Chapter 5

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Chapter 5 – Trade and “Manufactories”

Communities can only acquire goods and services from outside their boundaries through trade or gifts.  Fur, timber, bluestone, maple sugar and wood ash were early examples of Davenport’s commerce.  Fur in quantity may have been a short-lived trade.  Bluestone exports were mostly short-distanced but lasted for many years. This chapter will consider many of the early resource-based industries, especially lumber, “ashes,” whiskey, leather, wool and, the chapter’s final section, ice.  Wool is covered more fully in Chapter 6.  For the years of the 1800s, snapshots are also provided of the range of local crafts, workshops, and mills in the town’s several hamlets.

Timber and ashes.  Timber was not a major export commodity for two reasons.  First, except at the most north-western end of town (in an area called “The Hemlocks”) the local valleys contained less softwood than hardwood, especially sugar maple, beech, ash and occasional oak and chestnut.  Hardwoods were useful for tools, furniture, some home construction, and were easier than softwoods to clear for agriculture.  Softwood trees (pine, spruce, and hemlock) were in greater demand for construction but tended to be found mostly at higher elevations as for example on the ridge between the Charlotte and Schenevus valleys (South Hill).  The Catskills to the east were known early on as the “Blue Mountains” for their dense, bluish stands of hemlock.



Second, most early shipments of softwoods went down the Delaware River to Philadelphia or to Philadelphia and Baltimore via the Susquehanna’s West Branch in Pennsylvania.  The upper reaches of the North Branch of the Susquehanna, though seeing some early lumber traffic as far as Baltimore, were not as well suited for rafting logs[1].  Davenport’s Charlotte River was even less so.  One early Davenport experiment succeeded mainly in scattering the logs and tearing up nearby farms:


In the winter of 1832-3 Dr. Boynton of Bainbridge lumbered at West Davenport.  He drew, or caused to be drawn, 2,800 logs on the bank of the Charlotte below the village, and threw them all into the creek at high water during the spring.  This did a great deal of damage to most of the farms towards the Susquehanna River, so many logs in the creek raising the water a good bit higher than it otherwise would have been.  Many of the logs were carried onto the flats and dug holes into the land, besides making new channels for the creek, which broke its banks and thus enabled the water to do greater damage for several years.  (Sigsbee, 1889a, Sept. 26.)


Hemlock for Lumber—and the Wire Nail

More common among the early trade items of the Charlotte Valley, as mentioned in Chapter 2, were maple sugar and wood ashes.  The latter was usually exported in the processed form of pearl ash or pot ash.  There was an active market for these goods elsewhere, even overseas, and they provided a source of ready cash or at least goods in trade even before the Revolution.  The “ashery” of Christopher Servos (early 1770s) probably ranked with his gristmill as one of the Charlotte Valley’s first industries.  (See Chapter 2.)  John Davenport had a Harpersfield ashery before moving to what became the town of Davenport where he soon set up another operation.

As the region regained population after the Revolutionary War, the demand for processed goods increased and led to many local manufacturing establishments or “manufactories.”  The foremost of these were gristmills.  The old histories abound with stories of the long treks by farmers or their sons, on foot or horseback to the next valley or the valley after that, with a bushel or two of grain to be ground. 



Sawmills tended to be built later, at first only a few to produce planks for doors, windows, roof boards, tools, etc.  The earliest homes were log houses, then small frame houses with low ceilings to conserve heat and lumber.  As the original log homes of the early settlers began to be replaced, sawmills proliferated.  By 1835 the town had 13 sawmills compared with only three gristmills.[2]  In 1840, five wooden houses were built in Davenport, employing eight men.[3]  According to census documents the town had sixteen sawmills in 1845.  By 1855, about seven out of eight of the almost 400 dwellings in the town of Davenport were frame (351).  One was of brick, one of stone, and 46 were built of log.   By that year the number of sawmills in the town had fallen to eight though the number was back up, to thirteen, in 1870.  By the latter year the mills were processing more hemlock than pine and spruce.

Davenport Produced Four Tons of Pot in 1840.

Whiskey, leather, wool, and ice.  Another local industry of considerable benefit to Davenport’s early settlers (as transporters, retailers, consumers, and to a minor extent, producers) was the making of whiskey.  Payments (quit-rents) for leased land could be made either with cash (always scarce) or grain (usually more plentiful).  The problem for both the farmer and the rent collector was what to do with the surplus grain.  Some could be stored, but usually not for more than a year.  Some could be shipped to outside markets, but transportation costs were high.  One preferred solution was to transform the grain to whiskey.  This had a high value relative to the grain itself.  As attested in the previous chapter by whiskey’s use in building the Charlotte Turnpike and from many other accounts of the time, the finished product was also a welcome export commodity.  Many barrels passed over the Charlotte and Catskill turnpikes.  Whiskey transportation costs had to include a certain “leakage” to the wagon drivers.

 William Swart, who lived amongst other Swarts below the Swart Hollow road in the tier of lots later lost to Oneonta, was reported to have had a tavern on the lower side of the road and to have made his own whiskey in a distillery across the road.[4]  There may have been other small distilleries in Davenport (including the later one of John Davenport), but most of the larger early operations were further off, such as that in West Oneonta and others in Franklin and south of Cooperstown.[5]  Each year in the fall, quit-rents in the form of grain were collected in Davenport Center near the road to East Meredith.  Much of that grain—corn and rye in the main—was promptly shipped off for processing to the Oneonta distillery.

Another early industry with a large export potential was leather tanning. Tanbark references are found at the time of the earliest settlers, and large quantities were stacked and used to produce leather.  William Simpson’s tannery, for example, consumed in 1870 1,600 cords of hemlock bark in the processing of 7,000 hides and 159 “skins.” Tanneries often grew up in conjunction with local harness and shoe making operations, wagon makers, and belt makers for water-powered machinery.  Sigsbee reported an early tannery in the western part of town[6] and, before William Simpson, Herman Copley ran a tannery operation in what is now Simpsonville.[7][8]  It was Davenport’s many tanneries that led to the depletion of the town’s hemlocks.

Later in the 19th century a major and much larger tanning industry grew up in Delaware County further east towards the higher Catskills and toward a more abundant supply of hemlock bark for tanning.  This Delaware County export industry catered to the shoe manufacturers of Massachusetts and the upper Hudson Valley.[9]

Davenport’s sheep herds grew in the early 1800s until about 1845, and with sheep, the wool industry.  Much of the wool was spun in farm households, and this created demand for fulling[10] and later carding mills.  Small operations arose to satisfy the local demand.  Nicholas Sigsbee, reminiscing about the western part of Davenport before the transfer to Oneonta, identified both a fulling mill and a carding machine on an island in either the Susquehanna or the Charlotte River near the old Slade place (formerly owned by Asa Emmons).[11]  In the New York State census of 1835, Davenport reported three fulling mills, three carding machines, but no woolen mills.[12]  By ten years later, both the fulling and the carding operations had been incorporated into the town’s two woolen factories.

Davenport’s fulling mills and carding machines in 1835 accounted for one in ten of the county’s total.  Its three asheries represented one in six of Delaware County’s eighteen.  Davenport’s share of the county’s tanneries, gristmills, and sawmills, as well as of most agricultural activities, reflecting the town’s share of county population, was less, usually closer to one in twenty of the Delaware total.  Thus, Davenport at this time had proportionately more per capita wool-processing facilities and asheries than found elsewhere in the county.

By the mid-1800s, local manufacturing and resource processing had expanded to include a wide variety of activities.  There were cheese factories, hop houses, harness and wagon makers, sash and blind factories, cradle and rake factories, and even a cigar-making establishment.

Cigars—and a Cigar Maker—in Davenport

Throughout the 1800s, some Davenport farmers had cut and stored ice from local ponds, but it was not until the railroads reached Davenport toward the end of the century, that ice harvesting became a commercial activity.  Almost all ice was then extracted from what is now Pine Lake, terminus for a short while of the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley as well as the Ulster and Delaware railroads.  The next sections will highlight the several 19th century “manufactory” activities throughout the town, and the final section will cover ice harvesting near Davenport Center.  Eight hamlet maps of the late 1800s and in the early 1900s, showing the location of many of these businesses (as well as other places of interest), will be found at the end of this chapter.  An overall foldout map of Davenport Town in modern times is at the end of the book.  A still more detailed map, in color and with 2002 property lines included, is on the CD-ROM

Fergusonville and Simpsonville in the 1800s.  William Simpson (1810-1876; see sidebar) was one of the early settlers in Davenport’s eastern end.  As well as being a prosperous farmer and merchant, he operated a tannery and sawmill on the Charlotte River.  In 1870 he employed by far the largest number of mill workers in Davenport, ten, including one mill engineer.   The Simpson tannery in the same year was powered by a 25 horsepower water wheel supplemented by a 20 horsepower steam engine.  1870 production was 14,000 sole leathers and 300 tanned skins.  With production this large, Simpson was certainly selling much of his output to out-of-town users.

Davenport’s First (and Only?) Homegrown “Millionaire”[13]

Neighboring Fergusonville before 1860, population then 125, had several manufactories, including a cheese factory next to the Fergusonville Academy.  (The factory, operated in 1870 by James Oliver, produced in that year 17,836 pounds of cheese from 178,361 pounds of milk and 600 pounds of salt.)

Several sawmills and shingle factories dotted South Hill, above Fergusonville and the other Davenport hamlets.[15]  Names like Kenyon, Utter, Roe, Olmsted, Cook, Seeley and Pierce still have a familiar ring in the town.  Between Fergusonville and Butts Corners, L.B. Van Dusen had a tannery on Middle Brook (on what in later years was Hebbard’s Farm).  He was a dealer in all kinds of leather but was especially well known for calfskin prepared as upper leather for shoes.  Van Dusen and other tanners supplied leather for three shoe shops in Davenport, John Friedenauer’s Harness Shop as well as for Alvah H. Tyler who also manufactured harnesses in Davenport.

Davenport village (once “East Davenport”), 1800s.   Less that a mile west of the junction of Middle Brook and the Charlotte River, near the former Indian “canoe place,” William N. Elwell owned and operated a gristmill.  This was on the south side of the Charlotte below Mill Road in Davenport where the road crosses the river.  Above the bridge there was at that time a large millpond to serve the Elwell and earlier mills.  The water supply allowed the gristmill in 1870 to operate twelve months a year and powered the most powerful waterwheel in town, 75 horsepower.  (The next most powerful wheel was a 50 horsepower unit in the J. G. Lockwood gristmill, downstream in West Davenport.)  Elwell was also a dealer in feed and grain. 



At first some wheat was raised by farmers and ground for home use, but wheat was not best suited to farms in the Charlotte Valley and East Meredith.  As commercial white flour began to become available at reasonable prices, only corn, rye, oats and buckwheat were custom ground locally.[16]  W.H. Parker ran a gristmill and sawmill about three miles east of Davenport village on Middle Brook, probably on the site of the earlier Prentice mill and the later lumber and gristmill of J.T. Yerdon.  Later Elwell’s gristmill moved to the north side of the river and its place was taken by the Sheffield Farms, Slawson-Decker Creamery, built in 1908.  A large icehouse was constructed.  Ice was cut from the millpond on the east side of the bridge and pushed up a long chute into the icehouse.  By 1910 the creamery was manufacturing casein and other by-products, as described in the following account of September 1916:


We went all through the [creamery]—saw the great milk cans standing in ice, further on pounding machinery, revolving wheels, swift-running belts, huge steaming vats, men at work—and from the latter, above the roar of the apparatus and the deafening noise of the steam, we gleaned some bits of information as to the use of all the energy and hubbub.  Practically all the work at the creamery is done with milk after it has been skimmed, and some of the by-products obtained are really quite remarkable.  Muriatic acid is added to the milk and some of the ultimate results are celluloid, buttons, and finish for paper. 


It has been found that they can get material for rubber boots and automobile tires, which would be of great value, if by some method, it could be made durable to the heat.  A second acid is employed, later in the process, to neutralize the effect of the muriatic acid, and from this mixture a combination of sugar & salt results.  The salt is dissolved and separated from the sugar, which is then sold at a high price (60 – 70 cents a lb.) and used in medicines—coating pills, etc.[17]




After the railroad opened a depot in Davenport Center in the early 1900s (see Chapter 4), milk cans filled with fluid milk were iced and drawn from Davenport to the Ulster and Delaware depot in the Center by horse and wagon.  (See below, final section, for more details.)  The wagons often came back to Davenport with feed for the Terrell and Rice Feed Store.  However, the numerous small creameries were by then becoming unprofitable, and Sheffield ultimately closed the Davenport plant.

Orlando Coss operated another milk-processing facility in back of Davenport’s Methodist Church about where Mike Taylor was living in 2000.  This facility in the early 1900s was used for cheese making, and its output was shipped to Utica.



Seth G. TenEyck ran a sawmill on the north side of the Charlotte in 1869.  According to Nicholas Sigsbee:


The TenEycks came from Albany County… Andrew TenEyck had an old-time fulling mill and carding machine.  John TenEyck was killed by lightening in 1833.  He went up in a field to salt the sheep.  A sudden shower came up and he got under a tree to keep out the rain.  Lightening struck the tree and killed him.  Henry TenEyck [later] owned the mills at Davenport...[18]


In the same year of 1869, Frederick Odell was shown as operating a cooper shop a short distance away.[19]  Across the turnpike from the maple grove in the area of the later Charlotte Valley Central School, A. H. Tyler made harnesses.  His house, opposite his shop and next to the maples was called, appropriately, “Maple Grove.”  A few years earlier, in 1865, Alvah Tyler had been primarily a farmer, working 65 improved acres.[20]  He had produced no maple sugar so apparently had no rights to the maples next door.  Daniel Simpson, merchant and Tyler’s next door neighbor, called his home “Maple Side” but he also left no record of any maple sugar production.

Roll Out the Barrel—and the Cooper’s Apprentice

Also operating in the thriving community were a wagon shop and wheelwright, other sawmills, and other shingle factories. 

Butts Corners, 1800s.  As the turnpikes became more traveled there was a lively demand for wagons and wheels.  One of the more important citizens of the town was Perry Butts, for whom Butts Corners was named.  He was a wheelwright and wagon maker of great ability whose shop still existed in 2003, although it had not been used as such for many years.  He repaired and built the freight wagons and carriages used on the turnpike.  About a mile west of his shop was a livery stable in which horses used on the stage run were housed.

Davenport Center (“Centre” until the 1900s), 1800s.  Davenport Center was actually a larger village than Davenport village in 1860 and again after 1900 when it enjoyed the advantages of two railway depots and the service of two rail lines.  In 1860 the population was 125, an active and growing community.  The Gazetteer of New York for that year lists the settlement as having five sawmills and a cradle and rake factory, but in fact there were others.



Miller and Osborne located their tannery on the Kortright Creek under the steep bank east of today’s Route 23 viaduct.  They specialized in upper and sole leather, perhaps supplying N. H. Hebbard’s shoe shop. 

Peter Whiteman, sawyer, had a mill almost beneath the same viaduct.  Ira H. McMinn owned a steam-operated circular saw and sold pine and hemlock timbers.  Ezekiel Miller and Son were sawyers and dealers in lumber and laths.  They were located on Lot #38, a little to the west of the Center where the turnpike (now Route 23) runs near the Charlotte River.  Jacob Follett ran a thriving factory that made grain cradles, hand rakes, hay forks, etc.

Later, on the hill above the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad depot and the turnpike there were two large hop yards, George Barlow’s and Ermine Briggs’.  The large stove from Barlow’s hop house was made in three sections.  It was later purchased by Jesse Haynes of East Meredith for use in his blacksmith shop.



The village of Davenport Center had another enterprising business, that of Dr. Samuel Maharg who, in addition to his medical practice, manufactured and was a dealer in medicines.  A.W. Barnes manufactured furniture in a building directly across from Dr. Maharg.  As far as was known Barnes also carried commercially made furniture but, in contrast to many such establishments at the time, he was not an undertaker.

Pills and Snake Oil

Although two or three coopers had thriving businesses, little information now exists on the coopers themselves.  (George M. Smith, Henry Maddock from England, and Orrin Wardwell were all listed by the 1865 federal census as coopers in what may have been that part of the town.)  John C. Brown, also of Davenport Center, was one of several carpenters and builders in Davenport.  As early as 1869 he sold matched flooring and ceiling as well as sashes, blinds, and picket fences, much in all likelihood manufactured locally.  Brown himself owned a large planer and matcher, enabling him to also sell dressed lumber.[21]  He promised special attention to orders received by mail, indicating the increasing dependability of the mails.  Mr. Brown was also a long-serving Justice of the Peace, 1867-1901.  He had been both an Overseer of Highways (1881) and an Assessor (1891).  As a Justice his name shows up frequently in Davenport records as a witness to large numbers of mortgages, notes, deeds, etc.

The sash and blind mill operated by J.C. Brown was quite likely the one later purchased by Silas Evans and operated from before 1899 to 1913 or later.  Lyle Henderson towards the end of the century remembered driving as a boy with his father (John Henderson, the East Meredith merchant) and his brother Roland with a load of cherry lumber to Silas Evans’ shop to have shingles made. 

On the Pumpkin Hollow road to the Luther Briggs homestead, a shingle mill was owned and operated by Andrew J. Potter.  He lived in a small house between the falls and Schoolhouse #20.  Sometime between 1869 and 1871 he purchased fifty acres of woodland in the neighboring Banyar patent to the east and had buildings there.

After the arrival of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad in 1890, a Sheffield Creamery was added to the Center’s businesses and remained active until after World War II. (See also Chapter 4.)  Its needs for ice were met from nearby Goodrich Lake.  (More in final section, below.)



West Davenport, 1800s.  West Davenport had nature working on its side from the last ice age.  The Kortright and the Charlotte creeks join at Davenport Center and race westward in a path cut long ago.  This assured West Davenport of waterpower in dry years such as that of 1816 when old inhabitants of Davenport Center told of walking four miles through the woods to what later became West Davenport for grist.  In later years the Charlotte Valley Mills of that hamlet were owned and operated by J.G. Lockwood and C.H. Battershall, well-established grain dealers.  Near the same location, W. H. Battershall operated a sawmill and sold building materials.  As early as 1830, a map of Lot #41 on the north side of the Charlotte, surveyed by James Frost, showed a “mill Canal” to divert water from the river to a millpond serving two mills—one a sawmill and the other a gristmill.  There is firm evidence that these mills were operating before 1830.  In September of that year the land in question was sold to Rensellaer Dayton.



By 1860, with a population of 90, West Davenport, nicknamed “Slab City,” was quite industrialized.  Roberts, Ireland and Nichols ran a woolen mill.  They purchased raw wool from dealers like Andrew and William Graig of Davenport and Daniel M. Dibble of Davenport Center.  They did carding for individuals as well as cloth dressing.  In addition they sold bolts of woolen cloth.  In the 1860s and 1870s it was more customary to buy cloth by the bolt rather than by the yard.

The millpond in West Davenport also furnished power for C.H. Tallmadge’s plaster mill.  (The mill was listed under the name of David Young in the 1870 census.  It had a 20 horsepower water wheel, employed one person, operated six months and, in that year, ground 180 tons of “stone”—limestone carted in from the Mohawk Valley—into 180 tons of plaster.)  With the economic prowess of the town improving year by year, there was increasing demand for more modern and larger homes.  Both local and western plaster or wood pulp[22] were active commodities.

G.H. Smith owned a cooper shop in West Davenport on Church Street to the south side of the Church Street bridge.  Across the Charlotte and on the same side of Church Street a cider mill was located.  Silas Evans, who later moved to Davenport Center, owned a rake factory on Church Street.  The Evans and Britts rake factory in 1870 used a 12 horsepower steam engine, employed 2 men and, in six months produced 200 dozen hand rakes from 3,000 board feet of lumber.

The McMinns, too, should not be overlooked in West Davenport as a family of sawyers and lumber dealers, hop growers, and dairymen.



East Meredith (“Briar Street” until 1868), 1800s.  East Meredith, although a community in the Town of Meredith, was closely aligned with Davenport Center.  The enterprising hamlet had three blacksmiths, a gristmill, a sawmill, a furniture maker, and an undertaker, Will Flower, who made his own coffins until about 1900.  Will Flower was also a carpenter, woodworker, and owner of the Will Flower Furniture Factory, origin of many desks, bedroom suites, chests and other items that were still around East Meredith in 1976.[23]

 In 1860 David J. Hanford purchased a small sawmill in East Meredith along with a millpond and woodlot.  Power came from damming Kortright Creek.  Jonathan B. Parris had built the mill[24] containing, as was often the case in those early days of 1846, a simple up and down saw.  The mill earned little money and changed hands several times before its purchase by Hanford.  The new owner concentrated mainly on his farm, but after the Civil War he added a gristmill (1868) and gradually set about improving, expanding and diversifying the mill’s production.  In 1881 he replaced the old vertical saw with a modern circular saw and also installed a supplemental steam engine.[25]  The Hanford millpond also furnished power for the village’s first electricity.[26]  The mill in 1926 was fitted with a water wheel twelve feet wide, turning a shaft twenty feet long.  The shaft, previously driven by water turbines, was attached to several belts of varying widths and lengths.  Pulleys for the belts were made of wood.  The old mill, described as a local “treasure,” was still in existence in the early 2000s.



When the demand for house and barn lumber lessened toward the end of the century, and especially after the railroad reached East Meredith about 1900, Mr. Hanford took on manufacturing jobs.  In 1908 he was making milk cases of wood for glass milk bottles.  He also made file handles and pillboxes, smoothed in a large revolving drum.  Charles Miller of Davenport Center for many years drove a team drawing logs for Hanford Brothers.

The business, first known as D.J. Hanford, became D.J. Hanford and Son in 1897 and Hanford Brothers in the 1910s.  Three Pizza brothers, workers at the mill and former railroad builders, bought out Hanford Brothers in 1945.  When Pizza Brothers went out of business in 1965, Kenneth Kelso, a prosperous farmer from an old time East Meredith family, purchased the property.  He partially restored the mill and tracked down vintage mill equipment.  The task was later taken over and completed by a non-profit organization.  Hanford Mills Museum by the year 1980 had become a popular historical attraction, catering to families and tourists, where the public could witness mill operations as they were in olden days. 

The Hanford Mills Museum

East Meredith had two blacksmith establishments combined with harness making and repair.  In 1900 Jesse Haynes opened a third in the barn opposite the old firehouse.  Mr. Haynes was an excellent blacksmith, and his business grew along with his reputation.  In a taped account of 1968, Jesse Haynes, then 94, told of learning the blacksmith trade at age 17 from Ben McKillip of Stamford.  He left after one winter’s work at 25 cents a day plus room and board.  After operating a blacksmith shop in New Kingston for five years, he came in May 1898 to East Meredith.  His son Charlie was a partner for several years.  One particularly icy winter Mr. Haynes shod from 14 to 20 horses a day over a two-week period.  On another occasion with his son’s help he claimed to have shod 32 horses in a single day.[27]

South Worcester.  A close neighbor of Davenport’s Simpsonville and Fergusonville over the years has been South Worcester in Otsego County.  The 1770’s gristmill and “ashery” of the Servoss family have already been mentioned.  When settlers began to return to the upper Charlotte Valley after the American Revolution, it is likely that grist and sawmills were soon rebuilt and reestablished.  By about 1870 the hamlet’s population had grown to 109 and the greater area to perhaps 250.  A county atlas of 1868 showed “at least four sawmills, a gristmill, a clover mill (for extracting clover seed from harvested clover) a planing mill, two blacksmith shops, a cabinet-maker, a ‘cab and machine shop,’ [and] a wagon shop…” There was also an ashery and a tannery.[28] 

Goodrich/Strader/Sherman Lake ice harvests.  The pond, later rechristened Pine Lake,  has been known by a series of names as will be recounted later in Chapter 13.  It had long been used for ice harvesting, and this became particularly crucial after the arrival of the railroads in the 1890s and the opening up of more distant markets for fluid milk.  (See Chapter 4.)  Milk required chilling during its shipment and hence large amounts of ice, especially during summer months.  The ice business on Sherman Lake was especially active between 1908 and 1925.  Farmers, their sons, creamery laborers and teams of horses cut ice in the wintertime for summertime use.  One-handle ice saws were used.  Later, a gasoline powered circular saw on a sled aided the process of producing large, often 200-pound blocks of ice.  It was not until electricity became available that ice began to be made in the Sheffield Creamery itself.



To reach the creamery icehouse on the south side of the river, men used pike poles to push the newly cut ice blocks up ramps for loading on the horse-drawn sleighs of farmers who had earlier delivered their milk to the creamery.  Merton Hebbard, according to Robert Chambers who watched as a boy, had a large horse he hitched ahead of the teams to help them get their loads up and onto the main road.  Ray Rider had the largest team; he could draw the most.  The blocks were later manhandled once again into the icehouse and then packed in sawdust.

It was carpenter Kenneth Burdick, Robert Chambers remembers, who later reduced some of the hard, slow labor by constructing an elevated chute near the south side of the pond.  Blocks were lifted to the chute with a hoist and then went by gravity down and directly across the river, a much shorter distance.  There they were loaded onto trucks for the icehouse.[29]

 Cutting ice was cold, grueling work, but the Strader/Sherman Lake ice did help open up a wider market for the dairy farmers of Davenport.  Ice harvesting was a major source of income in the winter for many local families.  An Ulster and Delaware Railroad icehouse near the depot also required filling and seems to have served, too, as a collection and storage facility for ice from elsewhere.  Chambers remembers the arrival there of ice from as far away as Halcottville.

There were no local ice-delivery men in Davenport.  If a villager received ice from the creamery icehouse once in a while, he or she had to be a special friend of the manager.  Some dairy farmers, those without their own cool, flowing spring, did receive ice from the creamery.  The rapid cooling of the raw milk was important to maintain quality prior to the long trip in cans to New York City.

The Strader/Sherman Lake ice was important commercially for other than milk cooling.  It was sold by the freight-car-load to the Ulster and Delaware.  Empty cars came to the siding on the east side of the creamery, were filled with ice, and were picked up by the railroad for shipment to cities down the line.

In West Davenport and Davenport village, ice was harvested from the mill ponds; in Davenport village, smaller quantities also came from the small Graig pond and swamp that was later enlarged in successive stages to become Beaver Spring Lake.  Sexsmith Lake and the Mud Lakes also provided ice for local users.


The following additional illustrations to be found here.

5a   Roselle Barnes cutting cordwood, one horsepower saw, about 1910.  
5b John Culver’s lumber yard, about 1913.  
5c Cutting ice with circular saw and old automobile engines, Pine Lake, 1920s.
5d  TenEyck lumber mill, Davenport village, about 1910.  
5e  Elwell gristmill, Davenport village, from north side of river, before 1908.  
5f Sheffield Farms-Slawson Decker creamery, seen from Davenport village.  
5g Wheelwright and wagon shop, Davenport Center, early 1900s.  
5h Charlotte Turnpike, West Davenport, looking towards woolen mill, about 1870.  
5i Charlotte Turnpike, W. Davenport, and Charles Battershall’s gristmill, after 1910. 

[1] “The Susquehanna is a river exceedingly crooked, and in many places fearfully rapid, on which account in the first attempts to navigate or ‘run’ it, as the raftsmen say, before its channels were better known, lives were often lost—by staving the rafts on the heads of islands, among flood-wood, or hidden trees fastened to the bottom; and in running the rapids, being driven ashore by the violence of the current in the short bends of the stream, and various other ways.”  (Campbell, 1906, 76.)  Nevertheless many log rafts and log “arks” did find their way down the Susquehanna during high water time in the 1800s.  Early Davenport (later south side Oneonta) residents engaged in the trade included Ira and Asa Emmons, Asa’s son Carlton, and Andrew Parish.  (Moore, 1964, 53.)

[2] By 1835 the town had 13 sawmills compared with only three gristmills.  (Gordon, 1836, 423.)

[3] In 1840, five wooden houses were built in Davenport… men.  (1840 U.S. Census, detailed statistics, 112-113.)

[4] William Swart… made his own whiskey in a distillery across the road.  (Sigsbee, 1889a, September 19.)

[5] John Davenport, before leaving Harpersfield in 1810, had, with cousin Noah, operated an ashery and a distillery.  That distillery, along with those of three other early residents, made a total of  “four distilleries, all running at or nearly at the same time, within the present boundaries of the town.”  (Munsell, 1880, 228.)

[6] Sigsbee reported an early tannery in the western part of town…(Sigsbee, 1889a, September 19).

[7] The census of 1850 showed 23 “laborers” (probably mostly tannery workers), of whom 18 were Irish, living and working in that part of Davenport.  Eleven of the Irish laborers lived in a boarding house run by Charles and May McCluskey, also from Ireland.

[8] …before William Simpson, Herman Copley ran a tannery… in what is now Simpsonville. (Munsell, 1880, 145.)

[9] Later in the 19th century a major…catered to the shoe manufacturers of… Hudson Valley.  (DeNatale, 1987, 68.)

[10] A fulling mill, of which there were three in Davenport as early as 1835, produces “fulled cloth” through a process of  “shrinking and felting woolen cloth so that it becomes thicker and denser and has a face produced upon it which covers the weave pattern.”  (John N. Winburne, ed., A Dictionary of Agricultural and Allied Terminology, 1962.)

[11] Nicholas Sigsbee, reminiscing… old Slade place (formerly owned by Asa Emmons). (Sigsbee, 1889a, September 19.)

[12] In the New York State census of 1835… three carding machines, but no woolen mills.  (Gordon, 1836, 423.)

[13] Sidebar: Davenport’s First…”Millionaire”: (Sources: Federal and state censuses, Munsell, probate papers on file with Delaware County Surrogate Court, Delhi, N.Y., and obituary—probably written by brother Daniel—in the Oneonta Herald and Democrat, Friday, December 29, 1876.)

[14] See Chapter 10, footnote 6, for the price indexes and sources used for this and similar calculations in this book.

[15] South Hill was apparently given its name by those in the Schenevus Valley or perhaps Milfordville (later east Oneonta). Davenport folk are able to tolerate the name “South Hill” even though to them it might well have been called “North Hill.”

[16] In the earliest days, annual lease payments were made in wheat and, later, in corn.  One collection point was in Davenport Center just east and across the present Route 23 from the present Town Hall (where Todd Rider lived in 2003).

[17] We went all through the [creamery]…and used in medicines—coating pills, etc.  (Edith Mayne in Strout, 2000, 88-9.)

[18] The TenEycks came from … Henry TenEyck [later] owned the mills at Davenport...  (Sigsbee, 1889a, October 2.)

[19] Frederick Odell, age 34, was listed as a cooper in the 1865 state census, but by the 1870 census his occupation had been changed to ”Farmer—Insane.”

[20] Alvah Tyler was also a long-serving Town Constable between 1865 and 1879.

[21] As early as 1869 he sold… dressed lumber.  (Bloomville Mirror, May 4, 1869, p. 4.)

[22] Wood pulp as fiber (sometimes also jute or hemp) or animal hair were mixed with the plaster as strengthening agents.  (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1972, p. 492.)

[23] Will Flower… chests and other items that were still around East Meredith in 1976.  (Mitchell, 1976, 18.)

[24] Past uncertainty over who built the first mill on the site seems to have been resolved in the account of January 1996 quoted here.  In her 1986 “History of East Meredith” volume 3, for example, local historian Elma Hetherington Mitchell ascribes the event to Bradford Parris who, it was believed at the time, later passed along the mill to his son, Jonathan Briggs Parris.  (Mitchell, 1986, 1,3.)

[25] In 1860 David J. Hanford purchased a small sawmill… and also installed a supplemental steam engine.  (Caroline Meek de Marrais in Telian, 2000, 84-89.)

[26] D. J. Hanford, in keeping with the early-to-bed country tradition, is said to have turned off the electricity—for the whole town each night at ten o’clock—unless, of course, there was a late social event to which the Hanfords had been invited.

[27] In a taped account of 1968, Jesse Haynes… claimed to have shod 32 horses in a single day.  (Davenport Historical Society tape recording.  See also Telian, 2000, 83.)

[28] When settlers began to return… There was also an ashery and a tannery.  (Hartley, 1970, 22-3, 27.)

[29]Merton Hebbard, according to Robert Chambers… There they were loaded onto trucks for the icehouse.   (Robert Chamber letter to Mary Briggs, February 23, 2003.)


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