The Early History of Ontario County, New York

 Kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer

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From the History of Ontario County, NY    

Published 1893     Pg 121 - 136


 Early Settlement in Ontario County--Character of the Pioneers--Yankees, English, Scotch and Irish--Disturbances on the Frontier--British Soldiers Still Occupy Forts on the United States Side of the Treaty Line--The Simcoe Scare--Their Withdrawal in 1796--Events Preceding the War of 1812-15--Political Sentiment in Ontario County--"War" and "Peace"--Meetings--The Outbreak, the Struggle and Final Peace--Population of the County at Different Periods.


THE permanent and substantial settlement of the Genesee country began soon after the purchase by PHELPS and GORHAM of the pre-emption right ceded to Massachusetts.  However, there was made by the pioneer "Friends," or followers of Jemima WILKINSON, a permanent colonization on the west side of Seneca Lake even before PHELPS and GORHAM acquired and perfected their title.  As is well known, these proprietors held the right to purchase from the Indians all the territory of the State west of Seneca Lake, but as a matter of fact, they secured only about 2,600,000 of the more than 6,000,000 acres included within the region, the large remainder having reverted to Massachusetts, and being secured by Robert MORRIS, was by him sold to the so-called Holland Land Company, except that portion west of the Phelps and Gorham purchase and east of a meridian line, starting at a point twelve miles west of the southwest corner of the Phelps and Gorham purchase, which was supposed to contain about 500,000 acres, which Mr. MORRIS reserved, and which was commonly called the Morris Reserve, and which was afterwards sold to different parties in various tracts; and it was under these proprietorships that the legitimate settlement of the region was begun. 

The purchasers and settlers who acquired title from PHELPS and GORHAM direct was mainly New Englanders--Yankees; many of whom were veterans of the Revolution, and being imbued with a spirit of enterprise, thrift, independence and courage, so characteristic of their class, they sought a home in the then new country which they well knew to be highly fertile, and in which the peaceful art of agriculture might be carried on with generous returns.  Therefore the Yankees came and settled in the region among the first pioneers; and to-day many of the residents of Ontario county can trace their ancestry back directly to New England stock, and justly proud, too, they are of the fact. 

In the same region, also, and within the limits of Ontario county as constituted previous to 1823, came the "Friends" and built up their little colony hardly more than a score of miles south of old Kanadesaga.  This people came from both New England and Pennsylvania, and the improvements made by them were of the most substantial character for the period.  They were thrifty, earnest plodders, but did not wish to be considered enterprising, for they were a strictly pious people and the devoted followers of an equally conscientious leader.  The New Jerusalem, as they called the locality of their settlement, included some of the most productive lands of the Genesee country, and the faithful tillers of the soil who dwelt within the region steadily increased their possessions and left to their descendants an goodly inheritance in lands. 

However, it must be acknowledged that under the proprietorship of the London Associates, and under the direct and personal superintendence of Charles WILLIAMSON, original Ontario county received its most substantial early development.  Captain WILLIAMSON was a man well calculated by nature and education to head an enterprise such as that with which he was entrusted, and, moreover, instead of being the haughty and overbearing manager, he proved himself the courteous and obliging gentleman, and one who fostered alike the interests of proprietors and purchasers; and he had at his command an almost unlimited fund of money with which to develop the region under his charge.  The settlers under Charles WILLIAMSON came from New England, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Eastern New York, while in addition to the settlement by Americans, he also induced immigration from foreign lands, mainly from England and Scotland, with an occasional Irishman. 

The settlement and development of the region of the original county west of the Genesee River in no manner devolved upon Captain WILLIAMSON, but that country was likewise under competent management, and therefore was occupied and improved almost as rapidly as the Phelps and Gorham tract.  The Holland Land Company and its managing agents were earnest and progressive, and while their settlers were principally Americans, there were nevertheless many among them of Dutch descent, while from across the Canadian borders there came a fair contingent of French and English.  Some of these also drifted over the Genesee and located within the boundaries of Ontario county as it existed prior to the creation of Genesee county. 

However, during the period of pioneer settlement and early development of Ontario county, all was not peace and un-retarded prosperity within the region.  In the extreme western part of the State was Fort Niagara, while further east was Oswego; at both of which places the English still maintained garrisons, and that notwithstanding the results of the late war.  The British soldiery had no love for the Americans, and their hatred and jealousy prompted many of the petty insults and indignities they were charged with having committed.  The treaty of peace in 1783 fixed the forty fifth parallel as the boundary line between the province and the States, except as was otherwise determined, but the British claimed that the people of the United States frequently violated the provisions of the treaty to such an extent that the Canadian government, at the suggestion of the crown, felt it a duty to maintain an armed force along the frontier, extending as far west as Detroit.  In doing this, however, the British not only assumed to protect their own possessions, but actually trespassed on United States territory with full knowledge of the fact, so determined was the Canadian government to show proper resentment of what were claimed to be breaches of the treaty stipulations.  The result of this awkward situation, though possibly not dangerous in character, worked many disadvantages in Western New York, and somewhat retarded its settlement, for it was not until 1796 that the British finally withdrew from the territory.  John JAY's treaty of amity, commerce and navigation was concluded with Great Britain November 19, 1794, and proclaimed February 29, 1796.  Thus ended an embryo war, but it was not finally concluded until after Gen. Anthony WAYNE had improved an opportunity to administer severe punishment to the Indians and Canadian provincial troops in a sharp battle on the Maumee River on the 20th of August, 1794. 

The year 1794 was an eventful period in the history of Ontario county and Western New York.  In the month of August, Governor Simcoe, of Canada, sent Lieutenant R. H. SHEAFFE with a protest and letter to Captain Charles WILLIAMSON, demanding that he should relinquish his design of forming a settlement at Sodus and move off the ground.  This was delivered to WILLIAMSON at Sodus, he having gone there in company with Thomas MORRIS and Nathaniel GORHAM, jr., on being notified to meet the messenger of Governor SIMCOE.  The news of this hostile demonstration of the governor of Canada rapidly spread through all the settlements of the new country, and caused great consternation among the people.  The attitude of Great Britain in persistently retaining the forts at Oswego and Niagara, contrary to the stipulations of the treaty of peace--the act of the governor of Canada in marching a body of troops and erecting a fort at the Rapids of Miami, seventy miles within the territory of the United States--the tampering of British officers and agents with the Indians of New York, and the evidence of aid extended by them to the western Indians who were hostile to the United States, and who had in turn defeated and repulsed Generals HARMAR and ST. CLAIR, and the fears of a like result in the issue that General WAYNE had made with them and which was then pending, was enough to create a feeling of the greatest uneasiness among the people.  An unusual emigration of the New York Indians to Canada had only a few weeks before occurred, which included the great body of the Onondagas.  The Senecas, as a body, remained in the State, but they had become morose and quarrelsome and had committed many outrages upon the settlers.  In great numbers they had gone to the aid of their western brethren, fitted out with blankets, clothing and decorations from the king's stores at Niagara.  When this message and demand from Governor SIMCOE came, it seemed as if the sequel would speedily be the breaking out of a general war, and such was the alarming crisis that many of the settlers made hasty preparations for a sudden flight and at least a temporary abandonment of their homes.  In writing of this affair to Sir William PULTENEY, Captain WILLIAMSON says that Governor SIMCOE had "left nothing undone to induce the Six Nations, our neighbors, to take up the hatchet the moment he gives the word." 

For months previous to this country had been excited on account of the act of the British officers and agent and with the alarming conduct of the Indians; the Legislature of this State had enacted a law for the erection of fortifications and for supplying the necessary arms and ammunition.  General KNOX, secretary of war of the United States, in response to a representation made, on July 3, of the situation of affairs on the northern and western borders of the country, had replied that correspondence had taken place on the subject with the British minister, and that an order had been issued in favor of the governor of New York for one thousand muskets, cartridge boxes and bayonets. 

The act of Governor SIMCOE in ordering the people of the United States out of the Indian territory in Western New York was at once officially communicated to John JAY, who had sailed for England on the 12th of May.  Under date of August 30, 1794, President WASHINGTON wrote to Mr. JAY, and observing "on this irregular and high handed proceeding of Mr. SIMCOE," he says, "this may be considered as the most daring act of the British agent in America, though it is not the most hostile and cruel.  All the difficulties we encounter with the Indians, their hostilities, the murder of helpless women and children along our frontiers, result from the conduct of agents of Great Britain in this country.  They keep in irritation, the tribes that are hostile to us, or we of them, to unite in the war against us; and whilst it is an undeniable fact that they are furnishing the whole with arms, ammunition, clothing, and even provisions to carry on the war, I might go father, and if they are not much belied, add, men also in disguise." 

Under the provisions of the act of the Legislature heretofore mentioned, Governor Geo. CLINTON, from New York May 29, 1794, writes to James WATSON, Mathew CLARKSON and Benjamin WALKER, commissioners for purchasing field artillery, etc., for the use of the militia, saying: "The present aspect of affairs on our western frontiers renders it advisable to deposit at Canadaque, in Ontario county, one thousand weight of powder, and a proportionate quantity of lead, and the same quantity of each in Onondaga county, which you will be pleased to cause to be done without delay, as it is represented to me that the militia of those exposed counties are destitute of ammunition.  Lieutenant-Colonel Othniel TAYLOR will take charge of that directed to be deposited in Ontario county, and Major John L. HARDENBURG of that to be deposited in Onondaga county." 

About the middle of July Captain WILLIAMSON and Thos. MORRIS received proposals for palisades, thirteen feet long and one foot square to be delivered on Pulteney Square, Geneva, for the purpose of erecting a fortification at that place.  This was in response to an advertisement for one thousand palisades and the price asked was six pence (12 1/2 cents) each.  An article in the Albany Gazette, September 11, 1794, under date of September 6, says: Governor George CLINTON writes to Major General GANSEVOORT that a British officer had protested against the occupation of any part of the Indian territory for war or settlement by the United States until all questions between Great Britain and the United States were definitely settled.  Governor CLINTON says arms must be sent at once westward, particularly to Ontario county, that the principle set up by the protest "cannot for a moment be tolerated by our government, and if any attempt should be made on the part of the British to carry it into execution, it will be justifiable and necessary on our part to repel force by force." 

"The commissioners appointed to carry into operation the law directing fortifications to be erected on our northern and western frontiers, have fixed on the following places for erecting block-houses and pickets, to-wit: On the western frontier--a block-house at Canandaigua, Canawagus, on Genesee River, and at the town of Bath.  Pickets at Fort Brewerton, at Three River Point, at Geneva, at Mud Creek, at the head of Canandaigua Lake, and at the Painted Post, near the Pennsylvania line.  On the northern frontier--a block-house at Skeensborough, at Willsborough, at Peru, at Plattsburgh, and at Thurman's Patent." 

In this connection it may as well be stated that Charles WILLIAMSON had met with a good deal of opposition.  He had been a captain in the British army, but as he was a prisoner of war at Boston, having been captured while on his voyage to this country, he had taken no active part in the war.  For a long time he was much mistrusted by many of the early settlers, who remembered the cruelties they had endured during the war, and retained a strong hatred against the British, so that up to the time of the affair at Sodus he was looked upon by many with suspicion.  In writing about this he says: "To such an extent was this carried that every road I talked of was said to be for the Indians and British; every set of arms I procured--though really to enable the settlers to defend themselves against the Indians--was said to be for supplying the expected enemy; and the very grass seed I brought into the country for the purpose of supplying the farmers, was seized as gun powder going to enemies of the country."  His energy and activity in the year 1794 against the acts of the British and Indians had much to do in gaining the confidence of the settlers, and in the course of time this was fully accomplished. 

Very soon after the affairs of Sodus, a bright and cheering ray of hope appeared, and strong anticipations of peace and quietness prevailed.  Only a short time elapsed before the spirited onset of General WAYNE took place, and the western Indians were so badly beaten and completely routed, that they became demoralized, were quite humbled, and anxiously sued for peace.  The Senecas returned completely crestfallen.  The warfare of General WAYNE was one they had been unused to; it was impetuous, terrific and crushing, and in their imagination he seemed more than human and inspired them with a terror that conquered effectually as his arms.  The proud and haughty spirit of the Iroquois was humbled and completely subdued, and they began to quietly settle down in their villages and resumed amicable and peaceful relations with their white neighbors and the settlers began to feel that they were once more in peace and security. 

The withdrawal of the British from the State and the quiet which followed left the region of Western New York in a condition of absolute peace, and an era of great prosperity ensued.  From that time (1796) until the beginning of the second war with Great Britain, the history of the county consisted chiefly of a constant flow of immigration into the townships, and as rapidly as they were filled, or even partially so, there came a demand for the division of the territory and the creation of new counties.  In a preceding chapter is told the history of the frequent divisions of old Ontario, and the number of times it was called upon to surrender territory to new county formations.  During the period referred to the growth and development of this region of country were almost phenomenal, but as the years immediately preceding the war of 1812-15 were fraught with numerous political disturbances, a feeling of bitter animosity was engendered between the contending governments, and even in this county there arose a serious division of sentiment which temporarily checked the tide of settlement and turned the public attention to the affairs under discussion, to the neglect of personal concerns.  However, this is a subject which naturally leads to a narrative of the events of the war as they related to Ontario county; but in the present connection these events may be very briefly treated, for this county was not the site of any of the stirring events of the war, and the contention therein was chiefly at the polls and in the frequent "war" and "peace" meetings held in several of the towns. 

The causes which led to the second war with Great Britain were numerous.  Although charged to the contrary, the United States always carefully observed the provisions of the peace treaty made at the close of the Revolution, and had also maintained a strict neutrality during the progress of the Napoleonic war with the British kingdom, when gratitude should have induced a participation in it.  For several years the aggressive acts of the British had been the subject of anxiety and regret and finally engendered feelings of animosity on the side of the Atlantic, and resulted in the laying of an embargo upon shipping in American ports, but as that measure was found injurious to commercial interests it was repealed and the non-intercourse act passed in its stead.  This, too, was temporarily repealed, the British ambassador at the time consenting to a withdrawal of the obnoxious "orders in council."  However the English government refused to ratify the agreement and recalled her minister, whereupon the president revoked his proclamation and again put in operation the non-intercourse act. 

War was formally declared on the 19th of June, 1812, but the measure was not invariably sustained throughout the Middle and Eastern States.  The opposing element was embraced in the Federal party, its chief ground of opposition being that the country was not prepared for war.  The Federalists constituted a large and influential minority in Congress, and had a considerable following throughout the country.  They asked for further negotiations, and met the denunciations of the ruling party (the Democratic and Republican, for it went by both names) upon the English government with bitter attacks upon Napoleon, whom they accused the majority with favoring. 

Just what may have been the prevailing sentiment in Ontario county at that time would be difficult to determine with accuracy.  However, it is very well known that a majority of the people of Western New York were deeply interested in the American cause, and active in their efforts both at the polls and in organizing the militia for warlike operations.  The Federalist party in the county numbered among its members men of wealth and influence, and its opposition measures were substantially confined to public discussion; yet on September 10, 1812, they held a formidable meeting at Taylor's Hotel in Canandaigua at which time resolutions expressive of the sentiment of the party were adopted, but no determined opposition to the war was advocated. 

In 1811, the year preceding the outbreak of the war (of 1812), the villages of Onondaga, Canandaigua and Batavia were made depositories for military stores, supplies, ammunition and arms.  At that time and previously as well the entire able-bodied male population between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years were among the enrolled militia of the State; and in accordance with the prevailing custom of the period the militia men of each county were expected to meet at the general training and annual muster to perfect themselves in the arts of war.  This precautionary measure of enrolling available militia men was adopted soon after the Revolution for the purpose of guarding the frontiers, should occasion therefore arise, but more particularly in this region of country were the militia organizations desirable to repel any sudden attack on the part of the Indians of the region. 

As has already been stated, British troops remained in possession of the posts at Niagara and Oswego from the close of the Revolution to 1796, from which time they frequently attempted to incite Indian hostilities against the Americans; and during the years preceding the War of 1812, the same influences were again at work both in Canada and in this State, that the Indians might be induced to declare war upon the frontier settlements of Western New York.  Hardly a week passed during the first years of the war that rumors of Indian outrages did not startle the inhabitants of this county and cause them to look with anxious eyes on the half-tamed Senecas of the region, many of whom had more than once bathed their hands in American blood.  Fortunately, however, the rumors proved false, but the terror they inspired was none the less real.

The news of the outbreak of the war was brought into Ontario county by express very soon after the beginning of hostilities, and within six days thereafter a large public meeting was held at Canandaigua for the purpose of adopting such measures as should be necessary for the public good.  Major William SHEPARD was chosen chairman and John C. SPENCER secretary of the meeting, and a committee of correspondence was also appointed, comprising Nathaniel W. HOWELL, Thaddeus CHAPIN, Zachariah SEYMOUR, Oliver L. PHELPS, John C. SPENCER, Nathaniel GORHAM, Moses ATWATER, James SMEDLEY and Hugh JAMESON.  At this time it was decided to organize a "Citizens' Corps," to be composed of men exempt from military duty, and who should defend the county against a possible Indian invasion which might occur while the militia was on the frontier.  Other equally patriotic meetings were held in East Bloomfield, Farmington and Seneca, and at each effective measures for the defenses of the county were taken.  A noteworthy organization was that formed in the town first mentioned, and called the "East Bloomfield Alarm Company," the members of which determined to arm themselves, and if called upon to hasten to the relief of any portion of the county which might be attacked. 

Fortunately, however, the people of Ontario county were exempted from an Indian attack during the period of the war.  On the 26th of May, 1812, Erastus GRANGER, superintendent of Indian affairs, with interpreters Horatio JONES and Jasper PARRISH, held a council with the chiefs of the Six Nations who were then living in the United States.  Mr. GRANGER did not seek to enlist their services, such not being the policy of the government, but urged them to remain neutral.  To this they agreed, but said they would send a delegation to consult with their brethren in Canada.  RED JACKET, the renowned Seneca sachem, at first declared for neutrality, but when the British invaded their reservation lands that action was a signal for digging up the hatchet, and they became united with the Americans.  However, the Indians frequently met in council before they took up arms against the British, and on one of these occasions RED JACKET addressed his hearers (both whites and Indians) as follows: "Our property is taken possession of by the British and their Indian friends.  It is necessary now for us to take up the business, defend out property and drive the enemy from it. 

If we sit still upon our seats and take no means of redress, the British, according to the custom of you white people, will hold it by conquest.  And should you conquer the Canadas you will hold it on the same principle, because you have taken it from the British." 

Another council was soon afterward held, at which a formal declaration of war was adopted and reduced to writing by an interpreter; and this was undoubtedly the only formal declaration of war published by an Indian nation.  Notwithstanding the declaration, however, no considerable number of the Indians took the field on the American side during the year 1812, and there were many of the chiefs who were really desirous that their people should remain neutral. 

Upon the outbreak of the war the militia kept marching to the frontier, there being no apparent lack of numbers, and all were anxious to capture Canada the next day after their arrival.  But they were quite ignorant of actual war, and the first touch of reality chilled them to the marrow.  In one respect they were prepared for the struggle, in that the regiments were amply provided with officers.  General Amos HALL, of Bloomfield, major-general of this division of the State militia, was in command on the frontier for a short time, succeeding General WADSWORTH.  On July 11 he was superseded by Major-General Stephen VAN RENSSELAER, who established headquarters at Lewiston.  The disastrous defeat of the latter caused him to be succeeded by General Alexander SMYTH, a regular army officer, but even he failed to accomplish hopes for results, wherefore he resigned in December, 1812.  In April, 1813, Major-General LEWIS and Brigadier-General BOYD arrived on the frontier and assumed command of the American troops. 

The new officers found great difficulty in obtaining a permanent force, as the military system of the country was in an unorganized condition, and it was considered a remarkable thing if a volunteer should remain three months on the frontier.  Officers were plenty, but inexperienced, those who fought in the Revolution being generally too old for present service.  Added to these disadvantages, the country then possessed a timid, vacillating president, and a dominant South which was unwilling to strengthen the North and its outposts.  These were some of the reasons for the feebleness which characterized the prosecution of the War of 1812-15. 

In the spring of 1813 General LEWIS invited the warriors of the Six Nations to come to his camp, and soon received three or four hundred of them under the lead of FARMER's BROTHER.  However, it is difficult to state who was their acknowledged leader, one account saying it was FARMER's BROTHER, and another names Henry O'BAIL (the Young CORNPLANTER) as holding that position, while a third authority credits YOUNG KING with being the principal war-chief.  After their enrollment by General BOYD, the Indians remained in service a short time and then returned to their inhabitants. 

Turning from these events of the war, we may observe the movements and disposition of the Ontario county soldiery.  During the year 1812 the local troops were on the frontier much of the time and engaged in such movements and operations as were required, yet the battles of the campaign were not of such a character as to test the mettle of the county militia.  However, in 1813 the men of Ontario county were actively engaged in the campaign in Western New York.  The report of General HALL shows that he reviewed his force in Buffalo and that they comprised 129 mounted volunteers from Ontario county under command of Colonel Seymour BOUGHTON; also 433 Ontario county volunteers commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel BLAKESLIE, together with other militia from Buffalo, Canada and Genesee county.  General HALL's command was in the battle at Black Rock, where the Ontario militia did most of the fighting and acquitted themselves with credit by sustaining the attack of the Royal Scots with much firmness, but not being properly supported and finding the enemy attacking them on two sides, they were compelled to retreat.  However, General HALL was determined to make a firm stand at the borders of Buffalo village, but at that time the cry of "Indians are coming" filled the men with terror and they fled precipitately.  The result was that Buffalo village was plundered and burned, while the inhabitants of the entire region deserted their homes and sought refuge and safety in the villages and settlements to the east.  In the campaign of the year the Ontario militia suffered severe loss, forty of Colonel BLAKESLIE's regiment being made prisoners.  General HALL rallied two or three hundred of his discouraged troops at Williamsville, but their services were not required, and no further conflict followed.  The General acted with all possible energy and failed only through the defection of his force and his own inexperience in military art. 

The destruction of Buffalo, and the threatened invasion of Genesee county, carried dismay into every heart and suffering into every household.  The defenseless families at once abandoned their homes and possessions and fled eastward, having no definite end in view other than to escape death at the hands of the British and their Indian allies.  Along every thoroughfare of travel they came, foot-sore, weary and half-starved across the border of Genesee county and into Ontario, where they were received and cared for as well as the means of the people would permit.  Their sufferings would have been greater had not the prompt measures of relief been taken by the public authorities and the citizens of more fortunate localities.  The Legislature voted $40,000 in aid of the devastated territory, besides $5000 to the Tuscarora Indians and a like sum to residents of Canada who were driven away from home on account of their friendship for the United States.  The citizens of Canandaigua appointed a committee of relief, who raised a considerable amount in that and surrounding towns, and sent communications soliciting aid through all the country eastward.  They were promptly responded to, and liberal contributions were raised throughout the State.  With this aid, and that of the commissary department and the assistance of personal friends, those who remained on the frontier managed to live through the unfortunate winter of 1813-14. 

The Canandaigua Relief Committee just mentioned addressed a communication to Hon. Philip S. VAN RENSSELAER and others, of which the following is a copy: 

Canandaigua, January 8, 1814. 

GENTLEMEN,--Niagara county, and that part of Genesee which lies west of Batavia, are completely depopulated.  All the settlements in a section forty miles square, and which contained more than twelve thousand souls, are effectually broken up.  These facts you are undoubtedly acquainted with; but the distresses they have produced none but an eye-witness can thoroughly appreciate.  Our roads are filled with people, many of whom have been reduced from a state of competency and good prospects to the last degree of want and sorrow.  So sudden was the blow by which they have been crushed that no provision could be made either to elude or meet it.  The fugitives from Niagara county especially were dispersed under circumstances of so much terror that in some cases mothers find themselves wandering with strange children, and children are seen accompanied by such as have no other sympathies with them than those of common sufferings.  Of the families thus separated, all the members can never again meet in this life; for the same violence which has made them beggars has forever deprived them of their heads, and others of their branches.  Afflictions of the mind, so deep as has been allotted to these unhappy people, we cannot cure.  They can probably be subdued only by His power who can wipe away all tears.  But shall we not endeavor to assuage them?  To their bodily wants we can certainly administer.  The inhabitants of this village have made large contributions for their relief, in provisions, clothing and money, and we have been appointed, among other things, to solicit further relief from them from our wealthy and liberal-minded fellow-citizens.  In pursuance of this appointment, we may ask you, gentlemen, to interest yourselves particularly in their behalf.  We believe that no occasion has ever occurred in our country which presented stronger claims upon individual benevolence, and we humbly trust that whoever is willing to answer these claims will always entitle himself to the precious reward of active charity.  We are, gentlemen, with great respect,  


Thaddeus CHAPIN




Thomas BEALS

Phineas P. BATES

Committee of Safety and Relief at Canandaigua.

The campaign for 1814 was a remarkable contrast to those of the previous years of the war.  Early in April there came to the general rendezvous (Williamsville) Brigadier-General Winfield SCOTT, followed soon after by Major-General BROWN, the latter having been ordered to command the army that should be collected in Western New York.  His force consisted of two brigades of regulars under Generals SCOTT and RIPLEY, and one of volunteers under General P. B. PORTER.  This was composed of 500 Pennsylvanians, 600 New York volunteers, all of whom had not arrived when movements began, and nearly 600 Iroquois warriors.  In General PORTER's command were the Ontario county militia.  They took part in the capture of Fort Erie, the battle of Chippewa, Lundy's Lane, Conjockety Creek and the later attack and attempted capture, by the British, of Fort Erie.  

The fort was relieved and saved, however, by the splendid action of General PORTER and his Western New York and Pennsylvania volunteers.  Very high credit was given to General PORTER for his eloquence in engaging the volunteers, and his skill in leading them.  The press sounded his praises, the citizens of Batavia tendered him a dinner, the governor brevetted him major-general, and Congress voted him a gold medal. 

The raising of the siege of Fort Erie was substantially the close of war on the New York frontier, and all the troops except a small guard were withdrawn from Fort Erie.  During the following winter commissioners were endeavoring to negotiate a treaty of peace at Ghent, and there was a universal desire for their success, for in Western New York at least the people had had enough of the glories of war.  The victory at New Orleans was soon afterward followed by the signing of the treaty at Ghent, and everywhere was immediately spread the welcome news of peace. 

In the present chapter we have already stated that the early settlement of Ontario county was somewhat retarded by the events of the War of 1812 and the years immediately preceding it.  A glance at the records of the war will suffice to show why this was so.  But, notwithstanding the fact that settlement and development may for the time have been checked, they were by no means suspended; and it is a fact that regardless of adverse circumstances and unfortunate events the growth in the county's population, even during the decade in which the war took place, was almost remarkable.  In proof of this we may with interest refer to the population of the county at different periods.   

In 1790, the year following that in which Ontario was separated from the mother county, the census enumeration of the several towns showed that the number inhabitants in the entire county, with its 6,600,000 acres, was only 1081.  Ten years later, in 1800, the territory of the county had been materially reduced by the erection of Steuben county, notwithstanding which the census of that year showed Ontario to have 15,218 inhabitants.  During the next ten years, the county of Genesee was created, taking within its boundaries almost half of the original territory of Ontario, nevertheless the census of 1810 gave the latter county a population of 42,032.  By 1820 the number of inhabitants had increased to 88,267, as shown by the census of that year.  Between 1820 and 1830 the area of this county was still further reduced by the erection of Livingstone, Monroe, Yates and Wayne counties, and the enumeration of the last named year naturally showed a less population, the number then being 40,167. 

No further curtailment of the county's territory has since been made, and the fluctuations of population, as shown by the several federal census enumerations, have been as follows:  


1840, 43,501; 

1850, 43,929; 

1860, 44,563; 

1870, 45,108; 

1880, 49,541; 

1890, 48,453.

Created by Dianne Thomas  

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