Seneca History 

History of Ontario Co, NY & its People

 Pub 1911, Vol. 1   Pgs. 464 - 472


Kindly transcribed by Donna Walker Judge




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Town of Seneca


Original town of Seneca included what is now the towns of Seneca and Geneva and the City of Geneva—First Settlement as Seen by a 1790 Traveler—Division of the Town in 1872—Four Flourishing Villages—List of the Supervisors—The churches and the granges.     By Levi A. PAGE

The original town of Seneca was formed in 1793, under the act of the Legislature for the organization of towns, passed January 27, 1789. It was a large town, bounded north by the town of Phelps, east by Seneca lake and Seneca county, south by Benton, west by Gorham and a part of Middlesex. It was twelve miles long north and south, and about eight miles east and west. Across its north end stretched the great stage road from Albany to Buffalo. It was an excellent township, arable throughout, with fine grazing lands. Its streams were small, Flint creek, the largest, running through the western part of town from south to north. It also took in a portion of Seneca lake on its eastern border. Its farm lands were rich and very productive and have always produced fine crops of grain and farm produce. The town of Seneca then included the territory now embraced in the city of Geneva and the town of Geneva.

On June 4, 1788, Oliver PHELPS arrived at Kanadesaga (Geneva). He said in his description: “I am well pleased with what I have seen of the country. This place is situated at the foot of Seneca lake on a beautiful hill which overlooks the county around it and gives a fine prospect of the lake, which is about forty miles in length. Here we propose to build a city, as there is a water carriage from here to Schenectady, with only two carrying places one mile each.”

The little village of Geneva at this time, 1788, was a pretty brisk place. Here was the speculator, the explorer, the Lessee Company and their agents, all actively engaged in their respective operations. The Lessee Company had a bark-roofed frame tavern and a trading establishment on the lakeshore. The village was the principal seat of the Indian trade for a wide region of country. Asa RANSOM, who afterwards became somewhat noted as the first settler at Buffalo, occupied a small hut and was manufacturing Indian trinkets.

Another writer in September, 1790, says of Geneva: “Geneva is a small village of fifteen houses, all log but three, and about twenty families. It is built partly on the acclivity of a hill and partly on a flat, with deep marshes north of town to which is attributed its un-healthfulness. We received decent accommodations at Patterson’s on the margin of the lake, but we were troubled most of the night by gamblers and fleas.”

For further and more detailed statement of facts relating to the settlement at Geneva and for a review of the history of its development from the strangling village above described to the enterprising city of today, the reader is referred to the comprehensive sketch of the city of Geneva by Professor Charles D. VAIL, printed in another part of this book.

Geneva has been greatly noted for its nursery interests. Its products have been sent all over the United States. These interests have been always closely connected with what is now the town of Seneca, as the trees handled have been largely raised here. The W. P. Rupert nurseries, near Halls Corners, established in 1867 by William P. RUPERT and later carried on under the firm name of W. P. Rupert & Sons, were large growers of nursery stock for many years. They are at present managed by Frank E. RUPERT. Others who are engaged in the business at the present time are RICE Brothers and B. F. KEAN and several smaller growers.

Within the bounds of the original town of Seneca many interesting events in the early history of Western New York occurred. In it was located the capital village and headquarters of the Seneca tribe of Indians, and within the same limits was the historic burial ground, located west of the Preemption road, a short distance west of the State Experiment Station. The building on this farm is to this day called the Old Castle, as it was named in an early day.

On November 15, 1872, the original town of Seneca was divided by the Board of Supervisors of Ontario county, to provide for the erection of the new town of Geneva. The town so set off comprised all that part of the town of Seneca which was in the Gore and the eastern tier of lots in townships nine and ten. It is with the remaining part, which retained the name of Seneca, that this sketch must hereafter deal.

Among the early settlers in the town of Seneca, the WHITNEY family were prominent. Jonathan WHITNEY came from Massachusetts, early in 1798, and located at the Old Castle near Geneva. He died in 1792. The longevity of the WHITNEY family is remarkable. The following is a register of the five sons of Nathan and Olive WHITNEY, son of Jonathan WHITNEY: Luther, Otis, Nathan, Jonathan, and Cheney. Luther, Otis and Cheney lived upon farms in the town of Seneca, and each lived to be nearly one hundred years of age. They had large families and their descendants are still residents of the town.

Among the other early settlers in the town were Anson DODGE, Abram BURKHOLDER, Peter Van GELDER, and Ami WHITNEY, son of Captain Jonathan WHITNEY, who settled near the village of Flint, where the descendants of the family now live. There were also William ESTY, Thomas TALLMAN, Thomas OTTLEY, and Nathaniel PAGE, who came from Conway, Massachusetts, in 1812, and located upon the farm now owned by his grandson, Levi A. PAGE. Edward O. RICE was an early settler and located upon the farm owned by the late H. Joel RICE.

Seth STANLEY, grandfather of the late Seth STANLEY, settled upon the Stanley farm at Stanley, Thomas MCCAULEY came from Pennsylvania in 1803 and located upon the farm now occupied by Rice MCCAULEY. James RICE located near No. Nine church, on the farm now owned by C. Willard RICE, Esq., a descendant of James RICE. Whitney SQUIER and Squier PARKS, John RIPPEY, James BLACK, Aden SQUIER, Adam TURNBALL,. Richard D. BILL, William FORSTER, and John DIXON were among the pioneers of the town.

Edward HALL located at what is now known as Hall Corners. The descendants of his sons, Thomas W. and Edward N., still occupy the same premises. Others in this section were the CROSIERS, WILSONS, PERKINS, and STOKOES. Descendants of these families continue to reside upon the farms of their fathers.

The villages of the town are as follows:

Halls Corners in the southern part of the town, located upon the main line of the Northern Central railroad, is a fine rural village, with beautiful residences. It is a prominent produce station on the railroad, the section of country surrounding it being noted for both fruit and produce.

Stanley, near the center of the town, is situated on the main line of the Northern Central railroad and also at the junction of the Sodus branch of the Northern Central, and on the Naples branch of the Lehigh. It is a prosperous village. The town house is located here, it has good stores, and is surrounded by a fine farming section.

Flint, a small village north of Stanley, on the Sodus branch of the Northern Central railroad, has a heading factory, run by W. D. ROBINSON & Son, a store, and shops.

Seneca Castle, in the northwest part of the town on the Sodus branch of the Northern Central, is a flourishing village. The Rochester and Eastern trolley line from Rochester to Geneva runs through the village with service every hour in the day in either direction. There are two churches, the Presbyterian and Methodist, a first class store, a fine new school-house, grist and flour mill, and blacksmith ship. This village is one of the prominent stations on the railroad line mentioned. Large store houses for the storing of fruit and vegetables are located here. The section is very productive in fruits, vegetables, and grain.

The first town meeting in the town of Seneca was held at the house of Jonathan FAIRBANKS, inn-keeper, on the first Tuesday in March, 1793, when the following officers were chosen: Ezra PATTERSON, supervisor: Thomas SISSON, town clerk; Oliver WHITMORE, Sr., James RICE, Phineas PIERCE, assessors; Patrick BURNET, Samuel WHEADON, Peter BORTLE, Jr., commissioners of highways; Sanford WILLIAMS, collector; Jonathan OAKS, David SMITH, overseers of the poor; Oliver WHITMORE, Jr., Charles HARRIS, Stephen SISSON, W. WHITMORE, constables; Nathan WHITNEY, Oliver HUMPHREY, David WOODWARD, Joram LOOMIS, Jeremiah BUTLER, Benjamin TUTTLE, William SMITH, Jr., David BENTON, Benjamin DIXON, overseers of highways; Amos JENKS, John REED, Joseph KILBOURN, Seba SQUIER, Caleb CULVER, fence viewers; Peter BORTLE, Jr., David SMITH, pound masters; Peter BORTLE, Sr., sealer of weights and measures; Jeremiah BUTLORON, surveyor of lumber.

The supervisors of the old town of Seneca were as follows: Ezra PATTERSON, 1793; Ambrose HULL, 1794-95; Timothy ALLEN, 1796; Ezra PATTERSON, 1797-98; Samuel COLT, 1799; Ezra PATTERSON, 1800-1801; Samuel WHEADON, Jr., 1802; Ezra PATTERSON, 1803-04; Septimus EVANS, 1805-14; John McCULLOUGH, 1815; Septimus EVANS, 1816-17; Nathan REED, 1818-28. The records of town officers between the years 1828 and 1838 cannot be found. Abraham A. POST, 1838-42; Philo BRONSON, 1843; Abraham A. POST, 1844-47; John L. DOX, 1848-49; Charles S. BROTHER, 1850-51; Lucius WARNER, 1852-54; James M. SOVERHILL, 1855-56; John WHITWELL, 1857-58; Perez H. FIELD, 1859-60; Joseph HUTCHINSON, 1861-62; George W. NICHOLAS, 1863-68; Samuel SOUTHWORTH, 1869-70; John POST, 1871-72.

The first supervisor elected for the town of Seneca after Geneva was set off was Seth STANLEY, in 1873. The following citizens have since held the office: Edward S. DIXON, 1874; Seth STANLEY, 1875; Robert MOODY, 1876-81; Levi A. PAGE, 1882-89; H. Joel RICE, 1890-93; Thomas B. WILSON, 1894-1900; Clarence T. OTTLEY, 1901-06; Levi A. PAGE, 1907; M. Newton BLACK, 1908-09; Roscoe F. HALL, 1910-11.

The following persons have filled county offices since the town was divided: Seth STANLEY, member of assembly, 1876; Robert MOODY, member of assembly, 1887-88; Levi P. PAGE, superintendent of poor, 1892-1903. Hon. Thomas B. WILSON, the present member of assembly, is a resident of the town of Seneca.

The present town officers are: Roscoe F. HALL, supervisor; C. D. HILL, Jr., town clerk; H. H. BURGESS, justice of the peace; E. E. THATCHER, justice of the peace; William W. NICHOLS, justice of the peace; John HUTCHINSON, justice of the peace; Edward E. HALL, superintendent of highways.

The first church society organized in the present town of Seneca was what is now known as the Presbyterian church of Seneca, or the “No. 9” church.

On June 29, 1807, a number of inhabitants of the town of Seneca met the house of Samuel LATTA, near the present church location, to form themselves into a religious society. Rev. Andrew WILSON, of Albany, presided and Valentine BROSTIN was chosen secretary of the meeting. This resolution was adopted: “Resolved, That we form ourselves into a church, to be denominated the Associate Reformed Church of the Town of Seneca.” At a meeting held on the 15th day of July following, a board of trustees was elected, consisting of Samuel LATTA, Samuel MCINTYRE, William GAY, John RIPPEY, and James BEATTIE.

The organization of the church was completed in the following October by the ordination of the following ruling elders, viz.: Samuel LATTA, Robert NELSON, John FULTON, and James BEATTIE. At the first communion which took place about this time there were forty-five communicants. Rev. James MEARS, of the Presbytery of Washington , conducted the services. At the first meeting held, steps were taken to provide for the erection of a church building, and after many difficulties and delays, the building was finally completed. It was a substantial frame structure with a seating capacity of about three hundred. Here for a quarter of a century the congregation met for worship. The Rev. Andrew WILSON, though never installed as pastor, was the main supply for the pulpit from the organization until his death, which occurred in 1812.

The first regular pastor of the church was Rev. Thomas White, who was installed June 12, 1814, and continued the acceptable shepherd of the flock until his death, which occurred early in 1820. He was succeeded by Rev. William NESBIT, who was pastor until 1832. In January, 1835, Rev. John WHITE became pastor and continued in the field about two years.

In 1838, steps were taken to build a new church. It was completed and dedicated early in 1839, at which time John D. GIBSON, who had been previously called, was ordained and installed as pastor. He resigned his charge in 1843. On the 19th of November, 1844, Rev. Samuel TOPPING was installed and continued a successful pastor until his death in 1855. In June, 1856, Rev. George PATTON became pastor. In 1859, the church changed its ecclesiastical connection by going to the Old School Presbyterian body and joining the Presbytery of Rochester. In 1866 and 1868, the church was visited with gracious outpourings of the Holy Spirit and more than one hundred and fifty were added to its communion.

The church building was enlarged in 1862 and so marked was the growth of the congregation that it was necessary for the society to increase its accommodations by a second enlargement in 1868. Rev. Mr. PATTON, resigned his pastorate to take charge of the Third Presbyterian church of Rochester in November, 1871, and the church was without a minister until March, 1873, when the present pastor, Rev. A. B. TEMPLE, began his labors.

The second church society organized in the town of Seneca was the Presbyterian church at Castleton, as it was then called, now known as Seneca Castle. This church was an offshoot of the First Presbyterian church at Geneva, which was the first Presbyterian church organized in Western New York. At the time the Presbyterian church here was organized, the village consisted of some thirteen families. The inhabitants of the village of Castleton and its vicinity, “under a sense of duty they owed to God and to their fellow-beings,” assembled on the 5th day of February, 1828, and petitioned the Presbytery of Geneva to set off and organize a church in this place. The petition was favorably received and on March 4, 1828, a religious society was organized and five trustees were chosen, viz.: Nathan WHITNEY, John TICKLEY, Henry STEVENS, John TALLMAN, and Henry W. JONES. The first meeting for worship was held in the school house, April 5, 1828. Dr. AXTELL, of the Presbyterian church of Geneva, preached a sermon and ordained the elders and deacons. The first regular supply for the preaching of the gospel was Rev. Daniel AXTELL, a son of Rev. Dr. AXTELL, a young man just entering the ministry.

On the 5th day of June, 1828, a society meeting was held to take measure towards building a church edifice. A subscription was started and vigorously pushed, and promptly signed. A site was chosen on the land of Thomas OTTLEY, the present location of the church, and he generously gave them a deed of the lot. About this time, the Rev. Stephen PORTER began his labors as pastor of the church. Through his earnest devotion, the people were encouraged to undertake the erection of a church edifice, which was completed and dedicated within a year from the time Mr. PORTER began his labors. It was dedicated the last of July, 1829. Mr. Porter continued to labor faithfully with this church till the 1st of October, 1833, when he resigned and engaged in labor in other fields.

Rev. Oren CATLIN was called as pastor, October 14, and was installed February 14, 1834, and continued to serve the church till September 6, 1836. Upon the resignation of Mr. CATLIN, Mr. PORTER was urged and consented to become pastor a second term and he resumed his labors here in the fall of 1836, and continued as the honored and useful minister of the church until no longer able to serve. On June 1st, 1842, he resigned in consequence of feeble health and removed to Geneva, where he resided till his death, August 28, 1868.  He was followed by Rev. George C. HYDE, who served as pastor for three years. He was followed by Rev. R. RUSSELL, who served from 1846 to 1848, and Rev. William BRIDGEMAN, 1848 and 1849. Rev. B. B. GRAY began his pastorate in March, 1850, and served the church as pastor until 1867, retiring on October 1st of that year on account of advanced age and feeble health. Subsequently he removed to Canandaigua and lived there until his death, February 18, 1870. The Rev. Alexander DOUGLASS supplied the church for one year. He was followed by Rev. A. H. PARMELEE, who served the church from 1869 to 1874. The Rev. H. H. KELLOGG was called to the pastorate of this church August 18, 1874, and he was followed by Rev. James S. MOORE, and he by Rev. Howard CORNELL, who served the church very acceptably for several years. The latter, was followed by Rev. M. FARNUM, who served one year. His successor was Rev. E. E. GROSH, who is the present pastor of the church.

The third church to be organized in the town was the Methodist Episcopal church at Castleton, now Seneca Castle. This was an outgrowth of a series of revival meetings held by the Presbyterians of the locality during the years 1830-31. The Methodist Episcopal class and church were organized soon after this time, and in 1842 the society erected a substantial brick church edifice in the village. The membership increased rapidly and in 1876 the building was enlarged and thoroughly repaired. Since that date it has again been repaired and redecorated. Its present pastor is the Rev. B. D. SHOWERS.

St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic church at Stanley was organized in 1875, and the church edifice was built in 1876. The parish was organized out of portions of Geneva, Canandaigua, and Penn Yan, to which places the Catholics had formerly been accustomed to go to worship. Rev. James A. CONNOLLY was the first pastor of this parish. He has been followed by Fathers Joseph HENDRICK, Joseph J. MAGIN, D. W. KAVANAUGH, J. H. BUTTLER, James F. DOUGHERTY, and John P. HOPKINS. Its present pastor is Rev. Father MCCABE.

The Methodist Episcopal church at Stanley was organized in 1889. The pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church at Gorham has acted as the pastor of this church. The first board of trustees elected were: Isaiah DILLINBECK, A. J. KINNEY, and Thomas D. WHITNEY. A church building was erected and the dedication services were held July 10, 1894. Rev. O. D. DAVIS was pastor of the church at that time. The present pastor is Rev. Edward JARVIS, of Gorham.

The Methodist Episcopal church of Flint was organized in May, 1884. A lot was purchased and a church building erected that same year. The first board of trustees were: J. J. BACHMAN, James WOOD, and T. D. WHITNEY. This society was connected with the Hopewell church at Lewis, and has been served by pastors since under the name of Hopewell and Flint charge. The present pastor is Rev. William O. SHEPHERD.

Seneca has two Grange organizations. Seneca Grange, P. of H., No 284, located at Stanley, was organized January 7, 1875. The following were the first officers elected: Thomas MCCAULEY, master; J. C. SQUIRES, overseer; James BLACK, lecturer; T. G. RIPPEY, chaplain; H. J. RICE, steward; Reed TOPPING, assistant steward; E. A. SQUIRES, secretary; Ami WHITNEY, treasurer; Mrs. T. A. MCCAULEY, lady assistant steward; Mrs. M. D. LAWRENCE, Ceres; Mrs. Rice MCCAULEY, Pomona; Mrs. James BLACK, Flora; T. F. WILSON, gate keeper. The present officers are as follows: Henry SUTHERLAND, master; M. R. HOCROFT, overseer; Miss Calista MCCAULEY, lecturer; Leo LACY, steward; Frank DIXON, assistant steward; Mrs. David BROWN, chaplain; Lawrence RIPPEY, treasurer; Anna HEBBLETHWAITE, secretary; Grover PRESTON, gate keeper; Mrs. Frank MELIOUS, Ceres; Mrs. John CROZIER, Flora; Louisa MEANS, lady assistant steward; Mrs. Maud THOMPSON, librarian; Willis ROBINSON, chorister; Mabel MOON, pianist.

Castle grange, No. 359, P. of H., located at Seneca Castle, was organized on December 3, 1875, with the following officers: John DE GRAFF, master; Charles OTTLEY, overseer; Henry J. PECK, lecturer; Homer CHILDS, steward; Herbert PARMELEE, assistant steward; John REED, chaplain; Columbus WHITNEY, treasurer; Byron WHITNEY, secretary; F. WARD, gate keeper; Miss Clara WHITNEY, Ceres; Miss Julia WHITNEY, Pomona; Miss Libbie STEADMAN, Flora; Mrs. H. J. PECK, stewardess. The present officers are as follows: E. L. WEBSTER, master; E. E. SMITH, overseer; Mrs. Helen TEAL, lecturer; Alfred JOHNSON, steward; Henry THOMPSON, assistant steward: Rev. E. E. GROSH, chaplain; Frank D. ESTEY, treasurer; Fred D. WEYENETH, secretary; George VOGT, gate keeper; Mrs. Ina FERGUSON, Ceres; Mrs. May Belle WEBSTER, Pomona; Mrs. Anna J. WEYENETH, Flora; Mrs. Sarah SMITH, lady assistant steward; Mrs. Helen RUNYAN, pianist.

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