On 29 February 1799 Phineas
Davis, his wife Sally Smith, Calvin Tiffany, his wife, Abigail
Walker and their infant son Rufus arrived from Connecticut on a sled
drawn by two yokes of oxen. The trip had begun in the last week of January
1799 in Hartford, CT. The sled had capsized once near Schoharie, but they
were able to go on. The party crossed the Hudson River near Albany
riding on the back of a cow. They passed through both Utica and Whitestown,
NY. It was noticed that Whitestown was far larger then than Utica.
All these details were recorded by Sally Smith Davis in her diary
which is still existent.
They brought with them two beds,
bedding and some utensils for cooking. Together they occupied one
long cabin for the next few months until the Davises were able to find
In the late fall of 1799 Phineas
left his pregnant wife and went for a planned three-week trip back to Hartford,
CT and Rutland, MA, his hometown, to guide his brother Asa and family back
to Mexico. Enroute Phineas fell ill. He was gone over five months.
Sally was alone, ill and without
adequate food. Calvin Tiffany and his wife tried to assist but they
too were low on supplies. The story was that they had but one loaf
of bread plus cracked corn and some venison to sustain them. These early
days made for such a tough life that Abigail often dissolved in tears.
Calvin built a cabin on lot 35 where they
settled. But cabins in those days were windowless and without doors.
It sheltered them against the deep winter snows that blew in off Lake Ontario,
but it offered little else in the way of creature comforts. The dreadful
place became famous in Mexico history for it became the first house to
burn down in February 1801.
Abigail and Rufus were alone when a spark
from the fireplace blew into the roof and everything was soon ablaze.
They owned so little that most was rescued from the flames except a barrel
Homeless Abigail with Rufus in tow went
to the Phineas Davis place. They took in the Tiffanys. Once more
the families lived together until the cabin was rebuilt. Sadly, the
same house was burned down again in 1807.
Calvin had bought lot 55. He
moved his family there by 1808. It was in this establishment where
he opened his home for use as a tavern which in its own way became a famous
landmark for the next half-century. The first Mexico town meeting
was held there when Calvin was made Town Clerk. The first meeting
of the Oswego County Board of Supervisors took place there. Many
of the earliest Mexico church services were held there also. The
great social events of the area were usually held there. The young
local men held a “log house dance” in an effort to find young women who
were in short supply. Many stories still remain of the first such
event. To have an evening of dance took a total of six days of traveling
time, so poor were travel conditions.
Calvin was the son of Ezekiel
and Mary (Knowlton) Tiffany of Ashford, CT. Calvin’s uncle, Lt.
Col. Thomas Knowlton took part in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in July
1759. He also commanded a division at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
On 16 September 1776 he was killed in the Battle for Harlem Heights.
Another uncle, Lt. Daniel Knowlton, was in the Crown Point Expedition
and many Revolutionary battles.
Calvin, born 5 November 1772, married
Abigail Walker about 1794 at Ashford. Abigail died in Mexico 20 July
1823, age 50. She was buried in the Primitive Cemetery. The
exact names and number of their children are unclear. The 1820 Mexico
census indicated that as many as 13 people were in the household, yet by
1830 there were only 2 males and 4 females left in the house. These
males were Calvin and his son, John. Rufus Tiffany had
a separate household in Mexico in 1830. By 1816 he had opened a store adjoining
his father’s tavern.
When in May 1811 the First Congregational
Society of Mexico was organized, Calvin Tiffany became one of the first
trustees. This group in 1818 became a Presbyterian Church.
Calvin and his family worshipped there regularly.
In 1813 Calvin Tiffany was appointed
Postmaster. By 1815 the post office was transferred to Mexicoville.
Postage then cost 6 cents for 30 miles. While Calvin lost the mail,
he was busy as Commissioner of Highways surveying a new route for the old
post road on which lay the Tiffany Tavern. By 1828 the Scriba Road
ran by Phineas Davis to an intersection with the road by Tiffany’s.
More and more roads were added with the passing years.
Calvin was also a Constable, an Assessor,
and in 1802 a Town Supervisor. All roads seemed to lead to Tiffany’s.
He was very popular. Yet his tavern’s location eventually declined.
The center of activity shifted to the Mexico Village.
When Oliver Richardson arrived
in 1805 he hired Calvin to build his new house. Oliver provided the
supplies and Calvin was paid $20 for his labor. The cabin was built
of round logs, cut 20 feet long. The inside was about 17 feet long.
The abode had no door, no windows, no chimney and no fireplace. A
family of ten moved into this place.
When the Masonic Lodge was begun,
Calvin joined. It took from 1808 to 1818 to get the final permission
to begin officially.
The 1820’s were sad years for Calvin.
He lost not only his wife, Abigail, but Rufus’ family. Rufus married
Althea H. ____, born ca. 1801. Rufus and Althea had two sons, Julian
who died 1826 at 5 months and Rufus W. who died in 1822. Their daughter,
Fay was baptized 7 March 1830, then died young about the same time
as the mother ca. 1831. The mother and all three children were buried
in the Colosse Cemetery. After these deaths Rufus disappeared from
Later Calvin and his second wife,
joined the Mexico Baptist Church in 1831. At first there were only
56 members of this new group.
Calvin and Polly were included in
the 1850 Mexico census. Calvin was 76 and Polly was age 80.
She was born in NH. They lived with his son, John, and his family.
John took over his father’s land. He married Mary, last name unknown.
Their son, Willard W., was born ca. 1845.
There is a stone in the Primitive
Cemetery for a George P. Tiffany who died in 1812. There was
a cholera epidemic that year. He has been previously identified as
the son of John W. and Mary, but John W., who married Mary, was only born
ca. 1818. George P. may have been a son of Calvin’s.
Polly was also buried in the Primitive Cemetery. Her stone had no
death date. There is no record of Calvin’s death.
Sometime between 1850 and 1869 John
sold the Tiffany land to David Prosper Taylor and his son, John
C. Taylor, Sr. Taylor passed it to Chester G. Dewey who built a cheese
factory on the corner. Then the place became known as Dewey’s Corners,
a name still used. John, Mary and Willard went west. By the
1870 and 1880 censuses they ran a small hotel or boarding house in Central
City, Gilpin Co., Colorado. By 1880 Mary was 61; John W., 62. Willard
W. Tiffany was 35 and single. He worked as a post office clerk and
lived with his parents. They must have had quite exciting lives there
compared with sleepy Mexico. In the 1870’s and 1880’s Central City,
CO was a wide-open Rocky Mountain boom-town. It was the wild
west with bars, bars, bars, ladies not ladies, cowboys, miners, card sharps
and gunfights! Quite a contrast.