The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY
Town of Gaines

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb





First Settlers -- Case of Getting fire -- Noah Burgess -- Mrs. Burgess -- Cutting Logs for a House -- First Orchard -- First School House -- Drake's Mill Dam and Saw Mill--Organization of McCarty's Militia Company -- Their Scout After British and Indians--Dr. Jesse Beach -- Orange Butler -- First Marriage -- First Birth -- First Newspaper in Orleans County -- First Tavern -- Store -- Grist Mill -- First Merchants -- James Mather Dealing in Black Salts, &s. -- Business at Gaines Basin -- Village of Gaines--Gaines academy -- Efforts to Locate Court House Here -- Trade in Other Localities -- Biographies of Early Settlers.

Gaines was formed from Ridgeway, February 14th, 1816, and included the town of Barre, and the principal part of Carlton, within its original limits. William J. Babbitt was prominently active in getting this town organized, and on his suggestion it was named Gaines, in honor of Gen. E. P. Gaines, of the U. S. Army.

A number of families had located along the Ridge Road before the war with England in 1812. One of the first settlers, if not the first, within the present bounds of the town of Gaines, was a Mr. Gilbert, who was living about two miles east of Gaines village, in 1809. He died in or about that year and was buried in Murray. A man who accompanied the widow and her niece home from the funeral, they being all the family, found their fire had gone out, and they had no means to kindle it, until this man, on his way home called and notified Mr. Elijah Downer, and he sent his son several miles to carry them fire, they being the nearest neighbors.

The records of the Holland Land Company show that articles for land in the town of Gaines, parts of township fifteen, range two were taken in the year 1809, by the following named persons: Andrew Jacox, Whitfield Rathbun, William Sibley, Cotton M. Leach, Noah Burgess, James Mather, and Henry Luce.

Turner's History of the Holland Purchase says: "Whitfield Rathbun was the pioneer upon all that part of the Ridge Road, in Orleans County, embraced in the Holland Purchase."

Noah Burgess came from Canada in a boat with his family and effects and landed at the head of Stillwater, in Carlton. He located on the south side of the Ridge, on the farm now occupied by Hon. Robert Anderson and his son Nahum.

Mr. Burgess was sick and unable to work when he first arrived, and the widow Gilbert, above referred to, took her oxen and moved the family and effects of Mr. Burgess from Stillwater to his place on the Ridge, a distance of about four miles. Mrs. burgess, who was a strong. Athletic woman, then chopped down trees and cut logs for a log house, and Mrs. Gilbert drew them to the spot with her oxen, and the walls of the house were rolled up from these logs by men who came along to look for land. The house so built was occupied for a time by Mr. Burgess, and stood where the Ridge Road is now laid in front of the dwelling house of Nahum Anderson. Mrs. Burgess set out a small orchard of apple trees hear her house, which is supposed to be the first orchard set in Gaines.

Mr. Burgess sold his land to William Bradner, and located a mile farther east, where he died some twenty years ago, and Mrs. Burgess, referred to, died in the summer of 1869.

The widow Gilbert was a hardy pioneer. The next winter after the death of her husband, aided by her niece, Amy Scott, she cut down trees to furnish browse for a yoke of oxen and some other cattle through the winter. She removed to Canandaigua in 1811.

Rowley, Wilcox, Leach, Adams, Rosier, Sprague, and Daniel Pratt were some of the settlers along the Ridge in 1810.

Daniel Gates came in 1811 and bought an article of a farm, about two miles west of the village of Gaines, on the south side of the ridge, since known as the Palmer farm.

A former proprietor had chopped down the trees on a small spot and built a cabin of logs, twelve feet square, with a single roof.

The Holland Company agreed with their settlers if they would make a clearing and build a log house, they night have the land for two years without paying interest on the purchase money.

This cabin was built to save such interest, and acquired additional notoriety from the fact that in this building Orrin Gleason taught the first school in Gaines, in the winter of 1813.

Henry Drake came to Gaines in 1811. In 1812 he built a dam and sawmill on Otter Creek, a few rods north of the Ridge--the first sawmill in this town.

When the war with Great Britain was declared in 1812, the settlers in this vicinity apprehending danger from their proximity to the frontier, assembled together and elected Eleazer McCarty, one of their number, Captain, to lead them to their defence if the settlement was attacked by the enemy.

In December 1813, the British burned Lewiston, and news was brought to Capt. McCarty by the fleeing inhabitants, that British and Indians were coming east on the Ridge. He sent a messenger in the night to John Proctor, the only man who had a horse in the settlement, to carry the news to Murray, and call the men together to resist them. The next morning the company was en route towards the foe. The next night they came insight of Molyneaux tavern, and ten or 12 miles east of Lewiston, and saw a light in the house. Captain McCarty halted his men and advanced himself to reconnoiter. Approaching the place he saw British and Indians in the house, their guns standing in a corner. He returned to his men and brought them cautiously forward; selected a few to follow him into the house, and ordered a few to surround it and prevent the enemy from escaping. McCarty and his party rushed in at the door and sprang between the men and their guns and ordered them to surrender.

The British soldiers and the Indians had been helping themselves to liquor in the tavern, and soon were drunk and asleep on the floor. The surprise was complete. Most of the party surrendered; a few Indians showed fight wit their knives and hatchets and tried to recover their guns, and several of them were killed in the melee. One prisoner would not walk. The soldiers dragged him forward on the ground awhile' and getting tired of that, Henry Luce, one of McCarty's men, declared with an oath, he would kill him, and was preparing for the act, when McCarty interfered and saved his life.

McCarty encamped a few miles east of Lewiston. While there he went out with a number of his men and captured a scouting party of British soldiers returning to Fort Niagara laden with plunder they had taken from the neighboring inhabitants. McCarty compelled them to carry the plunder back to its owners, and then sent them prisoners of war to Batavia.

After fifteen or twenty days service, McCarty's company was discharged and returned home. Most of his men resided in Gaines, and comprised nearly all the men in town.

The first regular practicing physician in Gaines was Dr. Jesse Beach.

The first licensed attorney was orange Butler, who settled here before it was determined whether the county seat would be Gaines or Albion. Judge Elijah Foot and W. W. Ruggles followed soon after.

The first marriage in Gaines was that of Andrew Jacobs to Sally Wing, in the fall of 1810 or 1811.

The first child born in Gaines was Samuel Crippen, Jr., in 1809.

The first printing press in Orleans County was located in Gaines, by Seymour Tracy, who published the first newspaper. Tracy was succeeded by John Fisk.

The publication of this paper commenced about 1824, and continued about four years.

The first gristmill was built on Otter Creek, about the year 1822, by Jonathan Gates.

The first tavern was kept by William Sibley in 1811. The first store was kept by William Perry in 1815.

Among the early merchants were E. & E. D. Nichols, V. R. Hawkins, and J. J. Walbridge.

James Mather, though he never kept a store of goods, was an active trader in "black salts," potash, and staves, which he purchased from the settlers and took to the mouth of Oak Orchard Creek, or Genesee River, and shipped to Montreal, for which he paid in iron, salt fish, leather, and some kinds of coarse goods most needed, and some money.

Money to pay taxes, and to meet the pressing wants of the pioneers in this vicinity, was for some time mainly derived from this source.

The merchants of Gaines built a warehouse at Gaines' Basin, on the canal, soon after the canal was navigable, where the good for Gaines and other towns north were mainly landed from the boats and where the produce from the same region was principally shipped.

A brisk business was done here for some years, and until the improvement in the highways, and the growth and competition of neighboring villages had drawn the trade elsewhere, when this warehouse was removed.

About the time the canal was completed, the village of Gaines was a place of more trade and business than any other in the county.

E. & E. D. Nichols, V. R. Hawkins, Bushnell & Guernsey, and John J. Walbridge were thriving merchants, doing a lively business in the dry goods trade.

A full line of mechanics shops was established. The only academy, meeting house and printing press in Orleans County were located here.

Two hotels were well patronized; stage coaches were plenty on the famous Ridge Road, and everything considered the good people of Gaines, and most of the county in fact, excepting Newport, since named Albion, thought the court house would be built in Gaines surely, and they put up the price of village lots accordingly, while the people of Newport, or Mudport, as Gaines men called it, when contrasting places as sites for a Court House, offered to give away lots, and do many other generous acts if the Court House was located there.

But the court house went to Albion, and the stream of travel which once went on the ridge, took to the boats on the canal, and the post coaches hauled off; villages grew along the canal and trade went there.

The resolute business men of Gaines tried hard to retain their high position, they got their academy and their village and a bank (The Farmer's Bank of Orleans) incorporated by the Legislature, and lowered the price of building lots. But their glory had departed; their academy stopped, village franchises were lost by non-user; their bank went to the bad; but their fine farms, choice garden spots, and unrivaled Ridge road remain good as ever.

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


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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