Though now one of the minor
towns of Oswego county in population and business, the history of Redfield
goes back into the past century, and on its territory was once one of the
most flourishing early settlements. Its formation as a town took
place on the 14th of March, 1800, when it was taken from the great town
of Mexico, then a part of Oneida county, and the second town in chronological
order formed in what later became Oswego county. It is situated in
the northeastern corner of the count and a considerable portion of it is
still covered by the original forest. Hilly in the southern part,
its surface spreads out in the northern part, a high rolling plateau. Salmon
River runs nearly east and west across the southern part, and a branch
extends northward and west across the southern part, and a branch extends
northward across the town in that direction, giving excellent drainage.
Along this stream extends a wide intervale, the soil of which is a deep
sandy loam; elsewhere the underlying rock is limestone and the soil above
it is generally thin and fairly fertile. The town comprises townships
7 and 12 of the Boylston tract. No. 7, the northern half, was originally
called “Arcadia,” while No. 12, as a survey-township, received the name
of Redfield, in honor of Mr. Frederick Redfield, who bought a large tract
of land here in early years. Arcadia was annexed to Redfield February
20, 1807, but it contained no inhabitants at that time and hence merely
extended the territory of this town. After that part of the town
became settled, its inhabitants thought they were entitled to town representation,
and on February 21, 1843, Arcadia was erected into a town and called “Greenboro,”
and a post office of that name was established on the State road near the
Boylston line. But the new town had not sufficient population to
properly support an organization, which condition was further complicated
by difficulties in assessing and collecting the taxes on its non-resident
lands, and therefore, on the 1st of March, 1848, “Greenboro” was reannexed
to Redfield. Its present area is 55,618 acres.
Although this town is now less thickly
settled than other sections of Oswego county, its pioneers came in earlier
than the first settlers in most other towns. Just who was the first
to arrive is not positively known; but between 1795 and 1798 several adventurous
spirits permanently located in the town. Prominent among these was
Capt. Nathan Sage, a former Connecticut sea captain, who, with a few Connecticut
companions, settled on or near the site of Redfield Square between the
spring of 1795 and the fall of 1797. Captain Sage became a leading
citizen of the town and in 1802 judge of the Common Pleas for the county.
In 1811 he removed to Oswego.
A little four-year-old girl, who
became the wife of Ashbel Porter (a resident of Orwell), related before
her death that her father, Eli Strong, of Connecticut, came to Redfield
in March, 1798, and took herself and a still younger brother down the Salmon
River on the ice from Captain Sage’s house to the point selected for their
home. The two children were carried, one by Captain Sage’s black
servant and the other by his white hired man.
Among others who came in previous
to 1798, besides those just mentioned, were Deacon Amos Kent, James Drake,
Benjamin Thrall, Josiah Lyon, Samuel Brooks, Eliakim Simons, and Isham
Simons. Tradition credits the latter two with building the first
barn in the town. Samuel Brooks was unmarried when he arrived in
1797 and was twenty-eight years old. He married in 1801 a daughter
of Eli Strong; the first marriage in the town. Mrs. Sarah McKinney,
who married George McKinney, is a daughter of Samuel Brooks, and is still
living at the age of eighty years.
The first settlers in Redfield sent
back to their eastern friends glowing accounts of the fertile soil, pure
water, and valuable timber they had found, and in the spring of 1798 a
considerable number of immigrants arrived. The assessment roll for
1798 of the great town of Mexico contains the names of the following persons
assessed in “No. 12” in that year:
Samuel Brooks, Phineas Corey, Nathan
Cook, Ebenezer Chamberlain, Joseph Clark, Taylor Chapman, Roger Cooke,
James Drake, John Edwards, Nathaniel Eels, Titus Meacham, Amos Kent, Joseph
Overton, Joel Overton, Joseph Strickland, George Seymour, Benjamin Thrall,
Jonathan Worth, Joseph Wickham, Thomas Wells, Luke Winchell, Charles Webster,
Daniel Wilcox, and Jonathan Waldo—thirty-two in all. There were only
twenty-six assessed in all the rest of Oswego county east of the Oswego
A few of these had merely acquired
title to their lands and had not settled in 1798. One of these was
Phineas Corey, who came, according to statements by his son, John H., in
1796, and bought and paid for a tract of land, returned East, and did not
permanently settle here until 1800, when John was three years old.
The latter lived to be one of the oldest citizens of the town and died
only a few years ago on the well known Corey homestead.
Erastus Hoskins, Benjamin Austin,
Elihu Ingraham, and David and Jonathon Harmon came in either before, during,
or very soon after 1798. Captain Sage, who was agent for the proprietors,
treated the settlers fairly, and farms along the river, on and near the
site of Redfield Square, were rapidly taken up and improved. Most,
if not all, of the pioneers came in over the route from Rome through what
is now Florence in Oneida county; it was merely a wagon way cut through
the forest and was often almost impassable. What became known as
the State road was laid out in the period under consideration, but was
not opened until a few years later. It started from Rome and ran
through Redfield and the northeast part of Boylston to Sackett’s Harbor;
it was used for the passage of troops in the war of 1812. But in
spite of all the obstacles to settlement in this wilderness hardy pioneers
continued to push onward, passing what are now more favored localities
to reach the region so much praised by those who had preceded them.
It has been related that Eli Strong and others could have bought land in
the Mohawk Valley, near Utica, as cheaply as in Redfield; but they did
not like the water and the low lands, and pressed on northward. Their
hardships were many and discouraging, but were endured with characteristic
fortitude. Provisions had to be transported from Rome over the road
that for many months of the year was blocked with deep snow, and at other
times was nearly impassable from other causes. This Salmon River
settlement was composed largely of Connecticut people, and was almost wholly
isolated from other communities that soon sprang up in other parts of the
great town of Mexico; but it may be inferred that they found elements of
contentment and of happiness in their wilderness homes.
On the first day of April, 1800,
the voters of the new town met at the house of Josiah Tyron (son-in-law
of Captain Sage), and elected the following as the first officers:
Supervisor, Luke Winchell; town clerk,
Eli Strong; assessors, Erastus Hoskins, James Drake, and Benjamin Austin;
collector, Benjamin Thrall; overseers of the poor, Amos Kent and Jonathan
Harmon; commissioners of highways, Samuel Brooks, Daniel Wilcox, and Eliakim
Simons; constable, Nathan Cook; pathmasters, Ebenezer Chamberlain, David
Harmon, and Elihu Ingraham; fence-viewers, Titus Meacham, Isham Simons,
and Nathan Sage; poundmaster, David Harmon.
At the first town meeting a vote
was taken to build a pound, “as near the forks of the road, by David Harmon’s,
as can be found convenient,” and it was to be made of “round timber, laid
up forty feet by thirty.” The public pound was a useful and necessary
institution in these early communities.
Steps were promptly taken by the
proprietors to lay the foundations of a village, and in the summer of 1800
they gave to the town for public purposes fifteen acres of land, and a
special meeting was held in September at which the gift was formally accepted.
The land was laid out in a square, the name “Center Square” given to it
and to the immediate vicinity, and the pioneers gave that name to their
little settlement. This name was, however, soon abbreviated to “The
Square,” and in course of time was changed to Redfield Square, by which
name the village is now known.
The early town authorities voted
the customary regulations, among them a bounty of $5 for each wolf killed,
and a penalty of $5 for felling trees into the Salmon River unless they
were immediately cut out.
The first of the numerous saw mills
in this town was built in 1800 by Elihu Ingraham, who soon connected with
it a run of rude millstones. Both were of great usefulness to the
tillers. This mill was about one and a quarter miles from the village
and near where Mrs. McKinney was born. The grist mill was operated
only a few years, when it was abandoned, and the inhabitants were again
forced to go to Rome to get their grain ground, or to pound it in a mortar
in the top of a stump.
In 1800 or 1801 David Butler became
a resident and opened the first public house in the town in a log house
that stood near the northeast corner of the Square. The log building
was soon afterward replaced by a frame structure. Col. Amos Johnson,
who came in at the same time (1800 or 1801), opened the second tavern,
south of the creek at the Square. His brother Joshua came with him;
the latter was a Congregational preacher, the first in the town, and lived
with his brother Amos. The first physician came also in the first
or second year of the century, from Rome, in the person of Dr. Enoch Alden.
His infant son, Franklin, was buried in the new burial ground at the Square
in 1801. The first death in the town was that of Wells Kellogg, who
was buried on a hill on Captain Sage’s farm, just west of the Square.
The first birth in town was a son to Ebenezer Chamberlain.
Schools and churches were quick to
spring up in every American settlement, and the intelligence and piety
of the early settlers in Redfield is indicated by the fact that the first
church in the county was organized here in 1802 by Rev. Mr. Johnson (before
mentioned), with fourteen members. This church antedated by five
years the first one in Mexico, and by about fourteen years the first one
in Oswego village. The Redfield church was of the Congregational
faith and the predecessor of the Presbyterian church, which is described
further on. The first school of which any account remains was also
taught in 1802 by the minister, Mr. Johnson. It is probable that
children had been publicly taught earlier than that, but no record of the
The town of Redfield gave to Oswego
county in 1802 the first official higher than a supervisor, in the person
of Captain Sage, who was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
The foregoing annals are a clear
indication of the prominence of this town among the early settlements of
Oswego county, of the intelligence and energy of its pioneers, and their
faith in the future of their community.
Allyn Seymour, father of the late
Rodney Seymour, came in 1802, locating about a mile east of the Square.
An incident of that year which has lived in tradition was the burning of
Benjamin Austin’s dwelling, and the saving from the flames of an infant
by another child of five or six years. The babe lived to become a
celebrated Universalist minister.
The proceedings of the early town
meetings were often quaint and curious though of little importance.
The first public pound was probably not built, as a special meeting was
held in August, 1802, at which it was ordered that a pound forty feet square
and eight feet high should be built on the public square. The detailed
description of this proposed structure indicates that the inhabitants realized
its importance in a time when fences were few and of temporary character.
The pound was to be of hemlock timber, with sills and plates on all sides;
to have three posts between each corner; the spaces between each pair of
posts to be occupied with seven bars of sawed timber, two by five inches
each, tenoned into the posts; the structure to be furnished with a good
gate, with lock and hinges. At this same meeting hogs were voted
“free commoners,” and the highway commissioners were directed to open “the
great road” from Allen Merrell’s to the bridge, for which the town was
to furnish the money.
The school and church in Redfield
flourished in spite of untoward circumstances. In the years 1817
and 1818 the town voted to raise for schools three times the amount received
from the State—a very unusual proceeding. Dr. Alden served as “the
good physician” until about 1806, when he removed to Rome and left the
little settlement almost helpless in time of sickness; but in those times
every mother and grandmother was, perforce, something of a doctor, and
roots and herbs sufficed for ordinary ailments. The physician’s departure,
the abandonment of Ingraham’s grist mill, and the fact that there was still
no store in the community, forced the people to go to Rome for most of
their domestic needs. Not long afterward a store was opened in the
town of Florence, which was a great convenience.
On the 1st of April, 1807, the first
post-office in the town was established with the name of “Redfield” and
Russell Stone as postmaster. Besides the settlers already mentioned
there were many other arrivals previous to the beginning of the war of
1812, among them Richard Dimick, Squire Heriman, John Castor, Ezra Dewey,
and James, Nathan and John Harris. At some time during this period
Wells Kellogg began to sell some kinds of goods, though there is no evidence
that he had a regular store.
Prior to 1812 the “great road” was
opened through to Sackett’s Harbor, and during the war was of great and
unexpected benefit for the passage of troops to that important military
point. The going and coming of the soldiers furnished the inhabitants
considerable excitement and the public square often presented animated
and sometimes boisterous scenes. The late Mrs. Porter related that
on one occasion the captain of a company, encamped on the Square, invited
the young ladies who were attending a quilting party near by to come out
and dance with his men. The ladies consented, and there in the heart
of the wilderness the green sward was pressed by nimble feet to the sound
of the violin.1
In 1813 there were only four or five
houses at “Center Square” besides the taverns of Colonel Johnson and Mr.
West. In that year Dr. David Dickerson came to the Square; as Dr.
Alden had gone, he was the only one to minister to the ills of the settlers.
With his wife, who arrived a little later, came her sister, Miss Sophronia
Sherwood, who became the wife of Rodney Seymour and lived a long time in
the town. She died a few years ago in Michigan.
1 Johnson’s History of Oswego
With the close of the war immigration
was renewed, but not with its early activity. More fertile and accessible
lands were found in other localities and pioneers passed on. Immigration
and other travel made the State road, before mentioned, a busy highway
for those times. That and the road down the Black River were the
two thoroughfares between the valleys of the Mohawk and the St. Lawrence.
Just after the close of the war Dr.
Alden, the first physician of the town, returned and built a grist mill
at the Square across the road from the site of the present cheese factory,
which was operated many years, but finally abandoned. He also build
a saw mill near by. At the present time (1895) there is no grist
mill in the town.
Arrangements were begun in 1818 for
the construction of what was probably the first bridge over Salmon River.
The highway commissioners were instructed to treat with those of Orwell
in the matter. As the commissioners were restricted to an expenditure
of $30, it could not have been much of a bridge that was contemplated,
unless this sum was to pay their expenses in preliminary negotiations.
In 1820 the town contained 336 inhabitants.
Down to the year 1830, the northern
part of the town, which embraced the “Nine Mile woods,” had no inhabitants,
except one Webb, who kept a rude tavern deep in the forest. After
1830 settlers slowly located in and began clearing up this section of the
town. The clearing away of the almost interminable forests led to
an immense lumber and bark business, which has continued to be extensive
to the present day. What has been known as the Sanders mill road
extends east and west across the town, and on this road fifty or more years
ago Seymour Green built a saw mill. In 1859 this mill was operated
by a Mr. Otto, and in that year he began the manufacture of floor tile,
obtaining his capital in New York city; the enterprise failed. At
one period there were six mills on this road, but Thomas Sanders operates
the only one now running. Samuel B. Adsit built in 1890 a mill about
a mile north of the village, which is still in operation. Mr. Adsit
has quite a local reputation as a bear hunter. On January 13, 1894,
he killed three full-grown bears, for which he received $71.18; and on
the 23d of the same month he killed another large one.
In 1879 a dam was constructed at
a cost of $10,000 and a saw mill built by De Witt C. Littlejohn, of Oswego,
in Greenboro, on the north branch of Salmon River. Frank Joyner built
a steam mill, which was burned and rebuilt in 1890. Frank Moyer built
a steam mill in 1887, about three miles east of the village. J.G.
Flagg & Sons built a steam mill two miles east of the village in 1887,
and in the same vicinity James McKinley built a steam mill in 1892.
W.P. Curtiss built an excellent steam mill one and a half miles north of
the village in 1890. Robert Bailey has a water mill seven miles north
of the village, formerly known as the Otto mill. What was formerly
the Thorpe mill in the same vicinity is now operated by Carter Brothers,
and still further north Chester Button has a water mill. All of these
mills are now in operation and the output of lumber is, of course, large.
The production of bark has nearly ceased. When bark was largely produced,
the tanning industry was extensive and profitable. About 1855 two
large tanneries were built at Redfield Square, one by Streeter Brothers
and one by Chauncey Burket. They were temporarily closed by the financial
stringency of 1857, but were afterwards started up, one by J.A. Coles,
and the other by Lapham, Clarington & Burket. Both subsequently
passed to the possession of O.K. Lapham, and one of them was burned July
2, 1879, and not rebuilt; the other was set on fire on the night of Cleveland’s
election in 1892. Neither had been operated for several years previous.
In a business sense the town saw
its greatest activity during the period when these tanneries were in operation
and the various mills were producing great quantities of lumber.
A steam railroad was built about 1865 from the village of Williamstown
to what was known as “Maple Hill” (see history of Williamstown), and was
extended into Redfield about two and a half miles. It was used chiefly
for transporting wood, and during five or six years large quantities were
drawn out. The road was abandoned and the track taken up about 1876.
The town sent fifty-one men to the
Union army in the war of the Rebellion, five of whom held commissions,
viz: James Coey, captain and afterwards major; Joseph Bartlett, first lieutenant;
William Bartlett, second lieutenant; Sidney C. Gaylord, second lieutenant,
killed at battle of Petersburg; H. Seymour, second lieutenant, killed at
battle of Fredericksburg.
The iron bridge over the Salmon River
on the State road was built in 1893 under direction of James F. Cooper,
commissioner. It is 130 feet long and cost $3,300.
The mercantile business of Redfield
Square is now carried on by George Simons (who has been in tade many years),
William Phillips, Charles Crow, and George Thompson. William Wilson
has a wagon shop and George Crangle and William Phillips are blacksmiths.
The “Ben Lewis House” was built in 1874 by Lamont & Gardner, and is
now conducted by W.A. Kilts. The Salmon River House was built in
the same year by Honora Sturgeon and is now owned by her heirs.
What is now known as Edrington Park
in Redfield is owned by Hon. John Davidson, of Elizabeth, N.J., a retired
New York Lawyer. He made a sportman’s visit to the town in 1861 and
has fished in Salmon River nearly every year since. He purchased
over a mile of river frontage with a considerable area of land on either
side and about two miles of brooks which flow into the river. This
tract he has fenced, the banks of the stream have been protected form washing
with thousands of loads of stone, bridges have been built, part of the
landed seeded, and trees trimmed and planted. On a hill called from
Mr. Davidson’s son, Newcomb hill, is built the “Daisy Cottage,” from which
is obtained a magnificent view. Further up the hill is the “Buck’s
Head” log cabin, built and furnished with curiosities from all parts of
the world. To aid in preserving the trout Mr. Davidson leases about
two miles on either side of his park. He has become much attached
to the people of the town and freely aids its public institutions.
The northern part of the town is
still known as “Greenboro,” and a post-office is maintained there by that
name, of which Merritt Joyner is postmaster and carries on a general store.
The first school, as previously mentioned,
was taught by Rev. Joshua Johnson in 1802. In 1860 the town had nine
school districts, which were attended by 393 children. There are
now twelve districts with a school house in each, in which thirteen teachers
were employed and 141 scholars taught during the year 1892-3. The
school buildings and sites are valued at $6,325; assessed valuation of
the districts, $255,357; money received from the State in 1892-3; $1,465.16;
raised by local tax, $1,368.10. The districts are locally known as
follows: No. 1, Village; 2, Quinn; 3, Bourne; 4, Balcom; 5, Castor;
6, Otto Mills; 7, Cooper; 8, Button; 9, Taylor; 10, Clifford; 11, Littlejohn;
12, South Woods.
Population of the town: In 1830,
341; 1835, 412; 1840, 507; 1845, 510; 1850, 752; 1855, 798; 1860, 1,087;
1865, 1,072; 1870, 1,324; 1875, 1,303; 1880, 1,294; 1890, 1,060.
Supervisors’ statistics of 1894 –
Assessed valuation of real estate, $252,075; equalized, $271,026; town
tax, $2,988.06; county tax, $1,517.75; total tax levy, $5,071.21; ratio
of tax on $100, $2, the highest in the county. The town has a single
election district and in November, 1804, polled 219 votes.
The supervisors of Redfield have
been as follows:
Luke Winchell, 1800; Eli Storng,
1801; Nathan Sage, 1802-10; William Lord, 1811-26; Daniel Dimmick, 1827-33;
Edwin Rockwell, 1834-39; Rodney Seymour, 1840; Reuben Drake, 1841-42; Rodney
Seymour, 1843-44; Gideon Parkhurst, 1845-46; Rodney Seymour, 1847; Daniel
Dimmick, 1848-49; Sheldon Brooks, 1850-52; Gideon Parkhurst, 1853; Arthur
V. Perry, 1854-55; Daniel Dimmick, 1856-57; Charles McKinney, 1858; Daniel
Dimmick, 1859-61; Sylvester Goodrich, 1862; Daniel Dimmick, 1863-64; Charles
McKinney, 1865-66; Daniel Dimmick, 1867; James Petrie, 1868; Daniel Dimmick,
1869; A.G. Sesxton, 1870-72; Lewis L. Fleming, 1873-76; Andrew S. Coey,
1877-78; Lewis L. Fleming, 1879-88; George S. Thompson, 1889-90; M.V. B.
Clemens, 1891; John Wilson, 1892-93; Lewis L. Fleming, 1894-95.
Eli Strong, 1800; Wells Kellogg,
1801; Eli Strong, 1802-4; Isaac Conkling, 1805; Jonathan Deming, 1806-13;
Amos Kent, 1814-17; Allyn Seymour, 1818; Amos Kent, 1819-21; Samuel W.
Johnson, 1822-23; Ira Seymour, 1824-27; William Lord, jr., 1828-29; George
McKinney, 1830; William Lord, jr., 1831; Moses H. Webster, 1832; Reuben
Drake, 1833; William Lord jr., 1834-35; John Corey, 1836; Hinman Griswold,
1837; Henry Brooks, 1838-39; John K. Perry, 1840-42; Franklin Washburn,
1843; Henry Brooks, 1844-51; Reuben Drake, 1852-55; John K. Perry, 1856;
Alphonso H. Seymour, 1857; Heman Bacon, 1858; A.H. Seymour, 1859; Gilbert
M. Parsons, 1860; Elias M. Parsons, 1861; Charles McKinney, 1862; Joseph
C. Thompson, 1863-64; George Elmer, 1865-66; J.M. Burton, 1867; Henry J.
Burkett, 1868; J.B. Parsons, 1869; H.J. Burkett, 1870; Robert Cooper, 1871;
John Cooper, 1872; William J. Gooding, 1873-76; Stephen C. Thompson, 1877-79;
Virgil J. Seymour, 1880; Robert Cooper, 1881; Samuel Adsit, 1882-83; George
S. Thompson, 1884; Asa Parsons, 1885; Charles J. Williams, 1886-87;
Charles Crow, 1888; Collins Waterbury, 1889-91; Andrew Ott, 1892-93; Robert
The town officers for 1894-5 were
Supervisor, Lewis L. Fleming; town
clerk, Robert Aloan; justices of the peace, D’Estaing Thorp, Daniel McCahan;
assessors, Charles Cooper, Fernando Castor; commissioner of highways, Lester
Yerdon; overseer of the poor, William Crangle; collector, Charles Adsit;
constables, Charles Grant, John Hill, George Hogan, William Joyner.
Churches.—The oldest church
in Redfield was the one before mentioned, organized in 1802 with nineteen
members of the Congregational faith. Rev. Joshua Johnson was the
first pastor and probably served the church twelve or fifteen years; he
also taught the early schools. Rev. William Stone was his successor.
For nearly thirty years the services were held in the school house and
about 1829 a small church was built at the Square. This is all that
is known of the early history of the society, as the records are lost.
The Presbyterian form was subsequently adopted and the society has continued
under that faith to the present time. Rev. G.W. Bergen is the pastor.
A Methodist class was organized at
Redfield Square as early as 1820 and a house of worship was erected in
1824. In 1845 Redfield, Williamstown, Amboy, and Florence (Oneida
county) were united in one circuit. In 1848 the circuit was reduced
to Redfield and Florence, and in 1853 each of these towns was made a separate
charge, but were subsequently re-united. The church still exists,
with Rev. O.D. Sprague, pastor; the membership is sixty-six.
An Episcopal church was organized
at the Square and now has a membership of twenty-four. Rev. Mr. Daly
is pastor. The church was erected a short time ago.
A Union church was built at Greenboro
and dedicated August 19, 1894, and a Union church is in existence south
of the village, where regular services are held.