The History of Otsego, NY
Worchester 
Firsts

THE FIRST GRIST-MILL

The first grist-mill was built by John Champion, at East Worcester, in 1808. It was situated near the present location of the woolen-factory. It was a herculean task to build a grist-mill in those days. "As I have watched the hopper," says S. B. Champion, "many days when hardly old enough to walk, and gave warning to Father when it became nearly empty, while he worked at something else, I can describe. In the first place three great points were to be attained,--first, a waterfall; second, a pond; third, to place the mill where high water could not wash it away. To get the fall, water was diverted from the creek nearly half a mile from the mill-site, and a ditch dug through the woods to a small swamp about half way to the mill; there a pond was made. A ditch from that led the water to the mill; there a deep wheel-pit was dug near a bank, and a hollow log conveyed the water to the over-shot wheel. The mill frame was made of the heaviest timber, so that the machinery would not shake it to pieces, and about three stories high. As elevators to convey grain or meal wre unknown, the mill-stones were elevated above the bolts, so that the meal could run from the stones into them. All of the wheels were made of wood, with wooden cogs; belts were made of untanned hides."

Aaron Champion built a shop just below the old mill and rigged up a turning lathe and miniature saw-mill, in which he turned bed posts and other articles, and made machinery for carding machines; one of which he built at Schevenus for Messrs.Bradford and Bostwick, where Ferry - s plaster mill is now located; afterwards burned down. This was in 1826. Near this old mill was an ashery; afterwards converted into a whiskey still, the grain for which was ground in the grist-mill. It stood between the present woolen factory and the bridge across the main stream.

 

 

THE FIST SAW-MILL

 

Mr. Isaac Lane, a Revolutionary soldier, settled near by, and built a saw-mill, which was the first one on this section of the country.

In 1812, Mr. Champion took down the old log house and built a frame one near by, in which himself or some of the family lived for over sixty years. His family was quite large, there being twelve children, seven boys and five girls; all lived to be men or women; some to be quite aged, and several are yet living, having emigrated to the western prairies. The names of the boys were Reuben, Moses, Aaron, John, Joshua Kellum, James Arminius, and Ezra; the girls, Samantha, Betsey, Polly, Ann, and Clarissa. Six of the sons and three daughters married and reared large families.

The early settlers near East Worcester were Joshua Bigelow, Benj. DeLamater, Joseph Powers, Derek Livingstone, Andrew Little, Wm. Alvofd, Lionel Sheldon, Allen Sheldon, J. Kelso, James Lockwood, Isaac Caryl, James Lamoure, David and Adolphus Gott, Jonathon Jothan, and Calvin Jennings, Cary Pepper, and others.

The first house at East Worcester was built by Andrew Little, and on the farm now or recently owned by the Thurbers.

The First Tavern. - About the year 1818, Reuben and Aaron Champion, eldest sons of John Champion, bought the farm then occupied by Andrew Little, and soon after Aaron Champion commenced keeping a hotel or tavern, the first at East Worcester. His hotel sign was made by having two poles tenoned in two sills of the ground, a cross bar on top, to which hung his signboard, about 3 feet by 5, on which was painted an enormous Anaconda snake, with simply the words, "A. Champion - s Inn." This signboard was noted for hundred of miles, and the hotel was called the "Snake Tavern" to distinguish it from others on the Susquehanna Valley road.

The licenses dated Jan. 13, 1820 to Aaron Champion to keep a hotel, were signed by Uriah Bigelow, Silas Crippen, and Abel Abbott. Those dated may 2, 1820, were signed by henry Smith, Silas Crippen, and Seth Chase. Those dated May 1, 1821, by John Strain, Joseph S. Clark, and Jacob Wood. Those of May 7, 1822, by john Strain, Joseph S. Clark, and Jacob Wood. Those of May 6, 1823, by Joseph S. Clark, Jonathan Pickering, and John Strain. Those of May 4, 1824, by Joseph S. Clark, Jonathon Pickering, and Alden Markham. Those of May 3, 1825, by Seth Chase, Allen Markham, and Jonathan Pickering.

About the year 1812, Lionel Sheldon and Joseph Kelso put in a set of carding-machines for carding wood into rolls, and machinery for dressing cloth, in the lower room of Champion - s mill; the first in the four towns, if not the first in the county. Three or four years after, Sheldon and Kelso dissolved partnership, and Lionel and Allen Sheldon, in company, built and put up carding and clothing works about eighty rods below the grist-mill, where they successfully carried on the business for twenty or twenty-five years, when Allen withdrew from the firm and emigrated to Ohio, the business being continued by Lionel Sheldon for near twenty years longer, when he sold out to David Anthony. This site is now occupied by the paper-mill owned by H. & W. H. Harder. A daughter of Lionel Sheldon, Mrs. O. La More, resides in East Worcester, and a son D. L. D. Sheldon, M. D., in New York.

In 1820, John champion left the mill in care of his cons Moses and John, and went down to what was then called "The Corners," now East Worcester, and, by an arrangement with his son Aaron, came in possession of the frm. He then went on, and with the help of his boys built a carding-machine and clothing works, located just in rear of where the grist-mill now stands, digging a ditch about a quarter of a mile long in the side of the hill, some of it through solid rock, and some places out the bank down over twenty feet, in order to make a ditch to convey water from the creek to his clothing works. It was a great undertaking for his limited means; but with him there was no such thing as fail in whatever he undertook; and he accomplished his project and set his machinery going, which was successfully carried on for a number of years.

Keeping a tavern not being a congenial business for Aaron Champion (father of the editor of the Stanford Mirror), he went back (in 1826) to the mill, and his father took the tavern; after a while John Champion, Jr., came in possession of the mill, and removed it to East Worcester, where he rebuilt it. They also built a large dam across the creek, thereby making the water more available, and by improvement it has become one of the most desirable water privileges in central New York State.

John Champion and his sons were the founders of the village of East Worcester, as the many buildings which they built, including the mill and its water-power improvements, as yet monuments to their enterprising spirit.

After John removed the mill, James A. Champion came in possession of the old mill, in which he put a clover mill; that soon after took fire and burned down. He then built the present woolen-factory, which is now owned by other parties; and the name of Champion at East Worcester has become obsolete, all having either died or left the place.

All the Champion boys, who were old enough at the time of the War of 1812 were declared. Were members of some military company, and but one of them was drafted. That was Aaron, the father of the Mirror editor. Business that he was engaged being of such a nature as to make it difficult for him to leave home at that time, he hired a substitute. The drafting was done different from what it was during the late civil war. The company was called together and stood in line. Pieces of paper, equal to the number of members, were prepared, and figures, from one to the number required to fill the quotas, placed on them, and the balance were black. The slips were put in a hat, well mixed, and the drafting officer passed along the line, each member drawing a ticket. It was like a lottery for life or death; and as each one drew his ticket, it was not long before it was known whether there was a figure on it or not.

"The first doctor I remember," says Mr. Champion, "was old Dr. Warner. He was one of the old-fashioned kind, and did not believe in people continually pouring down medicine to keep well. He used to say that people doctored too much; as some politicians now say, - we are governed too much. - Near us settled a newly-married couple. The wife was neat as could be, and everything was in keeping with her personal appearance. Uncle Ezra used to say that she was so particular, that if a fly should happen to light on her dress and leave a speck while she was eating a meal, she would quit and wash it off. Their first-born was a son, and kept, like a doll-baby, in the house. It did not thrive, and Dr. Warner was called in to see it. He looked it over, admired his perfect form and features, took it up and started out the house with it. The mother was alarmed, and said the doctor would kill it if he did not bundle it up. It was in the spring, and the father of the child was making a garden. The doctor put it down in a newly-made onion bed. The baby immediately took up a handful of dirt, and commenced eating it. The mother was more frightened, but it was allowed to eat all it wanted. Then the old doctor left them, with the remark, - Give it plenty of pure air for its lungs, clean dirt for its bones, and you will have a large, rosy-cheeked, healthy child, instead of a poor, weakly, emaciated creature. -

Dr. A. T. Bigelow, of Worcester; Dr. Van Alstyne of Richmondville; Dr. Darrow, of Decatur; and Dr. Tallman were the doctors about our locality. In later years there was a Dr. Hess, Dr. McLaury, and Dr. George H. Leonard. The latter was in the 51st Regiment New York Volunteers, and died at Brooklyn, N. Y., Feb. 4, 1862, aged thirty-seven years. His wife was Catharine Bradley, of Richmondville. She and four children now reside at Stamford, N. Y.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Original website created by Debbie Axtman

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