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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town of Starkey is situated in the southeast corner of Yates County and is
bounded on the north by the town of Milo, east by Seneca Lake, south by the town
of 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 next
was originally a part of the old town of Frederickstown, afterward Reading.
The name of Frederickstown was changed to Wayne, in honor of General
Anthony WAYNE, April 6, 1808. Reading
was founded in 1808 and included the town of Starkey, which was organized in
1824 by act of legislature.
early history of the town of Starkey is rather obscure.
The pioneers have passed away, and their descendants have scatted so that
but few if any remain. So far as
can 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 log
house and made a large clearing in 1798. Their
property was destroyed by a forest fire, and a survey deprived them of half of
their land. They became discouraged
and abandoned their claim and returned to the Friend’s settlement in
Jerusalem, whence they came. There
is a tradition that the first permanent inhabitant was William EDDY. The east
side of Seneca Lake was the rout of General SULLIVAN in his expedition against
the Indians, and was the first to be settled by whites.
The dwellers on the east side had noticed for some time a column of smoke
ascending 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 to
the 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 led
them to the cabin in William EDDY, the first settler of Eddytown, and as
believe, the first of Starkey.
early 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 of
the land office agents in extending the time of payment in case of sickness or
failure of crops, were inducements that favored the rapid development of the
county and attracted a very desirable class of settlers.
land was originally covered with dense forests.
That of the eastern portion, sloping towards the Seneca Lake, was
timbered in part with fine specimens of oak, maple, black walnut, hickory, red
cedar, and other varieties and in the western portion, (the valley of Big
Stream) pines of magnificent growth were interspersed with other kinds, all of
which would have been of great value if retained until a later period, but was
then an encumbrance to be removed in the easiest manner.
The manner then employed was to chop the trees in lengths of fourteen to
sixteen feet, “log” then into heaps and burn them.
What would have been worth millions of dollars if kept until later have
been thus destroyed.
doubtful whether the town of Starkey, after nearly one hundred years of careful
cultivation and improvement, is of any more value than it would be could it be
restored to the condition it was when abandoned by the Indians.
first 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. The
next year the same candidates were nominated and Mr. LANNING was elected and
held the office for several terms. The
LANNINGS were a conspicuous family in the early history of the town. The father, Richard LANNING, was the first justice of the
peace 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,” and
many a poor slave was helped by him on his way to freedom.
LANNING, James WATSON and John STARKEY were justices of the peace, by
appointment 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 years
has five post offices, Dundee, Starkey, Eddytown, Glenora and Rock Stream.
– 381 “Dundee”
Corners was the name by which Dundee was known at that time, and the word
“corners” fully describes the place. There
were 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 its
western terminus. To say
Harpending’s Corners was not an inviting or pleasant place to look upon would
be 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, shingles
and staves, and were profusely decorated with stumps.
Cows, pigs, and geese ran at large, and pig-troughs were in from of some
of the dwellings. There were no
sidewalks, no shade trees, no churches, no lawyers, no justices, or other town
officers, no stages, livery, or other public conveyances, and what will indicate
the very low grade of civilization, there was not a billiard or gambling room in
the village. Not to say that there
was not any of the last named business. There
was a large amount in a small way, which was usually transacted in the hay-mows
of barns and horse sheds. “Old
Sledge” was the game and the stakes were “a shilling a corner”, whatever
that might imply. Long rows of
unsightly rail fences were on all the streets.
There were about thirty buildings large and small (mostly small), and
illy kept, scattered along the four principal streets singly and in small
were no agents or drummers in those early times.
The “commercial traveler” was not known. The system of selling goods by sample was not inaugurated
until many years later. It has come
to stay and gives employment to an army of very competent mend, and is a matter
of great convenience to merchants, many of whom never visit the cities to make
their purchases. The merchants
“went below” twice each year, spring and fall, and their goods were
transported by canal. “Going
below” 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 shelves
became empty the goods would be condensed on the lower shelves and a strip of
wallpaper would be stretched over the empty shelves.
In two months after the goods were received the assortment would be
broken, 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 of
many other articles. Money was
scarce 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 potash
was manufactured. Lumber and staves
were 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-teams
loaded with shingles on the streets, and if there was a woman on the load, as
was often the case, it was considered mortgaged.
was a hotel, owned and kept by Samuel HARPENDING, grandfather of the present
proprietor. Harpending House has
been 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, was
a 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. When
once aroused it was no gentle shower that distilled, but a thunder storm, a
hurricane, a tornado. His
vocabulary of abusive language was wonderful and woe to the unlucky wight who
chanced to fall under his displeasure. He
made things lively while the storm raged, but it would subside as quickly as it
had been raised, and he would be just as ready in half an hour to do his victim
a favor as he was to our on him his wrath.
The old man had always a retinue of dead heads about him, and I believe
that custom has been continued by his successors.
No one was refused food and shelter at the Harpending House for want of
money. He gave liberally to the
churches – to the first three built, each a building lot and a subscription
equal to that of any of the members.
those days Harpending’s Corners was a dependent of Eddytown, taking the crusts
and crumbs thrown to it, and eating its humble pie with thankfulness.
Eddytown was the favored village, with its five stores, church, two
hotels, 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 and
Elmira (then Newtown), and was then the principal village on the route, a place
of more business importance than Watkins (under whatever alias that village was
then known). Real estate in
Eddytown commanded nearly double the price that the same kind of property could
sell for in this place. The policy
of Eddytown toward Harpending’s Corners was one of repression, and she used
her power and opportunity for that purpose.
It had already begun to look upon the upstart as a possible business
rival. Eddlytown controlled the
politics of the town and disposed of the political favors, which explains why
then there were no town officers located in this place.
Eddytown had a monopoly of shows, general trainings, Fourth of July
celebrations, etc. Town meetings
were always held there, and when elections were held on three successive days at
three different places. Harpending’s
Corners, 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 run
for Presidency), that election was held the first day at Torrence’s Tavern, on
the farm now owned by Daniel SPROUL, the second day at Rock Stream, and the
third at Eddytown. This was the usual custom, but it was the last time it
occurred. In the spring of 1831
Samuel KRESS, a very competent man, ran for the office of justice of the peace
and was defeated, not from any personal objection to the candidate, but merely a
local issue. There was no pretence
that Mr. KRESS was not qualified for office, and he belonged to the party in the
majority. The political magnates
willed that there should be no justice located at Harpending’s Corners, and it
was some years before one was allowed, and then only that Eddytown should
furnish the material. The sent
James L. SEELEY, who was duly elected. They
might have done a worse turn. Mr.
SEELY was honest and thoroughly competent and acceptable, and became one of the
leading citizens. This was doing
justice by installments. Following
the election of Mr. SEELEY, a full quota of officers was allowed, although not
from choice. Harpending’s Corners
had tired of acting as tail to the Eddytown kite, and demanded and received her
right what had before been granted as a favor.
spring and summer of 1831 there was a small boom in building. Samuel HUSON built a store and dwelling on the corner of
Water 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 first
house of worship in the village. From
this time the future of the village was assured, and Eddytown as a business
place was doomed, its prestige was gone. Little
by little its trade left and was absorbed by its young ribal.
One by one its stores disappeared; some closed out, some removed, and
others went out legitimately (failed), until in time, there were none left.
Corners was a place of considerable business importance. It had a church, Methodist Episcopal, one store, two hotels
and a good supply of merchants. The
store 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 hamlet
which in early times had quite as much business as Harpneding’s Corners.
summer of 1834 the changing of the name of the village was agitated.
There had been an attempt to call it Plainville, which failed, there
being 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 of
inhabitants, 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 or
Starkville 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. He
named another village in Illinois, Dundee.
From these names it would be suppose that he was a Scotchman.
This was not so. He was an
old fashioned singing-school teacher and selected his names from the musica
sacra. While Eddytown and
Starkey’s Corners was favored with a daily mail and a daily line of four horse
stage coaches, and Wayne and Tyrone had the same accommodation, a weekly mail
service, and that carried on horseback, was the postal accommodation for this
place until 1838. The Hon. J. T.
ANDREWS, while in Congress, with difficulty had the service increased to
semi-weekly mail. The late Nehemiah
RAPLEE was postmaster, and the post office was kept in the kitchen of his
dwelling. There was no public
conveyance to and from Dundee until about the year of 1841.
Then col. Benjamin TUTHILL, of Starkey’s Corners, mail contractor, put
upon the road a one horse vehicle in which the mail and passengers were carried
to 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 never
so crowded but that there was room for one more.
was considered a holiday. The
people from the country flocked into the village.
Shooting at a “mark”, wrestling, jumping and baseball playing (old
style), 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 on
extra occasions, five dollars. Also
a special purse of ten dollars was sometimes risked.
speaking of the early inhabitants and their relation to the early history of the
village, 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 ways
contributed to its advancement. He
held many important offices and was elected as a Democrat to the Assembly in
1848, when the county was Whig by a large majority.
Subsequently he was elected associate judge and for many years was
brigadier-general of militia. He
was always ready to lend a helping hand to the young and those starting in life. His endorsement, and Samuel HARPENDING’s were on many
notes, and were endorsement, and Samuel HARPENDING’s , were on many notes, and
were always honored at the bank. Many
now 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 never
asked 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 decided
opinions, 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 the
handsome, active, busy, hustling business man of early days.
has been severely scourged by fires. The
three most disastrous occurred in the years 1859,60 & 61.
The first started on the east side of Main street in the center of a
frame block, and burning in both directions, destroyed all but one building
(Mrs. WOLCOTT’s) between Hollister and Seneca streets, and on Seneca street
east to the Sleeper residence.
The second large fire was started on the west side of Main street on the
site of the WILSON house, and burning north destroyed every building to the
corner of Union street. The losses
in 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 brick
stores, estimated loss $20,000, insurance $4,500; he had no insurance on his
stock. Hamlin & Martin, dry
goods, 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 including
clothing, millinery, and drug stores, oyster saloon, law of five, daguerrean and
record office. There was no other
spot in the village where so large an amount was exposed; a greater amount was
destroyed than in all previous fires. The
great 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 Water
street. A gale was blowing at the
time and the fire spread in all directions.
Everything went down before it. It
was said that there were forty buildings burning at one time.
This was the third great fire. The
people 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 in
the darkness and fell into the cellars. There
were but half the number of inhabitants that there is now, and in proportion to
the size of the town it was a more disastrous fire than those of Chicago or
Boston. There was no place for
business left, and so the merchants erected rough board shanties of 100 feet in
length, where they transacted their business until other buildings were erected.
In these fires, N. F. MURDOCK lost twelve stores and his dwelling and
barn. W. B. HAMLIN lost one bring
and one frame block. He had three
buildings on the same foundation in one year.
Hamlin & Martin lost two stocks of goods in three months; beginning
with $20,000 stock and ending with $300. Justus
ELLIS lost two hotels, three bring stores, one bowling alley, three barns and
several mechanics shops. The
Harpending House was burned leaving the village without a hotel. The business part of the east side of Main street has been
burned over three different times. The
two last fires were undoubtedly incendiary.
Henry LIGHT was indicted and tried for the offence.
The jury did not agree. Eleven
jurors voted for conviction, one for acquittal.
He was given his choice between another trial or enlisting for three
years in the army. He chose the
latter, 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 town organized under the name of Frederickstown, in honor of Frederick BARTLES, March 18, 1796, and embracing what now belongs in Barrington, Starkey, Reading, Tyrone, Wayne, Orange and Bradford, that which now constitutes the town of Starkey, 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 first of January 1826. By an act of Legislature passed April 6, 1824, the town was erected, the act to take effect upon 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 more than was left in Reading. The town was named in honor of John STARKEY, a prominent citizen but not one of its earliest settlers. Its west boundary is the Old Pre-emption Line; its north boundary is coincident with the north line of Barrington, or township number six of the first range of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, the original north line of Steuben county; its east boundary is Seneca Lake and its south, the town of Reading. The south line of boundary runs between lots 7 and 8 of Watson’s Purchase, and extending from the Lake to the New Pre-Emption Line, thence runs northward on that line, fifty rods, and extends west from that point to the old Pre-Emption Line, following another line of lots.
Starkey from north to south extends 8 miles and 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 in some cases more than one hundred feet from the shore. The land rises westward from the Lake to an elevation of about 600 feet; and from a ridge which marks this elevation somewhat west of a midway point in the town, there is a moderate declination toward the west boundary. This ridge does not extend south of Big Stream.
The principal water course of this town is Big Stream, which enters the town immediately west of Dundee and bearing southeasterly, enters Seneca Lake at Big Stream Point, two miles farther south. Next to the Keuka Lake Outlet, Big Stream furnishes the best water power in the county, and it has been noted for its excellent mill seats. Except in very dry periods, it still affords much useful power for saw mills and grist mills. IT runs through a deep ravine for about three miles as it nears the lake, and falls to the lake level at Big Stream Point in a cascade of considerable elevation, formed by rocks of the Portage Group. The stream has deposited a vast amount of earth, gravel and other debris in the Lake and formed a large and commodious Pint, which has proved a convenient landing and important place of business.
About half a mile south of Big Stream Point is Rock Stream Point, formed by the detritus brought down by Rock Stream, a much smaller creek than Big Stream, and having its source near the west line of the town. Rock Stream has also carved out a deep and rocky gorge in the Portage strats and is distinguished by a cataract 140 feet high. This cataract is at the foot of a craggy and picturesque rapid, and takes a perpendicular leap into a circular basin about ten rods in diameter, surrounded by a massive wall of towering rock, with a narrow opening leading to the lake about 30 rods distant.
Several other little streams of more or less importance break through the cliffs into the lake. One below Eddytonw and another at Shannon’s Corners, have been made of some account for waterpower. A branch of the latter stream is known as Indian Run. Another at the north end of the town, taking a part of its course in Milo, is designated as Fish Point Creek. All these streams have formed beautiful little capes or points along the shore.
The native forests of the town afforded abundant evidence of the superior fertility of the soil. The timber was very fine. The oaks especially were much superior to what was generally seen. According to Spafford’s Gazetteer published in 1824, an oak had recently been measured there 17 feet and 6 inches in circumference, six feet from the ground, entirely sound, and tapering very little fifty feet from the ground. It was a region where an excellent 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 beautiful and attractive locality in its wild estate is seldom seen. The territory was originally included in the Military Tract, but was not surveyed 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, extends early three miles into Starkey, and lots 7 – 12, 24-26 of that Location are included in its borders. South of the Potter Location and bounded west by a continuation of the same line was a tract extended to the head of Seneca Lake, which became the property of James WATSON, 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 and extending from the Lake to the west boundary of the Track, a distance of something more than two and a half miles in most cases, but varying with the curves of the Lake shore. Seven of these lots numbering from 8 to 14, belong in Starkey, 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 Line and Watson’s Purchase, is called the Gore, being a triangular tract, of which the original purchase is unknown of the writer. There is also in Starkey a small part of the Little Gore, another triangular tract, formed by the New Pre-Emption Line, cutting at an acute angle the west line of the Potter Location.
Between the Old and New Pre-Emption Lines there is a space one mile and a fourth in width at the south end of the town and a trifle more than a mile and a half in width at the north end. This territory of course fell into the possession of the Pultney Estate, and its titles are derived from Charles WILLIAMSON. But before the survey of the New Pre-Emption Line, this land has been disposed of by the State in comparatively small parcels, as eleven or twelve various patents were issued covering this space, each having separate surveys, with numbered lots as appears on the latest county map. The WATKIN’S Location lies in the northwest corner of the town of Starkey. Next south is a tract patented to LANSING and DE WITT, another is DEWITT’S, then we have QUICK’S Patent, PHILLIP’s Patent, OWEN’S Patent. MC KNIGHT’S location covers the site of Dundee. Then we have CARPENTER’S Location and two or three other separate surveys the history of which has not been ascertained.
The principal settlement of the town of Reading was at first in that part now included in Starkey, and clustered around the neighborhood of Eddytown which for some years was known as Reading village. An attempt was afterwards made to name it Decatursville; bit it was finally called Eddytown, in honor of William EDDY, the first settler within the limits of Starkey.
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