The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY
Biographies, Part I

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




The following is Lansing Bailey's history, written by himself, for the Pioneer Association: "I was born in the town of Stephentown, Rensselaer County, New York, Nov. 11, 1787. When I was seven years old, my father removed to Whitestown, Oneida County, New York.

In 1809, being then in my twenty-second year, I was married to Miss Loda Parmelee, and in Nov. 1811, I started, in company with two others, for the Genesee country, on foot, with knapsacks and provision on our backs.

On the evening of the fifth day, we arrived at Daniel Pratt's, an old acquaintance and relative, then residing on the Ridge road, in the town of Gaines, a little west of Gaines Corners. The best location on the Ridge Road had been taken, and also the best lots on the Oak Orchard Road, for several miles south of the ridge road, but they were not settled south of the 'Five Corners,' in what is now Gaines.

Myself and brothers, took an Article from the Holland Land Company, of two hundred and sixty acres, lying one mile west of where Albion now stands.--Five days after making our location, we started for home by the way of Batavia. We had but little money, consequently we bought but one mean on our outward and homeward trip, $3.50 being the entire amount of our expenses, which consisted in lodging and a little of 'the creature' to wash down our dry meals.

In February, 1812, putting all on board an ox sled covered with cloth, with two yoke of oxen attached, after bidding farewell to friends, with wife and child aboard, whip in hand, we set out for our wilderness home, my brother driving two cows, and three young cattle.

After a journey of nine days, we arrived at Daniel Pratt's, where we unloaded our goods, and I soon started to fins some wheat, which I found in Riga, and got it ground in Churchville.

Soon after my return, myself and brother set out for our future home.

There was a track as far as the Five Corners. Thus far we took a grind stone, and six pail kettle, with some other articles, were then about a mile and a half from our place, and no track. The snow was about three feet deep, with a hard crust about two feet from the ground, sufficient to bear a man, but not a beast.

We commenced breaking the crust in the direction of our place, and drive the cattle as far as we could break that day, fell some trees for them to browse, and one across the path to keep them from returning, and we went back to the five Corners for our lodging.

In the morning, we took a straw bed and some other articles on our backs, and went and found the cattle all safe. That day we got through just before night, foddered our cattle on browse; fell a dry stub and made a good fire from it; shoveled away the snow, made us a bush shanty with some boughs to lay our beds on, took supper and went to bed.

Next morning the snow on our feet and limbs, which were a little too long for our shanty, was two or three inches deep. However, we had a good nights rest. We staid there until some time in April, going to the Ridge every Saturday night, and returning every Monday morning, with a weeks' provisions.

On one occasion we found one of our cows cast.--We divided the loaf with her, put a bell on her, and if we could not head the tinkle of the bell in the night we got up and looked after her. Thus we carried our cattle all safe thought the winter.

When we went tot he Five Corners to fetch our kettle, while the snow crust was hard, on our return, our dog barked earnestly at a large hollow tree, that had fallen down. On looking into the hollow, we saw two eyes, but could not tell what animal it was within,/ My brother went after an ax and gun, while I watched the hole. After filling the hollow with sticks, we cut several holes in the log, to ascertain the character of the animal. Soon however she passed one of the holes and we knew it was a bear. We then removed the sticks, and put in the dog. The bear seized the dog, and my brother reached in his hand and pulled the dog out badly hurt. The bear presented her head at the hole and I killed her with the ax.

On searching the log, we found a cub, which we took home with us. It could not bite, but would try.

A Mrs. Adams, who had recently lost a babe, took it and nursed it, until it got to be quite a bear, and rather harsh in its manners.

As soon as the snow settled, we made us hovel house, such as we could lay up ourselves of logs, twelve by fourteen feet square, with split logs for floor and roof, the roof projecting over, to afford a shelter to put things under, outside the house.

When the snow was mostly gone, three of us with ax in hand went through on a line as near as we could, cutting out the under-brush for a road, coming out a little west of where Gaines village now is, on the Ridge road, which is now called 'the Gaines Basin road,' This we accomplished in less than half a day.

In a few days we had the satisfaction of introducing Mrs. Bailey, my wife, into our new house and were happy to get home.

Our next work was to clear a small patch and sow some apple seeds, carrying dirt in a tray to cover them; form those seeds originated many of the orchards in Orleans County.

In June following we peeled basswood bark for our chamber floor and elm bark for a roof of our house.

Harvesting came and we went to Mr. James Mather's in Gaines to reap wheat. He would not give us one bushel of wheat per day for our work, as he gave his other hands, but would give us seven bushels for cutting a certain piece, which we did in two days.--On my return home at night, I found Mrs. Bailey has left home, where she had gone I knew not till next morning. I learned she had been sent for to attend Mrs. Daniel Pratt, who was sick and died soon after.

We cleared fifteen acres the first season, it was a task in time of logging to get up our oxen in the morning, especially on Mondays, as they would have Sundays to stray away into the woods.

On one occasion I started after them and found their tracks near where Jonathan Whitney now lives, on the Oak orchard Road, a mile and a half south of Albion. I followed the tracks eastward all day, crossing the Transit Line several times. I could tell that ine by the timber having been cut on it by the Holland Company.

After a hard day's toil and travel, making a good fire I camped by it for the night and had a good night's rest. In the morning I heard a dog bark and a bell tinkle, I followed in the direction of these sounds, carefully noting where I left the cattle tracks and came out on the Ridge Road, at Huff's Tavern, in East Gaines, and was right glad to get something to eat.

Mr. Rosier was there returning from the dangers of war, driving some cattle and mine had got in wit them. I renewed my pursuit and found my oxen about two miles south of the march, which lies south of the Ridge, in East Gaines, and glad was I to get them home again.

When it was time to sow our wheat, we went without bread three days rather then leave our work to go to mill. I have been to Churchville, Johnson's Creek, Rochester, and Salmon Creek, for milling, before there were mills built nearer.

In the fall, I built me a good, comfortable log house, without a board, nail, or pane of glass in it, using bark for roof and chamber floor, split stuff for gable ends, lower floor and doors and oiled paper for windows, being compelled to exercise strict economy and also to be quite independent in building my house. I found it however a good shelter and a comfortable home for several years.

Soon after I moved into my house, my brother left for the east, leaving me in care of seven head of cattle to carry through the winter, with no fodder except a few cornstalks. Winter set in early and by the time I had killed my winter's supply of venison, the cornstalks were all gone and I found all I could do to keep fire and fodder my cattle, Sundays not excepted.

Thus I labored, cutting trees for the cattle as best I could, until my brother's return, the latter part of winter. We should not have attempted to winter our cattle, had not persons her assured us out cattle would winter with little or no care.

In June, 1812, the town of Ridgeway was set off from Batavia, which before then comprised the whole present county of Orleans. In April, 1813, the first town meeting was held on the Ridge road, west of Oak Orchard Creek. At that time, the flats along the creek were covered with water from bank to bank. In going tot he town meeting, we, who lived east, crossed the creek as best we could, on rafts of felled trees.

At that election I was chosen one of the assessors for the east part of the town. On the day appointed for holding the general election, I started for Mr. Brown's on Johnson's Creek, where we were to open the polls. When I came to the Oak Orchard Creek, I put off my clothes and went through. On opening the polls, the board were challenged by Paul Brown, as not being free-holders; true we were not, but we did not regard it.

We adjourned at noon to Mr. Ellicott's, at Barnegat, in what is now the town of Shelby and next day to Ridgeway Corners, and from thence to Gaines Corners, where we closed.

The above journey was performed by the Board of Inspectors of the election on foot. I do not think there was a horse in town at that time.

Thus far all had passed off pleasantly, soon after, however, I was taken sick with the fever and ague, which was so severe as to confine me to the house.--Dr. Wm. White was called to attend me. He came, said he could give me something that would stop it, but would not advise me to take it. I replied I would take it on my own responsibility, he gave me arsenic. I took it. It stopped the ague, but I did not get well for along time.

On the 3d of May, 1813, my wife was confined. My brother went to Five Corners for assistance, and when he returned with one of the neighboring women, they found me on one bed, my wife and one babe on another bed and another babe on a pillow, on a chair, all right and doing well. I though the woods was a fruitful place.

I made a cradle for a hollow log, long enough to hold one baby in each end, and being round, it need no rockers, and serve our purpose nicely.

In July after, I called upon my neighbors, some of whom lived several miles from me, to help me put up a log barn. Some fifteen came. WE found we could not get through in season for them to get home that day and rather than come again, they finished it, though it got to be late before it was done and they all staid over night, on beds spread on the floor, pioneer fashion.

About this time, in 1813, one morning while we were at breakfast, a man came in from the Ridge and said the British had landed from the lake at the mouth of Oak Orchard Creek and would probably come up tot he Ridge, if not repulsed. We were well armed. My brother took the rifle, and started on quick time. I could not go as fast as they, but followed on as fast as my strength would admit. I soon reached the Ridge Road and was glad to learn there was no danger. the enemy only wanted to steal some of Mr. Brown's cattle, from near the Two bridges, in Carlton.

After I left home on this military expedition Mr. Parr and Mr. Holsenburgh came to chop for me;--they left their homes before the news came. We returned about 4 o'clock afternoon the same day. with some difficulty the men chopping could see my cabin fro where they were at work. My brother, as we came near, gave a loud whoop, like an Indian. I stopped him. He then blew a blast on a tin horn he had. I then threw my frock over my shoulders and went to the pen to catch a pig. Farr and Holsenburgh heard the whoop,. And the horn and saw me going to the pen and mistook my frock for the blanket of an Indian; and hearing the pig squeal soon after, they concluded the Indians had come and killed my family and were going to finish with a feast from the pigs; and they started for their homes to get their guns to fight the Indians. Mr. Farr then lived at the Five Corners in Gaines, and Mr. Holsenburgh, on the place afterwards owned by Ebenezer Rogers, a mile south at Albion.

Mr. Farr hurried home, got his gun, and was ready for a fight. Mr. Chaffee, on hearing the story, told Mr. Farr it could not be true, as there were no Indians landed and he saw us when we started for home.

Holsenburgh went directly to Mr. Darrow's, before any of the party had got back, told what had happened at my house, said Mrs. Darrow and Mrs. Hart and their families must hide in the woods, as the Indians would soon be there and actually got them started. The men returned however in time to stop them.

While the above was being performed, we could hear no sound from the axes, and knew not the reason until near sunset, when Mr. Farr came and explained the whole transaction.

About the first of August, my brother was taken with fever, and ague. Some one told him of a remedy. He tried it, a violent fever ensued, which lasted but a few days, and he died, August 8th. Before my brother was buried, my wife was taken sick with the same fever and died on the 13th of the same month. They were both in succession carried by friends to the burying grounds in Gaines, and interred there. Some friends living on the Ridge took my children home with them, while I returned to my desolate house to spend one of the loneliest night I ever knew, as there was no one to accompany me home.

I informed my father of what had transpired. He soon came and took two of my children home with him. I hired a Mrs. Adams, a cousin of mine, to take care of the other.

I was now so lonely that as soon as I could secure my crops, I left home, and went to my father's.

In the fall before leaving Mr. Parmelee, a brother-in-law, came with a wagon to help secure my corn, which we had planted among the logs. I did but little work that season, not logging one acre.

On going into my cornfield we found it badly town down. We got a dog, and lantern in hand went at night to the field. The dog started off furiously and soon treed some animal up a large hemlock. On looking up I could at time see eyes shine. We concluded it was a bear, and each one selecting a small tree to climb, in case the bear should come down and attack us, I went to try my skill in shooting in the darkness. Soon as I fired there was a screeching up the tree. The creature must have gone nearly tot he top of the tree. Directly there was a cracking heard along the limbs, I scrambled up my tree, and the bear came down from hers.

No sooner had she struck the ground then the dog grappled win with her, but soon cried out piteously.--We thought the dog was being killed,. I hastened down from my tree, called for the light to see to load my gun. We walked up to the combatants and found the dog biting instead of being bitten. Parmelee said he did not climb his tree. He had some sport afterwards telling how he had saved my life by holding the lanterns so that I could see and not climb off at the top of the tree.

Before my return to the east, Mr. Caleb C. Thurston came to view the country, said he would move in to my house, if I would drive my oxen down and help him up, as he did not wish to buy another yoke, and would hire me to clear five acres when he bought a lot; to this I consented.

In the winter of 1814, Mr. Thurston moved on with oxen and wagon. While gone to my father's, Lewiston and Buffalo were burned and Capt. McCarty, with a part of the Company to which belonged, went as far as Molyneaux's tavern, where they surrounded the house, shooting one Indian through the window. Finding another helpless on the floor drunk, a Mr. Cass pinned him to the floor with his bayonet. The British soldiers ran up stairs and were taken prisoners. Mr. Molyneaux said he would find rails as long as they would find Indians, and they burned the bodies of the killed.

In the summer following, I took my oxen and wagon and seventeen bushels of wheat, with Mrs. Thurston on the load, for a visit to Mr. Pratt's and went to mill beyond Clarkson. I returned as far as Mr. Pratt's the next night about dark. I asked Mrs. Thurston if she would venture through the woods with me. She said she would and is we had to lay out, we would do the best we could.

When we left the Ridge and turned into the woods, it was so dark I could not see my oxen, although I was sitting on the foreboard. We arrived safe home, without accident.

I think it would be difficult t in these days to find women of sufficient fortitude to endure such hardships and privations, as did these early pioneer women.

At this time there was no clearing between my place and the Ridge road.

The war with great Britain was now raging along our frontiers, in all its horrors.

More settlers were then leaving the country than coming in. There were then but five families in what was then called Freeman's settlement, west of Eagle Harbor. No road had been opened. We had to follow marked trees as our guide.

Mr. Thurston's eldest daughter, then about ten years old, went to stay with our friends there a few days. She was taken sick and not able to walk home. Her father and myself went after her and carried her back to her father's house, the most of the distance on our backs. It was a hard lift for us to get her up the banks of Otter Creek.

The first of September, our militia company was ordered to Buffalo. On the fifth we reached Batavia.--Mr. Thurston being infirm, was allowed to return to his family in their solitude. I was kept with the Company, until the first of October, when I was discharged and returned home, having received seven dollars and fifty cents pay for services and two dollars for extra labor.

I lodged the first night on my return with the Tonawanda Indians. I have never since turned an Indian away, who desired to stay with me over night.

Before I left home to go to Buffalo, as a soldier, I had baited some pigeons. After we were gone, Mrs. Thurston took the net and caught them and in this way herself and children were provided with a rich repast, although so far off in the wilderness alone.

In the winter of 1815, with my pack on my back, I returned to Whitestown, and on the 8th day of February, was married to Miss Sylvia Pratt, who returned with me to share alike the toils and blessings of life, where, by the blessing of God, we still remain.

I have had twelve children; three died young, I had the pleasure of sitting down with all the others at my own table, the present summer, (1861) although some of them reside eighty hundred miles away from me.

At the close of the war, settlers came in rapidly and soon I was our of the woods, having it cleared and settled all around me.

In the early settlement of the country, it was difficult to raise pigs, as the bears would catch them in the summer. Consequently, pork was high priced, and scarce. With my rifle, I could take what venison I needed, and therefore fared well for meat. The oil of the raccoon was first rate for frying cakes.--Thus we fared sumptuously.

At one time, I had a sow and pigs in the woods.--one day I heard the sow squeal. Being nearer to them than to the house; I ran, supposing I could save her. As I came near and halloed, bruin dropped his prey and reared up on his hind legs, when he saw me he ran off, but he had killed the hog. I got my rifle and pursued, but saw no more of him.

In the summer of 1816, I heard a man's voice hallooing in the woods south of my house. I went to see what was going on. saw several men there and inquired what they were about. One of them said they were going to make us canal. I laughed at them, and told them they would hardly make water run up hill between here and Albany. I added, it would as long as I would ask to live, to be able to see such a canal as they talked of in operation. How little did I then know of what men could perform, aided by intellectual culture and public wealth, having up to that time spent most of my life in the woods. Before this we had to go to Batavia for our merchants goods and to the Post-office.

The foregoing comprises what I think of now of my pioneer life.

I cannot look back upon the past of my life and contemplate what the good Lord has in his loving kindness done for me, without acknowledging his preserving care, and that too when the most of my days have been spent in rebellion against him, in not obeying his commands and in neglecting to acknowledge him under the sore afflictions he has seen fit to bring upon me and to sustain me under them; and above all, that in after life,, he by his good spirit should call after me, until was brought to see and feel his goodness, in the forgiveness of my sins and to thank and praise him for all his mercies and to ask that I may be accepted by him through the merits of his Son, and have the pleasure of meeting in his kingdom above, with all the old pioneers, not of the woods only, but all those that are seeking a better and heavenly county.

Dated--Barre, August 1, 1861.

Mr. Lansing Bailey, the author of the foregoing sketch, died at his residence in Barre, December, 1866, aged 79 years. Many years before his death he sold out the land he took up from the Holland Company and bought the north-east part of lot 10, town 15, range 2, of the Holland Purchase, on which he ever after resided, and which is now occupied and owned by his son, Timothy C. Bailey.

Lansing Bailey was a man of strong, native good sense, who always stood high in the estimation of all who knew him, highest with those who knew him best. He used to say when he left his father's house, his father gave him a hoe and three sheep, and he thought his father did as well by him as he was able, as he not only gave him a hoe, but taught him to dig, for which he always felt grateful.

Mr. Bailey was always industrious and frugal and by a life of economy and prudence, acquired a handsome property. He was liberal and public spirited in his character, almost always holding some public office or trust. He was for many years Supervisor of the town of Barre and was relieved from that office only after he had peremptorily declined being a candidate, against the wishes of a large majority in his town.

The Pioneer History of Orleans County, NY, By Arad Thomas


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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