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

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




"I was born in Weston, Fairfield County, Connecticut, May 15th, 1783. In the winter of 1796, my father, in company with a neighbor set out to move his family to the Genesee County. He had a covered sled drawn by a yoke of oxen and a span of horses. I well recollect as we were about to start, our friends around us thought my parents very cruel to take their children way to the Genesee to be murdered by the Indians.

My father and all his children had the measles while on the journey. My father never fully recovered and died the next August. My mother was then left a widow with seven children, of whom I was the eldest, being them thirteen years old.

When I was about fifteen years old I revisited my native town and took along some bear skins and other skins, to exhibit as trophies of my skill as a hunter.

I attended school some and worked out the remainder of the time till fall, then returned to my mother on foot, and then went to work to help her support her family.

After my father's death, my mother sold her oxen for one hundred dollars and took a note in payment. The maker of the note failed and mother never received five dollars on the debt. One of her horses died, and the other was so ugly she gave him away, and thus lost her team, and the bears killed her hogs.

When I was eighteen or twenty yeas old I resolved to build a log house for mother on the land my father took up. It was usual then to raise such buildings at a "bee," and that could not be done without whiskey.

I went to a distillery in Bloomfield on horseback, with two wooden bottles in a bag to get the liquor. Following the Indian trail through the woods on my way back, I saw a sub climbing a tree and the mother bear coming towards me with hair erect and about two rods off. I put whip and spur to my horse and did not stop to look back until I was out of her reach. I had a small flock of sheep about that time. Neglecting to yard them one night, the wolves killed nearly all of them.

A year or two after I first came into the country, a man hired me to take a horse to the Genesee River, where Rochester now stands. There was but one house on that road then. I forded the river with my horse.

I was married January 17th, 1809, to Miss Temperance Smith, of Palmyra. She died in May following.

For several years after I came into the county, the Indians were numerous here, hundreds of Indians to one white man., they were very friendly. I used to go to their wigwams and have sport with them wrestling and pulling sticks, at which I was an expert, frequently throwing their smartest young men at 'back hold,' or what we called 'Indian Hug.'

Bears, wolves, and raccoons were plenty, and we caught them frequently.

In March, 1810, I married Frances Bennett, and commenced house-keeping again, and went to work clearing my land. I think I have chopped and logged off as much as one hundred and fifty acres in my day.

I have had the fever and ague several times, but generally let it work itself off. I used to work had all day in my fallow, and frequently worked evenings there when it was good weather.

My wife would often come out when I was at work and sometimes help me pile brush.

During the war with England I was several times called out to do military duty.

I moved into the town of Shelby in 1827, and after a few years sold out and moved to Gaines, on the farm on which I now reside.

Gaines, 1863

Mr. Treadwell died June 9th, 1866, aged 83 years.


"I WAS BORN IN Pittsford, Vermont, September 10, 1788. I married Polly Harwood, in Pittsford, in 1809. In August, 1810, I bought the farm I now own, in the town of Gaines, of the Land Company, for $2,50 center per acre, par of lot five, town fifteen, range two, on the Oak Orchard Road, about a mile south of the Ridge.

In February, 1811, I moved my wife from Vermont to Gaines, and in April of that year we moved into a lob cabin, in which James Mather was then keeping bachelor's hall, and lived with him. In June afterwards I put up a log house 18 by 20 feet square and floor sufficient to set a bed on, and then we moved in. Our nearest neighbors south following the Oak Orchard Road, were south of the Tonawanda Swamp.

In August, following my wife was taken sick. I could get not one to help about house, for such help was not in the country, and I was compelled to leave my work and attend to my wife for six weeks, during which time I did not take off my clothes except to change them.

I was poor and had to work out for all I had. I came very near being homesick then, but I stood it through. The next winter I chopped two or three acres of my land, and in the spring burned the brush and planted it with corn among the logs, but squirrels and birds got the greater part of it, so we got but little corn that year.

In the spring of 1812, some families located south of where Albion now is. Of those families I had stopping at my house at one time, while they were building their cabins, William McCollister, Joseph hart, Silas Benton, Elijah Darrow, Frederick Holsenburgh, and John Holsenburgh,, and the families of some of them.

The war of 1812 put a stop to the settlement for a while, We were trouble some with British deserters.

Up to 1813, our provisions were mainly fish, potatoes, and turnips,--that is among the poorer class of settlers like myself. Sometimes we would have hulled wheat and hulled corn. Sometimes I went to Parma or Rochester to mill, and when I got back my grist would not pay my expenses.

After the war and the cold seasons, the county filled up with settlers very fast. Roads and improvements were made, and the land cleared up and cultivated, and the conveniences and comforts of life procured, thus relieving the wants of the people and supplying their needs.

Gaines, 1863. 

Mr. Walter Fairfield died January 9th, 1865.


"I was born in the town of Dunstable, Middlesex county, Massachusetts, January 22d, 1787. In March, 1810, I arrived in Batavia, since changed to Gaines, on the Holland Purchase, and purchased a lot of land near the Transit Line. I chopped over five acres of land and built a log cabin in what was then called the 'Nine Mile Woods.' My cabin was situated seven miles from any cabin going east, and two miles west. There were no inhabitants going south nearer then Batavia village. Here I kept bachelor's hall, sleeping in the open air on hemlock boughs until I had completed the roof of my cabin, which I covered with bark. I had to travel seven miles to get bread baked.

I went to Massachusetts in the summer and returned to my cabin in January. In the spring of 1811, I cleared off and planted three acres to corn, and in the fall sowed five acres to wheat.

In December I went back to Massachusetts on Foot. February 11th, 1812, I was married to Miss Polly Cummings, of Dunstable, and started on the 12th with my wife for my home in the woods, in a sleigh drawn by two horses.

When we arrived at our new home, at what has since been called Fair haven, in the town of Gaines, there were but three families in Gaines, viz.: Elijah Downer, Amy Gilbert, and --------- Elliott. The neatest grist mill was at Black Creek, twenty miles distant, and on account of bad roads it was as easy for us to go to Rochester to mill, a distance of thirty miles.

In the winter of 1813-14, the British and Indians came over from Canada and massacred several of the inhabitants on the frontier, and many of the settlers fled out of the country for safety. The people throughout this region were in great consternation. The news of the approach of the savages spread rapidly.

William Burlingame, who resided about four miles west of my place on the Ridge, called me our of bed and requested me to go immediately and around the people east. I immediately mounted my horse, the only horse then owned in the vicinity, and before next daylight visited all the inhabitants as far east as Clarkson.

The effect of the notice was almost electric, for quite a regiment of men in number were on the move early the next morning, to check the advance of the enemy. We marched west to a place called Hardscrabble, near Lewiston, and there performed a sort of garrison duty for two weeks, when I with some others returned, for, having been elected collector of taxes, it became necessary for me to attend to the duties of my office.

Again in September, while the war was in progress at and near Fort Erie, in Canada, news came to us that the British were about to attack the Fort and our troops there must be reinforced. In company with several others I volunteered to go to their relief. On arriving at the Fort, via, Buffalo, we made several attacks on the enemy near the Fort, and in the woods opposite Black Rock.

A sortie was made from the Fort September 17th, in which we routed the enemy. In these actions several bullets passed through my clothes, and one grazed my finger.

A man of our company named Howard was killed, another named Sheldon was wounded in the shoulder, and Moses Bacon was taken prisoner and carried to Halifax.

In that sortie General Davis, of le Roy, was killed, and Gen. peter B. Porter was taken prisoner, and rescued again the same day. We came home after an absence of twenty-four days.

About February 1st, 1815, I was notified to attend the sitting of the court in Batavia as constable. Owing to the situation of my family I could not be long absent from home; and in order to get released from court, it was necessary for me to appear before the judge; so taking a rather early start I reached Batavia before the court had opened in the morning. After the court had organized for business I presented my excuse and was discharged.

After that I collected over one hundred dollars taxes, made my returns as town collector, on half a sheet of paper, took a deed on one hundred acres of land of the Holland Company, and an article for another hundred acres and started for home, where I arrived in the evening of the same day, having traveled a distance of not less than forty-four miles.

In December, 1818, I made arrangements to visit my friends in Massachusetts, on horseback. Several of my neighbors were in to see me off. As I was about to mount my horse a deer came down the creek from the south. I ran into the house and got my fun and some cartridges I brought from the war, loaded my gun as I ran out, and as the deer was passing leveled my dun and snapped it, but I missed fire. I took up a stone and struck the flint, and snapped the gun again before the deer got out of range. This time it discharged killing the deer instantly. I remained now and helped dress the deer and divided it with our neighbors, and then went on my journey. I rode to Vermont, there exchanged my horse and saddle for a cutter and another horse, and drove to my destination, near Boston. After an absence of about sixty days I returned home in time to dine off a piece of the venison I killed just before starting, which had been kept by my wife.

Our associations in our wilderness home undergoing fatigue and hardships together, sharing alike in gratitude for every success, and in sympathy for every adversity, bound the early settlers together as a band of brothers.

For many years our religious worship was held in common together, with no denomination distinctions.

Gaines, June, 1863.

Mr. John Proctor died in1868.


"I was born in Barrington, Rockingham County, N. H., November 18th, 1793. I was marred February 28th, 1815, to Miss Olive Knight.

In the winter of 1823 we moved to Gaines, with means little more than enough to defray the expense of the journey, and settled on part of the farm on which I now reside. We began by building a log house, the crevices between the logs serving for windows. The children would sit on the fire sill in front of where was to be a chimney. Thus we lived from May 10th, to fall, when we made our house comfortable for winter.

My father was a practical farmer, and my first recollections of work were of helping clear land. He with the help of his boys, of whom I was eldest but one, cleared one hundred and fifty acres.

Beginning with little , we have by hard labor, strict economy, and the blessing of God, succeeded in securing a comfortable home and a competence of this world's goods.

Gaines, March 1864


"I was born in Newport, Herkimer county, N. Y., July 24th, 1804. In January, 1817, I removed with my brother Stephen to the Holland Purchase and settled in Ridgeway. The country with few exceptions was a wilderness. Provisions were scarce and dear, wheat worth three dollars a bushel, corn two dollars, potatoes one dollar, and other things in proportion. Before harvest nearly every family was destitute of bread. Their resort for a substitute was to the growing wheat, which was boiled and eaten with milk; or by adding a little cream and maple super together, to make a kind of dessert after a meal of potatoes and butter, and possibly a little deer, squirrel and raccoon meat.

Our milk was strongly flavored with leeks occasionally, with which out native 'pasture' abounded, but we used to correct this by eating a fresh leek before eating the milk. We had plenty of maple sugar.

Schoolhouses were scarce, and of churches there were none. I attended school in a log house two miles from home, south of what is not Lyndonville, and this schoolhouse was for many years used as a place of worship. Here I used to hear Elder Irons and Elder Dutcher, Baptists, and Elders Paddock, Boardman, Hall, and Puffer, Methodists.

Among my early school teachers were Gen. W. C. Tanner and Mrs. Mastin.

Chopping, clearing and fencing land was the principal business in those days.

My last feat in chopping was in 1832, when I walked three miles morning and evening, and chopped over three acres, leaving it fitted for logging in ten and a half days.

In February, 1825, I crossed Niagara River on the ice which had wedged in near the mouth of the river. It was a warm day , the water was on the ice, and large openings were frequent. In one place a seam of open water three feet across was passed on a board which served as a bridge. I crossed in safety.

In the winter of 1826-27, I united with the Methodist Episcopal Church. I had never, to this time, heard a temperance lecture or known anything of temperance societies, but from that time, I believed it wicked to use intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and I have never used them since.

I was married to Miss Electra Beal, February 23d, 1829.

I was licensed to preached the gospel in July, 1832, by the Conference sitting in Penn Yan. Till then I had been a farmer and school teacher. From that time till 1844, I labored in that vicinity in the Methodist Episcopal Church. In May, 1843, I withdrew from that church and joined in organizing the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion of America, and from then since, I have labored as a minister in that Connexion.

Eagle Harbor, March, 1864.


Perry Davis was born in Westport, Massachusetts, January 1st, 1773. In 1793, he married Rebecca Potter. She died May 12th, 1825.

After his marriage, he resided about thirteen years in Galway, Saratoga County. He then resided about eighteen years in Palmyra, N. Y., and in 1823, removed to Gaines, and took up land near the mouth of Otter Creek; and in 1825, removed to the village of Gaines and bought the farm next north of the Ridge, and west of the Oak Orchard road. He was an active business man, being engaged at different time as a merchant, farmer, school teacher, and manufacturer; and while residing in Gaines, superintending at the same time three farms, a sawmill, a gristmill, and a small iron foundry, all in operation. He was deacon, and a prominent member of the Baptist Church in Gaines.

He had eight daughters, viz.: Barbara, who died in childhood; Rowena married William Hayden; Cynthia married Daniel Ball; Cinderilla married Samuel Parker; Mary married Richard Workman; Ann married William W. Ruggles; Eliza married Elonzo G. Hewitt; and Laura married Dr. Alfred Babcock. In 1827, he married Sarah Toby, of Stockton, N. Y. She died November 4th, 1845. Mr. Davis died April 3d, 1841.


Levi Atwell was born in Canaan, Columbia County, N. Y.

He married Mabel Stoddard, and moved from Cayuga County to Gaines in February, 1812, and took an article of part of lot forty-four, township fifteen, range two, and resided on the same land until he died, February, 1847.

He took up his land in April, 1811, and in June, after he came on, chopped down the trees on a few acres, and that season put up a log house, into which me moved his family when they came.

His brother-in-law, Gideon Freeman, and Joseph Stoddard, came on and took up land during the war with England.

The house into which he moved had no door, or window or floor except the earth, and not a board about it. The logs had been merely rolled up for the walls, without stopping the crevices between them. The roof was covered with "shakes," split from oak trees like stave bolts, about three feet long, laid on in courses like shingles, without nails and held on by poles laid on traversely, with no chimney, but a large hole in the roof left for the smoke, and which admitted light.

The snow was about three feet deep. A huge fire was kept up in one end of the cabin; this heated the roof and melted the snow, which dripped most uncomfortably upon everything in the house. A blanket hung at the doorway closed that, and chips driven into the crevices between the logs stopped them in part till spring, when stones were laid for a hearth, and a stick chimney put in.

Mr. Atwell had a yoke of oxen and several other cattle that arrived a few days after he brought his family. He brought several bushels of ears of corn when he moved in, which he dealt out sparingly to his stock. They had no other food except the trees he cut down for them to browse, until they could get their living in the woods in the spring.

His family consisted of himself, wife and four children, the youngest about two years old. His children's names were Ira, Abbey, Roxy, Joseph and Martin.

In the fall of 1812, a man by the name of Crofoot died in the neighborhood. No boards to make his coffin could be found, not in use in the settlement. When Mr. Atwell moved in his family, he brought a board for a side-board, on his sled. This he had put up for a shelf in his house for dishes, &c., and this shelf, and a board from some other house were taken for the coffin, in which the corpse was buried.

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


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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