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From History of Ontario County, NY Published 1878
Pg 37 - 43
ONTARIO, OF OTHER COUNTIES---COUNTY BUILDINGS---FIRST ASSESSMENT OF
TAXES---FIRST CASE IN SURROGATE'S COURT---THE STATE ARSENAL---THE POOR
FARM---ONTARIO IN 1810.
Seneca lake westward, the entire region was known as "The Genesee
Country," from Genesee, signifying "Pleasant Valley."
Settlements were gradually formed after the close of the
Revolutionary war, although retarded by fear of Indians, unsettled land
claims, diseases prevalent, and other pioneer hardships and trials.
The United States census of 1790 for Ontario County, then
comprising all the State west of Geneva, gives a total of two hundred
and five families and one thousand and eighty-one individuals.
A tide of population poured into the country when Indian title
was extinguished and the energetic proprietors had made surveys.
This fair and fertile region was made known at home and abroad,
and those desiring to better their condition spared no endeavor to come
hither. From rugged hill
and shaded dale of Scotland came hardy and intelligent people to the
congenial clime and prolific soil of the famed western valley.
The yeomanry and middle class of England sent hither a goodly
number, Pennsylvania and New Jersey sent a larger proportion of
emigrants, but New England exceeded all in her supply of a shrewd,
enterprising, and permanent population.
The war of 1812 temporarily reduced population, but when peace
returned, a wave of emigration rose higher than any previous, and
scattered through all this section a valuable class of inhabitants.
Land sold at a few shillings an acre, labor was in demand, trade
yielded a high per cent., and usages were free and unrestrained.
To improve circumstances, to possess fairer prospects, to win
place, influence, and wealth, were some of the influences which
developed a rapid growth, and resulted in a parturition of "Old
Ontario," the mother of counties.
To see how well and
truly this appellation is deserved, the following list of counties
formed from Ontario is given:---Steuben was set off March 18, 1796;
Genesee, March 30, 1802; Alleghany, April 7, 1806; Chatauqua, March 11,
1808; Cattaraugus, March 11, 1808; Niagara, March 11, 1808; Erie, April
2, 1821; Livingston, February 23, 1821; Monroe, the same date as
Livingston; Yates, February 5, 1823; Wayne, April 11, 1823; Orleans,
April 11, 1824; Wyoming set off May 14, 1841; Schuyler set off April 17,
1854. With the growth of
villages and the settlement of farms came the desire for more
convenience in the matter of courts, and the destiny of original Ontario
was the active separation of counties as indicated; but this was not
accomplished without strong opposition, confined, at times, to a
locality, again wide-spread, and rising to a party question.
1805 the subject of dividing Ontario County was agitated, as appears
from the following notice, dated January 14, 1806:
"The citizens and inhabitants of Canandaigua and adjacent
towns in the county are requested to meet at E. ROWE's tavern, in the
village of Canandaigua, January 20, 1806, to adopt measures to oppose an
attempt to divide Ontario." The
bill for division was rejected. Many
of the people opposed division. Communications
were written and arguments employed.
One writer stated, that "the Genesee river, the western
limit of the county, in its passage northward bending to the right from
a parellelism with the eastern boundary, renders the aggregate east and
west extent of it considerably less than its north and south extent.
That the county contained but 4150 taxable inhabitants, of whom
but 786 live in four western towns, and many of these, especially Sparta
and Northfield, are opposed to being dissevered from their old friends
by a new organization."
was of some weight respecting the accommodation of the judges, officers,
and the usual attendants of a court during its session.
Excitement ran high, and resulted in a meeting at Bates' Hotel,
Canandaigua, December 25, 1806. Thaddeus
CHAPIN was voted chairman, and Myron HOLLEY, clerk.
Resolutions were unanimously passed, That any division of the
county would be inexpedient, and every plan of division should be
opposed, and that the meeting will oppose all attempts to procure a
division of said county by remonstrance to the Legislature, and that
Nathaniel W. HOWELL, Peter B. PORTER, and Myron HOLLEY be appointed a
committee to draft such remonstrance.
On the 10th of
January, 1815, notice was published that a petition would be presented
to the Legislature at their next session, asking that certain towns then
in the county of Ontario be set off and erected into a new county, and
that the site of the public buildings be at or near the Genesee Falls,
and that it should not be organized until the end of three years next
after granting such petition, or until the same territory shall contain
The citizens of the
village of Rochester were agitating the subject of dividing Ontario
County, and a county meeting of the tax-payers who were opposed to the
division was held at the court-house on November 6, 1817, at which time
Hon. Timothy BARNARD presided, and Dudley MARVIN acted as secretary.
Strong resolutions were passed against said division.
made to the Legislature in 1817 for a new county, to be taken from
Ontario and Genesee counties, with court-house in Rochester; another for
court-house at Avon; another for court-house at Genesee.
In 1818, Penn Yan
discovered that she was situated in a remote and flourishing section,
and her citizens wanted a division of the county, that they might have a
new county with court-house and jail at their village.
A convention of delegates opposed to the division was held
December 10, 1818, at the court-house in Canandaigua.
Hon. Samuel CHIPMAN presided, and John DICKSON, Esq., was
secretary. Of the sixteen
towns represented, fifteen were opposed to the division.
A corresponding committee of five persons was appointed, to
consist of Philetus SWIFT, Micah BROOKS, Nathaniel ALLEN, Dudley MARION,
and Jared WILSON. There was
considerable excitement prevailing, and meetings were held in various
towns opposing the division.
The political parties
of 1819 were divided as anti-division and division parties.
On election, the former party were triumphant by one thousand
In the fall of 1820,
Rochester, Palmyra, Penn Yan, Avon, Geneva, and Lyons were desirous of
becoming county seats, but met opposition from Ontario's citizens.
These efforts were futile, as we find Livingston and Monroe
erected in 1821 from Ontario and Genesee counties.
It is noted that prisoners of Monroe were to be lodged in Ontario
County jail until their own jail was completed.
A meeting was called
of the supervisors and county treasurers of Ontario, Monroe, and
Genesee, to meet at Avon on the first Monday in June, 1821, to apportion
all moneys in their hands justly and equitably.
Yates county was
established at the winter session, February 25, 1823, and consisted of
the towns of Benton, Milo, Jerusalem, Italy, and Middlesex, all of which
were taken from "Old Ontario," and comprised about 12,000 of a
population. As with Monroe,
prisoners were to be confined in Ontario County jail until one could be
built in the new county.
Asahel STONE, Jr.,
Paul B. TORREY, Lorenzo CLARK, Eph. W. CLEVELAND, Jeremiah B. PARRISH,
Isaac WATKINS, and Simeon LYON gave notice December 1, 1824, that they
and associates would apply for the erection of a new county, to comprise
the town of Naples, the south township of Bristol, the same of Richmond,
the east part of Spring-Water, Conhocton, Prattsburg, Italy, and the
west township of Middlesex. Reference
to the files of later dates fails to show the opposition earlier
manifested in later movements towards a permanent condition of civil
area. Not as in many
counties was there a strife as to the location of a county seat.
Canandaigua asserted this prerogative, and it has never been
disputed. Not alone county
but State and nation have acknowledged her importance, and contributed
to her public buildings.
By act of April 9,
1792, the supervisors in the several towns of Ontario were directed to
raise and levy the sum of six hundred pounds for building a court-house,
with the addition of one shilling on the pound for collection.
By the act the county treasurer was to retain "three pence
in the pound for his trouble in receiving and paying out the moneys
directed to be raised by this act."
The court-house was soon after erected on the northeast corner of
the square, the north line of the building being upon the line of the
present structure. The old
frame two-story building was contracted and built by Elijah MURRAY, in
1794. When a successor was erected, the old building was moved
across the street to the northeast corner of Main and Cross streets, and
used for years as a town-hall and post-office.
It was subsequently purchased by Thomas BEALS, and moved to Coach
street, where it was used as a storehouse.
On the night of November 21, 1875, during a prevailing fire, it
narrowly escaped destruction, and "the old cod-fish" on its
spire, which had stood the blasts of eighty-three winters, was
displaced. The souvenir was obtained by T.M. HOWELL to be placed in the
room of the Wood Library, and the old "Star Building" yet
The first jail was a
block-house, built as a refuge in case of Indian attack; it stood near
what is now Torrey's coal-yard. At
a later period it served as a place of confinement to law-breakers.
About 1816 a two-story brick building was put up, and later
formed part of the Franklin House, which occupied the site of the
Webster Hotel. The lower
part was used as a tavern and the residence of the sheriff or his
deputy, while the upper story, divided in cells, was used for jail
purposes. The insane, and
the man who could not pay his debts, were then subjects of imprisonment.
Moses WARD, Sr., says, "In 1803 my father was served, and
having nothing with which to make payment, was taken to the old jail.
His mother carried provisions from Centreville, as prisoners for
debt had to board themselves. A
dozen prisoners were then confined in the old log jail, and their only
crime was poverty." To
those who look wistfully upon the past, desiring its return, let the
imprisonment for debt, the existence of slavery, and the inhuman
condition of the pauper insane be held in contrast with present
immunity, freedom, and the benefit spirit which prompted a Brigham Hall
and a Willard Asylum. It
was a lesson of the times, that, while the debtor sat above and wore out
his time, gayety and revelry presided below, as T. SHEPHERD opened a
dancing-school in the ball-room, and C.W. PARSONS a singing-school in
the same apartment of the jail.
Roger SPRAGUE, John
PRICE, and Septimus EVANS formed a committee on the part of the
supervisors to receive proposals at ATWATER's tavern for furnishing
stone, timber, and other material for a new jail.
They met November 4, 1813; again, January 26, 1814.
The committee advertised to receive proposals for two hundred and
fifty cords of stone for building a new jail.
Failing to contract at this sitting, they subsequently offered to
pay ten dollars per cord for good building stone, delivered on the site
of said jail between January 31 and June 1.
The stones were brought and were duly measured, March 2, 1814.
The contract was let in April.
The Legislature passed an act in 1815 authorizing the county
treasurer to pay a certain sum to the building committee for the new
jail. The building was not
entirely secure, as is evident from the fact that, on the night of
January 21, 1816, three prisoners confined therein broke out and
escaped. The citizens of
Canandaigua congratulated themselves during the winter of 1823-24 upon
the building of a new court-house, the present town-house; the
appropriation for that purpose to be six thousand dollars.
The people desired this new building in place of the "old
monument of the early settlers," the "Star Building,"
which was pronounced "a disgrace to the public square, and a
reproach to an old and wealthy county."
The Board of Supervisors published a notice through their
chairman, Francis GRANGER, Esq., and E TAYLOR, their clerk, on February
21, 1824, that an application would be made to the Legislature, at its
present session, for the passage of a law authorizing and requiring the
supervisors of this county to cause to be assessed and levied upon the
freeholders and inhabitants of the county the sum of six thousand
dollars, for the purpose of erecting a court-house; two thousand dollars
to be assessed and levied in each of the years 1824, 1825, and 1826.
The bill authorizing the building of the court-house became a law
in April, 1824. On July 4,
1824, the corner-stone of the present town-hall, then to be the new
court-house, was consecrated, and, with appropriate ceremony, deposited
in its place. The widow of
Oliver PHELPS, with her own hand, inserted within the corner-stone a tin
box containing a copy of Governor CLINTON'S message to the Legislature
of January 22, 1824; copies of the two newspapers printed in the
village, said copies being upon white satin; the first census of Ontario
County, taken in 1790; Continental currency of 1776, and other articles.
Rev. EDDY, pastor of the Congregational church, offered prayer,
and Dr. James LAKEY delivered an address.
Among those who took part in that interesting occasion were
Judges HOWELL, LAPHAM, LOOMIS, MITCHELL, YOUNGLOVE, SAWYER, GREIG,
SPENCER, WILLSON, SIBLEY, LESTER, GRANGER, PENFIELD, AND MARVIN; while
among the citizens of that day present were Messrs. BEMIS, GIBSON,
JACKSON, WARD, COE, WELLS, E. SAWYER, O'HARA, BLOSSOM, PHELPS, BUNNELL,
LAKEY, BARNUM, FRANCISCO, DORRINGTON, J. M. SAWYER, KIBBE, KINGSLEY,
MEAD, SPAULDING, and MERRILL.
The new court-house is a prominent object to the stranger's eye, as he approaches Canandaigua. Commandingly situated, artistic in design, and extensive in dimension, it is deservedly regarded with pride by the citizen of village or county. Two questions arrayed the people in factions prior to its erection,---its location, and the direction it should front. Three sites were considered, and the ultimate decision placed it on the GORHAM lot and the old Square,---one third being on the former, two-thirds on the latter. Some desired the front to be southward, others to the west; the conclusion gave a west frontage. The contract was let to Messrs. Camp KELSEY and J.K. WELLS, of Canandaigua, and Thomas CRAWFORD, of Geneva,---the price being forty-two thousand dollars,---and the work was immediately commenced. The corner-stone was laid on July 4, 1857, by John L. LEWIS, Jr., Grand Master of New York State, assisted by Excelsior Chapter, No. 164, and Canandaigua Lodge, No. 294. N.G. CHEESEBRO, S.W. SALISBURY, and A.H. HAGER were the committee, Thomas CRAWFORD was the architect, and J. STEPHENSON secretary. The ceremonies were conducted with more than usual formality. A procession was formed of Masons, firemen, and citizens, and marched to the spot. Prayer was offered by the Grand Chaplain. A derrick upheld the corner-stone of the old Masonic Hall erected in 1816, newspapers, and coins. Solemn music accompanied the lowering of the stone to its place. The architect presented working tools to the Grand Master, who applied the plumb, square, and level in their proper position, and pronounced it "well formed, true, and trusty." He then struck the stone thrice with the mallet, and the honors of Masonry were given. An oration was delivered by John L. LEWIS, Jr. The Hon. Thomas W. HOWELL followed by an appropriate address. The dimensions of the building give a base of ninety-six by seventy-six feet. The structure is surmounted by a statue twelve feet in height, and the distance from the ground to the top of this statue is one hundred and twenty feet. The inside is finely finished, and is designed for a variety of court and county purposes. Upon the ground-floor are the offices of the county clerk, surrogate, and United States district clerk, the supervisors' room, and the post-office. A handsome memorial tablet meets the eye as one ascends the stair to the court-rooms. Here are engraved the names of one hundred and ten soldiers who fell in the late civil war. On the second floor are two court-rooms---one for the United States court, the other for the county. The building was completed and a court opened therein on January 10, 1859, the Hon. Henry WELLES presiding. Well might a contrast between the court-house built (at a cost of six hundred pounds) in accordance with the act passed April 9, 1791, be drawn with the present noble structure. The old town-hall, made such on the erection of the new building as the court-house, recalls many a trail of forensic skill and moving eloquence by those early giants of the law. A THOMPSON, a KENT, a SPENCER, a VAN NESS, and a PLATT sat upon the bench, while a HOWELL, a GREIG, a YOUNGER, a SPENCER, a WILLSON, a HUBBELL, a SIBLEY, and a MARVIN contended for mastery at the bar, That generation has passed away, and their descendants in Canandaigua and elsewhere prove worthy sons of able and distinguished fathers. Enter the United States court-room, and find it hung around with portraits of eminent and noted men of the early day, of whom the following is a brief record taken from a framed enrollment and biography.
ROLL OF EARLY NOTABLES
- the original purchaser, with Nathaniel
GORHAM of all that part of the State of New York lying west of the
preemption line. Born in Windsor, Connecticut in the year 1750.
Died in Canandaigua, February 21, 1809.
- Born in Blooming Grove, Orange county, New York, January
1, 1770. Died October 15,
1850. For thirteen years
first judge of Ontario County. Assisted
as counsel, with Vincent MATTHEWS
and Peter B. PORTER, in
1795, trying in Canandaigua the first cause ever tried before a jury in
- born in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1738.Purchased with Oliver
PHELPS, all that part of the State of New York lying west of the
preemption line. A delegate from Massachusetts to the convention to form the
first constitution of the United States.
Died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1769.
- Born in Moffat, Dumfrieshire, Scotland, August 6,1779. Attorney and counsellor-at-law.
Settled in Canandaigua in 1800, where he died April 9, 1858.
- Born in Orange county, New York.
Settled in Newtown (now Elmira) in 1791. Attorney and counsellor-at-law.
Practiced at the Ontario bar at an early day and with Nathaniel
W. HOWELL and Peter B. PORTER,
tried the first cause ever tried before a jury in Ontario county and
died at Rochester in 1846.
- Born in Salisbury, Connecticut, January 18 1769. Settled in Canandaigua in 1789; removed to Niagara in 1806,
where he died June 1849.
- Born in Granville, Massachusetts, 11th March,
1759. Came to Canandaigua
in May 1789 and that year sowed the first wheat ever sown in this town. Died June 28, 1846.
- The originator of the gallery of portraits, founder of the
Merchants' Clerks' Association of the city of New York, and other
similar excellent institutions. Born
in Boston, Massachusetts, March 31, 1777.
Came to Canandaigua in 1800, where he died August 5, 1857.
- Born in Cheshire, Connecticut, May 12, 1765.
The first physician settled in Canandaigua, having come there in
1789. For many years, one
of the side judges of the Ontario County Court of Common Pleas. Died November 15, 1847.
- For some years one of the side judges of the Ontario County
Court of Common Pleas. Born
in Cheshire, Connecticut, and settled in East Bloomfield in 1799.
FITZHUGH - Born in Maryland;
settled near Genesee in 1816.
- born in Windham, Connecticut, 1769.
Captured when a boy by the Delaware Indians, soon after the
massacre at Wyoming, and sold by them to the Mohawks, with whom he
remained seven years as a captive; was found among them on the opening
of the settlement of Western New York.
Settled in Canandaigua in 1789, where he died July 12, 1836.
BEALS - Born in Boston, Massachusetts, November 13, 1783. For twenty seven consecutive years he was the treasurer of
Ontario county. Settled in
Canandaigua in 1803, where he died July 12, 1836.
A. WILLIAMS - Born in Wallingford,
Connecticut; settled as a physician in Canandaigua in 1793, where he
died September 3, 1834.
- Born is Salisbury, Connecticut in 1773.
Settled in Canandaigua in 1795.
In that he, he with Vincent
MATTHEWS and Nathaniel W.
HOWELL as attorneys, tried the first cause ever tried before a jury
in Ontario County. Was a
brave and skillful general of the Western New York militia in the war
with Great Britain in 1812. Died
at Niagara Falls, March 1844.
- Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, February 21,
1752. The founder of the
city of Rochester. Settled
in Dansville, Livingston county, New York in 1810.
Died in Rochester, May 17, 1831.
WELLES - For many years judge of
the Supreme Court of the State of New York.
- born in Durham, Connecticut, in 1768.
Settled in Genesee, Livingston county, then called Big Tree, in
1790, where he died in 1844.
S. BARNARD - A member of the
Ontario County bar as early as 1825.
PHILIP CHURCH - a large land proprietor at an early day in Allegheny
county, New York, and one of its earliest settlers.
Died in Angelica.
- Born in Durham, Connecticut.
Settled in Genesee, then Big Tree, in 1790.
Was general of the militia of Western New York in the war with
Great Britain in 1812. Died
at Genesee in 1833.
SPENCER - An eminent judge of the
Supreme Court of the State of New York, when the court was the pride of
- Studied his profession as a lawyer in Canandaigua. Was senator in Congress for Illinois. A Presidential candidate of Conservative Democracy in 1860,
and died in 1861 at Chicago.
JACKET - The renowned chief of the
Seneca Indian, and the famed orator.
- Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1795. Settled in Canandaigua in 1814.
A distinguished member of the Ontario bar. Represented the county in the Assembly and in Congress.
Died in Canandaigua, September 8, 1852.
- Born in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, May 23, 1786.
Settled in Canandaigua in 1813.
Admitted to the bar, where he was well known as a sound lawyer
and eloquent advocate. Died
April 8, 1851.
- Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, February 15, 1795. Long a prominent leader of the Ontario County bar.
Settled in Canandaigua in September 1814, where he died March 25,
- Born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts.
Appointed first judge of Ontario county. Died at Geneva.
- Born in Hudson, New York January 8, 1788.
Settled in Canandaigua, 1809, where he resided until 1845.
A prominent lawyer of this bar and State.
Represented Ontario County in the Assembly and Senate of this
State and in Congress. Was
appointed in 1827, one of the revisers of the laws of this State by
Governor De Witt CLINTON.
Was secretary of this State in 1839, and in 1841 Secretary of War
under John TYLER.
Died in Albany in 1855.
- Admitted as attorney and counsellor of the Supreme Court
of New York in 1815. Practiced
his profession with great credit in Canandaigua for many years, and died
in Lyons, Wayne county.
GRANGER - Born in Suffield,
Connecticut, July 19, 1767. Postmaster-general
under Jefferson form 1801 to 1809.
Removed to Canandaigua in 1816.
Elected State senator in 1818.
Died in Canandaigua December 31, 1822.
- Born in Suffield, Connecticut, December 1, 1792. Came to Canandaigua in 1816, and the admitted to the bar.
Was a member of the Legislature of this State, and a member of
Congress from this county for many terms.
Was postmaster-general under Harrison, and died at Canandaigua
August 28, 1868.
HENRY S. COLE - Born in Canandaigua September 23, 1800. Admitted to the bar in 1821. Removed to Michigan, of which state he was attorney-general, and died in Detroit in 1835.
other eminent lawyers, like General Dudley
MARVIN, for thirty years and able Practitioner, is entitled to like
honors and brief mention, but these given serve as examples that he bar
of Ontario has no fictitious reputation.
An Interesting Relic
of early court proceedings in Ontario County is found in the extracts
from speeches made in June, 1805, at the close of the sitting of the
Court of Common Pleas; the
one of Judge HOSMER, as a farewell address, the other a reply by John
GREIG, Esq. The Hon.
Timothy HOSMER, first judge of this county, having attained that age
which constitutionally disqualified for a longer exercise of official
functions, retiring to private life, thus addressed his auditory:
"Gentlemen,---Having by the constitution of our State been
dismissed from further meeting you in this court of justice, my official
life closes after a period of about twelve years, during which I have
had the honor of presiding on this bench.
An inhabitant of this county from its earliest settlement, I have
beheld it rise from the cheerless bosom of the forest to the respectable
state in which we now behold it; to a state of population almost
incredible, having, in the short space of fifteen years, increased to
about twenty thousand; and this is in a great measure owing to a wise
government and wholesome administration, that has yielded protection to
all classes of society, and insured to them the full enjoyment of their
lawful acquisitions. In
this time we have beheld towns and villages arise, seminaries of useful
learning established, religious institutions founded and flourishing,
trade and commerce thriving and extending, the means of communication
facilitated by the improvement of roads, locks, and canals, agriculture
remunerating the toils of the farmer beyond his fondest expectation, the
mechanical arts cherished and supported, and poverty and distress almost
estranged by the smiles of plenty.
Within this period, this western section of the State had
attained a degree of power and influence highly respectable.
Here the observant eye beholds the most sober observance of moral
and religious duties, a name and praise to be preserved by utmost care,
and only possible by a steady perseverance in the industrial path, and a
pertinacious adherence to tried and approved rules, governing by the
pure dictates of reason."
To the address, of
which a fragment is given, Mr. GREIG for the bar, replied:
"To the Honorable Timothy HOSMER, Esquire, first judge of
this court. Sir,---The
gentlemen composing the bar request me to communicate the painful regret
felt at parting with you as the chief magistrate of this county.
They authorize me to declare that they have looked up to you as
the father of this court. It
is their earnest prayer that your remaining years may pass tranquilly
and happily. They can no
longer meet you as president of this court, but anticipate a meeting
where contentious cease, and a true verdict will be passed upon human
action, and where the just will meet with that glorious reward which
will be the sure consequence of a well-spent life."
COURT AND CASES
The first Court of
Common Pleas and General Sessions of Ontario County was held in the
unfinished chamber of Moses ATWATER's house, on the first Tuesday in
June, 1792; Oliver PHELPS, judge, Nathaniel GORHAM, Jr., clerk, and
Judah COLT, sheriff. Vincent
MATTHEWS, of Newtown, was the only attorney present at the opening of
The first business
transacted by the Surrogate's Court in this county was the settlement of
the estate of Captain Jonathan WHITNEY, deceased, in 1793.
An inventory of real and personal is presented, beneath which is
written as follows: "This
may certify, that Oliver WHITMORE did this day present the above
inventory to us with an intention of lodging the same in the surrogate's
office, agreeable to the bonds given by Nathan WHITNEY, as administrator
of the estate of Jonathan WHITNEY, and made solemn oath that the above
is a true and perfect inventory of all the estate of Captain Jonathan
WHITNEY, late of the town of Seneca, in the county of Ontario, in the
State of New York, deceased. Taken
in presence of Joel WHITNEY and Solomon YATES, Ontario County, November
8, 1793. Samuel MELLISH,
Surrogate for Ontario County."
In 1804, a
quarrelsome Indian was arrested for murdering a white man at or near
Buffalo, brought to Canandaigua, lodged in jail, and tried in the old
courthouse. John GREIG,
Esq., was district attorney, and the prisoner was defended by Peter B.
PORTER and RED JACKET. The
Indian was convicted but not executed.
John GREIG remarked, concerning the effort of RED JACKET, that he
himself was but a reed compared to the arrow from the lightning bow of
his opponent, the native of the forest.
The first breach of
promise case tried in Ontario County was in June, 1818, before
Chief-Justice THOMPSON: Mary
NOWLEN vs. James CAMPBELL; and a verdict was rendered to
plaintiff of $1200.
In 1822, a Penn Yan
jury decided that a man was not a "habitual drunkard" unless
he was drunk more than half the time.
At the Circuit Court
and Oyer and Terminer, held in Canandaigua, June, 1822, his Honor
Justice PLATT presiding, a colored woman named "Airy
THOMPSON," aged 28 years, was tried and convicted for murdering her
infant child, and sentenced to be hung on the first Friday in October,
between the hours of 10 A.M. and 2 P.M.
The opinion to some degree prevailed that the woman was insane.
Evidence of guilt was principally derived from the fact that the
child's body was found secreted, with a wound in its head sufficient to
cause death; and certain confessions were made by the mother, which
indicated her to be the author of the injury.
She was ably defended by counselors HULBURT and MARVIN, and the
jury recommended her case to the merciful consideration of the proper
authorities. A respite was
granted, and her case was brought before the Legislature of 1823.
At the same session
of court, Samuel VANTASSEL was convicted of rape, and George P. MOORE of
burglary, and both were sentenced to State's prison for life.
The first county
record relative to taxes collected in Ontario County bears date
1793. The town of Canandaigua has seven collectors, viz: Jonathan
EDWARDS, Phineas BATES, Eber NORTON, Aaron RICE, Elias J. GILBERT, Noah
PORTER and Solomon WARNER. The total amount collected in the town
of Canandaigua was 35, 13s, 4 d.
The total amount as credited to Ontario County was 53, 13s, 5d. The assessment as a
tax was made on the third Wednesday of August 1792.
The tax assessed and levied June 25, 1793, upon the county, was 197, 5s, 8d. The district
of Williamson was established and in May 1794, a tax was granted for 186,
12s, 10d. On May 4, 1795, a
count tax was granted for 300, 3s, 11 d.
On May 5, 1796, a tax was granted for the use of schools, amount
to 194, 10s, and July following, an additional amount for county use
of 220, making 414, 10s. Six
new districts were formed.
March 22, 1797.
The several accounts have been inspected by the Board of Supervisors, and vouchers for the several charges have been produced by the Treasurer, except the sum of 100, paid the commissioners for building the goal, which is allowed, but no voucher has been produced. By order of the Board of Supervisors.
Amos HALL, Supervisor.
On May 31, 1797,
there was with the county treasurer $459.01 1/2; received from the State
treasurer, $972.50, making a total amount in the county treasury of
$1431.61 1/2. On May 30,
1798, the accounts of the treasurer showed a balance in his hands of
$713.26, including $430.26, including $430.08 for use of schools,
excepting $100, excepted as in previous years.
The examining committee were Ezra PATTERSON, Ebenezer CURTISS,
and E. NORRIS. A tax was granted May, 1798, for the following purposes, viz:
For highways, to be paid to the order of superintendents, $400;
jail, $1000; schooling, $500; county expenses, $600.34.
To be collected from eighteen towns.
The committee to examine the treasurer's accounts were Josiah
FISH and Joel ROBERTS. The
committee, in 1799, were Ebenezer CURTISS, Abner BARLOW, and Solomon
HOVEY. The amounts on hand
indicate a growth of property and a disposition to advance especially
the educational interests. The
first fine collected and credited to the county of Ontario was
entered as follows: "December
13, 1799.---By fine on Beman WHEELER, for petty larceny, at a
Magistrate's Court in Geneva, $17.00."
A tax was granted October, 1799, for the following purposes, viz:
For building jail, $3000; for highways, $1000; for schools, $500;
for county expenses, $2455.50. The
town of Sodus was included this year, and made nineteen towns in the
county. These towns were
assessed as follows: "Palmyra,
$128.25; Middletown, $75; Farmington, $141.50; Bristol, $63.50; Easton,
$142.50; Hartford, $78; Jerusalem, $324.50; Northfield, $167.50;
Pittstown, $140.50; Seneca, $328; Bloomfield, $216; Sparta, $110;
Charlestown, $90.50; Canandaigua, $150; Phelps, $146.50; Genesee,
$95.25; Northampton, $4236; Augusta, $86.50; Sodus, $233.50."
There was received from the Holland Company, $1788.95, and for
schooling, from the State, for the year ending March, 1798, $972.50.
The balance left to the credit of the county was $11,234.92.
Committee of accounts, Solomon HOVEY, Josiah FISH, and David
We close this subject
of early taxes and their collectors by a list for 1801 of the parties
employed to collect, in the various towns of the county, the taxes of
that year. For Jerusalem, George BROWN; Augusta, Francis BRIGGS;
Northfield, Alexander DUNN; Sodus, William B. COGSWELL; Palmyra, C.
SOUTHWORTH, Genesee, Asa WOODWARD; Northampton, Peter SHAFFER; Hartford,
John MACK; Bristol, George CODDING, Jr.; Middletown, Ephraim CLEVELAND;
Easton, Bascom WHITNEY; Seneca, William SMITH; Phelps, Augustus
DICKINSON; Sparta, Benjamin ROBERSON; Charlestown, Martin LEWIS;
Canandaigua, John COOLEY; Bloomfield, Elisha STEELE; Pittstown, John
CURTIS; and Farmington, David SMITH.
For public safety and
convenience, military stores were distributed over the State. Small arsenals were erected near the northern and western
frontiers, and military stores deposited in them, ready for any
emergency. One of these was
built at Canandaigua. Moses
ATWATER and wife conveyed, on October 10, 1808, to the people of the
State of New York, a piece of ground one hundred and twenty-four feet by
ninety feet four inches, the same being part of lot No. 1 west of Main
street, north of the square, in the village named.
A brick building was soon after erected on this piece of ground,
and designated as the arsenal. The site is a high eminence directly west of the centre of
the square, and commands the village and adjacent country.
In this structure were deposited cannon, a thousand stand of
arms, ammunition, and accoutrements.
It was used as an arsenal, and so occupied until shortly before
our late rebellion, when, by order of Secretary FLOYD, all the arms
therein contained were sold at auction, as were those of other arsenals
at the north. Within a few
years the State government was on the point of selling the building and
the ground, when it was discovered that the deed contained a clause
giving the State a right to the ground and building only while it was
used as a State arsenal for military purposes.
The old arsenal still
stands, a silent memento of the struggle of the young republic with old
England. It is a pride of
the village, and it is hoped that it may be allowed to remain.
The building is a two-story structure; in size about thirty by
fifty feet. Originally, the
lower part was provided with racks for muskets.
Here was kept for years an old twelve-pound iron cannon, whose
thunders proclaimed the each recurring anniversary of American
Independence. Here also
were one or two iron six-pound pieces.
The second story was used for storing equipments and ammunition.
Formerly, a guard-house was erected at the north end of the lot.
This post was occupied for years by a non-commissioned officer as
guard over the premises, but it has given way before the inroads of time
long since, and few now live who were aware of its existence.
The old arsenal, standing isolated upon a spot made doubly
interesting as the tomb of the Indian dead, dilapidated and deserted,
attracts many a curious gaze, and calls forth many a stirring
From the organization
of towns, the care of the indigent has been a prominent feature of their
history. Officers were
early elected to attend to their interests, and provision made for their
maintenance. The towns
cared for their own poor until October 8, 1825, when, at the annual
meeting of the supervisors of the county, Thomas BEALS, Nathaniel LEWIS,
and Moses FAIRCHILD were appointed a committee to purchase a farm for a
county poor-house establishment. Notice
was given that proposals would be received by a county treasurer until
November 17, 1825, for the purchase of a farm for this object.
Said farm to contain one hundred acres of land of good quality. Payment to be made, one-half March 1, 1826, and the remainder
in one year. A farm in
Hopewell, three miles east of Canandaigua, was purchased for $1868.64.
A house was erected in the summer of 1826, and formal notice was
given on the 23d of October of that year that the house would be opened
for use. To this notice
were attached the names of the superintendents, as follows:
Thomas BEALS, John PRICE, Nathan REED, William T. CODDING, and
Chester LOOMIS. The
aggregate cost of the farm buildings, furniture, stock, and implements,
was $7023.84, at the time the house was opened.
Later, 112 acres have been purchased, giving a total of 212 acres
in the farm. The main
building, of brick and wood, is 40 by 84 feet, two stories and basement,
with two wings, one of which is two stories, 32 by 60 feet, and the
other one story and a half, 25 by 30 feet.
The property has recently been much improved, a new mansard roof
being added to the main building, and thereby not only increasing the
capacity of the house, but enhancing its general appearance.
There are connected with the institution wood and wash houses,
two barns, and other outbuildings.
Nine acres of young orchard were planted in 1874, and an old
orchard of five acres has been long upon the farm, but has inferior
fruit. The crop of 1874 was
600 bushels wheat, 1200 bushels corn in the ear, 600 bushels peas and
oats, 400 bushels oats, 1800 bushels potatoes, 40 tons hay, 40 bushels
beans, 30 bushels onions, 12 bushels clover-seed, and 6 bushels herd's
grass-seed. Nine cows,
besides other stock, are kept on the farm.
Average cost of boarding per week is $1.50. Inmates are well fed and clothed. A new building, designed for idiots and the insane, is
detached from the main building. Iron
bedsteads, single, are added to the furniture.
The board of superintendents in 1875 were S.R. WHEELER, who had
served seventeen years on the board; John H. BENHAM, three years, and W.
B. WITTER, one year. Mr.
SHELDON was foreman, and Mr. SPEAR, keeper.
Frances MITCHELL, or
"Mother MITCHELL," as she was usually called, was received in
1826, and the second inmate. She
died May 19, 1874, having been there about forty-eight years.
The departments are as follows:
for men, for women, for boys, and for girls; hospitals for the
aged, infirm, and sick, for the idiotic and insane; and a culinary
department, the last conducted by Thomas COLEMAN for a quarter of a
century. The infirm and
sick are under charge of Dr. HAYES, of Canandaigua.
The number of inmates in 1875 was 140.
The number of regular boarders was 113, others remaining during
winters. On the books were
entered 319 names for the year ending October 1, 1874.
Others were tramps, vagrants, and transients, among which the
following nationalities were represented:
Irish, 143; American, 134; English, 17; German, 16; Scotch, 1,
and Welsh, 1. Among the
inmates were nine idiots and a score of lunatics.
Early in 1875, there were twenty-four children in the
institution, three-fourths of whom attended school in a house 18 by 24
feet. Miss Eunice SAUNDERS
had charge of the school during the last four or five years.
Miss CODDING, years ago, donated a fund whose interest supported
the school during the entire year.
The fund and children have recently been transferred to the
Orphan Asylum, at Canandaigua, with beneficial results.
Caddie McCULLOUGH was the children's nurse.
A dwarf in size, thirty-five years of age, thirty-two years were
passed at the poor-house, and her utmost solicitude has been the welfare
of the little ones. The
institution, having a value in money of $30,000, is one of the avenues
by which the active sympathies of the citizens of old Ontario find
expression, and redounds to their credit and honor.
in 1810 extended about forty-four miles north and south, while its
greatest width east and west was forty-five miles.
It was bounded north by the Canada line, east by Seneca, south by
Steuben, and west by Genesee. Its
area was seventeen hundred and seventy-seven and a half square miles, or
one million one hundred and thirty-seven thousand six hundred acres.
It had sixteen post-offices, and Canandaigua village contained
one hundred and thirty-seven houses.
The area was divided in twenty-four towns, of which Bloomfield
was the most populous, its population being forty-four hundred and
twenty-five. Great roads
from Albany, westward, led centrally across the county, through the rich
and flourishing villages of Geneva, Canandaigua, and the elegant settlements
of Bloomfield, Lima, and Avon. Canandaigua,
the capital of the county, finely situated on the margin of the outlet
of the lake of the same name, was, next to Utica, the most populous
village in the western district. A
thousand people now lived in a place where, twenty-one years previous,
there stood but a miserable Indian wigwam.
Agriculture rapidly improved under the exertions of hardy
industry, and the intelligent exertion of men who combined wealth,
talent, and influence. At
this early period there were but few portions of the State that made a
better display of agricultural opulence than the district westward of
Canandaigua to the Genesee, a tract abounding alike in soil of
surpassing fertility and prospects the most beautiful.
Illustrative of growth in population is the fact that the same
area which, in 1791, contained ten hundred and seventy-five persons, in
1810 was the home of seventy-two thousand seven hundred and
seventy-four. It contained
fifty-eight hundred and thirty senatorial electors, or freeholders to
the amount of two hundred and fifty dollars, and probably there were in
all about fourteen thousand families.
The industry seems incredible, and while we lightly regard the
frail structures built along the creeks, and speak of the farmer-weaver
as of petty ability, the statistics disclose a manufacture highly
creditable to the pioneers. The
household product in 1810 was five hundred and twenty-four thousand five
hundred and thirty yards of woolen, cotton, and mixed cloths, and there
were nineteen hundred and three looms.
Efforts from the
first to improve the breeds of domestic stock were marked by careful
attention. The merino was
introduced, and the choicest breeds of cattle.
It is noted that the first fair held in Canandaigua was appointed
for the last Tuesday of January, 1811, when the judges of the Court of
Common Pleas of the county met at the court-house to adjudge various
premiums on cloth there exhibited.
The judges met, but not having received the law governing,
adjourned to February 29, when they again met and awarded the first
premium to Nathan COMSTOCK on a piece of cloth manufactured from merino
wool. While large tracts in
southern and northern Ontario were lying uncultivated, the central
region had attained a degree of advancement highly encouraging to those
who had settled in hope, and borne with the toil and trouble of the
CHAPTER XV pg 41
MEETINGS---CELEBRATIONS---LA FAYETTE, JOSEPH SMITH, AND JOHN MORGAN.
The town meeting of
the early day was a fit type of pure democracy.
Questions of local importance originated division of sentiment
and consequent formation of parties.
In these free assemblies were fostered that love of liberty and
that power of self-assertion which made popular government a
possibility. No question
called forth greater interest than that of a division of the town.
Parties were formed for and against the measure, and every
expedient resorted to that each might frustrate the other.
Temporarily majorities prevailed for "no division," but
ultimately the opposition carried their point.
Their efforts called out the rural orators, and many a
straightforward, sensible appeal, and many a wordy harangue presaged the
repetition of a struggle upon a broader field concerning questions of
public import---county, State, and national.
In this relation the town meeting may be fitly characterized as
the primary school of legislation, the epitome of republican government.
When a capable man was placed in office, he was retained therein
for many years. The offices
sought the men, and there was little scrambling for political
preferment. Meetings and
elections were primitively conducted.
For a few years no poll-list was kept, and there was no lack of
opportunity had there been an inclination to bias the returns by fraud.
In instances ballots were deposited in a hat held under the arm.
This was improved upon by placing the receptacle of votes upon a
table. In Richmond each
voter was obliged to walk up a plank, and Joseph GARLINGHOUSE, knowing
the residents of the town, was called on to announce the name.
"You live out of town,"
"you have voted," or "you're not of age,"
were assertions which, if correct, obliged the person challenged to make
way for another. The
various officers elected at town meetings were, town clerk; assessors,
three in number; constable and collector, both offices in one person;
three commissioners of highways; a supervisor; the fence-viewers and
pathmasters were unlimited, appointed as there was need.
There were overseers of the poor, and school commissioners, whose
duties as practiced were very limited.
The bounty on wolves, the division of road districts, the rules
respecting stock, the tax for town expenses, the provision for schools,
were of the subjects which called for town action.
The pioneers were not men skillful with the pen nor versed in
orthography, but their edicts were marked by sterling sense, and their
efforts, harmoniously exerted, have verily been the substantial
foundation of present solidity and prosperity.
affording relaxation and giving expression to patriotic feeling, have
characterized the citizens of Ontario as second to none in adherence to
law and in love of country. At
Geneva, Phelps, Naples, and other old and enterprising villages,
anniversaries of notable occasions have given rise to an expression of
honor to the fallen and an endorsement of their actions, but we have
chosen Canandaigua, as the capital, to immediately represent the county,
and a record of past and present is deemed worthy of extended notice in
The first celebration
of the Fourth of July in Canandaigua took place in 1809.
The anniversary of American Independence was celebrated by a very
numerous and respectable number of the Federal Republicans of the
county, in a style unusually splendid and honorable to the principles
which consolidated our Federal government.
"The sentiments and feelings which that epoch can never fail
to inspire were heightened by recent events, the passing away of that
cloud which has hung with portending aspect over our divided country,
and of an eight years' Democratic night dispelled by the rising sun of
HALL officiated as president, and Israel CHAPIN, Valentine BROTHERS, and
Gideon PITTS as vice-presidents. An
oration was delivered by Myron HOLLEY at the academy.
About seventy ladies assembled at the residence of Mr. CLARK in
the afternoon and drank tea in the spacious court-yard, and the evening
was passed in dance and gayety. Music
was furnished by the Bloomfield Band; dinner was provided at Taylor's
Hotel, which in the evening was illuminated.
Birthday, February 22, 1812, was a day fitly celebrated.
The ceremonies were carried forward with considerable pomp and
ceremony under the auspices of the Washington Benevolent Society of
Ontario County. Punderson
B. UNDERHILL, James D. BEMIS, and Richard WILLS were on the committee of
arrangements. Proceedings were opened by prayer on the part of Rev. TORREY.
Music was furnished by the Bloomfield Band, and an oration was
delivered by Myron HOLLEY. The
4th of July, 1815, marking the close of a second war with Great Britain,
an American triumph was celebrated by the young men of Canandaigua at
the court-house. J. WILLSON
read the Declaration of Independence, and the oration was delivered by
William HUBBELL. Dinner was
provided at Coe's Hotel. In
the afternoon a "splendid tea-party" was given by the ladies
on Arsenal Hill. The 4th of
July, 1820, was an occasion of formal exercises in the village.
Mark H. SIBLEY delivered the oration.
Services were held at the Methodist church. Rev. William BARLOW made the prayer, Dr. Richard WELLS read
the Declaration of Independence; an ode was read by Rev. Johns and one
was sung by Chauncey MORSE. The
morning of the 4th, in 1823, was ushered in by firing of cannon, ringing
of bells, and a display of flags. A
procession was formed under direction of Colonel Edward SAWYER, and
marched to the brick meeting-house.
Prayer by Rev. Mr. JOHNS; reading by Mark H. SIBLEY Esq.; and
Walter HUBBELL, Esq., delivered an oration.
Dinner was served under a "bower" near Mead's Hotel,
and the following were among the toasts offered "Old Ontario,
having 'set out' many children, still retains the homestead."
"Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, and Yates: may they prove
legitimate whelps of the 'Lyon of the West.' "
centennial celebration took place July 4, 1876, and since 1824 there has
been none so notable in the annals of Ontario County.
The �Sleeping Beauty� was fairly awakened. A profuse display of flags and decorations in public
localities and on private residences betokened the interest in the
occasion. The main stand
was on the east side of Main street, just south of the old oak now
stripped of its branches. Over
the stand was the motto: We begin our Second Century with Home and
Confidence. On front of
the town hall was the motto: 1776 An Experiment - 1876 a
Success!, a transparency designed by Dr. BENNETT. Fronting the courthouse steps was the stand for the choir of
children, directed by Professor WHELPTON.
The Declaration, was read by W. S. HUBBELL, Esq.
A part of the history of Canandaigua, by J. Albert GRANGER, Esq.,
was read and a rain compelled adjournment to the courthouse, where it
was finished. The very few
comparatively who could find entrance listened to an oration by Hon. E.
g. LAPHAM. The Boomerang
Legion came out in queer, grotesque array.
The wheelbarrow and sack races and greased pole gave amusement to
the crowd. A grand display
of fireworks in the evening closed the memorable day.
The visit of LA FAYETTE to America, as the nation's guest, was an occasion when the entire populace vied to give him greatest honor. His journey through the land was a triumphal march; bonfires blazed on the hilltops; cannon thundered their salute; old soldiers rushed weeping to his arms; committees met and escorted him to their villages and hundreds sought the honor of a grasp of his hand.
The General arrived in Buffalo, January 4, 1825. Thence he visited Black Rock, Niagara Falls, Fort Niagara, Lewiston, and Lockport. He came on a canal boat to Rochester. On Tuesday morning, June 7, 1825, an express messenger from Rochester rode into the village announcing that the Marquis LA FAYETTE would, late in the afternoon, reach Canandaigua. The news spread like wildfire all over the country. The people knew that he was to come and awaited the announcement of the day. Crowds were soon in motion people in carriages and on horseback turned out to meet him at Mendon, where he was to be received by a committee from Canandaigua. About sundown, the Ontario Bands and martial music marched to the head of Main street. It was half past eight, when the retinue and the General appeared in sight, a fact announced by the discharge of artillery; loud, long cheers were raised by the multitude and smiles of gladness were on all countenances; the band began to play, but so eager were the people to see their visitor that the formation of a procession seemed difficult. The General was received from the Rochester committee at Mendon, placed in the finest coach that could be obtained, and this was drawn by four gray horse, driven by Samuel GREENLEAF. A long procession of carriages and horsemen, with a multitude on foot, was finally formed and marched down Main street to the alternating music of the band and the drum and fife. Salutes were fired from Arsenal Hill, and many residents were brilliantly illuminated. The Canandaigua Hotel and Kingley's tavern opposite were dazzling in appearance. When opposite the hotel the procession opened ranks to allow the General to pass through. As his carriage reached the entrance, the crowd surged forward, and were, with difficulty, kept from thronging into the hall. The doors were closed and guarded. Colonel William BLOSSOM and Judge Moses ATWATER, the committee, introduced many, nad the marquis sat down with about 100 guests to an elegant supper. About 10 o�clock, the music appeared on the balcony, and LA FAYETTE came out, while candles were held on either side of him, that the people might see him. With head uncovered, he bowed smiling to the eager, patient multitude below. He spoke briefly, thanking them for kind attentions and expressing regret that he could not have arrived in the daytime. With French politeness and graceful bows, he withdrew inside the hotel . The General spoke slow, in broken English, and it was difficult to understand him. With him, upon the balcony, was his son. In appearance he was stoutly built, with healthy but fatigued look and full florid face. Later, he was escorted to the mansion of John GREIG, where he passed the night. A procession was formed in the morning to escort the General to meet the Geneva delegation. As they marched down the street kerchiefs waved a welcome, and all were gladdened by a sight of our noble friend, the companion of WASHINGTON . The Geneva committee met the escort at Ball�s tavern, near Flint Creek, and the tide of population moved forward to Geneva, where great preparation had been made for his reception. A bower had been erected on the square in front of the Geneva Hotel, and the pathway was covered by carpets and strewn with flowers. He chose, it seems, to walk more humbly upon the native soil. A few hours at Geneva, then on Waterloo, Seneca Falls, Auburn and Syracuse. Here he embarked on a packet commanded by Captain ALLEN, and proceeded on his way to Boston, where on the 17th , he took part in laying the corner-stone of the Bunker Hill Monument. The Canandaigua artillery, a six-pounder, was commanded on the occasion of the visit by Ira MERRILL. A cavalry company, thirty strong, mounted on gray horses, turned out under command of captain James LYON and Asa SPAULDING, let the Ontario Band. GREENLEAF, who drove the team alluded to is a resident of Shortsville. He drove the first four house stage out of Ithaca, May 1, 1816, to Auburn.
had its origin in Ontario County. The
natural credulity of the ignorant has ever made them the dupes of
design, and there has never been a creed promulgated so fallacious or so
monstrous but that it has found followers.
Indignant citizens have ejected the contaminating influence from
their midst, and glorified by persecution, the evil has grown and
perpetuated itself. Time
hallows the past custom sanctions usage, and the usurper in the course
of events becomes authority. The
(Friends) society of Jemima WILKINSON soon dissolved, but the new
religion with active workers drew proselytes from every quarter, and
numbers thousands of firm believers.
It is of interest then, to place on record here a brief outline
of its founder. The father
of Joseph SMITH was from near the Merrimac river, New Hampshire.
His first settlement was in or near Palmyra village, but in 1819
he became the occupant of new land on Stafford street, Manchester, near
the Palmyra line. His cabin was of the rudest,, and a small tact about it was
under brushed as a clearing. He
had been a Universalist, but had changed to Methodism.
His character was that of was weak, credulous, litigious man.
SMITH, originally designing profit and notoriety, was the source form
which the religion of the Latter Day Saints was to originate. The SMITH'S had two sons.
The elder, Alvah sickened and died and Joseph was designated as
the coming prophet a subject the most unpromising in appearance and
ability. Legends of hidden
treasure has pointed to Mormon Hill as the depository.
Father and son had visited the place and dug for buried wealth by
midnight, and it seemed natural that the SMITHS should in time connect
themselves with the plan of a new creed, with Joseph SMITH as its
founder. As the scheme developed, Oliver COWDERY and Martin HARRIS
gave it their support, and Sydney RIGDON, joined the movement later.
COWDERY was a schoolteacher in the district, and intimate with
the SMITHS. HARRIS was
owner of a good farm two miles north of Palmyra village.
The farm went to pay for the publication of the Mormon Bible.
HARRIS, was an honest, worthy man, but a religious enthusiast. RIGDON came from Ohio and attached himself to the scheme of
imposture. He had been a
Baptist preacher, but had forfeited his standing by disreputable action.
His character was that of a designing, dishonest, disreputable
man. In him the SMITHS
found an able manager, and he found them fit agents of his schemes.
SMITH Jr., had in his possession a miraculous stone, opaque to others,
luminous and transparent to himself. It was of the common hornblende
variety, and was kept in a box, carefully wrapped in cotton.
Placed in a hat, and looked upon, SMITH alleged ability to locate
hidden treasure. Mrs. SMITH
made and sold oil-clothe, and while so engaged, prophesied a new
religion, of which her son should be the prophet.
One morning as the settlers went to their work, a rumor
circulated that he SMITHS in a midnight expedition, had commenced
digging on the northwest spur of Mormon Hill, and had unearthed several
heavy golden tablets covered with hieroglyphics.
It was stated that Joseph was able to translate this record, and
was engaged upon the work. To
make money and indulge a love of notoriety was the first plan, and to
found a new religion a later thought.
The mysterious symbols were to be translated and published in
book form. Money was wanted
and HARRIS mortgaged his farm for $2,500, which was to secure him half
the proceeds of the sales of the Gold Bible.
Joseph SMITH told HARRIS that an angel had directed him where on
Mormon Hill the golden plates lay buried, and he himself unwillingly
must interpret and publish the sacred writing, which was alleged to
contain a record of the ancients of America, engraved by Mormon, the son
of Neephi. Upon the box in
which were the plates had been found large spectacles, whose glasses
were transparent only to the prophet.
None save SMITH were to see the plates, on pain of death.
HARRIS and COWDERY were the amanuenses, who wrote as SMITH
screened from their view, dictated.
Days passed and the work proceeded.
HARRIS took his copy home to place in the hands of the
type-setters. His wife was a woman of sense and energy.
She seized 100 pages of the new revelation and they were burned
or concealed. This portion
was not again written, lest the first being found, the versions should
not agree. The author of
the manuscript pages from which the book was published, is unknown.
One theory gives them as the work of a Mr. SPAULDING of Ohio, who
wrote it as a religious novel, left the manuscript with a printer, and
being appropriated by RIGDON, was brought to Manchester and turned to
account. The general and
most probable opinion is that SMITH and COWDERY were the authors, from
these reasons: it is a poor attempt at counterfeiting the Scriptures;
modern language is inconsistently blended and chronology and geography
are at variance. It is a
strange medley of Scripture to which is appended a Book of
Commandments,� the work of RIGDON, perhaps assisted by SPAULDING�S
papers. The date of the
Gold Bible is fixed as the fall of 1827.
The first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed by E. B.
GRANDIN, of Palmyra, New York and consisted of 5,000 copies.
The work of printing began June 29.
It was completed in 1830 and offered for sale at $1.25 per copy,
but it would not sell. SMITH
went to Pennsylvania clad in a new suit from funds provided by HARRIS;
here he married a daughter of Isaac HALE and both were baptized by
RIGDON after the Mormon ritual. This
wife is living near Nauvoo, Illinois, in comfortable circumstances.
The original edition of the book has this preface: The Book
of Mormon; an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates
taken from the plates of Nephi,: and concludes with, By Joseph SMITH
Jr., Author and Proprietor.
Later editions designate SMITH translator.
The contests give 15 Books and the edition contains 588
pages, common duodecimo, small pica letter.
A formal organization was desirable.
A meeting was held at the house of Joseph SMITH Sr., in June
1830. The exercises
consisted of readings and interpretations of the new Bible.
SMITH Sr., was installed Patriarch and President of Latter Day
Saints. COWDERY and HARRIS were given limited and conditional
offices. From the house the
party adjourned to a brook near by, where a pool had been made by the
construction of a small dam. HARRIS
and COWDERY were first baptized at their own request.
The latter, now qualified, administered the same rite to Joseph
SMITH Sr., Mrs. SMITH, his wife, Hiram PAGE, Mrs. ROCKWELL, Dolly PROPER
and some of the WHITEMER brothers.
Calvin STODDARD, a neighbor, early believed in Mormonism, and was
possessed with the notion that he should go out and preach the gospel.
While in a state of doubt, two men, Stephen S. HARDING and Abner
TUCKER, played a practical joke, which confirmed his faith. At midnight they repaired to his home, struck three heavy
blows with a stone upon his door, awaking him; then one solemnly spoke, Calvin STODDARD! The angel of the Lord commands that before another
going down of the sun, thou shalt go forth among the people and preach
the gospel of Nephi, or thy wife shall be a widow, thy children orphans
and thy ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven.
day the first Mormon missionary, in full faith began to preach from
house to house and so began that missionary system so successful and so
potential to this new sect. Soon
after organizing, the Mormons migrated to Kirtland, Ohio, thence to
Independence, Missouri, then to Nauvoo, where SMITH fell martyr to the
cause and where a temple long stood to mark the sudden energy of the
growing sect. Away to Utah
the people traveled, and far beyond the pale of civilization established
a new city and grew in power. The
creed of polygamy engrafted by a later prophet has been a distinctive
and repellent feature, at variance with law and morality.
To its existence may be attributed the decline and ultimate death
of the system. While
Mormonism originated with the ignorant, and was perpetuated in knavery,
among its adherents are ranked many good people whose devotion to the
religion entitled them to honor. The
career of a Mohammed had like points in the origin of Mohammedanism, and
age has deepened the faith of its votaries.
Mormonism originating in Ontario, and the subject of ridicule,
furnishes yet another evidence of human frailty, superstition, credulity
AND MASONRY. Another character played a prominent part in Ontario
history about the same period as there given.
In the summer of 1826, William MORGAN, a stonemason, began to
prepare a work revealing the mysteries of Masonry, and arranged with
David C. MILLER, a printer in Batavia, to have it published.
Members of the order, learning the fact, took measure to suppress
the publication. An attempt
was made to get possession of the manuscript.
MORGAN was arrested on a civil suit, but found bail.
In August 1826, he was given up by his bail to the sheriff, and
put in prison over the Sabbath, while his lodgings were searched and
according to reports, a part of his papers, taken.
The office in which the book was to be published was attempted to
be fired by an incendiary. On
September 12, MILLER was placed under arrest by a constable on a warren
issued by a justice of the peace of Le Roy.
He was taken to Le Roy, but accompanied by many persons.
At Stafford, a hamlet on the road, MILLER was taken form the
carriage, in which he was being conveyed, to a Masonic lodge room, where
an effort was made to so far intimidate him as to obtain he desired
manuscript. A large party of MILLER�S friend had followed, gathered in
the street and demanded his release.
The prisoner was brought out, saw counsel and learned that eh was
taken on a civil action for debt, but all bail was refused.
Both parties then set out for Le Roy, where MILLER demanded to be
taken before the village justice. The
demand was finally acceded and discharge followed arraignment, as no
evidence was found. MILLER
hastened his return to Batavia, his friends foiling an attempt to again
arrest him. In September
1827, three of the parties engaged in this transaction, Jesse FRENCH,
Roswell WILCOX and James HURLBURT, were tired and convicted for false
imprisonment, riot, assault and battery; FRENCH had a year in the county
jail; WILCOX, six months
and HULRBURT, three.
September 1826, William MORGAN disappeared from Batavia and for
well-nigh fifty years, no solution has been fund to the mystery of his
fate. In this connection, Canandaigua became notorious in history
as playing a conspicuous part in the MORGAN abduction. A warrant was obtained September 10, form a justice of the
peace in Canandaigua, by Nicholas G. CHESEBRO, for the arrest of William
MORGAN, on a charge of stealing a shirt and cravat, which he had
borrowed of one, E. C. KINGSLEY. The
warrant was served next day on MORGAN at Batavia, and he was brought as
a prisoner in a stagecoach to Canandaigua, and lodged in jail.
MORGAN was discharged by the justice issuing the warrant, there
being no evidence adduced. He
was immediately re-arrested in a civil suit for the recovery of two
dollars upon the alleged tavern bill assigned by ACKLEY to the
complaint. Judgment and
execution at once followed, and MORGAN became a prisoner for debt in
Canandaigua jail. He
remained in prison that day, and until about 9 o'clock of September
12. The jailor and his
turnkey were conveniently absent, when certain parties went to
the jail, represented that the judgment had been paid, and advised an
immediate liberation of the prisoner.
MORGAN passed out, and at the street was seized, hurried into a
closed carriage standing near the front entrance to the jail, and by
Hiram HUBBARD driven rapidly out of town westward, and from that time,
his fate is obscure. Great
excitement followed, and extended throughout the State.
The feeling against Masonary was intense, lodges were dissolved
and an anti-Masonic party was formed.
Parties were indicted for MORGAN'S abduction, and convictions
for minor offenses obtained, but no indictment for murder could be
brought, since MORGAN'S body was never found.
A body said to be that of MORGAN, was found on the beach of Lake
Ontario, near the mouth of Niagara river, but no reliance is placed upon
the statement. Tales of his being a wanderer in a foreign land and of being
seen far away on the Western plains are diversion from the more probable
statement that his life was taken shortly after his abduction.
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