PART III. TOWN HISTORIES (section 1)
THE most valuable part of the centennial celebration was the Town Histories which had been prepared for the occasion. To the authors of these histories the readers of this volume are under the deepest obligation. They have been prepared with infinite trouble by busy men and nothing but a sense of the public interest and of the gratitude of their follow citizens can adequately reward them.
Below these histories are given in the alphabetical order of the towns.
OF the earliest settlements made in that portion of Delaware county now comprised in the town of Andes, there exists to day a record of little more than tradition. The circumstances attending the advance of the pioneers before the revolutionary war were not such as favored the accumulation of elaborate material for future history. Coming generations shall never know the true story of that early march of civilization into the heart of the American forests; and it is difficult to realize what must have been the hardships and deprivations and uncertainties which the leaders in that forward movement encountered. There remains for us the story of success and progress; the failures and reverses belong to those details that are left to the imagination. The experiences of the early days were doubtless common to all the settlers of the Middle States; and in the following narrative an attempt will be made to refer to some of the more familiar traditions clustering about the beginning of this town.
Prior to the Revolution there appear to have been scarcely any permanent settlements in this portion of the county. The peculiar topographical relations, the rocky hills, often thickly wooded and cut by deep valleys, with wild mountain streams, offered few immediate advantages to the Indians and hence it is principally lower down the streams, after they join the Delaware that records of Indian tribes (the Delaware Indians) appear. The earliest white inhabitants, coming from the New England districts, and from the lower portions of New York, followed along the streams and sought such places amid their banks as gave promise of reward for labor expended. But these settlers left no permanent traces; they may have failed to overcome the difficulties which the peculiar character of the country presented, and doubtless some left to join the throng of revolutionary warriors. There are no records which justify any certain conclusions as to the fate of these individuals; but the traditions of their existence lend completeness to the history of the later community, and contributes to the enthusiasm which the tales of colonial struggles arouse in American hearts.
It was during the revolutionary period and in the following years that the first permanent settlements began. According to various authorities, the years 1781 to 1784 mark the date of these pioneer movements. At about this time several families, making their way up the East branch of the Delaware river, located at the place now known as Shavertown. These families included John, Jacob and Philip Shaver (hence the name). They had migrated from Dutchess county, while Philip Barndardt had come to this district from Schoharie county. These names, like those which follow, serve to indicate the nationality of the early settlers. A few years later other individuals began to direct their way along the smaller branches of the river. These branches afforded the natural paths along which the invasion into the unknown territory should be conducted. Thus we learn of Robert Nicholson who made his home about 1790 up the Tremperskill, the small stream joining the East Branch at Shavertown. To the same neighborhood came Thomas More, James Phenix, Elijah Olmsted, Joseph Erskine, Silas Parish, E. Washburn and Eli Sears, names, many of which are familiar in the county annals.
Somewhat later than the period just referred to began a movement towards the district under discussion, along the direction of the West Branch of the Delaware. Communication with the outer world was less easy along this path, and consequently the immigration in this direction was less extensive until at a much later period. Toward the close of the eighteenth century, however, settlers had followed the West Branch as far as Delhi, and then pursuing their course up the Little Delaware the stream joining the West Branch just below the present village of Delhi had made their way into the present town of Bovina and then gradually into the northern portion of what is now known as Andes. How entirely independent the two lines of pioneer movement were, is well illustrated by the following incident which we take from the historical account of the town by H. W. Blake: Aaron Hull, a pioneer, who came by the Teunis Lake route, had taken up his abode about one mile north of the present village of Andes. His nearest neighbor to the south was Jonathan Earl, who in 1795 had located on the farm now occupied by Robert McNair on the road from Andes to Shavertown. "These two families lived for a year or more unknown to each other, until one evening Mr. Earl while looking for his cow that had strayed up to what was then the swamp, now the site of the village, found her in company with Mr. Hull's cattle that he was driving home from their browse pasture."
As in the adjacent parts of the county, so here the early settlers devoted much of their time to the lumber industry. Rafting soon became a profitable business on the Delaware where it was extensively undertaken. The numerous streams in the locality under consideration afforded means of transportation for the logs, and in the course of time saw mills were erected. With the changes incidental to the country's growth, however, all this has changed, and today dairying forms the chief industry of the community.
It was not until after the war of 1812-14 that the present town of Andes was formed. At that time the county comprised fifteen towns. By a special act of the State Legislature, passed April 13, 1819, a portion of Middletown was set aside to comprise the present town of Andes. The name, rather unique in character, is said to have arisen through a suggestion regarding the extremely hilly character of this part of the county, and the word Andes was chosen to be applied to the town including this mountain-like district. That the designation was not altogether inappropriate will be evident when it is remembered that the highest point in the county Mt. Pisgah, with an altitude of 3,400 feet lies in the north eastern part of the town.
The new town was the fourth in size in the county, but was indeed little more than an unbroken forest with a few settler inhabitants. On the first Tuesday in March, 1820, the first town meeting was hold in what was then designated as the village of Trempersville, the name being changed to Andes in the following year. At this meeting the town officers were elected, viz: Supervisor, town clerk, assessors, overseers of the poor, commissioners of highways, etc. In the absence of general legislation, bylaws were adopted, one to the effect that "No cattle shall be allowed to run at large within forty rods of any Publick House, Tavern, Grist mill, Fulling mill and all places of Publick Business from the first day of November until the first day of April, under the penalty of one dollar."
The first election for State officers was held on the last Tuesday in April, 1820, and continued for three days. The relative importance of the new town is indicated by the results of this contest. Seventy-six votes were cast for governor, DeWitt Clinton receiving twenty and Daniel D. Tompkins fifty-six. At a later date, instead of continuing the election three days at one place, the inspectors went each day to a different part of the town for the convenience of the scattered voters. At this period there was but one hamlet in the town. The church and school were never forgotten in those days, and formed the center about which civilization clustered in its rural abodes. Accordingly the town contained a church, Presbyterian in denomination, eight school districts, a tavern, a grist mill, a saw mill and a tannery. If we add to these the log cabin homes of tillers of the soil, there is presented to the imagination a picture which seems strange indeed to the child of the closing years of the nineteenth century. Where the forest trail formed the only line of communication with the neighboring districts, today the telephone extends from hamlet to hamlet and the earth's forces are subdued to assist the wants of man in a manner and degree that our forefathers could not venture to dream of. In place of the bimonthly mail of 1826, the great New York dailies today bring their treasure of intelligence to the home of the farmer on the very day of their issue. Such have been the changes that time has wrought.
In the period succeeding 1820, the town of Andes experienced a slow and steady growth. Other hamlets beside old Trempersville, began to form. Thus Shavertown which, as we have seen, was early a growing settlement at the junction of the Tremperskill and East branch, was established as a post office in 1828;: Union Grove, further up on the East branch, was likewise organized in 1857; while the village, of Andes was incorporated in 1861. At this period its population was about 350. The more fertile valleys of the town had become settled by a thrifty class, and it is during these years that various well known localities in the town began their growth. These places have in many instances received characteristic and designations, among which we may refer to Fall Clove, Wolf Hollow, Bussey Hollow, Shaver Hollow, Canada Hollow, Gladstone Hollow, Dingle Hill, Lake Hill, Palmer Hill, etc. More mills were built in the region, but of the many that existed in the first half of the century few remain at the present day. Among these land marks are still to be seen one at Pleasant Valle (0. E. Miner's), and another at Union Grove (Jenkins' mill). These relics of early Andes industry serve to demonstrate how thoroughly the character of the occupation of the townsmen has changed in late years. Of the causes contributing to this change we shall speak later on.
As regards the religious life of the community, there has been evidence from the earliest days of an enthusiasm and interest that speak praises for the fathers of the early generation. Meetings for devotional purposes were held in various portions of the town long before church edifices had been erected, and the unusual devotion of the Andes people is shown in the considerable number of churches that were erected even before the sixties. Presbyterianism predominated, but by no means excluded other sects, among whom the Methodists and Baptists were most active. In the earnest effort to spread the Christian faith a religious society (Presbyterian) was organized as early as 1801, and in 1818 a church was erected, part of which now forms the Town Hall building in Andes village. In 1833 a United Presbyterian Church was erected at Cabin Hill; in 1838 the Methodist Episcopal edifice at Andes was opened. These were followed by Presbyterian houses of worship erected in 1848 at Andes, in 1851 at Shavertown, and in the following year at Pleasant Valley.
All the churches have labored incessantly and spent money freely in proclaiming the words of truth, and today the spires of eight churches point heavenward and afford opportunity for the people to meet together in their respective houses and worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. It may not be without interest to note that Rev. Dr. James Bruce of the United Presbyterian congregation of Andes village has spent thirty-three consecutive years in its service.
Up to the year 1890 Andes had at least two public cemeteries, one being located at Shavertown, the second and larger one a short distance southwest of Andes village on the Tremperskill road. The attempt to incorporate this with a larger area of land failed, owing to the difficulty of making satisfactory arrangements with holders of adjoining property. Accordingly in 1890 an association was formed and the present Rural Cemetery opened. The farm, known as the Smith property, located on an elevation to the north of the village, was purchased and a portion of it, duly incorporated, was set aside for the purpose mentioned.
It was in the year 1845 that the well known Anti-Rent difficulties reached their culmination in this county. In the previous years the settlers who had up to that time paid their annual rents under what was known as the Hardenberg Patent claim refused longer to submit to what they considered unjust and exorbitant demands, while the lessors prosecuted for rent. Associations of the aggrieved were formed with the purpose of seeking redress and preventing the collection of the rents. Men disguised as Indians banded together to carry out the purposes of these individuals. The processes of the law were interfered with; and meanwhile judicial and legislative proceedings were on foot to remedy the difficulties.
The climax was finally reached in a series of events taking place in Andes, and leading to the death of Deputy Sheriff Steele. An Act had already been passed forbidding the proceedings of the armed and disguised bands, and severe penalties were directed. The immediate occasion of the so-called Anti-Rent "Andes tragedy" was the attempt of Sheriff Green Moore to sell the property of Moses Earl upon an execution for rent. Mr. Earl at that time resided about one and a half miles from Andes village, on the mountain road leading to what is now called Dingle Hill. The property is at present in the possession of William Scott.
Of the events that transpired incident to this Andes tragedy there are a number of accounts, varying in the statement of the details, and doubtless colored largely by the sympathies of the narrator in the questions involved. It is difficult, indeed, to find a description of the transactions of that fatal day that is free from evidences of prejudice at the same time that it bears the stamp of authenticity. The writer has carefully reviewed the various published accounts and has likewise received useful information from inhabitants of the town of Andes who were present at the Anti-Rent affair. The following narrative is, in his judgment, warranted by the results of this study:
On the 7th of August, 1845, the Sheriff of the county, Mr. Green Moore, went to Andes to be present at the sale referred to. When the Sheriff wanted to commence the sale the "Indians," and certain other citizens not in disguise, repaired to the field where the cattle to be sold were grazing, and drove them into a corner near the highway. After surrounding the cattle, the "Indians" advised the Sheriff to proceed with the sale, and promised at the same time to protect him. At this juncture two Deputy Sheriffs, Steele and Edgerton, appeared upon the scene, although the best authorities indicate that they had been requested not to be present. When it was suggested that the cattle be driven upon the highway prior to the sale, an objection was immediately raised on the ground that the notice of sale, distinctly stated otherwise, and furthermore, that the highway was public property. The two Deputy Sheriffs here upon rode along the highway to the barn where a notice of the sale had been posted, and then returned to a point where there was an opening into the field closed by bars. Steele and Edgerton, who were joined by P. P. Wright, entered the field with their horses; Edgerton, flourishing a pistol, commanded those present to assist in preserving the peace. The firearm was discharged, accidentally it is stated, and immediately the leader of the Indians commanded them to shoot the horses. At once there was a report of pistols; amid the confusion two horses were killed and Steele was fatally shot. He died in a short time. The events of the day were reported to the Governor and the county put under martial law. Various legal prosecutions followed, two individuals being convicted and imprisoned. They were fully pardoned at a later period. The abandonment of the secret Anti-Rent organizations quickly followed.
The opening of the Civil war found Andes ready to send forth her quota of men to defend the Nation's rights and to battle for the cause of the North. A good number of her sons started from their homes and joined the other volunteers from the county. These men were for the most part members of the 144th Regiment Volunteers, and many of them saw considerable of the struggles of the Rebellion. The enthusiastic meetings held in the village of Andes during the war are recalled by many of the older residents; patriotism reached a high pitch and Henry Dowie, a prominent citizen, entertained Horace Greeley on one occasion. The survivors of the war have organized a prosperous Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, and named it Fletcher Post, to honor the memory of one of the first of Andes' residents to fall in the great struggle.
In the years following the war Andes experienced such transformations as were common to many of her sister towns in the county. The chief occupation of the townsmen gradually was changed more and more into that of a dairying community and agriculture took a leading part in the lives of the people. It gave rise to a quiet, unimpetuous, religious community whose daily life was merely a record of hard work with satisfactory returns. The village of Andes grew steadily from a hamlet of 350 people to one of 500 inhabitants, and it became a commercial center for the surrounding district. The farm produce from the neighboring towns was brought to the village to be exchanged for the necessities which the farm did not produce and "trading day," Saturday, afforded many scenes of earnest activity. For years no town in the county enjoyed the prosperity which came to Andes. The progress which it experienced was largely due to the efforts of one man, Henry Dowie. In addition to his extensive business interests, he was deeply concerned with all enterprises which were undertaken in the direction of improving the village. His prosperous butter business brought people from distant parts of the county and gave to the village an impetus that was long felt. It was to the reverses of fortune in the case of this one man that the decline of the once prosperous village is largely due. The tide of trade has drifted to other channels; the facilities of travel and communication have improved so greatly in later years that the farmer no longer is, compelled to go far to find his market. Thus the progress of the age has wrought changes in the fortunes of the town.
Among the incidents which have left their impress upon the village of Andes was the disastrous fire of June 26, 1878. The origin of the conflagration was probably accidental. The flames started in the wagon house belonging to the Union Hotel owned by Peter Crispell and standing on the premises opposite to the hotel. The fire extended in both directions from this property, completely destroying all the buildings on the north side of the street as far as Delaware Avenue to the west, and the street leading to High street on the east. No less than fifteen buildings were consumed, some of them stores, others private residences. Although, a volunteer fire department had already been organized in 1877, and the Andes water works were in operation, the flames made rapid headway, and the dry weather and wind prevailing caused so rapid a spread of the work of destruction that the efforts of the citizens were of little avail. The loss was estimated at $40,000. This portion of the village was subsequently rebuilt in large part and the new structures have added materially to the appearance of the place. In August, 1896, the Union Hotel, which was built in 1833 and had for many years been a landmark in the town, was burned to the ground. This place has not been rebuilt up to the present date.
In connection with various enterprises which originated in the town of Andes it is necessary to record a series of transactions which have been of serious consequence to the development and progress of the town. The incidents referred to are known as the Andes Town Bonds affair. After the construction of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad from Kingston to Stamford a project was entertained of connecting the valley traversed by the New York and Oswego Midland Railroad, now known as the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad, with the railway crossing among the Catskills from the Hudson river. This new road, which was to pass through Andes, promised to afford a valuable outlet from this region as well as to give easier means of access to the town. The new railway was surveyed to run from Arkville, where it joined the Ulster and Delaware Railroad, through Arena, Union Grove, Shavertown, up the Tremperskill to within two and one-half miles of Andes village to the present farm of David Muir, thence along the valley leading to Lake Delaware. From this spot the road was planned to follow the valley of the Little Delaware to the village of Delhi. A company was incorporated under the name of the Delhi and Middletown Railroad; a survey of the road was made, right of way obtained and a portion of the road from Arkville to Andes was graded. The interest of the town of Andes in the enterprise was evidenced by the action of the town the only one along the line of the proposed railroad doing so in bonding itself to the extent of $98,000 for the benefit of the organized company. The sequel is well known. After various vicissitudes and unfortunate incidents the completion of the road was never undertaken, while the obligations assumed by the town could not be released. The burden was a severe one, especially under the circumstances related. For several years interest (at seven per cent.) was faithfully paid. At the end of this period, a sentiment opposed to the continuance of this debt having gradually arisen, the bond affair became a matter of litigation and remained in the courts for several years, when a temporary relief was obtained. The old debt was released and the town bonded anew for $120,000, with interest payable at the rate of three per cent. There is a debt balance not yet provided for at this time. The history of the Bond affair is the story of a heavy burden upon the town, without compensation in the form of a railroad, or redress of any kind.
Since the failure of the Delhi and Middletown Railroad there have been several attempts at various times to organize railroad companies and build a railroad to Andes, but none of these have been successful. The people of the town have, however, by no means lost confidence in the ultimate success of their long continued efforts in this direction.
The last two decades have witnessed no startling changes in the make up of the town. Business interests have been transferred from time to time, a new generation of inhabitants has sprung up, and there has been a transition from the bustling days of the seventies to the more quiet times of the present. Of the older inhabitants identified with the progress of the town many are dead, among these Henry Dowie, of whom mention has already been made. Duncan Ballantine, for many years President of the First National Bank of Andes, died in 1889. The direction of the affairs of the bank passed into the hands of his son David, but the institution closed its doors a few years later. Another son, James Ballantine, was successively Supervisor of the town, Member of Assembly and. finally State Senator at Albany. He died before completing his term of service, May 4, 1896. Prominent among the merchants of Andes were Daniel B. Shaver who began his business career in 1833 and for many years occupied the building erected by him in 1835. Mr. Shaver died in May, 1897. A. S. Dowie, Sr., for many years the head of the firm of A. S. Dowie & Son, died in 1878; the junior member is now in business in Philadelphia, the firm having been later succeeded by Hotchkiss & Marx, who subsequently dissolved partnership, Mr. Hotchkiss retaining the old store while Mr. Marx has opened a new place of business near the site of the old destroyed Union hotel wagon house. Mr. E. M. Norton has for many years been engaged in the drug business in the village, his present location being in the building erected by Daniel H. Hawks. The hardware business was conducted in Andes by a number of parties who succeed each other in the course of a few years. Thus the establishment of Nichols & Dickson was conducted by 0. S. Nichols, Nichols & Murray, and E. J. Turnbull. Eli Felton jr., afterward Felton & Cant, were succeeded by James Bruce jr. The Andes Recorder, originally issued by Rev. Peter Smeallie and successfully conducted for many years by William Clark, has continued publication under various ownerships, being conducted at the present date by Miller & Crawford. A banking business is now conducted by James F. Scott, who has represented the town on the Board of Supervisors for many years and twice has been its chairman.
Andes has always maintained a satisfactory educational establishment. For years the Andes Collegiate Institute, founded in 1847, drew students from distant points and it was perhaps the most prosperous school of the county. With the improvement of the public school system and the growth of other similar institutions in many of the nearby towns, the prosperity of the Institute declined and its doors were finally closed in 1880. Several attempts were made to revive the school but the efforts have all failed and the spacious buildings now stand idle, reminding the citizens of their usefulness in the earlier days. The Andes Union Free school, later the Andes High School, was organized in 1893 in the, old district school building which was enlarged for the purpose. This institution has been improving steadily and now stands high as a preparatory school for girls and boys. A number of the young graduates have completed a collegiate course, giving evidence of the thoroughness of the preparation afforded by the Andes school.
The first telegraph line connecting Andes with the exterior was erected by the Andes and Delhi Telegraph Company in 1876. The first message was sent over the thirteen miles of this line June 1, 1876. Afterwards this line was extended to Arkville on the Ulster and Delaware Railroad and likewise, connected with Bovina Center. This line has recently been converted into a telephone line and has greatly facilitated the ease of communication between Andes and distant places. In 1896 another company was organized and a telephone line built between Andes and Downsville, passing through Shavertown and Pepacton. This line is connected with many of the farm residences along the route and considerable local business is thus transacted by the use of the telephone.
The old Delhi and Kingston Turnpike the road early connecting Delhi with the Catskill region and the Hudson river was abandoned beyond Arkville in 1872. Later, that portion of the road between Andes and Margaretville was given up by the company which at the present time still controls the well kept road from Delhi to Andes village.
By Hon. D. L. Thompson.
ONE hundred and seven years ago three or four hardy young men from Westchester county, with rudely constructed knapsacks fastened to their belts and with trusty rifles upon their shoulders made a surveying and prospecting tour over an Indian trail from Stamford, through the eastern part of the county.
In that little party was Elisha B. Maynard, a young man of English descent, in search of a future home for himself and his family. With keen perception and astute judgment in regard to richness of soil, he selected that spot of ground which is now, and ever since has been in the possession of the Maynard family in Bovina. In the summer of 1791 young Maynard cleared up two or three acres of land, built a little cabin, mostly under ground, sowed a bushel and a half of rye and then returned to his home in Westchester county. He spent the winter of 1791 and 1792 in making preparations for his new home, and in the spring of 1792 moved his family and all his belongings upon a wood-shod sled drawn by two yokes of oxen, all the way from the Hudson river. For two years young Maynard had no neighbors this side of the Stamford range of mountains. The somewhat dangerous conditions and the actual privations incurred by him must be largely left to the imagination.
Game of every kind was abundant, the tameness of which on account of unfamiliarity with man was even annoying. It was difficult to raise stock on account of the depredations of bears, panthers, and wolves. Benefits, however, resulted from these circumstances, for the mountain brooks were filled with the finest trout and the woods with deer, that furnished a material part of the family food.
In 1794 Alexander Brush came from Long Island and settled upon that tract of land which now includes the village of Bovina Centre, six miles west of Mr. Maynard, his nearest neighbor. These two earliest settlers were blest with unusually large families, Mr. Maynard having twelve children and Mr. Brush nine. The old Puritan custom of giving children Bible names was in vogue with the Yankee element of the early settlers. Every one of the Maynard and Brush families were given Scripture names. The boys having such names as Abram, Isaac, Jacob and Elisha, and the girls Miriam, Ruth, Rachel, Esther, etc.
Mr. Brush a year or two after his settlement here, with a spirit of enterprise and the best of motives, bought the flood of the white daisy and sowed it upon his land, also giving it to neighbors around him. He lived to hear maledictions heaped upon his head for his well meant but mistaken idea of improving the pasturage of the farms.
About the beginning of the present century a number of settlers, mostly from Scotland, began to establish homes and clear up the land. Among them were the Landons, Leets, Davises, Dumonds, Moscrips, Hiltons, Russells, Hamiltons and Ormistons. Those people endured privations and hardships which the present third or fourth generation of their sons and daughters could scarcely imagine. The comforts, the conveniences, and the luxuries of life were to them unknown. Their necessities were easily supplied, and the source of them came from their immediate surroundings. The crops raised from the newly cleared land were principally rye, potatoes, and flax. Sometimes the family enjoyed the luxury of pork for dinner, provided the bears had not captured the pigs before butchering time. In such a case they resorted to bear meat, if they could catch the bear.
As a sample of physical strength and endurance growing out of the necessities of their environments, it is related that a Mr. Davis and a Mr. Hilton upon different occasions carried each of them upon their backs two bushels of rye to a grist mill in Schoharie county, a distance of eighteen miles from their homes, and returned with the flour the same day. However, a grist mill was soon after erected on the other side of the Stamford mountain at the foot of Rose's brook, and to this mill was carried on the backs of men or on horseback the grain to be made into flour for family use.
Amid such surroundings the sons and daughters of these pioneers loved and married as in more modern days. The first marriage was that of James Russell and Nancy Richie, the first birth Elisha Horton Maynard (grandfather of the late Isaac H. Maynard) in 1793. The first death was that of Hezekiah Davis in 1798. The first sermon was preached by Rev. James Richie in 1795. The first school teacher was William Edwards, who taught a school in 1808. The first general store was kept by James Wetmore. The first gristmill by Stephen Palmer. The first resident physician was Dr. Kelly. The first church was built in 1809.
>From this time onward, early in the morning and late at night could be heard the sound of the axe as it felled the trees of the forest, which after seasoning for a few weeks were rolled into heaps and reduced into ashes. The burning of so much timber produced large quantities of ashes which suggested a new industry that of converting the ashes into what was called potash and pearl ash. The works where these substances were manufactured were called asheries. David Ballantine, grandfather of the late Senator Ballantine, built an ashery and ran it for many years in connection with a small general store. Eight or ton cents a bushel was paid in trade for ashes delivered at the store or at the works, the good housewives almost invariably taking pay in dishes.
The town or township of Bovina, a name given it by General Erastus Root, was formed from parts of Delhi, Middletown and Stamford in 1820. The name is said to have been derived from the word Bovine, alluding to the fact of its being prominent in the dairying business. With the exception of Harpersfield it is in area and population the smallest town in the county, containing only 27,000 acres, or forty-two square miles of land. Fifteen years after its organization into a township, or more definitely in 1835, its population was 1,412. Since that date until the present time there has been a steady and almost regular yearly decrease, until now the population numbers less than 1,000. Its general features are hills and valleys supplied with abundant springs of pure cold water, making it admirably adapted for dairying purposes, which is and has been from its earliest settlement it's chief and most important industry.
Its enterprising citizens are justly proud of the flattering appreciation of the excellency of Bovina butter, and the reputation it has gained, Upon two occasions Bovina dairies have supplied the tables of the presidential mansion at Washington, being recommended as the finest flavored butter made in the United States.
In March 1820 the first town election was held at the house of John Hastings, who then kept an inn on the farm now owned and occupied by his grandson, James E. Hastings. At this election Thomas Landon was chosen Supervisor, with a full corps of other town officials. Some resolutions adopted at these early town elections are suggestive and amusing. For instance at a meeting held April 5, 1821, is this record: "Voted that... a pauper be sold to the person who will keep him the cheapest." ..... was then put up at auction and sold to John Bennett for one year at 9 shillings and sixpence a week. So vigorously opposed were the people at this time to paying taxes for the support of paupers, that at a town meeting in March 1838, they passed this resolution: "Voted that the county poor house at Delhi be abolished."
Among those distinguished by long terms of office as Supervisor, may be mentioned Judge James Cowan, who held the office from 1825 to 1839; fourteen consecutive years. Alexander Storie was supervisor for eight years and David Black for eleven years. The present Supervisor is William L. White, a grandson of Rev. John Graham, who for over twenty years was the pastor of the (now) United Presbyterian Church of Bovina.
In the time that has long gone by, the habits and customs and to us the peculiarities of the early settlers seem strange and somewhat amusing. The older inhabitants now living emphasize the claim that there was more sociability and friendship among the people in those days than now. There was no division or distinction among them on account of wealth, for all were poor. Neighbors would drop in of an evening to have a social chat and a drink of whiskey with a fellow neighbor. Whiskey seems to have been regarded as a necessity. There was at one time three distilleries in the town for its manufacture. And I have been told that the home consumption did not allow of any exportation. A settler would take a bushel of rye to the distillery and receive for it two gallons of whiskey, They claimed that they could have a milder drunk on the whiskey of those days than in more modern times.
An old gentleman who was enthusiastic over the good old times and friendships of those early days, told a story that so evidently contradicted the facts claimed, that we are led to believe that there were sinners as well as saints even in the long ago time. He said that two neighbors, whom I will call A and B, had become somewhat careless about their line fences, which naturally made bad blood between them. On one occasion A's sheep got into B's lot, where B caught three or four of them and cutting the thin skin separating the muscle of the hind leg from the gambrel joint he stuck the other hind leg through the aperture, and in this shape sent them home on three legs. A just chalked this bit of neighborly courtesy clown and waited for his chance, which soon came by B's hogs getting over into his lot. A caught the hogs and cut their months almost back to their eyes. When B saw his hogs he started for A's with all the vim of a modern Fitzsimmons and throwing his coat on a stump he wanted to know what A meant by slashing up his hogs in that shape. A said, "Well, now, just hold on, B; I'll tell you how this came about. Your hogs were over in my lot when my sheep came home on three legs, and when the hogs saw those sheep they began to laugh, and laughed so heartily that they split their mouths open clear back to their ears."
There is a tradition of a lead mine in the southern part of the town. An Indian named Teunis built a hut or cabin on the farm now owned by Walter A. Doig. This Indian was often observed to leave his cabin and after a short absence return with pieces of rock richly filled with lead ore, from which he obtained his bullets. He admitted the existence of a valuable lead mine, but would never make known its location. It is said that upon one occasion when this Indian was over on the East branch of the Delaware, he was assaulted and beaten by two drunken white men, when a Mr. Bassett of Andes came to his rescue. He afterward invited Mr. Bassett to come to his cabin, saying he would show him something that would make him the richest man in all the region around him. Mr. Bassett visited the friendly Indian, who blindfolded him and led him through the woods for a short distance. After removing the obstruction from his eyes, he was shown a lead mine of unusual richness. The Indian told him that he would not yet reveal the location, but promised that before his death he would do so. The old Indian, however, died soon after and all knowledge of this mine died with him. Mr. Bassett and others spent months in fruitless search for, this buried treasure. The Mr. Bassett referred to was the father of the late Peter Norton Bassett of Andes, a man whose integrity and veracity was never doubted.
The adaptation of the early settlers to their necessities and surroundings ought at this time to teach us lessons, of economy in many of the affairs of life. Flax was grown in large quantities from which the good housewife made her husband's shirts and summer clothing. The woolen garments were likewise made in the home. The wife and mother carded, spun and wove the wool for the cloth, and often completed the preparation of the garments for the backs of her husband and children by cutting and making them. They may not have been artistically fitted, but mother made them; while less critical eyes than those of modern times surveyed them. An old gentleman said that the men of those days, as they looked down on their thick cow-hide boots, were not always certain whether they were going home, or away from home. An old lady referring to the amount of material put into the men's shirt collars in those times, laughingly remarked that the shirts might have been worn wrong end up without attracting unusual attention.
But it was the men and women reared in such surroundings that the people of Bovina today are proud to call their ancestors. Their labor soon developed the limited resources about them into material prosperity, and all now feel the truth of a sentiment once so beautifully expressed by Thomas Jefferson when he said, "Let the farmer be forever honored in his calling, for they who till the soil are the favored and chosen people of God."
>From 1815 to 1820 those who settled in Bovina came largely from Scotland. They brought with them that Scottish thrift and piety that has so honored the land of Burns and of Bruce, and demonstrated in their love of country and their loyalty to Christ, the true elements of that Christian character which the world respects today. It has been reported by agents of the American Bible Society that no family in Bovina has ever been found without a bible. The influence of the clergy is universally felt. For forty years no license for the sale of liquor has been granted, and with one exception of a few months not a pauper from the town has been an inmate of an almshouse.
>From 1820 to 1830 hired men's wages were from eight to ten dollars a month. Hired girls received seventy-five cents a week, and if they could weave they got one dollar a week. An interesting fact in the history of this town is, that the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith, once worked here as a common day laborer. There is a stone wall still standing on the farm of Frederick Johnston built by him between the years 1935 and 1840. In 1835 when slavery was abolished in the state of New York there were two slaves in the town; one was owned by John Erkson and the other by Alexander Johnston.
One custom of Scottish origin was that of offering cake and wine at funerals. This was kept up for some time. Whenever the people entered a house of mourning they were offered cake and wine. This simple service at the burial of their dead was suggestive of appreciated sympathy in times of bereavement.
Briefly noticing what is called the Anti-Rent, or Equal Rights party, it may be said that the first meeting of this party was held at the hotel of John Seacord, in Bovina, Oct. 1, 1844. John McDonald of Kortright and George Thompson of Andes were nominated for the Assembly at this meeting. Mr. McDonald being endorsed by the Whig party was elected. For the killing of Under-Sheriff Steele at the Earle sale in Andes, Aug. 7, 1845, John Van Steenburg and Edward O'Connor were sentenced to be hanged Nov. 27. O'Connor was a citizen of Bovina, then living on the farm now owned and occupied by Mr. Stephen Russell. Naturally the most intense excitement and deepest concern were felt for the fate of O'Connor. The sentence was however changed to imprisonment for life, and early in 1847 at the request of nearly 12,000 petitioners, Governor Young pardoned Van Steenburg and O'Connor with all who had been imprisoned for this tragedy. The result of this Anti-Rent agitation was that the tenants bought the soil of the land they had tilled and occupied, at easy prices. But it had created bitter feelings and animosities among the people that took years to remove. Business men who were in sympathy with the landlords were boycotted to an extent that drove them from the town. Horace Greeley's paper was in sympathy with the Anti-Renters and was universally patronized. Almost everybody in Bovina took the Tribune. It was jestingly said that "up in Bovina the people didn't read anything but the Bible and the New York Tribune." But the Anti-Rent conflict has gone into history, a history of which the town today scarcely remembers with either pride or pleasure.
The first post-office in this town was established at Lake Delaware in 1821. Previous to that time the mail was brought from Stamford, a distance of sixteen miles, once every month, people taking turns in bringing it over the mountain. The post-office in Bovina Centre was established in 1841 with John Erkson as postmaster. The present postmaster is Wm. McCune. The early mail carriers in bringing the mail, when within a mile of the post-office commenced to blow a horn, and continued to blow every two or three minutes until their arrival at the post-office.
The first physician, as has been said was Dr. Kelly. Present physicians, Drs. Phinney and Dickson.
When this town was established there were upwards of 400 children of school age; now there are less than 275.
The most important trade center is the little village of Bovina Centre, in which there are four general stores, one for flour and feed, one hardware, one drug and one grocery store,. one saw and grist mill, two blacksmith shops, two cooper shops, two boot and shoe shops, one millinery parlor, one barber shop and one hotel. Sixty years ago all the goods sold in this town consisted of three or four wagon loads drawn semi-annually from Catskill some 60 miles distant.
The present trade, exclusive of the handling of butter, from figures and estimates, amounts to over one hundred and twelve thousand dollars annually.
The schools of this town are small. No educational advantages except the common school have ever been enjoyed by the people in their home town, while thousands of dollars have been paid for education in the academies, seminaries and colleges at other places. Bovina has furnished for the educational and professional vocations of life within the past forty-five years, forty-one persons who have been graduates with distinction from colleges around us. In all statistics of this town it is fair to consider the smallness of population.
In October, 1809, the Associate Presbyterian Congregation of Little Delaware, now the United Presbyterian Church of Bovina, was organized with a membership of eleven souls. The barns and private dwellings of the people were used as places of worship until 1815. The first sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. Alexander Bullions in the bar-room of Thomas Landon's hotel at Lake Delaware. The minister stood behind the bar, with his Bible resting upon it, and expounded to his little audience the truths and teachings of the Gospel. About this time Dr. Bullions preached in a barn yet standing upon the farm of Mrs. Lucy Coulter, at which an incident occurred that greatly disturbed for a time the devotional spirit which ought to exist during religious worship. Old grandfather Coulter had prepared the barn floor and provided seats for the female part of the audience as the men were to stand, or sit on the hay mow. Dr. Bullions had just begun his sermon when a hen flew off her nest with an unusually loud demonstration of cackling taking a circuit around among the worshipers, to the great diversion and merriment of the children and less sedate hearers. The preacher stopped and asked is someone would not remove the fowl from the building. Just then old Mr. G., a large 240 pound Scotchman, caught it by the feet and poking it under the hay sat down on it. The hen gave one squeal, and never after disturbed a religious meeting. But the spiritual solemnity of that service was badly impaired.
The first pastor of this congregation, Rev. James Laing, was installed in Tune, 1814, receiving a salary of $250 per annum. In 1815 a house of worship was built, which was not however completed until 1824. For nine years it was used for religious services without pews or pulpit or stoves. The carpenters' workbench was used for a pulpit, with blocks and benches for seats. During the winter season women brought foot stoves filled with coals which for a short time at least kept their feet from freezing. The men were hardy and endured the discomfort as best they could. In 1824 this church building was furnished with pews and pulpit but was without any means of heating for a number of years. The congregation gradually grew in numbers and in influence in this congenial soil for Presbyterianism. Rev. John Graham succeeded Rev. Mr. Laing and was its pastor for twenty years. He in turn was succeeded by Dr. James B. Lee, who remained with this people for thirty-two years. The salaries of its clergymen have been gradually increased until the present gifted and popular young preacher, Rev. W. L. C. Samson, receives $1,500 per annum. The present membership of this congregation is 372. The contributions the past year for all purposes were over $3,300. A history of this congregation would scarcely be complete without further notice of the long and acceptable pastorate of Dr. Lee, who spent the better part of a life time in devoted service to the spiritual and material prosperity of Bovina. It every enterprising project and moral reform he was a leader. Difficulties did not discourage him, nor opposition intimidate him. He faithfully and fearlessly espoused that which he believed to be right, whether it was popular or not, and his agency in the town's progress was marked in its prosperity and enlightenment.
The Reformed Presbyterian or Covenanter Congregation was organized in 1814. It is a church that is and always has been one of practical dissent from the Constitution of the United States, holding that the National Constitution is radically wrong and defective in failing to acknowledge the existence of God, the supremacy of Christ as King of Nations, and the Word of God as the supreme law. They do not vote, hold office, or take any part in the administration of the government, yet always recognize its authority in things lawful and right. They are somewhat exclusive, emphasizing the purity rather than the popularity of their denomination. The society numbers about 75 of our most enterprising and respected citizens. The present pastor of this people is Rev. T. M. Slater, very recently installed over them. The one immediately preceding, Rev. A. I. Robb, left this charge to become a missionary in China. Their first church building at upper Bovina was of stone, 24 by 34 feet, and was built in 1825. The present church building is a comfortable and commodious one in Bovina Centre. This congregation since its establishment has had eight different pastors.
The Methodist Episcopal Society was so far as preaching was concerned, the pioneer of all others. Alexander Brush, the second settler in town, was a local preacher, and often preached in his own house and that of others for years. He was followed by Rev. William Jewett about 1812, who was the first regular preacher. Services were held in houses, barns, school houses and groves until 1849, when they built a house of worship in Bovina Centre, which was dedicated August 22d, 1849. There was at one time some opposition manifested to Methodism which the historian scarcely cared to record. The incidents attendant upon that opposition are not of pleasant memory. But times have changed, and now the different churches of Bovina are in closest Christian friendship and fellowship. The present pastor of this people is Rev. S. E. Myers.
It is frequently regretted that the old church buildings, the landmarks of our civilization and religion, had not been preserved in all their original features; for the peculiar construction of them both inside and out would today be matters of interest.
Some occurrences of the long ago time are amusing. One rather peculiar character in Bovina whom I will call Billie Smith more often called General Smith. He was well known throughout the county. He was some what short in stature and remarkable for his wit and presence of mind. He could take a joke as well as give one; but upon the occasion to be related he thought the trick was too much of a joke to be funny. One warm day in summer he was at church sitting in a pew with a door opening out into the aisle, which was fastened with a button on the outside. Smith became drowsy during the long sermon and finally got sound asleep, leaning heavily against the door of the pew. A wag sitting immediately behind him, and watching the progress of his slumber, cautiously reached around and turned the button. Smith landed out into the aisle almost on the top of his head. His quick wit and rare presence of mind came to his rescue and he lay as he fell all in a heap to suggest a faint. When he was carried outside he gave his opinion of that joke and joker in language hardly fit for a week day, much less a Sabbath day. It was many years after this before Smith could be induced to attend church.
The principal industry of this town is butter making. To produce quantity and improve quality, and to give it a standing in the first markets of the State and out of it, neither effort or expense have been spared. The first Jersey stock brought into Bovina was by John Hastings and Andrew Archibald in 1863. The Hastings brothers were enthusiastic in their appreciation of that strain of cattle; while a majority of dairymen at that time were slow to acknowledge its superiority. But facts and figures became so convincing that the skeptical became believers, and Jersey stock was soon found to be profitable and popular. About 1870 William L. .Rutherford, a. farmer of considerable means, purchased a herd of twenty head from a Connecticut stock dealer, paying $250 a head, or $5,000 for the herd. They were all registered thoroughbreds. For ten years the result of the transaction was highly profitable to Mr. Rutherford in sales of stock from that herd.
In 1880 William L. Ruff, purchasing the farm of Mr. Rutherford, also purchased the stock paying $6,300 for it alone. For eighteen years Mr. Ruff has given personal attention to this stock, of which he is justly proud. His transactions as a stock dealer during this time, independent of the butter produced by the herd, has exceeded $33,000. He has paid $1,000 for a single animal as a breeder, whose sire was sold for $12,000. Mr. Ruff has sold three months old calves for over $200, cows for $350 each, and upon one occasion .he refused an offer of $2,000 for ten calves. His largest sales have been principally to dealers in pure blooded stock. To Mr. Pearson of Wayne county he sold a heifer which at five years of age produced twenty-eight and three-quarter pounds of butter a week.
James E. Hastings, who may have been a pioneer in introducing this stock into Bovina, also has one of the finest and most, valuable herds of thoroughbred cattle in the county. There are five or six pure Jersey dairies in town. Purchasers have come from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and some of the Southern States, and made selections from these and other herds of Jersey cattle in Bovina. The entire dairies of the town are of high grade. As high as 360 pounds of butter per annum have been made from each cow. Much of Bovina's prosperity in former years was due to this superior breed of cattle, and the excellency of the butter produced.
A conspicuous dairy of Guernseys is owned by T. H. Ludington of Lake Delaware. They are said to be a hardy and extraordinary milk and butter producing cattle. Mr. Ludington, a man of more than usual intelligence, speaks enthusiastically in favor of this breed, claiming a production of over 300 pounds per cow.
During the civil war Bovina furnished seventy-one volunteers for the army.
Bovina is the possessor of a banner given by the Delaware county Sabbath School Association, entitling it to the honored distinction of being the banner Sabbath School town of the county. One of the Sabbath schools of this little town is the second largest in Delaware county. Its reports show a contribution of $100 each quarter for benevolent and missionary purposes.
Connected with and under the management of the United Presbyterian congregation is a large and well selected library of 500 or 600 volumes which is open to the general public. To this library Commodore Gerry of New York City has contributed $300.
The cemetery at Bovina Centre is one of the finest and best kept, in this section of the State. Mr. Gerry has also aided in beautifying this resting place of the dead by presenting to its trustee massive iron gates of considerable value.
Mrs. E. T. Gerry's summer residence is at Lake Delaware in Bovina. The estate surrounds a beautiful lake covering over 150, acres, which is stocked with finest trout. This wealthy and generous family by deeds of charity and labors of love, have won grateful appreciation throughout the community in which for a few weeks during the summer they reside.
We ought not to close this brief history of Bovina, without referring to some of its citizens who have become distinguished in professional life.
Judge William Murray of the Supreme Court of the Sixth Judicial District was born in Bovina, November 21st, 1820. His career was one of steady advancement from a boy working on his father's farm, to that of a Supreme Court Judge. His success was in no way a surprise to his fellow townsmen. He came of a family of brains, inheriting that persevering and determined ambition which always wins success.
Judge Murray began the study of law in the office of Samuel Gordon in 1848, and was admitted to the bar at a general term held in Albany. His progress was one of steady advancement.. He was a Republican in politics and a firm believer in the principles of his party. His personal appearance was one of affable dignity, and his decisions as a jurist showed a deep knowledge of law. He died in 1887. Dr. David Murray now living, a. brother of the late Judge Murray, attained eminence as Professor in Rutgers College, New Brunswick, N. J., and later as superintendent of educational affairs in Japan. He is a man of high scholarly attainments and his reputation and standing in highest educational departments is world wide.
Hon. Isaac H. Maynard, a grandson of the first settler of the town, was born in 1838. He was graduated from Amherst College in 1862, studied law in the office of Judge Murray and was admitted to the bar at Binghamton in 1863. In politics he was a Democrat. In 1875 he was chosen to represent Delaware county in the legislature at Albany. In 1877 was elected to the office of County Judge and Surrogate in this Republican county by 1,355 majority. In 1883 he was a candidate on the State Democratic ticket for Secretary of State, but was defeated on account of his firm and uncompromising convictions upon the temperance question. In 1884 he was appointed First Deputy Attorney-General. He resigned this position and accepted the office of Second Comptroller of the United States Treasury to which he had been appointed by President Cleveland. In 1887 Mr. Maynard was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and in 1892 Governor Flower appointed him Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals. He afterwards became a candidate for that position but was defeated. He died in 1895 at the age of 57 years.
Bovina cherishes with pardonable pride the memory of other citizens both living and dead which must be left for later records. To the ministerial profession it has given eleven young men; to the educational profession in colleges and seminaries, thirteen; to the medical profession six, and to the legal, six. The people are intelligent, industrious, frugal and God fearing. It is said there is not a family in town who does not attend religious church services. A quarter of a mile from. the village of Bovina Centre, beautifully situated on a knoll in the Forrest Valley, is one of the finest cemeteries in the county. Many of the dead who slumber here have left behind them precious memories. It was at one time a custom among the early settlers to bury their dead upon their own lands. There has been at least twenty of such burial places in the town. Now the dust of the fathers has been largely gathered into this beautiful cemetery, where it will remain until "this mortal shall have put on immortality."
Note by D. M.:
The attention of the writer of this note has been called by Mr. Gilbert Tucker, the editor of the Country Gentleman, to a "Cow Census of the Town of Bovina, Delaware Co., N. Y.," which was taken by the Dairymen's Association for the year 1891. It was published as a bulletin, dated 1892. He tells me that he knows of no other similar census that has ever been taken. The pamphlet is now before me from which I have compiled a few facts. The town was selected because it was conspicuous for the quantity and quality of its dairy products, and because its inhabitants are more uniformly engaged in butter making than any other town in the State.
From this important pamphlet the following statistics are derived:
1. Bovina contains 27,279 acres of land; the assessed valuation of which in 1891 was $396,259. The average value of the land including woodland, swamp, etc., is $14.53 an acre. The value of the improved land may therefore be estimated at from five to seven times this sum.
2. The population of the town as given in the Census for 1890 was 1,007. As enumerated in this pamphlet there are 117 farmers engaged in dairying owning 2,668 cows thus averaging 23 cows to each. The cows are in large proportion Grade Jerseys; although a number of farmers report part of their stock as "thoroughbred Jerseys," "registered Jerseys," or "full-blood Jerseys."
3. The total amount of butter made is reported as 66,988 pounds. Besides butter the farmers sold calves, pork, and other dairy products. The average earnings per cow varied between $101.13 and $30.18; and for the whole town was $63.99.
4. Mr. B. G. Gilbert, the secretary of the Dairymen's Association, in summing up this census says: "The majority of these farms pay their owners from six to eight dollars per acre for the whole acreage, over and above the entire expense of the dairy, with the exception of what labor may be required. This includes uncleared as well as cleared land; and the labor is often done by the farmer and his family. The probability is that from the land under cultivation and available for cattle support the dairymen of Bovina obtain fully ten per cent net."
By Edward E. Conlon.
THE town of Colchester was formed April 10, 1792, from the town of Middletown, and included the present town of Hancock and a portion of the town of Walton. It was then in the county of Ulster. In 1799 a part was annexed to the town of Walton. Hancock was taken off in 1806, and a part of Walton was annexed to Colchester in 1827. Since which last the boundaries of the town have remained unaltered. At the formation of the county of Delaware in 1797, Colchester was one of the seven constituent towns. The name of the town was suggested by Joseph Gee, an early settler, who came from Colchester, Conn. It is a matter of regret that the euphonious Indian name, Pawpacton, was discarded for this harsh sounding English name.
The East Branch of the Delaware river runs southwesterly through the north-central portion of the town. The Indians called this river Pawpacton. The Beaverkill river flows west through the southerly corner of the town. The Indians called this river Whelenaughwemack.
In the year 1766, Timothy Gregory, then a young man twenty- three years of age, came from Westchester county, and erected a log house on the flat on the east side of the river about one-fourth of a mile above the present river bridge at Colchester; where he lived until the Revolutionary war. This was the first house ever erected within the bounds of Colchester, and stood midway between the highway and the binnekill, opposite a little spring that flows across the highway at a point a few rods above a small hill in the highway. In the succeeding years a few other settlers located farther up the river, and at the commencement of the Revolution there were nine houses in this settlement. Frederick Miller's was farthest up the river and stood near where the Shufelt Shaver house was afterwards erected; Mr. Parrish lived at the mouth of Cole's Clove, Russell Gregory just below Brock's bridge on the east side of the river, William Rose on the west side of the river below Downsville, near Rock Eddy. The other persons who are known to have resided here prior to the Revolution are Thomas, and John Gregory, James, and S. Shaver, Silas Bowker, Peter, Harry and Nehemiah Avery, Jacob Barnhart and Daniel Parrish.
In 1778 these settlers, on account of the hostility of the Indians, were compelled to abandon their homes and seek safety within the settlements along the Hudson, but at the close of the war many of them returned and began life anew.
The first school was established in the town in 1784, by Daniel Parrish. The school house stood at the northerly base of the gravel knoll at the entrance to Cole's Clove.
The first marriage occurred Dec.14, 1788, the contracting parties being Abraham Sprague and Mary Parrish, who was a sister of Daniel Parrish. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Bezaleel Howe, a Baptist minister. Sprague was twenty- two years of age and his bride twenty-one. Sprague was a member of the Washington Guards during the Revolutionary War, and was present at the execution of Major Andre. He resided for many years after his marriage on the farm across the river from Downsville, and cleared the first land there. His house stood between the present highway and the binnekill and above the road leading to Downsville.
The first birth, which is recorded, was that of, Catherine Rose, daughter of William Rose, born Dec. 24, 1784.
The first death was that of Thomas Gregory, who died Dec. 31, 1788, aged twenty years, and is buried in the Phelps burying ground at Colchester.
Abraham Sprague and Daniel Bowker ran the first raft down the river that went from above Shehawken, (Hancock); it consisted of spar timbers for the Philadelphia ship yards. Upon this trip they gave to many of the turns and islands along the river the names which they still bear.
The first saw mill stood on the binnekill below the residence of S. O. Shaver.
The first grist mill erected in Delaware county was erected by William Horton, and stood on the west side of the river, about one-half mile below Colchester, on the farm of E. D. Horton. The people brought their grain to this mill in canoes from a distance as far down the river as Equinunk, and for many miles in all directions it was brought on horseback. In the early part of the present century as many as 7,000 bushels of wheat were ground at this mill in a single year.
The Phelps burying ground at Colchester is the oldest in town, named from David Phelps, whose residence stood near by. In this burying ground only three graves are marked by lettered headstones, which are common field stones. Besides that of Thomas Gregory mentioned above, are the following:
Josiah Gregory, died Dec. 14, 1796, aged 25 years.
Timothy Gregory, died Dec. -, 1821, aged 78 years.
In the year 1798 the first tax was levied in Delaware county, and the total assessed valuation of real and personal property in the town of Colchester, which then included the town of Hancock, was $14,803.75. The present valuation of such property is $578,815.
The official records of the town begin in 1793 and the record of every town meeting, and all official acts, are carefully recorded in the town clerk's office down to the present time. From these records it appears that the first town meeting in the town of Colchester, county of Ulster, was held at the house of Lazarus Sprague, in April, 1793, "Where the following officers were duly elected viva voce by a majority, namely, for the ensuing year: William Horton, Supervisor; Peter Ten Broeck, Jr., Clerk."
A complete list of town officers follows, and among the resolutions adopted at the meeting is the following: "Resolved that hogs may run commoners with a two foot yoke and ring through the nose."
Upon the formation of the county of Delaware in 1797, William Horton, who had been supervisor since 1793, was again re-elected to that office. The following is his oath of office duly recorded in the town clerk's office:
I, William Horton, do solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, that I will in all things to the best of my knowledge and abilities, faithfully and impartially execute and perform the trust reposed in me as supervisor of the town of Colchester, in the county of Delaware, that I will not pass any amount or any article thereof wherewith I shall think the said county is not justly chargeable, nor will I disallow any amount or any article thereof wherewith I think the said county is justly chargeable. WILLIAM HORTON.
The following is from the official records of the town clerk's office:
At a special town meeting hold in the town of Colchester, for the purpose of dividing said town, convened at the house of Abraham Sprague, on ye 28th of December, 1805, Unanimously agree-
1st. Resolved, that the said town be divided.
2nd. Resolved, that the line between the two towns cross the Papakunk river at the upper end of the long flat that Abram Sprague now lives on.
3rd. Resolved, that the bounds be such beginning at the upper end of the farm that Abraham Sprague now lives on where the road crosses the river running easterly in a direct line to strike the county line at right angles; thence starting from the place of beginning and continue the same line westerly to the line of Walton.
4th. Resolved, that William Wheeler, Jonas Lakin and Solomon Miller be a committee to bring the above resolutions into effect.
At the annual town meeting, March 13, 1813, it was "Resolved, that the sum of seventy dollars be raised for the support of schools."
The following are correct transcripts from the records of the town clerk's office:
Born on the 28th of September, 1810, a male child of a black slave to John Hitt. Recorded November 10th, 1810.
A negro boy named Tom belonging to Alexander Cole was three years old the fourth of March, 1813.
Born of a black slave belonging to Alexander Cole, a male child named Benjamin, born the second day of January, 1813. Recorded the 2d day of July, 1813.
Born to a black slave belonging to Alexander Cole, a female child named Gin, the twentieth day of January, 1815. Recorded 13th January, 1816.
Born of a black slave belonging to Alexander Cole, a female child named Harriet, the twentieth day of December, 1816. Recorded the 28th February, 1818.
The oldest building in the town is the barn now standing on the Jason Gregory farm at Gregorytown. It was erected by Timothy Gregory in 1789; the original frame is still sound, and the building gives promise of standing yet many years.
William Holliday was the oldest person who ever died in the town; his age was 104, and he is buried in the old cemetery at Downsville.
The town has furnished the following members of the Assembly:
William Horton, elected 1798; John H. Gregory, elected 1821; Hezekiah Elwood, elected 1852; Barna R. Johnson, elected 1859, served three terms; Robert Beates, elected 1879; James W. Knapp, elected 1836.
John H. Gregory was elected Sheriff of the county in 1831.
William Horton was also one of the Associate Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, when that court was first organized in the county in 1798.
David Phelps was one of the six attorneys admitted and sworn, at the first session of the Court of Common Pleas in 1798. Phelps resided many years in the town, was a man of scholarly attainments, and always a true friend of Colchester. He made an earnest effort to have the county seat located on the East branch, a movement which was successfully opposed by General Root and others. David Phelps, died at Deposit, at a ripe age, and in obedience to his wish expressed in life his remains were taken back to his beloved town of Colchester, where the best of his life had been spent, and he rests in the old cemetery at Downsville. Horton and Phelps were the leaders of their respective parties for many years in the town of Colchester, but Horton's party was far in the ascendancy in the town and county, and he was honored many times with office, while Phelps remained in private life.
At present there are six post-offices in the town, Pepacton, Downsville, Colchester, Shinhopple, Horton and Butternut Grove. The two last named are on the Beaverkill. Downsville was so named in honor of Abel Downs. Pepacton is a corruption of the Indian name, Pawpacton, and is five miles up the river from Downsville. Colchester is the oldest post-office in town, that having been the principal settlement in the town for many years; it is two miles down the river from Downsville. Shinhopple is at the mouth of Trout brook, five miles below Downsville, and received its name from the large number of hobble bushes which grow on the flats in that vicinity.
Early settlers were accustomed to grind their corn in small mills, which by reason of their peculiar construction were called tub-mills. Prior to the Revolution William Rose had such a mill at the falls on the little brook above Downsville, and it was from this that "Tub-mill Brook" received its name.
Those who have known about shad fishing in the East branch may be interested in the following extracts from affidavits used in 1785 in the investigation into the title to the land between the branches of the Delaware river:
Joshua Pine, junior, aged twenty-four years being duly sworn deposeth and saith, that his father having purchased lands in John Walton's Patent, on the west side of Cookquago branch of the Delaware river, he, the deponent, went with his father to settle there in the month of May in the year 1786; that sometime in the month of June in the same year the deponent went down the Pawpacton, or East branch of the Delaware river, with a canoe, from the settlements at Pawpacton to Shehawken (Hancock), and thence up the West branch to Walton's Patent, to the knowledge of any of the settlers, but that the shad came up to about Cookhouse (Deposit); and also that the people of Pawpacton told deponent that they had caught thirteen hundred shad the year before, at one haul, in Pawpacton river; that deponent never heard of any such quantity being caught in the West branch.
Peter Dumond also testified:
That during the time he lived on the East branch of Delaware, near Paughkatacan (Margaretville), beginning in 1763, he frequently fished for shad below Papacunk during their season as also above the mouth of Beaverkill, or Whelenaughwemack, when he caught large quantities of shad. This deponent remembers the time when the white people settled at Papacunk caught as many shad at one fishing, about three miles below their settlement, as served the whole of their families for that season, as this deponent was informed.
The following is a complete list of the supervisors of the town, showing the years in which they were elected. Joseph S. Bliven was elected at a special town meeting held in September, 1822, in place of Abel Downs, incapacitated by sickness. Beginning with 1894, supervisors were elected for two years: William Horton, 1793-97; Adam Doll, 1798; Abel Downs, 1799, 1801-04, 1814-22; Roswell Bradley, 1800; Jonas Lakin, 1805; Adam I. Doll, 1806; Lewis Hait, 1807-10; John Moore,1811; Anthony Lloyd, 1812-13; Joseph S. Bliven, 1822. (To fill vacancy). Benjamin Pine, 1823-24; George W. Paige, 1825-27; Hezekiah Elwood, 1828-29, 1833-34; Charles Knapp, 1830, 1835-36; Alexander Cole, 1831-32; John H. Gregory, 1837-38; James W. Knapp, 1839-40, 1845; Rensselaer W. Elwood, 1841, 1844,1852,1855-57; Barna Radeker, 1842-43; Robert M. Hanmer, 1846-47; William Holiday, Jr., 1848; Alfred Hunter, 1849, 1853-54; Enoch Horton, 1850-51; George W. Downs, 1858-59; Alexander Elwood, 1860; Elbridge G. Radeker, 1861; William B. Champlin, 1862-63, 1865-68; Edwin D. Wagner, 1864; E. L. Holmes, 1869; Edwin H. Downs, 1870-71; Alston W. Hulbert, 1872-73; William H. Hitt, 1874; George P. Bassett,, 1875-77; David Anderson, 1878; Charles L. Elwood, 1879-80; Charles K. Hubbell, 1881-82; James M. Radeker, 1883--85; Milo C. Radeker, 1886; T. Arthur Montgomery, 1887; Charles S. Elwood, 1888; Charles E. Hulbert, 1893-90; Frank W. Hartman, 1891-92; Henry J. Williams, 1893-94; Edward T. Smith, 1896-97.
Prior to 1766, the date of the first settlement, the Pawpacton valley was the home of the Wappinger Indians, and within the territory that is now the town of Colchester were two Indian villages, Pawpacton and Papagouck, the former located on the flat near the mouth of Cole's Clove, the latter is believed to have been located on the westerly side of the river about two or three miles below Downsville, but it seems the Indians had ceased to make their home in this vicinity before the white settlers came.
Soon after the commencement of the war the Indians, whose headquarters at that time were on the Ouleout, began to harass and worry these settlers, and encouraged by the tories, they erected a kind of fort on middle hill, on the westerly side of the river, about two miles below Downsville, which they made their headquarters while committing their depredations. About the, year 1778 an incident occurred that compelled these settlers to abandon their homes along the East Branch and seek safety within the American lines on the Hudson River. The Indians had captured two patriot scouts, who, in charge of three Indians, were being taken to the Canadian line, their hands being securely tied with strong thongs. One night while the Indians slept, a prisoner, whose name was Anderson, discovered that one of the Indians had partially turned over in his sleep and uncovered his tomahawk. (On such occasions the Indian always slept on his tomahawk). Anderson carefully rolled himself over until he reached the uncovered tomahawk, and with it rolled away again. With the aid of the tomahawk he managed to cut the thongs that bound him and was soon free. He crept to where his companion lay and awoke him, and quickly cut the thongs with which he was bound, and giving his companion the tomahawk instructed him to kill the Indian to whom it belonged at a signal from Anderson. Anderson then went stealthily to the other two Indians and succeeded in obtaining his tomahawk from one of the Indians without waking him. Anderson's companion weakened and did not want to kill the Indians, claiming it would be safer to make their escape and leave the Indians sleeping, but Anderson, who was a firm believer in the adage that "There is no
good Indian but a dead Indian," was determined to carry out his purpose and insisted that his companion should kill one while he killed the other two. At the signal from Anderson each buried his tomahawk in the head of an Indian, and like a flash and before the third Indian could spring to his feet, although he was awakened by the noise Anderson's tomahawk again descended and this Indian followed his companions to the happy hunting ground. The men then took the corn which the Indians had with them and started east. The main body of Indians in that vicinity almost immediately discovered their dead companions, and set out upon the trail of the scouts. They knew the two men could never reach the Hudson without aid from the white settlers; that without such aid they must subsist upon the little corn they took from the Indians and the roots they might dig. The Indians therefore sent swift runners ahead and informed the settlers that whoever harbored, aided or fed these men would be killed by slow torture. Among the settlers thus warned were those residing in Pawpacton. Anderson and his companion succeeded in reaching the East Branch, and from the top of the high mountain below Downsville they looked down upon the log cabin of Timothy Gregory. They waited till night and under cover of the darkness they descended and crossed the river and went near the house of Gregory. Fearing that the inhabitant of this house might be a tory they dare not knock at the door, but lay down by the side of the path that led from the house to the spring, and soon Mrs. Gregory came towards the spring for water, and Anderson cautiously accosted her and told their story. She informed her husband. The two men were nearly dead from hunger and exhaustion. Gregory acquainted the men with the terrible threat of the Indians against anyone who should aid them, and told them it would be unsafe to conceal them in the house. He brought them food, and then directed them down the river about three miles and hid them in the rocks on the mountain between the river and Fuller Hill. Here they remained concealed about one week, Gregory bringing food to them in the night time, and when they had gained sufficient strength, early one morning before it was light, he directed them to the line between Lots five and six of the Hardenbergh Patent, which line strikes the river near Gregorytown, and runs east to the Hudson, and along the line of blazed trees they set out for the east and reached the Hudson in safety. The mountain on which these men were concealed is known to this day as "Anderson's mountain." Soon after leaving these men at the line mentioned, Gregory met three Indians, and they inquired of him why he was so far from home at that early hour. He told them he had come down with his dog and gun to see if he could start a deer that they frequented the river at that place in the early morning. But the Indians were suspicious that all was not right and they questioned him closely as to whether he had seen the two white men, whom they described. Fortunately, while they were talking, Gregory's dog began barking, and a large deer dashed down the hill into the river which Gregory shot and killed, and which he divided liberally with the Indians. This completely allayed the suspicions of the Indians, and they believed that Gregory had told the truth as to his business there at that early hour. The Indians soon learned that Anderson and his companion had reached the Hudson. They had succeeded in following their trail to the vicinity of the Colchester settlement, and knew the scouts had received aid from someone there, though everyone denied having any knowledge of the matter. A council was held and the Indians decided to wreak a terrible vengeance upon these settlers unless they could learn who the guilty parties were. Their plan was to begin at Frederick Miller's, the farthest up the river, and take every member of the family to the next house below, and so on, taking every member of the family to the next house below, and at each house they were to give the settlers an opportunity to divulge the names of the persons who had given aid to Anderson and his friend, and when they reached the last house that of Timothy Gregory, if they could not obtain the required information, they would then massacre every man, woman and child. A friendly Indian informed the settlers of this plan and they lost no time in seeking safety in the eastern settlements. It was in the fall of the year, and a part of the corn had been cut and stacked. This the settlers burned, and destroyed what of their other crops they could. Their cooking utensils and tools and iron ware they buried, or sunk in the river and binnekills, and along the line of blazed trees between Lots five and six they started for the Hudson. They had left none too soon, for on the second day of their journey they were overtaken by an Indian's dog, (They know it was an Indian's dog by its being closely cropped, as was the Indian custom), and that night they sent the women and children some distance from the line, and the men lay in ambush and waited for the approach of the Indians, who they felt certain were on their trail. But morning dawned and no Indians had been seen. They then resumed their journey and reached the Hudson in safety. The next spring a few of the men ventured back to see their homes. They found that some of the houses had been burned, that the Indians had gathered what corn had not been destroyed, and had wintered in the little ravine or gulf about two miles below Downsville on the West side of the river, and directly back of the residence of C. A. Warren.
In 1779, shortly after the battle of the Minisink, two scouts were employed, Bowker and Osterhout, to watch the East branch of the Delaware and report if any Indians came up the river. It was thought that if Brant sent a detachment against the Susquehanna settlement they would probably take that route. These men were to receive a bushel of wheat each for their services. They took up a position on the point of land between the East branch and Beaverkill, and on the second day after their arrival, they saw a band of Indians, coming up the river in canoes. They remained long enough to make an estimate of the number of Indians and then started up the Beaverkill, which they frequently crossed, in order to render it difficult for the Indians to pursue them in case their camp at the point should be discovered. The Indians landed at the place where the scouts had been encamped, and lost no time in sending a small detachment in pursuit. Notwithstanding the precautions of the men they were overtaken and captured while crossing the Willowemock river. But they succeeded in making their escape and carried the news to the eastern settlements. About thirty soldiers were immediately sent to aid in protecting the settlement upon the Susquehanna. They struck the head waters of the East branch and descended that river. When near Pepacton their scouts informed them that Indians were encamped a short distance down the river, and not wishing to encounter them, they turned up Cole's Clove, crossed the notch in the mountains and descended Downs' brook which empties in the river at Downsville. When the soldiers were about where the village now stands, they suddenly came upon the Indians and were received with a volley. The soldiers deployed and scattered among the heavy timbers on the mountain side, and then the battle began in true Indian fashion, every one for himself, shielding himself behind trees, or rocks as best he could. The Indians were about the same in numbers as the whites. The battle lasted from five o'clock in the afternoon until night. When darkness came all was silent. In the morning the soldiers found that the Indians had abandoned the field, but had left four of their dead behind. The soldiers buried their own dead in that vicinity, but the exact spot is not known. They then proceeded on their way to the Susquehanna.
By Walter Scott.
THE westward march of civilization probably had not reached the territory embraced in the present town of Davenport prior to the Revolutionary war. The frontier of New York being exposed to the depredations of a race of savages more fierce and warlike than those inhabiting any other state, of course no settlements were made during the time of that struggle. But as soon as peace was established, the "Star of Empire" resumed its westward course, and as early as 1786, the enterprising pioneer had made his way into the Charlotte valley.
An old publication states that the first settlers were Daniel Farnsworth and -- Pross, who settled at Davenport Centre. But they could not have much preceded Daniel Olmstead, who settled on the farm now occupied by the widow of Chauncey Olmstead, for Mr. Alexander Shellman informs me that his grandfather settled near the old Emmons hotel, three miles east of Oneonta, about 1790, and that in making the journey to Schoharie, the Olmstead settlement was the first one passed. The orchard on that farm is said to be the oldest in town. Mr. Shellman says that for several years it was the custom in his grandfather's family to make periodic trips on horseback, along the Indian foot path to the nearest grist mill, which was at Schoharie, to have grinding done for the family. As the family consisted of twelve persons and the grist was only about one and one-half bushels the interval between trips could not have been very long.
Among the other early settlers were Humphrey Denend, Harmon Moore, George Webster, Elisha Orr and a Mr. VanValkenburg, whose given name I have been unable to learn. The first physician was Daniel Fuller, who settled in the town about 1796. The first mill dam built in the town was across the Middlebrook at the site now occupied by J. T. Yerdon, a saw mill and grist mill was erected there about 1793, Daniel Prentice being the builder.
The first marriage taking place in the town was that of Harmon Moore and Mary Orr, in 1791. Miss Orr was a distant relative of Robert J. Orr, now a resident of West Davenport. The young couple went to housekeeping in a log house on the site of a frame house now owned by Chauncey Houghtaling. The latter house replaced the log one about sixty years ago. Mrs. Moore was also the first adult to die in town, as one of her children had been the first person. Richard Moore and a Miss Banker were also married on the same day as Harmon Moore. Hannah Dodge was the first school teacher. Daniel Prentice was the first inn keeper and Ezra Denend the first store keeper.
The old Indian trail from the earlier settlements at Schoharie and Harpersfield to those upon the Susquehanna, leading along the Charlotte, must have been the scene of many an encounter between the pale faced scout of the Revolution and his dusky foes. It often served as a war-path for the noted Timothy Murphy, whose descendants still live in town. But at this late day, it is impossible in the limited time at my disposal to separate facts from fiction concerning some of the incidents which occurred in the Charlotte valley during the Colonial period, and the early days of the Republic.
The march of Colonel Harper on the occasion of his capture of a band of fifteen Indians was through the town of Davenport, and the capture itself occurred within gunshot of its border. The facts as to the event were given by Colonel Harper, himself, to Rev. Mr. Fenn, late of Harpersfield, who narrates them as follows: In the year 1777 Colonel Harper had command of the fort in Schoharie, and came out through the woods to Harpersfield in the time of making sugar, and from thence laid his course for Cherry Valley to investigate the state of things there, and as be was pursuing a blind kind of Indian trail and was ascending what are now called the Decatur Hills, he cast his eye forward and saw a company of men coming directly toward him, who had the appearance of being Indians. He know that if he attempted to flee from them they would shoot him down; he resolved to advance right up to them, and make the best shift for himself he could. As soon as he came near enough to discern the white of their eyes, he knew the head man and several others; the head man was Peter, an Indian with whom Colonel Harper had often traded at Oquago, before the Revolution began. The Colonel had his great coat on, so his regimentals were concealed, and he was not recognized. The first word of address on Colonel Harper's part was, "How do you do, brother?" The reply was, "Well. How do you do, brother? Which way are you bound, brother?" "On a secret expedition. And which way are you bound, brother?" "Down the Susquehanna to cut off the Johnstone settlement." (Parson Johnstone and a number of Scotch families had settled down the Susquehanna at what is now called Sidney Plains, and those were the people whom they were about to destroy.) Says the Colonel, "Where do you lodge tonight?" "At the mouth of the Scheneva's creek," was the reply. Then shaking hands with them, he bade them good speed and proceeded on his journey.
He had gone but a little way from them before he took a circuit through the woods, a distance of eight or ten miles, to the head of the Charlotte river, where were a number of men making sugar; ordered them to take their arms, two days' provision, a canteen of rum and a rope; and meet him down the Charlotte, at a small clearing called Evans' place at a certain hour that afternoon. Then he rode with all speed through the woods to Harpersfield, collected all the men who were making maple sugar, and being armed and victualed, with each man his rope, laid his course for the Charlotte. When he arrived at Evans' place, he found the Charlotte men there in good spirits, and when he mustered his men, there were fifteen, including himself, exactly the same number as there were of the
enemy; then the Colonel made his men acquainted with his enterprise.
They marched down the river a little distance, and then bent their course across the hill to the mouth of the Schenevus creek, and when they arrived at the brow of the hill, where they could overlook the valley, where the Schenevus flows, they cast their eyes down upon the flat and discovered the fire around which the enemy lay encamped. "There they are," said Colonel Harper. They descended with great stillness, forded the creek, which was breast deep. After advancing a few hundred yards, they took some refreshments, and then prepared for the contest daylight was just beginning to appear in the east. When they came to the enemy, they lay in a circle with their feet toward the fire, in a deep sleep. Their arms, and all their implements of death, were stacked up according to the Indian custom, when they lay themselves down for the night. These the Colonel secured by carrying them off a distance, and laying them down; then each man taking his rope in hand, placed himself by his fellow. The Colonel rapped his man softly and said: "Come, it is time for men of business to be on their way," and then each one sprang upon his man, and after a severe struggle, they secured the whole number of the enemy. After they were all safely bound, and as the morning had so far advanced that they could discover objects distinctly, the Indian, Peter, exclaimed, "Ha! Colonel Harper, I know thee now. Why did I not know thee yesterday?" The Colonel marched the men to Albany, delivered them up to the commanding officer there, and by this bold and well executed feat of valor he saved the whole Scotch settlement from wanton destruction.
Among the incidents of pioneer life which occurred within the town of Davenport, and which have probably never appeared in print, I will mention: On one occasion a deer being chased by a small dog, near where E. F. Sherman now resides, ran on to a field of ice and slid down against the house of Peter Shellman, who then resided there. Mrs. Shellman went out, and before the deer could regain its footing she killed it with an ax. A little Dutch girl who resided on the top of the mountain just south of West Davenport, while playing near the house, made the acquaintance of two little animals who were as full of play as she was, and all three enjoyed themselves immensely. When the girl's mother found the girl she recognized in the new found playmates two bear cubs! That happened about the beginning of the present century. The girl lived until the present decade. If the cubs' parents had discovered the newly made acquaintanceship before the girl's parents did, it is bearly possible that some other historian might have been selected to write this sketch, as the girl lived to be the grandmother of the present writer.
The greater part of the town of Davenport was embraced in a tract of 26,000 acres granted to Sir William Johnson, the Indian Superintendent of the British Government. Sir William was a man of superior talents and of great executive ability, and was much respected by all who knew him. It is thought by some that at heart he was friendly to the American cause; but believed that his allegiance belonged to the British crown, and it was asserted that he ended his own life to avoid the struggle in his mind between his inclination and what he conceived to be his duty. His estate descended to his children, all of whom were Tories, and it is said that their patent was the only portion of Delaware county which was confiscated for disloyalty of its owners, during the Revolutionary war. I have not had the time since I was assigned the duty of writing this history to trace the chain of title from the Johnsons to the settlers; but in the earlier deeds of land in the patent, the name of "John Jacob Astor, Merchant, of New York City," frequently appears among the grantors. Later, the patent came into the control of Peter Smith, and after him, his son Gerrit Smith, the celebrated Abolitionist.
The present town was formed from parts of Kortright and Maryland, on the 31st day of March, 1817. The law was passed during the four months that John Taylor acted as governor, Isaac Ogden at that time representing the county of Delaware in the Senate and Martin Keeler and Asahel E. Paine in the Assembly. The town was named in honor of John Davenport, who became the first Supervisor. A portion of the town was annexed to Meredith in 1878. Among the noted institutions of by gone days was the Fergusonville Academy, founded in 1848, by Revs. Samuel D. and Sanford I. Ferguson. It afterwards came under the management of Hon. James Oliver, who had previously been a preceptor of Jay Gould's. This was one of the last schools to succumb to the competition of schools supported by the public.
The population of Davenport is perhaps more cosmopolitan than that of any other town in the county. Representatives of many nations have settled here and amalgamated, and the result is a good specimen of the true American race. Many of her sons have risen to eminence; but I refrain from mentioning their names lest I be accused of partiality, through the accidental omission of some names that should be mentioned.
Geographically Davenport is a long and narrow town, lying in and along the two sides of the Charlotte valley. The soil is of a chocolate colored clay loam, resembling that of Otsego county more than it does that of a great portion of Delaware county. The scenery is unsurpassed for beauty and grandeur. Sexsmith lake, a body of water shaded on one side by a virgin forest, is one of the most beautiful sheets of water in the world. Strader or Goodrich lake at Davenport Centre is another beautiful sheet, smaller but more accessible and perhaps better known than Sexsmith's. The Charlotte river affords excellent water power.
When the Albany and Susquehanna railroad was first projected it was designed to run through the Charlotte valley; but it was diverted to one side, mainly through the influence of Judge Westover, a large landowner of Richmondville. Then other roads began to be built on other sides, and until recently Davenport was left without tiny of the modern facilities for transportation. Still it was far from becoming the least prosperous town in the county. As it lay in the natural line of travel between the Hudson and the west in the age of the Indian trail and of the turnpike, it is no less in the natural line in the age of railroads. Let us hope that the natural advantages will soon be utilized by the continuation of a railroad to tide water. Then, with adequate facilities for exercise the natural intelligence and enterprise of the inhabitants will show themselves in the renewed prosperity of the town, and I have no doubt that
Cast in some diviner mould
The new cycle will shame the old.
At the first town meeting, in April, 1817, John Davenport was elected supervisor, and Seth Goodrich town clerk. The subsequent supervisors have been, Jesse Booth, Gaius Northway, John M. Ten Eyck, Carlton Emmons, Abijah Paine, Thompson Paine, Benjamin Parker, David Morrill, Zebulon E. Goodrich, Morton B. Emmons, William Simson, jr., Henry Ten Eyck, Geo. C. Paine, George W. Goodrich, Cornelius Miller, Sanford I. Ferguson, Aaron Ford, D. M. Dibble, William F. Ford, John Hitchcock, William McDonald, Jacob E. Norwood, J. George Lockwood, James M. Donnelly, George W. Crawford, John L. Beardsley, Elbert A. Tabor, Henry S. Wickham and Gilbert T. Scott.
The population of the town in 1840 was 2,052, and has varied but little since that time. Davenport, formerly East Davenport, is the largest village. The others are Davenport Centre, West Davenport and Fergusonville. There is a Methodist Episcopal organization in each village and a United Presbyterian congregation at Davenport.
The first newspaper was established in 1877 by Marcus M. Multer, and afterwards owned by Edward O'Connor. Later it was called the Transcript and edited by Amasa J. Champion. It was discontinued and the Standard was established by Charles S. Hitchcock.
John A. Parshall. ...
DELHI, the eighth town formed in this county, was organized March 23, 1798, and was taken from Middletown, Kortright and Walton. A part was taken there from in 1820, to form Bovina, and a portion there from to form Hamden, 1825. How it came to be called Delhi has been often told, and it is not necessary to repeat it here. The officers designated to locate the Court House and gaol provided that they shall not be erected at a greater distance than two miles from the mouth of the Little Delaware.
Previous to the location of the county buildings there were but few settlements, the largest one being just below the village, the next one on the corporate bounds of the new village, and the third in size a little above the village, where Gideon Frisbee first settled, and where the first courts were held, before the county buildings were erected.
June 18, 1812, it was enacted "that it shall be lawful for the comrs. of excise in and for the town of Delhi, in their discretion, to authorize an inn or tavern to be kept in the building occupied as the jail of the county of Delaware."
I have heard Gen. Paine allude to it, and think he stated that the jailer generally had the bar therein. At Sherwood's bridge at one time there was a tannery, saddle and harness shop, a trip hammer and one or two other industries, and I have been told there was a store there. Sherwood and Parker had a law office there, and at one time were the leading lawyers in the town. Among the first settlers in the town were Gideon Frisbee, Thomas Farrington, B. Yendes, J. Denio, George Fisher, John, Francis and Levi Baxter. The first birth was that of Huldah, daughter of Gideon Frisbee, June 14, 1787; the first marriage that of Philip Frisbee and Jerusha Harmon, 1791; the first death of an adult that of Dr. Philip Frisbee, 1797.
The Sherwood place has been in the uninterrupted possession of the family since 1801. The main part of the building was erected in 1804, and there Mr. Sherwood had his law office until his removal to New York in 1831, and until his death, October, 1862, spent every summer at the old family mansion. Many and many are the gay parties that have been held in that venerable old mansion. The same may truly be said of the old mansion erected by Judge Foote, a short distance below and on the opposite side of the river, and in the early days of the present century many distinguished guests have been entertained by each in their hospitable homes. Probably there are but few premises of land in this town that have been held in the uninterrupted possession of the same family for over ninety-six years, as in the Sherwood family.
Robert J. Blair states that his farm on Scotch Mountain was occupied first by his grandfather in 1803 or 1804, and so on down to its present owner.
Col. Amasa Parker had a dwelling house near Mr. Sherwood, and it is still known as the Parker House.
Early in the present century the village began to be settled by business men, lawyers, merchants and mechanics of all kinds, attracted here, as being the county seat. Among them were Gen. Root, Gen. Leavenworth, Dr. A. E. Paine and many others who became prominent men in its affairs. Of her residents eleven were elected to Congress, aggregating thirty years; one Lieut. Gov. two years; Speaker of the Assembly three years; State Senators twenty years; Members of Assembly aggregating nearly thirty years, and a Justice of the Supreme Court about twenty years, and many other offices which it is unnecessary here to recapitulate.
Delhi has sent out into the different counties of the State, and into various states, men who have held important places in the various positions of life-eminent clergymen, lawyers and medical men, bankers, etc.
The first church erected in the town of Delhi stood just below Sherwood's bridge on the opposite side of the river, and was built in 1811. Rev. E. K. Maxwell was pastor thereof twenty- eight years. The first child baptized by him is still living in this town. This is now the First Presbyterian church, a new building being erected in the village in 1881. The first church built in the village was St. John's church. In the Gazette of July 14, 1830 the following notice appears:
NOTICE.-The inhabitants of Delhi and adjoining towns are respectfully invited to assist in raising the Church in this village on Tuesday, the 20th inst., at 9 in the morning. The frame is heavy, and will require 100 good hands to put up the main body. The frame will be put together on Monday, which will require forty hands. E. STEELE, C. B. SHELDON, N. HATHAWAY, Trustees. Delhi, July 14th, 1830.
In the Gazette of the next week it is stated that the building was raised without furnishing any ardent spirits, which is the first instance, it is believed, of a public building being raised upon cold water principles. The Second Presbyterian edifice was erected in 1831, the Methodist in 1841, and the Baptist in 1844.
The Christian church at Fitch's bridge was built about 1816; the West Delhi United Presbyterian church was organized in 1841.
The Catholics have never had a church here. After the Village Hall was placed in its present location, they occasionally held services therein; now they have a very neat little room over Brady's meat market.
The first fire company organized in the village of Delhi, or in the county of Delaware, was on the 1st of August, 1821, composed of Ebenezer Steele, Captain; Herman D. Gould, Noadiah Johnson, Charles Hathaway, Nathaniel Hathaway, O. S. Decker, Selah R. Hobbie, John J. Lappon, Caleb Thurber, Homer R. Phelps, David Newcomb, Abner G. Thurber and Elijah H. Roberts; appointed by Erastus Root, president, and G. H. Edgerton, clerk.
Of the above members, three in after years were elected Members of Congress from this county.
The first hand engine was the old Phoenix, which was bought in New York in the spring of 1832. The Cataract engine was bought in 1840, I think, by private subscription, and was known as the "up street" engine.
I cannot omit to mention, "Corporal Trim," a somewhat prominent character in Delhi fifty or sixty years ago. C. E. Wright, who learned his trade in the Gazette office, thus alludes to him: "Of course many of your people will remember 'Corporal Trim,' as he was styled, a colored servant, or body guard of General Leavenworth. Long after Trim had left the service of his master, he loved to tell to a company of listeners, when his tongue was well lubricated by a few potions of old rye, of his fright when the General ordered him during the battle of Chippewa or Niagara Falls, I don't remember which, to wipe with a tuft of grass the brains of a man that had been sprinkled upon the saddle of his horse, a cannon ball having taken off the owner's head, all in view of the 'Corporal.' Of course Trim obeyed, but the 'hair of his head stood on end like quills upon the fretful porcupines,' and he was pale even to whiteness. According to his own story, the close of the battle found the redoubtable 'Corporal' snugly ensconced under the lowest layer of a rail fence, whither he had crawled for safety. It was a rare treat to hear this quaint character relate these with many others of his adventures."
A kind Providence has not blessed our little town with any celebrated mineral spring to make us a great summer resort; but up Elk Creek, from our earliest settlement, there has been a salt spring from which a fine quality of salt has been obtained, and in the Gazette of April, 1832, reference is made thereto, and also by W. W. Mather, State Geologist, in 1840.
In March, 1865, a stock company was formed, known as the Elk Creek Salt and Petroleum Company. The capital stock thereof was $300,000. Soon thereafter work was begun, and after spending a few thousand dollars work was abandoned.
But a munificent Providence has favored us with diversified hills, and valleys upon which graze many choice herds of cattle, cool and refreshing springs, and thereby we are enabled to manufacture as fine a quality of butter as any other county in the State. Some years ago a lady of this town made a small package of butter that took the first premium in London. Probably this same lady, and others in the town, could have sent a package of butter to Queen Victoria on her sixtieth anniversary, for her dinner, on that celebrated occasion, and that she and all the members of the royal family would have awarded the first premium to the fine sample from Delhi. All honor and praise to the fair maids and matrons who make our far-famed Delaware county butter.
Of the various industries carried on in this town from time to time, I think there was never a distillery for the manufacture of whiskey. A few years ago there was a still at the Fall Mills for the manufacture of cider brandy.
In the generation or so past the games in vogue were playing of ball, pitching of quoits, etc., and many a game has taken place between town and town, and often at "The Hook," and Delhi had some crack players. Neither should the game of checkers be omitted. At one time we had a place here called "Checkerville," situated somewhere up the Little Delaware, and in those days no barroom was considered complete without a checker board therein.
A "squirrel hunt" was one of the sports in the days past. Generally in June the boys and older men chose sides and hunted a day for wild game, and at a given time and place met and counted the game, and the defeated party paid for the supper and sometimes great dexterity was displayed in stealing game from side to side.
In those days Thanksgiving was not considered properly observed unless a shooting match was gotten up in which the crack shots of the town were present. Rare sport indeed it was. General Training, too, was one of the events eagerly waited for. The Fourth of July and General Training were the only holidays in the land fifty or sixty years ago.
It would be impossible here to give the names of the Revolutionary soldiers now reposing in the different cemeteries of the town, and the soldiers of the war of 1812, the Seminole war, or the Mexican war.
When the post-office was first established in Delhi, I am unable to state. A few years ago I wrote to the Post-office Department at Washington and learned that the original records were destroyed by fire. The first records on file were October 1, 1801, when Erastus Root was postmaster. Until within a year or so past there has been but one post-office in the town of Delhi.
The first Temperance Society formed in the town was in January, 1829, Dr. Ebenezer Steele, President. At the annual meeting of the Delaware County Society in 1831, Levinus Munson, Amasa J. Parker and Charles Hathaway were appointed delegates to the State Society.
The first common school record I can find is in December, 1812. Ambrose Bryan, Erastus Root and Asahel E. Paine were chosen trustees, and R. Denio, collector.
As early as 1788 there was said to be a saw mill in this town, and fifty or sixty years ago there was scarcely a brook in the town but what one or more saw mills, were located thereon, and rafting was one of the events every spring. Today there are but two or three mills in town run by the old water wheel, and if the first man who sawed logs in Delhi in 1788, could be transferred for a moment to the Crawfords & Adee mills, what would be his amazement; and then pass along our streets, see the railroad, telegraphy and telephone poles, our electric lights, hundreds of bicycles, upon which are ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, propelling themselves at the rate of a mile in six to ten minutes, then truly would be say: "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." And then, too, what would uncle John Hunt say to see buildings moved without ox teams?
At the time this county was formed slavery was legalized in this state, and a few slaves were held in this town. A distinguished Representative in the Legislature in this State from this village raised his voice in advocacy of its repeal and voted therefore.
At the beginning of the present century there were but sixteen states in the Union, with a population of scarcely 5,000,000 and our borders of civilization scarcely reached out to the Ohio, and where now stands the city of Chicago, probably the foot of white man had never trod. Now Chicago is the second city in size in the United States, and its first Mayor was a Delaware county boy.
The first burial ground in the town was probably that on Judge Frisbee's place, just above the village, where the Frisbees, Farringtons, Fitchs and other early settlers were buried, and
"Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap, Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."
The first assessment roll of the town was in May, 1798, and contains 125 names the largest assessment was that of Gideon Frisbee, $226.25; total value, $7,853.19. Alex Leal, Gideon Frisbee, Wm. Cornell and Elijah Beardsley were the assessors.
The first town meeting was required to be hold at the house of Levi Baxter. Ebenezer Foote was the first Supervisor, but the other officers elected I am unable to give, as the town records for many years after its organization are missing.
Those who have entered the U. S. naval service from this town, (natives) are Charles S. Root, (son of Gen. E. Root,) who died on board the U. S. ship Hudson, as midshipman, in the harbor of Rio Janeiro, December 8, 1828, aged 19 years. Buried in the Protestant cemetery in that city. Wm. K. Wheeler, Lieut. Commander of the U. S. navy, died at sea March 14, 1876, buried at Gaboo, West Africa. His remains were afterwards brought to this village and placed in Woodland cemetery.
In the U. S. Army, Capt. Rensselaer W. Foote, 6th Infantry, participated in the Seminole war; killed at the battle of Gaines Mills, before Richmond, June 27, 1862.
Wm. Root was in the regular service as a commissioned officer, and at the breaking out of the Mexican war resigned, and died September 21, 1874, aged 61 years.
Frederick Steele was a graduate of West Point, and was in the Mexican war and participated in many engagements; was meritoriously mentioned for distinguished bravery, and was promoted. In the war of the Rebellion he had important commands, and was made a General in command of all the cavalry in the Department of Missouri. He died in California, January, 1865, aged 49 years.
Intimately interwoven with the history of Delhi, are its newspapers, and a brief recital of each, which from time to time has been published in the village, is necessarily proper in this sketch.
The first paper published in Delhi, or in the county of Delaware, was the Delaware Gazette, issued November 18, 1819, John J. Lappon editor and proprietor. On the 23d of April, 1822, David Johnson became its proprietor and continued as such un til March, 1833, when Anthony M. Paine and Jacob D. Clark became its proprietors. In May, 1839, Mr. Paine became sole proprietor and continued so until February, 1872, when his interest was transferred to his son, George H., and Ira B. Kerr. In October, 1881, Mr. Kerr sold his interest to Mr. S. E. Smith, and the firm was Paine & Smith until Mr. Paine's death in January, 1895. February, 1895, Mr. S. E. Smith became sole proprietor. It may here be stated that Gen. Paine and his descendants had an uninterrupted interest in the paper for sixty-two years. The venerable old Gazette has lived to see the rise and fall of several papers in this village. The Gazette building was erected in 1837, and occupied in October of that year, and the Gazette has been issued weekly there from ever since.
The Delaware Republican (No. 1) was issued in June, 1821, Elijah J. Roberts publisher. H. H. Nash afterwards became its publisher, and it was discontinued in 1825, or thereabouts.
The Delaware Republican (No. 2,) was issued in September 1830, by George Marvine. Messrs. McDonald & Bowne subsequently became its proprietors, and the last number issued was dated Dec. 12, 1832.
The Delaware Journal was issued April 16, 1834, by Whipple & Wright, and was published but a few years.
The Delaware Express was issued in January, 1839, by Norwood Bowne, who remained its editor and publisher until his death, January, 1890, a period of fifty-one years. After his death the paper was published by his son, Charles N., for a short period, when it was published by Bowne & Gillies, then by P. M. Gillies, and he afterwards sold to Mr. S. F. Adee; Mr. Adee sold to William Clark, its present proprietor.
The Voice of the People, (the organ of the anti-renters), was issued by William S. Hawley, in June, 1846, and a few years thereafter was discontinued.
The Star of Delaware was issued in December, 1859, by Rev. C. B. Smyth. How long it was published I do not now recollect.
The Young Patriot was issued in 1860 by Ira G. Sprague, and in 1862 its name was changed to the American Banner, and as such was published for a short time.
The Delaware Republican (No. 3,) was issued May 12, 1860, by A. Sturtevant and T. F. McIntosh. In February, 1868, Mr. Sturtevant sold his interest to Joseph Eveland; and the same was published by them until January, 1870, when T. F. McIntosh .became sole proprietor, and remained as such until April 15, 1895, when his son, Robert P., became associated with his father, by whom it is now published.
The Monthly Croaker, an amateur publication, was issued in July, 1887, by John F. Van Der Cook, Jr., a boy only twelve years old, and continued without intermission until November, 1891. In October, 1892, he went to Cleveland as a reporter on the Press, and after a stay there of six months went to New York city as a reporter on the Harlem Local Reporter, and now is the Eastern manager of the Scripps-McRae News Company.
In our exhibit of relics of the past, what a pity an old Ramage press, which was about the only printing press in use when this county was organized, and upon one of which the first issue of the Gazette was printed, and a pressman could print, only about 200 an hour, was not on exhibition, and then compare it with the power presses now in use on our large daily journals which strike off many thousands an hour. What a change, indeed, has taken place in less than a century. "The improvements in printing and printing machinery have been great and rapid. Printing has come, in these days, to be a fine art, and the product of the printing press, in its highest and most artistic phases, fully justifies its popular reputation as one of the first, greatest, and most progressive of the modern achievements of men."
Since the introduction of telegrams and cablegram dispatches, great changes have taken place in our receipt of news. Today a person can send an account of our Centennial celebration to our namesake in India, (Delhi) thousands of miles away, and have the same published there tomorrow.
The older inhabitants of the village will probably remember the old clock in the belfry of St. John's church. It was the gift of Gen. Erastus Root and the gift document is dated November, 1831. Some years ago it was taken out.
As we review our little history of the County Seat for the past century, who will doubt that our forefathers were men of marked ability, solid worth, action, enterprise, thorough patriotism and true courage?
May the next recurring anniversary of our Centennial witness as great and important changes in the onward stride of civilization as in the past; and may our beneficent Father vouchsafe to us His ever-watchful care in the future as in the past.
"What dearer privilege, indeed, than to do as our sires have done, To follow in the paths they proved, to finish as they begun; To give to our children undefiled, in all that our fathers won."
Delhi was the second village incorporated in the county, March 21, 1821, and its first officers were: Trustees, Erastus Root, Charles A. Foote, Gurden H. Edgerton, Jabez Hitchcolk and Nathaniel Steele, jr.; Clerk, Gurden H. Edgerton; Treasurer, Herman D. Gould; Overseer of Highways, Jabez Hitchcolk.
The Delhi Fire Department was organized March 30, 1860, and its first officers were: Chief Engineer, Apollos C. Edgerton; Assistant Engineer, Dexter Pettengill; Clerk, John A. Parshall; Treasurer, Caleb A. Frost.
The first taverns, built of logs, were opened in 1790, by Gideon Frisbee just above the village, and by George Yendes in the lower part of the town. In 1798 Mr. Denio opened a log tavern on the present fair grounds.
In 1824 the Delaware Woolen Factory was started by a company, Samuel Sherwood and H. D. Gould, principal owners. In 1839 Richard Titus purchased the business, and later O. S. Penfield & Company, also Smith & Penfield. In 1826 George Sherwood built the grist mill, and in 1870 Smith & Penfield constructed the present building.
Cassia Lodge, No. 180, F. & A. M., was instituted in Delhi in March, 1809. Erastus Root was Master, Ambrose Bryan, Senior Warden, Elnathan Heath, Junior Warden. Delhi Lodge, No. 439, F. & A. M., was instituted at Delhi in 1858, P. B. Merwin Master. Delhi Chapter, 124, R. A. M., was instituted at Delhi, April 12, 1827. Its first officers were: Amasa Parker, H. P., Amasa Millard, K., Lorenzo Henry, S. Delhi Chapter, No. 240, R. A. M., was instituted at Delhi, April, 1869. Its first officers were: J. S. Page, H. P., John Woodburn, K., J. M. Preston, S.
Delhi Lodge, No. 265, I. 0. 0. F., was instituted at Delhi, March 2, 1847. Its first N. G. was Truman H. Wheeler. After an existence of many years it surrendered its charter. Delhi Lodge, No. 625, I. 0. 0. F., was instituted at Delhi, March, 1893, M. E. Arbuckle, N. G.
One of the important industries of Delhi is the Crawfords Wagon Works, which was established in 1894, and was enlarged in 1895. They give employment to from forty to eighty men, and their plant now covers about four acres of ground, and comprises four large buildings, and about an acre of floor space. The principal manufacture is the Stiver gear, pneumatic wagons.
The New York Condensed Milk Company established a milk bottling works here in 1895. "Borden's Condensary," as it is called here, is an important acquisition to our village, and gives employment to fifty or more men, and receives the milk from nearly two hundred farms.
Sanford's Creamery, in the lower part of the village, is an important industry in our village, and has been here a number of years.
Some seventy years ago Mr. Elting had a potash manufactory on the east side of the river, just above the upper iron bridge. Many years afterward James Elwood had a potash manufactory not far from where the residence of George H. Maxwell now stands.
By Hon. G. D. Wheeler. ...
THE town of Deposit is the youngest town in Delaware county, and is among the smaller ones in its area, having 27,622 acres of land; there are two towns having a less number of acres. In valuation of real estate, it bears a very favorable comparison with other towns; there is one town of equal valuation per acre, twelve that are lower, and but five of higher valuation. The personal property of the town, when organized, was greater than eleven towns and nearly equal with that of the other seven. It has been materially reduced within the last two years by the removal of the Deposit national bank to that portion of the village of Deposit situated in Broome county.
The town was organized by the Legislature of the State in 1880, the territory being taken wholly from the town of Tompkins which was the largest town in Delaware county excepting one, Hancock, and is still the largest town in the county, excepting two, Andes and Hancock.
It is the most western, or south-western town in the county, and is bounded on the west partly by the state of Pennsylvania and partly by Broome county. The village of Deposit is divided by the boundary line which separates Delaware and Broome counties. The greater number of inhabitants of the village, and by far the greater business interests are in Broome county. Yet a majority of the churches, and nearly an equal number of inhabitants, including many of the old residents of the village, are in Delaware county.
Application for a division of the town of Tompkins and the erection of the new town of Deposit was twice made to the Board of Supervisors of Delaware county. In 1876 at a meeting of the board, a vote was taken which resulted in nine for division and eight against. There was a majority in favor of the new town, but as the law required a two-thirds vote the question was lost. It was fully shown to the board by the applicants for this project that their only object in asking for a division of Tompkins was to save the voters and business men of the proposed new town the unnecessary distance which they were obliged to travel in attending every town meeting, and in transacting business at the town clerk's office. There were 350 voters then in the territory, and more than that number now in the town of Deposit. The extra travel which was always expensive, unpleasant and annoying, was over sixteen miles on an average to each voter making an aggregate amount, counting all the voters, of about 6,000 miles. The extra travel is now saved to the voters of the town of Deposit, and all the people of the town are accommodated in their business interests like other people of the towns of the county. The only objection urged against the passage of the bill by members of the board of supervisors, was that if the new town was organized it would be lost to Delaware county, and the people of the town would "step down and out" and be gathered into the adjoining county of Broome. It was publicly announced before the board, by those who were opposed to the division that the generous inhabitants at the county seat had such a devoted love for the people of the proposed new town that they could not allow the petition to be granted. It would be placing a wicked temptation for covetousness within convenient and easy reach of Broome county, and would be an efficient move for the dismemberment of good old Delaware.
No protestation of the people of the proposed new town of their loyalty to Delaware county was a sufficient guaranty of their honesty, and no declarations of the inconvenience and unnecessary annoyances which they were obliged to suffer could arouse the sympathy of their loving friends in the eastern portion of the county. They were obliged to go to the Legislature of the State, and ask of strangers what could not be granted to them by their friends at home.
The town of Deposit is too young to furnish anything like an ancient history of its early settlement. All the early records apply to the old town of Tompkins, which was organized Feb. 28, 1806, from the town of Walton and was called Pinefield. It retained this name about two years, until the 10th of March, 1808, when the name was changed to Tompkins in honor of Governor Daniel D. Tompkins. The first supervisor of the town was Peter Pine.
Very little is known of the territory included in the present towns of Tompkins and Deposit before the war of the Revolution. It was inhabited by various tribes of Indians; the Leni Lenapes (or Delawares) and the Mohawks were the principal occupants. Their council ground was located near Deposit village, on the east side of the Delaware river, at a place opposite the point where the Tewbeac (Butler Brook) and Oquaga Creek empty into the river. This is at the most western bend of the Delaware, on land formerly known as the Peter Pine farm, and later as the N. K. Wheeler farm. On this place the Indians had several acres of cleared land, where they planted their corn. About two miles below Deposit they had another clearing. The place at Deposit they called Big Coke-ose, and the place below was Little Coke-ose. Their names were afterwards perverted by the white inhabitants and the village of Deposit was called Cookhouse; Little Coke-ose lost its name entirely.
Deposit was incorporated by the Legislature of the State in 1811, and was the first village incorporated in Delaware county. It included only 156 acres of land, being Lot No. forty-three, Evans Patent, lying between the river and the county line. It was wholly within the County of Delaware and had very few inhabitants. In 1851, the charter was amended so as to include the territory within its present limits.
The first white man known to have resided in the vicinity of Deposit, or in the territory of the present town, was Peter Hynback, (usually pronounced Hinepaw). He was a Dutchman, and came up the river in a canoe with his wife and several children to Big Coke-ose, and settled on the bank of the river about forty rods from the Indian council ground. He was a trader with the Indians, was very familiar with them, and after they left the country in 1785 he remained four or five years and then followed them to Canada. He purchased quite a large tract of land of the Indians with their improvements; these consisted of their clearing on which a few apple trees had been planted or grown, and nothing more. Several of she apple trees are still standing and bearing fruit. About the year 1790 he sold his possessions to a Mr. Vandervoort, and Mr. Vandervoort sold to Andrew Craig. This last sale was of 400 acres and included all of the old Peter Pine farm. The consideration of this sale and purchase was a dark colored boy about fifteen years of age who was to be owned and treated as a slave. He was to be delivered to Mr. Vandervoort at Carpenter's Point, now Port Jervis, and two men were hired to "deliver the goods."
These men were Conrad Edick and Henry Sampson. The boy's name was John Magee, generally called Jack. He was placed in a canoe and all started down the river. They were obliged to stay over night on the way, and stopped at Skinner's Eddy. All were tired and all slept, but in the morning there was no "Jack in the box." He had made his escape and not long after he returned to Mr. Craig, his former owner, and lived to grow up a free man. He was regarded as a man of considerable ability. He held the office of Justice of the Peace in the town of Tompkins for a number of years. His residence was at Trout Creek, above Cannonsville.
This farm which was sold in 1790 for the price of a slave, may be considered historic ground, not only as the council ground of the several tribes of Indians who roamed over the hills and valleys of this region before the Revolutionary war, but as their permanent settlement and home for many years, as shown by their rude farming plot, their orchard and burying ground. Many arrows and spear heads and stone pestles for grinding corn have been found on the premises. Here too, as stated, lived the first white settler, and here was the first ground broken for the construction of the New York and Erie railroad.
On the 7th of November, 1835, James G. King, president of the railroad company, with a few representatives of the organization, met with citizens of Deposit and the surrounding country to break the first ground for the road. President King commenced the work with the shovel, and Hon. Samuel B. Ruggles with wheelbarrow moved the first earth into line for the road. Mr. Stuyvesant, treasurer, and Wm. Beach Lawrence, another official of the company, took part in the work; Gen. Root, of Delhi, and Judge Drake, of Owego, were among the number. All present participated in a very moderate way in removing some of the earth by shovel or wheelbarrow, in the very first work upon this enormously expensive road of 483 miles. Forty miles of the road from Deposit to Callicoon were then put under contract, and the grading was immediately commenced.
The first permanent settlement in the territory included in the towns of Tompkins and Deposit seems to have been made by a Mr. Fitch, of Bainbridge, father of Jabez Fitch, who afterward became a merchant in the village of Deposit. He came to what is now called Stilesville in 1785, and located on a small clearing made by the Indians near the mouth of the Astraguntira (now called Cold Spring Brook) two miles from Deposit village. He built a log house for his family and erected a very rude saw mill with a wooden crank, and with a log carriage which had to be "gigged back" with the foot and hand. The running of the mill was found to be rather unprofitable, and Mr. Fitch sold out to Hubbard Burrows and Aaron Stiles and returned to Bainbridge.
The next settlement was made by Jesse Dickerson in 1786 at Cannonsville, at the mouth of the Gannuissy, now called Trout Creek. He was a native of New Jersey, a man of great energy and of considerable property. He went from his home in New Jersey to New York city, thence by a chartered sloop to Catskill, then with his family and a stock of cows, horses, oxen, sheep, etc., he worked his way through an almost unbroken wilderness to Stamford, at the head of the Mohawk, or west branch of the Delaware river, and thence down the river, by slow and difficult travel to his new home in the wilderness. He was two weeks on his way from Catskill. There were no roads of any kind, in any direction to or from his place. He purchased a large tract of land and made extensive arrangements for the improvement of his possessions. He laid out grounds and streets for a city, and named it Dickerson city. The place was called "the city" for fifty years or more. He was instrumental in bringing other inhabitants into the territory. Soon after reaching the place he built a saw mill, which was only just finished when it was completely wrecked and torn away by a flood. He built another mill the next year on the same site and soon after built a grist mill. The grinding stones of this mill were quarried out of the mountain about two miles below the city and were worked out and fitted in a rude way by hand. They answered better than the pestle which had been used for mashing grain, yet there was no bolting cloth used. To this mill men would bring their grain from the surrounding country, thirty or forty miles away. A man who was hungry considered himself fortunately situated if he lived near the Delaware, so that he could load his grain in a canoe and drag it up or down the river to the city mill. People living in Windsor on the Susquehanna river, brought their grain on horseback by an Indian trail to Cookhouse, fifteen miles, and then by canoe or Indian trail eight miles to Dickerson city. Mr. Dickerson ran the first raft of sawed lumber down the west branch of the Delaware to market. He built several houses and made numerous improvements to his large property, which he called the "Milton Estate," but like many a new enterprise the expenditures were greater than the income, and finding that his speculative ideas were never to be realized, he mortgaged his property and finally turned it over to the mortgagee, and abandoning his cherished project, he left all and went to Philadelphia.
This property was bought by Benjamin Cannon, and was deeded to him in 1809 by the executors of Abraham Dubois, of Philadelphia. He built a public house and made additional improvements. Other permanent inhabitants came in and the name of the place was changed to Cannonsville, which it still retains.
Among the first settlers of the territory now included in the town of Deposit, who bought lands and remained as permanent inhabitants, were Squire Whitaker and John Hulce. Mr. Whitaker came from the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania with his family, escaping the terrible Indian massacre, to Carpenter's Point, (now Port Jervis.)
In 1786 he went up the river in a canoe with all his household effects and stopped for a year at Shehocken. In 1787 he moved his canoe containing his family and household goods to Little Coke-ose, two miles below Deposit, where he bought a large farm of a Mr. Chapman on which was a small Indian clearing. He paid down for the farm by giving a saddle. His first habitation was a very rude cabin covered with bark, and in this cabin was the first wedding of the town. The ceremony was performed by a missionary from Connecticut, Timothy Howe.
The happy groom and bride were Capt. Conrad Edick, a Revolutionary soldier, and Margaret Whitaker.
Capt. Edick came to Big Coke-ose from the Mohawk Valley and became identified with all the early incidents of Deposit history. He was highly respected by all the people of the surrounding country. He reared a large family in the Cookhouse, where for many years he kept the only tavern, or public house, and died in 1845. Squire Whitaker lived to rear a large family on the farm for which he gave his saddle. One of his descendants now occupies the same premises.
John Hulse who is named as one of the first settlers who bought land and became a permanent inhabitant, located just north of the present village of Deposit. He came from Orange county, N. Y., in 1789. Many of his descendants remained on the premises purchased by him, and were honored and respected inhabitants of the town. His grandson, M. R. Hulce, lately deceased, was a native of Deposit. His, acquaintance with people of Delaware county and in the surrounding country has been as extensive, perhaps, as that of any man in the Delaware valley. He has for years, been the historian of Deposit. To him the author of this sketch is indebted for most of the items of the early history of Tompkins.
The town of Deposit, as is well known, was formerly a rough lumbering territory. Its hills and valleys were covered with pine and hemlock and the quality of the lumber was of the very best. That lumber has all been rafted down the Delaware river to market, and yet no man in all the town, or in the valley of the Delaware, ever became wealthy by the business of lumbering. A. few sharp men who bought lumber and took it to the Philadelphia market were fortunate in making a little money, but the men who took off their coats and did the hard work and suffered the risks of the business, were never the better for all their harassing labor.
The village of Deposit received its name from being the place of deposit of lumber from the Susquehanna valley and the surrounding country. For at least fifty years this place was the lumberman's favorite rafting ground, and the Delaware was the great water way to the Philadelphia market. All is now changed. There are no rafts of lumber run from this section of country.
The town of Deposit, like many of the towns of Delaware county, has a large portion of its area in unproductive and almost worthless land. Along its few creeks and river flats on some of its hills the farmers are spending their quiet lives in dairying.
There is very little other business in the town. Nearly all the mercantile and manufacturing business of the village of Deposit is done in Sanford, Broome county. There is occasionally found in the hills of the town a stone quarry which furnishes a few working men with hard labor, but produces, little money. This is something like the lumbering business, and both remind one of the old adages of the value of a horse hide, "The skin of a horse is worth a dollar, and it is worth a dollar to skin him."
In all the improvements which have been made in Delaware county within the one hundred years of its existence, perhaps Deposit has had its full share. The building and opening of the Erie railroad furnished the first permanent advancement of the business interests in all the southern portion of the county. Lands have been cleared and cultivated, manufactories have been established, mercantile business has been opened for the accommodation of the increasing population, schools and churches have been built and the whole people are now enjoying the advantages of a great commercial thoroughfare.
In the village of Deposit many comfortable modern residences and business houses have been erected, and although the limits of the corporation include a portion of Broome county, yet the division line of the two counties does not separate the people in their social and business relations. They are at peace with each other and with all mankind. They have what they deem a becoming pride in their own prosperity, and in the prosperity of Delaware county. Those who are inhabitants of the county wish to be regarded as loyal subjects of "The powers that be" in the good old county of Delaware. Yet they do not feel indebted to many of the towns of the county for their improved condition. Their resources for business are almost entirely derived from the adjoining county of Broome and the state of Pennsylvania.
There are still living some of the old inhabitants of the village who can remember seventy years ago when the "Cookhouse" had not more than twenty dwelling houses in the settlement. There was but one church which was built in 1818, to which some of the members occasionally came to worship from ten miles away. A number of years passed before any other church was built. One of the worshippers at this first church was some- times brought by her only son in a canoe from Hancock. She was the widow of Major Ebenezer Wheeler, a soldier in the war of 1812. The only physician, Dr. Thaddeus Mather, who then guarded the health of the people, rode his old gray horse by night or day twenty miles up and down the river to visit his patients. There were few bridges across any of the streams. The hills and many of the narrow valleys were then covered, with a dense forest growth which afforded comparatively safe protection to the deer and other wild animals which abounded in this locality. Everything is now changed.
There are none of the pioneers who first came to this almost inaccessible country, and broke the stillness of the dense forest, along the Delaware valley by their rude lumbering operations, who have lived to see the product of the last noble forest tree float away down the river to market. They have not seen the bright and thrifty villages that have sprung up in every town in, Delaware county. Nor did they hear the rumbling of the railroad engine, or its warning whistle as it rushed along the Delaware valley contributing its great power to transportation and commerce. Their descendants however are enjoying the comforts and blessings which result from the privations and toils of their fathers.
One of the later inhabitants of the Delaware valley, who was present and took part in the first breaking of ground for the Erie railroad, made the remark, which then seemed a rash prophecy, "that the time would come when a traveler could take his breakfast in Deposit and his supper in New York city." That time has come. He need not wait for his supper. He can take his twelve o'clock dinner in the city. The railroads that traverse the county of Delaware have indeed afforded the most effective means for transportation, and they are now carrying to the great metropolis of our country the products of every town in the county, and are bringing back the necessaries and luxuries of life from every land and every clime. Yet it seems a strange condition of affairs that the five railroads running through or into the county cannot better accommodate the people of the towns in their inland travel and their connection with each other.
The distance from the head of the Delaware to the lower line of the county is about sixty miles, (a good day's travel for a good pedestrian) and yet the mail passing regularly over this distance by railroad and stage is never less than two days on the way and often three. Time may be saved by those "who know how to travel" by sending letters via New York city, a distance of 250 miles. But why need we complain of our present accommodations in traveling. Let us look back a hundred years to the time of the formation of our county, when our fathers had no railroads and no regular mails.
The improvements for Delaware county are not fully accomplished. We have yet to see trolley roads running along each branch of the Delaware river and threading the valleys of the smaller streams through every town in Delaware county.
The moral intellectual and social condition of the people of the county, within the century since the time of its organization, may be attributed to their churches, their schools and public institutions.
Delaware county has more thriving villages with graded schools and first class institutions for the education of the young than almost any inland county of the state. We need these schools to prepare the coming generations for the active duties of life.
The early settlers of the county found a rough and rugged territory, which could only be subdued by the strong arms and. courageous hearts of these pioneers. A less daring and persevering race would have been discouraged and have sought a more congenial climate and an easier soil for cultivation. By their active, honest, intelligent labor, they opened and prepared the way for the present prosperity of the people of the whole county. The reputation of the people of the county has never suffered by a comparison with others of the state. And now with all the modern improvements of the present age and the facilities for advanced education, the present and coming population will be held responsible for the moral, intellectual and political character of the county.