History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Forts & Firesides of the Mohawk Country
by John J. Vrooman, 1951
Published by Baronet Litho Co., Inc., Johnstown, NY
ISAAC PARIS found his way to the little settlement of Stone Arabia about 1737 from the Alsatian city of Strasburg and soon opened a little store and trading post. He must have been a kindly man, not too sharp in his dealings, as some of his competitors were prone to be, and prospered accordingly. His business grew rapidly as did the number of his friends. Shortly before the war he was the proprietor of a large store doing a flourishing business. From one of his advertisements which appeared at that time he says he will sell "by Wholesale or Retail, on very cheap and the lowest terms, in cash or (if required) for credit, or any merchantable country produce."
His merchandise has been "Just imported from London" he states. The number of items listed prove he must have carried a well balanced stock for there was "Silk Damascus, Silk Venetian Poplin . . . Men's Random Thread Stocking Men's and Women's buckles . . . Tea Kettles . . . Horn-Combs . . .Muscovado Sugar . . . French Blankets with Sundry Articles too tedious to enumerate. . . ."
When the Revolution was "brewing," Isaac Paris was one of the twelve men who signed the minutes of the first meeting of the Tryon County Committee of Safety held August 27th, 1774, at the home of Adam Loucks at Stone Arabia.
Fort Paris was ordered built here by the Committee of Safety in December of 1776 and named in honor of Isaac. It was of solid hewn timbers with the upper story overhanging the lower on all four sides, thus enabling those above to shoot directly down on the enemy. The fort was destroyed after the war and the timbers found their way into several buildings constructed at about that time.
Following the battle of Oriskany in which Isaac Paris was taken prisoner, Moses Younglove, also a prisoner, who, after a long period of captivity, finally returned, made an affidavit now on file in the office of the Secretary of State. In it he says:
"Isaac Paris, Esq., was also taken the same road without receiving from them (the Indians) any remarkable insult (except stripping of most of his clothes and all his valuables) until some Tories came up who kicked and abused him, after which the savages, thinking him a notable offender, murdered him barbarously."
On February 14th, 1793, Catherine Paris, the widow of Isaac, was voted a pension by a special act of the State Legislature. This was said to be the first pension granted. Catherine spent her last days in Johnstown with a son, Daniel Paris, a prominent attorney who, active at one time in politics, served in the State Senate. This son married Catherine Irving, sister of Washington Irving. Mrs. Paris is buried in the Johnstown cemetery.
Isaac had two other sons, Peter and Isaac Jr. Peter was killed at Oriskany. Isaac Jr., the second son, 15 years of age when the Battle of Oriskany was fought in 1777, moved from Stone Arabia to Fort Plain to land which had belonged to his father. Along the Indian trail leading southward toward the Susquehanna country and just at the crest of a hill overlooking the Mohawk, he built the house pictured, which is still standing, using it for a residence and store. Like his father he was a very successful business man and made many friends. Trade was very brisk for the war was over and the rich agricultural lands the armies had fought over were now open for settlement. The population grew so rapidly it taxed those already established in business to care for them. Following a severe crop failure in the district south of what is now Utica, Isaac Paris Jr. supplied the settlers; with food when starvation faced them. His reply to their appeal in 1789 was certainly from his heart: "No matter about the pay. Your women and children must not be allowed to starve. Take what you need to feed them, and if, at any time in your future you are able to pay for it, it will be well, but your families must not be allowed to starve."
Those women and children for whom Paris had shown such fine consideration were the ones who paid the debt. Ginseng, a root which grew wild in their locality, was an item of trade and barter and to get it in sufficient quantity they scoured the countryside. And when they sold what they had gathered they balanced the account.
In 1790 Isaac Paris Jr. died at the age of 29 years. Following Isaac's death the next occupant of the house was Henry N. Bleeker from Albany, who married Betsy, the daughter of Colonel Frey; but they did not remain long.
In 1792 a new town was formed south of Utica by the settlers Isaac Paris Jr. had befriended and they named it "Paris" for him. In 1880 with fitting ceremony his remains were disinterred from the old burial ground in Fort Plain and carried to Paris where they now lie, surrounded by his old friends the pioneer settlers and their descendants.
The Revolution took its toll of the Paris family, for two of them went to Oriskany and neither returned. The census of 1790 mentions two "heads of families" of this name, one being Catherine of Canajoharie whose family consisted of three males, one female and one slave. The other is Anthony of Caughnawaga in whose household were two males and three females. Both of these families were doubtless descendants of Isaac of Stone Arabia and from them the name must have spread. Their descendants may well recount with pride and satisfaction the records of their forebears.
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