The Town of West Turin, located in southern Lewis County, was formed from the Town of Turin on March 25, 1830. Constableville, Lyons Falls and Collinsville have been the three most prominent communities in the township.
Collinsville (known originally as High Falls Village because it overlooked the mighty waterfall in Black River below) was named after notable residents Levi and Homer Collins. The community was best known in early Lewis County as a center of trade, at least through the 1880s. It had several general stores, two hotels, two churches and many small industries. When the main highways bypassed the community, however, and the location of the Black River Canal and the railroad were run through Lyons Falls, Collinsville began to decline and today it is just a shell of its former self.
Lyons Falls (known originally as High Falls due to the Black River’s dramatic cataract) takes its name from early landowner and businessman Lyman Lyon, who brought both the canal and the railroad to Lyons Falls. But it was Gould Paper Company, founded by G.H.P. Gould, that made paper and pulp into the Lyons Falls’ largest industry. When the Gould mill in Lyons Falls was completed, it was one of the few in the country that made paper from tree to finished roll.
And Constableville, of course, was named for the Constable family, who at one time owned all of what would become Lewis County, and built the magnificent Constable Hall in 1819, which remains one of the County’s leading landmarks, and saw five generations of the Constable family reside there until 1947.
Settlement of the area that is now West Turin began as early as 1796 when John Ives came with his family from Connecticut. They travelled along a road from Fort Stanwix to the area that has been commissioned by Mr. Nathaniel Shaler, who had purchased land from Mr. Constable and agreed to serve as a land agent for the rest of the Constable land.
One of the first industries in the area was a sawmill Mr. Shaler built. He hired 20 men from Middletown and Meriden, Connecticut to build the sawmill. Some of the men decided to settle here: Joshua Rockwell, Levi Ives, Nathan Coe, Elisha Scovill, Daniel Higby, Levi Hough, William Hubbard, James Miller and Ebenezer Allen. The next summer, other families followed. Mr. Shaler built the first gristmill in the area in 1797. He also built a home on the banks of Sugar River and across from what is now St. Paul’s Chapel in Constableville. He also built a hotel, The Parquet, which survived for over 200 years, only to burn in October 2004. For the first 20 years or so, the community of Constableville was known as Shalerville.
In 1826, German settlers bought land in what is now known as Mohawk Hill and Fish Creek. Among these early settlers were Joseph Kochley and Capt. Wider, and they and their companions came from Germany, Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland. Later on, in the 1840s, Irish settlers began to arrive when work on the canal ceased for lack of government funding. George Davis bought land and persuaded a few Welsh families to come. The greatest influx of the Welsh occurred in 1842.
Constableville is the seat of town government and initially was the most important settlement in West Turin. The Constable family built Constable Hall here (finished in 1819), and the village was incorporated in 1877. By 1880, Constableville had a population of 712. Now, it has less than 300. The drop in population has occurred because of changes in transportation and economic factors. Originally, Constableville was a shopping center for lumberman and farmers. It was also a manufacturing center. There is no longer any manufacturing. There is one restaurant, one quick stop for food and fuel, one bar, one candy store and three bed-and-breakfasts. People who live in Constableville typically have to leave the village to earn a living.
Lyons Falls is the largest community in the Town of West Turin, stemming from its development and growth as a manufacturing community. Gould Paper Company was formed in 1892 by G.H.P. Gould, Charles Pratt and John Haberer. The company had extra electricity which was provided to Lyons Falls in 1919. In 1920, the company began building powerlines to Constableville and the Town of West Turin. In 1950, Niagara Mohawk bought the power system. In 1951, the paper company was sold to Continental Can. Later, Ralph Luethi and Associates purchased the company. It was sold in 1962 to Georgia-Pacific, and the mill finally closed in 2001.
Lyons Falls was incorporated in 1900 with a population of 470; it grew to a population of almost 900 in 1960; and its current population is about 550. While it at one time supported a large manufacturing base and operated as a transportation center, both are now largely gone.
Farming has continued but there are fewer farms and those that remain tend to be larger and have more cows. Milk is trucked out of the area. Maple syrup is still produced.
The first rural fire department in town was established prior to 1900 to serve the Crofoot Hill area. Constableville has a post office that receives its mail from the Lyons Falls post office.
A school was located in Constableville on West Street, which served the community from 1872 to 1928. In 1929, a brick building was built on W. Main St., which continued to be used as an elementary school until 2014, when it closed.
Constableville Central School joined Lyons Falls, Port Leyden, Glenfield and Turin to form South Lewis Central School in 1963.
Lyons Falls started with a one room school in 1892, but because of the rapid increase in population, two more frame building were constructed, each larger than the last, until the community built the brick building on McAlpine St. in 1927. The building was closed in 1982 and sold.
There is one bank in Lyons Falls. It began in 1925 and has since been sold three times: first to KeyBank; second to Charter One; and more recently to Citizens Financial.
Both Lyons Falls and Constableville have libraries. Lyons Falls’ library was organized in 1909, and is now housed in the former stable of the Gould Mansion. Constableville’s library was originally organized in 1924, and it is now housed in what was the Traxel Blacksmith Shop on Main Street.
Both communities also have water systems. Constableville built theirs in 1906 and updated it in 2002. Lyons Falls’ system began in 1896 with the Beauty Spring Water Company. Due to an inadequate flow of water, the Beauty Spring Water Company was replaced by a municipal system in 1906, which in turn was updated in 1994.
There are also sewer systems. Constableville’s was built in 1986 and Lyons Falls’ in 2001. Before these systems, each family had their own waste disposal, some of which ended up in the local rivers.
Presently, there are three churches in Constableville: St. Mary’s Catholic Church; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; and the Methodist Church. At one time, there was a Baptist church and a Welsh church. In Mohawk Hill, there were two churches: St. Michael’s Catholic; and the Lutheran Church. Neither exists any longer.
Lyons Falls has three churches: Wesleyan Fellowship; Forest Presbyterian Church; and St. John’s Catholic Church. Collinsville once had two churches – Union Church and a Welsh Methodist Church – but neither exists any longer.
There are 12 cemeteries in the Town of West Turin. The oldest is the Constable Rural Cemetery (1803) in Constableville. In addition, Constableville has two other cemeteries: St. Mary’s Catholic; and St. Patrick’s Catholic. St. Paul’s Churchyard Cemetery, where much of the Constable family is buried, is located on Route 26. Other cemeteries are the Rea Cemetery on the West Road, the Collins Family Cemetery on the West Road, the Crofoot Hill (Ebenezer Chapel) Cemetery, and St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Cemetery of Fish Creek. Collinsville Cemetery is on the East Road, and Mohawk Hill has two cemeteries: St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery on the Kessler Road; and St. Michael’s Cemetery on Route 26. Highmarket has one cemetery: St. Patrick’s Cemetery at the corner of the Highmarket Road and the McKay Road.
Two of the oldest buildings in the town burned within the last 20 years. The Hotel Parquet was built sometime between 1797 and 1800. The Murphy house on the West Road (1803) burned in 2002.
The geographic size of the town has changed over time. I n 1852, the towns of Highmarket and Lewis were created from West Turin; and in 1972, the town of Highmarket re-entered West Turin.
The economics of the area are changing. There is an increase in tourism and related services and a decrease in manufacturing, lumbering and farming.