The History of Otsego, NY 
Middlefield Early History

CHAPTER XLVII

TOWN OF MIDDLEFIELD

Organization - Geographical - Topographical - First Settlers and Their Locations - Initial Events - Incidents - First Town-Meeting  -- Officers elected - Documentary History - Supervisors and Town Clerks from 1797 to 1878 - Present Town officials - Schools - Agricultural and General Statistics - Area - Assess and Equalized Valuations - Population from 1800 to 1875.

Middlefield was set off from the old town of Cherry Valley, March 3, 1797. It lies northeast of he centre of the county, and is bounded as follows: on the north by the towns of Springfield and cherry Valley; on the east, by cherry Valley, Roseboom, and Westford; on the south, by Westford and Milford; and on the west, by Hartwick, Otsego, and Otsego lake. The principal stream is Cherry Valley Creek, which flows southwest through the east part of the town, passing near Clarksville and Westville; emptying into the Susquehanna in school district No. 20.

The surface is hilly, the summits being 400 to 500 feet above the village. It is well adapted to agriculture, the soil consisting chiefly of a sandy and gravelly loam.

Settlement began in this town nearly a quarter of a century before the war of the Revolution, and only fifteen years after John Lindsay planted the standard of civilization in the wilds of cherry Valley. Among those adventurous spirits were Alexander, Benjamin, Daniel and Reuben McCollum, Samuel and Andrew Wilson, William Cook, Andrew Cameron, Andrew Cochran, and a Mr. Hall. They settled in the north part of the town, near Middlefield Centre.

It required no small amount of courage to penetrate the wilderness at that early date and attempt a settlement, when the surrounding forest was inhabited only by wild beasts and hostile Indians. As time passed on, and the Revolutionary war became imminent, the situation was rendered still more hazardous; and, in 1776, in the communication addressed to the committee of Tryon country, Rev. Mr. Dunlop says, "Newtown-Martin (Middlefield) lies very open and unguarded, and very much exposed to the enemy in case an Indian war should break out, or any party of the enemy should take it into their heads to come down upon us." It will also be seen by the following, which appeared in the same letter, that the inhabitants generally rallied around the colonial standard, ready to sacrifice their lives in defense of their "just and inalienable rights." "Know also, honorable gentlemen, that the spirit of our inhabitants has been such for the American cause, that out of the small and scattered bounds of Cherry Valley and Newtown-Martin no less than thirty-three has turned out for immediate service."

During this period, and many years later, it was unsafe for women or children to venture out unprotected, as marauding bands of savages were roaming the forest in every direction. On the White farm is standing the barn near which David McCollum, son of Alexander McCollum, was captured by Indians in 1778. The narrative of his capture is as follows:

In the spring of 1778, then but two years of age, he went with his father and eldest brother to a "sugar-bush" located a short distance from the house, for the purpose of eating warm sugar. He soon became weary, and wanted to go home. The others, not being ready to go, showed him the foot-path, and saw him start for the house. He proceeded safely until within hearing distance of the house and near a mill-pond. His mother and sister in the house, hearing a scream, recognized it as that of the little boy. The mother said, "Run, Kitty; for I fear something has happened to Daniel."

She immediately ran to the place from whence the sound had proceeded, but could find no traces of him save a few foot-prints near the pond. She went to the sugar-camp, and there learned that they had but a little while before sent him to the house. The pond was drained, and during three days, search was continued for the little one, but without success. Mr. McCollum, being a man of influence and property, left no means untried by which information might be obtained. But all in vain. The broken-hearted parents were obliged to give up in despair. Daniel in the mean time was being carried on the back of a squaw towards Buffalo, by way of the Mohawk Valley. This squaw had been in the habit of frequenting the McCollum neighborhood, several times visiting the house, and was often seen to take the children in her arms in a playful manner. As she was missing about this time, and was never after seen in the vicinity, it is supposed that she had taken him. He was about nine years among the Indians, when he was taken to Fort Stanwix (Rome). From here he went to Albany, and finally to Poughkeepsie, where he was taken by the poormaster and apprenticed to a man named Colonel Hay, who soon after removed to Lake George, taking Daniel with him, and naming him Clinton Hay. While at the lake he was seen and recognized by an aunt, who at once sent the information to his parents. They, however, failed to receive it, but subsequently learned from a lady residing at Cherry Valley that he was alive. Mr. McCollum immediately set out to reclaim the wanderer, and after furnishing Colonel Hay sufficient proof that the child was "Daniel McCollum," he was restored to his father and taken to his mountain home. But, oh, how changed! The little prattling boy had grown up in Indian degradation and wretchedness, knowing nothing of civilized life except the little he had learned while among the whites. He spoke three Indian tongues, and upon his return he attended school, but it was with the greatest difficulty that he learned English. He grew to manhood, married, and settled on a farm given him by his father. His long captivity with the savages in a measure incapacitated him from business, and he subsequently lost his property, and to gain a livelihood published a narrative of his captivity and life among the Indians.

At the close of the Revolutionary war, and soon after, settlements were made in various portions of the town, and the ringing axe of the pioneer told of a new era.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Original website created by Debbie Axtman

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