Yates County, New York

History - Town of Starkey

From the History of Yates County, NY
published 1892, by L.C. Aldrich

pg.369, 373 & 375 - 381 


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Historyof Starkey    

Thetown of Starkey is situated in the southeast corner of Yates County and isbounded on the north by the town of Milo, east by Seneca Lake, south by the townof Reading, Schuyler County, and west by the towns of Barrington and Reading. Yates County was organized in the year 1823. The town of Starkey was not included in the organization until the nextyear, 1824. 

Starkeywas originally a part of the old town of Frederickstown, afterward Reading. The name of Frederickstown was changed to Wayne, in honor of GeneralAnthony WAYNE, April 6, 1808.  Readingwas founded in 1808 and included the town of Starkey, which was organized in1824 by act of legislature. 

Theearly history of the town of Starkey is rather obscure. The pioneers have passed away, and their descendants have scatted so thatbut few if any remain.  So far ascan be ascertained, the earliest attempt at settlement was made by Elnathan Jr.and Benjamin BOTSFORD, and a brother-in-law, Achilles COMSTOCK. They bought 400 acres of Charles WILLIAMSON, not surveyed, built a loghouse and made a large clearing in 1798.  Theirproperty was destroyed by a forest fire, and a survey deprived them of half oftheir land.  They became discouragedand abandoned their claim and returned to the Friend�s settlement inJerusalem, whence they came.  Thereis a tradition that the first permanent inhabitant was William EDDY. The eastside of Seneca Lake was the rout of General SULLIVAN in his expedition againstthe Indians, and was the first to be settled by whites. The dwellers on the east side had noticed for some time a column of smokeascending form a particular place on the west side. Their curiosity was excited, and a party was formed to investigate. On a bring Sunday morning the expedition paddled their canoes across tothe Seneca landing, north of what is now Glenora. After landing the familiar sound of a bell was heard. Following the sound it led the to a cow; and following the cow, she ledthem to the cabin in William EDDY, the first settler of Eddytown, and asbelieve, the first of Starkey. 

Theearly settlement of the town appears to have been rapid.   The fertility of the soil, the beauty of the scenery,the low price of the land, the easy terms of payment, the kindness and lenity ofthe land office agents in extending the time of payment in case of sickness orfailure of crops, were inducements that favored the rapid development of thecounty and attracted a very desirable class of settlers.  

Theland was originally covered with dense forests. That of the eastern portion, sloping towards the Seneca Lake, wastimbered in part with fine specimens of oak, maple, black walnut, hickory, redcedar, and other varieties and in the western portion, (the valley of BigStream) pines of magnificent growth were interspersed with other kinds, all ofwhich would have been of great value if retained until a later period, but wasthen an encumbrance to be removed in the easiest manner. The manner then employed was to chop the trees in lengths of fourteen tosixteen feet, �log� then into heaps and burn them. What would have been worth millions of dollars if kept until later havebeen thus destroyed.   

It wasdoubtful whether the town of Starkey, after nearly one hundred years of carefulcultivation and improvement, is of any more value than it would be could it berestored to the condition it was when abandoned by the Indians.   

At thefirst town meeting the contest centered on the office of supervisor. The nominees were John STARKEY and Isaac LANNING. The election was hotly contested.  Mr.STARKEY was the successful candidate.  Thenext year the same candidates were nominated and Mr. LANNING was elected andheld the office for several terms.  TheLANNINGS were a conspicuous family in the early history of the town.  The father, Richard LANNING, was the first justice of thepeace appointed by the governor, and was the first elected by the people. Isaac was one of the leading politicians of the town. In later years he was a postmaster for several terms. Early in the anti-slavery agitation he became a rigid abolitionist. His house was one of the stations of the �Underground Railroad,� andmany a poor slave was helped by him on his way to freedom. 

RichardLANNING, James WATSON and John STARKEY were justices of the peace, byappointment of the governor when the town was erected. Richard LANNING held the office for several terms. Isaac LANNING carried on a large business in blacksmithing for many yearsin Eddytown.   

Starkeyhas five post offices, Dundee, Starkey, Eddytown, Glenora and Rock Stream. 


Pg. 375� 381    �Dundee� 

Harpending�sCorners was the name by which Dundee was known at that time, and the word�corners� fully describes the place.  Therewere then only the four principal streets, viz.: Main, Seneca, Water and Union,if we except Millard street, which was only a country road, and Spring street,then so-called Potash lane, a private alley leading to an ahsery located at itswestern terminus.  To sayHarpending�s Corners was not an inviting or pleasant place to look upon wouldbe to state the question in a very mild form. The appearance of the village was dreary and desolate. The streets were rough and uneven, filled with piles of lumber, shinglesand staves, and were profusely decorated with stumps. Cows, pigs, and geese ran at large, and pig-troughs were in from of someof the dwellings.  There were nosidewalks, no shade trees, no churches, no lawyers, no justices, or other townofficers, no stages, livery, or other public conveyances, and what will indicatethe very low grade of civilization, there was not a billiard or gambling room inthe village.  Not to say that therewas not any of the last named business.  Therewas a large amount in a small way, which was usually transacted in the hay-mowsof barns and horse sheds.  �OldSledge� was the game and the stakes were �a shilling a corner�, whateverthat might imply.  Long rows ofunsightly rail fences were on all the streets. There were about thirty buildings large and small (mostly small), andilly kept, scattered along the four principal streets singly and in smallhuddles. 

Therewere no agents or drummers in those early times. The �commercial traveler� was not known.  The system of selling goods by sample was not inaugurateduntil many years later.  It has cometo stay and gives employment to an army of very competent mend, and is a matterof great convenience to merchants, many of whom never visit the cities to maketheir purchases.  The merchants�went below� twice each year, spring and fall, and their goods weretransported by canal.  �Goingbelow� implied a trip to Troy, Albany and sometimes to New York (City). After receiving their goods their shelves would be reasonably full. Then there would be a rush of customers for new goods, and as the shelvesbecame empty the goods would be condensed on the lower shelves and a strip ofwallpaper would be stretched over the empty shelves. In two months after the goods were received the assortment would bebroken, and in a month a great many articles could not be obtained. Often there would not be a pound of sugar in the town, and a scarcity ofmany other articles.  Money wasscarce and a great portion of the business was in barter. �Store pay� was almost considered �legal tender�. All kinds of grains and other produce were among the exchanges. Ashes was a very important factory, there being two asheries where potashwas manufactured.  Lumber and staveswere taken at low figures � five dollars per thousand bought very good lumber.  Shingles were bought in very large quantities. It was not an unusual sight to see large numbers of horse and ox-teamsloaded with shingles on the streets, and if there was a woman on the load, aswas often the case, it was considered mortgaged. 

Therewas a hotel, owned and kept by Samuel HARPENDING, grandfather of the presentproprietor.  Harpending House hasbeen owned by some member of the Harpending family for more than seventy years,and has always been deservedly popular and noted for its good cheer. The original proprietor, �Uncle Sam� as he was familiarly called, wasa character in his way.  Large and burly of figure, the ideal of a country landlord,clear headed and shrewd in business affairs, kind and generous of heart withal,though tempestuous of temper.  Whenonce aroused it was no gentle shower that distilled, but a thunder storm, ahurricane, a tornado.  Hisvocabulary of abusive language was wonderful and woe to the unlucky wight whochanced to fall under his displeasure.  Hemade things lively while the storm raged, but it would subside as quickly as ithad been raised, and he would be just as ready in half an hour to do his victima favor as he was to our on him his wrath. The old man had always a retinue of dead heads about him, and I believethat custom has been continued by his successors. No one was refused food and shelter at the Harpending House for want ofmoney.  He gave liberally to thechurches � to the first three built, each a building lot and a subscriptionequal to that of any of the members. 

Inthose days Harpending�s Corners was a dependent of Eddytown, taking the crustsand crumbs thrown to it, and eating its humble pie with thankfulness. Eddytown was the favored village, with its five stores, church, twohotels, lawyers, doctors and a variety of mechanics. It had a daily mail and a daily lien of four horse stage coaches. It was favorably located on the direct stage road between Geneva andElmira (then Newtown), and was then the principal village on the route, a placeof more business importance than Watkins (under whatever alias that village wasthen known).  Real estate inEddytown commanded nearly double the price that the same kind of property couldsell for in this place.  The policyof Eddytown toward Harpending�s Corners was one of repression, and she usedher power and opportunity for that purpose. It had already begun to look upon the upstart as a possible businessrival.  Eddlytown controlled thepolitics of the town and disposed of the political favors, which explains whythen there were no town officers located in this place. Eddytown had a monopoly of shows, general trainings, Fourth of Julycelebrations, etc.  Town meetingswere always held there, and when elections were held on three successive days atthree different places.  Harpending�sCorners, although the most centrally located, was always left out in the cold. In order to prevent the elections from being held at the �Corners�,they were often held in remote corners of the town. I recollect that in the election of 1832 (General Jackson�s last runfor Presidency), that election was held the first day at Torrence�s Tavern, onthe farm now owned by Daniel SPROUL, the second day at Rock Stream, and thethird at Eddytown.  This was the usual custom, but it was the last time itoccurred.  In the spring of 1831Samuel KRESS, a very competent man, ran for the office of justice of the peaceand was defeated, not from any personal objection to the candidate, but merely alocal issue.  There was no pretencethat Mr. KRESS was not qualified for office, and he belonged to the party in themajority.  The political magnateswilled that there should be no justice located at Harpending�s Corners, and itwas some years before one was allowed, and then only that Eddytown shouldfurnish the material.  The sentJames L. SEELEY, who was duly elected.  Theymight have done a worse turn.  Mr.SEELY was honest and thoroughly competent and acceptable, and became one of theleading citizens.  This was doingjustice by installments.  Followingthe election of Mr. SEELEY, a full quota of officers was allowed, although notfrom choice.  Harpending�s Cornershad tired of acting as tail to the Eddytown kite, and demanded and received herright what had before been granted as a favor.  

In thespring and summer of 1831 there was a small boom in building.  Samuel HUSON built a store and dwelling on the corner ofWater and Union streets. John SWEENEY, Dr. Benjamin NICHOLS, B. B. BEEKMAN,Thomas SWARTHOUT and E. J. SMIHT each built dwellings on Main street, west side. The Harpending House was enlarged and the Baptists erected the firsthouse of worship in the village.  Fromthis time the future of the village was assured, and Eddytown as a businessplace was doomed, its prestige was gone.  Littleby little its trade left and was absorbed by its young ribal. One by one its stores disappeared; some closed out, some removed, andothers went out legitimately (failed), until in time, there were none left.  

StarkeyCorners was a place of considerable business importance.  It had a church, Methodist Episcopal, one store, two hotelsand a good supply of merchants.  Thestore and one of the hotels have gone; the other hotel is the Reeder homestead. A few dwellings occupied by the owners is all that remains of the hamletwhich in early times had quite as much business as Harpneding�s Corners. 

In thesummer of 1834 the changing of the name of the village was agitated. There had been an attempt to call it Plainville, which failed, therebeing another village of that name in the State. This probably produced more excitement than any event before or since. The number of names proposed were only limited to the number ofinhabitants, nearly everyone having a pet name largely of the �ville� order.  The Harpending family verynaturally wanted the old name in part retained,and proposed �Harpending� or �Harpendale.� Rev. E. W. MARTIN�s choice was La Grange, while others thought Stark orStarkville the better name at a meeting called to decide the matter. James GIFFORD proposed Dundee which was accepted. The real contest was between Dundee and La Grange. Mr. GIFFORD afterward emigrated West and founded the city of Elgin, Ill,to which he gave another Scotch name.  Mr.GIFFORD built the first house in Elgin.  Henamed another village in Illinois, Dundee. From these names it would be suppose that he was a Scotchman. This was not so.  He was anold fashioned singing-school teacher and selected his names from the musicasacra.  While Eddytown andStarkey�s Corners was favored with a daily mail and a daily line of four horsestage coaches, and Wayne and Tyrone had the same accommodation, a weekly mailservice, and that carried on horseback, was the postal accommodation for thisplace until 1838.  The Hon. J. T.ANDREWS, while in Congress, with difficulty had the service increased tosemi-weekly mail.  The late NehemiahRAPLEE was postmaster, and the post office was kept in the kitchen of hisdwelling.  There was no publicconveyance to and from Dundee until about the year of 1841. Then col. Benjamin TUTHILL, of Starkey�s Corners, mail contractor, putupon the road a one horse vehicle in which the mail and passengers were carriedto and from Starkey Landing, on Seneca Lake. The mail service had been increased to a tri-weekly mail. The accommodation was ample and the old red one horse �bus� was neverso crowded but that there was room for one more. 

Saturdaywas considered a holiday.  Thepeople from the country flocked into the village. Shooting at a �mark�, wrestling, jumping and baseball playing (oldstyle), and other sports were indulged in. The day usually closed with one or more scrub-races and several fights� whiskey was cheap, three cents a glass or a shilling a bottle. The race-course was Seneca street, and the stakes were one, tree and onextra occasions, five dollars.  Alsoa special purse of ten dollars was sometimes risked. 

Inspeaking of the early inhabitants and their relation to the early history of thevillage, the late Gen. Nehemiah RAPLEE was a prominent figure.  For more than half a century he was a resident of this place,and in its early days was associated with its material development. He was always alive to the interest of the village, and in many wayscontributed to its advancement.  Heheld many important offices and was elected as a Democrat to the Assembly in1848, when the county was Whig by a large majority. Subsequently he was elected associate judge and for many years wasbrigadier-general of militia.  Hewas always ready to lend a helping hand to the young and those starting in life.  His endorsement, and Samuel HARPENDING�s were on manynotes, and were endorsement, and Samuel HARPENDING�s , were on many notes, andwere always honored at the bank.  Manynow in good circumstances were indebted to such help for their start in life. After misfortune had over taken him he said to the writer that he neverasked favors of those he had helped but of those on whom he had no claim. He made no concealment of his likes or dislikes and was a man of decidedopinions, and being a trifle belligerent sometimes, made enemies.  Those who only remember him in the latter days of his life,when crushed and broken by misfortune, would hardly recognize in him thehandsome, active, busy, hustling business man of early days. 

Dundeehas been severely scourged by fires.  Thethree most disastrous occurred in the years 1859,60 & 61. The first started on the east side of Main street in the center of aframe block, and burning in both directions, destroyed all but one building(Mrs. WOLCOTT�s) between Hollister and Seneca streets, and on Seneca streeteast  to the Sleeper residence. The second large fire was started on the west side of Main street on thesite of the WILSON house, and burning north destroyed every building to thecorner of Union street.  The lossesin this fire were estimated at $60,000, insurance $37,000. In this fire George SAYRE lost a store. A. C. HARPENDING, a dry goods merchant, lost a block of three brickstores, estimated loss $20,000, insurance $4,500; he had no insurance on hisstock.  Hamlin & Martin, drygoods, estimated loss $20,000; real loss not more that $12,000, fully insured. W. B. HAMLIN lost a block of three stores. W. h. SAWYER, dry goods, $12,000 and twelve other concerns includingclothing, millinery, and drug stores, oyster saloon, law of five, daguerrean andrecord office.  There was no otherspot in the village where so large an amount was exposed; a greater amount wasdestroyed than in all previous fires.  Thegreat fire commenced about one o�clock on Saturday morning of March 1, 1861. It was first discovered in a barn in the rear of a brick block on Waterstreet.  A gale was blowing at thetime and the fire spread in all directions. Everything went down before it.  Itwas said that there were forty buildings burning at one time. This was the third great fire.  Thepeople were panic-stricken and gave up the town as doomed. There was not a building left on the corners.  All the landmarks were gone and men blundered and stumbled inthe darkness and fell into the cellars.  Therewere but half the number of inhabitants that there is now, and in proportion tothe size of the town it was a more disastrous fire than those of Chicago orBoston.  There was no place forbusiness left, and so the merchants erected rough board shanties of 100 feet inlength, where they transacted their business until other buildings were erected. In these fires, N. F. MURDOCK lost twelve stores and his dwelling andbarn.  W. B. HAMLIN lost one bringand one frame block.  He had threebuildings on the same foundation in one year. Hamlin & Martin lost two stocks of goods in three months; beginningwith $20,000 stock and ending with $300.  JustusELLIS lost two hotels, three bring stores, one bowling alley, three barns andseveral mechanics shops.  TheHarpending House was burned leaving the village without a hotel.  The business part of the east side of Main street has beenburned over three different times.  Thetwo last fires were undoubtedly incendiary. Henry LIGHT was indicted and tried for the offence. The jury did not agree.  Elevenjurors voted for conviction, one for acquittal. He was given his choice between another trial or enlisting for threeyears in the army.  He chose thelatter, soon deserted and was lost sight of. 



History& Directory of Yates County, Volume II,  by Stafford C. Cleveland,published 1873


Chapter XIII    pg 892 � 895 

STARKEY -  Of the old original townorganized under the name of Frederickstown, in honor of Frederick BARTLES, March18, 1796, and embracing what now belongs in Barrington, Starkey, Reading,Tyrone, Wayne, Orange and Bradford, that which now constitutes the town ofStarkey, was a portion of the town of Reading, which was taken off in 1806,remaining a parrot of that town and belonging in Steuben county till the firstof January 1826.  By an act ofLegislature passed April 6, 1824, the town was erected, the act to take effectupon a new arrangement of Senate districts succeeding the census of 1825. It was given a territory of about 20,000 acres, nearly 3,000 acres morethan was left in Reading.  The townwas named in honor of John STARKEY, a prominent citizen but not one of itsearliest settlers.  Its westboundary is the Old Pre-emption Line; its north boundary is coincident with thenorth line of Barrington, or township number six of the first range of Phelpsand Gorham�s Purchase, the original north line of Steuben county; its eastboundary is Seneca Lake and its south, the town of Reading. The south line of boundary runs between lots 7 and 8 of Watson�sPurchase, and extending from the Lake to the New Pre-Emption Line, thence runsnorthward on that line, fifty rods, and extends west from that point to the oldPre-Emption Line, following another line of lots.

Starkey from north to south extends 8 milesand has an average breadth from east to west of 4 miles. The surface of the town is quite undulating.  The bluffs along the Lake are mostly precipitous, rising insome cases more than one hundred feet from the shore.  The land rises westward from the Lake to an elevation ofabout 600 feet; and from a ridge which marks this elevation somewhat west of amidway point in the town, there is a moderate declination toward the westboundary.  This ridge does notextend south of Big Stream.

The principal water course of this town isBig Stream, which enters the town immediately west of Dundee and bearingsoutheasterly, enters Seneca Lake at Big Stream Point, two miles farther south. Next to the Keuka Lake Outlet, Big Stream furnishes the best water powerin the county, and it has been noted for its excellent mill seats. Except in very dry periods, it still affords much useful power for sawmills and grist mills.  IT runsthrough a deep ravine for about three miles as it nears the lake, and falls tothe lake level at Big Stream Point in a cascade of considerable elevation,formed by rocks of the Portage Group.  Thestream has deposited a vast amount of earth, gravel and other debris in the Lakeand formed a large and commodious Pint, which has proved a convenient landingand important place of business.

About half a mile south of Big Stream Pointis Rock Stream Point, formed by the detritus brought down by Rock Stream, a muchsmaller creek than Big Stream, and having its source near the west line of thetown.  Rock Stream has also carvedout a deep and rocky gorge in the Portage strats and is distinguished by acataract 140 feet high.  Thiscataract is at the foot of a craggy and picturesque rapid, and takes aperpendicular leap into a circular basin about ten rods in diameter, surroundedby a massive wall of towering rock, with a narrow opening leading to the lakeabout 30 rods distant.

Several other little streams of more or lessimportance break through the cliffs into the lake. One below Eddytonw and another at Shannon�s Corners, have been made ofsome account for waterpower.  Abranch of the latter stream is known as Indian Run. Another at the north end of the town, taking a part of its course inMilo, is designated as Fish Point Creek.  Allthese streams have formed beautiful little capes or points along the shore.

The native forests of the town affordedabundant evidence of the superior fertility of the soil. The timber was very fine.  Theoaks especially were much superior to what was generally seen. According to Spafford�s Gazetteer published in 1824, an oak hadrecently been measured there 17 feet and 6 inches in circumference, six feetfrom the ground, entirely sound, and tapering very little fifty feet from theground.  It was a region where anexcellent variety of timber flourished, including oak, pine, walnut, chestnut,beech, maple and basswood, and most of it was large, tall and beautiful. Pine prevailed along big Stream and in the west part of the town. The wild pea vine grew in the woods about Eddytown, and a more beautifuland attractive locality in its wild estate is seldom seen. The territory was originally included in the Military Tract, but was notsurveyed with that Tract along with the country east of Seneca Lake. It was patented by the State to several individuals. The purchase of the Friends, since know as the Potter Location, extendsearly three miles into Starkey, and lots 7 � 12, 24-26 of that Location areincluded in its borders.  South ofthe Potter Location and bounded west by a continuation of the same line was atract extended to the head of Seneca Lake, which became the property of JamesWATSON, a merchant of New York, and has since been know at Watson�s Purchase. This tract was surveyed into lots one mile wide, from north to south andextending from the Lake to the west boundary of the Track, a distance ofsomething more than two and a half miles in most cases, but varying with thecurves of the Lake shore.  Seven of these lots numbering from 8 to 14, belong inStarkey, while those numbering from 1 to 7 are in Reading.  Each of these lots contain upward of 1,600 acres.

The space between the new Pre-Emption Lineand Watson�s Purchase, is called the Gore, being a triangular tract, of whichthe original purchase is unknown of the writer. There is also in Starkey a small part of the Little Gore, anothertriangular tract, formed by the New Pre-Emption Line, cutting at an acute anglethe west line of the Potter Location. 

Between the Old and New Pre-Emption Linesthere is a space one mile and a fourth in width at the south end of the town anda trifle more than a mile and a half in width at the north end. This territoryof course fell into the possession of the Pultney Estate, and its titles arederived from Charles WILLIAMSON.  Butbefore the survey of the New Pre-Emption Line, this land has been disposed of bythe State in comparatively small parcels, as eleven or twelve various patentswere issued covering this space, each having separate surveys, with numberedlots as appears on the latest county map.  TheWATKIN�S Location lies in the northwest corner of the town of Starkey. Next south is a tract patented to LANSING and DE WITT, another isDEWITT�S, then we have QUICK�S Patent, PHILLIP�s Patent, OWEN�S Patent.  MCKNIGHT�S location covers the site of Dundee. Then we have CARPENTER�S Location and two or three other separatesurveys the history of which has not been ascertained.

The principal settlement of the town ofReading was at first in that part now included in Starkey, and clustered aroundthe neighborhood of Eddytown which for some years was known as Reading village. An attempt was afterwards made to name it Decatursville; bit it wasfinally called Eddytown, in honor of William EDDY, the first settler within thelimits of Starkey.


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