Welcome to Ontario County, NY, History and Genealogy. This is is a central point of entry to independent not-for-profit web sites with historical or genealogical content. Although independent, it is affiliated with The American History and Genealogy Project. To learn more about this group, click the link above.
Kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer
From History of Ontario County, NY Published 1878
Pg 31 - 36
NOTABLE AND DISTINGUISHED PIONEERS OF ONTARIO COUNTY:
PROPRIETORS, AGENTS, SUPERINTENDENTS, ATTORNEYS, MERCHANTS,
MINISTERS, AND OTHERS.
The commencement of
all history of this section, for whatever purpose,---book, press,
church, and nation,---repeats the names of those of whom we write, and
begins with that of Oliver PHELPS, a native of Windsor, Connecticut.
He was present at the Lexington skirmish, April 19, 1775, and was
later one of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety.
He served as an army contractor in the war for a time, and then
became connected with the commissary department.
While a resident, at the close of the war, of Suffield,
Massachusetts, various offices were given him, among which were those of
assemblyman, senator, and member of the governor's council.
We have spoken of his preliminary arrangements for the ownership
of western land, of his treaty, of his sale to Robert MORRIS, and of his
retrocession of land west of the Genesee to Massachusetts.
During August, 1790, Mr. PHELPS wrote of Indian discontent,
settlers' sickness, and the lack of medical attendance.
Aiming at all times
to deal justly, his motives were aspersed, and complaints of fraud in
treaties made by CORNPLANTER and others.
Mr. PHELPS wrote the President a full account of his proceedings,
accompanied with the depositions of prominent parties having knowledge
of the facts. In answer to
Indian complaint, he made them a speech whose conclusion contains a
characteristic statement. "Now,
brothers, I do not want to contend with you; I am an honest man.
If you go to New England and inquire my character, you will not
find me as I am represented here to be."
During the early years of settlement, while his residence was in
Massachusetts, his time was chiefly passed in Canandaigua, and there was
no enterprise of school, church, or public character which he did not
labor to promote. His
highest desire was the prosperity of the settlers, who found in him
their best friend. Much
land in various ways came under his control, till, in 1795, he
considered himself a millionaire. He
was elected to Congress, engaged in speculation, lost heavily, borrowed
money, giving land mortgages, and involved his affairs in confusion.
He made a permanent removal to Canandaigua in 1802, and struggled
manfully to reinstate himself and others connected with him.
Under a load of care his health gave way, and he died, aged
sixty, in the year 1809. Upon
his tombstone may be read, "Enterprise, Industry, and Temperance
cannot always secure success; but the fruits of those virtues will be
felt by society."
Mr. PHELPS was first
judge of Ontario County, upon the formation of its courts, and a
representative of Western New York to Congress.
He left a son and a daughter.
The son, Oliver L. PHELPS, married a granddaughter of Roger
SHERMAN, and at his father's death dwelt in the old PHELPS mansion in
Canandaigua village, where he died in 1813.
The older Nathaniel
GORHAM resided in Massachusetts. His
representative west was his son Nathaniel, who came to Canandaigua in
May, 1789, and at once closely allied himself with the foremost of the
pioneers in promulgating their and his own interests.
In these connections we find him a supervisor of Canandaigua, a
judge in the county courts, and president of the Ontario Bank, from its
incorporation, in March 1813, until his death, at the age of sixty-two,
The sale of lands to
Robert MORRIS brings him forward as the second in the chain of
proprietors. He was born in
Liverpool, England, came to America while young, and later became a
merchant in Philadelphia. He
warmly espoused the cause of the Colonies during the Revolution, and, as
a member of Congress from Pennsylvania, was one of the signers of the
Declaration of Independence. Time
and again he loaned money to Washington, and gave freely to his
resources for the public service. Made
Secretary of the Treasury, which existed but in name, his own means paid
the army, and his credit obtained from the bankers of Holland the
millions which maintained the unequal struggle.
To MORRIS is ascribed the plan which hemmed CORNWALLIS at
Yorktown, and brought the contest to a close.
Having purchased the lands of PHELPS and GORHAM, he began
initiatory efforts to secure their settlement, but soon sold, and later
bought the lands which are known as the Holland Purchase.
The death of Mr. MORRIS occurred during 1806, in New Jersey.
As evidence of belief
in the value and future prosperity of the new country, Robert MORRIS
wrote to Sir William PULTENEY, one of the London company to whom he had
sold, that he desired to have his son Thomas settled therein.
During the summer of 1791, the son was one of a party who passed
through Ontario to Niagara Falls, and returning, remained some time at
Canandaigua. The wooded
nature of the land near the village caused the young man to become
bewildered while on an excursion, and, when only a mile away, darkness
came on, and he tramped over hill and through swamp until the hut of a
settler came in sight, from the light which shone from it, and he there
obtained lodging. Early in
the morning he was up, and before sunrise entered Canandaigua, having
made a tramp of six miles. He
soon thereafter became a resident of the village, and acted as his
father's agent in closing his business with the Holland Company.
In the three-fold character of lawyer, proprietor, and agent, he
was closely associated with Ontario history, and was the first
representative to Congress from the Genesee country.
Having unduly speculated in lands, reverses followed, and in 1803
or 1804 he moved to New York, and continued the practice of law until
his death, in 1848.
written in 1844, Mr. MORRIS says: "In
the early part of March, 1792, I left New York for Canandaigua.
I was induced to fix on that place for my residence from the
character and respectability of the families already established there.
I finished building a frame house, filled in with brick, in the
early part of the year 1793. When
it was completed, that and the house built by Oliver PHELPS were the
only framed houses west of Whitesboro."
The concerns of the
Genesee lands in the hands of the London Associates, purchasers from
Robert MORRIS, were chiefly placed in the charge of Patrick COLQUHOUN,
who gave himself fully to the work.
His laudable aim was wealth for himself and prosperity for
anticipated settlers. Wherever
the interests of the latter came up, they were fairly and honestly
considered, and justly much was said of him to his honor, upon a marble
tablet, which till recently was placed in front of the Congregational
church of Canandaigua, to perpetuate his memory.
A native of Scotland, his life was that of a philanthropist, and
his death took place in London, in 1820, at the age of seventy-six.
Among agents, Charles
WILLIAMSON stands first, and his exertions in favor of the pioneers of
Ontario, especially at Geneva, are fully deserving of the mention given.
All his improvements were projected upon a liberal and extensive
scale, and, in some localities, beyond the times.
Hotel, mill, road, academy, library, and fair, all found in him a
patron. It is said of him
that in 1792 he was sick of a fever at the house of a Mr. DOLSON, near
Elmira, and on his recovery gave the family twenty guineas, and the
choice of a farm any place on the purchase, as payment for their
trouble, and this incident is in keeping with his entire life during his
sojourn in the west. Several
gentlemen accompanied WILLIAMSON to America.
Charles CAMERON was one of them, and was invaluable as an
accountant and traveling companion.
The local agent at Lyons, he was the first to ship Genesee
produce to Albany. When the
village of Canandaigua was the metropolis of the Genesee country,
CAMERON was engaged in merchandising there, and so became well known to
Robert TROUP, of New
Jersey, was the successor of WILLIAMSON.
His appointment as
general agent of the Pulteney estate was made in 1801.
After many journeys west, he finally, in 1814, became a resident
of Geneva. Much of the land
unsold found sale and purchase with him.
For thirty years his influence was felt in this country in works
of public utility. He died
in 1832, aged seventy-four.
Joseph FELLOWS, of
England, came to Pennsylvania in 1795.
He was employed as sub-agent at Geneva in 1810.
The business of the office was discharged by him until the death
of Mr. TROUP, when he became his successor, and many incidents attest
his generosity and indulgence.
The first clerks in
the Geneva Land Office have been Thomas and George GOUNDRY, William VAN
WIRT, David H. VANCE, William YOUNG, and John WRIDE.
John GREIG, of
Scotland, became a resident of Canandaigua in April, 1800.
He studied law in the office of N.W. HOWELL, and was admitted to
practice in 1804. Two years
later he succeeded John JOHNSTON as the agent of the Hornby and
COLQUHOUN lands. As a
lawyer he was a partner with Judge HOWELL till 1820, and possessed such
attributes as placed him in the front rank among men whose ability is
handed down as more than ordinary.
He was president of the Ontario Bank, a vice-chancellor of the
Board of Regents of the University, and in 1841 and 1842 a
representative in Congress. He
lived to an advanced age, and in all his labors for others found a
willing helper in his wife, who still lives in the old home in
Canandaigua---one of the oldest and best esteemed of its citizens.
The services of
Israel CHAPIN have been noted. No
man, probably, had a more difficult task to conciliate the Indians and
secure quiet to the white people, and no other rendered such signal
service in preventing the alliance of the Iroquois with the
Western Indians against Wayne. Himself
and son were held in high esteem by both races, and the Seneca
chiefs were very desirous that the latter should not be removed.
Nathaniel W. HOWELL
was, at the time of his death, the oldest resident member of the bar of
Western New York. He was a
native of Orange county, and a farmer's son.
He was admitted an attorney of the Supreme Court in May, 1794.
A year later he opened an office in the town of Union, near the
village of Binghamton. General
MATTHEWS, then practicing at Newtown, and Mr. HOWELL were the only
Supreme Court lawyers then in the county of Tioga.
Judge HOWELL was admitted attorney of the Court of Common Pleas
in Ontario County during June, 1795, and in February, 1796, became a
resident of Canandaigua. He
was a legal adviser for WILLIAMSON, and in the employ of Joseph ELLICOTT
in transactions connected with the Holland purchase.
Nominated by Governor Jay, he was, in 1799, appointed assistant
attorney-general for the five western counties of New York, and
discharged the duties of the office till his resignation in 1802.
Appointed, in 1819, first judge of Ontario, he continued in the
position for thirteen years. Early
a member of the State Legislature, he was, in 1813 and 1814, a
representative in Congress for this county and those lying west of it.
Retiring from the bench, he gave himself to the supervision of
farm and garden, and at his death left an example of dignity, integrity,
and exalted worth equaled by few.
Dudley SALTONSTALL, a
Yale graduate, and a student-at-law in the school of Judge REEVES, of
Litchfield, Connecticut, was admitted to practice in the Ontario courts
in 1795. His primary
efforts were made under promising circumstances, but failing to reach
his own high standard of merit, he abandoned the profession, and in 1808
removed to Maryland, and afterwards to North Carolina.
Myron HOLLEY located
at Canandaigua in 1803. He
was married in 1804 to Sarah HOUSE, daughter of John HOUSE, a pioneer of
Ontario. His popularity and
ability are seen in the frequent recurrence of his name in connection
with orations on various public occasions.
For some time he was a clerk for the county, and was an early
bookseller. He was the
acting commissioner in the original construction of the western portion
of the Erie Canal until the work was contracted, and on the location of
the route became a resident of Lyons.
Dying about 1840, his memory is cherished principally for
services in connection with the canal.
Among other and
notable names connected with early history, are those of General Vincent
MATTHEWS, John C. SPENCER, Walter HUBBELL, and Judge FITZHUGH.
No invidious examples these, but representatives of an honorable
and honored class.
Thomas BEALS came to
Canandaigua in 1803, and opened a store.
Active and enterprising, he became favorably known to a large
number of settlers, and obtained trade from an extended area of country.
His dealing was marked by fairness and honesty.
Succeeding Thaddeus CHAPIN as county treasurer in 1814, he held
this office of trust for twenty-eight years.
Forty years he stood connected with the academy at Canandaigua as
its secretary and as a trustee. During
the construction of the Congregational church in 1812, he was one of the
committee on building as well as a trustee.
On the erection of the poor-house he was a superintendent, and
later the treasurer of the Ontario Savings Bank.
Moses ATWATER was a
physician in Canandaigua in 1791. The
arrival at the settlement of Dr. ATWATER was regarded with
gratification, and for many years he enjoyed an extensive practice, and
was of much benefit to the community.
Two years later William A. WILLIAMS came to this village, and
soon grew into and retained a large and prosperous patronage.
In 1797, Dr. Samuel DUNGAN came to this locality, and became
widely known as a surgeon of unusual ability.
Rev. Zadoc HUNN, of
Berkshire county, Massachusetts, removing in 1795 with his family to the
vicinity of Canandaigua, Ontario County, became the pioneer of religion
in this region. A
Congregationalist, he was active in the organization of churches, and
useful in ministerial duties. At
East Bloomfield he formed a church in 1796, with sixteen members, and in
December following, with Rev. John ROLPH, organized a church of ten
members at South Bristol. As
a test of influence, it may be said that during the revival of 1790-1800
the greatest evidence of conversion in number and extent was where he
labored. He was plain in
appearance, estimable in character, and highly regarded by the people,
by whom he was held in memory long after his death, which took place May
Benjamin BARTON, of
New Jersey, in 1787 assisted his father to drive cattle and sheep
through to Niagara. The
route was along the main Indian trail.
A halt was made at the Genesee river, and while the drove were
resting a log cabin was put up for their own and other drovers'
convenience. Major BARTON
came to Geneva in 1788, and was then a youth of seventeen years.
Two years afterwards he bought of Debartsch, a Frenchman, who, by
marrying a sqaw, had gained title to the land, a valuable farm, located
seven miles from Geneva, on the site of an Indian town.
Upon this farm a hundred acres had been cleared, and apple-trees,
eighteen inches in diameter, were growing upon it.
To pay for the farm, BARTON gave the trader all his money and
property, even to pulling off his overcoat and turning that in.
The rights thus acquired were frail of tenure, and only through
the kindly aid of Governor George CLINTON was the purchase allowed by
the State. Major BARTON
married, at Canandaigua, in 1792, and settled at Geneva, where his first
child, a daughter, was born. He
moved upon his farm in 1794, and there resided until the spring of 1807,
when he went to Lewiston, Niagara county.
Long employed as a surveyor, he surveyed in the military tract
east of Ontario, and was employed on the same duty in Ontario.
From 1801 to 1805 he was sheriff of Ontario County, then
embracing all territory west of Seneca lake, except Steuben.
An advocate for the war of 1812, he gave all his influence in its
support. In 1813, during
the Niagara invasion, his large property was burned or otherwise ruined.
In the spring of 1814 he joined PORTER's brigade as special
quartermaster, and in July was commissioned quarter-master-general in
the regular army. Peace
being restored, he gave attention to repairing his wasted property, and
during his later years confined himself to agricultural concerns.
His life as a pioneer and a youth without means, on till his
death, in 1842, at the age of seventy-two, wealthy and honored, is a fit
subject for the biographer, and a useful lesson to the young men to
Augustus and Peter B.
PORTER, brothers, were prominently connected with the history of Western
New York. At an early
period we have spoken of the advent of the former in Ontario County, and
his survey of East Bloomfield, and now continue his history during his
residence in Ontario. General
John FELLOWS and Judge Augustus PORTER were partners in the erection of
a saw-mill on Mud Creek, East Bloomfield, in 1790.
Considerable difficulty was experienced in getting tools and
provisions from Schenectady to the required locality; a boat on
Canandaigua Outlet was employed to Manchester, and teams were used the
remaining distance. The
mill was finished during the succeeding fall, a Mr. DIBBLE being the
millwright, and it was the third structure of its class on the purchase.
In December, 1790, Judge PORTER, with three others, went on foot
to Connecticut. The snow
was deep, and the journey was laborious, being in part accomplished upon
show shoes. After an
experience in woods life of seven years Mr. PORTER resolved to settle in
Canandaigua, and accepted a land agency offered him by Mr. PHELPS.
The journey was made, with his family, in a sleigh, during
February, 1797, and Canandaigua was reached in March.
The work of survey, sale, and collection was at once begun.
He says, "One of the first acts of my agency was to sell
three or four farms on the road leading north towards Farmington.
In running them out I caught a severe cold in the swamps, through
which I was obliged to make my way by wading."
Judge PORTER built a dwelling-house in 1800 in the village of
Canandaigua, and therein resided until his removal to the Holland
purchase, in 1806. With
others, he contracted with the government to supply the garrisons of
Fort Wayne, Chicago, Mackinaw, Detroit, and Niagara with provisions, and
in 1810 took the contract alone, and maintained the supply till 1813,
except such time as they were held by the enemy.
In 1811 the PORTER brothers attempted to buy Goat Island, on
Niagara river. It was
secured by them in 1814, and a patent received in 1816.
Next year, and the one following, Judge PORTER erected bridges
across the current. He was
the first postmaster in Niagara county, and in various ways was
associated with pioneer events in that section.
Peter B. PORTER was
younger than Augustus. He
was born in Connecticut, graduated at Yale, studied law in the office of
Judge REEVE, and came west in 1793, upon a journey to the Genesee river.
In 1795 he accompanied Augustus to Canandaigua, where, in the
same year, he was engaged as counsel in the first trial in a court of
record in the Genesee country. He
was clerk of Ontario County in 1797, and a member of the Legislature in
1802. In 1810 he resided in
Niagara county; was elected to Congress in that year, and again in 1814.
In 1815 he filled the office of State Secretary, and the next
year, appointed by Madison, was one of the commissioners to run a
boundary line between the United States and British territory.
He was appointed Secretary of War by J.Q. ADAMS in 1828, and in
all these relations showed the wisdom of the selection.
As a soldier, his rank was indicative of public estimation,
having been appointed major-general, in 1815, by President MADISON.
His death took place at his residence, Niagara Falls, March 20,
1844, aged seventy-two. And
it is recorded that at his funeral an aged TUSCARORA chief was
seen to yield a tribute of tears in memory of much kindness to his
James D. BEMIS, a
native of New Hampshire, is regarded as the founder of the press in
Ontario and all Western New York. For
many years connected with the Ontario Repository, many who
learned their trade and profession with him have since become eminent.
He set out from Albany during the winter of 1803 with a stock of
books and stationery, and, arriving at Canandaigua, made that his home.
Becoming engaged with James K. GOULD on the Repository, he
sold his book interest to Myron HOLLEY.
Before long, he connected the sale of books with printing, and
for many years made the combined business profitable.
His career stands out as one which enjoyed a merited success.
In the various trades and professions Ontario has many honored
sons, but few of them have surpassed in sterling qualities the pioneer
of the early days.
MISSIONARIES---PIONEER PREACHERS AND CHURCHES---SCHOOLS AND
TEACHERS---MARRIAGES, BIRTHS, DEATHS, AND CEMETERIES.
Led by avarice, the
trader ventured to the forests, and sought wealth in a traffic in fur
and peltries. Treading in
his footsteps came the disciples of Loyola, and sometimes preceding
them. They told the story
of the Cross to the dusky warriors of the Western lakes, and, as early
as 1611, fifteen Jesuits from the Old World, arriving at Montreal, went
among the FIVE NATIONS. Others
followed them until, in 1833, the number of the order who had come to
this country was twelve hundred. With
the creed our province has nothing to do, but with the devotion of the
Jesuit who can study but to admire?
They knew no danger, they traversed the wilderness without a
path, they paddled their canoes upon unknown river and lake, and with
unflagging zeal erected their chapels in the Indian villages, and
brought the entire population to bow beneath the emblems of salvation.
Untainted by pernicious white intercourse, the impression was
deep, the effect wholesome. As
French influence declined Jesuitical power waned, until the only
indication of their advent is the silver cross of ornament and the rude
symbol at the grave. In the
year 1669 came Robert Cavelier DE LA SALLE to Western New York, and with
him were DE CASSON and DE GALINEE, two missionaries of the order of St.
Sulpice. They came, with
twenty-two men, in seven canoes, under escort of a party of SENECAS,
and landed, on August 10, at the mouth of Irondequoit Bay.
The IROQUOIS had
four villages, all east of the Genesee.
Thirteen years previously, Father CHAUMONOT had made here a brief
sojourn. In July of 1667,
three men---FREMIN, PIERRON, and BRUYAS---left Quebec for the IROQUOIS
country. In August they
reached a Mohawk village called "Gandaonaye," where,
twenty-one years before, Jogues died a martyr to the cause.
Here two remained. The
third, Father BRUYAS, advanced to Oneida, where Garnier soon joined him.
Farther on, the ONONDAGAS asked missionaries among them.
The SENECAS then sent a deputation of chiefs to Montreal
in November, 1668, asking a mission at their villages.
Father FREMIN was promptly sent forward to their country, where a
pestilence was raging so deadly that he called to his assistance GARNIER,
from Onondaga. FREMIN
resided at Gandongarae, four miles southeast from Victor, where was
founded the mission of St. Michael, and where he labored until 1671.
Garnier located in "Ganagarro," situated on what is
known as Boughton Hill, in Victor, and there remained till 1683, and
established the mission of St. James.
La Salle came to the Seneca country to obtain a guide
through to the sources of the Ohio.
The Jesuits FREMIN and GARNIER were absent at the Onondaga
council, as is thought by design, and LA SALLE traversed the country and
held councils in the SENECA villages
without the notice of the missionaries.
The deep-seated and natural interest attached to the past throws
a charm about the lives of the Jesuits.
Religious principles and fixed attachments were succeeded by much
of benefit, and when the Protestants sent Joseph BAXTER, of
Massachusetts, to a mission among the ABENAKIS, he returned,
convinced that the Indians desired no other teachers.
Then came Samuel KIRKLAND, early in 1765, and, adopted by the SENECAS,
advanced their interests in peace and treaty, and by faithful teaching
did them much good.
Secure in their
homes, and selecting lands according to their taste, single families
have been found living miles from any other.
Intelligent, educated, and enterprising, the first emigrants to
Ontario were comprised in two classes, the irreligious and the
religious. These latter
were again a composition of two principles:---those who were habituated
to the observance of Christian rules, sent their children to religious
institutions for their salutary effect, and themselves, without piety,
loved to attend preaching; and professors of religion, members of
churches East, anxious for the formation of society, and the enjoyment
of religion in their new home. This
field was the domain of the missionary.
To him was intrusted the encouragement of the Christian, the
confirmation of the moral, and the reclamation of the erring, and nobly
did he strive to do his work. From
its origin, the Methodist church took the lead in the great enterprise
of supplying the people with gospel privileges.
Its creed of salvation by faith and works has caused her to push
out from the great centres into new and sparsely settled portions of the
country, following and keeping pace with the resolute emigrant, and
furnishing the "bread of life" to all who would consent to
receive it at their hands. And
when the notice came of preaching in cabin, barn, or open air, the
settlers gathered on foot, or with ox-sled from miles away.
In some favored spots several Christian families, settled
adjacent to each other, began the observance of the Sabbath at once by
meetings where there were prayer, singing, and reading sermons;
sometimes prayer was omitted, from none present being willing to take
upon himself this office, and again the Bible was read, and psalm or
In 1789, the Genesee
country was rightly considered upon the very outskirts of civilization.
To this distant field the New York and Philadelphia Conferences
sent missionaries. The
first of these to travel through the settlements upon the Indian trail,
or without a path, were David DUNHAM, Benjamin BIDLACK, Smith WEEKS, and
Roger BENTON. Only the
names of these men are now known to us, but what an experience was
theirs! Two by two they
went out upon their extended circuit.
The circuit in 1808 extended three hundred miles, and included
Rochester, Lima, Groveland, Sparta, Avon, Mendon, Pittsford, Bloomfield,
Canandaigua, Sulphur Springs, Phelps, Palmyra, Lyons, Perinton, and
Penfield, and such it remained for years.
Every day services were held, and the itinerant pushed on through
the woods over bridges and streams to the next appointment, and from
four to six weeks elapsed ere the round was completed.
The records show that
Joseph JEWELL was presiding elder during 1805, and Reverends Amos JENKS
and James KELSEY, the ministers on the circuit, which was of extended
and undefined area. A
Methodist class was formed in Victor during 1807.
It was composed of seven persons, and was attended by Samuel
TALBOT and Joseph SCULL. In
1808, this was known as the Susquehanna District.
James HERRON was the presiding elder, and William B. LACEY and
James MITCHELL were the preachers.
Years passed before a church was built, and while circuits became
less, and ministers increased in numbers, other denominations erected
meeting-houses, and entered upon an existence which we hope may know of
no temporal limit. At a
Quarterly Conference held during 1809, it was "resolved that this
Quarterly Conference give to Brother Levi JACOBS, of Canandaigua
village, credentials and authority to go into the Southern States and
collect money, if collectable, for the purpose of building a
meeting-house in the aforesaid village."
Whether he went and prospered, or found funds uncollectable, is
unknown, but the resolution is calculated to excite reflection, when
read at this late day.
organization of a church is reported to have been effected by Rev. John
SMITH, of Dighton, Massachusetts, in 1791.
He came to Ontario with Captain PITTS and others in 1789, and is
reputed to have preached the first sermon in Canandaigua delivered by
other than Indian missionaries in the Genesee country.
The next sermon was preached by Rev. GUERNSEY.
In 1790, religious meetings were held in the barn of Judge
PHELPS. John CALL read
sermons, and Nathaniel SANBORN led the singing; prayers were omitted.
The church organization above noted was temporary and composed of
persons widely scattered. The
Lord's Supper was there and then celebrated for the first time in the
western part of the State, and no record of subsequent assembly exists.
Zadoc HUNN, a settler in the town of Canandaigua during 1795, organized
a church of the Congregationists in 1796 at East Bloomfield.
It numbered sixteen
members, including the minister. During
December, 1795, a church having ten members was formed at South Bristol.
A Presbyterian society was formed in Geneva as early as 1798.
A meeting was held in July, at which John FULTON and Oliver
WHITMORE presided. The Rev.
Jedediah CHAPMAN became the first local minister, and so continued until
his death in 1813. He was
an active, zealous man, and stood connected with the formation of
various societies, both in Ontario and Seneca counties.
His successor was Rev. Henry AXTELL.
No house was erected until 1811.
The second minister of the Congregational denomination was Rev.
John ROLPH, who was installed pastor of the South Bristol church by an
ecclesiastical council for that purpose convened, and consisting of Rev.
HUNN, Rev. Eliphalet STEELE, of Paris, Oneida county, and Rev. Asahel S.
NORTON, later known as Dr. NORTON, of Clinton, Oneida county.
These last named were the nearest to be obtained, and were
probably several days on the journey.
This council was the first one ever convened in the limits of
The next minister to
locate in Ontario was Rev. Reuben PARMELE, who was installed pastor of
the church in what is now known as Victor, during February, 1799.
The Rev. Timothy FIELD came to Canandaigua in 1799, in response
to an application by the villagers, and recommended by Dr. DWIGHT, then
president of Yale. He was
favorably received, and responding to a call, was, in February, 1800,
ordained to ministerial work, and installed pastor of the church by an
ecclesiastical council convened for that purpose.
This ordination was the first one in the Congregational churches
of Ontario, and prior to any such action by the Presbyterian church.
In the early part of
1799, a Congregational church numbering twenty members was organized in
Bristol by Rev. HUNN, and Rev. Seth WILLISTON, a missionary.
At its first meeting in connected itself with the Ontario
Association. Rev. Joseph
GROVER, a missionary from New Jersey, preached for the society several
times acceptably. A call
was received, and moving on his family, he was installed pastor in June,
1800, and remained fourteen years.
This society is entitled to the honor of erecting the first
meeting-house built exclusively for the worship of God in the county of
Ontario. It was a log
structure, composed of unhewn timbers raised sufficiently high to permit
of a gallery, and was supplied with desk and seats of rude description.
The date of its erection was about 1800, and its site was
somewhat south of the junction of the Bloomfield and Canandaigua roads.
society of East Bloomfield erected the frame of a house of worship
during 1800. It was sixty
feet long by forty-six in breadth, and had a steeple.
Although, several years before it was finished, it was used by
the society for holding services, this was the first frame church
erected in the Genesee country. The
Congregational and Presbyterian societies were in utmost concord during
the early settlement of Ontario, and members of each united to give
strength to the societies formed, and their history at his period is one
and the same. We have noted
early Methodist ministers, and also of the Congregational.
The Episcopal and Baptist were also in existence in strength at a
primitive stage of settlement. The
oldest parishes in Western New York were Trinity, of Geneva, and St.
Matthew's, of Canandaigua. The
former was organized in 1806, with nineteen adults, and in default of a
rector was presided over by John NICHOLAS.
Rev. Davenport PHELPS was the first officiating clergyman, and
Rev. Orrin CLARK was his successor.
A building was erected in 1809.
An Episcopal church was organized under the name of St.
Matthew's, in Canandaigua village, on February 4, 1799, by Rev.
Philander CHASE, then a missionary, and afterwards Bishop of Ohio.
In accordance with previous notice to persons belonging to that
denomination and wishing to establish such a church, a meeting was held,
and a vestry elected at the date given.
Ezra PLATT was called to the chair and presided, Joseph COLT was
chosen secretary, and Rev. CHASE read prayers.
Two churchwardens were chosen, and eight vestrymen.
The organization is scarcely known to have existed, and the names
of its officers are therefore given in this preliminary notice of the
society. The wardens were
Ezra PLATT and Joseph COLT, and the vestrymen were John CLARK, Augustus
PORTER, John HICKOX, Nathaniel SANBORN, Benjamin WELLS, James FIELDS,
Moses ATWATER, and Aaron FLINT. A
day for election of officers was fixed, the title was voted, and Messrs.
COLT and WELLS, with the chairman, certified and acknowledged their
action before the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, and filed a copy
with the clerk.
The first Baptist
church in Bloomfield was formed in 1799.
A council, composed of delegates from the several Baptist
churches in the vicinity, met on June 13.
Elder IRISH was moderator; Solomon GOODALE, clerk.
The church was formed with seventeen members.
No regular meetings were held during that year.
The early ministers were William FARNAM, S. GOODALL, Elnathan
WILCOX, and Elder WILSON; preaching being the homes of members.
Fifteen dollars was voted to support the gospel, in June, 1800,
and the apportionment was made among the members.
The first Baptist
church of Bristol was formed February 7, 1805, and embodied the members
of the Bloomfield church. Their
log meeting-house was sold to a settler, and another one built near the
present site of the Universalist church.
The earliest record
of the first Baptist church of Phelps dates August 31, 1808, and
embraces the result of a council held at that place at this date.
The council was formed of delegates from churches in Palmyra,
Farmington, now Manchester, Bristol, Romulus, Ovid, Augusta, and Gorham.
The ministers present were Jeremiah IRONS, John CATON, Jehiel
WISNER, and John GOFF. Elder
IRISH was chosen moderator. This
was not the original formation, which had apparently ceased to exist.
The struggles of the pioneer societies, dissolving, reforming,
branching off, endeavoring to erect houses, the difficulty of
maintaining preaching, and the strict character of the discipline,
present a feature of early settlement of unusual interest to the people
of the county.
Detailed history will
be found in the various town histories, and a summary farther along in
the county work. Second
only to religion, and intimately associated with it, is education.
The pioneers were fully aware of its necessity, and when a
foreign population moved in and blended with the Eastern people, no
influence was more powerful to assimilate and harmonize diverse
languages and customs. No
sooner had a few settlers found themselves sufficiently numerous, and
some young New Englander or an old-time pedagogue made his appearance,
than a settler's cabin was utilized and a school started.
The backwoodsmen set their day, and, meeting at a central point,
erected the log cabin; and then, as now, these schools were of the
highest advantage, or lamentable failures.
In the log house age of country schools, when they rested with
the people, the buildings primarily erected for education were generally
occupied for religious exercises, and held as common property.
In the history of the villages and towns of Ontario will be found
the existence of schools contemporary almost with settlement.
Bristol was formed in
1789, and Thomas HUNN was a teacher in that town in the year following.
Thirty families constituted the population of Canandaigua in
1792, yet Major WALLIS is recorded as the instructor of their children
at that date. The pioneer
teacher in East Bloomfield was Laura ADAMS, in 1794.
The first schoolmaster in the town of Gorham was Timothy MOORE,
who, in 1802, opened a term in Rushville.
Prior to this, HOPEWELL, formed from the northern portion in
Gorham, had enjoyed school advantages under the direction of Calvin
BACON, a teacher as early as 1792.
Elam CRANE, of whom frequent mention is made from his extensive
experience in the schools of the county, was the first teacher in
Manchester in 1800. A
marked contrast in capacity, apparent as late as 1806, was exhibited
between two teachers. One
day unwonted quiet fell upon the school-rooms, the light faded, and the
air grew chill; the sun was slowly darkened, and an awe was felt in many
a troubled breast. Elam
CRANE called his scholars out to where a fair view could be obtained,
and then, while they looked on and watched the dark body of the moon
stealing over the great luminary, a lesson of astronomy was taught never
to be forgotten. In another
school Draxy McLOUTH was teaching; she saw the gloom deepen with
emotions of terror, dismissed her pupils, and sought shelter with a
patron near by. The early
settlers of Naples established their first school in 1792, with Susannah
PARISH as teacher, while the pioneer of Phelps is lost to recollection.
A house was known to have existed prior to 1800, and it is not
probable that a man of enterprise like ROBINSON would delay the
establishment of an agency so necessary to future well-being.
At Geneva, in Seneca, was established a model union school, and
one of the first in the State. To
Francis DWIGHT is attributed the plan of its formation, and its success
changed the opposition caused by the weight of taxation to the heartiest
support; delegations from various localities came to visit and to
observe its workings. Though
the oldest point of settlement, no school was opened in the settlement
of Seneca until 1792, when Samuel WHEATON engaged in teaching, while the
first school in South Bristol was taught by Joanna FORBES.
The old school-house, rude in every feature, from the round logs
which formed its sides, and the broad fire-place which occupied one end,
to the puncheon floor and slab seat, is a matter of history.
The text-books of that period are known no more.
The rod is little used in modern days, and the pens are no more
to be mended, nor copies to be set.
While it were futile to challenge progress, nevertheless it is
true that the few books were well conned, and some attention to good
manners inculcated. Schools
of all grades and classes were established in the villages, and, as
examples, we note a boarding-school at Canandaigua in June, 1804, by
Mrs. WHALLEY, at her house, a few doors north of the court-house.
Her number was limited to twenty young misses, who, in addition
to the branches of study, were taught sewing at the reasonable tuition
of two dollars per quarter. A
military school was opened at the court-house by Othniel TAYLOR, and a
dancing-school at a hotel by E.M. CUMMINGS.
A musical association was formed in 1803, under conduct of Elijah
MORELY, and it is safe to assert that there is little taught at present
but was known and practiced in those early days, and there is "no
new thing they did not attempt."
The marriages which
characterized the early history of Ontario and all this
western region, were in accordance with the circumstances.
Not unfrequently, young men came out and sought their favorite
spot for a farm, purchased, cleared, and built, and then went East to be
married; and the long journey by ox-sled was the bridal tour, and the
howling of wolves their charivari.
Bravely the youthful couple encountered the hardships of
backwoods life, and together they passed along life's pathway down to
rest. Numerous anecdotes
are extant of the simplicity of ceremonies attending the marriages in
the settlements. An
instance or two must suffice.
One afternoon in a
day of 1794, Israel CHAPIN was busily engaged on the public square at
Canandaigua in chopping, when a man called, desiring his services to
marry him to a young lady accompanying him.
The ceremony was soon over, and the new-made bridegroom produced
a silver dollar as the magistrate's fee.
Mr. CHAPIN took the coin and presented the same to the bride as
her first gift; the squire returned to his chopping, and the couple
whence they came.
Again, it is related
of Joseph ANNIN, known later as Judge ANNIN, that the "course of
true love did not run smooth" in his efforts to provide a helpmeet.
The lady of his choice was a Miss READ, the daughter of Seth
READ, a settler in the town of Phelps.
Tradition affirms that Mr. READ was much opposed to the match,
and forbade ANNIN from entering his house.
One evening Mr. ANNIN, in company with Thomas SISSON, Esq., one
of the first justices of the peace in Ontario, was passing the premises
of the farmer, and found Miss READ employed in milking her father's cows
near the highway. The
opportunity was propitious. She
set aside her milk-pail, stood up, and then and there the silken knot
was tied by Esquire SISSON. The
justice and the bridegroom then wended their way home, while Mrs. ANNIN
finished milking the cow that was commenced by Miss READ.
The parents of the young wife, compelled by necessity, became
reconciled to the union, and, so far as is known, this wedding,
unwitnessed and unceremonious, was productive of full as much felicity
as those attended with the display of these times.
No form of law can soften asperity of temper nor inbue with
conjugal affection, and the log cabin of the settler probably knew more
of happiness in the marital relation than now exists in many a palatial
abode. The first marriage,
not only in Ontario, but upon the PHELPS and GORHAM purchase, was that
of Benjamin GOSS to a daughter of George CODDING.
The first marriage in Farmington was that of Otis COMSTOCK and
Huldah FREEMAN, in 1792. Philetus
SWIFT and Sally DEAN were married in Phelps during 1793.
The first marriage in Naples was in 1795, of Benjamin CLARK and
Thankful WATKINS. The first
marriage in Seneca was of Dr. Joel PRESCOTT and Phila REED, and in
Victor, that of Zebulon NORTON and Miss BOUGHTON.
An importance always
attaches itself to the initial event of any character, and the first
white child born in a county, a town, or a village takes precedence from
that circumstance, and the fact becomes a matter of history.
The birth of Oliver Phelps RICE in 1790, at Canandaigua, was the
first within the limits of Ontario.
Welcome HERINGTON was born during the same year, in Farmington.
The first born of Bristol was Cornelius McCRUM; of Naples,
Phineas P. Lee; of Phelps, Henry H. ROBINSON; of South Bristol, Eli
ALLEN, in 1791; of Hopewell, Benjamin Wells, Jr., on February 4, 1791;
of Victor, Frederick Boughton, June, 1791, and of Bloomfield, Lucinda
GARDNER, September, 1791. It
would be interesting in this connection to learn the consequents in the
lives of these earliest native whites of Ontario; yet one fact is
established---that the open air, the plain, nutritious food, the
healthful exercise, and the freedom from care have resulted in long and
first deaths in the county, from the fact simply that they were such,
require a brief notice. It
was on secure region, this country of the SENECAS; there were
those who died while on their journey hither; there were deaths by
falling trees, by burning fevers, by drowning, and by inclement weather;
and hardly had the log cabin betokened occupation ere the lonely grave
gave silent witness of man's destiny.
Without medical care,
destitute of medicines, many struggled with disease, and the intervals
of fevers attempted to prosecute their labors.
We note the death of WALKER, in 1790, at Canandaigua, and that of
Mrs. FISH, soon after. The
death of Elijah SMITH is given as 1793, in Farmington.
William JOHNSON, of Seneca, was found dead upon the banks of
"Scanoedice" Lake, in Pittstown, in 1803; and on January 15,
1805, Charles ROBINS, of Canandaigua, and John KENNEDY, of Sparta, were
found frozen to death. Robert
WILEY, of Middleton (Naples), was drowned in Canandaigua Lake in 1808,
and Cotton DICKINSON was instantaneously killed by the falling of a
stick of timber from a loft in 1804, at the raising of the Presbyterian
church at Oak's Corners.
Respect for the
departed was not feigned, and while deep feeling of loss weighed upon
the relative, tender sympathy was exercised by friends.
There was a class who looked indifferently upon death, and the
carousal could proceed in one apartment while a body lay awaiting
sepulture in the next. Familiarity
upon the battle-field with the grim horrors of war had blunted
sensibility. These settlers
were tender and kind to the mourner, but regarded the remains with honor
only as far as they recalled worth on the part of him who had left them.
Funeral rites were solemnized with little display.
No hearse with stoic driver preceded a long train of carriages,
no rosewood, silver-mounted coffin inclosed the inanimate clay, and but
a plain native slab marked the burial spot.
But with this early simplicity there was method and provision for the future. One of the first acts of Oliver PHELPS, Sr., at the "chosen spot" was the presentation to the inhabitants of a lot for a cemetery, containing one acre of ground as surveyed by Daniel BRAINARD; and such lots were donated or purchased at suitable spots over the county. Not upon unknown grounds, but in consecrated lots, were laid the bodies of the pioneers, borne thither upon the bier, and consigned to rest. In these old cemeteries are to be found the honored names of many we have noted in these pages---the pioneer settlers of Ontario. Upon those old graves the hand of affection still lays the fresh flowers over the dust of ancestors, and as in life they were the precursors of settlement, so are their remains the first in the ever-growing villages of the dead.
INCIDENT, AND REMINISCENCE ILLUSTRATIVE OF EARLY TIMES.
A score of years
passed away after the first settlement, and nearly another had gone its
round before the abundant traces of pioneer efforts had given way to the
old and permanent system which in many regards remains in the present.
In 1796, Lucius CAREY started a newspaper in Geneva, called the Ontario
Gazette and Genesee Advertiser.
Other publications followed, but the circulation of these pioneer
sheets delivered by post-riders was limited, and so far as the country
was concerned of little effect. Deprived of resources of literary character, the young and
the old delighted in adventure, and gathered about the huge fireplace to
hear such men as Follett recount the stirring scenes of the border, in
which they were no idle spectators.
Frederick FOLLETT, in
1778, was a border settler in the valley of Wyoming.
A party of four men, himself, Lieutenant BUCK, Elisha WILLIAMS,
and Stephen PETTIBONE, were out one day upon the Kingston bank of the
river, within view of the Wilkesbarre Fort, when they were suddenly
assailed by a score of Indians. A
murderous volley stretched all four upon the ground.
Three were killed, and their scalps taken, while FOLLETT, with a
ball in each shoulder, was stabbed repeatedly with spears, one of which
pierced his stomach so that its contents came out at his side.
Retaining consciousness, he feigned death in hopes of escaping
further injury from his ruthless enemies.
They came upon him, and one tore the scalp from his head as lay
in gore and agony. Aid came
from the fort, and the Indians fled.
FOLLETT's case looked desperate; he was a pitiable object, but
humanity dictated the utmost endeavor of medical and surgical skill.
In the charge of Dr. William H. SMITH, his recovery was assured,
and he became a hale and hearty man.
His spear-wounds, nine in number, severe though they were, gave
him no real trouble; the pain of an unextracted ball was felt at
intervals, and that portion of the head from which the scalp had been
removed was sensitive to the lightest touch, otherwise he was vigorous
and active. He entered the
navy, and was captured. After
six months' confinement in prison at Halifax, he was released.
A second and yet a third time he became a prisoner to the
British, but finally returned to Massachusetts, whence he emigrated to
Ontario. He was in the
employ of Captain WILLIAMSON in 1794, and a settler in Gorham a few
years later. A notable
instance of savage barbarity and human endurance rarely met with at any
Israel HARRINGTON, a
settler in Ontario prior to 1798, had been a soldier of the Revolution,
and his musket was borne by him everywhere as his tried and trusty
friend. He was one of a small class who, partially deranged in mind,
chose a hermit life; and while near his children and grandchildren,
lived in a shanty in the woods comparatively alone.
It was his leading occupation to start away upon a hunting tour,
weeks, and even months of duration.
His resort was the shore of Lake Ontario, where his favorite
game---the bear---were abundant. To
this region came many another hunter, and a time arrived when one after
another failed to return. Suspicion
of Indian hostility was so far verified as to preclude solitary hunting
and trapping. When
neighbors, relatives, and friends learned that Israel was preparing for
a trip to these dangerous hunting-grounds every effort was made to
dissuade him from going, but without success.
Few expected that he would ever return, yet the smoke issuing
from a hole in the roof of his cabin one day some time after proclaimed
the old man's success. It
appears that when he had reached his old resort, and passed several days
thereon, his experience enabled him to detect the presence of Indians in
the neighborhood. One
night, as he walked along the lake-shore, he saw upon the water an
approaching canoe, but sauntered leisurely along to a favorite camping
spot, where he kindled a fire, from which he withdrew into the shadows
of the forest. Soon an
Indian was seen stealthily approaching, and when within range was shot
dead. The body was taken to
the canoe and placed therein; stones were filled in the frail vessel
till it sunk to the water's edge; then, wading, Uncle Israel pushed the
canoe out to deeper water, tipped the edge, and his foe was buried.
His hunting was not disturbed, and his return was within the
Captain Peter PITTS
lived upon the old Indian trail from Canandaigua to Genesee, and in the
early years of settlement was almost constantly surrounded by Indians,
camping and hunting on their old grounds.
In the main they were peaceable, but one day in 1794 a party
under the influence of liquor, while on their way to the treaty at
Canandaigua, called at the house, and demanding liquor of the women,
were refused. Mrs. PITTS
was sick, and was attended by her daughter, who, as the Indians became
boisterous, closed the door to shut them out, and in so doing caught and
pinched the finger of a drunken savage.
He drew his knife, and his hostile movement was followed by his
fellows. William PITTS, and
others engaged near by in cribbing corn, hastened to the scene, the
former arming himself with a sled-stake, and the rest taking whatever
came handiest. They struck
the Indians upon their arms, and as this caused them to drop their
knives, the children caught up and hid them.
An Indian struck Captain PITTS a blow upon his head, felled him
to the floor, and a moment later would have knifed him had not a heavy
blow with the sled-stake in the hands of William PITTS upon the Indian's
neck caused his head to lop quickly to one side.
Edward, later known as Elder HAZEN, armed with a fire-shovel,
repeatedly brought his adversary to the floor.
The Indians were subdued, yet peace was not restored until
Horatio JONES, arriving on his way to the treaty, interfered and ended
the trouble. The danger
apprehended from the Indian was when he was intoxicated, and at such
times all his natural ferocity was aroused.
At one time seven
Indian wigwams stood on the mill-yard of Wells WHITMORE, an early
settler in Phelps. One day
Mrs. WHITMORE was left alone, the family having gone away not to return
until the following morning. An
Indian, partially intoxicated, entered the house and demanded bread.
Mrs. WHITMORE told him that there was no bread in the house, and,
to convince him of the fact, exhibited some dough prepared for baking. The savage gave her the lie, drew his knife and brandished it
over her, and yet insisted upon having some bread. On this the resolute woman seized the cheese-tongs, the
weapon nearest reach, and quickly drove her troublesome visitor from the
house. The cheese-tongs
were then applied to their appropriate use; a cheese was put into a
press that stood in an open shed that was attached to the house, and she
retired to her lonely couch for rest, dreading the Indian's return.
During the night she heard a firm step in the shed where stood
the cheese-press, accompanied with other noises that convinced her of
his actual return. The
noise soon ceased, but she dared not open the door till morning, when
she found that a bear, not an Indian, had stolen and eaten her cheese.
In the course of the day BRUIN was seen upon a bluff, standing
straight up, reconnoitering the premises.
At night two men awaited his approach and saluted him with
bullets, on which he wheeled and retreated to the forest.
As late as 1802, the
Indians sauntering the streets of Canandaigua seized every opportunity
to get drunk. "Indian
John" was a red man
well known to the boys of the village, as he applied them with bows and
arrows, taking his pay from them in hard cider.
We may know that the boys had no difficulty in getting the cider
to pay, since in that day most cellars had a supply.
On one occasion "Indian John" came to the house of a
boy customer very thirsty, and begged a drink of cider, promising to
bring an arrow in payment on the morrow.
The lad told him to drink a quart of water, and he should have a
drink of cider. John
consented, and swallowed the requisite quantity of water with many a
contortion of face, but when the promised drink of cider was offered as
agreed, his stomach had revolted at the strange and large load forced
into it, and turning upon his heel in great disgust, he exclaimed,
"Me got 'nuff this time."
The early days were
remembered as times when the shot-gun was unknown, and the rifle bullet
was depended upon to secure the game, or else the trap and the
dead-fall. Deer came in
flocks to feed upon the great wheat; bears came and took hogs from
directly before the doors of new settlers, sometimes in open daylight;
wolves followed benighted travelers, howled about the cabins, and when
opportunity presented, played sad havoc with the sheep; and there were
instances in the hilly regions of Naples and Bristol when the panther
was known to frequent their wild and deep ravines.
While all are united in the assertion that the wolf was a pest to
the settlements, there is no record of their having killed any person.
The aged say that when, while children, the first long-drawn howl
of the wolf was heard in the log cabin in the woods, the sound awoke
emotions of terror which in time changed to pleasure.
The boys went through the woods by day after the cattle with
impunity, but when necessity required a journey by night, a torch was
Russel M. RUSH worked
when a boy for Bezaliel GLEASON, and his evening chore was to bring home
the cows, which, straying deep into the woods, involved the boy in
darkness ere he could return. On
several occasions the wolves pursued, and only the protection of the
cow-bells saved him from attack. Moses
WARD, Sr., now eighty years of age, and a resident of Canandaigua, near
Cheshire, set out the last of August, 1808, at the age of twelve years,
to go from Owl Creek, in Allegheny County, to Canandaigua.
He had been working for his brother-in-law, and left one morning,
after a hearty meal from a mess of trout caught the evening previous and
cooked by himself. The boy
was barefooted, had a half-dollar in his pocket, and a hatchet in his
hand, which he called a "tomahawk."
He passed through four miles of woods, and called at the house of
a Mr. SWIFT, who asked "where he came from and where he was
going?" His reply was,
"I have been living with my sister on Owl Creek, and am going to
Canandaigua to see my mother."
After a brief rest, four miles farther and two houses were
passed; then another four, and the boy sought rest with a man named
WARD. With morning came
three men who had been benighted and chased by wolves all night.
Young WARD had no fears, but set out upon his way, and soon saw
wolf-tracks in large numbers in the mud along the road.
As he crossed a creek and ascended the opposite bank, he came
close upon a half-dozen wolves, aud screamed at them without effect.
He then began to stone them with pebbles from the creek, and
drove them off. Fear now possessed him and he ran a long distance.
At Pike Hollow he halted to tell his story, was asked the former
noted questions, and gave the same reply.
He was suspected to be a runaway, but was not molested. It
was nine miles through the next woods, and he was tired, when a doctor
came along on horseback and took him on behind him to the house of a
settler named WHALLEY. Next
morning our boy traveler was again on his way, when overtaken by two men
in a wagon near the Pine Tavern, and was taken home.
The narrative is plain and unaffected, but there was something
akin to heroism in the journey of this younger pioneer through the early
forests of Ontario. Low wages for chopping, and high bounties, made wolf-hunting
a business, and the animal soon became a rarity.
A wolf-hunt was
organized on town-meeting day, 1818, and the last wolf captured in
Manchester was taken on that occasion.
Sheep had been killed on the BENTLEY farm, word was passed
around, and a day designated as stated.
A skirmish line was formed and reconnoitered the woods thoroughly
to the clearing on the SAWYER farm.
Along the line of the road were posted a number of experienced
marksmen; at the clearing the wolf broke cover.
A ball from the rifle of Joseph BENNEY crippled a hind leg, and
another from that of Christopher BRADY closed his career and the hunt at
the same time.
Bears were numerous in the forest, and many a tale of them was told about the fire-side; men, boys, and dogs would start a bear from a corn-field and drive him to the tallest tree, whence, firing through the foliage in the gloom, some random shot would bring him down. The bear was no coward, and when, as happened, the dogs became too eager, their temerity met condign punishment. Their love of pork often proved their ruin. A bear, one day, seized a hog belonging to a settler named Peter ALLEN, and carried it to the woods. Standing upon his hind legs, with claws clinched in the hog, BRUIN attempted to beat out the life of the porker by dashing it against a tree, persisting until approached and attacked with clubs. It was not unusual for a settler to have a wolf, bear, or deer for a pet, just as at this time raccoons and squirrels are kept by boys in the West. An instance or so out of many, regarding the deer, will close our chapter. A lady ws crossing the ground now the Phelps cemetery, then covered by a growth of hemlocks, and was met in the path by a large buck, which stood and disputed her passage. Taking advantage of a slight diversion of his attention, she ran by, down the bank of Flint Creek, which she waded, and at the hut of a Mr. GRANGER, near the Eagle Mill, halted and gave the news. GRANGER took his rifle, departed, and a rifle-shot proclaimed his success. Fawns were sometimes found in the woods and taken home. An occasional rescue has turned the tables and compelled a precipitate retreat. While the woods contained game, it was much relied upon by the settlers for meat supply; and as late as 1816, the fare of some of them was reduced to squirrels, venison, and boiled wheat. There is a fitness in the scheme of early settlement; and, rightly understood, there was little in the forest, its timber, soil, and occupants, but contributed to the pioneer's success.
Created by Dianne Thomas
These electronic pages may be printed as a link or for
personal use, but is NOT to be reproduced
Copyright 2005 - 2014