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

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb



Sidney S. Barrett, eldest son of Amos Barrett, was born in Fabius, N. Y., May 8th, 1804. He came to Ridgeway with his father' s family in March, 1812, and resided in that family until he was twenty-four years old, then with two younger brothers he bought part of lot twenty-four, township fifteen, range four, in Ridgeway. He worked his land in company with these brothers for five or six years, when it was divided and he took a part to himself, on which he has ever since resided.

He married Lydia H. Fox, February 23d, 1832, by whom he had two sons and two daughters, all of whom lived to adult age.


Mr. Knowles was born in Sandersfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, July 19, 1790. His ancestors, for several generations, had been residents of Cape Cod, and were of the true New England, Puritan stock.

They were God-fearing people, of deep religious sentiment, and strict in their habits. His parents brought up their family of nine children according to the notions prevailing in those days among the descendants of the old Puritans.

The school house and the church were prominent institutions in New England civilization, and Mr. Knowles had the advantages of both, as they were enjoyed seventy years ago. His schooling was restricted to the district school of that time.

In December, 1813, Mr. Knowles collected his effects together, purchased a span of horses and wagon, and a quantity of iron and steel for loading, and started to go to the Genesee Country, where three of his brothers had already located.

On his way west he stopped at Schenectady and bought eight kegs of oysters to add to his load. He arrived safely at the home of his brother in Riga, January 5th, 1814.

In January, 1815, he came to Ridgeway and stopped at the house of an old friend, Eleazer Slater. He took an article on lot three, township fifteen, range three, on which the village of Knowlesville, so named in his honor, now stands, on the Erie Canal, containing 341 acres.

In March, 1815, he began to cut down the trees upon his land so purchased, to build a house, then more than a mile from any house, or highway or foot path.

The spot on which he cut the first tree is where the residence of Mr. R. P. Wood now stands. In due time his cabin was raised, with side of logs, roof of staves, or shakes, as they were called, fastened to their places by poles bound crosswise, with a floor of basswood logs roughly hewed on one side.

Mr. John Canifee, having a wife and one child and no house, moved into the new house of Mr. Knowles before it was completed, while the floor was only half laid down, and a blanket was used for a door, and live din it in that condition for two weeks.

Mr. Knowles hired two men to work for him, one of whom had a wife, who was their housekeeper. During the first summer this woman, Mrs. Hill, was take sick and died.

At that time there were no roads, no barns, no pastures, and none of the modern conveniences for living in the settlement. Mr. Knowles had obtained some cows which he hired kept two miles from his house. He would work hard in his clearing all day, then go two miles to mile his cows and bring the mild home in pails through the woods.

The death of Mrs. Hill was a sad event in the wilderness. It rendered the log cabin desolate. The men Mr. Knowles was hired soon left him.

In November, 1815, he went back to Massachusetts, and in January, 1815, was married to Miss Mary Baldwin. They came on to the house Mr. Knowles had built. Mrs. Knowles soon accustomed herself to the inconveniences and difficulties of her new situation, went cheerfully to work and became a model housekeeper. The inconveniences of house keeping were not a few.

Mr. Knowles, on his way home with his wife, had purchased a set of chairs with split seats. These were regarded at first by the neighbors as a great luxury, and frequent comments were made by them upon the extravagance, as they regarded it of the Knowles family. But if they did indulge a little in the matter of chairs, their other furniture of the house at first was sufficiently primitive to satisfy the most fastidious of their friends, for they had at first no table but a board put on the top of a barrel. Their first bedstead was made by boring holes in the logs in the side of house, and putting in rods fastened to pole bedposts, with side pieces of like material.

In the summer of 1816, the engineers surveying for the Erie Canal, came along and pitched their tent on Mr., Knowles farm, on the spot where Abell & Brace now have a store, stopping there a week, and finally established the line for the canal through the center of his farm.

The canal was completed to Lockport from the east in 1824. Mr. Knowles built one section of the canal a little east of Holley.

In 1825 he built the first framed house in Knowlesville, on the south side of the canal, in which he kept a hotel for several years. Afterwards he built the brick house neat the canal on the west side of the Main Street, in which he kept temperance hotel for several years, until he finally closed the house as a tavern.

Mr. Knowles built the first warehouse in Knowlesville, in 1825. He bought and shipped the first boat load of wheat ever shipped from Orleans County.

Mr. Knowles was always among the first engaged in all public enterprises for the benefit of the community in which he lived.

He helped build the first school house in his district, which was made of logs. This served also as a place of worship. Here ministers of various denominations preached the gospel, and the people flocked to hear them without regard to sectarian prejudices or partiality.

In 1838 Mr. Knowles built his late place of residence on the beautiful eminence in the west part of the village, and north of the canal.

In 1830 the brick church in Knowlesville was erected, Mr. K. furnishing one-half or more of the funds for that purpose.

Mr. and Mrs. Knowles united with the Presbyterian Church in 1820, which was the first religious society organized in Ridgeway. For nearly forty years he has been a ruling elder in that church.

He never had children of his own, yet he has taken into his family and brought up and educated seven or eight children of others. To one of these Rev. I. O. Fillmore, he gave a liberal education, sending him to college, and theological schools to fit for the gospel ministry, besides granting him a generous allowance of means to establish himself with comfort in life, in grateful remembrance of which favors, so bountifully and disinterestedly bestowed by Mr. Knowles and his family, Mr. Fillmore acknowledges his obligation, and devotes himself with filial duty to make the last days of his kind benefactor as happy as possible

Mr. Knowles has been twice married. His first wife died April 2d, 1861. He married Mrs. Mary Crippen for his second wife.

He has sold his large farm and other real estate, reserving only a house and lot in Knowlesville, where he resides, relieved from the cares and perplexities of business, calmly awaiting the approach of death, enjoying the full assurances of the good man's hope.

The foregoing is the substance of a sketch of Mr. Knowles, furnished for the Orleans County Pioneer Association, by his adopted son, Rev. I. O. Fillmore.


"I was born in Claremont, New Hampshire, July 25th, 1798. In 1802 my father removed to Waterbury, Vermont.

In October, 1817, he started with two yoke of oxen and a wagon to move his family to western New York, and after traveling thirty days arrived at Gaines, then Genesee County, N. Y. I was then eighteen years of age.

In the fall of 1819, I bought an article for fifty acres of land in Ridgeway, and in 1821, I bought an article for sixty-two acres with a small lob house on it. All my personal estate then consisted of one yoke of steers and a cow.

I lived in my log house seventeen years, then built a dwelling house of stone in which I now reside.

Ridgeway, June, 1866.


"I was born in Warwick, Massachusetts, September 20th, 1796. I was married to Ephraim G. Masten, at Albany, N. Y., November 15th, 1815.

We settled in Bethlehem, Albany County, N. Y. In 1819 my husband came to Ridgeway, Orleans county, and bought an article for one hundred and thirty acres of land on lot seventeen, township fifteen, range three, then in a wild state, cleared three acres and sowed it with wheat, and in November, 1819, moved upon his land with his family.

We lived in a log house until in 1831 we built a dwelling of stone on the site of the old log house. Mr. Master died March 20th, 1840.

Ridgeway, September, 1860. 


"I was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, January 22nd, 1802.

In the fall of 1807, my father moved to Phelps, Ontario County, I being then in my sixth year. Here I spent my boyhood working on a farm summers and attending district school winters. When I was twelve years old my father send me with his hired man a mile and a half into the woods to chop corn wood, and on my twelfth birth day I chopped and piled on cord of wood, and well do I remember of bragging of my exploit when I returned home. But strategy, of which we hear occasionally, had something to do with it, for I got the hired man to fall an old basswood tree with a dead top for me, and this helped materially to make my pile.

My father being of Green Mountain origin, where men were born with iron constitutions, required more work of me than my constitution could endure, consequently when I was about nineteen years old, I became physically unable to labor.

In 1823 I went to school at an academy in Geneva, and in the fall of that year I obtained a teacher's certificate. Thus accoutered, and with little knowledge of the world, and still less of its lucre, I emerged as a pedagogue which occupation I followed with an increase both of success and wages.

Fining this business irksome and by no means desirable for life, I resolved upon a profession. When consulting with friends for a choice it was thought my piety did not come up to the ministerial standard, and I had neither the confidence nor impudence to warrant success as a lawyer, therefore the only alternative was I must be a physician, which I resolved to be.

I studied medicine with Dr. James Carter, of Geneva, and attended medical lectures in the city of New York in the winter of 1827-28, and returned in the Spring to Geneva, with just six cents capital in my pocket with which to start in business.

In January, 1829, I located for practice in the village of Alloway, in the town of Lyons. There, with a capital borrowed, except the aforesaid six cents which I had not encroached upon, did I start out with saddle bags well filled, full of confidence of success. I stuck my tin and was ready for business.

It was in the healthy season of the year, and nobody would get sick to accommodate me, or test the efficiency of my drugs, or my ability in prescribing them. And it was even more than hinted that the blues were lurking about me.

But at length by patient industry I eventually acquired a good and lucrative practice as a physician, and how well I have acquitted myself in my profession, and in such other business as I have been engaged in, I leave for others to decide.

I had not physical stamina sufficient to enable me to enter the wilderness and lay low its primeval forests, supplant the ferocious bears, and prowling and howling wolves,--or to build log houses, and occupy them,--therefore I am scarcely entitled to have my name enrolled among the real settlers and early pioneers of Orleans County fifty years ago, my only claim being that I swung the ax in my boyhood days in Ontario County, and also that I have cleared some land by proxy in Orleans County.

October 3d, 1831, I married a daughter of Henry Howard, of Alloway, Wayne County, N. Y. I carried on my professional business in connexion with merchandising, until in 1844, I removed to Alexander, Genesee County, and in February, 1845, I moved to Knowlesville, on the farm on which I now reside. Here I have practiced medicine but little, keeping a drug and book store, and superintending my farm.

My wife died April 8th, 1847, and I married a second wife, Mrs. Eliza Ann Brown, August 12th. 1858.

I have failed to get rich, being too timid to make any bold and great business strikes, having too great a development of the organ of cautiousness to secure the avails of any great far-reaching enterprise.

To sum up the events of my history in short, in my boyhood I was a farmer, then a teacher, then a clerk, next a student of medicine, after that a doctor, then a merchant.

I have run an ashery and a distillery, for which latter business I trust I am now sufficiently penitent. I have kept a drug and book store, and am now living quietly on my farm in Knowlesville.

Knowlesville, January 21, 1867.


"My father moved from Massachusetts to Marcellus, N. Y., in 1805.

I was born in Marcellus, Onondaga County, n. Y., April 14th, 1812, and was brought up at labor on my father's farm until I became a man.

I taught school four years, then studied medicine and graduated in my profession in 1837 and settled to practice in Cortlandville, N. Y. In 1838, I was married to Miss Maria Thomas, of Skanatelas, and began housekeeping immediately.

I practiced my profession eighteen years, then from failing health was compelled to abandon the practice of medicine and removed to Medina, N. Y., in 1856, and engaged in the business of selling drugs and medicines, which I still follow.

Medina, April, 1867.


Milo Coon was born in DeRuyter, N. Y., November 4th, 1790.

His father, Hezekiah Coon, was native of Rhode Island. He came to Ridgeway in 1809, and took an article for one hundred acres of land one mile east of Ridgeway Corners, upon which he moved with his family September 29th, 1811

When he settled here his neighbors were Ezra D. Barnes, Israel Douglass and Seymour Murdock.

Milo Coon married Edith L. Willets, August 31st. 1823.


Peter Hoag was born in Independence, New Jersey, December 3d, 1794.

In 1804 he came with his family to Farmington, Ontario County, N. Y. From that time until October, 1815, he labored on a farm, or went to school, or kept school. In October, 1815, he took up a lot of land in Ridgeway and built a log house on it, into which he moved his family in March, 1816.

About the year 1838 he disposed of his lot, bought part of lot nineteen, township fifteen, range three, on which he resides wit his son Lewis.

Mr. Hoag married Hannah Vanduser, March 15th, 1815. She died August 18th, 1831.

He married Maria Douglass, January 5th, 1832. She died March 20th, 1866.

His children are Mary, who died in infancy. Zachariah married Marie Temple, and resides in Michigan. James, who married Elizabeth Slade, resides in Kendall. Ransom, who married Melvina Porter, reside in Medina. Mary, who married Sylvester Gillett, resides in Bergen. Lyman died in infancy. William L., who married Clara Bigford, resides in Wisconsin. Charles Henry, who married Minerva Powers, resides in Wayne County, N. Y., and Lewis H., who married Sarah Hoag, and resides on his paternal homestead.


"I was born in the town of Tarbot, Pennsylvania, August 2d, 1794.

In 1797 my parents removed to Seneca, N. Y., town of Romulus. We had many hardships and privations to endure, the country being new and we so far from school and religious meetings. Our land was heavily timbered and required a great deal of hard work to get it in a condition to till. We had to go ten miles to mill.

I went to school after I was none or ten years old, what I could, and worked on the farm summers until in September, 1813, I was drafted for a soldier, being then nineteen years old, and went to Fort George, in Canada, which had been taken by our forces in the spring before.

I was three months in the army, and was then discharged.

I continued with my parents until 1816, when I came to the town of Ridgeway and worked one summer for a brother of mine who had located one mile south of Knowlesville. The next spring I bought an article for one hundred and nineteen acres of land, upon which I went to work clearing.

The title to the farm on which my father had resided and labored for twenty years in Seneca County proved bad and he was compelled to abandon it, leaving him almost penniless, and he came to the town of Shelby and began again anew.

I built a house on my land in Ridgeway, in October, 1818.

In May, 1819, I was married to Miss Elizabeth Burroughs, daughter of David Burroughs, of Shelby, and in June after, we moved into my house upon my farm, on which farm I have resided now forty-seven years.

I worked my farm and my wife took good care of thing about the house, and so we prospered as well as any of our neighbors. I built my first barn in 1820.

Presbyterian churches were organized at Oak orchard Creek, and at Millville, at an early day. In the year 1831 a Church edifice was erected by the Presbyterians at Knowlesville.

During these years so long ago, although our labor was hard and fatiguing, yet we performed it with cheerfulness and in hope. Our neighbors knew no broils, families were all peaceful and friendly with each other, kind and attentive in sickness, even until death.

Thus we toiled on from year to year, the forest gradually retiring before us, and giving place to fruitful fields, and gardens, and orchards, yielding a generous reward for our labors.

I built a new house which I finished in 1835, but our old log house was like a sacred spot, cherished in our memories.

Since occupying my present residence I have seen the present wilderness exchanged for cultivated land, filled with the habitants of industry. I have witnessed the introduction into our country of those great works of improvement, the Erie Canal, the Railroad, and the electric Telegraph, and now, in the evening of my days, I am enjoying a competence of this world's good for my comfort, expecting soon to pass over the 'river,' where I hope to meet not only the pioneers of the woods here, but all who are here 'seeking a better country.'

Ridgeway, January, 1865.

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


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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