The History of New York State
Book VII, Chapter III

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




It is sometimes difficult to realize that a century and a half ago the greater part of New York was an Indian country. As late as 1755 an Iroquois chief said to Sir William Johnson, of that territory which had been his right of possession for centuries: "The land that reaches down from Oswego to Schanandowana (Wyoming), we beg not to be settled by Christians." The Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1786) recognized the justice of the Indian claims to this region as their property, and provision was made for the purchase of it by the white invading settler. In the compromise of the conflicting claims of New York and Massachusetts to districts now in New York, a line was drawn from Pennsylvania to, and through, the present Wayne County, west of which, Massachusetts had the "preemption right,' or the first right to buy land from the Indians, the rightful owners.

Wayne County was Evidently the joint home of the Senecas and Cayugas, who used it more for their hunting and fishing grounds then for settlement. There is no evidence that the Jesuits ever had a mission in the county; its is probably that they did not. Neither have we any record of the French wanderers making any attempt to establish a permanent camp within the district, although Sodus bay must have been a desirable harbor for them on their lake journeys to Niagara and the points west This region was fortunate in escaping most of the horrors of the early wars. The Six Nations broke their agreement to remain neutral in the Revolution, but the result was, as far as Wayne was concerned, to introduce it to the whites. Sullivan's raid, the precursor of Sherman's "March to the Sea,' laid waste the towns of the Iroquois from Elmira, through the Genesee Valley, almost to Lake Ontario. The returning soldiers of this army "relieved the dark picture of their warfare with descriptions of the rolling uplands and rich valleys--the Canaan they had seen." Four years later the war closed and the great hegira to the "west" was on. One of the first great land purchases in the country, the Phelps-Gorham, came about through the tales of Major Adam Hoops, one of Sullivan's aides. These men bought from the Indians 2,600,000 acres for $5,000, and an annual payment of $500. Included in this was a "mill yard," in the section farther west than the Indians cared to sell, but which as a favor they threw with the rest. The mill yard was a strip of land twelve miles wide, extending from Avon to the mouth of the river a mere 200,000 acres!

To attempt to trace the various lines, grants and reserves laid down or sold at the pre-Revolutionary period would take too many pages. The old "Preemption Line," the boundary fixed by the States of Massachusetts and New York, beyond which the inhabitants of the former-mentioned State has the first right of purchase from the Indians, almost divided the present county in halves, and was located three miles west of Sodus Bay. The new survey, made necessary by the fraudulent or careless work of the original surveyors, fixed this line as running through Sodus Bay on the north from Seneca Lake. The correctness of this line was not questioned, but it left a section known as the "Gore" in early documents which added to the difficulty in assured possession of those land purchased before the opening of the nineteenth century.

The first settlers of the region which is now Wayne county located along the Ganargwa River, which was natural, since it was not only a fine stream for water power, but was surrounded by very fertile lands. Moreover, the stream was the easiest highway from the main road, leading west. The first westward road was one coming from near Utica to Geneva, and, with the building of the Cayuga Bridge, in 1800, was the road chosen by nearly all of the westward travelers. This highway left the Wayne region somewhat isolated and the person wanting to locate here came by way of the set of streams and lakes lying to the north of this road. but it was only a few years after, 1800, that the "New road," came west, passing through the county, opening up the fertile Ganargwa lands.

The first permanent settlement was started by John Swift and Col. John Jenkins, March, 1789, about two miles from Palmyra. In May of this same year a small colony made up of the Stansell and Leatherby families located at the junction of Ganargwa and the Canandaigua Outlet, calling the place Lyons, from a fancied likeness of the place to the spot on the Rhone, where that great city had its site. Williamson, the owner of much of the Gore, had selected Sodus Bay as the point for a future commercial center, on the idea that the lake and the St. Lawrence would be the outlet for the products of all this north country. In 1794 he had roads cut from Palmyra to Phelpstown, and made bold statements concerning the town he was to build and the wonderful prospects it had. The town was surveyed by Joseph Colt in lots of a quarter acre; a hotel was built; $20,000 dollars was expended in the first two years in improvements; Sodus quickly passed from the doubtful class to the head of the towns of the region. the settlement of other places will be recounted under the various town.

The British still retained their forts on the northern border after the Revolution and threatened an invasion of he territory which included the county. The Indians were also getting obstreperous, and the pioneers were somewhat worried. But Mad Anthony Wayne gave the tribes a thorough whipping and the British moved back into Canada in 1729, so that with the horizon cleared the work of settling his region went merrily on. An account in an English journal, in 1799, said of Williamson's efforts in the settlements of New York that: "He has opened a road from a road which shortened by 300 miles the distance to Philadelphia, continued his roads to Great Sodus; erected ten mills, three corn and seven sawing; built many houses; and brought eighty families from Germany. . . .Great Sodus, on the coast of this district, promises to afford a safe harbor for ships an may be easily fortified. On the whole it promises be one of the most considerable settlement in America."

The first dozen years of the nineteenth century were good ones for the pioneers of the Wayne district. They had the hardships and long journeys to make for some essentials, sickness was prevalent, but peace had been established with both English and Indians, roads were being multiplied, and the influx of settlers was great. The forest gave them their houses, and ashes from which to manufacture crude potash salts. Grains were easy to grown on the new lands, and when the prices for them were low there were many small distilleries which made an easily transportable and salable article, one which made the possessor, for a time at least, forget his troubles. Stage lines reached as far as the county; Ganargwa Creek has been declared a public highway in 1799; cross roads connecting with the main east and west highways were in the course of erection. Grist mills had been built at Lyons in 1806 and at Palmyra even earlier. Augustus Porter operated a number of mills before 1812, and in that year advertised that he would pay a dollar a bushel for wheat at nay of his mills. But at the close of the first decade of the century Wayne has only a population of 1,410.

The War of 1812 rather upset the peaceful district, for its position and harbor were on the frontier, and open to any aggression. A company was organized to protect this important spot, in 1813, which was to suffer attack on the 12th of June. A fleet of ninety British vessels stood off shore on that day, unloading troops at night, but withdrew at the first volley of the militia. The next day, another small force was landed, threw a few cannon shot at the hamlet, burned a number of the buildings, and withdrew, not knowing how small the force was which had opposed them. Two were Mortally wounded in this skirmish so that the ground of Wayne is one of the few spots in Western New York to be hallowed by the blood of patriots in the last difficulty between this country and the mother land. the main effect of the wart was to stop immigration to this part of the State. In 1816-17 came the "cold years," when the hopes of the settlers were blasted by the failure of their crops. Then followed bountiful seasons, but the benefits of them were not received because of a lack of methods of getting to markets.

The Erie Canal became the solution of Wayne's transportation problems, when, as was done is the first twenty-five year of 21800, roads were built to connect those towns not along the canal. During the turnpike period, beginning in 1815, continuing through the ten years following the opening of the great waterway, nearly every hamlet had access to the canal. Clyde, Lyons, Newark, and Palmyra promptly felt the influence of the Erie; it mauve said that Newark owes its existence to this influence.

There were many bad cases of "canal fever" following the success of this one, and it broke out in Wayne with the Sodus Canal company in 1829. It was planned to connect the lake with Chesapeake Bay by way of the Susquehanna. A little work was one at Sodus, but for lack of interest and money, the idea failed, as did another in 1820. It remained for the railroads to connect Wayne with the southern and eastern regions, bit it has to wait until 1853 before one crossed its borders.

Meanwhile, on April 11, 1823, from parts of Ontario and Seneca counties, there were erected the county of Wayne. The eastern part was taken from the military tract, wile the section on the west came from Ontario. The dates of the organization of the fifteen towns which make up the civil division of Wayne are: Palmyra and Sodus, January 1, 1802; Ontario, March 27, 1807; Williamson, February 20, 1802; Wolcott, March 24, 1807; Lyons, March 1, 1811; Galen, February 14, 1812; Macedon, January 20, 1823; Savannah, November 24, 1824; Arcadia, February 15, 1825; Rose, February 5, 1826; Huron, February 25, 1826; Butler, February 26, 1826; Walworth, April 20, 1829.

Wayne County is bounded on the north by lake Ontario; on the east by Cayuga county; on the south by Seneca and Ontario counties; and on the west by Monroe County. It has an area of 356,513 acres, of which the greater part of improved. The soil being derived from the drift deposits, varies greatly, but is generally fertile and easily worked. The river bottoms and the swamps, some of which had been drained, are exceedingly rich, and upon them is raised one of Wayne special crops, peppermint. This crop is grown for its oil and the county was at one tine the leader in the United States, with one exception, in the quantity of oil produced. Advantage has been taken of the moderating influence on the climate of the presence of a large lake to the north, by large plantings of apples and pears, even from the pioneer days. Large quantities of these and other fruits and berries, particularly raspberries, are grown, the most of which are sent to market in an evaporated form. The first grafted apple was brought from Long Island by William bond, and the famous Sheldon and Osband pears were originated in Huron and Palmyra. Vegetables are raised to a large extent for canning and shipment to less favorable localities. The grains, hay and dairies form the backbone of the agriculture.

The population of Wayne County, by decades is as follows:

















Palmyra, including Macedon, formed a part of Tolland in Ontario, until it was organized in January, 1789, and was reduced to its present size, 19,430 acres, on the organization of the county, in 1823. Originally a forest district, with many mills, with the depletion of the woods agriculture rose to take its place as the main industry of the people. Here the Osband pear was originated and peppermint became one of the paying crops toward the close of the last century. In 1774, a colony of settlers came from the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, with John Swift as their agent, which contracted to buy the site of the present Palmyra. An attack of the Tuscaroras discouraged the colonists, who went back to Pennsylvania, leaving Swift, who went to New England, trying to induce settlers to come to this domain, and who himself came, in 1790, and founded what was later called Swift's Landing. He built the first grist mill in 1810.

Palmyra village was incorporated March 29, 1827. It is located on the site of Swift's first home, and to him it owes its beginning as an industrial town, for he built a wool carding machine and an ashery in 1791, laid of Main Street in 1792, established a boat landing at the mouth of Red Creek in 1793, and reserved many of the lots for the public uses. The completion of the Erie Canal, in 1825, and the coming of the Central Railroad, in 1853, were the important aids in the growth of Palmyra. The West shore reached here in 1884. The opening of another railroad, and the later effects of the expansion of transportation were not helpful. In 1920 the population numbered 2,480. There were twelve factories of various kinds, the largest of which were engaged in the manufacture of steam and water packing and the making of printing presses and allied machinery. West Palmyra, one of the first settled hamlets of Wayne (1794) is on the edge of the peppermint belt and has oil distilleries.

Sodus is a part of an old district which included some seven present -day towns, and has now a surface of 30,000 acres of fenced farm lands. It is one of the heavy producing apple sections of the county. The village Sodus has ten factories engaged in the evaporating of apples and there are as many more in other parts of the town. Sodus Bay was the grand fishing and hunting place of the Indians. Of the choosing of this region by Williamson for development and how it was first settled has already been told. Just before the opening of the nineteenth century settlers began to scatter from the bay hamlet to various parts of the district. Sodus Point is the name of the historic village of Wayne. It is not one of the most attractive summer resorts in this part of New York, with many cottages and hotels for the housing of the summer visitors. Sodus village is the industrial center with its many fruit evaporators. Sodus Center started as a saw mill town and since the passing of the forest has not grown. South Sodus and Joy are tow other hamlets.

Lyons, the third of the historic towns, was organized in 1811, and has a present area of 21,661 acres. As has been pointed out, the Ganargwa Creek was the highway to this settlement. The fertile river lands were the first worked, for the territory back from its banks was covered with a heavy forest growth. And here it was that the peppermint industry originated, and with it the name Hotchkiss is connected. The Erie Canal was but a broadening and lengthening of the creek highway into the county, and the railroad which made its advent in 1853, proved rather to be a highway out to the regions of the West. At any rate, the coming of the rails was coincident with the peak of population in the town. Lyons village is the shiretown and, therefore, one of he important boroughs of the county. But this village would stand out prominently without the background of the shiretown to set it off. It has the location; it derives its name from its position at the meeting place of two streams suggesting the famous Lyons of Europe. It has made the growth of an important place, numbering, in 1920, 4,203 residents. It is the second, industrial and business, with forty active manufacturing concerns. Among its products are: Silk gloves, in quantities; canned goods of many kinds; cigars, knit goods and other minor articles. The repair shops of the central Railroad are located here. It is a large shipping point for apple, the produce of the surrounding farm district, and its own manufactures.

Galen with its 35,299 acres, is one of the largest civil divisions of the county. It comprised Township 27 of the military tract and was reserved for the physicians and surgeons of the New York State regiments and hence its name after Galen, the Greek physician. It is a hilly district, with about a fifth of its surface in swamps, some of which has been drained and cultivated. Mixed farming with emphasis placed on fruit and berry growing is the main occupation of the residents. The Clyde river is the principal stream and was the entry way for the first settlers and their avenue of commerce for many years. the village of Clyde is located on the site of a French trading post of 1754, and the seat of the Tory smuggling of goods to Canada during the Revolution. As a hamlet it had its start in 1811 with the name of Lauraville, after the Countess of Bath. In June, 1835, the place was incorporated, and on March 14, 1840, May 2, 1855, and May 7, 1873, the borough had its charter amended for various purposes. There are twenty-five firms manufacturing some articles of commerce in Clyde,. Evaporated apples probably engages the attention of the larger number, with canned goods, fruit jars, and leather goods of lesser numbers and value. Other settlements in the town are: Angel's Corners and Meadville.

Wolcott was set off from Junius, in Seneca County, in 1807, but the legal organization was not effected until April, 1810. In 1826 three towns separated from Wolcott, leaving it with its present 20,000 acres. It is in the northeast corner of the county, reaping the advantages of a lake location. As was natural, its adaptability to horticulture, together with the protection from frost given by the large body of water, made it a premier fruit section. The town gets its name from Governor Wolcott, of Connecticut, from which State many of the first settlers came. Its future seemed assured, for it had productive land and the port on the lake (Sloop Landing) from which to ship its products and receive supplies, but the Erie Canal changed the direction of transportation from north to east and the freight of Wolcott went by the new route.

Wolcott village, lying so far to the west of the town that drifts over into Butler, was incorporated on February 14, 1873. Its inception and growth was intimately connected with the valuable water powers and timber of this area, and its expansion was coincident with the increasing use of these two resources. The forests were cut in the course of years. the cleared ground was to a great extent out into apples and other fruits, so that the present manufacturing concerns of the village consist mainly of canneries and evaporating plants. Population, 1920, 1,186. Red Creek, North Wolcott and Furnace village are three rural places in the town.

Williamson, erected from Sodus on February 20, 1802, is located on the north border west of the center of the county. It is one of the best agricultural towns in Wayne. The growing of fruits and berries is the specialty. The section had its first white inhabitant when a squatter, "Yankee Bill" Waters, stopped for a year or two at Appleblossom Point and planted the trees from which it derived its name. In 1806 the first permanent settlers located in various parts of the present town. Williamson village, a postoffice and rail station, is the center of the town in nearly every sense from geography to business. Pultneyville is on historic ground. Even before white occupancy it was the favorite meeting place of the Indians. East Williamson is a hamlet first settled by Hollanders.

Ontario, the northwest corner town, was set up from Williamson, as Freetown, March 27, 1807. The name was changed a year later. With a mixed soil it is one of the general farming sections. Fruit and berries are grown and one of the main exports of the town is evaporated and canned fruits. Freeman Hopkins is credited with being the first to locate in the area (1806), building the first mill. The 1920 population of Ontario was 2,620. Ontario village is a station, postoffice and the mercantile center of the town. it has thirty factories, the most of which are engaged in the drying or canning of fruit and vegetables. Fruitland is what is name implies, as is Lakeside , two hamlets.

Macedon, in the southwest corner of Wayne, was organized on January 29, 1823, with an area of 23,000 acres. Originally a great hardwood section, it has had its saw mill period and is now agricultural in interest. The town's development dates from the opening of the Erie Canal, but was settled as early as 1789, and the few years following, by New Englanders. The village of Macedon was incorporated in 1856, with an area of one square mile. It is an attractive rural place with such industrial life as is needed to evaporate the products of the nearby fruitful district. Macedon Center, most beautifully situated; West Macedon, on the canal, and Walworth, comprise the other settlements of the town. Population, 2,202.

Savannah, the southeast corner town, was taken from Galen, November 24, 1825, the name being descriptive of this section in which it is located. There is a considerable area of high land surrounding the low, which supplies the main occupation of the resident, farming. The swamps used to be a hunter's paradise. The section was settled relatively late, 1819. The main village of the town, having the same name, was incorporated in 1867. It is the shipping and shipping point for the township.

Arcadia was taken from Lyons on February 15, 1825, with an a area of nearly 31,000 acres. The soil is so diversified that there is hardly a crop grown in northern New York that does not succeed here. Joseph winters and Benjamin Franklin came up the Ganargwa, in 1791, and built themselves homes. As the creek was the highway of that time they soon had neighbors, and the largest of the early town was by way of formation. Newark village is the metropolis of Arcadia, the shipping point, and its store and industrial center. It is on both canal and railroad, and from the early tannery, ashery and distillery days to the present has been actively connected with manufacturing interests. Incorporated July 21, 1853, it has kept in the front as a modern town. New York State Custodial Asylum for the Feeble-Minded was established here in 1878. The present industries include among the fifty of them: Canneries, wagon and automobile wheel works, paper specialty mill, couch factory and tinware plants. Population, 1920: town, 9,286; village, 6,964. Other settlements are; Fairville, Zurich, Marbletown and Hydeville.

Marion, formed from Williamson and named Winchester, April 18, 1825, is one of the choicest of the agricultural towns. Settled before 1800, its isolated location far from the modern means of transportation has kept it from making the growth that the district deserves. The motor car and radio have changed condition and the town is ready for a new lease on life. Marion village is the evaporator and canned goods center of the town, other manufacturers being of minor importance.

Walworth, organized from Ontario April 20, 1829, has an area of 20,000 acres of high rolling loamy land, which is only scenically lovely, but easily cultivated. Large orchards, wide farm lands cover the district. The Millette brothers are supposed to have been the first to locate in the region, 1799, but many Connecticut Yankees came to this attractive country about this time. The population, in 1920, was 1,997. The village of Walworth, formerly known as "Douglas," from a family of that name, who were among the first to live there, is the largest hamlet of the town. West Walworth and Lincoln are tow other small hamlets.

Rose, erected from old Wolcott February 5, 1826, is one of the larger division of Wayne, the principal industry of which is agriculture. It was settled in 1805. Rose Valley village, as pretty as its name, has been the rural meeting place of the area from early days. North rose, a station and post office village, is the industrial center, with a dozen factories, mostly engaged in canning and drying apples.

Huron, organized as Port Bay, from Wolcott, February 5, 1826, contains nearly 22,000 acres. Located on Lake Ontario, with high, picturesque bluffs, and Sodus Bay at one corner, it is one of the most visited towns of Wayne. When Capt. William Helms came from Virginia, in 1796, the first white man in the region, he brought with him seventy slaves and located at the present site of Port Glasgow. The future of the locality, as he saw it, that of a great port, the main outlet of a great fertile section, was not realized. In the place of the wilderness has grown a region of fine farms, but the produce leaves not from the port, it is canned, evaporated, or condensed as an oil (peppermint), or consumed by the summer visitor, who appreciates the wisdom of Helms' choice. North and South Huron, Lummiusville, Port Glasgow, Bonnicastle, Lake Bluff and Rice's are the hamlets of Huron town. The population, in 1920, was 1,416.

Butler, erected February 26, 1826, from Wolcott, is nearly six miles square. Nearly all the crops of the county can be grown on its large farm area. Limestone, both for land improvement and for building purposes is found. The motor car and truck has been its salvation in recent years, since there is no railroad or canal crossing its borders. Capt. Peter Mills is regarded as the first settler, coming in 1803, and living on his bounty tract of 500 acres. South Butler is the main village, where several concerns evaporate the apples which do so well in the county. South Butler is an old saw mill hamlet. West Butler is better known in the town as Cider Hill. Population, (1920), 1,452.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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