Mentz is an interior town, situated north of the center of the County and is bounded on the north by Seneca River, which separates it from the town of Conquest, on the east by Brutus, on the south by Throop, and on the west by Montezuma.
The surface is moderately hilly, the highest elevations being in the southern part. The north part partakes more of the character of the marshy tract which borders the river. The hills are susceptible of cultivation to their summits. The streams are the Owasco Outlet, which flows north through the central part, and Spring Brook, which crosses the south east part, both emptying into the Seneca River, the former in this town, the latter in Brutus.
The underlying rocks are the red shale, gypsum and limestones of the Onondaga salt group, which rests upon the Niagara group. The gypsum does not appear in layers or beds; on the contrary it occurs in insulated masses, as though the particles of each mass had been attracted by a common center, but greatly modified by disturbing causes, so that the forms which it assumed were irregular and not globular masses. In many localities there appears to be two ranges of these masses, or plaster beds, as they are termed, generally separated by the vermicular rock, the hopper shaped cavities, and other less characteristic masses. The hopper cavities were noticed at the hill and roadside to the south of Port Byron, below the gypsum. In no part of the range is there a vertical section, of any great height, of the gypseous masses exposed; and, therefore, there is no absolute certainty of their being in ranges, or of the number of ranges, though certain localities prove both. The disposition of the whole third, or gypseous, deposit to a stratiform arrangement favors a like state for the gypsum, but does not define the number of ranges.
The plaster hills range from east to west through the County. They are more or less rounded and short, rendering some portions of their plaster very accessible, the layers in which the masses exist having but a slight inclination.
The vermicular lime-rock is essentially calcareous, and was first made know by Prof. Eaton. It is a porous or cellular rock, strongly resembling porous or cellular lava. Its name is due to there having been observed in it several holes, lines with a kind of tubular calcareous shell or crust, in some measure resembling the tubular covering of the Serpula, which is so often seen perforating coral rocks. In color it is a dark-gray or blue rock, perforated everywhere with curvilinear holes; but very compact between the holes. The holes or cells vary from microscopic to half an inch in diameter. The cells generally are very irregular, and communicate in most instances with one another. Some are spherical, and contain spherical crusts. The resemblance of no small part of the rock to a porous lava is perfect; but if the cells in lava are caused by gaseous matter, as is commonly supposed, then these had a different origin. In Bulls plaster quarry in the town of Lenox, the structure of the cells leaves no doubt as to their mineral origin. The cells show that parts of the rock were disposed to separate into very thin layers which project into the cells, and effect wholly at variance with aeriform cavities, but evidently the result of the simultaneous forming of the rock, and of a soluble mineral, whose removal caused the cells in question. This view appears to be fully confirmed by the discovery in this rock of those forms which are due to common salt, showing that a soluble saline material had existed and acquired shape in it, and been subsequently dissolved, having a cavity or cavities.
There are two masses of the vermicular rock, an upper and a lower one. The former extends from Port Byron east to the ridge west of Oneida Creek. It is about four feet thick; and its pores or cavities are usually large. The lower mass is limited. Its pores are small, and its greatest thickness is about twenty feet.
An extensive deposit of gravel and fine building sand has been opened in the hill in the south part of Port Byron, and large quantities of the former have been used in improving the roads in the town. The sand is shipped to other localities by canal. A vertical section of some one hundred feet is exposed, and gives a fine illustration of the dip and strata of the rocks.
Vast deposits of marl exist in this town in common with many other localities in the County.
Only recently its development as a fertilizer was begun, and should the enterprise meet with that success which it now seems reasonable to anticipate, this interest is destined to be an important industry in this locality. It will open up an almost inexhaustible mine of the richest manure.
"This substance is a carbonate of lime, which has separated from its solvent, in water; the latter preventing its particles from cohering together, and allowing them to subside in the state of a calcareous mud. It is in many places constantly depositing from waters holding limestone in solution."
The soil is a clay loam on the hills, mixed in localities with sand and gravel. In the valleys it is a rich alluvion. It is generally well adapted to wheat and other cereals, which rarely fail on clay bottoms, upon which the surface never heaves. This property of clay, that of holding the roots when the surface is frozen, is highly important.
The following is an analysis of two specimens of soil taken from the farm of the late Mr. Ira Hopkins in Mentz. The salt group lies below and the surrounding region contains much drift. The first specimen was taken from a dry ridge which has been under cultivation many years, and has produced forty bushels of spring wheat to the acre; the second is a clay loam, resting upon plaster shales:
First. Second. Water of absorption 3.84 5.10 Organic matter 10.44 5.94 Silicates 77.78 80.40 Peroxide of iron and alumina 4.98 5.00 Carbonate of lime 1.30 2.36 Magnesia 1.48 1.08
_____ _____ 99.82 99.88
The town covers an area of 10,081 acres; of which 7,246, are improved; 991, woodland; and 1,844, otherwise unimproved.
The population in 1875 was 2,300; of whom 2,091 were natives; 209, foreigners; 2,271, white; 29, colored; and 435, owners of land.
The direct line of the New York Central Railroad extends through the town from east to west a little north of the center; and the Erie Canal, in the same direction, a little south of the center.
Port Byron is beautifully situated in the valley of the Owasco, surrounded by rounded eminences, which, with their alternating verdure and cultivated soil, make a pleasing landscape. Its principal streets, with their many fine residences and tastily ornamented lawns, evince the aesthetic culture of its citizens.
It is on the line of the Erie Canal, one mile south of the station by the same name on the New York Central Railroad, and distant seven miles north of Auburn, with which it is connected by stage. It contains six churches (M. E., Presbyterian, Baptist, Free Methodist, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic,) an academy, a newspaper office, a private bank, two good hotels, (the Howard House, owned by John R. & Rush M. Howard, and the National, kept by Wm. G. Gallt,) several stores of various kinds, two flouring-mills, a foundry, a planing-mill, sash and blind factory, woolen factory, a small cheese factory, and about 1,200 inhabitants.
THE PORT BYRON FREE SCHOOL AND ACADEMY was charted in 1857, and the following year a lot containing one and one-half acres, centrally located, was purchased and the present brick structure was erected. The building is three stories high, sixty feet long and fifty feet wide, and is capable of accommodating 400 pupils. The cost of the lot and building was $10,850. The school is divided into academic, senior, sub-senior, junior, and primary departments. It is free to all residents of the district, except for Latin and Greek, for which $2 each is charged. To non-residents the tuition fee is $6, and $2 each for the languages. The course of instruction is left discretionary with the principal. It is managed by a board of nine trustees. The first board was composed of J. D. Button, M.D., W. A. Halsey, who is the present president, Alfred Mead, Amasa K. King, F. M. King, D. B. Smith, Geo. Randall, J. D. Schoonmaker and Wm. D. Osborne. It has a library containing 1,050 volumes, valued at $1,062.50, and philosophical and chemical apparatus valued at $250. The present attendance is from 250 to 300. The present principal is A. W. Morehouse.
THE PORT BYRON CHRONICLE is published weekly by Chas. E. Johnson, who commenced its publication in company with Geo. F. Marsh, under the name of Marsh & Johnson, November 1st, 1873. John L. Ransom became interested in its publication in May, 1874, and continued his interest till September, 1877, when he sold to the present proprietor, who is also its editor. The paper was established here in 1851, by Oliver T. Beard, as the Port Byron Gazette. In 1860 it passed into the hands of Benj. Thompson, who sold to Wm. Horsford in 1861. In 1862 it was bought by Cyrus Marsh, and its name changed to The North Cayuga Times. H. P. Winsor succeeded Cyrus Marsh, but in what year we could not learn. Several changes in proprietors took place from this period to 1873, and at intervals its publication has ceased entirely.
THE PRIVATE BANKING HOUSE OF H. B. BAXTER & CO. commenced business March 1st, 1877, with Henry B. Baxter, formerly of Sherman, Chautauqua county, as senior partner, and H. W. Latham, of Port Byron, as junior partner.
JOHN C. DIXON, proprietor of the flouring and grist-mill at Port Byron, commenced business in the fall of 1865, in company with J. V. White, the present Supervisor (1879) of Mentz, under the firm name of Dixon & White. February 17th, 1875, the mill, which was a wooden structure, erected in 1845, was burned, and in that year Mr. Dixon bought Mr. White's interest and rebuilt on the same site. The present mill, which is also built of wood, is forty by sixty feet, three and one-half stories high, and supplies with all the modern improvements. It is reputed to be the finest mill in this section of the country. It contains four run of stones and is capable of grinding 100 barrels of flour per day in addition to custom work, which averages 25,000 to 30,000 bushels of grain annually. The motive power is furnished by water from the creek, over a fall of eight feet. The first mill on this site was built about 1814 or `15, by Aaron Knapp, the site and ten acres of land being donated for that purpose by Elijah and Aholiab Buck. The present mill is the fourth one on this site, three having been destroyed by fire. A saw-mill built on this site by Knapp about the same time stood until it decayed. These were the first mills in the town.
The cheese factory located in the village, near the upper dam, is owned by a stock company, which was incorporated in 1867, with a capital of $3,800, and of which David H. Mills is President, W. A. Jacobs, Secretary, and W. D. Osborne, O. A. Paddock and Jonathan Myers, Trustees.
The foundry and machine shop owned by Henry Leonard and George Anable is located on the dam south of the canal.
On the dam north of the canal is a planing-mill owned by Lewis Peck, and a flouring and grist-mill, with three run of stones, owned by Henry Traphagen. The sash and blind factory and planing-mill, owned by Samuel M. Wells and Charles J. Stiles, are operated by steam.
Port Byron has suffered from several disastrous fires. May 30th, 1870, the dry goods store of J. T. & William S. Smith was burned. This fire aroused the citizens to a realization of the importance of providing adequate means of protection, and the excellent water works which the village now has were established. The reservoir is 150 feet long, 50 feet wide and 12 feet deep, located on the hill west of the village, on grounds donated for the purpose by William A. Halsey, and has an altitude of 175 feet about the main street in the village. Water is pumped into the reservoir from the outlet.
Port Byron was incorporated March 2nd, 1837, and reincorporated in 1855. The first officers under the charter were: Walter H. Smith, President, who was elected by the board of trustees; Reuben Saxon, Samuel Harnden, Dennison Robinson and Abraham Teachout, Trustees; Campbell W. Haynes, Clerk; James D. Button, Joseph Hadger and Elijah Rice, Assessors; David B. Smith, Treasurer; and Jesse Vanerhoven, Constable. The successive presidents are Elmore P. Ross, 1838; Samuel Harnden, 1839, `42 and `43; Cyrus C. Peas, 1840 and `41; James Cutler, 1844, `45 and `47-`51; L. Goodsole, 1846; Thomas W. Smith, 1852 and `55; George Randall, 1853; James D. Button, 1854; Richard H. Hoff, 1856, `59, `66; Richard Dyer, 1857; Abram Gutchess, 1858 and `67; William S. Hoffmann, 1860 and `62; Arthur White, 1861; Daniel Graves, 1863 and `64; Augustus Kelly, 1865, `70 and `71; Stephen H. Close, 1868; Thomas B. Dickey, 1869; William A. Halsey, 1872; Edward B. Somers, 1873; Horace V. Howland, 1874; William Hosford, 1875; Horace C. Badgley, 1876; James V. White, 1877. The present officers (1879) are: T. Fayette Dixon, President; Rush M. Howard, Charles M. Storms, Oliver B. Tanner and Charles F. Stiles, Trustees; Samuel N. Dougherty, Clerk; Charles Kelly, Treasurer; George Somers, O. W. Seymour and George W. Latham, Assessors; Samuel N. Dougherty , Police Justice.
PORT BYRON LODGE NO. 130, F. & A. M., was organized as Freedom Lodge, about 1820, and the name and charter changed June 8th, 1845. The present officers are, Geo. Dickinson, W. M.; Oscar Gutchess, S. W.; Chas. M. Storms, J. W.; R. M. Howard, Treas.; Egbert Homel, Secy.; D. M. Kellogg, S. D.; F. F. Sears, J. D.; Geo. Anable, Tiler; Augustus Kelly, H. B. Baxter, and Thos. B. Dickey, Trustees. Meetings are held the first and third Wednesdays of each month, in Masonic Hall. The present number of members is 75.
MORRIS CHAPTER NO. 156, R. A. M. has a membership of about 45, and meets the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, in Masonic Hall. The officers are Abram Gutchess, H. P.; Chas. Kelly, E. K.; Wm. Cooper, Jr., E. S.; C. R. Berry, Secy.; E. B. Erity, Treas.; C. M. Stone, C. H.; E. M. Slayton, P. S.; A. Houghtaling, R. A. C.; Geo. W. Dickinson, M. 1st V.; O. Gutchess, M. 2nd V.; Jehiel Weston, M. 3rd V.; Geo. Anable, Tiler.
CENTENNIAL TENT N. O. I. R. No. 41, was organized in January, 1876. Meetings are held every Friday evening. The membership is 35. The officers are, H. W. Leonard, C. R.; George Anable, D. R.; R. Fayette Dixon, Secy.; C. P. Yates, Jr., Treas.; John M. Coon, F. S.; Geo. Newkirk, S.; Thos. Porter, I. G.; H. B. Dodge, O. G.; W. D. Osborne, P. C. R.
Port Byron was for many years, known as Bucksville, which name it derived from the Buck family, who were early settlers here and contributed largely to its growth and prosperity. The present name was assumed in 1832.
One and one-half miles south of Port Byron, near the line of Throop, in a pleasant romantic valley, at the terminus of a deep gorge in the Owasco Outlet, is the factory of Ezra B. Hayden, who is engaged in the manufacture of woolen cloths, yarns, cassimeres and flannels.
The first settlement in this locality was made about 1810, and the first dam was built in 1816, by George Casey and Daniel Clark of Auburn, the former of whom was one of the commissioners for the erection of the State Prison at Auburn, and expected to secure a State contract for timber to be used in its construction. They purchased one hundred acres of the adjoining land, which was covered with a dense growth of hemlock and other timber, paying therefor, four dollars per acre. The next season they erected a saw-mill about fifteen rods south of the present woolen factory. The following year A. B. Tilman erected a building and commenced the business of tanning, which was abandoned in a few years.
The business of wool-carding and cloth-dressing was begun in 1820 by Harry Rice, who settled here at that time and erected a building for that purpose, taking water from the saw-mill flume. Mr. Rice carried on the business till his death a few years after, when, in the spring of 1824, the property was rented by Wm. Hayden, a native of Conway, Massachusetts, who came into the town of Sennett about 1801, where his father commenced the business of wool-carding and cloth-dressing. William Hayden removed to Auburn about 1820 and connected himself with the late Levi Lewis in the cloth-dressing business; and two years later, having separated from Lewis, he commenced the manufacture of cloth at Clarksville, now a suburb of Auburn. He was the first person in this County to manufacture cloth by machinery. About 1824 he removed to the locality above described, in this town, for the purpose of carrying on the business of wool-carding and cloth-dressing, which he continued ten or twelve years, when, having then purchased the property previously rented, he added the manufacture of cloth. Since his death in 1866, the business has been conducted by his sons, Ezra B., William, Martin, John, George, Charles and Samuel. Ezra B. Hayden has had the entire management of the business since 1875, in which year he became the sole proprietor. The building erected by Rice went to decay, and in 1828 the present one, which is 90 by 26 feet, and has four floors, was built and used about three years as a tub and pail factory, by Charles and Amos Parks, of Auburn. William Hayden bought it soon after the death of the senior Parks, in 1831, and converted it into a woolen-mill in 1835. It is provided with two sets of woolen machinery, capable of turning out 60,000 yards of cloth per annum, and gives employment to about twenty men and women. The motive power is furnished by the Owasco Outlet, which has a fall of ten feet at this point. The Haydens have acquired some notoriety for the excellence of the cloths manufactured by them.
David Clark, of Clarksville, built a saw-mill on the creek here about 1816.
A fruit drying establishment was started in this locality in the summer of 1877, by John Hayden.
The later Brigham Young, the noted Mormon and polygamist, resided in this locality about one year, in 1832, on lands now owned by the Haydens. He was in the employ of David Smith, a merchant of Port Byron at that time. The house in which he lived was sold in May, 1878, by Mrs. Lucy T. Hayden to James Palmer, of Throop, who removed it to his place in that town, to be used as a summer kitchen. The price paid was $10.
The first settlements in the town were made in 1797, near Port Byron, which occupies parts of lots 61, 62, 72 and 73, River street, in that village, being the dividing line between lots 72 and 73. In that year Philip King, Seth Higley, Josiah Partridge and Chas. Annes had located there. Messrs. King and Higley were from Saratoga county, and settled on lot 72, the latter on a State's hundred, in the south-west corner. Mr. King took up the remainder of the lot and remained there till his death. He raised a large family, all of whom are now dead. His son, Ezekiel, who was born in 1799, was probably the first white child born in the town. Mr. King kept the first tavern, about a mile west of the village, prior to 1815. It was a frame house. It is related of Mr. King, that at one time he desired to cross Seneca River with a potash kettle to a sap bush on the north side of the river. The owner of the skiff refused to carry the kettle, when Mr. King, with characteristic energy, launched the kettle and safely ferried himself across in it. Josiah Partridge was from Massachusetts, and settled on lot 73. Chas. Annes came in from Chemung county in the fall and settled in the south-west corner of lot 73, on fifty acres donated by Elijah Buck to induce a settlement, on the place now owned by Francis M. Groom. Mr. Annes sold to a Mr. Beebe.
In the spring of 1798, Aholiab Buck, a native of Pennsylvania, moved in from Big Flats, Chemung county, and located on River street, opposite the residence of Samuel N. Dougherty, in the village of Port Byron. He was the first settler in the corporate limits of the village. He built a log cabin that season and cleared a little land, when he went home and married Annis Drake, a native of Goshen, N. Y., with whom he returned the same fall, in company with this brother, Elijah Buck, and the latter's wife and daughter Sarah. Elijah had previously bought lot 73 of a soldier who served in the Revolutionary War. Both families lived in the log house till its destruction by fire the same fall, (a calamity by which they lost everything but the clothes on their backs,) when they removed to the house of Philip King, about three-fourths of a mile distant, where they remained till other houses were built. Mr. King's family at this time consisted of his wife, three sons, (Richard, Jeremiah and Daniel,) and a daughter, the latter of whom was subsequently united in wedlock to Elder John Jeffries, one of the earliest ministers in this section of the country, with whom she removed to Throopsville.
The Messrs. Buck built separate houses that fall. Aholiab's stood on the site of the one destroyed by fire; and Elijah's near the house now occupied by Mr. Henry Vosburgh.
The town was then heavily timbered, principally with beech and maple, with some basswood, oak, whitewood and hemlock. Game and fish were plentiful , yet breadstuffs and other edibles were scarce. Bears and wolves were numerous and a source of much annoyance. Daniel Drake Buck relates that on one occasion when his uncle Aholiab was away from home his aunt shot and killed a bear which was disturbing the pig pen in the night. This was about 1805 or `6. The Messrs. Buck had two guns, one of which they left loaded, to be used in case of emergency. The heroine of this story was a resolute woman, a good sample of the women who undertook pioneer life. Aholiab Buck removed to Illinois in 1832.
Mr. Buck recollects seeing seven or eight deer browsing with his father's cattle from maple trees felled for that purpose when fodder was scarce.
He says that his father had his first grinding done at Tyler's Spring, about one mile north of Auburn, where a mortar and pestle, so common in those days, had been constructed. The mortar consisted of a hard-wood stump, and the pestle was attached to a spring pole. Later his father and uncle were accustomed to go with their grists and those of their neighbors to Seneca Falls, after a mill had been built at that place. The journey was made with a canoe of large size, which had been established on the Outlet, the route being by way of the Outlet to Seneca River, thence to Seneca Falls. The canoe was constructed from a large white-wood tree. The journey usually occupied three days.
On the farm settled by Elijah Buck was a well, known as the Indian well, from the supposition that the Indians dug it. It was about ten feet deep and furnished a constant supply of water, which is now used to water the cattle on the farm. Evidences of Indian occupancy, for brief periods at least, probably while on hunting and fishing excursions, exist in numerous flint arrow-heads and stone tomahawks which have been brough to the surface in various localities by the plow. Portions of clay vessels, evidently used for culinary purposed, have also been found.
On the lot bought by Elijah Buck was a splendid water privilege, with a natural fell of ten to fifteen feet. This privilege, with ten acres, was soon after given by the Messrs. Buck to Aaron Knapp for the purpose of erecting a mill there on; and the mill then erected by him was the first one built in the town. The precise year in which it was built cannot now be ascertained. The property soon after passed into the hands of a Mr. Aiken. The erection of the mill gave an impetus to the settlements.
Daniel Loveland, originally from Vermont, moved in from the southern part of the County, with his family, consisting of his wife and four children, one son, and three daughters, in 1799, and settled near where the depot now stands. Peter Ransier and Moses Lent, from Owego, settled on lot 62 in 1800.
Up to this time Mentz was a part of the town of Aurelius, from which it was erected, as Jefferson, March 30th, 1802, and its name changed April 6th, 1806. It then embraced the present town of Montezuma and a part of Throop, which portions were set off April 8th, 1859.
Following is a list of the first officers of Jefferson, now Mentz, who were elected March 6th, 1804: Isaac Smith, Supervisor; Lewis Kitchel, Clerk; Caleb Ward, Israel Clapp and James Leonard, Assessors; Joseph Farrand, Collector; Caleb Ward and Isaac Barnum, Overseers of the Poor; Philip King, Israel Smith and Prentice Palmer, Commissioners of Highways; Joseph Farrand, Constable.
The officers elected, (1879) are:
Supervisor-James V. White.
Town Clerk-Charles Kelly.
Justice of the Peace-Howell B. Converse.
Commissioner of Highways-David Sadler.
Overseer of the Poor-John H. Eldridge.
Collector-Hiram A. Randall.
Constables-O. W. Seymour, Charles Hayden, L. C. Fargo, Charles Halsted, Peter Waggoner.
Inspectors of Election-Thomas B. Dickey, John M. Devore.
Game Constable-George Bettenhausen.
James Dixon and Major Eli Wilson, from Hebron, Washington county, the latter with his wife, Margaret, and daughter, Amy, came into the town near the beginning of the present century, and settled on a soldier's grant of 600 acres, on the east line of the town, which they took up jointly, and which is now largely occupied by the children and heirs of the former, who died there some seven years since, aged 92 years. John I., David, George and Eli Wilson, sons of Eli Wilson, settled on the same tract a little later. John and Eli Wilson and Elizabeth (now Mrs. Wm. A. Jacobs,) all of whom are living in the town, are the only living descendants of Maj. Wilson.
John Dixon, also from Hebron, Washington county, came in 1804, and settled upon fifty acres of the tract taken up by James Dixon and Maj. Wilson, and died there in 1876, aged ninety-two. Edwin S. and Edwin J., (twins,) Polly, (now Mrs. George B. Thomas,) and Marcha, (now Mrs. Ira Peck,) children of James Dixon, are living in this town, both boys on the old homestead. John C., son of John Dixon, and father of T. Fayette Dixon, the President (1878) of the village of Port Byron, is the proprietor of the flouring and grist-mill in that village; and Samantha, (now Mrs. James Robinson,) and Minerva, (now Mrs. Hiram Crossman,) daughters of John Dixon, are living in the town of Sennett.
Other early settlers were Martin and James Harker, from New Jersey, who located on the site of the village; Reuben Lent and family, from Washington county, who located on lot 62, a little west of Traphagen's grist-mill, about 1806. Lent claimed to have served in the Revolution for that lot, which he twice sold previous to his settlement on it. After his settlement he sold portions of it to other settlers, and was finally ejected with his victims by Jacob Tremper, to whom he first sold it and by whom the title was held. Tremper, who lived in Kingston, Ulster county, never settled here, but his widow came in 1823 or `4, and located where John T. Smith now lives, in the village. John Seymour, a Methodist preacher, came with his family about 1806 or `7, and settled on lot 62, a little northwest of Elijah Buck's. He was probably the first preacher in the locality of Port Byron and in the town. Joseph Hamilton and Ira Hopkins, from Washington county, and Caleb Hopkins, from New Jersey, settled on lot 85 previous to 1804.
John Adams Taylor, who was born in Hartford, Washington county, settled in the northwest part of the town, where Mrs. J. S. Pratt now lives, April 14th, 1817. He bought a State's hundred, for which he paid $7 per acre, rather than become involved in the perplexities arising from defective titles to the soldiers' grants, which many of the settlers bought for a nominal sum, and from which they were subsequently ejected. Mr. Taylor had prospected this section of the country in 1815. He came on horseback, and bought of Edward Luck, who was obliged to leave on account of fever and ague, which prevailed here to an alarming extent, but diminished with the increased settlements and the clearing of the lands.
The bridge at Mosquito Point was built in 1815, two years previous to his settlement. "Moscheto Point," says Spafford, "is well named," and we think the luckless traveler of to-day will testify that the name is well merited. Mr. Taylor added to his 100 acres till he held deeds covering 700 acres.
Both he and his wife, aged respectively eighty-four and eighty-two years, are still living in the town, with their daughter, Mr. Lucy T. Hayden.
Daniel Mintline, a native of Albany, came in from Canajoharie, April 11th, 1805, and located on the farm now occupied by William and John D. Buckingham. He was the first settler in this locality and from him it derives the name of the Mintline settlement. He was born in 1773, and died in the old homestead December 3rd, 1839. Daniel Rairden, a Mr. Buckingham and Andrew Myers were early settlers in this locality. Myers was from Dutchess county, and settled on the farm now occupied by E. Waldron. He died in Port Byron February 21st, 1874, aged seventy-eight years. Jonathan, his son, still lives in the town.
The completion of the Erie Canal, October 26th, 1825, gave a new impetus to the business of the village, rapidly increased its population, and soon made it one of the principal grain markets in western New York.
In 1828 the most important enterprise connected with the prosperity of Port Byron, was developed. In that year John H. Beach moved into the village and bought the water-power. He built a race-way two miles in length, thus securing a thirty feet head of water, and erected on the west side of the Outlet and the south bank of the old canal, what was then and for many years thereafter the largest and best constructed flouring-mill in the State. It was 120 feet long and 50 feet wide. Connected with it was a storehouse, 80 by 40 feet, under a portion of which a branch canal was conducted to facilitate the loading and unloading of boats. It contained 10 run of stones, driven by an over-shot wheel twenty-two feet in diameter, and was capable of grinding 500 barrels of flour in twenty-four hours. The building cost $60,000, and gave employment to twenty to thirty persons. Belonging to the mill, but not in its immediate vicinity, was a stone cooper shop, 200 feet in length, which gave employment to fifty persons, but furnished only a portion of the barrels used in the mill. Most of the wheat used in the mill was brought from the west.
Beach's mill was burned in 1857, and not rebuilt.
Henry Wells, the noted expressman, came into the town with this father's family after the opening of the canal, and for some three years mended shoes for the residents of Port Byron. The Wells family lived in a small, wood-colored house, and now stands diagonally opposite the residence of Mr. William Hosford, having since been raised and repaired and modernized with additions and a coat of paint. Henry remained in the town only about three years. His sister Harriet, (now Mrs. C. B. Newton,) who is remembered as a beautiful woman, a fine singer and a devout Christian, became a missionary to Lahore, North India, a field which still engages her labors.
In 1851 the direct line of the N. Y. C. R. R. between Syracuse and Rochester was built, and operated detrimentally to the interests of the place by dividing its trade with other towns along the route, and carrying much of it to Syracuse.
In 1856, while the enlargement of the Erie canal was in progress-a measure which was ordered Mary 11th, 1835, begun in August, 1836, and finished in September, 1862, and by which the water surface was increased in width from forty to seventy feet, and the depth from four to seven feet-a difference of opinion arose among the residents of Port Byron as to the course it should take through the village. Some advocated the enlargement along the old circuitous route; others, a new and more direct route. The will of the latter finally prevailed, and the present channel was cut through the most beautiful part of the village. This change, while it vastly improved the canal, impaired the beauty of the village and proved disastrous to its business interests, by destroying in a great measure its water power. The State built a dam across the Outlet and diverted the water from Beach's race-way to the new canal, by means of a pipe forty rods in length, laid underground. The canal is spanned at this point by four iron bridges, and has a large double lock, with a lift of about twelve feet. The village at one time had a population of fully 1,500.
The first hotel in the village was built and kept by George Daniels, probably very soon after the opening of the King's Inn. It stood on the site of the National Hotel, the land there being then low and marshy, and though it was a framed house, it was denominated an "inferior inn." It was burned during Daniel's occupancy, and re-built by him on a little larger scale. The present brick building on that site was built by Mr. Lytle, the second building erected by Daniels having also been burned. Contemporary with, but a little later than Daniels, were Amos Parks and the late James Pine, the former of whom kept a "better hotel," on the south-west corner of Main and Rochester streets, and the latter, one on the site of Mr. Lewis Houghtaling's residence, near the corner of Main and Pine streets.
MERCHANTS.-James Bennett and Willard Whitney were the first merchants in the village. Bennett came in from the town of Brutus and Whitney, from Washington county. They opened a store in company about 1815 or `16, in a building erected by Cornelius Dellemater for a distillery, which stood on the south side of the old canal, about where Kendrick's old wooden building now stands. They did business some two or three years and separated. Roswell Beardsley came in from the south part of the County, about 1819, and opened a store a little south of the other. He remained till his death, doing a very nice business. Joseph E. Smith came in soon after Beardsley died and opened a store on the north side of the canal. He did not prosper, and after three or four years failed and left.
D. B. and Walter H. Smith, brothers, from Orange county, opened a store in the building previously occupied by J. E. Smith, in the fall of 1824. After four or five years of successful business they separated, the former continuing the old store, and the latter removing to one across the way, both keeping the same line of goods, which was a general stock. D. B. Smith became wealthy and continued the business till about 1858, when, on account of age and infirmity, he was succeeded by his son, John T. Smith, who still carries the business. Walter sold goods for several years, without marked success, till about 1851, when to removed to Chemung county.
Dry goods were sold in the Davis & Dickey cigar store building a short time, about 1818-`20, by Matson & Landon, and subsequently by Horace Perkins, neither of whom succeeded.
Benj. B. Drake, a native of Orange county, who had previously published a paper at Waterloo, opened a store about 1823, on the corner of Main and Rochester streets. He did not succeed, and after about two years sold out and left the town.
Nathan Marble came in from Schaghticoke, Rensselear county, in the spring of 1825, and opened a store in the building which stood on Main street, a little south of the printing office, which had been erected a few years previously for a store-house and was connected with the canal by a slip large enough to float the boats of that period. He succeeded admirably and continued the business till his death five or six years since. A Mr. Holmes, also from Rensselear county, and distantly related to Marble, came in about the same time and opened a like store on the corner of Main and Rochester streets.
Mr. Stilwell, from Oswego county, father of R. R. Stilwell, opened a dry goods about 1865, in the building now occupied by the latter, who succeeded him after about two years.
Wm. Cooper, from Mexico, Oswego county, came in the spring of 1865 and opened a stock of dry goods in the barber-shop south of this present store, into which he moved after about a year.
Chauncey Sears opened his grocery store about a year ago.
John G. Kirk opened his grocery about two years since.
Wm. Tatgenhorst, commenced the grocery business some five or six years since; and George Shottz, about three years since.
Geo. Somers is an old resident, have come to the town with his father from Vermont, as early as 1809 or `10. He was for some two years in company with R. R. Stilwell in the grocery business, and bought the latter's interest the present spring.
Oscar Kent started a grocery about three or four years since.
About 1852 or `3 a drug store was opened by Hiram Schoonmaker, from Ulster county, who remained only two or three years. Richard H. Hoff opened the present one about the beginning of the late war.
PHYSICIANS.-The first physician was Dr. Nathan Wood, who came in the fall of 1799 and located in the Ward Settlement, in the present town of Throop; but the first one in the town of Mentz as at present bounded, was Harman Van Vechton, who came in about 1817 or `18 and located in the village, where he built some time after, the house next north to the Masonic Hall.
The present physicians are Dr. Wm. S. Hoffman, who came in from Cayuga, about 1848; Hiram Eldridge, who is a native of Aurelius, and came to Mentz about 1823 or `24; and Daniel A. Force, who has lived here only a few year, is quite aged, and does not practice much. All belong to the allopathic school of medicine.
ATTORNEYS.-The first lawyer was Hiram Rathburn, who came to the village at an early day, but remained only a short time. Dennison Robinson, from Onondaga county, came about 1830, and practiced law until his death in 1856.
The present lawyers are Horace V. Howland, who cam e from Herkimer county, about 1850, and has since continued to practice law here. He finished his studies with the late Hon. Wm. H. Seward, of Auburn, and has distinguished himself in his profession by his learning and ability. Charles R. Berry, Howell B. Converse and Calvin R. Aldrich, all of whom read law with William Howland, and the latter two of whom are justices, are the other lawyers.
Port Byron possesses a remarkable case of longevity. Mrs. Lydia Graham, who is now living in the village with her son-in-law, Alfred Mead, has reached the advanced age of 103 years. She is vigorous mentally and physically, and has a retentive memory, especially in regard to early events.
MENTZ GRANGE was organized in January, 1874, with twenty-five members. Oscar Gutchess is President, and W. H. Rott, Secretary.
CHURCHES.-It cannot be definitely ascertained when the first religious services were held in the town; but judging from the following, it must have been at a very early day, of a primitive character, and under somewhat romantic circumstances:
"There is a very large hollow buttonwood tree, in this town, in which Elder Smith, preached to thirty-five persons at a time, and says the tree could have held fifteen more; he says its circumference, three feet from the ground, is thirty-three feet; and a correspondent informs me it measures more than seventeen feet in diameter."
THE FIRST PRESBYTERIN CHURCH OF THE TOWN OF MENTZ, located in Port Byron, was organized about the beginning of the present century, as early as 1801, as a Congregational church, and changed to the Presbyterian form of government in 1811, when the Presbytery of Cayuga was formed. The first meetings, and indeed for several years, were held in Ward's settlement, where the organization was perfected. A school-house, no longer standing, located near the site of the Mentz meeting-house in Montezuma, was the first public building used for religious services in that locality. This school was used on formal occasions, the meetings generally being held in private homes, till 1818 or`19, when it was destroyed by fire. The Society maintained a feeble existence, without a regular pastor or much accession to its membership till 1818, in which year the services of the Rev. Oliver Eastman were secured and meetings held regularly in the school-house. Meetings were afterwards held in the school-house at Forshee's Corners, until the removal soon after of the Society to Port Byron, which was then a prosperous village of 500 to 600 inhabitants, "as yet unoccupied by any religious body."
May 8th, 1820, soon after the removal to Port Byron, the church was first incorporated, as The First Congregational Society of Mentz, the meeting for that purpose being held at the house of James Pine. The first meetings in the village were held in the barns of Mr. Pine and Roderick Mattson. After the first summer the meetings were held in the ball room over the open shed attached to the Eagle Hotel, which Mr. Pine generously threw open to them, receiving in payment such voluntary offerings "as the church from time to time could make." In 1822 the meetings were transferred to a building in Nauvoo, near the western extremity of the park. The first minister who regularly officiated in this house was Rev. Abner Benedict, who staid about a year. September 5th, 1824, the Presbyterian form of government was again adopted, although the corporate name was retained, and a board of elders chosen, consisting of Lyman Grandy, John I. Wilson, John Dixon, W. Van Vleck and John S. Willis. Before the close of the year Rev. Birdsey Gibbs came to the church as a stated supply. During his pastorate the first Sunday-school was organized, Mrs. Sarah Osburn, to whose exterions it was largely due, and Miss Emeline White being the first teachers. "The first pupil and the only one on the first Sabbath was Mrs. E. P. Ross, of Auburn." July 26th, 1826, Mr. Gibbs was dismissed from the church, and "was succeeded after an interval of a year and a half by Rev. Wm. Williams, who labored as a stated supply in 1828-`9, under the patronage of the Home Missionary Society."
November 15th, 1830, the Society was reincorporated and the present name, symbolizing its form of government, adopted. With the opening of 1831 Rev. Justus S. Hough commenced his ministry, and before its close had added fifty-one names to the list of membership. He closed his labors the following year. For five years, with the exception of a few months in the early part of 1835, when the Rev. Isaac Bliss performed the duties of that office, the church was without a pastor; but the pulpit was supplied by students from the Auburn Theological Seminary.
In 1833 the Society erected a new house where the Methodist church now stands; but late the following winter it was burned, when meetings were again held in the old church. Within two years from the dedication of the one burned, another was erected on its site and occupied. In the spring of 1837 Rev. James T. Hough, brother of Rev. Justus S. Hough, assumed the pastorate for one year, during which forty members were added. He was succeeded early in 1839 by Rev. John Gosman, D. D., of the Dutch Reformed Church, Classis of Philadelphia.
A few years previous to this many persons had been admitted to membership from the Dutch Reformed churches in Eastern New York, and while "they strengthened and built up the church of their adoption," they retained strong preferences for the "methods and associations" of the Reformed Church. This preference, which had hitherto been latent, this year developed an open and bitter opposition between them and the Presbyterians, resulting in the selection of Dr. Gosman; and ultimately in a division and exhausting litigation in the civil courts for the possession of the house of worship, which the Reformed party held. The Presbyterians chose Rev. D. C. Hopkins, of Brutus, for their pastor, and withdrew to the school-house then occupying the site of the old church in Nauvoo, which had burned down two years before, the Reformed party retaining the services of Dr. Gosman. The courts decided in favor of the Presbyterians, or new-school party, who, in July, 1842, were put in till their dissolution. This violent separation broke the rising strength of the new-school church and established the other under unfavorable circumstances. Mr. Hopkins' connection with the church was severed near the close of 1843, when Rev. Lemuel W. Hamlin became their pastor and remained about six months. During his brief pastorate thirty-three were added to the church on confession. For three years they were without a pastor. In 1846 Rev. Thomas M. Hodgeman began a pastorate of two years. He was the last minister whose stated services they enjoyed.
September 7th, 1850, their church building was sold to the Methodists, who still use it, having a few years since repaired and greatly improved it. May 24th, 1850, the society dissolved.
July 29th, 1840, the old-school party assumed the corporate name of the joint societies, and chose for their pastor Dr. Gosman, who secured his dismission from the Classis of Philadelphia, and was admitted to membership in the Presbytery. November 17th, 1841, they incorporated under the name previously assumed, and from this time till the dissolution of the other society, both organizations bore the same name. Dr. Gosman's pastorate was terminated at his request in February, 1842. When compelled to surrender their house to the other society, meetings were held temporarily in a public hall connected with the Eagle Hotel; and, notwithstanding their resources had been severely taxed by the litigation in which they were involved, measures were at once taken to purchase a site and erect an edifice which was dedicated August 17th, 1843.
Rev. Robert Finley, then a recent graduate from Princeton Theological Seminary, succeeded to the pastorate, and was installed this same year. August 17th, 1845, Mr. Finley was released from his charge by act of the Presbytery. September 9th, 1845, Rev. Wm. Theo. Van Doren, who had spent several years as missionary on the island of Java, accepted a call. The 11th of August, 1848, a joint request of the pastor and congregation was prepared asking for his release.
Geo. C. Heckman, who had just graduated from Princeton, was now recommended to the Church, and on the 23rd of October following, a unanimous call was extended him. His pastorate witnesses the liquidation of the remaining debt of $763 on the church building; the purchase from Archibald Green of the old parsonage near Masonic Hall, with its grounds outbuildings, for $1,600, and the extinguishment, April 26th, 1854, of the indebtedness thus incurred; the repairing and enlargement of the church edifice in 1855, at an expense of $1,800; and the addition of not less then 107 persons to the membership. He dissolved his relations in November, 1856, having accepted a call from the Church at Portage, Wisconsin. He was succeeded in July, 1857, by Rev. A. P. Botsford. April 23rd, 1861, he was released from his charge, and Rev. Franklin D. Harris was installed pastor. Mr. Harris resigned his charge in the summer of 1866. Rev. A. C. Reed followed and infused into the languishing energies of the Church a new vitality. During his pastorate The Ladies' Christian Association of the Presbyterian Church of Port Byron was organized by his wife, with five members, November 27th, 1872, and "is still maintained with excellent results."
During the year ending April 7th, 1868, the old parsonage and its grounds were sold; and the eligible grounds now occupied were purchased of Ira Peck, and a new and commodious parsonage erected, the whole costing $4,500. In the autumn of 1871, the house of worship was repaired, altered and refurbished, at a cost of $4,329, only about $700 of which remains unpaid.
In the summer of 1873, Mr. Reed relinquished his charge, much to the regret of the people.
The present pastor, Rev. V. A. Lewis, commenced his pastoral labors near the close of 1873.
Mrs. C. B. Newton, a former member of this church, has now charge of a mission school at Lahore, North India.
The present membership of the church is 138. The number enrolled in the Sunday school and Bible classes at the last report to the Presbytery was 250. There are in the permanent church library eighty-five volumes; and in the Sunday school library, 300 volumes. The whole amount on record contributed by the church for foreign missions is $1,761.40; for home missions, $928.50.
THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN PORT BYRON was organized May 18th, 1830, with a membership of forty-eight; forty-one of whom were dismissed for the purpose from the church in Throopsville, and the other seven, as is supposed, for a like purpose, from other churches. Of the original members only three are living, viz: George W. Milliner and wife, Fanny, and Mrs. Caleb Wood, all in Port Byron. The first pastor was Elder John Jeffries, who continued his labors about two years. During the second year of his ministry forty-three were added to the membership. The second pastor was Elder Roswell Osburn, who took the pastoral care in 1832, and remained one year. He was succeeded by Elder Isaac Bucklin, either as pastor or temporary supply, probably the latter, as he was soon after excluded from the church in Sennett. In October, 1834, Elder T. H. Green assumed the pastoral relation, remaining one year. In this year a lot was purchased near the center of the village, and a brick edifice, 40 by 52 feet, was erected, at a cost of $2,806. In 1874 about $500 was spent in refitting and modernizing it. It will seat about 400 persons. Previous to this the meetings of the society were held in a building known as the "Old Boat House," situated in the west part of the village.
The next pastor was Elder L. J. Reynolds, who entered upon his labors in 1836, and remained till his death, nearly two years after. He was succeeded by Elder S. Knapp, who remained two years, and was followed in 1840 by Elder H. F. Davis, in the commencement of whose labors the church was blessed with a revival, by which fourteen were added by baptism and thirteen by letter. In 1842 Elder W. R. Webb became pastor. During his ministrations the membership was considerably increased by baptism and letter. Elder W. Frary succeeded him in 1843, and also remained one year. Under his labors the church experienced "the most extensive and powerful revival over enjoyed during any period of her history. Sixty-three were added by baptism and seventeen by letter."
In 1844 Elder John Jeffries entered upon a second pastorate, which he continued till death closed his labors in 1846. He was succeeded by Elder B. W. Capron, who remained about three years. After the departure of Mr. Capron, the services of Elder E. Dean were secured as temporary supply. About the last of February, 1850, Elder A. Russell Belden was called to aid in a series of meetings, which were continued about four weeks, resulting in about sixty expressing "a hope in the pardoning mercy of God." The next pastor was Elder V. B. Vrooman, who entered upon his labors about the 1st of April, 1850. Under his faithful and judicious labors the prosperity of the church was largely increased. He was succeeded in 1854 by Elder Wm. C. Phillips. Elder Israel Wilkinson was the pastor in 1857; Elder J. J. Grundy, in 1861; Elder John Reynolds, in 1864; and Elder J. A. Howd, in 1866. In 1868 and 1869 the church was without a pastor. Elder A. Maynard took the laboring oar in 1870, and continued that and the succeeding year. He was succeeded in 1873 by Elder S. Seigfried, the year 1872 being spent without a pastor; but in the following year the pulpit was again vacant. Elder Ross Matthews assumed the pastoral care in 1877, in the fall of which year he was succeeded by Elder Ira Dudley, the present pastor. The church has a present membership of 130. The attendance at the Sabbath school is 75.
THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF PORT BYRON was incorporated June 10th, 1850, Daniel McQuigg, Daniel T. Mead, John Ferbush, John A. Taylor and Alex. Gutchess being elected the first Trustees. Rev. H. C. Hall was at that time pastor of a small class, and their meetings were held in the church formerly owned by the Presbyterian Society, which property was bought by this Society January 1st, 1851, for $850. The following July the church was assigned to the Oneida Conference. In 1854 a parsonage was built, at a cost of $1,500. In 1862 it was moved to a new lot and enlarged and furnished at a cost of $1,000. In 1858 the church edifice was somewhat remodeled and repaired at an expense of $1,500; and again, in 1872, the entire inner structure was rebuilt in modern style, involving an expense of $7,500. In 1878, the sum of $2,000 was raised, $1,000 of which was applied to the purchase of a pipe organ, and the remainder to liquidating the entire indebtedness of the Society.
The pastors who have served this Society since its incorporation and the date of their service, are as follows: Revs. James Landreth, July, 1850; B. R. Pratt, 1851; Oran Lathrop, 1852; Zachariah D. Paddock, 1853; Sylvester H. Brown, 1855; Alanson White, April, 1857; Fitch Reed, 1858; Albert B. Gregg, 1860; Wm. Jerome, 1862; David R. Carrier, 1864; George C. Elliott, 1866; Ephraim C. Brown, 1868; Richard R. Redhead, 1870; Henry T. Giles, October, 1873; and Reuben C. Fox, the present pastor, in 1876. There are about 170 members and the Society is united and prosperous. There is also a flourishing Sunday-school of over 200 members, of which E. R. Redhead is superintendent.
The present officiary of the Church and Society is as follows: Rev. R. C. Fox, pastor; Revs. Barnabas Wood and Wm. C. Toll, local preachers,Tobias Schermerhorn, Charles F. Stiles, Jonathan Myer, G. W. Latham, R. R. Stillwell and E. R. Redhead, class leaders; Augustus Kelly, John Wilson, A. J. Caldwell, L. B. Burritt, D. H. Mills, Andrew Shelter, E. A. Dickinson, Joseph H. Hadden, and J. W. Barrus, stewards; John Wilson, Eber M. Treat, H. V. Howland, G. W. Latham, D. H. Mills, C. F. Stiles, Augustus Kelly, Jonathan Myer and J. W. Barrus, trustees.
ST. JOHN'S CHURCH, (Roman Catholic,) at Port Byron, was organized about 1858, the Catholics in Montezuma being largely instrumental in its formation. The priests who have officiated are those who have ministered to the church in Montezuma, who have generally been stationed at Weedsport. The Society has never had a resident pastor. Their church edifice was formerly a school-house, which they bought and remodeled.
ST. PAUL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF PORT BYRON was organized about 1863, though meetings were held by members of this denomination about twenty-five years ago, the services being conducted by transient pastors at irregular intervals. Among the original members were F. M. King, Charles Hamilton and wife, George B. Gillespie, H. C. Badgley and Mrs. Martha Kendrick. The first settled pastor was Rev. J. H. Rowling, who continued his ministrations about two years, and was succeeded by a Rev. Mr. Foster, who remained about one year. He was succeeded by a Rev. Mr. Paul. From the time that Mr. Paul severed his connection with the church it has had no settled pastor until about eighteen months since, at which time the services of Rev. Wm. Lord, the present pastor, were secured. The existence of the Society has been a constant struggle from the beginning, and it has several times languished and revived. The Society is now adapting to its use a building donated to it by Mrs. Frances Matson, wife of Rev. Dr. Matson, of New York, which has been moved to a lot of one and one-half acres, donated by the heirs of Nathan Marble, the father of Mrs. Matson. They have expended $525 in fitting it up and expect that the expenditure of $400 will finish it for occupancy, when it will seat about 100 persons. They held services in this building for the first time June 2d, 1878. Previous to this their meetings have been held in the town hall or in the houses of other denominations. The present membership is about ten, who evince considerable interest in the welfare of the church. They have no Sabbath school, but purpose organizing one when the building is completed.
Centerport is a canal village in the east part of the town, containing about twenty families, a district school, and a grain cradle manufactory, the latter of which is owned by Charles Clow, a native of Schaghticoke, Rensselaer county, who came about 1844, and commenced the manufacture of grain cradles and gravel forks.
Settlement was begun at Centerport about 1805 or '6 by Benj. Haikes.
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HISTORY OF CAYUGA COUNTY, NY 1789 -1879, BY ELLIOT G. STORKE
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