Chapter 29 - History of Wyoming County



THE idea of a gathering at Silver lake of the pioneers of Wyoming county was suggested by Jonathan Sleeper, and notice of such a gathering in the summer of 1872 was circulated^ by him. The result was a pleasant social gathering and picnic at the lake, far larger than was anticipated.

At this meeting arrangements were made for a similar gathering the next summer. The meeting in 1873 was a still larger one. An address was delivered by General L. W. Thayer, a paper by Amos Otis was read, several impromptu speeches were made, and a good time was had.

At this meeting it was resolved to hold annual gatherings, and a chairman and secretary for the next meeting were appointed. In May, 1874, the secretary, George Tomlinson, of Perry, issued a call, and a meeting was held, at which an executive committee was appointed, also a committee in each town to report statistics of deaths, etc. Mr. W. P. Letchworth, of Portage, was invited to deliver an address, and more thorough preparations were made for the gathering than in previous years. A notable feature of the meeting in that year was the attendance with Mr. Letchworth of Shongo, a descendant of Mary Jemison, and a young Indian girl in the costume worn by her people at the time of Mary Jemison's captivity. The statistical reports of the town committees proved to be a feature of great interest. Similar meetings were held in each succeeding summer, with a constantly increasing interest. Addresses were delivered in 1875 by Hugh T. Brooks, of Covington; in 1876 by Hon. Augustus Frank, of Warsaw, and in 1877 by Norman Seymour, of Mount Morris. At the meeting in 1877 steps were taken toward the formation of a legal association. A resolution was adopted that the association organize under the laws of the State, and be known as "The Wyoming Historical Pioneer Association." The corporators were Jonathan Sleeper, R. W. Brigham, Mason Lock, R. E. Moredoff and George Tomlinson. In the certificate of association the objects were stated to be, " to collect historical facts in relation to the early settlement of this county, gather tools, machinery, manufactured articles and such other things as relate to the pioneers of western New York; also to form a museum of curiosities, and to hold reunions of pioneers, associations and conventions."

William P. Letchworth, H. A. Dudley, F. W. Capwell, Joseph Clark, Augustus Frank, R. B. Moredoff, Jonathan Sleeper, Myron Lock, Robert T. Shearman, O. V. Whitcomb, George Tomlinson, H. N. Page, H. M. Scranton, Robert G rise wood and Ezra Kelsey were named as trustees for the first year for the management of the affairs of the society.

A. S. Simmons was authorized by this board of trustees to contract with Samuel Sharp for one acre of land at $350. This duty was discharged, and a deed was executed December 5th, 1877. Myron Lock, A. S. Simmons, O. V. Whitcomb, Robert Grisewood and Ezra Kelsey were appointed executive committee, "to grade and fence the grounds, build all buildings and take the general management of the property of the society."

During the spring and summer of 1878 the pioneer cabin was erected, seats and tables were arranged on the grounds of the society and made ready for the annual meeting, which was held August 1st of that year. At that meeting a historical address was delivered by A. N. Cole, of Wellsville, and an oration by Dr. Mills, of Mt. Morris. An address dedicating the cabin was made by the secretary.

This cabin is erected in a pleasant grove of chestnut, maple, oak and hickory trees on the grounds of the society, in the town of Castile, near what was formerly known as " Chapin's Landing," a few rods east from Silver lake. It was built under the superintendence of the executive committee before named, and the expense was defrayed wholly by voluntary contribution. The logs of which this cabin is constructed were contributed by the pioneers of the county, or their descendants in cases of deceased pioneers, and the name of each contributor of a log is recorded on a bulletin board that hangs on the front of the cabin. They are as follows:

S. Armstrong, J. Allan, David Andrus, J. Abbott, L Allen, H. F. Austin, R. W. Bringham, D. Ball, T. Benedict, A. Bradt, C F. Benedict, H. Barnes, J. B. Deebe. a Bradt, J. N. Bolton, G. Benedict B. Buell, J. P. Bucklend, K. Bacon, B. Bathriuk, B. Burt, C. P. Bailey, T. Bacheldor, Truman Benedict, L. Bacheldor, J. H. Bolton, George Colburn, F. Cone, J. Cronkite. George W. Clark, C. A. Chapin, O. Chapman, J. W. Campbell, Dow T. Clute, William Dolbeer, Silas Rawson, B. Edgerly, J. and B. Edgerly, T. Flake, B. Fitch, W. Grove, T. F. Grey, B. Grieswood, W. Granger, D. W. Hough, S. A. Higgins, M . Hull, M . Hathaway, J. Hollleter. B. Howard, D. Higgins, H. K. Higgins, George Johnson, J. Jones, H. Karringer, William A. Lacy, J. B. Lowing. L. Lacy, W. P. Letchworth, M. Locke, T. McEatas, J. Miner, J. Metcalf, Dr. J. Nevene, D. Nerenes, A. Otis, J. Olin, P. Olin, W. A. Phillips, R. K. Page, C. Phillips, J. B. Potter, L. Phillips, A. Rapalee, J. Richard, L. Russell, B. Robinaon, W. A. Sanger. B. H. Smith, K. Saxton. S. Safford, J. Sayles, G. N. Sherman, C. L. Schenock, N. Seymour, J. Sleeper. P. F. Schenok, I. H. True, B. Tellmen, I. True, G. Tabor, Z. Toan, George Tomlinson, J. D. Turrell, D. B. Taylor, S. Utter. F. Williams, D. A. Wallace, J. Walker, Dr. J. Ward. W. Willey. G. H. Wright. B. Watroua, D. Wygant, P. M . Ward, Dr. G. L. Keeney, S. Hatch, B. Harrison, B. A. Keleey, S. Waldo, C. R. Bradt, M . T. Bristol, J. C. Karringer, J. W. Klngaley, Augustus Frank, A. S. Simmons, Lyman Taylor, Paul Stowell, Thomas Buell, Benjamin Johnson, J. W. Capwell, Samuel Benedict, Walter Gilltople. William Agate, Alanson Lacey, Jehial Glasgow. Ezra Olin, Eleazer Sheldon, Estes M . Nutter, M. Andrews, John Halstead, Daniel W. Mattison, W. J. Chapin and B. Gardner.

The house is twenty-four by forty feet, and the roof has a projection on each side of six feet. It is built exactly in the style of the houses that the pioneers erected when they first came into this region. The doors are hung on wooden hinges, and fastened with wooden latches, which are raised by latch strings as of old. The fire-place has no jambs, has a stone back, and a stick chimney that is plastered inside. In this chimney is a lug pole from which to suspend cooking utensils. It has also the more modern crane, which was used for the same purpose. In the corner, on one side of the fire-place, wooden pins are inserted in the logs, and on these are placed boards. These shelves represent the pioneer pantry. On the other side of the fire-place is the rustic ladder for ascending to the loft. Between the braces which sustain the chimney runs a piece of split timber, the pioneer mantel shelf. In front hooks cut from the limbs of trees are fastened to the rough joists above, and on these are placed poles - young trees cut from the forest; across these are laid pieces of smaller saplings on which to suspend any article. Some strips of dried pumpkins are clinging to one of these - exact representatives of old time domestic economy. Hooks and pegs appear on the logs at the sides of the one room that the house comprises. In some instances these are the antlers of deer. In one corner is a pioneer bedstead, made by inserting the ends of large poles in auger holes, and supporting the corner by a post. In place of a cord strips of elm bark cross each other. Near the head of this bed is the rough shelf for toilet articles, and in the logs over it are driven nails on which to hang the comb case, etc. A larger nail in a higher log is for suspending the looking glass. The shelf for the old fashioned clock has not been forgotten. The loft is exactly what lofts formerly were, except that the larger size of the building makes it more spacious.

The fire-place is furnished with all the utensils for cooking that were formerly used, and many of these are duplicated and even triplicated. From the lug pole and crane are suspended by trammels and books every variety of old iron vessels, and by the sides of the andirons stand bake kettles, spiders, skillets, gridirons, toasters, griddles, tin bakers, etc, etc. At the sides of the fire-place are the fire shovels and tongs made for handling the heavy logs and brands of old time fires, waffle irons, etc. Hanging to the chimney braces are bellows, gourds, and other articles, and resting on and hanging in front of the mantel shelf are the lanterns, candlesticks of tin and iron of various fashions, tongs for lighting candles or pipes, kettle hooks, spits or trammeled hooks for roasting meat, etc.

The shelves on the logs at the side of the fire-place are covered with everything which such shelves formerly held, far more and in greater variety than any one cabin was furnished with. On these shelves and in the fire-place may be seen specimens of every utensil used in the culinary department of early settlers' houses. All these have seen actual service among the first inhabitants, and many were old heirlooms in their families. It is impossible, within reasonable limits, to enumerate the articles that may be seen in this corner. Everything, from a bark bread tray and wooden mortar to the minutest articles formerly in use, may be found there.

In the opposite corner, under the ladder, stands an old dye tub; the seat which noisy urchins were sometimes required to occupy, the one where studious youths sat to read or cypher by firelight, and the one where their grandmothers rested, with their elbows on their knees, while the smoke from their pipes ascended the chimney with that from the fire. Near to it stands another obsolete article - the rack used in making tallow dips or candles; and on this lie some of the old candle rods, to which the candles were suspended during the process of dipping.

Suspended on the poles in front of the fire-place are canteens and runlets or water bottles, one of which has two cavities, one for water and one for; old fashioned saddle bags, such as pioneer physicians carried into many a log house; and among other articles the identical chair once used by Dehewamis, or " the white woman."

The pegs and hooks on the walls support specimens of almost everything which formerly pertained to pioneer houses. Quaint old bonnets and hats and other articles of apparel, pictures and prints, guns, bayonets, cartridge boxes, powder horns, swords, pistols, etc., etc., some of which did service in the Revolution, and even in the French and Indian war; various implements of farm and domestic industry, the uses of some of which are hardly known now, warming pans, children's dresses, specimens of domestic linen, etc.

The bedstead is surrounded by tasteful old curtains of spotless white, and over it is spread a coverlet woven in 1698. Standing by the bead of the bed is an old tin candle stand. Above the toilet shelf hangs a mirror, which began to cast reflections in 1 803. Under this is the comb basket, and on the shelf lies the old pin cushion.

On the shelf at the foot of the bed is ''grandfather's clock," which during eighty years, "without slumbering, tick-tick-tick," has numbered the passing seconds and struck the hours; and still it ticks and strikes.

In front of the bed stands a cradle, in which the ruddy babies of probably more than one generation have been rocked.

A long board table, seventy years old, stands In the middle of the floor, and on this rests the first show case that was used to display goods in the village of Perry. This case contains many rare and interesting relics.

Standing against the wall is an old secretary and book case, filled with such books as were found in the scanty libraries of pioneers; among which are many specimens of old time school books. Many ancient records and old papers are deposited here. One of these is a copy of No. LV. of "The New England Weekly Journal, containing the most remarkable occurrences, foreign and domestic," dated " Monday, April 8th, 1728."

This sheet was published in Boston, "Printed by S. Kneeland & T. Green, at the Printing House in Queen street, where advertisements are taken in."

The sheet measures twelve by six inches, printed on both sides, in two columns. At the head of the first column it is stated:

"'There are measures concerting for rendering this paper yet more universally esteemed and useful, in which 'tis hoped the Publick will be gratified, and by which gentlemen who desire to be improved in History, Philosophy, Poetry, &c, will be greatly advantaged. We will take the liberty at this time to insert the following Passage of History"

Then follow the quotation and a story. The neat column is filled with communications between "His Excellency Robert Hunter, Esq.," and the council. The third column is filled with items of intelligence from England, bearing various dates from October 28th, 1727, to November 16th of the same year.

At the head of the fourth column appears: " Burials in the Town of Boston since our last, Five Whites, One Black - Baptized in the Several Churches, Nine."

Then follows: "Custom House, Boston, April 6th, Entred Inwards" (names of persons), "Cleared out" (names), and " Outward Bound " (names).

The remaining space in the column is filled with advertisements of discourses and other publications, one of which was " On the Nature and Necessity of repentance; Occasioned by the Earthquake."

Arthur Savage advertises "Choice New Coffee," at "Eight shillings per pound."

"Mr. Nath Pigott intends to open school on Monday next, for the instruction of Negro's in Reading, Catechizing and Writing, if required; if any are so well inclined as to send their servants to said school near Mr. Checkley's Meeting House care will be taken for their instruction as aforesaid."

"A very likely Negro woman who can do household work and is fit either for Town or Country service about 22 years of age to be sold. Inquire of the printer hereof."

"A very likely Negro girl about 13 or 14 years of age, speaks good English, has been in the Country some years, to be sold. Inquire of the printer hereof."

A copy of the Ulster County Gazette, published at Kingston January 4th, 1800, contributed by Mrs. Prindle, of East Bethany, is also here. It contains copious extracts from journals concerning the war then in progress in Europe. The inside is dressed in mourning for the death of George Washington, and contains an account of his obsequies and communications between the Senate and President John Adams, on the occasion of his death. In this paper also is advertised for sale by John Schoonmaker, of the town of Rochester, "a stout, healthy, active negro wench."

There is also a fac-simile of the first number of the Boston News Letter, the first newspaper published in America.

In the loft are deposited several spinning wheels, reels, swifts, quill wheels, and a loom with all its fixtures - all the facilities, in short, for the domestic manufacture of cloth.

In the rear of the building, under the projecting eaves, are old ox yokes, calf yokes, double neck yokes for old Dutch harnesses, a one-handed bull plough, with its wooden mold-board, a three-cornered harrow, corn fans, a flax brake and swingling board and knife; and the logs under the eaves are garnished with bunches of dried herbs.

A short distance from the cabin is a well with a section of a hollow log for a curb, and a primitive sweep for drawing water. At the end of the house are growing bunches of useful and ornamental plants, such as hollyhocks, com f rev, catnip, carraway, smellage, tanzy, etc., and in the top of a partially hollow stump near by flourishes a cluster of liveforever. In front is a small bed in which are cultivated striped grass, sweet clover, fleur de lis, etc. These are such manifestations of esthetic taste as the circumstances by which pioneer wives were surrounded would permit. A platform is laid under the projecting roof in front, and on this stand old wagon chairs and primitive benches made of slabs.

In front of the gateway stands a column or post taken from a school-house that was built in 1832. On the top of this is a large wooden ball that was the first school globe ever used in the town of Perry. The rustic arch over the gateway is surmounted by the dried head of an elk, with enormous spreading and branching antlers.

This cabin, with its surroundings and the relics which it contains, is almost a complete pioneer history.

On one portion of the grounds seats and speakers' stands are arranged, and another part is occupied by tables for spreading refreshments for several hundred people at the annual picnics of the association. Squirrels gambol over the grounds and sport among the limbs of the trees almost without fear, and the grove is vocal with the songs of birds.

SOURCE:  History of Wyoming County, N.Y., with Illustrations, Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Some Pioneers and Prominent Residents; F. W. Beers & Co.; 1860