Manchester History 

History of Ontario Co, NY & its People

 Pub 1911, Vol 1  

 Chapter XXXII    pg 406 - 424 


Transcribed by Dianne Thomas




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Town  of Manchester

By Dr. John H.  Pratt


Originally Manchester was geographically know as Township 12, Range 2, being at that time part of the town or “district” of Farmington.  Later, in the year 1821, March 31, a township was set off and called Burt.  This was changed to Manchester on April 16, 1822.  The land was purchased by Phelps and Gorham of the Old Bay State at the nominal sum of four cents per acre.  They paid for it in Colonial securities, which were worth about one-half of their par value, making the real cost something than two cents per acre. 

The second road to be built on the Phelps and Gorham Purchase was surveyed in 1785 and was opened for travel in the year 1788, extending from Canandaigua to Manchester village, the latter place being the head of navigation for flat boats on the Canandaigua outlet.  It was natural that the first settlement should be made along this route.  Accordingly we find that in 1793, Joab GILLET, Stephen JARED, and Joel PHELPS were the first white men to settle here.  JARED and PHELPS remained only a short time, so to Joab GILLETT belongs the honor of being the first true pioneer of the town of Manchester.  The first log house was built by him near the site of the present Baptist church.   Here in the following year was celebrated the first marriage, his daughter, Ruth, becoming the wife of Sharon BOOTH, the second permanent settler. 

The third and last person to arrive in 1794 was Deacon John MC LOUTH.  He was connected with the early religious movements of the town and in his barn was held the very first religions meetings.  He is also credited with erecting and operating the first cider mill. 

Soon other settlers found their way to this forest home.  From the year 1794 to 1800 we find many familiar names that have helped to make the history of Ontario county.  Among the best known are Nathan PIERCE, John MC LOUTH, John VAN FLEET, Sharon BOOTH, Benjamin BARNEY, Jedediah DEWEY, William MITCHELL, Peleg REDFIELD, Hooker and Joseph SAWYER, Ebenezer PRATT, John LAMUNION, Gilbert HOWLAND, Elihu OSGOOD, William STAFFORD, Thomas HARRINGTON, Jeremiah HART, Jacob RICE, Ananias WELLS, Luke PHELPS and Bezaliel COATS. 

Among the well know families that located permanently in the early part of the twentieth century, we find the names of the GRANGERS, SHEKELS, THROOPS. BUSHES. 

The first supervisor was Joshua VAN FLEET.  He also was a member of the Legislature from Ontario county, in 1812 and again in 1814.  Owing to the fact that Manchester and Farmington were one township for several years and that they held their town meetings together, naturally the very early officers fell to the honor of being recorded in the archives of Farmington.  In 1801 Manchester and Farmington held their joint meeting at the home of William CLARKE, but it was at this meeting that it was “voted that tour town meetings from this time forward, to be held at the school house near Nathan PIERCE’s.”  This change held good only for the years of 1802 and 1803, and in 1804 the first town meeting in either town or village which was ever held within the limits of Manchester was held at the home of Ebenezer PRATT.  Its stay there was a brief one, for in 1806, it was again held in the PIERCE neighborhood, at the old Squires house, instead of the schoolhouse.  This unsettled town meeting again found its way back to the house of Ebenezer PRATT and there it remained for a term of years.  It was opened there in 1815 and then adjourned to a shop owned by M. & R. BUCK.  This shop continu8ed to be the political headquarters for a space of three years, when the PRATT influence again manifested itself and Ebenezer’s tavern was once again the spot where our pioneer suffragists were wont to congregate.  In 1818 the meeting was held at the Nathan BARLOW’s store. 

In the succeeding year, 1819, the voters, it would seem, must have been somewhat fastidious as to where they should exercise their right of suffrage, for we read “at the annual town meeting, held in the Village of Manchester the sixth day of April, 1819, it was opened at the store where the town meeting was held last year, and adjourned to the chamber in the hotel, and opened and adjourned down into the lower room, and there opened, and the following persons were chosen,” etc. 

The electors first assembled at the hotel in Manchester village in 1820, when “it was voted that the town meeting adjourn forthwith, to meet at the woolen manufactory in said town.”  The last town meeting of the joint district, held in 1821, went through the same programme of assembling at the hotel and adjourning to the woolen factory. 

The question of dividing the town had been under consideration by the setters for some years previous to this.  These questions always cause difference of opinion and this one proved no exception to the rule.  There arose parties for and against the proposed division, and at the town meeting in 1816 the proposition was brought to a vote, for the minutes of the meeting read that  “a vote was taken to divide the town of Farmington on the center line between the two elevens running north and south, and was negative.”  Those in favor of the scheme, however, constantly agitated the question of separation, and in 1817 it was again submitted to a vote.  “on the motion of Mr. Elias DEMING.”  It was recorded that the electors present, acting on this motion, “went out of the house and divided themselves into two divisions, whereupon it was decided against the division by a large majority.” 

Again in 1818, an attempt was evidently made to divide the town, for we find this clause in the records, “ and a notification for a division of the town was read,” but there is no record that it came to a vote at this meeting.  Possibly the adherents of the division became discouraged, for they made no effort to bring the much disputed question up at the meeting in 1819. 

But the proposition continued to grow in popular favor, for it appears that early in the year 1820, it became necessary to call a special town meeting for another consideration of the subject. 

This meeting was held at the hotel in Manchester on the 15th day of January, 1820, and the vote was taken by ballot and again resulted adversely to the scheme.  But it had evidently developed considerable strength and its advocates brought the matter of its adoption up again at the regular town meeting in April 1820, when it was again voted on and again defeated.   

So many defeats evidently lent zest to the situation, and to the conquer became the fixed determination of the advocates of division.  Accordingly, they applied to the Legislature and on the 31st of March, 1821, an act was passed by the body entitled “An act to divide the town of Farmington, in the County of Ontario.” After designating the dividing line, it was enacted that the territory lying to the east of the same “Be, and it hereby is, erected into a separate town by the name of Burt; and the first town meeting in said town so erected shall be held at the district school house in said town, near David HOWLAND’s dwelling house.”   

The fact that this act had become a law was not communicated to the electors of the old town at the time of the town meeting in April, for the minutes of said meeting state that they voted to adjourn and that the meeting should "be held at the hotel in the village of Manchester, in the ensuing year."

As another historian has written, "by this brilliant piece of political strategy, i.e., the secret invoking of legislative aid, di Mr. DEMING and his allies secure the ends for which they had labored so long and diligently." 

The new township was called Burt, after a member of the Legislature, not, however, a representative of Ontario county and he was probably instrumental in securing the passage of the bill.  This name failed to please the citizens, however, and aroused a bone of content in, so they again applied to the Legislature and on April 16, 1822, it was enacted, "that from and after the passing of this act, the town of Burt in the County of Ontario, shall be called and known by the name of Manchester."

As the statute has designated, the one and only town meeting of the town of Burt was held at the school house near David HOWLAND's.  At the same place, in 1823, the first town meeting of the town of Manchester convened.  Here again it would have met in 1824, but according to the record, the schoolhouse was not inhabitable, for it reads:

"Manchester, 6th April, 1824.   The annual town meeting in and for the town of Manchester was opened agreeable to adjournment on the rewins of the old school hous, and for want of shelter was adjourned to Peter WILLIAM'S barn."

The following year, 1825, the town meeting took place at "The new dwelling house of Joshua K. KING," known as the King tavern, located on the road that the State surveyed in 1814 from Phelps to Victor, a building that is still standing just east of the "Poplar Corners."

The next year, 1826, the meeting was taken to the house of John COON, where after its many wanderings in various parts of the town, it came to stay, until an act of the Legislature "shattered into pieces", as has been written, "the old town meeting of former times and spread the fragments thereof over the villages of Manchester, Clifton Springs, and Port Gibson, thus covering them over with that mantle of fadeless glory, the luster of which has, we fear, departed from Coonsville forever. "

At the first town meeting of Burt or Manchester, the names of the principal officers elected were as follows:  Supervisor, Joshua VAN FLEET; clerk, Gahazi GRANGER; assessors, Thomas KINGSLEY, David HOWLAND and Peter MITCHELL; collector William POPPLE; commissioners of highways, Jacob COST, Carlos HARMON and Nicholas HOWLAND; overseers of the poor, Titus BEMENT and James HARLAND; constables, William POPPLE, Robert SPEAR, and John SCHUTT; commissioners of common schools, Addison N. BUCK, Azel THROOP and George REDFIELD; inspectors of common schools, Carlos HARMON, Peter MITCHELL and Leonard SHORT. 

David HOWLAND held the office of supervisor in 1823, ’24, ’25 and in 1826 was succeeded by Peter MITCHELL, Esq.  During these same years, including 1826, Mr. GRANGER was continually re-elected as town clerk.  At this time the assessors of the town were Peter MITCHELL, who held the office for three years in succession, Robert Mc COLLUM who served one year, Nicholas HOWLAND, four years, Jacob COST three years and Nathan PIERCE one year.  William POPPLE was elected collector in 1823 and in 1825 this office was held by Gilbert V. CRANE.  The following two years, 1824-’26, this honor fell to John SCHUTT.  John PRATT served as overseer of the poor for two years in this time, and Titus BEMENT for two years.  Jedediah DEWEY and Nathan PIERCE also served for the same length of time.   

During the 25 years of the political period of the old town of Farmington, what is now the town of Manchester supplied the greater share of the officers. It gave town clerk for 16 years commissioners of highways for 14 years, assessors for 12 years, with the exception of an interregnum of one year, poor-master for 13 years, and other officers for less time.  The fact that these men retained office from year to year is evidence of the satisfactory service they gave to the community at large.

We may well be proud of the forefathers who fought for American Independence, and Manchester has to its credit a goodly list of those patriots.  Among them are the following names: Nathan PIERCE, Joshua VAN FLEET, Peleg REDFIELD, Samuel RUSH, Thomas SAWYER, Joab GILLET, Ebenezer PRATT, Israel HARRINGTON, and Nicholas CHRYSLER.  It has been impossible to ascertain the rank of each one, with the exception of Nathan PIERCE, who was captain of a company.  

The well earned peace and tranquility of the community were again soon to be disturbed by the cry of war.  The paths of these early settler had been strewn with many and various hardships.  The long and great Revolutionary struggle was still fresh in their minds, but they were destined to endure, in addition to the hardships of home-making in a wilderness, the anxieties and losses incident to another war, that of 1812. 

The defense of the Niagara frontier and the protection of the American shores of lake Ontario were of vital importance to these new settlements, for to them the war threatened the desolation of their newly made homes, and with the call for volunteers they freely yielded their best.  It is not strange to find that among the first to enlist was Nathan PIERCE, Jr., son of the captain of Revolutionary fame.  He served under General WADWORTH, familiarly know by his men as “Black Bill.”  At the close of the war of 1812, Nathan PIERCE was given command of a company of militia.

Another Manchester boy deserves mention.  Gilbert HOWLAND, eldest son of the pioneer, Nicholas HOWLAND, was captain of a company of militia at the breaking out of this war, and on May 28th, 1812, he was commissioned, by Daniel D. TOMPKINS, then Governor of New York, as captain “of a company in the regiment of infantry, in the County of Ontario, whereof Thaddeus REMINGTON, Esq., is Lieutenant Colonel Commandant.”  His patriotism was not to be proven, for he yielded his desires to the wishes of his father and mother who belonged to the Society of Friends.  On account of his failure to take command, it devolved upon the first lieutenant, Peter MITCHELL.  MITCHELL was a young man of much promise.  His later career gives proof of this, for his name stands forth as that of one of the foremost men of those early days, when the good and faithful gave of their best to sow and plant for the generations that were to be reapers of their labors.  Even at this early period this youth’s clerical abilities were recognized and for some months during his active service he was detailed to act as adjutant of his regiment. 

Herman J. REDFIELD received a brevet commission during this war and his two brothers, Harley and Manning, were also volunteers.  From Short’s Mills went Joshua STEVENS and John WYATT and Moses and Jacob EDDY, father and son.  They were in the artillery company stationed at Black Rock.  Timothy BIGELOW, Asel THROOP, and John ROBINSON also served from Manchester.     

Many are the tales handed down to us of these exciting times, when the boys from home lived on hard tack and horse flesh, and when at great risk loads of provisions were conveyed to the front, the mothers never forgetting the doughnuts and the fathers always including several casks of cider. 

About the year1806 the militia system was enforced in Ontario county, and every able bodied man was enrolled for military duty, each one being obliged to furnish his own firearms.  Without uniformity in arms or clothing, they presented anything but a military appearance.  They met yearly in each town for company drilling and inspection, also meeting once a year for regimental training and inspection at the county seat.  For company training they met in various parts of the town and one of the favorite spots for these meetings, was at the old Poplar tavern, situated on the road between Manchester and Clifton Springs.

It is a well known fact that these company trainings were generally under the eaves of some inn, when whiskey at 3 cents per glass, with hard boiled eggs and gingerbread, known in those days as general training cake, were always in evidence and quite as much the order of the day as the training.  A fine was imposed upon every able bodied man who failed to appear at the general training.  The Quakers, believing  in peace and in adherence to their faith, as a rule would refuse to go.  It was then the duty of the collector to call upon them and insist that they pay the fine.  This often proved a problem hard to solve, and to settle the dispute almost anything would be accepted in canceling the debt, even to sheep, chickens, ducks, pigs, etc.

The very earliest records give the death of Thomas SAWYER, March 12, 1793, as being the first death to occur in this town.  It was he who built the first frame house in the southeast part of the town.  The first birth recorded is that of Dorris BOOTH, on March 25th, 1795.   

With the opening of the twentieth century came the first merchant, Nathan BARLOW, and the firs physician was James STEWART.  The training of the youthful minds fell to Elam CRANE and with gratitude to his memory we place his name on record as that of the first schoolmaster of the town.  Achilles BOTTSFORD ranks as the pioneer cobbler.  The first printer from this town was Lewis H. REDFIELD, who became a “printer’s devil” in Canandaigua, under James D. BEMIS. 

Religion was a feature of the pioneer life.  Rev. David IRISH preached in Manchester on January, 1797, and in February following the Baptist society was founded.  The legal organization of the society was perfected in 1804.  Ebenezer PRATT, Joseph WELLS and Jeremiah DEWEY were the first trustees, and the first Baptist church, known as the “old stone church” was built in 1816.  It stood on the east side of Main street in the village of Manchester, just a few rods above where now the Lehigh Valley railroad crosses. 

The next Baptist church of the town of Manchester was founded at Plainsville (now Gypsum) in 1803.  Its first pastor was Elder WISNER.  The Methodists had a society as early as 1800 and held their meetings in private houses.  

St. John’s church, Episcopal, was organized by Rev. Davenport PHELPS in 1807 at Sulphur Springs, now known as Clifton Springs, John and Samuel SHEKELS were the wardens.  In succeeding years other religious bodies have came and made their home among us. 

At an early date our forefathers realized the necessity of educating and preparing the young for the future responsibilities that would naturally confront them.  The outcome proves the timber was well worth the pruning.  As early as the year 1813, the first school meeting was called and held at the home of Ebenezer PRATT.  A record taken from a book containing minutes of the meetings relates that after much argument and adjournment of said meeting, it was “voted that a school house shall be 26 ft. long and 20 ft. wide and 9 ft high.  To be a framed building, unless otherwise agreed hereafter.  Voted that a tax of $250 be levied on this district for the purpose of erecting school building.”   In later years other school districts were set off, but it has been impossible to ascertain the correct dates.   

The pioneers’ thirst for knowledge did not end with a district school.  This was only a slight expression of their desire to advance and make good for the future generations.  The following year, 1814, a town library, in the village of Manchester, was found and the amount was raised by issuing a thousand shares of stock at two dollars per share.  This money was expended in buying standard books.  The preamble reads: “Whereas, we the subscribers for mental improvement and for the extension and diffusion of literary information and knowledge generally amongst each other, having formed ourselves into a society to be know by the name of the Farmington Library Society, do constitute and establish the following rules or artless to govern us in our social capacity.   

The library contained over 600 volumes of biographies, histories, and scientific, moral, political, religious and educational works.  On its shelves could be found such boos as these: "Rollin's History," "Franklin's Works," "Josephus," "Montague's Works," "Locke's Understanding," "Goldsmith's Works," "Biography of Pious Persons," "Dying Thoughts of a Christian," "Elements of Morality," "Young's Night Thoughts, " "Dick's Philosophy of a Future State," "Cook's Travels," etc.  The selection of these books shows that the minds of these valiant pioneers were fully as vigourous as their physical endurance had been in hewing a forest home. 

This library was always kept in the home of John  PRATT, who acted as librarian from 1818 to the time of his death, a period of about fifty years.  The remaining well-worn books show the pleasure they gave to a by-gone generation.  Many of them are still in the possession of John R. PRATT, M.D. 

In 1815, a Masonic lodge was founded at the tavern of Reuben BUCK.  The records show that there were only fourteen members.  The membership soon increased to over a hundred.  It was know as Manchester lodge, No. 269.  Dr. Phillip N. DRAPER was the last member of this lodge to be buried by Masonic orders, in the year 1827.  The Anti-Masonic excitement was the cause of disbanding of the lodge and the last annual meeting was held on December 17th, 1828. 

Suiting things to their needs and by utilizing the waters of the Canandaigua outlet, the first industry in the town took the shape of a flouring and saw mill, erected in 1804 by Theophilus SHORT at the place now know as Shortsville.  A little below this, on the same stream, in 1811, William GRIMES built a carding mill.  In the same year the Ontario Manufacturing Company was organized and bought the water power at Manchester village and manufactured woolen cloths.   It is said that at this time there were only two other factories of the kind in the State.  In 1824, a grist mill was built by Valentine COON, at Coonsville.  

Case, Abbey, & Co. erected in 1817 a paper mill on the present site of the Jones paper mill in Shortsville, for making writing paper, and it is an item of interest that in this mill was made the paper on which the first Book of Mormon was printed.   

** READERS:  Please realize the views and comments of this religion and the peoples associated, were views at the time of it's concept and at the time of this publishing.  It does NOT reflect the feelings of today, or by those that have transcribed this information.  

 The Birth of Mormonism   

Mormonism, which has become one of our greatest national evils, originated in this town, and in turn, it has given to Manchester a national renown.  Joseph SMITH Jr., the first Mormon prophet and founder of Mormonism and the Church of the Latter Day Saints, was born in Sharon, Windsor county, Vermont, December 13th, 1805.  He came at an early age with his father to Palmyra, where they ran a small “cake and beer” shop.  In 1818 they squatted on a piece of land on Stafford street in the northwestern corner of this town, but the vacated this land in 1830 and the property for many years has been in the possession of the CHAPMAN family, and was sold by William CHAPMAN in 1907 to Apostle George A. SMITH, of Salt Lake City, a grandson of the prophet Smith. 

By their neighbors the SMITHS were regarded as a shiftless and most untrustworthy family.  They were visionary and superstitious and were always digging for hidden treasures.  So that Oliver COWDERY, a schoolmaster on Stafford street, had little trouble in enthusing them into the mysteries that could be unearthed.  Their favorite digging place came to be on the hill since known as the “hill of Camorah,”, which being interpreted signifies “Mormon Hill,” often called Gold Bible hill.  This hill is located two and one-half miles north of Manchester village, on the old stage road between Canandaigua and Palmyra.    

Joe SMITH, Jr., possessed even less than ordinary intellect, and among the boys eh was always a butt for their jokes, which have become local history.  The reputation these people held among their neighbors is well summed up in the following statement given with their signatures: 

Manchester, Ontario Co., NY, Nov 3, 1833

“We, the undersigned, being personally acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. With whom the Gold Bible, so-called, originated, state that they were not only a lazy, indolent set of men, but also intemperate, and their word was not to be depended upon, and that we are truly glad to dispense with their society.”

Pardon BUTTS        Joseph FISH    Moses C. SMITH     Hiram SMITH   Warren A. REED   Horace N. BARNES   James GEE     

Alfred STAFFORD     Sylvester WORDEN  A.H. WENTWORTH     Abel CHASE

Also the affidavit of Parley CHASE throws much the same light on this SMITH family:

Manchester, New York, December 2, 1833.  

“I was acquainted with the family of Joseph SMITH, Sr., both before and since they become Mormons and feel free to state that not one of the male members in the SMITH family were entitled to any credit whatsoever.  They were lazy, intemperate, and worthless men, very much addicted to lying.  In this they frequently wasted their skill.  Digging for money was their principal employment.  In regard to the Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told two stories alike.  The Mormon Bible is said to be a revelation from God through Joseph SMITH Jr.   His prophet, and this same Joseph SMITH Jr., to my knowledge, bore the reputation among his neighbors as being a liar.” 

It was the mother who exercised the larger influence on her son’s life, and the SMITHs’ interest and belief in a hidden treasure seems to have been part of their early training. 

In 1819, while the SMITHS were digging a well near Palmyra, on the farm of Mr. Clark CHASE, a stone of peculiar shape was unearthed.  It resembled in form a child’s foot, and was white, glossy, and opaque in appearance.  Joe kept the stone and by its aid he claimed to see wonderful things.  In a short time his reputation grew and with the stone to his eyes he claimed to be able to reveal “both things existing and things to come.”  This stone came to be known as the famous Peek stone and is truly called the “Acorn of the Mormon oak.” 

Several years later, in 1827, Rev. Sidney RIGDON heard of the SMITHs and their claim to find hidden treasure through the miraculous Peek stone, and all facts lead to the belief that RIGDON was the founder of the Mormon faith. 

When SMITH’S attention was directed from the discovery of buried money to that of a buried bible, remains one of the unexplained points in his history.  The account accepted by the Mormons is the revelation of the book by an angel to Joe SMITH, and in this vision he was directed to dig on Mormon Hill and, much against his will, to be the interpreter of the sacred document and give it to the world.  The description of the buried volume was changed from time to time.  In this way strength was given to the theory that RIGDON was attracted to SMITH by the rumor of his discovery and afterwards gave it shape.  Joe did not claim for the plates any new revelation or religious significance, but simply that they were a historical record of an ancient people.  This would indicate that he had possession of the Spaulding manuscript before it received any theological additions.  At the time Mr. SPAULDING offered “The Manuscript Found” for publication, Sidney RIDGON was employed in the same printing office, and it is supposed on good authority that he made a copy of it and that RIGDON made good use of Joe’s money-digging proclivities and that from their co-partnership was produced the Book of Mormon.   

The financial aid for carrying out this scheme came from a farmer by the name of HARRIS.  It is an accepted fact that the man who had more to do with the founding of the Mormon church than Joseph SMITH, Jr., and who is little know to most persons to whom the name of Joseph SMITH and Brigham YOUNG are so familiar, was Sidney RIGDON, truly called by some writers, “the compiling genius of Mormonism.” 

They claim to have dug the plates on September 21, 1827, and the “bible” was printed in Palmyra in 1830.   

The title page of the first edition of the "Book of Mormon" is as follows:

The Book of Mormon.

"An account written by the had of Mormon, upon plates taken form the plates of Nephi.

Wherefore it is an abridgment of the Record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the House of Israel, and also to Jew and Gentile, written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of Prophecy and of Revelation.  Written and sealed up and hid unto the lord, that they might not be destroyed, to come forth by the gift and power of God into the interpretation thereof: sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile; the interpretations thereof by the gift of God; an abridgement taken from the Book of Ether.  

Also which is a Record of the People of Jared, which were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven, which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers, and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever, and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentle that Jesus is the Christ, the External God, manifesting Himself unto all nations.  And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men, wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.  

By Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Proprietor, Palmyra.

Printed by E. B. Grandin, for the Author.    1830"

In the revised editions this is corrected and Joseph is designated as "Translator" only.

About the year 1830, Joe SMITH and his followers left the town of Manchester with their unsold bibles and removed to Kirtland, Ohio, where RIGDON had already established a church.  Their wanderings from place to place have become well know history.  From Kirtland they went on to Nauvoo, and after a brief stay in Missouri on to Utah, where they found a permanent resting place.   

Crooked brook, of Mormon fame, runs through the northwest part of the town, and it was in the waters of this stream that the Mormons baptized their early saints.  Dr. STAFFORD, an old resident of the village of Manchester, was present at the first baptism.   

The roads of the township were suppose to have been laid on the line of lots.  As the settlers moved in, roads came to mean shorter cuts from one settlement to another, and from farm to farm.  Often an old Indian trail through the forest was utilized to advantage.  Otherwise a visit to a neighbor would have necessitated many weary hours of travel and in those days hospitality meant more than a cup of tea; every one was made welcome.  The door stood open and willing hands gave the best from their little.  

Road improvement seems to have been of more recent date.  the first and only plank road in this town was built from Palmyra to Canandaigua in 1849, by a stock company and it was a toll road.  The tool gates in this town were located, one at Crane's corners just west of the village of Shortsville, and the other at the north edge of the village of Manchester, the house being south of where the present schoolhouse stands.  The old house is still there and has been remodeled into a dwelling.  There were two other toll gates.  One, in the town of Canandaigua, was situated a little east of the HANNA farm.  The other was in Wayne county, about a quarter of a mile from the north line of Ontario county, near Palmyra.  The toll gates in the town of Manchester were removed in the early 1860's and the others were in use for some years later until the company surrendered its charter.

Previous to the planking of this road it had been the stage and mail rout for many years from Canandaigua to Palmyra and also for the village of Manchester, which was the half-way stop between these towns for all stage coaches and travelers.  The mail was brought by state from Albany to Buffalo and Canandaigua was a distributing place for other mail routes in this county, via stages and horseback.

The dawn of the first real modern advancement came with the opening of the Auburn and Rochester railroad in 1844.  This brought more rapid settlement and faster growth to this section and the surrounding country.  In its wake has come greater development nad progress, which is more nad more being fulfilled.  At the Shortsville station there was a wood yard for replenishing the wood burning engines of the early railroading period.  That today would be a novel sight, yet it is less than 70 years in which the power of steam and electricity has not alone perfected our manner of travel but lightened our labors and changed our mode of simple living.   

Loyalty and love for country was as dear to the men of the sixties, as it had been to their forefathers.  When the cry of the Civil war rang over the land, the noble response they made gave full proof of their patriotism.  On the roll of volunteers appear the names of nearly one hundred residents of Manchester, showing that the town furnished its full quota of men for the Union armies.  In 1881 the Herendeen Post, G.A.R., was organized.  The Post is named after Captain Orin HERENDEEN, who enlisted from Farmington. 

The town of Manchester has a population of 4,889, it being the third in number of inhabitants in the county, with a total assessed valuation of about $2,800,000.   It is interesting to recall that it was the first township sold from the Phelps and Gorham purchase, known then as the district of Farmington. 

When the Indians sold this land to Phelps and Gorham, they reserved the right to fist and hunt upon it for eight years.  As it happened, this proved of immense value to the settlers, through the fact that the red men killed the wolves that were so prevalent in the pioneer days in order to save the deer for themselves.  In doing this they also served the white men.



The Village  of Clifton Springs

The town of Manchester has several stirring and beautifully located villages and hamlets.  The largest village is Clifton Springs, formerly called Sulphur Springs on account of its noted mineral water. It is a place of about sixteen hundred inhabitants. The first white man to penetrate these lands came about the year 1790, according to TURNER in his “Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham Purchase.” He tells of a Highlander, Donald STEWART, of “Achnaun by Appin, in Argyleshire,” who had organized a colony to come over to America. They were to settle in Cumberland, N.C., but after the emigrants had set sail and it was too late to change their course, another proposition was offered their leader, STEWART, by Patrick COLQUHOUN, an Englishman, to bring the colony into the land in which the latter was interested, the Genesee country. On his arrival in America, Mr. STEWART decided to explore the country for himself, and he and a Mr. WILLIAMSON, a Lowlander, who was prospecting for a suitable location for a German colony that he had organized, set out together on horseback.

Mr. TURNER says: “A good anecdote came of it, however, which it is said had something to do with his dislike of the country. Threading the forest on horseback, Mr. WILLIAMSON and his companion were attracted by the noise of falling water. Approaching it, the water gushing from a rock, and falling over a precipice, the bed of the stream, the rocks and banks covered with sulphur, riveted their attention. It was a feast for the eyes, but not exactly agreeable to their smell. After gazing for a few minutes, Mr. WILLIAMSON broke the silence by observing that they had found just the place for a Highland colony. The reader will observe, as the keenly sensitive Highlander did, that the harmless joke had reference to a certain cutaneous infirmity. It came, too, from a Lowlander, and touched a tender cord; called up reminiscences of ancient feuds in their native land; was resented; and is said to be one of the reasons why a large Highland colony was not early introduced into this region. The reader will have surmised that the party were viewing Clifton Springs.”

It was ten years after the above incident occurred that the first settlement was made in Clifton Springs, in the year 1800, by John SHEKELS. He built his log house on “east hill.” where now stands a comfortable frame dwelling, known as Miss BALCOM’S boarding house.

John SHEKELS brought three slaves with him from Maryland. This was the first introduction of slavery into the township. To his credit be it said, after a short residence here, he liberated them.

Out of necessity, the most of these early homes, in primitive days, were converted into taverns to accommodate other immigrants, and the SHEKELS’ double log house was no exception to the rule. It did duty as a tavern for many years.

When and why the name was changed from Sulphur Springs to Clifton Springs is a question, possibly the odor in the town was not a pleasant reminder; but the fact remains that these Sulphur Springs have made Clifton a great resort for invalids seeking health and quiet, while the natural beauty of the village and its surrounding country draws hither as well the tourist and the pleasure seeker. It is worthy of note, that in 1806, a hotel was erected here as a dispensary.

The Sanitarium, started by the late Dr. Henry FOSTER in 1849, has become world renowned. Its surroundings are very pleasing, beautiful groves, which are most attractive and restful. A handsome and artistic pavilion, built as a gift of the late Mr. Andrew PIERCE, a former Boston man, greatly enhances and lends charm to the landscape and comfort to the many invalids who are here seeking relief and health. Mr. PIERCE also founded the library that bears his name.

An Air Cure was established in May, 1867, by a stock company with a cash capital of $75,000. It was located in the large hotel, which stood at the brink of East hill, and was formerly owned by Lyman CRAIN. This cure had but a short existence, being destroyed by fire.

At one time Clifton Springs could boast of two private schools. The Clifton Springs Seminary was chartered in 1868 and was in a flourishing condition for more than twenty-five years. The Foster School was started in 1875 and was carried on most successfully for a period of ten years.

Clifton Springs is situated on two railroads, the New York Central and the Lehigh Valley. There is a large and well organized Y.M.C.A., and a High School, five churches, and a National bank. It became an incorporated village in 1859.



The village of Shortsville is situated on the New York Central railroad and is admirably located for a manufacturing town. It was named in honor of Theophilus SHORT, who was the first man to utilize the water power which the outlet of Canandaigua lake offered to the village. It was first known as Short’s Mills and was gradually changed to Shortsville. Theophilus SHORT erected his flouring mill in 1804, and the same year he built a saw mill on the east bank of the outlet. Finding the capacity of the first flouring mill too limited for his growing business, he erected, in 1822, another and a much larger flouring mill, Both of these mills were burned in the early forties. Another very large flouring mill took their place. In the late fifties, a large distillery was built by a stock company. These mills were also burned. Near their ruins the Star Paper Company located its mills. In 1811, William GRIMES erected a woolen mill a little farther down the stream, on the south bank of the outlet. In the year 1818 he sold the woolen mill to Stephen BREWSTER, who operated it for many years. From Mr. BREWSTER it passed into the hands of a paper company and was converted into the Diamond Paper Mill. The present Jones Paper Mill occupies a site on which was established an earlier industry of the same character, the original mill being built at the early date of 1817 by Case, Abbey & Co.

In 1850 Hiram and Calvin BROWN came to Shortsville and established the Empire Drill Works. This enterprise flourished for fifty years, when it was sold to a syndicate and the plant was dismantled and removed to Indiana. The buildings and the water power are now the property of the Papec Machine Company, which manufactures ensilage cutters on a large scale.

Outside of Shortsville village limits, but located within the town of Manchester, is one of the largest spoke and wheel factories in the country, the property of the Shortsville Wheel Company. Adjoining this company’s main factory is a building devoted to the manufacture of automobile wheels.

Shortsville has about 1100 inhabitants and it became an incorporated village in 1889. There are four churches and it has reason to be proud of its admirable High School.


Manchester Village

The village of Manchester has the honor of being the oldest settlement in the township. This fact, and its being situated on the outlet of Canandaigua lake, giving it a natural water power, made the pioneer outlook full of promise that it would become a great manufacturing town. Hence it was named Manchester, after Manchester in England and New Hampshire. Its central location was another flattering prospect for its future, being just half east and west between Phelps and Victor, and north and south between Canandaigua and Palmyra. It was also the head of navigation on the outlet. The old landing was near Dr. STAFFORD’S saw mill. Many a pioneer came over its waters in flat boats. There is on record but one or two instances of bateaux being floated to the mouth of Canandaigua lake.

The early belief in Manchester as a manufacturing center seemed about to be realized, when in the year 1811, a stock company, called “Ontario Manufacturing Company.” was organized for the purpose of building a large woolen mill to manufacture woolen cloth. This mill stood back of the present site of the old flouring mill, which was recently purchased by the Ontario Electric Light Company. The main building was about sixty feet square and three stories high. For those days it was a well equipped woolen mill, consisting of one spinning jenny with seventy-five spindles, one jack with forty spindles, six looms, which then were worked by hand, a fulling mill, a dyeing room, etc. On the footsteps of the new enterprise came the war of 1812 to wreck the anticipated growth, to handicap the business, and the looked for prosperity was of short duration. Owing to the central location of Manchester it still remained a trading point for the farming country.

The advent of the Lehigh Valley railroad worked a material change to the old village, converting it into a typical railroad town. The original directors of the town for this road were the late Sidney D. JACKSON, of Clifton Springs, and John R. PRATT, M. D., of Manchester. Manchester is the division end and here are located extensive yards, shops and coal pockets. The yards cover over one hundred and thirty acres and there are about thirty miles of side track. A freight transfer house is in process of erection.

Swift & Company, of Chicago, have a mammoth ice house here for icing their meat cars. There are also large stock yards for feeding live-stock in transit.

The Manchester Produce Company is one of the largest enterprises of its kind in the country. The various branches in railroading carried on at this point and the other industries located in the village require many skilled workmen and give employment to several hundred men.

Manchester was incorporated in the year 1892 and has about one thousand inhabitants. There are three churches in the village and a modern and well equipped High School.


The Three Hamlets

The three hamlets in the township are Port Gibson, Gypsum, and Manchester Center.

Port Gibson was named after Mr. Henry B. GIBSON, of Canandaigua, who was then a prominent banker, and this was the port for Canandaigua on the Erie canal, it being the only point where it touches Ontario county. There are several general stores, one church, and a hotel. The population is between three and four hundred.

The little hamlet of Gypsum was first known as the “Dutch Settlement,” it having been settled by people of that race. How and when the name came to be Plainsville, remains unanswered. Later it was christened Gypsum, on account of the plaster beds and a plaster mill in the vicinity. Only a few houses remain in this hamlet.

Coonsville, now Manchester Center, was originally called after a pioneer by the name of COON. Only a few scattered houses are left of this early hamlet.

There are many localities throughout the town that still stand as landmarks by their pioneer names, such as Stafford street, on the western edge of the town, named after the six brothers who settled along this road. “Shaving street,” which runs east and west between Manchester and Clifton Springs, received this name from the fact that the Yankees settled the neighborhood and in all their dealings they never forgot their Yankee shrewdness. The “North Woods” have disappeared, but the name still indicates the north and central portion of the town. Then there is Armington school-house, which is still standing on the road between Manchester and Palmyra. The family for whom it was named have long ago left this vicinity. These are sign-posts of a primitive past that remain to point the way in the rural districts.

From primitive beginnings, when the scattered pioneers in their lonely cabins recorded time by the shadow of the sun upon the floor and bravely suffered the hardships of the wilderness, the history through which the town entered upon the smoother path of development is well worth recording in the annals of Ontario county. “Old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

    HTML by Dianne Thomas  

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[NY History and Genealogy]