The first time I heard of Canton, NY, was a few weeks ago, when I got serious about my research of a former Territorial governor of Arizona. Alexander Oswald Brodie was born and lived for a time in Edwards, and I wanted to find the family home there, should it still exist. That led me to the deed books at the St. Lawrence County Courthouse in, ta-dah, Canton.
It was in late afternoon of the 4th when we arrived. Nebra and I had started about noon after picking up a rental car in Syracuse and driven steadily north, by-passing Watertown for the misadventure into Canada and then up along the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence, passing the Amish village of Heulveton, and finally crossing the Grasse River into downtown Canton.
I did some work in the Clerk’s office at the courthouse while Nebra strolled around town. I can’t remember seeing old deed books in such grand condition. Some of the books I was interested in went back to 1820.
We stayed at a B&B six miles south of town. It is called White Pillars. It was originally the family home of John and Donna Clark, but when their kids grew up and moved away, they remodeled the place for guests. John was wrestling coach then athletic director at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, for many years. He is writing a book about recent adventures. It is tentatively title, “Journey to Daybreak: Crossing Canada by Bike, Kayak and Foot. Donna recently did a month of spiritual training in India. So they may be a retired couple, but not really.
The Pillars is a wonderful place, and we stayed in an upstairs room called the Meadow View. Two big beds, a reading desk, couch and a well-fitted bathroom, all with free Internet access. And a low ceiling on the sides which my head got to know intimately. Toward evening, before we went back into town for supper, we saw two white-tail deer foraging in the field to the north.
That night, we ate at a large restaurant and bar on Court Street called The Club and afterward walked down Main Street to the Grasse and back. I was surprised how dead it was at 9 o’clock. Unusual for a college town. Not just St. Lawrence but a more recent addition to the northwest, a State University of New York (SUNY) campus.
John cooked up a nice breakfast at the Pillars, and it was then we learned of an amazing connection. He too had researched Brodie and written a piece on him. In fact, John drew a map for me of how to locate the old Brodie “mansion” south of Edwards.
After eating, we drove back into town. While I finished research at the courthouse and the attractive St. Lawrence County Historical Society across fromt he park with the Civil War Monument. while Nebra hiked out to the St. Lawrence campus.
It was mid-afternoon when we left Canton and toward Edwards to look for the Brodie house. I had that sinking feeling again, that, sadly, I would likely not be coming this way again. But who knows?