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

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




Mr. Douglass was born in New Milford, Connecticut, November 20, 1777. He moved to Scottsville, Monroe County, N. Y., in 1806. In 1810, he removed to the town of Batavia, now Ridgeway, Orleans County. He was the first Justice of the Peace in Orleans Co., having been appointed previous to 1812, for the town of Batavia.

At the first town meeting held in and for the town of Ridgeway, after that town was set off from Batavia, at the house of John g. Brown, at Oak Orchard, April 6, 1813, he was elected Town Clerk. This was the first town officer elected by the people residing in what is now Orleans County.

There being no magistrate to preside at town meetings in the new town of Ridgeway, a justice by the name of Smith was sent from Batavia for that purpose. The other town officers were elected afterwards at the same meeting.

Mr. Douglass held the office of Justice of the Peace for three terms in Ridgeway; he also held various other town offices, and at one time was Justice, Oversee of the Poor and Supervisor.

He was generally and justly regarded as an honest, fair mined man, and one of the best business men in the county. He always resided on the Ridge Road, near Oak Orchard Creek. Mr. Douglass died January 2, 1864, aged 86 years.


"I was born in Clarendon, Rutland County, Vermont, April 30, 1793. My father gave me a good common school education, with a few months study at an academy.

On the first day of May, 1815, I left home with a friend, and spent most of the next summer exploring the western country. We bought land in the town of Ridgeway, then nearly three miles away from any settlement. I returned to Vermont to prepare for permanent settlement on my land the next spring.

When the time came to go back, my friend was sick and could not go, and my father permitted my younger brother Josias, not then twenty-one years of age, to accompany me.

We began our journey February 14, 1816, with a good yoke of oxen and wagon, and in company with another team we went on our weary way.

We bought two barrels of pork at Skaneatelas, which completed our outfit. We arrived at our new home March 6, 1816, being twenty-one days on the road. I cut the first tree that was cut on the farm on which I now live, lot seventeen, township fifteen, range three. We, my brother, and I kept 'bachelor's hall' on my land two years.

In October, 1816, my brother went to Vermont, leaving me in the woods alone, out of sight and hearing of my neighbors. I suffered many hardships that winter, principally for want of proper food. I cut all the trees I could and fed out oxen on the tops, for we had raised little in that cold season for the sustenance of manor beast. I enjoyed my work well, but the nights were long and lonesome.

On leaving home, my mother gave me her bible and I read it through that winter by fire light.

My brother returned in February. The next winter I left him to 'keep house,' but in comparative comfort, for we had plenty of provisions.

I went to Vermont in the fall of 1817, and returned in March following, bringing with me my younger sister for a housekeeper. She still resided near me, as the wife of Avery V. Andrews, is the mother of a large family, and in good circumstances.

My sister and myself left my father's in the last day of February, in a cutter, and arrived in Ridgeway, March 12, 1818. Her bed, bedding and clothing we brought packed in a box, which contained all her worldly effects, with which she commenced life as an independent housekeeper.

She was a tall, slim girl, active and cheerful, carrying sunshine in her countenance and manners where ever she was. She left a large circle of young friends and associates, the pleasures of a father's house and a mother's care, to obscure herself in the woods, for the benefit of her brothers. She found a respectable circle of young people here, although rather widely scattered.

We brought with us at that time a favorite dog, concluding our sister would feel greater security in her wilderness home, when we were absent at our work; and he fully justified our conclusions, for he soon learned to consider himself as her special protector in our absence. And nothing could induce him to leave her when we were away from home.

If she went for an afternoon's visit through the woods to a neighbors, the dog was sure to accompany her, lie down by the door, and be ready to attend her home. She always felt secure in his presence.

As cold weather approached, our season for evening parties commenced. Most of the houses in town were cheerfully opened for our accommodation, and the young folks, with a few couple of your married people, formed a company quite respectable in point of numbers. We were quite democratic, there were no exclusions. Many a time did we spend out evenings dancing on a split plank floor, traveling several miles to the place appointed, walking on logs, over brooks and wet grounds, some of the company carrying a torch to light the way.

We sometimes went four or five miles to an evening party, on an ox sled, drawn by two yoke of oxen, with as many passengers as could 'pile on;' and as far as appearance would prove, all enjoyed both the ride and the dance first rate.

The first regular ball we attended was held at what is now Millville, in Shelby, July 4, 1819, and as it was quite a primitive one, and perhaps the first one ever held in this county, it may justify an imperfect description.

There were no carriages, and but few horse in the country. The young men would bring their girls behind them, both riding the same horse. Others would be in waiting to take the horse and go after their girls, and so on until the company had assembled. The same course was pursued on their return home.

At the time of which I write, we met in the upper room of a new building made for a store. The floor was good, but the ceiling over head was low at the side where the seats where placed, and it caused much polite bowing, to prevent our heads from coming in contact with the rafters.

Our table was spread in the street in front of the store, and it was well supplied with substantial fare. We had a fine, social time, formed many pleasant acquaintances and friendships, which were destined to endure through life. It is presumed there are few persons to whom it does not give pleasure, when the thought of such gatherings, in which they have participated, recurs to mind. Of more then twenty young ladies, who attended that party, but three are known to be living at this time. (1863)

As bear stories are sometimes entertaining to pioneers, I will relate one with which my sister was somewhat connected:

A respectable young man of the neighborhood called to visit her one evening, and continued his stay into the small hours of the night. His way home lay for a mile and a half through the woods. He reported next day that as he was returning through these woods, he treed a bear; but men who were alarmed by his outcries, were so uncharitable as to report that the bear treed him. He was never very communicative on the subject, and it was generally believed the latter was the fact.

Our first religious meetings were held in a log school house, half a mile west of Millville. The people would assemble from quite a distance, and the house would be well filled.

Elder Gregory, a Methodist, was our preacher. He resided near by, was a good man and practiced what he taught.

A Mr. Fairbanks preached occasionally. He organized the first Presbyterian Church in Shelby, at that school house, in 1820.

Judge William Penniman, a popular school teacher in those days, taught a school in that school house several terms.

My sister Anna was a pupil in his school out there in the winter of 1820. The old school house has long since disappeared. An academy and fine church buildings have arisen in Millville, in its stead. There are, however, associations connected with that old school house that will cause it to be remembered by the old settlers.

I received a lieutenant's commission in the militia service, dated March 4th, 1817, which I believe to be the oldest commission granted to any one now a resident of Orleans County. I was promoted in regular graduation to other military offices, and was finally elected Brigadier General, my commission being dated April 30th, 1826. I was the fist officer of that rank ever commissioned in this county. I discharged its duties as well as I was able for two years, and then resigned my commission.

I appointed the following named gentlemen my brigade officers, viz.: William Allis, Brigade inspector; Samuel B. Ayers, Paymaster; John fish, Aid-de-Camp; Harmon Goodrich, quartermaster; Orson Nichoson, Surgeon; Alexia Ward, Judge Advocate.

I was married March 15th, 1821, to Esther Lee, daughter of Judge John Lee, of Barre. My wife died in August, 1835.

I married for my second wife, Julia A. Flagler, daughter of Rev. J. S. Flagler, of Genesee County, N. Y.

Ridgeway, Dec. 5th, 1863

Gen. Wm. C. Tanner died July 8th, 1869.


"I was born in Wardsborough, Vermont, in 1793. My father was a revolutionary soldier. My father afterwards removed with his family to New Salem, Mass., at which time I was married in November, 1816, to Miss Lorana Hunt.

In 1814 I served a short time as soldier in the war with England.

Soon after I was married, in company with two other families, I moved my wife and a few articles of furniture with a yoke of oxen and wagon, to Ellicott, Chautauqua County, N. Y., a journey it took us thirty-five day to perform, during which snow fell almost every day.

After passing Canandaigua, we entered a forest with few settlers, and even these residing from three to ten miles apart; and in one case we traveled fourteen miles without passing a single house. The road most of the way was only marked trees, with the underbrush cut out, and no bridges over the streams except the ice.

On our way we exchanged our wagons for sleds, and how any of us lived through the last perilous day of fourteen miles travel through the woods, God only knows.

We started as early as possible in the morning, overturned one load of goods, and fearing we should all perish in the woods, we unhitched our teams from the sleds some time in the night, putting our oxen before us, the women being supported by holding fast to the tails of the oxen, and thus pursuing our way through the trackless forest four miles, we arrived at a log house about four o'clock in the morning. The house had been partially chinked but not plastered. Here we tarried the next day and night, during which time we went back, shod our sleds, and got them out of the forest.

We had to pay one dollar each for a yoke of oxen one night at hay, and one dollar a bushel for oats. So in about forty days, like the Israelites of old, we reached the promised land.

In October, before this time, I had been to Chautauqua County and contracted for a piece of land there, to do which I traveled out there from Massachusetts, and back again with my knapsack on my back, on foot, averaging fifty miles travel per day on the journey.

The third day after arriving on my land, I procured some boards and built a shanty twelve feet square, nailing two of the corners to two standing trees, making a board roof, with not a tree cut down near it.

. the year 1816 was the 'cold season,' corn was cut off by frost and it was almost impossible to get bread. For three weeks before harvest we had nothing to eat but some very small new potatoes, butter and milk. By changing the order of having these dishes, we made quite a variety, lived high, with hopes buoyant, and worked hard. Here we cleared up a new farm, raised an orchard from apple seeds brought out from Massachusetts, and also raised eight children.

I went into lumbering business in 1832; took my lumber to Cincinnati to sell, but the stagnation in trade, and scarcity of money, owing to the course taken by the Old Untied States Bank, after its renewed charter was vetoed by President Jackson, made it impossible for me to dispose of my lumber without great loss, which obliged me to sell my property in Chautauqua County to pay my debts, and I found even then I had not enough by $500 to pay up. That deficiency I afterwards earned by work at mason business and paid up in full.

I removed to Orleans County in 1833, and work as a mason several years.

Previous to the opening of the Erie Canal, I have paid seventy-five cents per yard for sheeting, and seventy-five center per yard for calico for my wife a dress. I have also paid fifteen dollars a barrel for salt.

I have laid the corners of over fifty log buildings, and have helped raise as many frames. I have spent more than six months of my labor gratuitously, in opening new public highways, and building causeways.

Ridgeway, February, 1862


"I was born in Cheshire, Massachusetts, July 7, 1780. My father, who was an officer in the revolutionary way, died when I was seven years old. I lived with my eldest brother until I was sixteen years old, and then ran away from him and worked out by the month the next seven years.

when I was nineteen years old I traveled with my knapsack on my back, on foot from Massachusetts to Farmington, Ontario County, N. Y., spent a short time there, then returned as I came, most of the way, alone.

Again in 1807, I traveled the same ground over in the same way.

In 1809 I was married to Abigail Davis, daughter of the Rev. Paul Davis, of New Salem, Massachusetts.

The winter after I was married I came on horseback to Farmington, to seek a home in the wilderness of Western New York, and located a piece of land for that purpose. I went back to Massachusetts and worked by the month to earn the means to move my family to my new farm.

I arrived in Farmington in February, 1811, and built me a log house in the woods one mile from any inhabitant. I was then the happy possessor of a wife and one child, six dollars in money, a dog and a gun. I exchanged my gun for a cow, which was the best trade I ever made except when I got my wife. The next spring I cleared my land, and raised over one hundred bushels of corn the same season.

In 1812 the war broke out. I was called to the lines to defend my country. I received notice on Friday night, about nine o'clock, to be in Canandaigua on the next Monday morning at ten o'clock, to march to Buffalo. I hired a man and woman to take care of my sick wife and child during my absence, while I responded to the call. I was then an officer in the militia, and I marched on foot with the rest of the officers and men to buffalo, where we arrived the second day after the battle. Our company was the first that arrived and assisted in collecting the dead. On receiving an honorable discharge I returned home.

The two summers next following, myself and wife were sick with the ague and fever, almost constantly.

In the winter of 1815, the ague having left me, and having regained my health enough to move, I sold my land and returned to Massachusetts. The next spring I came to Ridgeway, in Orleans county, and bought me some land, and in May brought on my family.

About the first of the next September, myself and wife and one child were taken sick, and until December following we suffered everything but death. Often during that time while myself and wife were confined to our beds, our children were crying for food, and neither of us had strength sufficient to enable us to get to the cupboard to help them.

In the month of June next, Israel Murdock informed me of several families who were destitute of bread, and asked if I thought it could be had for them at Farmington. I told him I thought it could, and taking his horse and wagon, I went there and got a load of corn for which I paid one dollar a bushel. This, together with some rye, which Israel Murdock had then growing, and which the neighbors commenced cutting as soon as it was out of the milk, sufficed for all of us to live on until after the harvest.

The favorite, because the only way to replenish our meat barrels, was to hunt raccoons, using their flesh in place of pork, and their fat to fry doughnuts in. the next winter (1816) I went to Farmington, and bought two tons of pork, paying ten dollars per hundred for it, and one dollar and fifty cents each for barrels, and one dollar per barrel for salt. I brought my pork to Ridgeway with my oxen, and sold it to the inhabitants for from twenty-six to thirty dollars per barrel, trusting it out to such as could not then pay, and some of those old pork accounts remaining unsettled, I am beginning to consider then rather doubtful demands.

In the spring of 1816, we held our first town meeting, and elected our first town officers. There not being freeholders enough in town to fill the offices to which we had chosen our candidates, Mr. Joseph Ellicott sent Andrew Ellicott to our town to notify the town officers elect, to go to Batavia and take deeds of their lands and give their mortgages, in order to become legal town officers, and they went and did so. I having been chosen commissioners of highways went with the others.

In my official capacity I assisted inlaying out five highways, from the Ridge to the lake. We would lay a road, following the liens between lots to the lake, keeping us busy all day. At night we would make a fire, cut some hemlock boughs for a bed, and sleep on them before out fire soundly till morning. Then making our breakfast, we would take another line back to the Ridge, and by the time we could get back to the settlement, it would be afternoon, and when we could get something to eat we generally had excellent appetites.

We were, however, amply compensated, our pay being two dollars for every twenty-four hours we spent in this kind of labor, to apply to our taxes. Who would not desire to be a commissioner of highway under such circumstances!

Since then I have held all the town offices in the gift of the people except clerk, collector, and constable, I was once a candidate for the last named office, but to my great grief and mortification I was defeated.

Our county was very unhealthy until 1828. That I think was the last sickly season, and during that season my health was good, and for eight weeks in that summer I never undressed myself to go to bed at night, being constantly watching with, and taking care of the sick, either in my own family, or among my neighbors. Since that time this country has been as healthy as any other section I ever knew.

In 1822 I built the first furnace and cast the first plough ever made in this State west of Rochester.

When I first settled in Ridgeway, the town of Ridgeway extended from Niagara County eastward to the Transit Line, having originally been the north part of Batavia, from which it was taken.

Such is some of my experience as a pioneer of Western new York. I have lived to see 'the wilderness blossom like the rose,' and to see many of my early companions in the hardships of this new county, depart from me to 'that bourne from whence no traveler returns.'

Ridgeway, July, 1862

Mr. Jeremiah Brown died Nov. 17, 1863. He was a man of large frame, strong and vigorous constitution, a farmer by occupation, but sometimes varied his employment by buying cattle, and driving them to Philadelphia to market, and in other speculations in trade.

Albert F. Brown, late Mayor of Lockport, and Col. Edwin F. Brown, late of the Union Army, were his sons.

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


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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