History of Ontario Co., NY

Published 1893

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pg 215 - 225 

CHAPTER XV 

THE VILLAGE OF CANANDAIGUA, THE SEAT OF JUSTICE OF ONTARIO COUNTY 

History of The Village of Canandaigua

From the time when Oliver PHELPS and his associates changed their place of abode from Geneva to Canandaigua it became a fixed fact that on the site of their new location would be built up an important village, and very soon after that enforced change of base was made the "chosen spot," was made the seat of justice of the first county erected in Western New York.  Indeed hardly more than a score of years passed before the little hamlet cast off its uncertain character and became an incorporated village. 

In another part of this work the story is told how Oliver PHELPS and Nathaniel GORHAM purchased the pre-emption right of all Western New York, how they caused the land to be surveyed into townships, and sub-divided each into lots.  It is also stated that the proprietors failed to meet the payments for this land, and that it thereafter passed into other hands.  However, the town in which Canandaigua village is situated was reserved by the proprietors, and was by Mr. PHELPS resurveyed and lotted, with a provision for a village location where afterward built up.  This provision for a future village was most appropriate, and nothing was omitted which could in any manner contribute to the comfort of the people who were expected to inhabit the locality.  Beginning at the foot of the lake a principal thoroughfare of travel was laid out, six (afterward increased to eight) rods in width, and extending northerly through the village tract a distance of two miles.  This is known as Main street, the chief business and residence thoroughfare of the village.  The parallel and lateral streets and avenues have also been laid out with the same liberality that actuated the pioneer in his original measures, and in passing along these streets, both principal and auxiliary, the attention of the ordinary observer is at once attracted by the evident generosity of the proprietors and early village authorities in laying them out and adorning them with foliage trees and ample grass plats.  More than this, there has been preserved by the later generations of villagers much of the original appearance of the place, and even the old and substantial dwellings of the early dignitaries and principal men of the village appear to be retained as nearly as possible according to their original form.  This is not an evidence of what is vulgarly called "old fogyism," but indicates to the observer that the people who first settled here are still represented in present occupants of the place, and that the ancestors are still remembered with feelings of the highest respect and esteem. 

After surveying the village site the work of building was at once begun, and the first house, a small log structure, was erected on lot number one in 1788 by John Decker ROBISON, to be occupied by William WALKER, the resident agents of Phelps and Gorham.  During the same season other houses were built for James D. FISH and Joseph SMITH. 

In January, 1789, Ontario county was created and Canandaigua was designated as its seat of justice.  This event had the effect of establishing the early prosperity of the place, and created an immediate demand for property, and materials with which to build and develop the locality.  In the spring of this year a party of several pioneers, headed by General Israel CHAPIN, came to the village.  General CHAPIN was the local agent among the Six Nation Indians, and was a man of much authority and prominence in the region.  With him came Nathaniel GORHAM, jr., Frederick SAXTON, Daniel GATES and Benjamin GARDNER, some of whom were connected with the surveying parties who frequented the village at that time.  Nathaniel SANBORN and family, Judah COLT (the first sheriff), Daniel BRAINERD, Martin DUDLEY, Thaddeus CHAPIN, Phineas and Stephen BATES, Orange BRACE, Moses and Jeremiah ATWATER, Samuel DUNGAN, Dr. William A. WILLIAMS, Abijah PETERS and others, whose names are perhaps lost, were also among the earlier residents of the village. 

In 1792 and 1793 the first framed houses of the village were built, the first of which was that of Oliver PHELPS.  This mention leads us to note briefly concerning this worthy proprietor and his equally generous associate, Nathanial GORHAM, though the latter was never a permanent resident of the village, his interests here being represented by his son, Nathaniel GORHAM, junior. 

Oliver PHELPS was born in Windsor, Conn., in 1750, and gained some early prominence during the revolutionary period.  In 1788 he, associated with Nathaniel GORHAM, and they representing a body of speculators of the east, purchased the so called Massachusetts lands in Western New York, and in connection with that interest made his home in Canandaigua.  In 1789, upon the organization of the county, Mr. PHELPS was appointed county judge of Ontario county, and during the years 1803-05 was a member of the 8th Congress.  Among the donations of land for various purposes made by the proprietors, we may mention the tract upon which the county buildings were erected, and the "Academy Tract" of 3,000 acres in the southern extremity of the township.  Oliver PHELPS died in Canandaigua, February 21, 1809. 

Nathaniel GORHAM, Jr., son of the great proprietor, was born at Charlestown, October 25, 1763.  He took charge of his father's landed interests in Western New York in 1790, and came frequently from his residence on Bunker Hill to superintend them.  In 1800 he removed to Canandaigua with his family and resided there until his death in 1826.  He erected an elegant mansion on the site of the present court-house, which was noted for its profuse and generous hospitality.

There, for the remainder of his life, he enjoyed the esteem of his fellow townsmen as an honored citizen, as judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and as president of the Ontario Bank.  He was a gentleman of the old school, of courtly and polished manners.  He had five children. 

Before the beginning of the present century the village had made much progress in the direction of a municipal condition.  In 1794 the court-house was completed, and one year later the afterward celebrated Canandaigua Academy was founded.  At the time of which we write the village had several hundred inhabitants and a fair representation of business interests.  Among the first merchants of the place were Samuel GARDNER, Thaddeus CHAPIN, Isaac DAVIS, Thomas BEALS, Joseph SMITH and Luther COLE.  Early hotel-keepers were Nathaniel SANBORN, Freeman ATWATER (on the site now of the Ontario House), Phineas BATES, and others now forgotten.  The first medical men were Drs. Moses ATWATER (1791), Jeremiah ATWATER, Samuel DUNGAN (1797), and William A. WILLIAMS (1793).  The local tailor was pioneer Abijah PETERS, while the gunsmith of the community was William ANTIS.  A school was started in 1792 and Major WALLIS taught the children with both book and birch.  In 1790 the State road from Utica to Canandaigua was opened, saw and grist mills were put in operation, and the future growth and progress of the village were assured in the general development of the region. 

From the Documentary History of New York we take the following general description of Canandaigua in 1792: "This is a settlement made by Mr. PHELPS, and promises to be a very flourishing one.  There are now about 30 houses, situated on a pleasant slope from the lake, and the adjacent farms are very thriving."  In the same connection we may also quote from the "Travels of Timothy DWIGHT," and note what that distinguished early observer says of the village, viz.:  "The town [village] of Canandaigua is built chiefly on a single street formed along the great road.  Its site is partly an easy, handsome acclivity, and partly an elevated level at its termination.  The situation is inferior in beauty to that of Geneva; the town itself is greatly superior.  The houses are remarkably good, in a better style then that of most older settlements, and at the same time are not defaced by any appearance of decay.  The inhabitants are without a church, but have settled a respectable clergyman.  A good building is erected here for an academy on a very pleasant elevation.  It is not yet completed, but so far advanced that it is intended to establish a school in it the ensuing winter.  The stores in this town are more numerous and the mercantile business more extensive than at any other west of Utica.  At present it is the resort of the whole country. . . The inhabitants of Canandaigua have availed themselves of their present advantages.  A genial spirit of industry is everywhere visible, and the whole town wears a cheerful appearance of thrift and prosperity." 

Incorporation of the Village.--The growth of population in Canandaigua was so rapid and apparently permanent that there passed hardly more than 20 years from the time the first log hut was erected before the people of the village asked for the creation of a municipality that would enable them to make such improvements as were desirable without the objections and hindrances put forth by the residents of the township.  This subject was under almost constant agitation for three or four years before any decisive steps were in fact taken, although informal meetings were held, and the villagers fully determined upon an incorporation.  The leading spirits in this movement were John GREIG, James SMEDLEY, Jasper PARRISH, Elisha B. STRONG and John A. STEVENS, and their efforts resulted in the incorporation of the village by an act of the Legislature, passed April 18, 1815.  Under the act the first meeting of the freeholders and electors was held on the first Tuesday of June thereafter, and the village organization was there made complete by the election of the following officers: Trustees, James SMEDLEY, Thaddeus CHAPIN, Dr. Moses ATWATER, Nathaniel W. HOWELL and Phineas P. BATES; assessors, Jasper PARRISH, Asa STANLEY, Freeman ATWATER, Abner BARLOW and John A. STEVENS; treasurer, Thomas BEALS; collector, Benjamin WALDRON.  The trustees held their first meeting on June 13, 1815, and organized by the election of Judge HOWELL as president, and Myron HOLLEY as clerk, together with the full contingent of appointed officers necessary for the conduct of village business.   

In this connection it is interesting to note the succession of presidents and clerks of the board of trustees from the first election of officers above mentioned.  The succession is as follows:

 

Presidents

Clerks

1815

Nathaniel W. HOWELL

Myron HOLLEY

1816

Eliphalet TAYLOR

Myron HOLLEY

1817

Jeremiah F. JENKINS

George H. BOUGHTON

1818

Jeremiah F. JENKINS

George H. BOUGHTON

1818

Jeremiah F. JENKINS

George H. BOUGHTON

1819

James D. BEMIS

Mark H. SIBLEY

1820

James D. BEMIS

Mark H. SIBLEY

1821

William H. ADAMS

Mark H. SIBLEY

1822

Francis GRANGER

Mark H. SIBLEY

1823

Francis GRANGER

Mark H. SIBLEY

1824

Henry B. GIBSON

Mark H. SIBLEY

1825

John W. BEALS

Mark H. SIBLEY

1826

Phineas P. BATES

Mark H. SIBLEY

1827

Phineas P. BATES

Mark H. SIBLEY

1828

James LYON

Mark H. SIBLEY

1829

James LYON

Jeffrey CHIPMAN

1830

William KIBBE

Jeffrey CHIPMAN

1831

Nathan BARLOW

Albert LESTER

1832

Nathan BARLOW

Albert LESTER

1833

William BLOSSOM

Albert LESTER

1834

Alex. H. HOWELL

Ebenezer S. COBB

1835

Phineas P. BATES

Ansel MUNN

1836

Nicholas G. CHESEBRO

Ansel MUNN

1837

Nicholas G. CHESEBRO

Ansel MUNN

1838

Nicholas G. CHESEBRO

Ansel MUNN

1839

Nicholas G. CHESEBRO

Ansel MUNN

1840

Phineas P. BATES

Ralph CHAPIN

1841

Nicholas G. CHESEBRO

Elbridge G. LAPHAM

1842

Nicholas G. CHESEBRO

Elbridge G. LAPHAM

1843

Nicholas G. CHESEBRO

Elbridge G. LAPHAM

1844

Jabez H. METCALF

Elbridge G. LAPHAM

1845

George W. BEMIS

George A. LEETE

1846

George W. BEMIS

George A. LEETE

1847

John A. GRANGER

Hiram METCALF

1848

John A. GRANGER

Hiram METCALF

1849

John A. GRANGER

Hiram METCALF

1850

Myron H. CLARK

Hiram METCALF

1851

Myron H. CLARK

Hiram METCALF

1852

Alex. H. HOWELL

Hiram METCALF

1853

Thomas F. BROWN

Myron H. PECK

1854

Cyrus TOWNSEND

Hiram METCALF

1855

Alex. H. HOWELL

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1856

John J. LYON

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1857

John J. LYON

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1858

John J. LYON

Fred A. LYON

1859

John J. LYON

Fred A. LYON

1860

Henry C. SWIFT

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1861

Henry C. SWIFT

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1862

Gideon GRANGER

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1863

Alex. MC KECHNIE

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1864

Alex. MC KECHNIE

Cornelius YOUNGLOVE

1865

Noah T. CLARKE

Walter HEARD

1866

Noah T. CLARKE

George W. BEMIS

1867

John C. DRAPER

George W. BEMIS

1868

Wm. H. LAMPORT

George W. BEMIS

1869

J.J. MATTISON

Horatio B. BRACE

1870

J.J. MATTISON

Horatio B. BRACE

1871

J.J. MATTISON

Horatio B. BRACE

1872

Edward G. TYLER

George COUCH

1873

Marshall FINLEY

H.B. BRACE

1874

Marshall FINLEY

H.B. BRACE

1875

Rollin L. BEECHER

H.B. BRACE

1876

Rollin L. BEECHER

H.B. BRACE

1877

Hilem F. BENNETT

Charles H. PADDOCK

1878

J. Harvey MASON

Charles B. LAPHAM

1879

Wm. T. SWART

Charles B. LAPHAM

1880

Amos H. GILLETT

Charles H. PADDOCK

1881

Rollin L. BEECHER

Charles H. PADDOCK

1882

Rollin L. BEECHER

Charles H. PADDOCK

1883

Lyman C. NORTH

Charles H. PADDOCK

1884

John B. ROBERTSON

Maynard N. CLEMENT

1885

John B. ROBERTSON

Maynard N. CLEMENT

1886

Alex. GREIVE

Chas. H. PADDOCK

1887

Frank H. HAMLIN

Maynard N. CLEMENT

1888

Mattison L. PARKHURST

C.E. CRANDALL

1889

Mattison L. PARKHURST

C.E. CRANDALL

1890

W.M. SPANGLE

Samuel F. WARDER

1891

Charles S. ROBERTSON

Samuel F. WARDER

1892

Lyman C. NORTH

J. Stanley SMITH

1893

Lyman C. NORTH

J. Stanley SMITH  

The Fire Department.--One of the first duties which developed upon the trustees was to provide a systematic organization to be useful in preventing and extinguishing fires; and the measures which were then adopted led to the formation of a fire department--the nucleus of the present effective organization, and acknowledged to be one of the best equipped and valuable volunteer associations in this section of the State. 

Under an ordinance of the trustees, passed April 22, 1816, was organized the Canandaigua Fire Company, the names of whose original members were designated by the board as follows: John W. BEALS, Charles UNDERHILL, Walter HUBBELL, Punderson B. UNDERHILL, Ebenezer ELY, Spencer CHAPIN, Nicholas CHESEBRO, Charles HILL, Manning GOODWIN, Joseph BULL, George H. BOUGHTON, George CLARK, James LYON, Mark H. SIBLEY, Simeon T. KIBBE, Hiram T. DAY, Jeremiah F. JENKINS, W. M. JENKINS, John CLARK and Abraham H. BENNETT. 

In June following the organization of this pioneer company the trustees voted to purchase a fire engine, hooks and rope, ladders, leather fire buckets, leather hose, and also to establish public wells in various parts of the village. 

16 years after this, in 1832, the trustees organized the Canandaigua Hook and Ladder Company, and named as its organized members these persons: John P. GRANGER, William H. ELLIS, Henry H. CLARK, Ebenezer J. COBB, George M. BEMIS, Ebenezer JACKSON, B. W. FARNUM, Asa SPAULDING, Henry G. CHAPIN, Stephen W. ELLIS, Albert G. MURRAY, Decius W. STANLEY, Caleb MORGAN, Seth ALDRICH, Moses ROBERTS, Martin H. COLLINS, Charles TAYLOR, Charles G. BREWSTER, Augustus M. CHURCH and Thaddeus CHAPIN.  The first officers of this company were John A. GRANGER, foreman; William H. ELLIS, assistant foreman; Hovey K. CLARK, secretary and treasurer, Ebenezer S. COBB, steward. 

Previous to this time, however, and in 1830, Fire Company No. 2 was organized with members as follows: Joseph BULL, A. BERRYHILL, O. E. SIBLEY, J. CARSON, J. B. STREET, Reuben TOWN, G. GREGORY, Reuben POOR, J. W. BACON, W. M. GIBBS, W. M. WYVILL, O. A. BRANCH, W. M. CHIPMAN, D. C. RUPP, A. FRANCIS, Chas. W. CHESEBRO, A. GRANGER, B. PALMER, T. McNUTT, J. L. WOODRUFF, J. B. HAYES, L. L. MORSE, A. O. LELAND, Jesse MASON, John REZNOR, Geo. BULL, Ambrose CHURCH, Jno. PINCH, Charles COY, D. H. RUGER, L. L. BOON, Henry HYDE, Benj. P. FRAZER. 

In 1817 the first engine-house was built and stood on the west side of Main street, on the lot where Walter HUBBELL's office now stand.  In 1822 the building was moved down the street to the GORHAM lot, and in 1857 was moved to Beeman street.  The engine-house for company No. 2 was erected in 1831 on what was called the "Masonic" lot, but was finally moved to Chapin street. 

In 1843 Ontario Fire Company No. 3 organized, and was especially designed to protect property in the north part of the village, hence the location of the company's building was at the north end of the street, and there it has ever been maintained, while the membership of the company has experienced many changes, and the organization is now known as Ontario Hose Company No. 3. 

Referring generally to the evolutions of the Canandaigua Fire Department, it may be stated that it has passed through all the various stages of advancement from the Bucket Brigade era to the Steamer period and perhaps farther.  The leather bucket system was soon superseded by the hand engine, while the latter eventually yielded its place to the steamer.  However, in this village at least the steamer seems to have been displaced by the present water supply system, but is still held in readiness for use in case of emergency. 

The system of water supply inaugurated by the trustees in 1816 was maintained and enlarged by subsequent village authorities, and served the purposes of the village until 1884, when the present operating water company was organized and the water works supply established.  Throughout the principal streets the company laid mains and placed hydrants, and the water being supplied with sufficient force to render needless the use of the steamer, they have been laid aside and their companies resolved into hose organizations. 

This leads us to refer to the composition and equipment of the village Fire Department as it at present exists.  Three duty hose companies, named Erina No. I, Merrill No. 2, and Ontario No. 3, and Mutual Hook and Ladder Company, comprise the active working force of the department.  The steamers are kept, one in the main department building on Niagara street, and the other in Ontario company's building in upper Main street, and, in case an emergency calls them into service, are manned, respectively, by the volunteers of Erina and Ontario hose companies.  Merrill Hose Company No. 2 has its house and apparatus on Phoenix street.  The department has a large, also a small truck, the former for use at fires in the business quarter of the village, and the latter in case of fire in more remote localities.  The department now comprises about 150 active members, and its officers are as follows: chief engineer, James FOGARTY; first assistant, William CARR; second assistant, Frank CASTLE; secretary and treasurer, Harland H. LANE.  The Fire Wardens of the village are John A. McKECHNIE for the Upper District; William CROWLEY and William BLANCHARD for the Middle District, and Frank McNULTY for the Lower District. 

The Police Department.--Although for many years conducted without more formal organization than the supervision exercised by the board of trustees, the Police Department of Canandaigua has ever been an effective branch of local government, but to record its history in any definite form is difficult, and possibly unnecessary.  In 1882 the Legislature passed an act providing for the appointment of three police commissioners, in whose charge should thereafter be the affairs of this department of government.  Marshall FINLEY, James McKECHNIE and Evander SLY were named in the act as the first police board, who were authorized to appoint four policemen, one of whom should be "chief."  Under this act the affairs of the police have since been admirably conducted.  The present commissioners are J. C. NORRIS, Rollin L. BEECHER and Frank McNULTY.  The police justice is John J. DWYER; chief of police, George S. BOOTH. 

The Canandaigua Water Works Company.--Although in no sense a municipal institution, but a private corporation, in the present connection we may properly mention this public enterprise.  The company was organized in 1884 under the personal management of Frank B. MERRILL, who became its president.  The pumping station is situated near the lake shore, at the foot of Main street, and pure and wholesome water is obtained from the lake, being taken from a "crib" 2,600 feet distant from the main land.  The water is then pumped to a stand at the head of Main street, 2 1/2 miles distant from the station, and thence is distributed throughout the streets of the village, there being now in use 15 miles of main pipe, while for fire purposes there are placed at convenient points 90 hydrants.  The number of water takers in the village is 525.  The present officers of the company are Frank B. MERRILL, president and treasurer, and Harland H. LANE, secretary.  

 

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