Chapter 7

Back Home Up Next


Chapter 7  -  Hotel Keepers, Blacksmiths, Carpenters and Shoemakers

Natural resources, especially soil and timber, were the original underpinnings of Davenport’s economy, but pursuits based on these resources could barely meet subsistence needs in the absence of supporting activities.  Earlier chapters have dealt with manufacturing, crafts, transportation and farming.  This chapter will consider the host of support services provided by stores, hotels, taverns, feed shops, newspapers, schools, fire and water companies, doctors, lawyers, and the other service providers without which a community cannot grow and prosper.

Itinerant peddlers, trading posts and stores came first and served most of the needs of the earliest communities.  One of the lower Charlotte Valley’s earliest known stores may have been that of Ezra Denio or Denend about 1800.[1]   Denio had departed by 1810 at the time that John Davenport established his store upon moving from Harpersfield in 1810.  The new town of Davenport had three “Commissioners of Excise” as early as 1818.  Since these dealt mostly with the excise tax from liquor sales, they attest to the fact that, in addition to John Davenport’s store, there were one or more taverns or inns by the time of the town’s formation.  It is likely that hotels as well as inns followed as the roads improved between Harpersfield, Kortright, and the growing community on the Susquehanna that was to become Oneonta.  This would certainly have been the case by the time of the Charlotte Turnpike in 1834.



Jobs in the mid-19th century.  It was not until census takers began recording the occupation of household heads that the broad picture can begin to be seen of Davenport’s non-farming activities.  The occupations of three hundred and fifty-one men were listed for Davenport in the New York State Census of 1845.  These included household heads but not household members.  Teachers, for example, were not included in the totals.  Teachers generally boarded with a family and were counted, along with hired men and servants, as members of the family’s household.

For Davenport in 1845, eight of ten household heads were farmers or farm workers.  Of the others, two persons ran groceries, five worked in other retail stores, seven were listed as other merchants, and six were manufacturers.  Six men or women household heads worked in inns and taverns.  There were four clergymen in the town, one physician, and at that time no lawyers.

The second largest occupation in 1845, occupying one in eight (42) of Davenport’s household heads, was listed simply as “mechanics.”  This category includes the workers needed to keep the stagecoaches and early farm machinery operational.  Included also are the many others who worked with their hands such as shoemakers, tailors, coopers, and probably even drovers, teamsters and stage drivers.

A better idea of the actual occupations is given five years later by the 1850 Federal census.  This includes the jobs and trades of all males (no females!) over 15 years of age, covering all male family and other household members. The need for skills other than farm management is shown by the fact that in 1850 fewer than two out of three Davenport men listed their principal occupation as farmers.  Another one in eight workers were classified as laborers, and of course this included a certain number of farm laborers.  Other laborers were employed in the town’s asheries (25 employees in 1840; see Chapter 2 and 5 for more on asheries), tanneries (8 employees in 1840), mills, schools, stores, etc.  This left more than one in five (22 percent) of males engaged in a great variety of other pursuits, as shown in the accompanying table.


 Principal Occupations of Davenport Males Over 15 Years, 1850

Source: Seventh Census of the United States, September 1850, Schedule I





Basket maker








Boarding house


Medical student[i]






Cabinet maker














Sheriff, deputy






Clothier/wool carder


Stage driver












Tavern keeper






Harness maker




Hotel worker


Wagon maker




Wood turner










The table gives a good idea of the rich variety of occupations that had developed by the middle of the 19th century to support the agricultural and forestry base of the community.  Not reflected in the table are the multiple jobs often held by a single individual.  Farmers of course had to be handy at a wide variety of crafts while even those whose primary work lay elsewhere would often farm on the side.  Some of those owning and farming agricultural land, for example, listed their primary occupation as blacksmith, merchant, physician or carpenter.  Similarly, Davenport in 1850 was home to ten sawmills but registered only three employee “sawyers.”  All of the ten sawmill owners gave their occupation as “farmer.”  The table provides, too, no more than a look at one particular period.  Many other support businesses would come into being over time: newspapers, dentists, feed stores, undertakers, gas stations, and auto repair—all a part of the changing face of rural life.

Matthew Sixsmith, Farmer (and Sawyer)

Job changes over time, 1850 to 1905.  Some idea of the inevitable changes over time is seen when comparing the jobs of 1845 and 1850 with those of 1905.  Over this period, as told in the previous chapter, field crops in Delaware County (wheat, rye, corn, oats and barley) all declined.  The numbers of sheep and swine also dropped, and oxen all but vanished.  On the other hand the 1905 farmers produced more potatoes and especially milk.  The number of dairy cows in Delaware County more than doubled.  New creameries in Davenport, encouraged by the coming of the railroads, led to a shift in labor-intensive butter production away from the farm.

Davenport’s population declined from 2305 in 1850 to 1512 in 1905.  The number of men calling themselves “farmers” fell dramatically, from 425 in 1850 to 223.  Women, for whom 1905 data are available, added another 10 to the male “farmer” total.  The drop in the number of farmers was offset to a small extent by an increase in the use of farm workers and day workers.  This category, which included non-farm day workers, rose from 81 to 106.  The number of Davenport’s lumbermen also dropped, from 10 to 7, but sawyers remained constant.  One sawmill owner in 1905, J. T. Yerdon, was a full-time operator rather than working primarily as a farmer.

In general, there was an increase in specialization between 1850 and 1905 as some jobs became full-time rather than part-time occupations.  1905 Davenport, for example, boasted two barbers, a machinist, three house painters and a wagon painter, a plumber, a postmistress and 21-year old postal employee, a tailor, two “speculators” (in land), and an undertaker.  More specialized trade and commerce led to Davenport reporting a dealer in poultry and eggs, two salesmen, and three different kinds of peddlers (rags, dry goods, and tires).  Women’s occupations, including farmer (10) and farm worker (2), were perhaps little different from those missing from the censuses in 1845 and 1850.  They included teachers (11), dressmakers (6), milliners (2), a grocery clerk, a typist (certainly new from 1850), a postmaster (as already noted), a silk worker, and one nurse. 

In addition to increased specialization, the passage of time introduced whole new economic activities and diminished others.  Davenport’s wagon and harness makers fell slightly.  The occupations of wool carder, drover, tanner, tavern keeper, teamster, and wood turner disappeared from town.  Hard hit were shoemakers by the availability of manufactured shoes, especially those designed especially for separate left and right feet.  (Sidebar.)  Davenport’s shoemakers dropped from 14 in 1850 to only two in 1905.  Blacksmith numbers went from ten to six, and carpenters, from 28 to 20.

Different Shoes for Different Feet?

Not all occupations declined.  Significant new employers in 1905 were the two railroads (Chapter 4).  Davenport was home to a railroad brakeman, a section man, two station agents, and six workers.  Of the last, three were Italian immigrants[5].  Creameries were a new addition to the town, employing five workers and two managers.  Davenport in 1905, though not yet fully in the coming Auto Age with gas stations and repair shops, had at least entered the new Communication Age with two telegraph operators.



The number of lawyers rose from one to two between 1850 and 1905.  Physicians declined from three to two, and neither of those in 1905 had an apprentice medical student.  The number of clergymen grew from three to five.  Stage drivers remained constant at one.

The mix of Davenport’s jobs has continued to change as more specialized functions have withdrawn to more populated places and as the country’s technology has continued to develop.  More will be said about these events in Chapter 15.  What has been shown here is that for much of Davenport’s history, farming and lumbering could not and did not exist in a vacuum.  Crafts, trade, local manufacturing, and other services were the lifeblood of Davenport’s several hamlets and, indeed, of much of community life.  In later years, as the agricultural and forestry base declined still further (see Chapter 6) and as transportation made it easier to obtain necessary services from a distance, such small rural villages would be profoundly affected.

Jobs, trades and services in Davenport’s several hamlets, about 1869.  The various federal and state censuses give the broad picture of changes over time for Davenport as a whole.  They provide little information on where people lived and worked nor on the kinds of businesses operating in each of the town’s several hamlets.  A part of this latter information can be unearthed through family histories or through the painstaking search of deeds, probate records, other legal documents, old newspapers and, occasionally, antique diaries and letters.  For Davenport and the other towns of Delaware County, it is also possible to obtain a moderately complete picture for one short period, the few years before 1869.  This picture is found in a rather remarkable and certainly unique series of detailed maps and listings in an Atlas of Delaware County, New York, compiled “from actual surveys by and under the direction of F. W. Beers.”  (The atlas is hereafter referred to as Beers, 1869.[6]  See also the collection of village maps at the end of Chapter 5.) 

In 1869 the Civil War had recently ended, men had returned home, and farmers were getting used to having a plentiful supply of labor.  On the other hand, prices had risen sharply during the war, money was tight and credit was being cut back.   Davenport voters, by a 3:2 majority, had just voted for Seymour over Grant for president.  William Ford, age 29, was town supervisor for the year, succeeding the four years (1865-68) of real estate operator and businessman Daniel Dibble and, prior to that, the four years served by his father, Aaron Ford.  William Ford’s term would be short lived.  He would be replaced after a year by G. Hitchcock and later William “Uncle Billy” McDonald and then by the flour, feed and grain dealer from West Davenport, J. G. Lockwood.  The post of supervisor changed hands frequently in those days, and William Ford would reoccupy the post in 1873 and once again in 1886.

Davenport’s population in 1869 had dropped some from its peak of 2,362 just before the war.  The general turmoil of those years and the appeal of jobs in new industries elsewhere undoubtedly contributed to a slight population decline, to 2,187 in 1870.  Nevertheless the town was entering what was to become the golden age of local farming, lasting until the end of the 19th century.  The new Albany and Susquehanna Railroad had just reached Binghamton, providing the western part of Davenport with close access to Oneonta and the world beyond.  The Ulster and Delaware Railroad was expected soon to pass right down the Charlotte Valley from Stamford through Harpersfield and Davenport to Oneonta, and Davenport had already appointed its Commissioners of Railroads in 1866.  (The direct rail route through Davenport was sidetracked along the way, as recounted in Chapter 4.)  The 1869 Commissioners, awaiting the chance to represent Davenport on the U. & D. governing board, were lawyer John Hitchcock (replacing former supervisor Aaron Ford), merchant John Coulter, and John S. Hunt.  A fourth Commissioner, Elkanah Holmes, had in 1867 been appointed on behalf of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad despite the fact that the A. & S. had already reached Oneonta, bypassing Davenport (Chapter 4).  (Holms may not have been the first A.& S. commissioner but merely the first to be identified as such in the Town Board Minutes.)

West Davenport in 1869 had the largest “business directory” of any of the town’s villages.  “Manufactories,” as discussed in Chapter 5, included the making of butter tubs and firkins, lumber, lathes and pickets, plaster, woolen goods, hand rakes and wood turnings, and flour from grain.  The prosperous community had four general stores doing business simultaneously.  Schuyler Martin operated a general store in the center, directly at the foot of Church Street.  (The store, which advertised groceries, flour, feed, and salt, was later sold to F. L. Lockwood according to an October 7, 1891, notice in the Davenport Transcript.)

Although little is now known about his business, the first West Davenport merchant was a Mr. Webb.  At the beginning of the 1900s, the Webb family, reportedly of original Native American stock, owned hundreds of acres of land on the north side of the Charlotte River known as Webb Hill.

Next to Schuyler Martin on the east, the Beers map shows another general store.  Across the Charlotte Turnpike on the east side of Church Street, Elisha B. Fero operated a general store and post office.  The building, years later, housed four apartments.  Further south along the same side of Church Street but before the bridge over the Charlotte River, W.O. Beach had a store.  His house was just across the Charlotte.

E. B. Fero (1820-1898) left his mark on the village.  He was a merchant interested in growth.  It was his mother, Anna Fero, who gifted the property for building The Methodist Society at West Davenport in 1852.  Later she donated land behind the church for the Charlotte Valley Cemetery.

A few years later in West Davenport, in 1874, Cyrus Whitlock, born November 2, 1852, began a merchant’s business in a large, 60 foot by 30 foot wide building constructed earlier by a Mr. Cowley.  Within the structure Whitlock bartered with housewives for eggs, butter and cheese, and with farmers for hides and days of labor.   As with many merchants in those days, he became the banker for the community and a person of great influence.  The business continued for 57 years until in 1932 the adjoining dwelling of George Currie caught fire and spread the twenty feet to that of Cyrus Whitlock.  Both buildings were consumed.

Mr. Whitlock, then 80 years of age, decided not to rebuild.  What was left was purchased by James Simmons in 1937 and reconstructed on the same foundation.  It continued as a general store and post office and was in 1963 purchased by Ben and Sally (Balcom) Beams.  Post offices were frequently located in one corner of the general store, but in later years the postal department objected to the practice.  At the same time, mobile customers were driving further to larger, chain stores, resulting in the gradual demise of the small general store.[7]



In 1870, J. W. Kinyon was the West Davenport druggist.  Samuel Kinyon was a shoemaker.  “Kinyon and Son” were listed as a “Boot and shoe manufactory” in the 1870 federal census.  Possibly Samuel was the “son” in the business name since his own son, James, was only eleven at the time.  Nearby were James Evans, blacksmith, and across Church Street his son Silas, the rake maker.  Four places away lived Richard White, a harness maker.  Two other shoemakers were Joseph N. Miller and V. I. Hoke.  West Davenport also had a cooper, Orrin Wardwell, and a carpenter by the name of William C. Beach.

The village had two hotels in 1869.  J. T. Hummell ran the West Davenport House on the turnpike to the west of the Church Street intersection.  It later burned down.  William H. Sloat was the proprietor of Sloat’s Hotel, further west towards the Oneonta border.  The Sloat’s Hotel still stands, now an apartment building, two doors uphill from today’s Tally-Ho restaurant.  Both hotels were located near stables.  Blacksmith Pomeroy F. Peters, on the north side of the river, also repaired wagons.  The owners of most if not all manufacturing establishments were also dealers and retailers in the goods they produced.

Near West Davenport, David, James and Ira McMinn, as mentioned in Chapter 5, were prominent as sawyers, pine and hemlock lumber dealers, hop growers and dairymen.  Nearby, too, Mrs. K. E. More held forth as a milliner and dressmaker.

Davenport Center, less than three miles to the east, was also a thriving community though it had not yet reached the peak brought by the arrival of two railroads later in the century.  Its industries, as noted earlier, included lumber, leather, “family medicines,” and wooden implements such as grain cradles and hand rakes.



Both Marvin Simmons and William H. Sloat had hotels in the village.  That of Simmons was located on the south side of the Charlotte Turnpike just to the east of town and before the toll house.  That of Mr. Sloat is not shown on the Beers map, possibly because Sloat had just opened his new hotel on the hill in West Davenport while announcing, with an ad in the Bloomville Mirror, that he would keep open his Davenport Center hotel for another year.  Later, after the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad had reached Davenport Center, William Sloat reopened his hotel in that hamlet.

Photographer and Cabinetmaker Ervin Davis

Daniel M. Dibble, who had just stepped down as Supervisor, lived north of the turnpike just before it crossed Kortright Creek.  He was a, shoemaker, a dealer in wool and stock, and a real estate speculator.  Dibble had owned the future “Pine Lake” in 1857-66 and other properties to the tune of 70,000 acres total in 1870.[8]  Other Davenport Center dealers included manufacturers E. Miller and Son (lumber, lath and pickets) and Miller and Osborn (upper leathers and sole leather).

On the southern corner of the intersection of the East Meredith road and the turnpike, John Coulter ran a dry goods business for many years.  Only the foundation marked the spot one hundred and thirty years later.  Coulter had been a shoemaker in Bovina before he and his wife, Susan, moved to Davenport Center where shoemaking was a thriving occupation.  Before long he expanded his shop into a substantial, 40 by 30 foot wide, general store.   Coulter carried groceries, provisions, crockery and general merchandise, from at least 1852 to 1869 when he sold the business to young William H. Roberts, an insurance agent.  Immediately after the sale, on his way home from a trip to the lawyer’s office with Mr. Roberts, Mr. Coulter suffered a broken leg after being thrown from the wagon.  Coulter was Davenport Town Clerk from 1856 through 1885.  After a fire, the remainder of the old Coulter-Roberts building was used briefly by Newell Loucks as a garage before being rebuilt as a store and gas station run by Luke Reynolds.



East Meredith, Davenport Center’s close neighbor in the Town of Meredith, prospered along with the upgraded (1860) sawmill and (after 1868) gristmill of David Josiah (D.J.) Hanford, dealer in flour, feed, and lumber.  The enterprising hamlet at one point, as noted earlier, had in addition three blacksmiths, a furniture maker and an undertaker.  In 1869, the Beers atlas also shows a hardware store and a second store operated by L. O. Hanford, dealer in dry goods, groceries, hardware, stoves and tin ware.  Levi Hanford was also the first postmaster in East Meredith, a time when mail could be sent and received but three times a week.  Levi was instrumental, when postmaster in 1868, in having the name of the hamlet changed from Briar (sometimes “Brier”) Street to East Meredith.[9]

 In 1880, John Thompson became postmaster and operated a general store on the southeast corner of the intersection of the Davenport Center and the Bloomville Roads.  Thompson died in 1898.  His wife and son ran and expanded the store before selling it to Norman Parris and William H. Fay in 1901.[10]  Fay bought out Parris in 1908.  Mrs. Fay had a flair for millinery.  She tried a hat shop in one room of her house, but it failed after two years.  In 1913, Mr. Fay moved to Oneonta and Fred Adair became owner of the store. For many activities the community used a large hall above the Thompson store.  The hall was a central location for election polls.  It was a good place for square dances, for community plays and entertainments, and for church Christmas parties.  “This building probably holds more memories for more people than any other in the village, except perhaps the church or the schoolhouse.”[11] 



Next door, to the south and about opposite the road to Delhi, John Henderson built a general store in 1890 and operated it until his death in 1906.  The store was then run briefly by Fred Adair.  It later continued in service under Henderson’s sons, Lyle and Roland, until Lyle retired in the 1960s.[12]  Lyle Henderson accumulated a large number of old carpenter tools that intrigued friends and visitors.

John Henderson had done the community another service when he intercepted a young man driving a black bob-tailed horse and buggy through the town in 1904.  The young man had recently graduated from medical school and was enroute from Masonville to Bloomville, seeking a place to practice.  Convinced by Mr. Henderson that East Meredith would be a good place to stop, Dr. Fred Bolt set up shop in rooms next to Mr. Fay’s store and stayed until World War I.  Other doctors had served in East Meredith but rarely stayed long.  Dr. Bolt served Davenport as Acting Medical Officer in 1909 and perhaps other years.  In that year he was paid $3 for his medical role plus $1.75 for registering vital statistics and $12.40 for a lunacy examination.[13]  Since Bolt’s departure on the eve of World War I, East Meredith has had no doctor.

Another interesting business that changed with the times was the combination furniture store and undertaker.  In the East Meredith building that housed the former fire department, William Flower and his brother John had once worked as both undertakers and cabinetmakers.  They made coffins until John died in 1885.  William Flower bought commercially made coffins thereafter, but he continued to make furniture.

Many businesses in East Meredith expanded in the late 1890s in anticipation of the arrival of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad.  New growth began, in fact, in 1891 when the Tally-Ho stagecoach route was established through East Meredith to connect the C. & C.V. Railroad in West Davenport and Davenport Center with the U. & D. Railroad (then called the Delaware Otsego) that had come to a nine-year wait at Bloomville.  (Chapter 4.)  In 1894, Orville and Oscar Briggs built a hotel on the Bloomville road not far from the Thompson store.  Ermine Briggs operated a livery stable behind the hotel.[14]  “The hotel was a busy place during the early days of the railroad when people were coming in on the train and staying at the hotel while they went to neighboring towns on business.  Before the hotel was built, peddlers or salesmen had to be boarded in someone’s home.”[15]

At the turn of the century it was profitable for carpenters to buy property and build homes for sale.  In 1902 Orville Briggs purchased from L. O. Hanford and brothers a parcel of land bounded by John H. Henderson and Levi Hanford.  Two houses, sold to Earl B. Roberts and Norman Crandall, were built on the property.  Andrew Brown of the Town of Meredith arranged much of the financing for this kind of endeavor.  Records show he loaned money as early as 1861 and as late as 1891 when he lived in Bloomville.  Andrew Brown stipulated in the mortgages that interest at 5% was to be paid annually on January first, along with any payment of the principal.  No other or additional payments would be acceptable.

Andrew Brown, Pioneer Settler, Cabinetmaker, Financier, Manufacturer, Mentor of D. J. Hanford, and Pipe Smoker

The hamlet of Davenport.  The possibility that two hotels could do a thriving business in the hamlet of Davenport might today seem remote.  Through 1869 Messrs. Dart and Graig were proprietors of the East Davenport House.  Sometime after 1869 the hotel changed hands, becoming the Clarendon Hotel, operated by A.J. Mattice.  Then Luther D. Mattice took over, followed later by a Mr. Foyer, Chris and Mark Hoyer, and others.  The location, at the northwest corner of the Charlotte Turnpike and today’s Mill Road, became much later a gas station and Laundromat, later a convenience store. 



Meanwhile in 1869 Edward C. Sheldon managed the Davenport Hotel at the east end of the village, called the Globe Hotel at one time.  His widow remarried and, as Mrs. Harry Smith, continued to run the hotel until it was sold to Edmund Fox in 1883.  Prior to Sheldon’s purchase of the property in 1866, it had been owned by Gerrit Smith (son of Peter Smith, the one-time fur trader and later extensive landowner), John Sherman (during the time he sold a mill site at the lot’s upper end to Matthew Sixsmith), and Daniel and Harriet Ingraham. 

Afterwards, the hotel—at various times the Globe Hotel, American Hotel and once the Smith House—had perhaps 21 owners over the years by count of the Davenport Historical Society in 1988.  Owners included such Davenport dignitaries as near neighbor William “Uncle Billy” McDonald and, for less than a day, lawyer and probable straw man[16], Edward O’Connor.  McDonald undoubtedly leased out the hotel to be run by others.  William B. Hodge and Stewart Wohlrab bought the hotel in 1987.  They did much to restore the building as a country inn.[17]  Hodge and Wohlrab advertised widely, and their cooking succeeded in attracting restaurant guests from many nearby towns.  The hotel lasted, under a final new ownership, until the mid-1990s.  The building in 2003 was being used as a private residence. 



The Davenport Inn through Two Centuries

By 1860, Davenport had three shoe shops, but these were not the mass production outlets we know today.  Commercially produced shoes were largely a thing of the future.  The shoemaker carried men’s boots and ladies button-up boots made with his own hands.  Once made and sold, boots and shoes were repaired and repaired as long as the uppers held together. 

In the atlas of 1870, William “Billy” McDonald (see sidebar, next chapter) owned a store and post office on the north side of the turnpike.  In 1883 he rebuilt his existing residence across the street.  The stone steps in front can be identified in a picture taken in 1907.  One of the grander houses in the village, the McDonald dwelling was later owned by postmaster Irwin Dent.  After he returned from his gold rush adventures and had attended school in Albany, McDonald in 1868 moved a front section of the old house down the street, two houses up from the Davenport Hotel where it stands today.  He built a smaller addition to replace the section, and it was this structure that Irwin Dent used for a post office.



Daniel Simpson, brother of William Simpson, before 1860 opened a general store every day but Sunday in Dr. O’Connell’s block. (This was at the northeast corner of the present Mill Road and Route 23, then the Charlotte Turnpike.)  Dewitt C. Baldwin bought the property next door in June 1895 and built a new, large, three-story building.  This was known for many years as Baldwin’s Hall and later as Wade’s Hall after its sale (after a brief ownership by Erwin Nichols) to Leslie Wade in April 1919.



The structure has an interesting history.  There were in fact two stores on the first floor, at one time that of Baldwin and the other, a millinery store run by Mrs. Esther Baldwin.  In the later Wade’s Hall, the second establishment became Art’s Ice Cream Parlor.  About 1939 the main floor was home to several lower grades of the village school while awaiting completion of the new Charlotte Valley Central School.  The second floor contained living quarters.  The third floor was used for dances, meetings, and presentations by local dramatic groups.  High school students even played basketball on the third floor in later years.  Wade’s Hall was taken down in 1948 and replaced by a roller skating rink.  Towards the end of the 1900s it became a restaurant and bar called “The Timbers” and later, “Verns.”

A Little Bit of Everything, and News of the Latest Fad

Davenport had a tailor shop before 1860 and a jewelry shop operated by Loren Davenport, grandson of the first supervisor, John Davenport.  In 1895 Frank L. Burton owned the jewelry store.  He repaired watches and “fixed bicycles at reasonable prices.”[18]  Across the turnpike from the E. C. Sheldon’s Davenport Hotel was a livery stable and up towards Mill Road, John Friedenauer’s harness shop.  Friedenauer, 42 in 1870, was from Germany and his wife Elisabeth, from Ireland.  Another harness maker, Alvah Tyler, operated from a shop across the turnpike and further to the west beyond Mill Road.

Davenport’s brief “newspaper age.”  Davenport village, before the railroads’ arrival in the last part of the 19th century, was by far the largest of the town’s several hamlets.  Munsell gives 325 as the population of Davenport village, probably based on the state census of 1875.  This compared with 195 for Davenport Center and 125 for West Davenport.[19]  Growth had apparently been rapid over the past twenty years, since in the 1860 Gazetteer of the State of New York[20] the respective populations were Davenport Center, 125; Fergusonville, also 125; West Davenport, 90; and Davenport village itself, only 90. 

Its later place as the town’s largest population center may have helped bring a brief, two decade “newspaper age” to the village.  Marcus M. Multer, owner of the Davenport store where Elbert A. Taber (son of Peleg and father of Ralph) later worked, began the process in 1877 when he established the first paper, the weekly Charlotte Valley News. E.O. Morris and S.G. Shafer were the “editors and proprietors” in 1878.  The News was sold in 1879 to Edward O’Connor.[21]  Mr. O’Connor, a lawyer, was active in the village.  He acted in and was manager of a dramatic production performed for three days at the “Baldwin Opera House” (the later Wade Hall; see above) in December 1895.[22]  The newspaper printing office was a few doors east of his home, the later “Douglass House,” near the intersection of the turnpike and Mill Road, opposite the District 7 school of the time.[23]

William H. Cornell subsequently purchased the Charlotte Valley News in 1890 and renamed it the Davenport Transcript, Amasa Champion, editor.  It was published on Wednesday.  The subscription price was $1.00 annually, but collections must have been difficult judging by published notices calling for prompt payments in order to save the paper.  Mr. Cornell died a year later in 1891, after which the paper closed and was discontinued.

W.H. Cornell was only 22 when he purchased the Charlotte Valley News and 23 when he died, reportedly of peritonitis.  He seems to have been a precocious and gifted young man.  The son of Mr. and Mrs. D. W. Cornell of nearby Worcester, he entered the newspaper world of the Worcester Times at the age of 14.  At age 16 he worked for the Schenevus Monitor, becoming a “proprietor” at age 20.  After a year and a half as a proprietor, failing health led him to seek restorative airs in the west, but he returned after a few months to become foreman of the Otego Times before moving to Davenport.  There, in addition to running his paper, Cornell sold insurance for The Mutual Life of N.Y.  Lawyer Walter Scott befriended him and wrote a moving and appreciative tribute in a Davenport Transcript obituary of October 7, 1891.[24]

Next, Charles S. Hitchcock (not listed in the 1892 census) established the Davenport Standard.  He reactivated the press in a small building, later a barn, in back of Dr. O’Connell’s house near the corner of the turnpike and Mill Road.  For a few more years (at least until March 25, 1897, the date of the last extant copy), Davenport enjoyed its own newspaper before the Standard was taken over by the Schenevus Monitor where it continued at least through 1899 as a supplement to the Schenevus paper.



Unfortunately, only a handful of copies of these early newspapers still exit.  (For images of additional pages of the early Davenport newspapers, see the additional materials for this chapter, here.) The papers contained tidbits of foreign news, major items of national interest, some national and regional advertising, and a fitful chronicle of local happenings.  Under “News and Notes for Women” in The Davenport Standard of November 28, 1895, we learn that a Philadelphia man in Paris had observed Anna Gould (daughter of Delaware County’s own Jay Gould, the surveyor, historian and later railroad baron) with her husband, the Count of Tallyrand.  The Count was “ungallant enough to clamber into his carriage first and leave his wife to follow unattended.”  (Anna’s palatial home on the Hudson River above Tarrytown, built by her father, is now open to the public.)

Another foreign item reported in The Davenport Transcript on Nov. 28, 1895, tells us that invading Japanese troops put to death more than 147 members of the Korean court.  The Korean queen, reportedly, “was hung up by the hair, and after being otherwise abused was tied, hand and foot, soaked in oil and burned…” as were “nearly all” of fifteen other women of title, the queen’s mother, and 130 ladies in waiting ” while the men’s throats were cut.”[25]  This news is suspect because it came from Chinese sources.  Korea had “revolted” in 1884, and both China and Japan had invaded the partly-independent nation and then had lingered to fight each other in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).  The Chinese lost.[26]  While Japanese atrocities could easily have been exaggerated or even invented by the Chinese, the Chinese version would certainly have appalled and perhaps titillated the Davenport readers of 1895.

 A principal aim of the Davenport newspapers was obviously to serve local advertisers, and Davenport’s shopkeepers evidently appreciated the power of the press.  By 1891, Sperry Bros. advertised at their cash store “men’s and boys’ spring suits” and “all kinds of dress goods” with a new supply arriving daily.  W. Zeh and Son advertised groceries, fresh fruit, oysters and clams, and “Willahen bread.”  The latter is the first ad for commercially baked bread known to the author.  Wickham and Taber advertised men’s and boys’ overcoats for sale, as well as wallpaper and paint, and boots and shoes.[27]




 Mr. E. I. Sherman claimed that in 1891 over 1,000 Argand (wood-burning) ranges were in use in Davenport and vicinity.[28]  Mr. Sherman continued to advertise in 1895, as did Wickham and Taber, but other names appear as well.  W. C. Riddle proclaimed his harness shop and the fact that he sold anything in the line of “horse wearing apparel.”[29]  Hebbard’s Meat Market, located on Mill Road, advertised Western beef, bologna, and frankfurters.  Smith Brothers called attention to their crockery among other things, and E. L. Lockwood used the newspaper to recruit “energetic gentlemen and ladies to work on salary of $40 per month.”

Fergusonville in 1869 was chiefly known for its private Fergusonville Academy.  The income generated by this school, mostly from boarding students, many from the New York City and New Jersey area, enabled the small hamlet to grow and helped support a number of local businesses.[30]  Although the academy was supposed to have been established in “the open country,”  (see sidebar, next chapter), there was at least a small community there beforehand.  Certainly, the name “Fergusonville” seems to have been used for the hamlet before the Academy’s founding in 1848.  The academy’s founders, the Reverend Samuel D. and Sanford I. Ferguson, had grown up in Bovina, N.Y., and Samuel D. Ferguson undoubtedly knew the area as a circuit-riding preacher.  Families with the Ferguson name, probably including some relatives, had lived in Kortright in 1800, 1810, and 1820.  Samuel D. Ferguson in 1848 bought a piece of land in Fergusonville for use by the Academy from John Stanley Ferguson, a brother.[31]

The small hamlet also was home to a Methodist Episcopal Church, a parsonage, a cheese factory (immediately adjacent to the academy), and a general store.  The latter was operated by James and George B. Oliver, relatives of the Fergusons and dealers in “dry goods, groceries, provisions, and general merchandise.”  About 1875, the Munsell history reported also in Fergusonville “one blacksmith shop, one shoe shop, etc.”[32]

From Fergusonville comes concrete evidence of the credit crunch that affected local businesses after the Civil War.  The New York State Census of 1865 contained a question on the effect of the war on prices, debt, credit and debt repayment.  The Davenport answers were that prices were up, debt had fallen, credit was tight, and payments were now more prompt.  The Bloomville Mirror of May 4, 1969, indicated that general storekeepers found the credit business hazardous.  James Oliver in Fergusonville had already announced in March 1869 a changeover to cash, renaming his establishment “The Fergusonville Cash Store.”[33]  In the same newspaper, Corbin and Stratton of Bloomville advertised their “Cash Store” while Bates and Sprague of Hobart proclaimed “On the 15th of April, 1869, the Death of the Old Credit System.” 



Credit of course did not remain tight forever.  The older Davenport generation will remember how important credit became during the Great Depression of the 1930s, both to customers and to the survival of the town’s hard-pressed farmers and businesses.

The following additional illustrations to be found here.

7a Brandt Hotel, West Davenport, north of old Charlotte Turnpike.
7b  Tally Ho restaurant, West Davenport, 1987.  
7c Cyrus Whitlock’s general store and law office of A.R. Gibbs, 1920s.  
7d The Henderson general store, East Meredith, 1911.  
7e Parks Hotel (formerly Sloat’s), Davenport Center, about 1920.  
7f Site of John Coulter’s general store (now a garage), Davenport Center, late 1920s.  
7g Baldwin’s Hall, Davenport village, early 1920s.  
7h Former Clarendon Hotel (now a service station), Davenport village, 1920s.  
7i Main Street, Davenport village looking west, early 1900s.  
7j Taber’s store, Davenport village, 1949 (police photo).  
7k  Leslie Sanford’s garage, Davenport village, 1930s.  
7l  “Dayton’s Store,” (Burr Riffenburg, owner) Fergusonville, 1930s.  


[1] One of the lower Charlotte Valley’s earliest known stores…  or Denend about 1800.  (French, 1860, 260, fn. 12.)

[2] Other students (from the Fergusonville Academy) are not included.

[3]The lake was later named …in the 1860s, to Sexsmith. From  “…I was reminded of our walk at Sexsmiths’ lake…”  Letter from Sophie Burger to “Prof.” (Samuel Ferguson Jayne), May 27, 1862, in Briggs (1981, v. I:443).

[4] “It is said that Mr. Sexsmith…  Sometimes, it took half an hour to saw one board.”  (Edsall, ca. 1937, 2.)

[5] From the 1899 diary of Betty Ann Hanford of East Meredith, commenting on the building of the new Ulster and Delaware Railroad:  “Sept 8—Men are building a shanty… for Italians to live in while building the railroad.”  (Mitchell, 1976, 10.)  These men included the Pizzas, Losies Bertuccis, and Rosses, all of whom later settled in the area.

[6] Many of the names on the 1869 Beers map cannot be corroborated from either the 1870 or the 1865 Davenport censuses.  These names perhaps date from other years in the 1860s and may suggest the transitional nature of some operators and also the tendency to maintain the founder’s business name over time.

[7] “I had a general store and post office from 1970-1980, and I was postmaster from 1970-1992.  The reason I gave up the store was that wholesale suppliers would not sell to small stores any more, and business was not good.”  (Sally Beams, June 2003, personal communication.)

[8] Dibble had owned Pine Lake in 1857-66 and other properties… in 1870.  (Yarborough, 1992, 10.)

[9] Levi was instrumental… changed from Briar (sometimes “Brier”) Street to East Meredith.  (Mitchell, 1976, 9.)

[10] In 1880, John Thompson became… to Norman Parris and William H. Fay in 1901.  (Mitchell, 1986, 14, 15.)

[11] “This building probably holds more memories… except perhaps the church or the schoolhouse.”  (Mitchell, 1986, 15.)

[12] John Henderson built a general store in 1890… until Lyle retired in the 1960s.  (Mitchell, 1986, 21.)

[13] In that year he was paid… $12.40 for a lunacy examination.  (Town Board Minutes, Nov. 4, 1909.)

[14] In 1894, Orville and Oscar Briggs…  Ermine Briggs operated a livery stable behind the hotel.  (Mitchell, 1976, 17.)

[15] “The hotel was a busy place… peddlers or salesmen had to be boarded in someone’s home.”  (Mitchell, 1986, 14.) 

[16] Straw man: a person used to disguise another’s intentions, activities, etc.  (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, 1984.)

[17] Afterwards, the hotel…William B. Hodge and Stewart Wohlrab bought the hotel in 1987.  They did much to restore the building as a country inn. (DHS Newsletter, April 30, 1988.)

[18] In 1895 Frank L. Burton… “fixed bicycles at reasonable prices.”  (The Davenport Standard, Nov. 28, 1895, p. 1.)

[19] Munsell gives 325 as the population of Davenport village… and 125 for West Davenport.  (Munsell, 1880, 147.)

[20] Growth had apparently been rapid… in the 1860 Gazetteer of the State of New York French (1860, 260)…

[21] Marcus M. Multer… established the first paper, the weekly Charlotte Valley News.  The News was sold in 1879 to Edward O’Connor.  (Munsell, 1880, 146.)

[22]Mr. O’Connor… acted in and was manager of… in December 1895.  (The Davenport Standard, Nov. 28, 1895, p. 6.) 

[23] Dr. George C. Douglass purchased the home in 1920 after it had been sold by O’Connor to the Elbridge Shermans.  Dr. Douglass “became an integral part of Davenport village.  He was friendly and well-liked, especially by Dr. Thomas Craig.  They were great fishing buddies.  Dr. Douglass often went on calls with Dr. Craig.”  (DHS Newsletter, August 24, 1996.)  The home in 1960 was purchased by St. Mary’s Catholic Church and in 1996 became a gift shop owned by Lynda Peet and her cousin, Victoria (Vicky) Porteus.

[24] Walter Scott, born in Meredith in 1853, was for many years a prominent Davenport attorney with a particular interest in education.  He and one of his daughters, Mrs. Dorr Ludlam, were both killed in 1922 at the beginning of a ten-day family camping trip by a Pennsylvania Railroad express south of Geneva, NY.  (DHS Scrapbook SCR-I.)

[25]The Korean queen…while the men’s throats were cut.” (The Davenport Standard, Nov. 28, 1895, page 1.)

[26]Korea had “revolted” in 1884… The Chinese lost.  (The Colombia Encyclopedia, 1975, 2526.)

[27] Wickham and By 1891, Sperry Bros… Taber advertised men and boys’… boots and shoes.  (The Davenport Transcript, Oct. 7, 1891, p. 4.) 

[28] Mr. E. I. Sherman claimed that in 1891… in Davenport and vicinity. (The Davenport Standard, Nov.28, 1895, p. 8.)

[29] W. C. Riddle proclaimed his… line of “horse wearing apparel.” (The Davenport Transcript, Oct. 7, 1891, p. 4.)

[30] In this respect, The Fergusonville Academy was an “export service industry” for the town of Davenport.  The town “exported” training and knowledge to downstate students in exchange for incoming fees paid by the students’ families

[31] A John S. Ferguson, then of New Brunswick, NJ, and brother of S. D. Ferguson, was one of several beneficiaries in the will of Samuel D. Ferguson, who died of “overwork” December 30, 1855.  (Mary S. Briggs, 1977, 4.)   A different John Ferguson was also involved in education as an official of the town.  He was one of Davenport’s three Commissioners of Schools in 1839, 1842-3, and perhaps longer.  Sanford Ferguson also served as Superintendent of Schools in 1847, a year prior to the founding of the Ferguson Academy, and he became Town Supervisor for one year, in 1858. 

[32] About 1875, the Munsell history reported… “one blacksmith shop, one shoe shop, etc.”  (Munsell, 1880, 147.)

[33] The Bloomville Mirror… his establishment “The Fergusonville Cash Store.”  (Bloomville Mirror, May 4, 1869, p. 4.)


Back ] Home ] Up ] Next ]