The History of New York State
Book VII, Chapter VI

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER VI.

STEUBEN COUNTY. #1

The lands now enclosed within the boundaries of Steuben County were the present of a King to Massachusetts; released by that commonwealth to New York, they were sold to Phelps and Gorham, and later, resold to Robert Morris and Sir William Pultenay. The original county included parts of five adjoining counties, but even with the losses to form these division, Steuben is forty miles long and almost as wide, with an area of 1,500 square miles.

Its surface is a continuation of the Allegheny Mountains, consisting of long ridges and rolling uplands. Branches of the Tioga, Canisteo, Cohocton and Chemung rivers drain the region and served as highways for the pioneers. there re few minerals in the hills. Building and sand stones are quarried in some towns, notable Bath, Woodhull, Jasper, Greenwood and Canisteo. Marl beds have been found in a fifth of the section, and deposits of the same material are to be found at Corning and Erwin. Petroleum and natural gas are present in sufficient quantities for home supplies in many part of Steuben. The soils of the county are somewhat varied, but average well.

The military history of the county is treated fully elsewhere in these volumes, but it is well to recall that Steuben is an old and long occupied section. It is the land of the "Painted Post," known to Indian, trader and priest. Here the Indian held sway, and when that sway became ruthless, General Sullivan was sent to end it. The first white man to locate in this region was a trader with the Indians, William Harris, who, in 1786, had his cabin at Painted Post. The first permanent settlement in the county was started by Frederick Calkins, in 1789. The first deed recorded in the district was one given by Oliver Phelps to Colonel Arthur Irwin, dated July 18, 1789, covering 22,040 acres around Painted Post.

Settlement became general about 1790 and so many came to this area that the barrow Indian trails could not handle the traffic. In 1792 a Captain Williams determined to build a wagon road from Northumberland, on the Susquehanna, to Williamsburg (Mount Morris) on the Genesee, a distance of 150 miles. This road, opened and used the next autumn, was the fore-runner of others which added to the accessibility of the section. In 1825 the Erie Canal was finished, to which, by lateral waterways, Steuben County was connected. In 1854 a railroad was built joining Corning with Lawrenceville, making the first outlet for the bituminous coal of Pennsylvania. The Erie gave Steuben trunk connections with southern New York in 850. Today there are several through lines with many branches m while electric and bus lines give intercommunication between part of the county.

The early settler was not only hunter, trader and farmer, but a manufacturer as well, making most of the things he used. Water mills were the first utilization of more than manual power; with these they ground their grains and sawed their lumber. Carding and woolen mills came when the early interest in sheep was at its height. Bath, Urbana, Wheeler, and many of the smaller villages were at one time extensively engaged in the making of woolen products. Wagon factories centered at Bath, Hammondsport, and Hornellsville. The latter city now does something in all of the mentioned industries, but the materials are not now those grown in the county, nor is the county the market for the finished goods.

Agriculture is the most important industry of Steuben, and by constant effort has been kept modernized and successful. The cow, the pig, and the hen form the foundation of the farms, and the growing of feedstuff for these animals is the great task. Potatoes are grown largely, as is tobacco in parts. The muck lands are planted to celery, onions and cabbages. Apples and other fruits have a place on many farms, while the vineyards of the northern part of the county have a wide reputation. Steuben is first among the counties of the State in the production of buckwheat.

The county was formed from a part of Ontario county in March, 1796, with Bath as the shiretown. The other towns were Canisteo, Dansville, Frederickstown, Middletown, and Painted Post. In 1853 the county was divided in two jury districts, with Corning and Bath as half shire towns. In 1905 another division was made when Hornellsville was made the third of the shire towns. 

 

The modern civil divisions of the county, with their populations, follow:

STEUBEN COUNTY

1890

1892

1900

1905

1910

1915

1920

Addison

2,908

2,813

2,637

2,564

2,509

2,160

2,122

Avoca

2,242

2,236

2,125

2,151

2,140

2,108

1,888

Bath

7,881

7,057

8,347

7,085

8,554

8,174

7,317

Bradford

765

774

771

620

613

620

570

Cameron

1,564

1,455

1,353

1,217

1,066

957

779

Campbell

1,533

1,539

1,476

1,350

1,204

1,106

1,032

Canisteo

3,629

3,503

3,432

3,171

3,441

3,394

2,901

Caton

1,445

1,388

1,345

1,215

1,078

1,053

688

Cohocton

3,444

3,428

3,197

2,984

2,926

3,103

2,585

Corning

1,188

1,838

1,937

2,212

2,391

2,580

2,857

Corning city

8,550

10,025

11,061

13,515

13,730

13,459

15,820

Dansville

1,559

1,544

1,417

1,270

1,303

1,269

1,031

Erwin

1,884

1,843

1,851

2,107

2,211

2,469

3,086

Fremont

1,047

1,088

1,033

914

860

812

645

Greenwood

1,312

1,241

1,129

1,082

1,111

1,142

941

Hartsville

757

782

787

664

651

638

545

Hornby

1,011

1,030

959

940

87-

842

700

Hornell city

10,996

11,898

11,918

13,259

13,617

14,352

15,025

Hornellsville

1,939

1,806

1,833

1,942

2,047

2,053

1,829

Howard

1,938

1,885

1,704

1,530

1,461

1,386

1,127

Jasper

1,690

1,689

1,403

1,365

1,264

1,253

943

Lindley

1,537

1,455

1,306

1,174

1,153

1,181

1,024

Prattsburg

2,170

2,140

2,197

1,808

1,834

1,798

1,663

Pulteney

1,769

1,693

1,590

1,384

1,316

1,335

1,062

Rathbone

1,269

1,266

1,059

973

917

869

761

Thurston

1,113

1,084

1,017

927

840

855

674

Troupsburg

2,174

2,171

2,015

1,725

1,712

1,532

1,406

Tuscarora

1,438

1,393

1,301

1,070

1,096

955

854

Urbana

2,590

2,542

2,692

2,517

2,659

3,096

2,300

Wayland

2,334

2,375

2,984

2,700

2,836

3,099

3,004

Wayne

889

830

838

682

643

686

516

West Union

1,167

1,150

1,025

1,011

985

885

781

Wheeler

1,285

1,326

1,188

1,006

959

892

808

Woodhull

2,006

2,084

1,787

1,568

1,455

1,5`0

1,343

Inmates of Institutions

---

38

---

22

---

---

--

Totals

81,473

82,468

82,822

81,814

83,362

83,630

80,627

 

Addison, formed as Middletown, March, 1796, changed to the present name in 1808. The first settlement was made in 1791 by Samuel Rice./ many others came to the region for by 1800 the population was 174. The Canisteo and Tuscarora valleys are very beautiful and fertile, Addison is the principal village with a population of 2,000, and was incorporated in January of 1854 and again April 12, 1873. There are ten factories in the place; it is also the mercantile and banking point of a rich agricultural district. Addison Hillis a small hamlet.

Avoca, formed from Bath, Cohocton, Howard, and Wheeler, April 12, 1843, is one of the hilliest of the county division. The Cohocton valley is the main agricultural district, and one of the most productive in Steuben. The first of the settlements was made by William Buchannon in 1794, having been sent there, with his son, Michael, to open a tavern. the place became known as Eight Mile Tree, then as Buchannon, and, after a long period was changed to Avoca. It is now the main village of the section. The village was incorporated in 1883, and has a population of about 1,000. It is a shipping point for farmers of the town, and has six factories, the most of which are engaged in the manufacture of wooden articles. Wallace is a hamlet in the northeastern part of the town.

Bath, formed March 18, 1896, is the mother of no fewer than seven towns. In April of 1793, Charles Cameron, with apart of pioneers, of whom Charles Williamson was the head, made their camp where the village of Bath now stands.

Williamson was the agent of the Pulteney Estate, the owners of the land, and so well did he encourage settlement, that before 1800 this was on of the largest populated places in the county. The village which grew from this settlement was incorporated May 6, 1836, after several failures in previous years. Mention has already been made of it as the county seat. The New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home, and the Davenport Orphan Asylum are located here. Industrially, it has 25 factories its mercantile section is large for a city of its size. Population, approximately 5.000

Bradford, created from Jersey (Now orange, Schuyler County) April 20, 1816, is one of the hay and pasturage towns on the eastern border of the county. Mud lake, a small but pretty body of water, was the seat of the first settlement, made by James Hervey (Harvey) and Frederick Bartles in 1793. Bradford village is the convenient trading place of the northeast part of the town. South Bradford is in the south section.

Cameron, formed from Addison, April 16, 1822, lost of its area to create Thurston in 1844, and a part of Rathbone in 1856. It is a highland, broken by the deep valley of the Canisteo. Agriculture has been the main occupation since the cutting of the forests. Richard Haley (or Hadley) and Phones Green came to the region in 1800, the former locating on the site of the present village of Cameron, the principal business place in the town. West and north Cameron are two small hamlets.

Campbell, organized from Hornby, April 15, 1831, is an interior, mountainous town, formerly one of the principal timber distrust, but now is using the strong soil of the hills and the fertile bottom lands for farming. Settlement of the place began in 1801 with the coming of a half dozen hunters and trappers. Campbell village grew out of the choosing of the Conhocton as a suitable place for mills. Curtis is a village on the railroad, at which there was formerly an active tannery.

Canisteo, formed March, 1796, reduced in the organization of Greenwood, West Union, Hartsville, Hornellsville and portions of Troupsburg and Jasper, has still an area of 32,000 acres. Much of the town is in the famed Canisteo Valley, the home of the Senecas, who once had here their village of "Kanistio." The valley was discovered by the whites in 1788, and the first of the settlers of the region came the next year, Uriah Stephens of Connecticut. The settlement of the district was relatively rapid, for by 1800 it had a population of 510. From the beginning the valley has been occupied by agriculturists, and it is today one of the best farm area in the county. Many villages and hamlets have come into being, among which are: Bennet's Creek, established in 1845; Swale, settled in1860; South Canisteo; Spring Brook; Adrian and Canisteo Center. The village of Canisteo is the largest place, and the most populous in the town. On the site of an Indian village, known as Kanistio Castle, which was destroyed in1765 by the direction of William Johnson, it was founded in 1789. Until the Eire railroad began operating in 1850 the place made little growth, and made its greatest expansion after 1868, when the first large shoe factory was erected, to be followed by other industries. In 1920 it had a population of 2,201, and 15 factories producing, among other things, leather, silk throwsters, tables and stationery products. The village was incorporated in 1873.

Caton, in the extreme southeast corner of the county, was formed from Painted Post (now Corning) March 28, 1839. It is one of the more level towns of Steuben with many fine farms, where once were large lumber interest. The first permanent settlement was by Isaac Rowley in 1819. The main village is Caton, the agricultural and geographical center of the town.

Cohocton was formed from Bath and Dansville, June 18, 1812. In 1794 Charles Williamson sent Joseph Biven to build a tavern at the "Twenty-two Mile Tree," on the Conhocton River. this was the first settlement and the beginning of the hamlet known to the pioneers as Biven's Corner. The land in the town is among the beet of the county, and the area has for more than a century been a prosperous farming section. The volume of business and manufacturing of the town is large and the villages of North Cohocton, Atlanta, and Cohocton are important places. Atlanta was formerly "Bloods," a thriving hamlet as early as 1840. North Conhocton, close to Atlanta, is almost as old. Cohocton, the principal village, was an established trading center July 4, 1813, when its inhabitants gathered round a Liberty Pole and proclaimed the name of the to be "Liberty,' This title was retained until 1891, when it was incorporated as Cohocton. From a pioneer's trading point, the village has progressed through lumber, milling, and agricultural periods to its present established place.

Corning was erected as Painted Pole, march 18, 1796. The earliest settlement was by Frederick Calkins and others neat the village of Corning in 1789. In natural location, average fertility of the soil and progressiveness, the town has no superiors in the county. The city of Corning is the metropolis of the section and county, and probably would have been only a cross-roads hamlet had it not been on the route of the Erie and other canals. The Corning Company, formed in 1835 for the development of lands in the State, purchased a tract within the present bounds of the city, and when in 1836, a name was desired for the place, that of the founder of the company was chosen. By 1842 the hamlet had a population of 500, and at the completion of the Erie Railroad seven years later had reached 1,300 and has been incorporated (September 6,1848). In 1868 one of the most important of the Corning industries was started in the coming of a flint lass works. There are seven or eight factories now engaged in the cut glass business, employing more than a thousand people, and it is the beautiful product of these concerns that has won for Corning the name "Crystal City." As there are more than 40 manufacturing plants in the city, cut glass is only a part of the total industrial life. Population (1920) 15,820.

Dansville, formed March, 1796, lies among the head-waters of the Canaseraga and Canisteo. Supposedly of little value from the agricultural standpoint, it was not settled until 1804, when Isaac Sterling established his home. It has since proven to be one of the best potato growing districts in this part of the State. The principal hamlet of the section is Rogersville, founded in 1822 by Jonas Bridge and others..
Erwin, formed from Painted Post, January 27, 1826, lies west of Corning and is favored with a wide variety of soil, which has been brought to a fine state of cultivation. One of the historic relics of Steuben was formerly within the town, the "Painted Post" of rhyme and romance. It was an oak timber planted in the ground near the Pennsylvania line, painted in Indian colors. The most probably explanation of its presence and meaning is that it marked the burial place of Captain Montour, son of Queen Catherine. The main village of this area is Painted Post, incorporated July 18, 1860, which, beside being the mercantile center of a large agricultural district, has a number of manufacturing plants. The largest of the latter is engaged in the making of air compressors.

Fremont, formed from Hornellsville, Dansville, Wayland and Howard, November 7, 1754, is one of the hilly interior towns, almost completely agricultural in its interests. The pioneer of the area was Job B. Rathbun, who moved to the place that was soon known as "Job's Corners." Most of the hamlets are small, the largest being Fremont Center.

Greenwood, formed from Troupsburg and Canisteo, January 24, 1827, has an area of 24,700 acres, the most of which is arable, rolling upland. A road was cut through the town just after the close of the Revolution, but as no one was interested in the territory no settlement was made until 1820 by Alexander H. Stephens and Anson Robinson. This settlement was on a second highway built leading to a salt spring where now is located the village of Greenwood. This latter place developed from the attempt of Ezekiel Burger, and other men to manufacture salt. Rough and Ready is the name of one of the smaller hamlets.

Hartsville, organized from Hornellsville, February 7, 1844, is located on the west border of the county. It is regarded as one of the best of the dairy towns of Steuben. The pioneer of the region was Joseph Purdy, who located in 1810, taking over the cabin of Benjamin Brookins, a temporary resident of the area. Formerly one of the liveliest of sawmill towns, it is now a fine dairy section with good markets at its door in Canisteo and Hornellsville. Hartsville Center is the principal hamlet of the town.

Hornby, formed from Corning, January 27, 1826, is a high agricultural town, whose main interests are in dairy herds. There are three hamlets: Hornby, the largest; Dyke, and Ferenbaugh. The first settlement was made by Asa and Uriah Nash from Otsego County in 1814.

Hornellsville, organized from Canisteo, April 1, 1820, is an upland section divided by the Canisteo Valley. It was discovered by a party who had come to Paint Post with the idea of finding suitable lands on which to locate. By accident they looked over the valley of the Canisteo before returning to their home and found here their Eldorado. Just who was the pioneer of the section is in doubt, but credit is usually given to Benjamin Crosby and the date of his coming as 1790, and the place, the site of the city of Hornellsville. Although it was and is a valuable agricultural section, the city of Hornellsville rather overshadows the town. this city, incorporated as a village on June 28, 1852, made very little growth from the first half century after its founding by Crosby. Mills were erected; one of these built by Dugald Cameron, led to the calling of the hamlet Cameronia. Tanneries and carding mills followed the early lead but like many places in this part of New York, it was the canals and railroads which made or unmade them. The Erie road supplied more than transportation, for it built repair shops here that today give more employment then any other one establishment. In 1920 there were 32 factories of all sorts, producing many things, particularly chiffons and gloves. The population in that same year was more than 15,00. Arkport deserves mention as one of the hamlets, if for no other reason than because it was from here that the first "Ark" full of grain was sent down the Canisteo in 1800. It is still the shipping point of the surrounding farming district.

Howard, formed from Bath and Dansville, June 18, 1812, is a large (34,900 acres) interior town devoted to the arts of agriculture. It is supposed that one Hovey cleared the first land in the town in 1803, deserted it, and on this tract settled a Mr. Travis who was the real pioneer of the region The principal hamlets of the district are Howard, which was the early mill place, Towlesville and Buena Vista.

Jasper, formed from Troupsburg and Canisteo, June 24, 1837, has much of its territory taken by rugged hills, some of who summits are above 2,000 feet. in the past grindstones were cut from the hills, and the heavy forest gave employment to many for years. the pioneer of the town was Nicholas Brotsman, who came from Tioga county in 1807 and built his cabin near the present hamlet, Marlett's Corners. Craig was another name associated with the settlement of the section, and it was his wife who made the first butter to be sold from Jasper. The hamlets of the area include Jasper, the mercantile center, and the various geographic division names of Jasper.

Lindley, formed from Erwin, May 12, 1837, lies on the southern border, and is a hilly upland, broken by the deep valley of the Tioga. This town is very beautiful and fertile and attracted to it the pioneer of the town, colonel Eleazer Lindley, in 1790. There were then evidences that the area has bee a home site of the Aborigine, and the seat of some of their primitive farming operations. The land has been under cultivation since the day of Lindley and has many fine farms. The two hamlets of the section are Lindley and Erwin.

Prattsburg, formed from Pulteney, April 12, 1813, is one of the higher town of the country, the village of the same name being in a valley 1,440 feet above sea level. The name is derived from the pioneer settler and owner Joel Pratt, who is said to have visited the section in 1799, bought a large tract of land, put in, with his son and assistants, 100 acres of wheat, which he sold for $8,000. His success encouraged others to migrate here, and the foundations of one of the most progressive of the agricultural towns of Steuben were laid. The village of Prattsburg, incorporated December 7, 1848, antedates the town name. The business and mercantile places of the village are modern and thrifty and it is the favored trading place of the region.

Pulteney, formed from Bath, February 12, 1808, lies on the west shore of Crooked Lake in the northeast corner of the county. It has attained an enviable reputation for its fruits, especially grapes. Until recent years much wine was made. The pioneers of the town were Miller, Can Camp and Fit Simmons, about 1800. The main village is Harmonyville, a pleasant rural place, the headquarters of some of the fruit growers.

Rathbone, formed from Addison, Cameron and Woodhull, March 28,. 1856, is located in the rigged interior of Steuben. The clearing of its former magnificent forests has exposed a great acreage of land, only part of which can be used agriculturally with profit. William Bentham and William Hadley were the hardy pioneers who first made their homes in the town in 1793. The hamlets of the section are Rathboneville, West Addison and Cameron Mills.

Thurston, formed from Cameron, February 28, 1844, lies on the high ridge between the Conhocton and Canisteo streams. Much of the land is not arable and dairying has come to be the principal industry. The first settlers were William Smith and Luke Bonney at the present hamlet of Bonney Mills in 1813. The hamlets are, besides the one mentioned, Merchantville and Risingville.

Troupsburgh, formed from Middletown (Addison) and Canisteo, February 12, 1808, is the second largest town in the country, having an area of 35,700 acres. It averages a greater altitude than other towns, one of it hamlets bearing the appropriate name of High Up. The pioneer settler was Samuel Rice of Connecticut who came in 1805. Among the several villages are: South and East Troupsburg, Young Hickory, and Troupsburg, the latter being the largest and the center of the trade of the farming region.

Urbana, formed from Bath, April 17, 1822, lies at the head of Crooked lake, having its surface divided by a continuation of the lake depression called Pleasant Valley. William Aulls and his son Ephraim settled in this valley in 1793, being the first of the settlers of the region. The soil is heavy, and with a favorable location on the lake makes this area ideal for the growing of grapes and other fruits. Some of the finest vineyards in the State are located around Crooked Lake. Hammondsport is the business point of the town, and became of importance when the canal was dug connecting Crooked Lake with Keuka. Perhaps the most interesting industrial fact concerning the village is that it is the home of the Curtis airplane company, and was a hive of industry during the World War. The village was incorporated June 29, 1856

Wayland, organized from Cohocton and Danville, April 12, 1848, was settled by Thomas Bowles and John miller in 1806-07. Agriculture is the main occupation of the town, with special attention given to the growing of potatoes. Wayland village, incorporated May 22, 1877, was brought into prominence by building of the Erie Railroad, which chose its site for one of their stations. Its strategical position gave it marked advantages which it was quick to see and seize. At the time of its incorporation it had a population of 600 and was the marketing place for a very wide agricultural district. Industries came in later and it now has a dozen plants manufacturing a variety of articles.

Wayne, formed March 18, 1796, was called Frederickstown until 1808. It is on Crooked lake, and is characterized by the uplands with their abrupt descents to stream or lake. Near the outlet of Mud lake, in 1793, Frederick Bartels built a mill, but had been preceded as a settler by Zephaniah Huff and Henry Mapes and a few others in 1791. It is one of the best vineyard towns in the county, and has become in recent years a popular summer resort. Many small hamlets have come in to being, of which the chief are Wayne and Wayne Four Corners.

West Union, formed from Greenwood, April 25, 1845, is the southwest corner town of Steuben. Abraham V. Olmstead was the first to locate here, 1822. In 1849 Charles Rexford built a sawmill on the site of what is now the village of Rexville, the main mercantile place of the section. West Union and Wileyville are two other hamlets.

Wheeler, formed from Bath and Plattsburgh, February 25, 1820, lost much of its area to establish Avoca in 1843 and Urbana in 1839. It is a hilly town with many dairy farms, but it is one of the foremost potato producing sections of western New York. The name was given the town in honor of its pioneer settler, Captain Wheeler, who came in 1799. Mitchellville and Wheeler are the main village.

Woodhull, in the extreme south part of the county, and a good agricultural section, was set off from Troupsburgh and Addison, February 18, 1828. The first of its permanent settlers was Daniel Johnson, who arrived in 1804. For most of the years following its settlement, the town was noted for its lumber rather than for the arability of the soil. Woodhull, on both sides of the Tuscarora, is one of the best business places in Steuben, attracting the trade of a wide farming district. Hedgesville is one of the older hamlets.

 

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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