The Early History of Ontario County , New York

Clifton Springs   1893

Transcribed by Dianne Thomas

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From the History of Ontario County, NY    Published 1893     Pg 333 - 344

The Village of Clifton Springs  - The pioneer on the site of the present village of Clifton Springs was John SHEKELL, a Marylander, and a man of much worth and influence in the new community. The building more recently occupied as a boarding-house, standing on an elevation in the east part of the village, was the SHEKELL mansion, built in 1800, and opened in 1801 as a public house. Mr. SHEKELL was specially noted in the settlement from the fact that he possessed three slaves, but these were set free and well provided with dwelling places.

The second settler in the village locality was William HANNA, and the third Arnold Warfield, both bringing families from Maryland, following the example of the pioneer, John SHEKELL. About the year 1811 William ENTRICKEN, also from Maryland, settled here and opened a blacksmith shop, but before this time, in 1806, Landlord POWELL of the famous Geneva Hotel laid the foundation for later growth by building a public house where the village has since been built up. In 1808 St. John's church was built, but the building was sold in 1812 to the Methodist Society. About the same time a district school was built and opened, while to John BRADT attaches the honor of having been the first storekeeper. Rose & Spangler were later merchants.

The Sulphur Springs of this village have made the locality famous throughout the United States. Elsewhere will be found a detailed history of this celebrated resort and its chief promoter and founder, but at this time we may briefly state that the valuable medicinal properties of the water here found were known to the first residents, for as early as the year 1806 a hotel was erected here as a dispensary. However, it was not until later years that the village assumed a position of municipal importance in the town, and this result was achieved almost wholly through the efforts of Dr. Foster, aided and assisted by a few liberal and progressive people of the locality The Foster House was erected in 1869, by William Foster; the Clifton House in 1870, by Thomas W. WARFIELD, and the name changed to Warfield House in 1871, but again became Clifton House in 1875. In 1850 Clifton Springs was made a post office, and in 1859 the population was so increased, and the interests of the persons engaged in developing and improving the locality were such as to require the incorporation of the village, which was accordingly done.

At the present time the village of Clifton Springs presents an appearance fully as attractive as any municipality of the county. It is in no sense a busy manufacturing place; such has not been the aim of its founders and promoters, but as a quiet resorting place for persons seeking rest and recuperation, Clifton Springs has become famous throughout the land. The public buildings include five churches, two good schools (one public and one select), a water supply system, and a fire department. The village population numbers about 1500, and its mercantile representatives about equal the demand, but there does not appear to be an excess in this direction.

The water supply of the village is owned by the Sanitarium Company and is a private institution, although the main pipes extend through some of the principal streets and furnish water to private families. A hose company is organized in connection with the water supply department, and is also a part of the Sanitarium equipment; still in case of fire in any part of the village, the company promptly responds. The Citizens' Hook and Ladder Company is an institution of the village corporation.

As has been stated, the village was incorporated in 1859, and its boundaries extend beyond the limits of the town of Manchester on the east, hence include a small part of the town of Phelps. In fact the public school is located on the Phelps side. of the line. The present trustees of the village are D. C. MATTISON, Albert EVERTS and James BRADY. The president of the village is William LLEWELLYN.

The Clifton Springs Seminary, a large, comfortable and in every way praiseworthy educational institution, occupies a commanding site in the west part of the village. It is well patronized, and its graduates rank well with those of some of the famed preparatory schools of the State. This institution was founded many years ago under the name of "Clifton Springs Female Seminary," and was a school exclusively for girls. However, under its present management and name it is open to both sexes. The present principal is Prof. William A. DEERING.

The Union School of the village and district is also an attractive appearing and substantially constructed building, standing on an elevation in the eastern part of the village. Its affairs are managed by a Board of Education, of which Dr. Henry Foster is president.

The principal manufacturing industry of Clifton Springs is that carried on by the Clifton Springs Manufacturing Company, a body corporate, organized May 2, 1885, with a capital of $30,000, afterward increased to $40,000. The product of this large concern consists of nearly one hundred and fifty varieties of tinware articles, each of which is manufactured with a patented "anti-rust" attachment. The present factory building was erected in 1890, and in it are employed about forty men. The officers of the company are Rush SPAULSBURY, president; H. C. EVARD, treasurer; J. A. BROOK, superintendent.

W. A. JUDD, successor to the firm of Bostwick & Judd, is an extensive manufacturer of tinware articles, and employs ten men. Bostwick & Judd began business in 1892, succeeding a still older business established by Mr. BOSTWICK.

The Clifton Springs Press, under the efficient management and ownership of H. L. WRIGHT, was established in 1871, and then known as the Clifton Spring News. The last mentioned paper was the outcome of a discussion among interested residents of the village, and by them an arrangement was made with J. W. NEIGHBOR, of the Phelps Citizen, whereby the News should be printed at Phelps, the local editor being Charles G. GUSTIN, succeeded in 1873 by W. S. DRYSDALE.  John M. WATERBURY was local editor in 1874; George H. WOODRUFF in 1878, and Harry C. BURDICK in 1880. W. W. GILLIS came next in 1882, and was followed in 1884 by F. L. Brown, the latter changing the name of the paper to the New Era (indeed it was a "new era" in the history of the paper), and subsequently to the Clifton Springs Press, which last mentioned name has ever since been retained. In 1885 W. H. NEIGHBOR became editor, and was succeeded in 1886 by H. L. WRIGHT, the present proprietor, who edits and prints the Press at Clifton Springs, in a comfortable and well-equipped office. The persons who were active in establishing the first paper were J. W. NEIGHBOR, A. J. HANNA, Byron HARMON, C. W. LA DU, E. J. WARFIELD, Dr. Henry FOSTER and J. J. DEWEY.


St. John's Church - at Clifton Springs dates back in time to an organization effected as early as 1806-7, with which event were prominently connected the Shekells, John and Samuel, Darwin Seager, William Warner, George Wilson, Archibald Beale, Davis Williams, Thomas Edmonston, Alexander Howard and William Powell. A church edifice was begun at once, but before completion was sold to the Methodists. Following this the parish of St. John's became extinct, and was not revived until 1866, followed in 1871 by the consecration of a new edifice by Rt. Rev. Bishop Coxe. The parish and congregation of St. John's are small, the communicants few, and at present the church is without a rector.

The Methodist Episcopal Church -  at Clifton Springs was organized in 1808, under the missionary labors of Rev. John BAGGERLY, and soon afterward the society purchased the edifice built by the society of St. John's, which they occupied from 1810 to 1841, when the building was burned. Another church house was built in 1843-44. In 1846 the society was reorganized and called the "Third Methodist Society in Manchester." In 1867 the large brick church edifice superseded the old home of the society. The congregation and membership of this church are large. The present pastor is Rev. J. V. BENHAM.

The First Universalist Church - of Clifton Springs was organized April 1, 1852, with twenty original members, and under the pastoral care of I. I. BRAYTON. The full church organization was completed in 1858. The first house of worship was erected in 1852 and '53. The membership and congregation of this society are not large. The last pastor was Rev. G. B. RUSSELL. For many years the pastorate of this church was filled in connection with the Universalist Church at Geneva.

St. Agnes' Roman Catholic Church  - at Clifton Springs was organized, and the parish also, in 1856, and during the same year the church edifice was built. For several years this church was an out-station, and Father MC DERMER was the first resident priest. The present priest is Father Patrick LEE.

The Baptist Society of Clifton Springs -  is the youngest of the several religious organizations having an abiding place in the village, its formation dating back only a few years. The church edifice is located on the hill in the east part of the village and is a very attractive structure. The present pastor is Rev. H. F. COPE.



The life record of Dr. Henry FOSTER, as far as it is not directly connected with the history of the famous institution of which he is the head, is extremely brief. Dr. FOSTER is the son of a Vermont farmer and miller, and was born in Thetford, in that State in January, 1821. Receiving a good English education, he pursued medical study in. Lowell, Mass., and in 1844 graduated from the medical department of the Western Reserve College. While studying in Lowell he cared for a sick brother in a sanitarium which bore the name of a water cure, if not its full character. Of this experience he has himself said: "While there observing and helping, a revelation was made to me, that this kind of treatment was the best mode of treating chronic diseases, though bred an allopathic physician and, of course, strongly attached to that faith; as a result of that impression, and wishing to learn more of this system, in 1847 I found myself for three years at the head of the medical department of a similar institution at Graeffenberg, N. Y." During those three years Dr. FOSTER accumulated one thousand dollars and a valuable stock of experience. It is proper at this point to explain that Dr. FOSTER has been from his early life a firm believer in not only the general principles of Christianity, but in the daily and unremitting guidance of the Almighty in all of the affairs of those persons and undertakings which seek His honor and to do His will. This belief has ever permeated his life and was the corner-stone upon which he finally built the institution over which he has so long presided. This fact explains the following remark in one of his addresses recently given before the great family in the Sanitarium: "My coming here was, as I have no doubt, purely a divine leading, for I had a number of offers to build and equip establishments, if I would take one in charge; one in Cincinnati, one in the western part of this State, another in Connecticut. But led by some peculiar experiences, I had learned by this time to submit everything to God, to commit all my ways to Him, and never start in any enterprise without having first within me the inquiry, 'What saith the Lord?'"

In his quest for a proper place at which to establish the institution in which he hoped to carry out the plans already formed or partly formed in his mind, Dr. FOSTER was, as he said, directed to Clifton Springs. The locality then had a local reputation as "the sulphur springs," the freely flowing waters of which had been long used, but the country round-about was simply a farming community, where now stands the pretty and thriving village. Let us quote a little farther from the address before mentioned, to indicate how Dr. FOSTER's plans had their birth and grew to perfection: "While at that place (New Graeffenberg) a question came up which was absolutely necessary for me to investigate and settle for myself; for, having a desire both to please and to benefit the patients, I used to take the feeble ones and carry them into the parlor, and there we would have an exhibition of what we then called pleasure, dancing, tableaux, charades, etc. It did some patients good to go there and witness the dancing; it did them good and I used to minister to it. I could not dance myself any more than a wild colt, but could help others dance. I began to see, however, that while at first many of them seemed to be benefited, and indeed a few were benefited, there came up other and adverse symptoms, and I found that the larger number, quite two-thirds, were absolutely injured. Well, that question, then suggested, began to enlarge, and I enquired into the reason why such amusement often proved unhealthful. I found that it was twofold-that the old adage which had been with me a law with chronic cases, to tell them to 'laugh and grow fat' was not always founded on truth, and that we must minister to the mental and spiritual as well as to the physical, if we would do the largest amount of good. With that sort of investigation there came upon me a pressure-some of you know what that is-when there comes a truth pressing upon you, and you have not accepted it fully, and it presses upon you until it gets hold of your conscience, and if you have any regard for God's will and God's law, how you yield to that pressure, and it becomes after a while like fire shut up in your bones, It is something which you must settle at once and forever. I began to look at the question still more carefully; I began to pray for guidance, and to gather up all the literature bearing on the subject that could be found and study it with an honest heart, trying to get at the truth. Well, the more I studied that question the more it grew and enlarged. At first my views seemed vague and unsettled; but they finally crystallized in one particular, and there was one thing settled in my mind. That was, that if we would do the largest amount of good, we must give to the elements in man's being the same order in importance that God gives. And He has always mentioned the soul first, the body second. He has put the two together, it is true, but always towering above the interests of the body were the interests of the soul; and that, too, when we are searching for physical health. . . . There is another power outside of that which physicians recognized as medical, which has to do with health, and it became to me a most potent factor for good in almost every case. Well, that thought got hold of me and I began to work it out; and with that God brought a pressure upon me which revolutionized my whole life. . . . And I was taken right Out of my plans, right out of my former schemes and ambitions entirely, and. a new order of things was set up. A new life came to me; another motive came to me; and from that day to this I have pursued that thought and that idea, without once wavering. I had no option after that. . . The moment that was settled, there came another thought, by the divine spirit-there came another scheme, and it was the one for me to adopt. And that was the establishing of a sanitarium where God should be honored; where reference should be had first of all to him; one that would take cognizance of the necessities of God's own children. That grew for a few weeks in my mind, and after awhile I could see nothing else." We have quoted thus liberally from Dr. FOSTER's own words, as they are best calculated to show the reader the motives and plans underlying the whole undertaking. It may be added that before his plans were fully perfected they embraced the charitable features which have since been constantly at work in the conduct of the institution, relating to the treatment of ministers of the gospel without cost to themselves, in the first instance; missionaries in the second and teachers in the third instance, as far as the profits of the establishment would permit. It is, perhaps, as well to state right here that mere money-making has never been a part of the scheme of management of this Sanitarium, except as it would provide for its further extension and usefulness. This feature will be again alluded to a little further on.

Going back to the practical work of founding the Sanitarium, Dr. FOSTER came here with his one thousand dollars, felt that he had found the spot to which he was destined, purchased ten acres of the land surrounding the springs, and from friends, brought to him as he believes through divine influence, obtained $23,000. This sum was expended in erecting the first buildings, as shown in the accompanying sketch. Had Dr. FOSTER not been supported by his abounding faith, or had he listened to the gloomy predictions of evil, he would have met a fate wholly different from that which is commonly encountered by pioneers in any direction, and particularly in undertakings that seem to the majority of persons to be utopian in character. To diverge in the least from the beaten paths of business; to place a spoke called by the name of charity in the wheels that are to move a great work; to place any direct reliance upon divine good-will and aid is in these days to call down the forebodings of most of one's acquaintances. "He was called a fool," said he, "an enthusiast, doing a work which would only go to pieces. But a long step had been taken, and by God's blessing there was something to stand on." Let those carpers now look upon the noble institution which has members of its almost innumerable family in all parts of the world, singing its praises from strong lungs and sound bodies, and is dispensing in charitable treatment and support about twenty-five thousand dollars annually, while the "enthusiast" looks quietly on, and does his work, content with his living, with the whole immense property turned over by him in trust to others when his work is done.

The sanitarium grew as God's special works often do. In 1856 a brick chapel had been added, which was dedicated on the 25th of July of that year, with addresses by many honorable and noted divines and others. Aside from this there have been from time to time various additions to the main structure, as the means accumulated and the necessities for more room became imperative. These additions comprise something like fifteen different improvements.

In the year 1873 what is known as "The Annex" was erected. It is a brick structure, three stories in height, two hundred and twenty feet front, with parlor, offices and bath room and nine stores on the ground floor and sixty rooms for guests above. It is entirely separate from the original Sanitarium buildings and on the opposite side of the street. This has since been enlarged by a fine proof building to more than one hundred rooms for patients.

In the year 1880 Mr. Andrew PIERCE erected what has since been known as the Pierce Pavilion, upon which and the grading and beautifying the grounds he expended $15,000, out of gratitude and good will to the institution.

The Tabernacle is a recently constructed building, one story high with its sides constructed largely of glass; it has a large veranda, and is fitted up on the interior for public meetings. Here various religious bodies meet every summer to further their good works.

Opposite the Annex is Dr. FOSTER's cottage home, which forms a part of the Sanitarium property.

The time came, and that just at the present, when the Sanitarium proper, with all of its various additions and improvements, became inadequate for its purposes and the best results. To meet the requirements, plans were obtained and early in the year 1893 was begun the rebuilding of the entire structure, which will take on the appearance shown in the accompanying engraving, which shows also several of the other structures. This step was taken to secure ample room, to improve the accommodations for patients, and particularly to secure a strictly fireproof structure. Said Dr. FOSTER in the address from which we have already quoted," I have walked these halls many nights, stormy nights, watching against fire, and have taken every precaution possible, and we have gone on forty-two years without burning, but we fear when I am gone (and that may not be but a short time now), that the person who succeeds me will not watch the house with the same vigilance. We know human nature too well to expect it." Yes; when the watchful eye is closed forever, and the tireless hand is cold, it will be well that the structure wherein are at all times so many lives, shall be fire proof self supporting and able to stand and flourish upon the solid foundations laid by its faithful founder.

The farm as it is now connected with the Sanitarium, embraces nearly four hundred acres of land, and the same careful system prevails in its management that governs the Sanitarium. As an accessory to the institution and its cuisine it is of paramount importance.

It is perhaps not proper in this place to attempt a detailed description of the treatment of disease in this Sanitarium, as it would occupy much space. It must suffice to say that it embraces "the use in a liberal spirit of all known remedial agents." The faculty is composed of members of every reputable school of medicine. It is a water cure only so far as water may prove an efficient aid to other remedies; while the waters of the springs are used in all kinds of baths and in connection with electricity, massage, and that stimulation and recreation of the mind afforded by books and religious services daily in the chapel in which Dr. FOSTER so ardently believes. More than three thousand patients were treated in the past year, and the number is constantly on the increase.

As before intimated, the Sanitarium is not a money-making enterprise. Twelve years ago, in 1881, Dr. FOSTER and his wife drew up a deed of trust which commits to a board of thirteen trustees comprising seven denominations the management of the whole property. The provisions of this deed of trust are such that in the course of time the property becomes a free home for invalids to recuperate, but not a permanent home for incurables. The majority of the board of trustees are non-elective, but hold their office ex-officio so that the provisions of the deeds of trust cannot be tampered with by mercenary persons. The readers will best get a clear idea of the character of the men at present constituting the Board of Trustees by a reference to their names. The Right Rev. Arthur C. COXE, of Buffalo, N. Y.; the Rev. N. G. CLARK, D.D., of Boston; the Rev. F. F. ELLENWOOD, D.D., of New York; the Rev. Henry Y. SATTERLEE, of New York; the Hon. James C. SMITH, of Canandaigua; Bishop J. H. VINCENT, of Buffalo; the Rev. D. J. HILL D.D., president of Rochester University, Rev. Samuel HOPKINS, president of Auburn Theological Seminary, the Rev. H. M. COBB, D.D., of New York, and Henry FOSTER, M. D., of Clifton Springs.

Following are the names of the faculty and officers of the Sanitarium:
Henry FOSTER, M. D., president, assisted by C. C. THAYER, M. D., J. H. NORTH, M. D., E. 0. CROSSMAN, M. D., J. C. SMITH, M. D., B. C. LOVELAND, M. D., Mrs. M. Dunbar ADAMS, M. D.

The Rev. Lewis BODWELL has for many years been chaplain of the institution. E. A. MILES is hotel keeper, and J. J. DEWEY, cashier. The force of employees embraces about 165 other persons.

The following description recently prepared for a current publication, will give the reader a correct idea of the new Sanitarium:

Six stories lift their stately proportions into the air and 244 feet are occupied by the front. In the center a graceful tower surmounts the whole and at each end two other towers are constructed. From this building a wing extends backward one hundred feet. In the basement story is a smoking room in the corner and also lavatories and water closets. Two elevators start from the rear end of the center, one for the transportation of guests and the other for servants and the carriage of baggage. All baggage is taken to a glass covered trunk room in the rear where it can be elevated without the annoyance of its being in the way in the lobbies. In this basement story are found other apartments, such as a ladies' movement room and gentlemen's movement room, a room for wheel carriages, etc. The dining room, 94 by 51 1/2 feet occupies a considerable portion of the first story above the basement.

The dining room is a magnificent hail, and all accessories to make it beautiful, and its service easily attended to, are found here. The entrance is in the center of this story; just back of this are the lobby and business offices. A large reception room extends its spacious quarters to the visitors, and three parlors, richly furnished, make intercourse pleasant among the guests. Another large room is used as a library on this floor, and a beautiful chapel also is here, thus making the place of divine service one quickly reached. This chapel will be, as in the past, a great element, in promoting the work of the institution. The upper stories are divided into private rooms and special apartments suited to the peculiar service of the Sanitarium. There are bath rooms on every floor for both sexes as well as water closets of the most approved type. Many rooms have both attached. In each room is a fire place with a gas log which sheds its cheerful light and warmth throughout the apartment. Transoms are placed over every door; the building at all portions is lighted with electricity, and the system of heat and ventilation adopted is simply the best possible. The result is that the entire building, will be uniformly cool in summer and warm in winter. The roof forms a great winter garden where patients can obtain exercise and watch the varying landscape of the surrounding country; besides they can obtain sun baths and at any season of the year be in the midst of a tropical climate, as the roof is enclosed with glass. The elevators make this portion of the building easily accessible. The plan adopted for the construction of this edifice gives fourteen rooms to the benevolence of charitable persons. Any one of these rooms may be endowed for $15,000.


Created by Dianne Thomas  

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