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

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




"I was born in Taunton, Mass., March 13, 1703. I was brought up among the boys of New England, never having belonged tot he 'upper ten.' I roughed with the hardy sporting ones, always ready for athletic games, and could commonly act well my part. When about twenty-four years old I was taken with the western fever, and having laid up two or three hundred dollars, in time saved while sowing my 'wild oats,' I bought a hose and wagon and started with three others for the Genesee county. Not knowing or thinking of any trouble ahead, we dashed away. One of my traveling companions was Stephen Randall, Jr., son of Rev. Stephen Randall, who had previously gone west, and then resided at Avon.

The son now resides in the town of Union, Monroe County, and has got to be an old man and wealthy. We arrived in Avon in September, 1815. From thence we made our way into Murray, and to what is not Kendall, by way of Rochester. At Rochester we were glad to get into the barn with the horses for a night's lodging. There being about thirty men, and how many horses I cannot tell. Which made most noise would be difficult to tell; one things I do know, the men swore most and drank the most whiskey. That was an awful company. It seemed as if they were the filth and offscouring of the whole country. In the morning I proposed to sell my horse for I was short of funds and had no farther use for him. A gentleman appearing man by the name of Gilvreed offered to buy him. He said he had good notes against a responsible man, but the notes amounted to more than the price of the horse, and I might give my note for the balance, and as to the value of the notes, I might enquire of gentlemen who knew, at the same time referring to some standing by, who said they were good, and no mistake. So the exchange was made in due form and both parties were highly gratified.

But the result was that the maker of the motes was not worth a straw, and the man, Gilvreed, was worse. This was my first financial operation in the west. What added to my humiliation was, I thought I had such a vast knowledge of men and things as to be proof against being outwitted by anybody; and that I knew more then 'old folks.' I wonder if the boys think so of themselves now-a-days.

I them made my way west along the Ridge Road to Murray corners, nor Clarkson, where Dr. Baldwin had located and kept a tavern, which at that time was a very lucrative business, as people were flocking from the east rapidly.

From Murray Corners we struck off north-west what was then called 'Black North,' a region where the probability was, what the musketoes did not eat up, the fever and ague would kill. On we went, nothing fearing, until we came to what was called, "Yanty Creek," where we found three families located, who I believe were the only white inhabitants in what is now the town of Kendall. They were H. W. Bates, Amos Randall, and Benjamin Morse, and their families. I concluded to make a 'pitch' here. I now had to learn the customs and employments of the people among whom I was going to reside, which consisted mainly of chopping, rolling logs, raising log houses, drinking whiskey to keep off the fever and ague, hunting deer, bear, raccoons, bees and catching fish.

After working hard at a log raising, and taking cold after I was awakened in the night by an awful 'shaking' and could not tell what it meant, but found out sure enough afterward..

In the spring of 1816, I went to work in good earnest to clear a patch of land on which to raise a little of the needful, and behold in June there came a frost and spoiled all our labor and made our cornfields in the wilderness, instead of 'blossoming like the rose,' look as though the fire had run through them.

The next fall I was taken down with the ague 'proper,' and in attempting to break it up I made it worse, until it became awful. I then made up my mind to make my way back to Massachusetts. But how was I to do it? I was so weak I could not walk a mile. Finally I found some men going to Vermont and agreed with them to take me along with and let me ride part of the time. If I could remember their names I would record them with gratitude for their kindness.

I found my unconquerable will had a wonderful effect upon my body. I had no more ague on my journey, though I had it every day before I set out. I went to Massachusetts, and remained till I got well recruited, and nothing daunted by what I had suffered, I determined to return again to the west, and January 17th, 1817, I was married to Miss Miriam Deming, and in February following, with my wife, my brother, and his wife and one child, Eri Twitchell, and wife, and Nathaniel Brown, we started with three yoke of oxen hitched to a huge covered wagon. The perils of that journey were neither few nor small in passing over mountains covered with snow and ice, sidling roads with yawning gulfs below, and crossing streams on ice, and floundering through snow drifts, with a constant headwind blowing in our faces for twenty-two days together.

When we arrived in the neighborhood of our new home, our neighbors hailed our coming with joy, and wanted a little flour just to make a cake. I suppose they had gathered some stick and had baked their last meal.

We moved into a small log hut with only one room the fireplace against the logs at one end, with a stick chimney, bark roof and floor,. Taking it altogether, we thought it was a terrible place to live in.

We had three yoke of oxen and nothing for them to eat, this was the worst of all. We turned them into the woods and cut browse for them, but the poor cattle suffered much.

In the next spring we had to pay one dollar a bushel for potatoes, and alike price for oats, and no money to buy with at that. We got some potatoes to plant and the came up trice, one by natural growth and once rooted up by the hogs. We set them out again, my wife helping, for she was a true 'yoke fellow.'

So we plodded on through the summer, with wheat costing $2.50 a bushel, port twenty-five cents a pound. Our first child was born Sept. 24th of this year. It was very feeble, and remained so for a long time, its mother having the fever and ague every day for nearly seven months, and taking care of her child the most of the time. At six months the child weighed only four pounds! Thus we toiled on for three years. the third year we raised wheat and other crops enough for our comfort, and had built a framed addition to our house. Our prospects now seemed favorable for going ahead, but in March following, our house took fire and was consumed, together with all our provisions, and nearly all our household furniture. Under the circumstances, this was a sore trial to us. We then had three children, and no where to lay our heads. We had nothing to eat except what came from charity. Our neighbors were poor but exceedingly good.

After a while we got another house and toiled on, getting together some of this world's goods. We had ten children, all of whom lived to grow up to be men and women. We have sent nine of them to school at once.

My wife died July 30, 1857, aged 64 years. I have never experienced any calamity in my life that afflicted me like her death, with such severity.

For several years after I came into this country, I spend considerable time going far and neat to assist in raising log buildings. Sometimes going several miles and carrying my dinner in my hand.

Mr. W. H. Bates and myself were accustomed to labor much together, changing works. In the winter of 1816, we went a mile into the woods to chop; there by accident a tree fell on him cursing him badly. Had he been along he would have perished. On another occasion Mr. Bates and another man with myself, went two miles into the woods one day in June, and felled the times on two acres.

I think the like was never done in that neighborhood before or since.

In the early settlement of the Genesee country, intemperance prevailed to an alarming extent. Almost everybody drank whiskey free as water when they could get it, and I am surprised so many escaped total and eternal ruin. Many years ago I saw the evil and totally abandoned the use of everything that intoxicates as a beverage and labored faithfully as I could to save others. For my zeal and persistence in opposing the traffic in liquor, I have suffered much from rum sellers. At an early day I have seen Justices Courts in session with a bottle of whiskey on the table before them, thus polluting the fountains of justice with the vile abomination, and if the Honorable Court happened to become too much absorbed with the creature, they would adjourn over to cool off.

I have had a large experience in hunting bears, deer, raccoons, and wolves, and camping out in the woods in cold and storm, without fire or food, working out in the dead of winter, eating frozen dinners in the woods, sharing fully my part in all sorts of hardships which fell to the lot of the first settlers here. I have endured it all, and lived to a good old age, thankful to that good providence which has carried me through so far and so safely.

Albion, February 26th, 1861.

Mr. Manley died in Albion, July 29th, 1867, aged 74 years.


"I was born in Lisbon, Connecticut, October 25th, 1801. My ancestors came to America from England some time in the sixteenth century. My father removed to Columbus, Chenango county, N. Y., in 1805. In 1810 he removed to Utica, and in 1817, he settled with his family on what was then called the Triangle Tract, near the county line, and between the towns of Kendall and Hamlin, about three miles from Lake Ontario. This place was then called Clark's Settlement, because one three brother of the name of Clark settled there. My uncles, Caleb, and James settled there one year before my father, whose name was William Clark, came on, which was quite a help to us, for they had a little wheat sown, and some corn and potatoes planted.

When my father arrived there was not a pound of pork or flour in the settlement, except what he brought with him; and the next day the pork, flour and whiskey were divided among the neighbors.

One reason for the entire destitution among the settlers was the anticipation of my father's arrival, for they all knew he would bring a supply for a time, and so neglected to provide for themselves other wise.

The names of the families then in the settlement were Bates, Priest, Randall, Balcom, Ross, Clark and two by name of Manley.

The settlers, in anticipation of our coming had peeled elm bark in the month of June previous, enough to form a roof to a house, and on our arrival they commenced cutting logs for a house, and to clear a spot of ground large enough to set it on, and in a few days it was raised and covered with bark, in true pioneer style. They also split basswood and hewed slabs for a floor, which covered about two-thirds of the surface of the room, the remainder being left for the fire place and hearth.

We now moved into our new house and commenced our pioneer labors.

The door of our house was a bed blanket, and windows were hardly necessary, for our house was not 'chinked' and sufficient light came in through crevices between the logs, and a large space was left open in the roof for the smoke to pass through. Our fireplace was the entire end of the house, and our hearth the solid earth.

My father soon obtained some boards and made a door and temporary windows. The next thing to be done was to chink the cracks between the logs. This being done, we dug up the soil, and wt it and make mud with which we plastered the outside over the chinks, which made our house quite warm and comfortable.

About this time out stock of provisions began to get short, and the entire settlement was getting hard up for something to eat; but as potatoes were about ripe we had plenty of them, and as we had a cow we lived quite well until we could get wheat ground, which at that time was very difficult. Before our wheat was hard enough to grind, our mother hulled and boiled it and we ate it with milk, and we thought it very good eating.

This state of things did not last long, for my brother James had a great propensity for hunting, my father having bought him a gun; he very soon supplied us with venison which proved a luxury in the way of meat.

At length our wheat crop having matured, a grist for each neighbor was prepared, and I stated with an ox team and about twelve bushels of wheat, which with fodder for the oxen by the way, was about as much as the team could draw. I staid at Murray Corners, now Clarkson, the first night, and the next day, a little before night, I got to the mill at Rochester, chained the oxen to the wagon and fed them for the night. I slept that night on the bags in the mill until my grist was ground, which was completed about daylight. After feeding my tan and eating my venison, I started for home and for there about sundown the third day out. The next morning I guess, all the neighbors had short cake for breakfast.

I will now give a description of what was called an Indian Mill which was used to some extent by the early settlers. We selected a solid stump of a tree in a suitable place near the house, cut a hole in the top with an axe, deep as we could, and then built a fire in the hole burning it, and putting in hot stones until it was sufficiently deep for a mortar. We then made a pestle of hard wood, took a strip of elm bark, tied one end to the pestle and the other to the top of a limber sapling tree that would bend directly over the machine. Put a quart of corn into this mortar, and a man could soon convert it into samp--coarse meal--which then well boiled, made very good eating in milk. The Indians used it almost exclusively for bread.

I had never chopped down a tree or cut off a log when I first came into the forest. The next morning after arriving in the woods, I took an ax and went to where my father was preparing to build his house, and commenced chopping down a tree, perhaps six inches through. I chopped all around the tree till it fell. When the tree started to fall, I started to run, and if the tree had not lodged an another, I know not but I should have been killed, for I ran in the same direction the tree was falling. I was so scared at this my first attempt at falling timber, that I picked up my ax which I had thrown away in my fright, and made tracks for the house, concluding to chop no more until I had learned how to do it.

The first school in the settlement was taught by Gurdon Balcom, the next by Wesley Randall. The first minister of the gospel who preached in this settlement was Elder Randall, a Methodist and a very good man. Dr. Theophilus Randall was the first physician.

In the fall of 1818 I went to Oneida County, and learned the art of distilling whisky, which at this time was a very popular business. My mother died while I was there, which nearly broke up our home circle, and which was to me particularly a cause of great sorrow.

I returned home in June following and found my father's family, as I expected ,in a very lonely condition. I went to work with my father and brothers, clearing land, and securing our crops. When that was done, I went back to Verona and worked in a distillery another winter. Next spring I returned and worked in Whitney's distillery in Rochester, and the fall after I went to Toronto, in Canada, and erected the first steam distillery ever erected in Canada, which at that time was one of the curiosities of the age.

I worked thousands of bushels of the finest wheat I ever saw into whisky. The wheat was bought for two and six pence per bushel.

The next June I returned home, my father in the meantime had married again and moved to Le Roy, having let out his farm in Murray. I worked in le Roy and Clarendon. I became 21 years old October 25th, 1822. I took a job clearing land in Le Roy, for which I received $600. My father's family and myself then moved back to Murray, and I paid up the balance on his farm.

I married Anna Augur, daughter of Felix august, of Murray, now Kendall, Feb. 18th, 1824. Mr. Augur had come in from Vermont, the year previous and bought his land of the State of Connecticut for $3.00 an acre, Dr. Levi Ward was the land agent. Mr. Augur was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Gen. C. C. Augur, now of the United State Army, is his grandson.

The next spring after I was married, I bought a piece of land in Clark's settlement, which had some work done on it, and went o keeping house there.

I chopped over twenty acres with my own hands, all but four days help of a man. I then sold out my chance on his lot, and bought fifty acres in another place; which is a part of my present farm. It was then entirely wild, so that I commenced again the woods.

I bought it second-handed, and agreed to pay eight dollars per acre. I worked some on my land, working out some by the day and by the job; but as grain brought but a small price, I concluded that was a pretty hard way to get a living, and built a distillery near my farm. At this time settlers had come in in market for it. Money was scarce, and the little we had was what we received for ashes. We cut and burned out timber and made black salts from the ashes, which brought cash. I have carried ashes on my back to market, until my shoulders were blistered, to get a little money to buy necessaries for my family. I built my distillery because grain was plenty and cheap. I could distill it, take it to market at Rochester and sell it for cash, at a good profit to me and to the settler, who sold me his grain, which he could not take to another market and make as much from it; and he could raise grain easier then he could make and market black salts.

I sold my distillery in 1830, and determined to make farming the business of my life after that.

The year 1828 is well remembered and distinguished, as being 'the sickly season,' through this country. The sickness began in July, and in august there were not well persons enough in town to take care of the sick. And in this neighborhood there was but one well man, Ammon Augur, and not one well woman that could get out of the house. Many families suffered much for lack of help. My family was all sick. One day Dr. Robert Nichoson was the only person who entered my house. He called, prepared our medicine and left it at the head of our beds, and went on to other scenes of suffering. That was the most gloomy day I ever saw. My wife crept from her bed to mine, holding up by the door post, to see if I was alive, and then got back to her bed, where lay our little daughter, equally helpless. We all spent a dreary night. My hired man was down sick at the same time. The next day we got help. The year's 1827 and 1827 were also sickly years. I could give many cases of suffering in those time, but amid it all we had our pleasures, for we were all brethren and loved one another.

Kendall, March, 1864. 

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


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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