp Jolly was the Cross cottage that individuals could rent out by the week. In 1906 a dance platform was added and regular dances were announced at Camp Jolly with famous local musicians such as George Streeter performing.
By 1910 other people were getting in on the tourist business on the Oswegatchie. Fletcher’s Point just down stream of the Falls on the G. Fletcher farm was a competing campground. Several other individuals set up family camps with names like, “Camp Happy Times” and “Camp Hill Delight”. Fred Cross built a new motor lodge on his father’s property to supply the growing auto tourist trade.
In 1914 the Oswegatchie River Improvement Association whose largest stockholders were local river farmers, Herbert Townsley, A. F. Spooner and B. Chandler purchased the waterpower rights to the falls at Coopers Falls. They intended to lower the river level at their farms upstream by blasting the channel at Coopers Falls.
The original dam at Coopers Falls was built on Catfish rock which naturally obstructed the whole channel of the Oswegatchie forcing the river to flow around it against a cliff on the north west bank.