Information was obtained from the Historical & Statistical Gazetteer of New York State, R. P. Smith, Publisher, Syr., 1860, by J. H. French.
Palermo----was formed from Volney, April 4, 1832. It is an interior town, lying just S.W. of the center of the co. Its surface is undulating. The large swamp in the E. part of the town is 57 feet above Oneida Lake, and the ridges are about 25 feet above the swamp. The streams are Scotts and Fish Creeks. The soil is generally a sandy loam. Lumber and the products of wood are the principal manufactured products of the town. Palermo, (p.v.,) situated near the center of the town, and Vermillion (p.v.,) each contains 1 church and about 15 dwellings. The first settlement was made in 1806, by David JENNINGS, Simeon CRANDALL, and Sylvanus HOPKINS. The first settled preacher was Rev. Asaph GRAVES. There are now 4 churches in town.
There are in the town 8 sawmills, 3 shingle and stave factories, 2 gristmills, and 2 tanneries.
Among the first settlers were Alvin WALKER, Stephen BLAKE, and Zadock HOPKINS.
The first birth was that of Alvin WALKER, Jr.in 1811.
The first marriage, that of Joseph JENNINGS and Sally CHAPIN in 1811.
The first death, that of Zadock HOPKINS, in1811.
The first inn was opened in 1816, by Stephen BLAKE.
The first sawmill was built by Phineas CHAPIN, in 1812.
The first school was taught by Harriet EASON, in the summer of 1812.
2 M.E. and 2 Baptist Churches.
Many thanks to Beverly Beck, Palermo Town Historian, who generously contributed the history of Palermo and its small hamlets.
The township of Palermo is located a little southwest from the center of Oswego County. It has an area of 24, 582 acres and is made up of part of Township 14 (originally called Brugen) and a small part of Township 15 (called Mentz) of Scriba’s Patent. The territory now comprised within the limits of Palermo was formed from Volney on April 4, 1832 by an act of the State Legislature. The first settler to the area was David Jennings, in 1806. He built the first log house in the area and raised ten children. Other members of his family moved here and built homes on the four corner area of the town, thus the first name of the town was Jennings Corners. It was later changed to Palermo, after Palermo, Italy, when the post office was opened. There was apparently another area called Jennings Corners. Development of the town centered around the several hamlets: Clifford, Vermilion, Palermo Center, Peats Corners, Sayles Corners, Upsons Corners and Flints Corners.
The first industry of the area was logging and sawmills opened to handle the lumber. As the area was cleared, farming became the main stay of the town. Palermo also a fair amount of muck land for growing crops but most of the land is a sandy loam and fairly hilly. Cheese factories were a big industry in the area for some time due to the number of farmers. It was in one of these cheese factories that a fire started in September of 1895 that destroyed 13 buildings in Palermo. One person was killed. In modern times there are no big industries in the area but there are a lot of small businesses. There are many active organizations and Palermo continues to grow at a steady rate.
Clifford, settled in 1816 by a Mr. Spenser, at first seems to be have been called "Satan's Corners" for reasons unknown. In 1823, a man named Robert Denton came to the area and it became known locally as Denton's Corners. He was a manufacturer of hats and carried on his business in the area.
One of the first organized groups was the Union Congregational Church. They had their first meeting in 1819 and were a branch of the Bristol Hill Congregational Church in Volney. Their building went up in 1838 and they were active for a quite a while. The first minister was Oliver Leavitt.
The cemetery was established, with the earliest graves being from the 1850's. An association, known as the Denton’s Corners Rural Cemetery Association, was incorporated January 6, 1852. There have been no burials in the cemetery since the 1920’s and it has fallen into disrepair. I don’t know when the association became inactive and no records have been found concerning burials.
Among the early settlers was Issac Lansing. In 1830 he settled on the farm on County Route 35 now owned by the Geers. Previous to the Geer Family it had been owned by Ivan Druce Jr. Another of the early settlers that became prominent was the Seymour family. Loren and Jonathan both lived in the area, as shown on the 1854 map of the town. By the 1860's Loren had died and been buried in Clifford Cemetery. His son Jonathan had moved with his family to the Southwest part of town and set up a mill on the creek that crosses Route 49 on the Red School House Road. That area became known as Seymours Mills.
In 1860, the Anti-Slavery Methodist Episcopal Church was established at Clifford with Rev. Elliot as the first minister. It had the distinction of having 100 volumes in the church library and was located one lot down from the North East corner of County Route 35 and 35A. The church was closed by the Conference in 1966 and the members were asked to support the new Palermo United Methodist Church. At the time of it’s closure, there were 80 members and average Sunday School attendance of 60. The last minister was Charles Austin. His salary from the Clifford Church was $600 per year, with a supplement from the Conference.
By 1882, there was a Post Office established in the general store with the first Postmaster being Allen Merriam, followed by his son-in-law, Frank Young. Other Post Masters were Charles Davis and Charles E. Trask.
In 1877, the corner area was home to many thriving businesses. There was a general store, blacksmith shop, stave mill, two cooper shops and a school besides the earlier mentioned establishments. The general store lasted until the 1940's under several owners, one of the last being Morgan Howard. It burned sometime after 1947, having served the community for many years. The building sat on the Southwest corner of Route 35.
At an unknown time before 1900 the Maccabbees, a lodge in the Masonic tradition, took over the old Union Congregational Church building. The organization was dedicated to love, devotion and loyalty to God, home and country. It lasted into the early part of the Twentieth Century. It appears in the assessment book in 1916 with an assessed value of $200.00. One of the basic tenets of the lodge was to help widows, orphans and the disabled. It was based on the traditions of the founder, Judas Maccabees, a noble warrior from Bible times. Each year they held a picnic in the general area of Richard Druce home on County Route 35, next to the Geer Farm. The building lasted long after the lodge was no longer active. The Methodist Church used it for social occasions before the church added on their annex. The old Lodge building was bought in later years by the Gulliver family and made into a multi-family dwelling. When it fell into disrepair, the firemen burned the former Lodge building sometime in the 1960's.
Dentons' Corners became Clifford sometime after 1880 but again no one seems to know origin of the name. About this time, there was a population of approximately 100 people in the Clifford area.
Because it was situated on the Catfish Creek, the hamlet of Vermillion was originally called Catfish. It was later changed because of the name of paint, vermillion, which was used to paint most of the buildings in the area. It was a particular shade of red that became very popular. Another early name was "Slab City", derived from the slabs of bark pulled from the hemlock trees used in tanning leather. This was an important local industry at one time. This name is indicated on some of the early photos of the area.
The 1867 map of the town shows that there were several local businesses. The following is a listing: a store owned by F. Waugh, a general store dealing in dry goods, tin and hardware owned by J.E. Macomber, a manufacturer of rough leather goods owned by L&L Bodman, a custom grist mill owned by J. & C.A. Smedley, the Vermillion Hotel owned by J.L. Ingerson, a cheese factory owned by Wm. A. Smith who also was a mason, a blacksmith and carriage ironer shop owned by Nelson McDonald and a wagon and carriage shop owned by J.L. Dryer who also was a painter.
In 1880 some of the businesses were: a grist mill (next to the bridge) owned by Ezra Ure and Howard Cusack, a general store owned by Ezra Ure, a pump factory owned by Ingersoll and Hill, a cheese factory, a feed mill owned by Burnie Davis and "Raymond's" photo gallery. At a later period, there was also a saw mill and apple barrel factory. The cheese factory, last owned by Arthur Pachoud, continued until the 1940's. The cheese factory was on the South side of Catfish Creek, the East side of the road.
The post office was in the corner of the general store and the mail was delivered by stage coach once a day from Oswego. I believe this was what was called a post village, as opposed to a post office. I’m told that the difference between a post village and a post office was that the post office could issue money orders and the post village could not. The stage coach was also a means of travel for the residents to Oswego. The general store lasted longer then most of the other businesses in the area. In more recent times, the store was operated by Ray Margery and later by George Pelow. Mr. Pelow also had grocery cart routes through the town. The last owner of the grocery was Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Showers. I do not know exactly when the store stopped operating but I am guessing that it was probably sometime in the 1960’s.
One of the better known residents many years ago was a man named William Belchamber. He was born in 1849, served in the Civil War as a drummer boy at the age of 15, and had a jewelry and clock repair shop (photo in the Historian records) in his later years. Mr. Belchamber also was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He died in 1940, the last Civil War Veteran from the Town of Palermo. There is a photo in the Historians records of his 50th Wedding Anniversary held at the GAR Hall. Mr. Belchamber was married to the former Siba King. All the ladies are in summer white dresses in the anniversary picture. Unfortunately, the photo is not dated. Mr. Belchamber was apparently very active in the area. He was the Postmaster in 1895, having succeeded Franklin J. Mack.
The social needs of the area were served by the Palermo Grange #309, whose building was located on the North side of the church, next to the school. It had formerly been a residence. When a tree fell on the building in the 1970’s, it did considerable damage, so the Grange then moved to the former schoolhouse for their meetings. Palermo Grange merged with Mexico Grange in 1976. This unit has met in the Palermo United Methodist Church since about 1980. The original organization of Palermo Grange took place at Sayles Corners but it became inactive after a few years. When it once again became active, it was located next to the Methodist Church.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, formed in 1849, was located on the corner right next to the town line with New Haven on County Route 35. The parsonage was located on the other side of the bridge on County Route 35 (photo in Historian records). The church is still standing but has fallen upon hard times. The church was closed in 1966 by the Conference and the members were asked to support the new Palermo United Methodist Church. Of all the small churches in the town, this is the only one that still stands today. It served the area well over the years. In 1869, the membership was 169. At the time of its’ closing, the Methodist Church at Vermillion had 61 members and an average Sunday School attendance of 19. The last minister was Charles Austin. He was paid $950 for the year, with a supplement from the Conference. Painted on the wall of the alcove inside the church was a portrait of Jesus in a standing position. Milo Bledden painted this sometime after 1912. I understand that you can still see this portrait on the wall of the former church, although it has been painted over by the current owner of the building.
Raymond’s Photo Studio was really located in the Town of New Haven. It is listed on the 1880 map but I do not know the exact date it was started. It was closed approximately 1912. My grandparents were married in 1899 and their wedding photo was taken there. The quality of his photos still shows through today. I believe he was responsible for the photographs on the many post card photos that I have seen of the people and places in Vermillion. After the photo business closed, the building was taken over by Milo Bledden. He was an artist as well as a photographer. He became the second husband of Jennie Belchamber Keller. I was told that she paid for him to go to Syracuse University to learn painting. The house containing the photo shop must have been specially constructed because of the sky lights in the roof on the rear of the building. I have seen some of Mr. Bledden’s work, and he was quite good. The last resident of this house was Louise Crary. She died when the house burned in 1987.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a veteran’s organization that was started after the Civil War. It served the social and welfare needs of the members and others in the community. There were many lodges at this time in history and most of them seemed to be dedicated to the betterment of the people. The lodge building stood on the northeast corner of County Route 35 and the Craw Road and had a blacksmith shop on the first floor.
Elmer Berry operated the blacksmith shop on the first floor of the GAR Hall. There was also another blacksmith shop in Vermillion at the time. This was owned by Lorain Raymond and it was located across the street from the GAR Hall.
Vermillion school served the educational needs of the local children, both in Palermo and New Haven. Because it was so close to the town line, it served the needs of the children in both towns. After the centralization of schools, the Grange used the building for a while. The building still stands but is vacant. It is currently owned by Robert Keller and I am told that there are some benches from the GAR Hall and pews from the Methodist Church in the basement.
The Vermillion House (Gantly House), sat on the border between New Haven and Palermo. There is a photo in the Historian records of this building at an unknown date. This was a hotel as well as an inn and served the traveling public. It sat on the East side of the road as you turn toward Vermillion Cemetery at the fork in the road of County Route 35 and the Johnson Road. There was a joke about the inn that said when they had to close in one town, they could just move to the other side of the building and drink another hour.
According to local residents, the dam on Catfish Creek was at one time called Keller Dam. The Keller family must have had a hand in its construction. While doing research, Mr. Robert Keller found information regarding the dam blowing up sometime around 1900 and flooding the entire village of Vermillion. It must have done a fair amount of damage, as there was a lot of business at the time.
At about the time all of this was taking place in the Vermillion area, the population was approximately 175 people.
Settled in 1813 by Peter Howe and Jesse Holbrook, Peats Corners soon became a very active area in the town. Further settlement arrived in 1820 in the persons of Leander Scudder, Nathan Miller, Alphens Wheeler, Nathaniel and Daniel Rawls, Elijah Munger, Stephen Clark and Charles Peat, for whom the corners became named. Peats Corners is located at the intersection of County Routes 54 and 18.
In the early to mid-nineteenth century, there was a general store, two cheese factories (one was called Sauders), a school and a Methodist Episcopal Church, formed in 1861 and closed in 1963. An interesting note concerning the church is that in its' entire history, it only had one full time pastor, Charles Ouderkirk. He came in 1949, after retiring from full time ministry at a church in Syracuse, and stayed until the church was closed. The church never had as big a membership as some of the other churches in the area. The highest membership was 41 persons and the Sunday School, which numbered about 30 most of the time, did not function on a regular basis after the 1940's. James Spear was the last minister and he received a salary of $700 annually, supplemented by Conference. There were 22 members on the books at the time of closing and the Sunday School was not operating.
After 1900, there was a store owned at different times by Albert Johnson, George Farmer and Alonzo Mitchell. Also, a blacksmith shop, and a cheese factory called the East Palermo Butter and Cheese Association. The finished product from the East Palermo Butter and Cheese Association was taken to Central Square and put on the railroad for shipment to New York City and other cities. Just a little side note, if you wanted ice for making ice cream or cooling food, you had to go to the cheese company to get it. Every winter the ice was cut on the pond behind John Henderson's house at Upsons Corners (currently owned by Connie Smith) and stored in an icehouse for cooling the cheese. It was packed in sawdust and would last all summer.
The social needs of the area were met in part by the Happy Thought Grange #1242, formed in 1911. The Grange met in a building next to the store owned at one time by Fred Watkins and at the last by Bertie Collins. There were dances held at the Grange Hall during the 1930's, sponsored by the town, to help provide a place for entertainment for the people of the area. The curtain used as part of the meetings at the Grange has been preserved at the Oswego County BOCES in Mexico. The Grange closed in 1966 and the building was taken down sometime later. The store that was next door is now a residence. Across the road from the store, there was also another store for a while owned by the VanBracklins.
Located at the corner of County Routes 45 and 18, Flints Corners was first settled about 1830, by Jacob Flint and Timothy Phelps. Flints' Corners never became as large as some of the other areas of the town. In 1836, there was a blacksmith shop owned by Robert Flint and his father and in 1897 the Post Office was opened in the store owned by Samuel Smith.
Around 1889, the Good Templars built their lodge hall on the corners. They were an organization devoted to the cause of temperance and sobriety. There is a copy of the deed to the property, as well as a copy of the original charter, in the town records but it is not known for sure how long the local lodge lasted. I am not positive, but I believe that the Good Templars Lodge was taken over in later years by the Oddfellows. This was active in the 1930's and the building was located the second place down on the South West corner. The Oddfellows contributed to the social scene by putting on plays for the public. The building no longer stands. The first building on that same corner was the parsonage for the Upsons Corners Methodist Church.
In the early 1900's there was a general store owned by Hank Boulier in the house on the corner, the one with the field stone basement wall. The store was in the basement area and you could buy can goods, material by the yard and other items of the times. The last known proprietor of a store on that site was the Rev. Ira Owens. In addition to the usual store goods, he had a walk in cooler. He also had a barber chair and sold shoes. Rev. Owens must have been a very busy man to keep up with all his business ventures, his church work and find time to marry three times besides.
The last blacksmith in the area was in the early 1900's also, a Mr. Tip Flint. The trade seems to have come down through the family.
The first settler in the Upson’s area was Captain Ephraim McQueen in 1820. This area never had the amount of business that some of the other areas of the town. The Methodist Protestant Church was founded in 1880 and was one of the major institutions of the area. The first pastor was Rev. G.P. York. The church was closed in 1966 and the members were asked to support the new Palermo United Methodist Church. The last minister was James Spear. There is a nicely maintained cemetery next to the where the church used to stand. The building was turned into a residence after it’s closing and after a few years it burned. A new building has been erected on the site.
The Upsons Corners School, district number 5, was on the opposite corner of the church and was active until the centralization of the school system.
The saw mill in this area was originally operated by D. Jennings. Byron Russ owned it and later still was owned by his son Hosea Russ. The original mill burned but it was across the road from the current Twin Mills Saw Mill on County Route 4. That is apparently the reason the pond is named Russ' Pond. Twin Mills Lumber Company was previously called Smiths Saw Mill, owned by Seymour Smith. The current owner of Twin Mills Lumber Company is Connie Smith. The building used by Twin Mills for offices now was at one time the residence of a Miss Main. Farther up County Route 45, was the John Henderson home. There was a pond on this property that was used to provide ice for the cheese factories of the area. I was told it was also used by the local church to baptize by immersion those who had repented of their sins.
The settlement date for this area of the town is not clear, but it was probably around the same time as the other parts of the town. Early settlement records are scarce but by 1877, there was a blacksmith shop and a carriage and wagon shop in the area. The corners meet at the intersection of County Route 35 and County Route 4 (Hall Road).
There was also a school across from the cemetery on the north east corner of County Route 4 and County Route 35. It is currently in use as a residence. I have no real information concerning the school or pictures of the building. The cemetery was incorporated on October 23, 1883 under the name of Sayles Corners Cemetery Association. The first president was Guy P. Loomis. The roadbed was changed, probably in the 1930’s or 40’s so that the cemetery no longer sets directly on the corner. There have been no burials in the cemetery since the 1920’s. There was an active cemetery association, founded in ________ but I do not know when it became inactive.
In 1849 the Second Baptist Church and Society of Palermo was organized and met in their own building on the corners. There is a photograph in the town records of the building and it shows a large frame building with no others structures around it. It also housed the school until a building for that purpose was erected.. I am not completely sure, but I believe the church was in the general area of the school. The church is listed on the 1875 census with the following information: Value-$2,000, Seating capacity-500, not currently open. I do not know what happened to the building or when it disappeared from the scene.
1999 / 2000/2005Laura Perkins and all contributors herein