Account of the HOLMES Family
And their settlement of South Richland, Oswego County, New York

Written by Rev. Jesse H. Jones
as published in the Pulaski Democrat from
September 12, 1900 to August 6. 1902


   Many thanks to Julie Robst for contributing these wonderful articles, on the Holmes family, and the settlement of the area known as Holmesville, in S. Richland.  These articles were published for almost two-years, giving its readers a most interesting account of the family, from before its settlement to the Town of Richland, while living in West Winfield, Herkimer County, as well as their ancestral history. 
   The articles describe, in much detail, what life was like for the Holmes family and other settlers in the early 1800's in S. Richland.  Read about the families living here, their schools, churches, the Indians, and the Great Religious Revival in 1832.  Follow the migrations of various members of the Holmes family, and read first hand accounts of these early settlers lives. The articles begin with the ancestry of the Holmes family in the 1600's. 
    Be sure to to check out the Herkimer County, N.Y. GenWeb for more information on the Holmes' Family, and some of the other settlers, who came from West Winfield. This is an ongoing project as there are 35 Chapters.


Part 1:

Preface:

     It may be proper to mention the sources from which the following accounts were drawn. These sources are: 

1.  My own reminiscences of what my grandparents told. 
2.  Reminiscences which Samuel Newell Holmes, Esq. has written. 
3.  Further reminiscences of Almon and Ann Electa, these last two being the two children yet living of John and Grace Holmes; and all my own recollections have been considered and approved by them. 
4.  The records from four family Bibles, those of John Holmes, David Dewey, Hiel
Richards, and Isiah Holmes.
5.  Obituaries, letters and diaries. 
6.  Records on tombstones, both in West Winfield and South Richland; Deacon J. R. Hutchins having very kindly helped me in the latter. 
7.  Published history of Connecticut by towns. 
8.  Town records and church records of Pomfret, Connecticut; also town records of Alstead, New Hampshire; and Tolland, Connecticut, copies having been obtained from clerks. 
9.  Rev. W. Martyn Kellogg, grandson of Esther King Kellogg (younger sister of Grace King Holmes), who drew from family records which he had. 
10. Also Mr. O. B. Holmes and Mrs. Sarah Holmes Clarke (since deceased), were especially helpful in making investigations at West Winfield, New York. 
11.  Most important data were found by a two day search through the county records at Oswego, where I got the date of every deed involved in the case. 12. Records furnished by Roswell W. Holmes; reminiscences of Mr. H. J. Brown. 13. Volumes of records and personal help received in the Newbury Library,  Chicago, Illinois, which were essential to success.

 Chapter 1 - Lineage

     All our branch of the Holmes family came from Pomfret, Connecticut, and some account of the settlement of that town is essential to our story.
     Pomfret was at first a part of Woodstock; and both for about fifty years belonged to Massachusetts. They are in the northern part of Connecticut, Woodstock bordering on the former state. The way of the first settlement was this.
     In April, 1683 about forty men, all but four or five being of Roxbury, Massachusetts, signed an agreement to go to that section and settle, it being then a forest wilderness. The settlers spread throughout the whole region. In 1714 the south part of Woodstock was set off as a new town, and called Pomfret. Among the inhabitants of this new town was Jehoshaphat Holmes, who was elected first town clerk, and by re-election held the office at the time five years until 1719. I have found the probable line of his ancestry as follows:
May 22, 1639 one George Holmes was admitted a freeman of Roxbury,  Massachusetts.  As Boston and vicinity began to be settled only nine years before, it is evident that this man was an emigrant from England. He, then, is the fountain head of the family descended from him. Next year, February 1, 1640, there was born to him a son, whom he named Nathaniel. This Nathaniel, March 27, 1667, married Patience Topcliff, and, (after several other children) there was born to them in 1690 a son whom they named Jehoshaphat, who became doubtless the man of that name of Pomfret, elected the first town clerk there, because he was born and grew up in the town from which the settlers of
that place came.
     July 4, 1715, (he being 25 years old), Jehoshaphat Holmes married Sarah Waldo; and to them was born, just eight years and a day after, a son, who was named Nathaniel after the father’s father. In 1731 Jehoshaphat was elected clerk of the church. In 1745 he died; and it is recorded of him that he was both clerk of the town and of the church at that time, and he “had long and faithfully discharged these offices.” An honorable record indeed, and one which shows him to have been among the eminencies of the community where he dwelt.
     The son, Nathaniel, also is mentioned in the printed annals of the town for 1753, when he was just 30 years old. He had three wives. The first was Desire Spicer, whom he married November 11, 1742, when he was less than nineteen years and a half old. By her he had no children. April 21, 1748, he married Mary Moores; and on Match 19 next year a son was born, whom they named Jonathan, and who especially interests us. Afterwards a daughter was born who died in infancy; and February 10, 1752 the wife died. 
     Nearly a year after, January 4, 1753, Nathaniel Holmes married Mary Jordan by whom he had five children. Two of these, the third and forth especially concern us, viz: Nathaniel born August 14, 1760; and Josaniah born January 20, 1763. The name on the town records is “Josaniah” as the town clerk assures me from careful examination of the same. Another curious circumstance, showing the condition of the times, appears in the record of the baptism of this same person, for in the church records it reads, “Jassaniah, son to Nathaniel Holmes by Mary his wife” was baptized March 27, 1763; as the church clerk informed me. The name is not in the Bible and how it originated there is no means of knowing. But as to the spelling of the name, this person in maturity was always known as “Jesseniah,” his name is also spelled in the town records of West Winfield, and in all the family records, and on his tombstone; and a nephew and grandson were so named after him, nor was any other spelling known in the family. Hence I follow the family custom rather than either of the curious records in the town where he was born. Jonathan and his two half brothers, all sons of Nathaniel, son of Jehoshaphat Holmes, these three are they who went up out of Pomfret, Connecticut, and finally settled in New York State; and their journeyings and settlings we are to trace. Before doing so, however, we may
properly turn attention to another line of the family.
     There came into Woodstock, as distinct from Pomfret a Holmes line, which is
probably parallel, though I know of no record to prove this; and the following is a brief account of that line.
     Of forty names or so signed to the Roxbury agreement April 1683, to go and settled Woodstock, as I have said, there were four and five who were from outside of the former place, and one of these was John Holmes. Whence he came, or where he was born I have no means of knowing. He may have been a son of Isreal Holmes of Scituate, Massachusetts. He ran the sawmill of Woodstock settlement. In 1688 he was constable and tax collector, and in 1710 he had a fulling mill. In his two mills he was a worker of whom another John Holmes, but not of his line was to be his duplicate a little more than a hundred years after. In 1713 he died, having been a leader in the affairs of Woodstock
from its beginning thirty years before. Judging by his age he may have been a cousin of Nathaniel, Jehoshaphat’s father; but the relationship can hardly have been nearer. 
     This John of Woodstock, married April 9, 1690, Hannah Newell of Roxbury and to them was born a son David. He again had a son David, who was a captain in the French and Indian War, and a physician and surgeon of high respute in the Revolutionary War. He had a son Abiel, who became Rev. Abiel Holmes, D. D. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a historical writer of great eminence in his day. To this eminent writer was born a son, who was named Oliver Wendell Holmes and who became among the most notable authors of his time.
     As I have said it is highly probable that this line and that of Pomfret were offshoots from the same stock, but the relationship I have thus far been unable to trace. The one thing certain is that the Pomfret line was at best only collateral to, and did not in any wise descend from that of the great poet.

 Chapter 2 - The First Flitting

     All the evidence obtainable goes to show that Jesseniah Holmes was the first of the family to leave the old home town. As to the motives it is not difficult to surmise them. When the Revolutionary War was ended, and the New England people knew that all that vast territory west of them, empty of people except for a few Indians and a few pioneer settlers, belonged to their nation, and was theirs as individuals, if they would only go up and possess the land, the spirit of emigration broke forth in mighty powers, and for more than forty years a steady stream of people flowed into the newly opened country. The Holmeses who went up from Pomfret, Connecticut, were drops in that stream.
     Of these, as I have said, all the evidence there is goes to show that Jesseniah was the first. But of his life between his baptism and marriage nothing is known save one tradition, which is that when the British made their descent upon New London, (September, 1781) and all the yeomanry of the countryside turned out to repel the invader, as the record tells, he was one who lined up in the patriot ranks, and marched toward New London for that purpose.
     Beside this tradition the only source of information we have is the obituary published just after his decease, and we use it freely. From this, referring to Pomfret, we learn that he “resided in that vicinity until nearly twenty-one years of age, when he was married to "Miss Olive Goodell” who was a year and nine months older than he. Where they were married is not known, only it was not at Pomfret. “Nearly twenty-one” would bring the marriage into the autumn of 1783. The family tradition is that Miss Goodell was a woman of fair complexion, light hair and eyes, and stout in form, her shape being like that of her son John, and that she had great energy and force of character, with much tact and
winsomeness; and that upon her advent into the family she caused a decided sprucing up and improvement in household ways.
     Their first child, a son, was born July 5, 1784, but probably not at Pomfret, as there is no record of it there; and they named him John. This John Holmes is the principal personage in all this family history.
     The obituary says that “Some time after” the marriage “he (Jesseniah) removed to Tolland.” There are but two mentions of the family on the records of that town, and they are as follows: “A son was born to Jesseniah and Olive Holmes, December 7, 1789, and died the same day.”   “Martha, daughter of Jesseniah and Olive Holmes was born October 29, 1790.”  In the family records this is Marcia, and the day of birth is the 30th, but there is no doubt that the same child is meant in both records. During the period between the birth of John, and of the son that “died the same day” I have been unable to find any
location of the family. But two more children had been born, Roswell, December 27, 1785, in whose family tradition is that he was born at Pomfret; and Boxy, October 31, 1787.
     The next child was Horace, born September 23, 1792, and from his eldest child, Mrs. Mary Holmes Dean, I learn that he was born in Tolland also; but somehow there is no record there.
     The obituary continues, “There (at Tolland) in a revival, as we hope, he (Jessniah) was brought from the darkness into light and joined the Congregational church there, then under the pastoral care of Mr. Williams. The change appears great as he was much given to hilarity and mirth.” The church books of that period have disappeared, and nothing can be learned about this matter.
     The obituary continues, “Soon after this, (his joining the church) he removed to the State of New York and finally settled in the place now known as the town of Winfield”, in what is now North Winfield a place of nearly twenty miles south of the city of Utica.  As Horace was born in Tolland, Connecticut, it was after that that this removal took place, probably in 1793 or 94. The next date I have found, was given me by Mr. O. B. Holmes, who is living in the house which Jesseniah Holmes built in Winfield. This date is from the printed history of Herkimer county in which it is said that in 1796 Jesseniah Holmes was chosen an assessor at the first town meeting ever held in what was then and for nearly twenty years after Litchfield, but afterwards was named Winfield. The above
facts shows that he must have been a resident for quite a period before in the region, had become a holder of land, and had acquired quite a standing among his fellow citizens. This would place his coming at least in 1795 or more likely a year or two earlier.
     At the time of the above settlement New York State was for the most part a vast forest, with patches of clearing here and there, with a thread of highway from Albany to Buffalo having villages scattered along, and with branch threads like that to Oswego.
     The land where he settled was rich and strong, bearing great beeches and maples, a soil opulent for farming and gardening, for raising any crop which the climate would permit. It lies in immense hills heaved up like huge overturned bowls; or in long rolls and swells. But it was all forest; and the great trees had to be felled and cleared off, before the fruits of the soil could be raised. This toilsome work of the pioneer he set his hand to vigorously, and it absorbed his time, thought and strength.
     After some years, I infer the time to have been about the year 1802, he was able to build a sizable frame house which is still standing where he set it upon one of those immense humps of land which characterized the region. The sills of the house, hewn out by hand, are eighteen inches square, mute witness to the size of the timber that grew, and to the plentifulness of it, so that the pioneers thus threw it away to get rid of it.
     The burdonsome, wearying labor of subduing the forest and making a home so occupied his mind and used up his strength, that we find in the obituary the following concerning this period. “Here the allurements of the world, and the prospect of gaining a permanent residence for the support of his family, for a time drew off his attention from spiritual things. But soon his mind was roused by the text, ‘Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone,’ and he was under great distress of mind for some time, until at length he was pressed in mind to give himself again to the Lord, unreservedly; which he did, and light broke again in upon his mind, and his ‘peace was like a river,’ he went on his way rejoicing. He enjoyed his mind much in being very active in conference meetings, and
giving exhortations after sermons, which at times were very devotional and edifying.
     “Soon after, his mind was called to the subject and mode of baptism, by the preaching of Elder J. Butler, which led him to search the Scriptures, and see whether things were so.  The result was he was buried by baptism and joined the Baptist church there.” As that church was formed in 1796, it may be that Elder Butler was the founder and first pastor; indeed that is quite likely. Then Mr. Holmes united with it soon after it was formed, possibly the same year, or pretty surely the next.
     Continuing, the obituary says of him, “He possessed considerable native talent which he frequently exercised to his own satisfaction and the education of his brethren, who with one voice called him to take the office of deacon, which was very unexpected to him. But he submitted to the judgment of his brethren, and served them a number of years to their great satisfaction. It was thought by some that he ought to labor in the ministry, and such conversed with him on the important subject. He viewed it as a great work to stand as an ambassador for Christ and preach the gospel to a dying world. But he
submitted to the judgment of his brethren, and was ordained by a council at the age of about forty years.”
     As he was born January 20, 1763, he became forty years old January 20, 1803, and it may be fairly inferred that it was some time during that winter season when he was ordained.
     In that same year, 1803, the first church edifice was built, to which he contributed. It was set on the hill hard by where the old burying ground is; but was long ago moved away down into the village near the railroad station, because the great changes of population made it useless otherwise.
     More exact dates would be given only that something like half a century ago all the church records were burned up in a disastrous fire in the village.
     Thus we find this man as the spring of the year 1803 opens, a thrifty farmer, a highly esteemed citizen, a preacher of the gospel with all which that implies, and a liberal contributor to the building of a meeting-house for the church of which he had been for five or six years a member.

Chapter 3 - The Second Going Up Out Of Pomfret

     In the only book of far back records left in West Winfield (the rest having been burned in a disastrous conflagration there,) a book about the highways, the second entry on the first page is concerning a highway laid out with reference to the farm of Jesseniah Holmes; and the third entry is concerning one laid out with references to the farm of Elijah Holmes, the latter farm as one will see on the spot, lying right north of the other. The date of both records is 1803. Who was Elijah Holmes? Who was his father? Where did he come from? Let me lead the reader the way I was led to the answer.
     A mile or more north from the railroad station of West Winfield, up on a hill, an utterly desolate place, lies a deserted graveyard. There used to be a church close by, the one build by the first settlers, and now moved to the village. Beside it they made their burial ground; and the moving away of the church has left the burial ground deserted and desolate. Toward the front in that ground is set a long row of tombstones, side by side, all of them having on the name Holmes, and being evidently of kinfolk. Right in the center of that row stands one small, weather-beaten, red sandstone tombstone, the only one of its kind in the ground. Evidently the person buried there is by some years the first person buried in the grounds, because the date of the death is much earlier than that of any other person there. Weather-beaten and crumbling with long exposure as the stone is, the inscription is plainly legible, and it reads, Jonathan Holmes died March 8, 1814, aged 65 years.” Who was Jonathan Holmes? There is no record or trace in town , nor was there any one there who could tell. Close beside this red sandstone was a small marble stone bearing this inscription, “Eunice, wife of Jonathan Holmes, died July, 1822, aged 68 years.” What relation did this pair bear to all these whose bodies lie along on either side?  The position in which they lie would indicate that they were the founders of the line.
     Well, the answer to these questions is to be found in the Pomfret town records. The “65 years” back from March 8, 1814, carries me close to March 19, 1749, where those records tell us that, Jonathan Holmes was born there, eldest son of Nathaniel, (son of Jehosaphat) and Mary Moores his wife. This is solid ground. But the rest of the story is told also; for those same records tell that “Jonathan Holmes married Eunice Richards October 17, 1776;” and that “Elijah Holmes, son of the above, was born August 19, 1777.  David, another son, was born May 15, 1779; and Lucy, a daughter, was born February 26, 1781.” Now on the larger square monument, set a little north of the red sandstone in
Winfield, it is graven that “Elijah died June 2, 1855, aged 78 years;” which takes us right back to 1777, the year in which the Pomfret records say he was born. Moreover on another side of the monument David’s name and death are recorded. He was a bachelor.  All these data drawing together seem conclusive, and to reader it certain that this Jonathan was that half brother to Jesseniah, whose birth is recorded in Pomfret, Connecticut, and that he was ancestor to all who lie in that line, just as the place where he does lie would indicate.
     How came Jonathan and wife there? And when did he come? I can offer only an approximate answer.
     Mr. Leonidas K. Holmes of Lincoln, Nebraska, says that his grandfather Elijah came up from Connecticut in 1803. But Orange, Elijah’s second son, was born December 25, 1801, is said to have been born in Winfield. Moreover the record in the highway book, in the summer of 1803, shows him to already own a farm there. It would seem therefore, as though his coming up should be placed as early as the summer of 1801.
     If I make out the story rightly, Jesseniah was prospering so well, and gave so good a report of the country, that Elijah moved up there about that time bringing his father and mother, Jonathan and Eunice, with him, the father being upwards of fifty years old. This agrees with all the facts known. I have mentioned before, Elijah located his farm right beside his half uncle, Jesseniah; and to anticipate a little, I may add that a quarter of a century after he came to own both farms.
     As to the marriage of Elijah I have obtained the following: Nearly two months after he came to be twenty-one he was married in Pomfret, Connecticut, to Olive Ingals, 17 years and 7 months old, October 7, 1798, by Rev. Walter Lyon, pastor of the church there. She died March 6, 1806, in Winfield, New York, aged 25 years, having borne five children, Alvah, Orange, David, Pamelia and Eliza. Afterwards he married his half cousin Marcia, second daughter and fourth child of Jesseniah; and by her had four children, Roswell, Augustus, Sophia and Clarissa.
     To return to the main current of our story. On the third day of January, 1804, Elder Jesseniah Holmes’s oldest daughter, Roxey, was married to David Dewey, a young man of great energy of character, and who some eighteen years later moved up into the new region of which we come now to speak, and acquired a large property there.

 Chapter 4 - John Holmes The Pioneer

     The name John Holmes is frequently to be met with in the annals of the Holmes family. For one instance, the John Holmes already mentioned ran a sawmill in Woodstock, the next town north of Pomfret, in 1688, was constable and tax collector of the town, and in 1710-11 he had a fulling mill. How like was the course of our John Holmes a little more than a hundred years later with his sawmill at Holmesville and fulling mill at Santa Fe. And not to mention many others that are recorded, there are two of the name now in the town where the writer lives.
     In the year 1804 the vast tract of land of which Oswego county was a part began to be opened up for settlement. In payment for claims against the government a great section had been set off to Alexander Hamilton and other New York city gentlemen, and by them, or those deriving title from them, had been surveyed and plotted so that farms of convenient size could be bought and worked by small farmers working single handed, the lots generally containing in the neighborhood of 150 acres. News of this spread far and wide, hence came the rush of emigrants from Vermont who began the settlement of Pulaski in 1805.
     Doubtless the same news had gone through all eastern New York State; and so the same restless, pioneer impulse had been awakened there. Hence in the spring of 1805 Elder Jesseniah Holmes and his oldest son, John, went up into this newly opened country to see what the land might be.
     Arriving in the region they met with Mr. Randolph Bunner the agent for the New York owners, and whose name appears on scores of records of deeds in the county clerks office in Oswego. They looked over the land but no transaction occurred. However, when they came to go away the following conversation took place, as reported by the late S. N. Holmes, Esq., of Syracuse, the youngest son of John.
     “As Mr. Bunner, agent for the sale of the land was talking to my grandfather, [i. e. Elder Jesseniah], who did most of the talking on our side, when he came to shake hands and bid him goodbye, being very anxious to make a sale, he said, “Now Mr. Holmes, I want you to promise me a creedy that you will not locate any where else until you come see me again.” And grandfather sacredly promised he would not; and on that promise the whole tide of affairs of the settlement of our father and his family centered and was anchored. For grandfather said, that but for that promise, he would not have gone back at
all, as he found better chances a good deal.” However the promise was made, and then father and son returned to their Winfield home for the work of the year.
     From what followed one may fairly infer that the son finally concluded to take a lot, when he should go up the next spring and begin there. Now as “it is not good for man to be alone,” he chose a partner to begin life with him. Hence it was that on Sunday, December 8, 1805, the year of the first trip, John Holmes was married to a Miss Grace King, a Connecticut school teacher who had come into Winfield; and from the circumstance of the case it is fairly presumable that he brought her home to his father’s house, the same one that is standing there as I have before said.

 Chapter 5 - Grace King Holmes

     In our family somehow it has always been supposed that Grace King was born in Connecticut; but a clue furnished by Rev. H. Martyn Kellogg, grandson of Esther, younger sister of Grace, has enabled me to obtain the official list form the town clerk of the very town. All the family save perhaps one, were born in Alstead, New Hampshire, a town about fifteen miles north of Keene in the northern tier of towns in Cheshire county. The record for substance is this. To “Silas King and Anna his wife” were born; Moses, August 11, 1772; Anna, February 24, 1774; Luther, October 28, 1776 (and died the next year); Luther, August 8, 1779; Grace, June 5, 1782; and Esther, January 4, 1785.
     From Rev. Martyn Kellogg I also learned that the family “moved to Coventry,
Connecticut, when Esther was a little child;” but the records of that town show no trace of them. However, a letter in hand, from “Electa Fenten” to her “sisters” Grace and Esther, dated at Coventry, August 19 and September 16, 1821, shows that their mother died there September 11 and that their father was still living in the vicinity. From this it follows that there was a sister Electa not born in Alstead, New Hampshire, but presumably in Connecticut after they had moved there; and it may be fairly inferred that Grace and Esther both went up to New York State from there.
     But another fact is notable. Coventry and Tolland are contiguous towns and it would not be at all unlikely that the Kings and the Holmeses were acquainted before Jesseniah and his family left Tolland to go up into New York State, sometime in 1793-5, and that out of this acquaintanceship arose later the marriage of John and Grace.

 Chapter 6 - The Final Location

     Being thus married, and with his mind all the more finally bent on a home of his own, John Holmes went back with his father the next year, (1806), up into Oswego county.  Concerning what occurred then S. N. Holmes, Esq. writes, “Mr. Bunner so increased the advantages which he offered as to enable grandfather, (Jesseniah), to buy  a farm for Hartley, and father, (John) to buy not only his own farm, but also land to the went of it, as well as west and south of the stream, including most of the land on which the village of Holmesville now stands, together with what is called Santa Fe. So the bargain was closed and the contracts drawn and signed.”
     The land which John Holmes selected for himself was “lot 105” on the survey, which contained 128 acres, and the price was three dollars an acre, the total amount being $386.25, as the record in the County Clerk’s office in Oswego shows. He was nearly eight years paying for it, the deed given when the contract was fulfilled bearing the date January 19, 1814; and Newell says “our father told us that before he paid it up the interest he paid on it amounted to more than the principal.”
     This farm is now the Afwood place except 5.51 acres from the southwest corner sold to Hartley Holmes March 2, 1830. It has never been owned but by the two families since white men set foot there. This lot was chosen as specially fitted for a farm. There was running across it what appeared to be a living stream of water, just what was needed for cattle. Near the northeast corner of it there was what seemed to be a living spring, just the place for a pioneer’s house. I can remember when the stream still ran and when Milton Holmes had a damn on it, and a small mill to saw wood in, right by the road just south of his house. But forty years ago the stream had gone dry; and now where the spring was, in dry weather there is only water standing in a dug out hole. So little could he who in the unbroken forest, in 1806, selected his farm, foresee how the conditions would be changed nearly a century after.
     In all probability Jesseniah Holmes at the same time made a contract for all that part of lot 116, (next south of 105,) which lay east and north of Grindstone Creek, being 119 acres; while probably John made a contract for the rest of that lot, on which the most of Holmesville stands. Whether John Holmes contracted at this time for the rest of the land which he afterwards owned there is now no means of determining.
     The father and son having this bought the lots 105 and 116, the father returned to the farm in Winfield, while the son remained to clear up his. Where or how he lived can only be conjectured, but one may guess that it was either at the Gillispies a mile to the west, or at Squire Pride’s a mile and a half to the east, both of whom were on their places before he came.
     At any rate to clear off a piece, to fell trees and log and burn, so as to get the ground ready for a crop, and to build a log house for a home, these were the work to which John Holmes set himself for that long lonely summer and fall in the pathless forest.
     He set his house near the spring to be handy to water, but on the edge of the upland to be out of the way of freshets. When he had finished his season’s work he closed the log house, and left it to take its chances for all the long winter until he should return. Then he wended his way on foot back to his father’s house up there on the great hill in Winfield, a palace compared with his own, and to the wife from whom he had been so long away.
     When winter had fallen, on Saturday, December 20, 1806, a child was born to him, a girl; and they called her name Elvira. Whence came the name is not known, unless from Elvira Richards (sister of Hiel) who was born November 22, 1804, and afterwards was wife of J. Nelson Dewey. The child had dark brown eyes and hair, and a sweet oval face, and was bright, healthy and good natured. It was she who came to be mother of the writer of this family history.

 Chapter 7 - Going Up To The New Home

     So there were three to go up to the new home in the far forest. Grandmother told me that when they went to South Richland my mother was three months old. As she was born December 20, 1806, she came to be three months old March 20, 1807, and that day was Friday. Besides a paper in grandmother’s handwriting says that they went in March; and the two sayings show that they went between the twentieth and the last day of the month.
Again the well known habits of mind of New Englanders show that they would naturally start early in the week. So we may fairly infer that on Monday, the 23 of the month, they set out for their distant forest home. I emphasize the word distant. Though only some eighty miles away, yet measured in time and toil, the only true measure of things, that log home in the forest to which they were going, was farther away from the home whence they set out than St. Louis or Omaha is from New York or Boston.
     Their means of transportation was an ox sled drawn by a yoke of oxen. On the sled were packed snugly their few household belongings; and above all was laid grandmother’s precious featherbed, the one choicest article of dowry that a woman could bring to furnish her home in those frugal days of exceedingly scant possessions in that pioneer age; and upon that bed she sat carrying her infant in her arms, as she herself told me.
     Those household belongings, we may well note something of what they were, that the people who are on the stage of life now-a-days may realize how their grandfolks lived a hundred years ago. Grandmother did not tell that, but my wife’s mother, Martha Dodge, who died in our house a little past ninety-six years old in 1888, did give to us a similar list. Her mother, Ruth Cone, went up into the “Black River country” from Middlefield, Connecticut, in 1806, into what is now called Worth, and these are the cooking utensils she carried: a long handled frying pan of wrought iron; a rounded bottomed cast iron dish kettle with legs, that would hold a pail full; a pot with legs to cook dinner in, which held a pail and a half, and which in shape bulged out in the middle and was smaller at the top and had a cover; and a two quart cast iron kettle to bake in. She used the side kettle and the two quart kettle to bake in, covering the former with her frying pan, and the latter with her fire shovel. In this way she cooked for four men, five children, herself and baby. 
     Not much different could have been the cooking utensils which grandmother took up with her into what was only another part of the same great forest. If we say there were also, perhaps, a couple of kitchen chairs and a table with some crockery, (such as mother Dodge herself had in 1813), and a chest of bedding and clothing, we shall not be far astray. They were going where there was nothing to buy and no place to buy it, and they must needs have taken a year’s stock at least with them.
     Yet let nobody imagine that this couple with their little one were pinched and poor above others. With such few grand and simple belongings, such meager outfit everybody began life when settled up New York State in the early years of this century. With such slow, humble means of transportation they traveled. But few if any of the settlers who went up into that region during that period had any better.
     I stood last autumn on the great swell of land in Winfield, hard by the house from which that lowly group set out, and the whole scene came up alive in my imagination. As I gazed upon the house they seemed to come forth, and then moved slowly along on the way down past the house of Elijah Holmes just on the edge of the valley below; and then through the valley and up the rise of the highway beyond, until they went over the crest and out of sight. So did they go on their long and tedious journey, and my heart even now goes with them in their journeying.
     Their route was pretty certainly via Utica or Whitesboro to Rome, and thence to Williamstown, there being so far a made road. But here they turned sharply to the left, westward, and all the way to where they stayed the night before they reached their journey’s end, some fourteen or fifteen miles, they had, as Almon, their son, says, “only a cutout road through heavy timber.” How long they were on the way is not known; but at the slow pace of oxen probably four or five the distance being about eighty miles.
     Their last night before they reached their journey’s end was spent at the house of John F. Pride, familiarly known in the first third of this century as “Squire Pride.” Some forty years ago, his daughter, Miss Bathsheba Pride told her who is now Mrs. Clara D. Jones, that she held my mother in her arms on the morning before my grandparents started for their own house. And when I asked John Erskine last fall where that could have been, he answered quickly, “Why I can tell you as well as not. It was Squire Pride’s house right over there on the road beyond the cemetery,” as he judged about half a mile beyond on the south. So it was a mile east from the corners where afterwards the  Dewey-Tinker tavern stand was. There, then, they passed the night, and from that hospitable pioneer shelter they set forth betimes in the morning.
     When they had passed over the mile of cut out road to those corners on “the Old Salt Road” they struck right across it into unbroken forest and unbroken snow, with nothing to guide them but blazed trees. The road was not even surveyed out until two years later. After going a mile through the trackless wilderness of snow and trees, the sled dragging along over tree roots, and hummocks and through hollow, as it could, about the middle of the forenoon they came to their journey’s end at the log house which grandfather had built and left the autumn before; and they found it safe and undisturbed.

 Chapter 8 - Their Pioneer Home

     That log house was perhaps fourteen by twenty feet within, and stood as I said before on upland near the edge of the bank, which broke sharply off down about four feet to the valley in which the brook ran.
     Let us enter and look about. There is no floor only mother earth. The space between the logs are shinked up with moss and plastered with mud from the claybed just down in the valley. A place for a fire had been prepared in the middle of one end by laying against the logs of the first two or three tiers large stones carefully selected, of each kind as would be likely not to crack or explode with the heat, to keep the fire from the logs. Overhead there was built a chimney of sticks plastered with clay mud as the chinks were. More than half a century afterwards, Mr. Atwood, in plowing there, turned up some of those back stones. Water was always kept on hand to quench any little fire in the logs or
sticks that might catch fire from over heat.
     At the other end in one corner was the bed. A crotched stick had been driven into the ground, from which one cross stick ran into the crevice between the logs for an end stick; and a longer one ran length-ways into a crevice for a side stick. Then many poles were laid close together length-ways the whole width, and these were covered with a thick layer of hemlock boughs. Upon this grandmother placed her feather bed, and so her couch for the next two years was prepared.
     Anyone who will in imagination survey with me the scene in that desolate, cheerless, unfurnished earth floored cabin, will not wonder that my grandmother, as she herself told me, the first thing when she got there sat down and had a good cry. Twenty years after, she told me this, an aged woman, whom I met by chance up in the edge of St. Lawrence county, told me the same story concerning herself. How many and many a woman if only their voices could be heard from out of the silent dust, would relate that same tale of tears.
     How did they get a fire? Matches were unknown for well high a quarter century yet. Fire may have been obtained by flashing powder upon tow in a flint rifle which grandfather had, and then lighting a candle; or with flint and steel striking sparks into tow or punk until they were able to kindle a blaze. Or perhaps they brought fire with them from where they stayed over night. They might easily have done so in some iron dish they had.
     And the babe, she could lie snugly in bed, while the parents were getting the house to rights, what little there was to do.
     On my study walls hang the portraits of those three, painted many years after, those of grandfather and grandmother by Bonfoy, a traveling artist in 1845 or 6, and two of my mother, that little babe, by Grace Maria, whose extraordinary gifts were quenched so soon. And as the faces of these dear ones so long ago passed over, look down upon me, I seem to be working in their very presence as if their spirits hovered about me all the while; and I would that all I do might be worthy of them. And I wonder if I will ever see them again. Oh that I may! Oh that I may!

 Chapter 9 - Incidents Of Two Years

     It was pretty certainly Friday or Saturday, March 27 or 8, 1807, that John and Grace Holmes, bringing their babe, Elviria, came to their new home, the rude hunter’s log house in which they lived for the next two years. A few events of this period have come down to us.
     There was no grist mill nearer than Oswego twenty miles away; and grandfather had to go that long slow trudge partly by blazed trees through the woods, and the rest of the way on the rudest road. Any vehicle was out of the question. So he used to borrow a horse and go afoot, leading the horse loaded with grain, corn for the most part of it, if not altogether.  He always started so as to reach Oswego in time to have his grist ground that night, so that he could start the next morning at break of day and get home as soon as possible; for
he had a right and quick sense of the wife and babe he had left all alone there in the forest.
     It was indeed all alone, and how little can we realize it. To the south it was forest for miles. On the west the Gillispies had made their beginning, Hugh having already taken up lot 86, where the corners of the road are, at which the school house stands, as it has stood from the beginning, say eighty years. There were three brothers of them, Hugh, Henry and Robert, the last of whom was known as “General Gillispie”. Grandmother told me there were three families about a mile away in different directions and none nearer. Alone in the forest with the nearest neighbor a mile off, and nothing better than blazed trees to indicate the way, for a solitary woman with her babe this was loneliness.

 The Visit of The Indians

     One day in the late autumn or early winter of this first year grandmother’s courage was pretty well tested. Grandfather had gone to Oswego and staid over night as usual. When early in the morning five great, stalwart Indians came pushing into the cabin, sat down on the earth and said, “Shoony cake, shoony cake, shoony cake.” They wanted Johnny cake and that was as well as they could speak it. They also promised to pay in deer meat when they got some. They were entire strangers; indeed there were very few Indians about; and
naturally grandmother was somewhat frightened. However she concealed her tremors, whatever they were and set about preparing what they had asked for. As such bread is not made now, I have not tasted or seen any in about fifty years, I may be pardoned for describing how it was made. Boiling water was poured upon Indian meal, and the mass was stirred quite stiff with a wooden paddle or iron spoon. Salt was stirred in at the same time. Care was taken that there were no lumps in the mass, and then it was ready for baking. In those pioneer times when utensils were few, they used sometimes to spread the
batter out thin on a piece of board or a big clip set up edgeways, and slanting a little back from the fire, as well as to bake it on a spider or in a kettle with the coals laid around. At any rate in due time she had enough ready so that they all breakfasted to the full. Then, as they went away they repeated their promise to pay which she made no account of, being only to glad to have them go and leave her in safety. However they were true to their word, and in a few days brought to the cabin a hind quarter of venison. Large pay for the breakfast, as I should judge it to be worth at least two dollars.

 His First Deer

     It was in the late fall or the first winter this year, 1807, that grandfather shot his first deer. A light snow having fallen he started out and in a short time came upon a deer, his own movements having been so still that the deer had not seen or heard him. Standing motionless he waited until the deer, which was walking along a few rods away, was about opposite, when he drew up his rifle and followed with his sights up the back of the foreleg, and as they touched the brisket he pulled the trigger. The bullet struck between the ribs and the quarter, and as the deer stopped broadside on and gazed at grandfather he could see “a stream of blood spinning out through the wound.” But he stood like a statue
without stirring; and the deer seeing no motion and hearing no sound beside the shot, was not frightened, and in a moment or two started along on a walk. Before it had gone far, feeling sick from the wound, it lay down. This was just as grandfather had expected; and then quietly loading his rifle he walked as still as he could near to where the deer lay, and put a bullet through its brain.
     His practical turn of mind was shown by the fact that when he had hunted eight days more without getting another, he concluded he had spent as much time as the deer he had gotten was worth; and so he quit and hunted no more.

 Face to Face With a Bear

     Probably it was later in the same winter that grandfather had his adventure with the bear. Nearby the house he had a pigpen in which was a sow with a litter of pigs, so near that he thought no bear would come that close to a house where humans dwelt. In that he was disappointed. Instead, he heard the squealing of the sow, knew at once what the trouble was, and seizing his ax, hastened to beat off the intruder. The bear had already, however, dragged his prey out of the pen and down into the valley where the creek ran, and was making his way to the upland on the south side when grandfather overtook him.
As he closed in upon him as in hand, the bear dropped the pig and reared upon end, jaws open ready for the fray; grandfather also standing with ax uplifted, equally prepared. So grandpa looked at the bear and the bear looked at him, each a sort sizing the other up, and each waiting for the other to begin the attack. Pretty soon the bear, seeing that grandfather preserved a resolute and ready front, concluded that discretion was the better part of valor; sank down on all fours and made off, leaving his prey behind. But the sow was to badly hurt to be kept, and so had to be killed and was put into the pork barrel.
     I asked grandfather once why he did not strike the bear right in the head with the ax. “Why,” said he, speaking briskly, “he would have knocked it out of my hand instantly. He could strike with his paws to ward off such a blow better than the best boxer.” 
     However, as the bear stayed around, grandfather determined to try for him again. So he made a sort of logpen with only one place where the bear could enter. Across that place he laid a log for the base of a figure four trap. Then he borrowed of General Gillispie a steel bear trap, and set it where he judged the bear would put his fore foot as he was reaching for the bait. Then he set the figure four trap with a heavy log to fall down on the under one and crush the bear between. For the bait he put on a piece of the pig which had been dragged out of the pen, a toothsome morsel for Mr. Bear. Well, the bear came but, he was shorter than had been supposed. So only one hind leg lay across the under log of the trap, when it was sprung, instead of the body as was expected. The upper log in falling bruised the leg that was there but did not disable the bear. Besides, instead of putting his forefoot into the steel trap, he put it down close beside it and spring it without getting caught. Thus the bear escaped altogether. But he was so impressed with the multiplicity of the dangers which beset him that he cleared out entirely, and was never seen about there any more.
     All that first year grandmother had to get out of bed with her feet on the ground. In the warmth of summer and the bitter zero cold, and worse, of winter it was just the same. There was nothing under her feet save the bare, damp earth. But the second summer there was a hired man; and at grandmother’s request he split off some short planks from a chestnut log, smoothed and edged them as well as he could, and laid them on the ground making a bit of a floor before the bed for her to stand on and dress in the morning.
     But the reader will say, “a hired man in a one room cabin, where could he sleep?” A ceiling of poled laid close together across from the end opposite up to the chimney, made a flooring. A thick layer of hemlock boughs placed upon them made a sort of bed such as many a hunter has slept soundly on. Up a ladder set beside the stick chimney the man climbed into this low garret, crept onto the bed of boughs, rolled up in his blankets and so slept.
     Some time in the spring or early summer of the second year (1808) a serious accident happened. The family record says, “an infant boy died at three weeks old.” For the lack of knowledge on the part of both, grandmother lifted so as to bring on premature birth. Yet so healthy were the conditions of life that the ill effects upon her were of short duration.

 A Newcomer For A Neighbor

     In that same year Col. John Douglas came into the region and took up land about two moles west of Holmesville, where the road now is that goes to Mexico, but then it was not even surveyed out. I should think his farm was lot 122, or the one next to it and that the blazed tree pathway along which grandfather traveled when he went to Oswego to mill, must have run quite near if not right through where the Colonel made his beginning.  A seminiscence of Deacon J.R. Hutchins of Holmesville is just in place here. He says “I worked for Colonel Douglas when I was a young man, and have heard him tell about
coming up from Westmoreland, Oneida County, this state, when a young man and buying his farm, then a timber lot of 96 acres, and then returning to Oneida County. The following spring he came up again and proceeded to make him a home after the fashion of most other settlers, by clearing land, getting in crops and building a log house. I think he told me about bringing up some apple seeds, which he planted as soon as he could conveniently; and eventually he had quite a large orchard. The principal means of travel in those days was on horseback by blazed trees. His place was on the Mexico and Pulaski Road about two miles from Holmesville. Fred Spicer owns and occupies it now.”
     The incident of the apple seeds and resultant apple trees mentioned brings to mind a notable characteristic of the New England people. They might be called, The People of the Apple tree, so abundantly have they cultivated and developed that fruit and spread it abroad. The immense apple trees on the place of Elijah Holmes in Winfield, are another illustration of what Deacon Hutchins mentioned.
     Colonel Douglas “was a pensioner of the War of 1812;” and “was clerk of the Baptist Church from 1835 to 1859, both dates included. Deacon Abel Douglas was ten years younger than his brother John, and came to Richland in 1824.”

 The Bear-Beef Feast 

     It was probably some time during the first two years life in the first log house that General Gillispie’s bear meat feast occurred.
     Grandmother spleened against wild meat of every sort, unless possibly venison, thinking it had a wild taste. But of all kinds, bear meat, the very thought of it was disturbing to “that diabolical apparatus called the stomach,” to use Carlisle’s phrase. Well, all the neighbors around were invited to a feast at General Gillispie’s; and all went of course. Social occasions did not come in that sparsely settled forest so often that anybody who was asked could think of staying away. The feast was in the middle of the day, and answered to out Thanksgiving dinner. The meat of the feast was prime and passed for beef, nobody imagining it to be anything else except the family; at least grandmother did not. However, after dinner, as the afternoon wore on, and the toothsome
repast became well settled, the question began to be bruited about in the company, what kind of meat was it which they had eaten, and which had tasted so good to all. At length it was made to leak out like, that a nice tender two year old bear had been killed recently, and flesh from that had been the “beef” (bear-beef it might have been called) of which all had partaken. Well, if anyone felt qualmy and dissatisfied, “nobody” lost their dinner. But in another region under similar circumstances another grandmother did lose hers.
     It was this same period, probably, that General Gillispie stayed overnight at the cabin, sleeping in a blanket on the floor, I suppose. In the morning bright and early, grandfather and he stepping out in the clear bracing air, saw a partridge sitting on the far end of a log. Each had his rifle, and they shot two or three times a piece lengthways of the log and could not hit the partridge because of the effect of the log varied the ball so. Then grandfather went off sideways and brought it the first shot.

 The Second Log Cabin

     Sometime in the second year the road was surveyed out and located where it now runs, so that a house could be placed right with reference to it. Then in that summer a better log house was built “not far from the road and some hundred rods” Almon says to the east from the present Atwood house; and in due time a well was dug. May 12th of that year, 1809, a son, Jesseniah, was born, and it was probably after that that the second log house was ready and they moved up into it. Then the first one was used as a barn.
     When they had a barn their father, Elder Jesseniah, drove them up a heifer from his farm in Winfield. Every spring he came up to see how they had got through the winter. For three years in succession he drove up a heifer, and next spring as he turned into the field saw the skull of it lying on a stump just there by the road notifying him before he saw a person that the creature had starved to death, grandfather not having been able to secure fodder enough to see it through. But the fourth one lived. This incident well illustrates the hardships which they endured who settled up that new country. But a far severer hardship fell on those who settled up such a region as Indiana, for I have read that
there, out of ten young couples who went into that one place there together, eleven persons died in two years.

 A Noble Monument

     With the moving into the second log house the first and severest stage in the pioneer life John and Grace Holmes ended; and one may be pardoned a word of reflection here.
     Except the Golden Door no single feature of the architectural wonder of the World’s Fair at Chicago was more striking than the Perlstyle and Memorial Arch; and the Arch was the center and chief glory of the other. Many times did I go and feast my eyes on those beauties; and as sacred sayings I treasured the records placed upon that Arch. Two of them having strong pertinence to the lives of the two people whose experiences I am relating, and I quote them here. On one panel were these words: “To those brave settlers, who leveled forests, cleared fields, made paths by land and water, and planted commonwealths.”
     On another panel were these words: “To the brave women, who in solitude, amid strange dangers and heavy toil, reared families and made homes.”
     One of those “brave settlers” was John Holmes, pioneer in South Richland; and one of those “brave women” was his wife “Aunt Grace,” who reared a family of nine children from such a beginning. As I stood and gazed on that wonderful Memorial Arch, and copied the above words, I thought of those two as justly and to the full worthy of all the honor and commemoration that such a Memorial could give and as I gazed upon the Arch and read the words, they thrilled to the heart’s deepest life. 

continue to part 2 


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