Along with Au Sable, the town was created from the town of Peru on March 29, 1839. Early industry included farming, mining, and smelting iron.
The Military and Civil History of the County of Essex, New York, by Winslow Cossoul Watson, 1869
...In 1832, Messrs. McIntire built a forge of two fires which they run until 1835. Messrs. J. & J. Rogers, in company with the Hon. Halsey Rogers and Mr. Thomas Rogers, now of Dubuque, Iowa, as part owners, in 1832 commenced business at the Lower village. In the year 1835, Messrs. J. & J. Rogers became sole proprietors of both the forges at Black Brook, and soon after one-third owners of the saw-mill and the lands connected with it. Nearly at this time John McGregor purchased the one-third interest of Mr. McDonald in the saw-mill property, and resided on the premises about twenty years. John McIntire soon after sold his one-third of the property to Caleb D. Barton, who after holding it a few years conveyed his interest to Henry Martin. He, after occupying it a short term, sold to Messrs J. & J. Rogers, who subsequently bought the part owned by Mr. McGregor. These transactions occurred between the years 1853 and. 1846 and invested Messrs. Rogers with the title of the whole property. In 1832, the six forge fires operating at Black Brook produced six tons of blooms per week; at present ten fires at the same place yield seventy-five tons in the same period. Such has been the amazing progress of manufacturing skill and science. The Messrs. Rogers estimate that one thousand bushels of good coal will now make three tons of iron. Two saw mills are running at Black Brook; one containing two gangs, and the other a single gang, with a circular saw in each mill. These mills cut from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand pieces of boards annually. These are partly consumed in the various operations of the concern, and the residue, formerly transperted by plank road to Port Kent for exportation. A shingle mill is now completed at Black Brook village.
The forge fires embraced in the different works of the Messrs. Rogers amount in the aggregate to twenty-two fires, and yield an average of one ton each per day. The concern owns forty-three covered kilns for making charcoal, and burn in them every variety of wood. They use charcoal exclusively in their works, except in the process of heating blooms for rolling mills in which they employ Pennsylvania coal. The iron business of the Messrs. Rogers embraces such proportions, and is arranged with so much system and efficiency, that they are prepared for almost every exigency of the market. When nails and bars are the most desirable fabrics, a large proportion of their blooms are rolled, but if blooms occupy a higher place in market, nails and bars become with them a subordinate production. The end chunks, cut from the blooms, are rolled into bars and nail plates. Their nail factory when in full operation presents a spectacle of the greatest animation and interest.
The bloomeries of the Messrs. Rogers are known in trade as Peru iron. Their blooms are chiefly sent to Pittsburg, Penn., and there made into cast steel, which it is asserted, is equal to any made on this continent or in Europe. It is confidently believed by its manufacturers, that American cast steel may soon become an important article of exportation. The ore used in the works of the Messrs. Rogers is derived wholly from the Palmer mine, and they calculate that four tons of this ore in a native condition, or from two to two and a quarter tons of separated ore, will produce a ton of iron. It is considered that the Palmer ore possesses qualities which peculiarly adapt it to the fabrication of steel. The company have two separators on Palmer brook, and another building near the ore bed, and one also at the Forks. The operations of this concern in their diversified forms and singular ramifications transcend in magnitude most business transactions in northern New York, and in all their proportions can scarcely be excelled by any private interest in the state. The Messrs. Rogers possess a landed estate exceeding fifty thousand acres, and this enormous territory is maintained principally to secure an inexhaustible supply of fuel for their works. This domain furnishes nearly every raw material they require in their varied operations. Their interest in the Palmer hill mine secures all the ore they consume; their boundless forests afford wood for the kilns and timber for the saw mills. They own a limestone quarry near the works at Black Brook, of the choicest quality, at which for their own use they burn annually about five thousand bushels of lime. They possess clay beds, where all the brick they need is produced. The immense amount of agricultural commodities they yearly consume, alone exceeds their capacity for producing. The moulding sand used in the foundery they procure from the bed of Mr. Mace, on the bank of the river above Keeseville, although they own a large deposit of the material.
A single fact will illustrate the great and diversified resources of this company. They have recently erected a large and elegant edifice, appropriated to their own use, for a store, warerooms and offices. They have also an extensive store at Black Brook and another at Jay. The building at the Forks is constructed chiefly of brick and iron, and is one hundred and eight feet in height, and fifty-eight feet wide, and stands three stories high — two of thirteen feet and the other of fifteen feet in height, above the basement. The latter is sufficiently high and capacious to allow teams to drive in and unload. The edifice is situated at the Au Sable Forks, and placed in a locality so secluded, is an object that excites alike surprise and admiration. But we are impressed by greater astonishment, when we learn that nearly every article, which entered into its construction, was produced from the premises of the proprietors. The glass, the paints and oil and trimmings were purchased. The felt and cement for the roof were not embraced in their resources, but the gravel to cover it was procured within a mile of the building. The brick was burnt from clay found on their own soil; the nails were made from ore taken from their own mines, and the massive castings which adorn and strengthen the building were fabricated in their workshops; the lumber was felled in their forests and cut at their own mills. In their ardor for the realization of the idea, that this work should be accomplished from their own resources, the Messrs. Rogers utilized the black ash, a denizen of the swamps, usually deemed of no consideration, and even little value for fuel. This wood has been discovered to be a beautiful building material, and it now decorates their rooms in exquisite panel work and columns. Its dark grain presents richly variegated shades in strong, deep coloring, with a peculiarly soft and rich surface. Is there any other business institution in the country capable of achieving a triumph like this?