The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY
Gaines
Biographies, Part III

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb

 

 MOSES BACON.

Moses Bacon was born April 5, 1787, in Burlington, Hartford Count, Conn. He was a farmer.

About the year 1809, he came to Gaffes, and took an article from the Holland company of two hundred acres of land on the south part of lot thirty-seven, township fifteen, range one. He worked for the Land company opening the Oak Orchard Road the summer of that year, to apply towards paying for his land, and returned to Connecticut in the fall. The next spring he came back and commenced work upon his land as permanent settler.

In December, 1813, he went in Captain McCarty's company to the defence of the frontier, and in his charge upon the British and Indians at Molyneaux tavern, in Cambria, on that occasion Mr. Bacon was present and did good execution.

In January, 1814, he married Miss Sarah Downer. In September of that year he was called out with the men on this frontier generally, to aid in repelling the British and Indians in the war with Great Britain. He was in the battle of Fort Erie, in which he was shot through the neck and taken prisoner by the British, who carried him to Halifax, where he suffered greatly under the cruel treatment of the officers who had the American prisoners under their charge. The next year he was discharged, the war having closed, and returned home broken in constitution from the hardships of his wound and imprisonment, and with a cough contracted in Halifax from which he never recovered, and for which he drew a pension from the United states ever afterwards.

Mr. Bacon sold the east part of his farm to his brother Hosea, and the north part to his brother Elias, reserving one hundred acres for himself. Upon this place he lived until his death, which occurred June 28th, 1848.

SAMUEL BIDELMAN.

Samuel Bidelman was born in Manheim, Herkimer County, N. Y., June 29th, 1806. His grandparents both came to America from German, before the revolutionary war, and settled on the Mohawk river. In that war his grandfather's buildings were burned by the Indians, and his family narrowly escaped massacre by flying to the blockhouse fort for protection.

His father, Henry Bidelman, came to Shelby in 1816, and bought an article for one hundred acres of land of John Timmerman. In February, 1817, he came to Shelby with a part of his children, leaving his wife and other children in Herkimer county until he could prepare a place for them. He was eleven days on the journey.

In July, 1817, John Garlock, brother-in-law of Henry Bidelman, brought on Mrs. bidelman and the remainder of her children, and with their other loading, he brought three bags of flour. This was the next year after the cold season, and the neighborhood was destitute of flour; some of the inhabitants had not even seen wheat bread for weeks, having lived in that time, as far as bread was concerned, on bran bread and some sea biscuits--"hard tack," which they procured from the Arsenal at Batavia, which had been stored there to feed the soldiers in the war of 1812.

It was a custom then when a new family arrived, for all the settlers for miles around to come together and give them a greeting. Such a surprise party waited on the Bidelmans, and after they had broken up and gone home, Mr. Bidelman found he had only a part of one bag of his flour left out of the three brought on by Garlock, as each family of the visitors must of course take home a little. Part of one bag of flour only for a family of twelve hungry persons to live on under the circumstances, looked as if the end was near.

These sea biscuit furnished material fro much talk, as well as some good for the people. Mr. Joseph Snell, who was something of a wag, reported, that a Mr. Simons, who resided a little south from Mr. Bidelman, got some of the biscuit and ate too freely of them; that they had swelled in his stomach and had burst him. He said his attendants tied handkerchiefs and straps around him, and did the best they could to make him contain himself, but without success; he burst and died, and was to be buried at a time specified. Several persons went to attend the funeral before they understood the hoax.

The first year after he came to Shelby, Mr. H. Bidelman took some land of D. Timmerman which lay about a mile from his house,, to plant with corn on shares. In hoeing time, in the long days in June, he would get his boys together, Samuel being then about twelve years old, get them a breakfast of bran bread and milk and say to them, "now, boys, you can go and hoe corn, and when you get so tired and hungry you can't stand it any longer, come home and we will try and get you something to eat again" This was the way they fared before Uncle Garlock came with flour.

The cold season of 1816 cut off the crops, and there was but little to be had to eat. Flour was worth fifteen dollars a barrel in Rochester, wheat three dollars a bushel here, and no money to buy it with. But crops were good in 1817, and as soon as the farmers began to raise wheat, and about 1820 and 1821, as there was no way to get wheat to market, the price fell to twenty-five cents a bushel. Articles of wearing apparel were enormously dear. Cotton cloth was worth fifty cents a yard.

In 1818, Mr. bidelman chopped and cleared off six acres of land for A. A. Ellicott, for which he obtained flour for his family for that season. He cleared five acres for elijah Bent, a little south of Medina village, for which he received in payment one-third of the port of a hog that weighed three hundred pounds in all; that is, about one hundred pounds of port cost twenty dollars, paid for in such hard work. So they managed to live along until they could raise something of their own to live on.

About this time young Samuel, being then twelve of thirteen years old, and his brother William two years older, got disgusted with Western New York and agreed to run away back to the Mohawk Country, fearing they would starve to death if they remained here. They did not go however.

In the year 1820, May 20th, barefoot, with an old straw hat, a pair of tow cloth pantaloons and a second hand coat on, Samuel Bidelman started on foot and along for Ridgeway Corners, to learn the trade of tanning and currying baskets, and shoemaking, of Isaac A. Bullard, who carried on that business there.

Before that time he had lived in Dutch settlements, and could but imperfectly speak, or understand the English language.

Mr. Bullard's tanning then amounted to about fifty hides a year, but gradually increased to about one hundred hides a year while Samuel lived with him. When he had been about three and a half years with Mr. Bullard, they had some difficulty and Samuel left him and went to his fathers. The difficulty was settled and Samuel was bound as apprentice to stay with Mr. Bullard until he was of age, and he went back and remained.

Bullard was addicted to strong drink, which made him rather a hard master to his apprentice. He died April 9th, 1827.

After Mr. Bullard's death, his wife carried on the business he had left and Mr. Bidelman worked for her by the month six months, and then bought out the tanyard and dwelling house and carried on the business on his own account.

May 17th, 1829, he married Eliza Prussia. She was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, of German parentage.

At Ridgeway, Mr. Bidelman tanned about seventy-five hides a year. He kept two journeymen, made leather and carried on shoemaking. Stoga boots were worth four dollars a pair, coarse shoes two dollars. Boots were not so generally work as now. Tanner's bark, hemlock, was worth one dollar and fifty cents a cord.

In the spring of 1835, Mr. Bidelman sold his place in Ridgeway, retaining possession until the next October, intending to move to Michigan. He was now worth about fifteen hundred dollars, and was twenty-nine years old.

He finally bought a tanyard at Gaines village of James Mather, and moved there Oct. second, eighteen hundred and thirty-five. Gaines was then quite a place of business. It had in active operation one academy, five dry goods stores, three groceries, one steam grist mill and furnace, three taverns, two churches, two tannerys, one cabinet shop, one large wagon factory, three law offices, three blacksmith shops, one millinery shop, one ashery, besides harness, show, and tailor shops, &c.

At Gaines, Mr. Bidelman employed four or five men in his tannery, and five or six men in his shoe shop generally.

In 1838, the Patriot War, as it was called, in Canada closed. This part of the country had been in a high state of excitement for two years, the people desiring to furnish aid to the Canadian rebels. Hunter's lodges, as they were called, were formed along the frontier for this purpose. Such a lodge used to meet in the upper room in Mr. Bidelman's Tannery, which was formerly occupied by the Free Mason's. Mr. Bidelman took great interest in this movement and gave an old cast iron bark mill to be cast into cannon balls. He gave the last gun he ever owned and a pair of boots, to fit out a soldier who went to Canada to join the insurgents.

A cannon, which had belonged to an artillery company in Yates, in which Mr. Bidelman had held a commission as Lieutenant, was sent to the Patriots. General Winfield Scott passed through on the Ridge Road with some United States troops to maintain peace on our borders, and in a short time order was again restored.

The Ridge road was then a great traveled thoroughfare, six to eight stage coaches passed through Gaines each way daily.

In eighteen hundred and forty-one Mr. Robert Ranney went in company with Mr. Bidelman in business as tanners, in Gaines, for a term of five years. They put in a large stock and worked it, but the business was not profitable for the partners. They had difficulty in settling their partnership matters, and on the whole, these five years were the most unpleasant and unprosperous in business to Mr. bidelman of any like time in his life. Since closing with Mr. Ranney, he has been connected with his sons in business. He was Supervisor of Gaines in the years 1842, 1845, 1846, 1853, 1854, and 1857.

DR. JESSE BEECH AND DR. JOHN HENRY BEECH.

The following extracts were taken from a memoir by Dr. John H. Beech, of Coldwater, Michigan, of himself and his father, Dr. Jesse Beech, who was the pioneer physician of the town of Gaines:

"Dr. Jesse Beech was born march 20th, 1787, at Ames, Montgomery County, New York. He studied medicine with Dr. Lathrop, of Charleston, and with Dr. Sheldon, of Florida, N. Y. In those days medical colleges were not accessible to students of ordinary means. There was public prejudice against dissections, and the students of the two doctors named occupied a room in a steeple on a church in Charleston, where they dissected bodies. One of the class would stay in the steeple all day Sundays with their cadavers to keep the hatch fastened down, to exclude intruding boys.

Dr. Jesse Beech commenced practice at Esperance, N. Y., in the year 1813, and in February of that year married Susannah, a daughter of John Brown, of that place.

In the fall of 1815 he came to Gaines, where he met James Mather, with whom he was acquainted, and was persuaded to stop there, accepting a theory then believed in by settlers in that region, which was this: 'Batavia must be the Gotham of the Holland Purchase Oak orchard harbor must be the commercial port. The great commercial highway of the country would be from the head of navigation on Oak Orchard Creek to Batavia. The country north of the Ridge was too flat and poor to be of any account, and the town second to Batavia must be on the ridge where the road from Batavia to the lake crossed it. A kind of half shire town for Genesee County was then at Oak Orchard Creek on the Ridge. Genesee County would be divided at Tonawanda Swamp, and the new county seat would be Gaines' Philetus Bumpus was then hunting bears where Albion now is, and the future greatness of Gaines was not dimmed by prospects of Clinton's Erie Canal.

Such as the theory. The canal made dough of the whole of that cake, and caused the whole country about here to change front.

James Mather, and Oliver booth, the tavern keeper, were active men in Gaines, when my father came in, both being very attentive to new comes, and Esq. Arba Chubb came in soon after. He was the best wit and story teller of the times, full of talk and repartee, a most social and agreeable man.

My father bought some land near the 'Corners,' and brought my mother there the next spring. She found the 'house' only half floored and, not all 'chinked.' The fire was built against the logs on the side which had no floor, over which the roof was open for the escape of smoke.

She was told that the rule of the settlement was that new comers must burn out three logs in the house walls before they could be allowed to build a stone back for a chimney; and they must have had at least three 'shakes' of ague before they could be admitted to citizenship.

The records are silent as to when she burned out her three logs; but it is said that she soon attained to the rank of full citizenship, having her first shake of ague on the fourth day after arriving in town. My father must have found the people much in need of a doctor, for I find on page seventy-one of his day book, previous pages being lost, a large amount of business charged for so small a population. The prices charged would now be deemed quite moderate, to wit: Leonard Frisbie is charged 'To visit and setting leg for self $2.50.' subsequent visits and dressings from thirty-seven, and a half to seventy-five cents each, and so in other cases.

In 1817, 1818, and 1819, it took him three or four days to make a circular visit to his patients. They resided in Murray, east of Sandy Creek, at Farwell's Mills, in Clarendon, indifferent parts of Ridgeway, Barre, &c.

On these circuits the kind people treated him to their best, which was often corn cake and whiskey, or Evans' root coffee, with sorrel pie for dessert,. for the doctor and basswood browse for his horse.

I find a bill rendered in pounds, shillings and pence to my father by George Kuck, for general merchandise had at his store in West Carlton, in 1818. Ira Webb was at the same time in trade at Oak Orchard Creek, on the Ridge, but the principal merchants were located at Gaines.

In the spring of 1816, my father had about half an acre of corn 'dug in' among the logs near his house. When it was a few inches high a frost blighted the tops so that every leaf was held in a tight dead envelope. My mother cut off the tops wit her scissors and a fair crop was harvested.

In order to save the pig fro the bears, its pen was made close to the house, and apiece of chinking left out to halloo 'shoo' through.

One day mother's attention was attracted by an unusual hackling of the pig. Looking through the crevice she saw a large rattlesnake coiled up in the hog-trough, with head erect, bussing like a nest of bees. Fearing to attack the old fellow, she ran to the neighbors for help and when she returned the snake was gone.

In 1816 they had a patch of oats near the house from which the deer had to be driven frequently.

Their first child, and only daughter, Elizabeth, was born June 22d, 1817. She married Ezbon G. Fuller, and settled at Coldwater, Michigan, where she died in 1853. Their only son, your humble servant, was born September 24th, 1819. I think I must have been one of the early draymen in the county, as I remember when a very small boy seizing the reins and backing my father's horse and cart loaded with merchandise, part of which was a demijohn of aquafortis, down a cellar gangway. Some smoke and some hurrying were among the consequences.

A few years later a young clerk and myself sent a hogshead of molasses from a wagon down the same gangway at one 'pop.' The 'pop' carried away the heads of the cask and poured the sweet out to the rats.

At the age of fourteen I tried clerking in a dry good store for Fanning & Orton, in Albion. After six months probation I felt no further inspiration or aspiration in that line and resigned, I presume with the hearty consent of my employers, though they flattered me by expressing their regret, which I thought was proof of their politeness, rather than my ability. I then attended Gaines Academy until I was eighteen years old, when I commenced studying medicine with Drs. Nichoson & Paine, in Albion; afterwards with Dr. Pinkney, at Esperance, and graduating at the Albany medical college in 1841.

I practiced my profession from the old homestead until 1850, then removed to Coldwater, Michigan, where I have been engaged in the same business since, except during the rebellion, in the greater part of Battery D, First Michigan Artillery; afterwards of Twenty Fourth Michigan volunteers, in the Army of the Potomac. The greater part of the time, besides performing my regimental duties, acting as Surgeon-in-Chief of the First Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps.

In January, 1842, I married Mary Jane Perry, of Clarkson, N. Y.

We have mentioned the anticipations of the people of securing the location of the county buildings at Gaines. The brick building standing on the hill south of the village, was built by contributions started with the intent to donate it to the county for a court house. It was originally three stories high, about forty by seventy feet on the ground. These anticipations of the contributors being blasted, they converted their building into an academy.

At the organization of Orleans County, the village of Gaines contained three stores, three asheries, three tanneries, two taverns, one chair factory, one carriage factory, one cabinet shop, three blacksmith shops, one distillery, one cloth-dressing and wool-carding establishment, two brick yards, one printing office where a newspaper was published, one hat factory, and one saddle and harness shop. Works requiring motive power were driven by horses.

The first chapter of royal arch masons in the county No. 82, was organized in Gaines. Dr. Jesse Beech was H. P. in 1826.

Previous to 1825, Col. Broadman's Cavalry was at marvel in the eyes of uys youngster. Dr. Jesse Beech was its surgeon.

I find by an old receipt among my father's papers, that Gaines Basin, in the canal, was excavated by a subscription fund, subscribed mainly by Guersney, Bushnell & Co., E. & E. D. Nichols, and James Mather.

Dr. Jesse Beech was a temperance man even to total abstinence, enforcing his principles by banishing decanters and wine glasses from his sideboard--a proceeding rather unusual in those times.

He was a fine horseman and occasionally officiated as marshal on public occasions. he was always exceedingly particular in his dress and personal appearance, and always wore an elaborate ruffle shirt. His dress never was allowed to interfere with business requiring his attention, and sometimes, when off professional duty, he would go into his field where his men were clearing land, and though he was small in stature, he would show by his agility and energy in working with his men that he was a match for their stoutest.

A few of the last years of my father's life, he kept a store of drugs and medicines on sale in connexion wit his practice as a physician and surgeon.

In February or March, 1826, he was hurt by a vicious horse from which he suffered greatly as long as he lived. He died March 4th, 1829. His widow afterwards married Captain Elihu Mather, and removed to Coldwater, Michigan, where she died March 16th, 1869.

J. H. BEECH."

OLIVER BOOTH.

Oliver booth was a well-known tavern keeper on the Ridge Road in Gaines. He came here from Wayne County in the spring of 1811, and settled on the farm north of the Ridge and east of the Oak Orchard Road in the village of Gaines. He cleared his farm and built a double log house, with a huge chimney in the middle. Here he kept tavern a number of years.

His house was always full of company. Travelers on the Ridge road stopped here because it was a tavern and there was no other. Here he dispensed a vast amount of whiskey,--for everybody was thirsty in those day,--and some victuals to such strangers as were not acquainted with the proverbial filthiness of the kitchen.

After Gaines had become a village, and land claims to the county seat, and people had come in who wanted more style, and whose stomachs could not stand such fare as booth's Tavern supplied, another tavern was opened and Booth sold out and moved away. He finally settled in Michigan where he died.

No description of Booth or his tavern would be completed without including Sam. Wooster. Sam's father lived in the neighborhood, and he (Sam) than a great lazy boy, strayed up to booth's tavern, where by hanging about he occasionally got a taste of Booth's whiskey in consideration of bringing in wood for the fire and doing a few other chores. For these services and the pleasure of his company, Booth gave him what he ate and drank, with a place to sleep on the bar-room floor. His clothes id not cost much. He never wore a hat of any sort, seldom had on stockings or shoes. Nobody can remember that he wore a shirt, and his coats and pants were such as came to him, nobody could tell how or from whence. Sam. Never washed his face and hands, or combed his head, and his general appearance, shirtless and shoeless, with his great black, frowsy head bare, his pants ragged and town, and his coat, if he had any, minus one sleeve, or half the skirt, to one who did know him might befit a crazy prisoner just escaped from Bedlam. Yet Sam. Was not a fool or crazy. His wit was keen and ready, and his jokes timely and sharp. He would not work, or do anything which required much effort any way. He was a good fisher however, and wit his old friend, Booth, his would sit patiently by the hour and angle in the Oak Orchard, or any other stream that had fish, perfectly content, if he had occasional nibble at his hook.

One year while he lived in Gaines, some wag for the fun of the thing nominated him for overseer of highways in the Gaines village district, and he was elected. He told the people they had elected him and thinking he was too lazy to attend to the business, and would let them satisfy their assessments by mere nominal labor on the road; but they would find themselves much mistaken, and they did. Sam. warned them to work as the law directed. He superintended everything vigorously, and every man and team and tool on the highway with his beat had to do its while duty promptly that year at least.

Although Sam. loved whiskey and drank it whenever it was given to him, for he never had money to buy anything, he never got drunk. He never quarreled or stole or did any other mischief. Bad as he looked, and lazy and dirty as he was, he was harmless. When Mr. booth sold out and moved to Michigan, Sam. Went with him and lived with his family afterwards.

A few months after landlord booth got his double log tavern going, a man rode up to the west from door, each half of the house had a front door, and asked Mrs. booth if he could get dinner, and feed his horse there. She sent her daughter, then ten years old, to show the man where he could get feed for his horse in the stable, and she went to work getting his dinner.

Having taken care of his horse, the stranger came and took a seat by the front door of the room where Mrs. booth was getting dinner and commenced talk by saying:

"Well, Mrs. Booth, how do you like the Holland Purchase?'
"O, pretty well,' she replied, "I think it will be a good country when it is cleared up."
"What place did you come from, Mrs. Booth?"
"We came from down in the Jarseys."
"Is the country settling about here very fast?"
"Yes, quite a good many settlers have come in."
"How is it by the mouth of Oak Orchard, are they settling there much?"
"No, they are not, that cussed old Hoe Ellicott has reserved all the land there and won't sell it."

Just then Mr. James Mather passed by, and seeing the stranger sitting in the door, when he recognized as Mr. Joseph Ellicott, the agent of the Holland Land company, he turn to speak to him. As he came up, Ellicott motioned him to be silent, fearing he would pronounce his name in hearing of Mrs. Booth and end the fun. After a salutation to Mr. Mather, Mr. Ellicott said to Mrs. Booth:

"Has old Joe Ellicott then really reserved the land round the mouth of the Creek?"
"Yes, the devilish old scamp has reserved one or two thousand acres there as a harbor for bears and wolves to kill the sheep and hogs of the settlers."
Ellicott asked, "What cane induce Uncle Joe to reserve that land?"
She replied, "Oh, the old scamp thinks he will make his Jack out of it. He thinks some day there will be a city there, and he will survey the land into city
Lots and sell them. Ah, he is a long-headed old chap."

Ellicott walked into the road and talked with Mr. Mather a few minutes till being called to his dinner he said to Mather: "Don't tell Mrs. Booth who I am until I am out of sight."

After Ellicott was gone, Mr. Mather went over and Mrs. Booth asked him who that old fellow was who got dinner there?

He replied: "It was Mr. Joseph Ellicott, from Batavia."
"Good," says she, "Didn't I give it to him? Glad of it! Glad of it!"

Mr. Booth was unable to read or write, and he was accustomed to keep his tavern accounts in chalk marks on the wall. Thus, for an account of six pence, he made a mark of a certain length; for a shilling, a mark longer; two shillings, longer still, and so on. he distinguished drinks, dinners, horse feed, &c., by peculiar hieroglyphics of his own invention.

Booth, the tavern keeper, must not be confounded with Oliver Booth, 2d, better known to the old pioneers as "Esq. Booth," who owned and resided on the next farm west, which lay on the west side of Oak Orchard Road, and north side of the Ridge. Esquire Booth was among the very first settlers of Gaines village. He was not related to the tavern keeper. He was born in Granby, Connecticut, in 1779, and settled in Gaines, in 1810. He removed to Michigan in 1833 and died there.

Esq. Booth was the first Supervisor elected north of Tonawanda Swamp to represent the town of Ridgeway, then the whole of Orleans County, in 1813. He served several years as Justice of the Peace. He was an old man in appearance and manners, but upright and honest.

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

 

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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