Ellisburg is a Town in Jefferson County, New York, United States. The population was 3,474 at the 2010 census. The Town is in the southwestern corner of the county and is south of Watertown. Ellisburg is named after early European-American landowners. The town contains a village also called Ellisburg.
This was long the territory of various indigenous peoples. Prehistoric remains show evidence of indigenous occupation for thousands of years prior to European encounter. The St. Lawrence Iroquoians had villages along the upper St. Lawrence River into the late 1500s. Further south along the Great Lakes, the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy controlled territory. In historic times this area was occupied by Iroquoian-speaking Onondaga, among the Five Nations who dominated the area with their Iroquois Confederacy at the time of European encounter. They identified as the Haudenosaunee.
The area of the present-day town was visited by Samuel de Champlain and other French explorers and missionaries in the 17th century. After the French established a colony in Canada, their traders did business with the Iroquois. Later these peoples primarily traded with Dutch and English colonists in present-day New York. Most of the Iroquois nations allied with the British during the American Revolutionary War. As a result of Great Britain's defeat, the United States forced the Iroquois to cede most of their territory in present-day New York, and the nations were resettled in Canada on reserves allocated by Great Britain.
Following the war, New York State made five million acres of land available for public purchase; land speculators bought large tracts of land for redevelopment. As part of such postwar development, Alexander Macomb bought thousands of acres in Macomb's Purchase. Thousands of migrants from New England flooded into upstate and western New York in the postwar years, and the area also attracted immigrants from the British Isles and France. Marvel and Lyman Ellis purchased the Town land from Macomb's Purchase and first settled around 1797 near Ellisburg village. Originally the name was spelled as "Ellisburgh."
When President Thomas Jefferson established an embargo against trade with Great Britain in 1807 prior to the War of 1812, it adversely affected the thriving trade among the towns in upstate New York and Canada. In the tiny village of nearby Sackets Harbor, New York on Lake Ontario, the US Navy built and operated a major shipyard employing 3,000 workers during the war; they completed 12 warships to be used for the battles on the Great Lakes and were critical to the US being able to fight against the British there. Thousands more military assigned to the Army and Navy were stationed at Sackets Harbor. By the fall of 1814, it was the third-largest population center in the entire state, after Albany and New York. In 1814 during the War of 1812, Americans defeated a British invasion force at the Battle of Big Sandy Creek.
Settlers and developers had expected upstate New York to thrive due to trade with Canada, but this was severely interrupted by the war. Following the war, major changes followed the construction and opening of the Erie Canal in 1824 through the Mohawk River Valley as it drew development westward. It opened transportation from the Midwest and Great Lakes communities, which could send their produce and commodities to New York City. Towns of Jefferson County generally were bypassed by such western development, resulting in many of their young people migrating west to Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin from the mid-nineteenth century.
Watertown, New York, however, developed as a major industrial city at the turn of the twentieth century. Its paper and other factories were powered by the Black River. The industrial wealthy resulted in the city having one of the highest numbers of millionaires per capita in the early 20th century.
The community of Belleville incorporated as a village. The community of Mannsville was incorporated as a village in 1879. Ellisburg village was incorporated in 1895. In 1930, Belleville abandoned its status as a village.