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Waddington Historical Society

A Small Town with a Big History

Waddington is a small town that has an amazing history. Our founding fathers, David Ogden, Thomas Ogden and Joshua Waddington, were closely connected with our nation’s founding fathers. Charlotte Ogden, wife of Gouverneur Ogden, was the sister-in-law of Elizabeth Seton – America’s first Catholic Saint.  Hank Monk, a legendary stagecoach driver who was featured in Mark Twain’s book Roughing It, was born and raised in Waddington before heading West.  James Ricalton, an American educator, inventor and photographer who circumnavigated the world seven times, captured the attention and support of Thomas Edison.  The list goes on and on, and we will continue to add history for you to explore on this page.

The Founding of Waddington

The town and village of Waddington’s founding begins with the land purchase of what was then known as the town of Madrid (which included both Madrid and Waddington today). Abraham Ogden and his sons, David and Thomas, purchased the land in 1793. In 1803, they transferred one third of the ownership to Joshua Waddington who had married their sister. The village was originally named Hamilton after one of our founding fathers.  In 1818, the village was then renamed Waddington after Joshua Waddington.

James Ricalton - Traveling and Photographing the Globe

James Ricalton was born on May 18th in 1884 at the Halfway House in the town of Waddington. Ricalton was an American school teacher, traveler, inventor and photographer. He traveled so extensively that he circumnavigated the globe seven times, traveling to more than 40 countries. After he retired from his travels he returned to Waddington, and he died here in 1929 and is buried in the Old Brookside Cemetery.

Waddington's Connection to America's Founding Fathers

Both Thomas and David Ogden were law partners in Alexander Hamilton’s law firm. David Ogden and his uncle, Gouverneur Morris, were at the deathbed of Hamilton after he was shot by Aaron Burr on July 11, 1804. Gouverneur Morris is known as the “penman” of our Constitution. The village of Waddington was originally named Hamilton in his honor.

Isaac Johnson - From Slave to Stonecutter

Isaac Johnson was born in Elizabethtown, Nelson County, Kentucky, in 1844. His father was Richard Yeager, a white farmer, and his mother was Jane Johnson, an enslaved African from Madagascar. Although Jane Johnson was legally Yeager's property, the couple lived together as husband and wife and had four children, including Isaac Johnson. In 1851, Yeager, unable to face neighbors' criticism of his domestic arrangement, sold Jane and their children to various new masters and left the area. Isaac Johnson, who had not previously been aware of his enslavement, was thus abruptly separated from his mother and siblings at the age of seven. After a succession of owners and two failed escape attempts, Johnson finally achieved freedom when, during the Civil War, he fled his master's plantation and found refuge with a Union regiment marching through Kentucky.  In February 1864, Johnson enlisted in the First Michigan Colored Infantry, which eventually became part of the 102nd United States Colored Regiment. Eventually, he moved to Ontario, Canada and also lived in Waddington N.Y. He led the construction of the Waddington Town Hall in 1884.

Go West Young Man- History of Hank Monk

Henry "Hank" Monk was born some time between 1826 and 1828 in Waddington, New York. At the time of Hank's youth, Waddington was growing and becoming a metropolis of the area thanks to the power of the Saint Lawrence River and the rapids at Waddington. There were many businesses in Waddington when Hank was growing up and one of them was the Clark House Hotel. The Clark House had a stagecoach run to Massena and Fort Covington, which Hank ran at the early age of 12.

How the Seaway Changed Waddington

During the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Waddington was spared some of the devastation that ten towns in Canada endured.  Some of the towns were re-located or downsized (Iroquois and Morrisburg), while others were completely submerged and are known as the Lost Villages.  Waddington was fortunate that many of the homes were saved or moved.  Below is a picture that appeared in the Watertown Daily Times and shows one of the houses that was moved in the Waddington area. 

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