Gurdon Evans' 1852 "General View ... of Madison County"
 
Daniel H. Weiskotten
10/7/1999
 
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Evans, Gurdon, 1852, "A General View and Agricultural Survey of the County of Madison." in Transactions of the New York State Agricultural Society for 1851. Vol XI (9), pages 658-777. Printed by Charles Van Benthuysen. Albany, NY.

The whole text runs between pages 658 to 777.  This section, running from page 666 to 679, discusses the early history of Madison County.  The section discussing the Geography and Topography of Madison County, on pages 686 to 691, is presented on the Madison County Gazetteers Page.  Other sections deal with agriculture, climate, geology, etc. and are not presented on my web pages.
 

    This obscure and long forgotten work inlcudes the first comprehensive history of Madison County, written 20 years before Luna M. Hammond's landmark work

Some spellings have been modernized.
 

            <:666> When this first attempt to form a settlement in this region was made, no road had been opened for teams or wagons; an Indian trail extended from the villages of the Oneidas to the cabins of the Onondagas, in a line with which or nearly so, is the route of the present Seneca turnpike, as far as Chittenango, from whence the trail passed to the "deep spring," on the county line, communicating with and through the "eastern door" of the Onondagas.
            During the following year, a colony from Connecticut, led by the enterprising brothers Wadsworth, on their way to the valley of the Genesee, opened the first road.
            Emigrants from the Mohawk valley began at this time to enter upon the grounds, now comprising the towns of Lenox and Sullivan.  They necessarily came in the unauthorized character of "squatters," for no title to the land was held by them until after many years of residence.  Among the earliest arrivals, was the family of the Klocks, whose posterity now occupy large possessions at Clocksville.  The land in these northern towns was found to yield large crops of wheat, and required but little labor in cultivation; consequently, the stronger soils in the neighborhood of Clocksville, were settled before the lower lands, which presented the obstacles of heavier timber and close growing underbrush.
            <:667> The old uncouth "shovel plow" of the Dutch, could stir but few inches in depth of the soil, on which wheat was sown year after year, until exhausted by constant tillage, and no enriching manures to restore its powers, the culture of wheat was per force abandoned.  In after years, when eastern men turned their attention to this region, they brought with them the old "Bull plow," which following the furrows formerly opened hy the shovel plow, turned up soil to a greater depth, producing as good or even better crops than when the land was first cleared.  These results were gratifying, but the cause was unknown, leaving to the farmers of the present day, the immense benefits of science applied to their profession, teaching the advantages, of principles or rules derived from a knowledge of nature's laws, governing every farm operation, and producing in general unerring and profitable results.
            Neither grist-mill nor saw-mill offered comfort or convenience to the settlers of this region, until the energy of Colonel John Lincklaen caused a mill to be erected in 1794, at Cazenovia.  Anterior to this period, the inhabitants traveled with their grist to New Hartford, near Utica, or to Manlius.  The road which had been opened to the west by the Messrs. Wadsworth, was (re)worked and very materially improved by the State government in 1794-5, essentially aiding the rapid settlement of the northern section of the county.  So rapid was the influx of population, that as early as 1806, Sullivan and Hamilton became half-shires.
            As soon as the inhabitants were mustered under the militia laws, the leading spirits formed companies, and among the number was Captain Jennings, whose ambition was to command an artillery corps.  Having succeeded in raising the necessary number of, bombardiers, his next care was to procure the needful ordnance. Judge Hopkins, at that time doing duty on the bench, made a bantering wager with Capt. Jennings, that the weapons he coveted would be procured upon an order, the form of which should be dictated by him.  Jennings assented, when the judge wrote off the following order: --
            <:668>

                    Great Daniel D.,
                    We send to thee
                    For two great guns and trimmings,
                    Send them off at hand.
                    or you'll be d----d,
                    By order of
                    Captain Jennings.

            No man was more fond of a joke than the worthy Governor, (D.D. Tompkins,) who probably was made aware of the origin of the order, and that his friend the Judge had "hand in it."  The order was duly executed, to the delight of the Captain and bombardiers.  But the joke received new life a year or two after, when Judge Hopkins had occasion to apply with some earnestness to Governor Tompkins for an important favor.  The Governor heard the Judge's arguments, and at the conclusion he gravely yet archly inquired if this request was "by order of Captain Jennings."
            The wondrous accounts of "the west," floated hack upon the old colonies or now new states, exciting the cupidity of many, and the enterprise and love of adventure of all.  Among others, Captain Daniel Brown, of Connecticut, had spent his earlier days as a clothier, but at the age of sixty-six years, his ardor was aroused to visit and settle with his family in central New- York, at that time "the far west."
            Inducing a few friends to join his family in their expedition, he left his New-England home in the summer of 1791, with the intent to settle in the valley of the Genesee.  Unknown events induced this party to take a southern route, and in June Mr. Brown reached the house of John Carr, on the east bank of the Unadilla river.  Wearied, and probably dispirited by the encounter of obstacles somewhat formidable to men reared in cities and villages, the party gladly rested with Mr. Carr.  The season and the scenery soon dissipated all doubt; the bright cloudless skies - the sparkling river - the song of birds - the sweet repose of all around, the rich earth sending forth abundant stores of vegetation - the entire absence of all strife with man, of all apparent evil - created a calm and self-satisfying sensations which such scenes only can produce.  The beauty of the opposite shores, the alluvial flats <:669> along the Unadilla valley, presented temptations too strong for resistance.  The Genesee was abandoned and forgotten, and Mr. Brown with his friends, determined to people the west bank of the river, some distance above Mr. Carr's establishment.  Thus was commenced the settlement of the town of Brookfield, in 1791
            Their only neighbor, Mr. Carr, was long and familiarly known as "Johnny Carr."  This man was sent from England by the Edmeston family, to take possession of and settle a tract of land granted to them by the king.  He arrived, with his wife, at the Unadilla, about the year 1770, and they were for a long series of years the only white inhabitants of that valley.  During the revolutionary struggle they were carried off by the hostile Indians, retained as captives, and treated with great severity.  For years they were made to follow them in all their expeditions of the chase or of war, submitting to every degradation.  Time and habit make man familiar with even chains and misery, taking away their sting.  Such was in some degree the condition of Mr. and Mrs. Carr; cheerfulness under hopeless servitude returned.  Knowledge and expertness in arts unknown to Indian ingenuity gave them favor with their masters, and equality in all things save liberty, was ultimately established.
            The peace of 1782 restored Carr and his wife to freedom, when they sought their wild home on the Unadilla banks: the once cleared field producing wheat and corn, was now covered with briars and under brush; the cabin, which had exhibited the neatness of an English cottage, was in ruins; the wild rose, which twined round a post and seemed to court the kind attentions of Mrs. Carr, was now a ragged plant, broken and buffeted by the winter winds and snows; the gentle birds, which in her solitude became companions and partakers of her care and affection had deserted the spot in her absence, giving place to the owl's coarse note; or the twittering swallows' nests.  By well applied energy, the cabin was again restored, peace and comfort became inmates of that dwelling, and as the tide of emigration carried along westward its stream of human beings, many found food and shelter under Carr's hospitable cottage roof.
        <:670> In the, vicissitudes of pioneer life multitudes are lost to memory, are forgotten and pass away like mist on the mountain's brow; not so with John Carr, though sharp ingratitude assailed him, his name yet lives in kind memories, and the very cognomen of "Johnny," "Johnny Carr," carries with it the sound of affection.  He lived to an old age, and died without property.  When his employer, the elder Edmeston died, Carr was abandoned to want by the remaining heirs, suffering in his old age, until by the spirited interference of his neighbors, a piece of land was secured to him in fee simple, on which his industry supported him until death.  As the agent of a wealthy family, resident in England, Mr. Carr was supposed to have in his possession at times, large sums of money; to secure which, when the perils of the revolution surrounded him, he buried the treasure near to his dwelling: his long captivity and absence from his farm; the growth of wood, briars and weeds, the general extinction of common marks and signs, rendered his search for the buried money toilsome and fruitless; such was the rumor when Carr returned to his home, and like the silly tale of Kidd's money chests, and many like fooleries, they all find believers at this day, as appears by the fresh turned earth at supposed places of deposit.
            It was in the neighborhood of this region that Mr. Brown determined to spend the remainder of his days; and, having rested a few days with Mr. Carr, the party selected a position for their first labors on lot No.82, in the 19th township.  The birth day of our nation seemed a most appropriate day for planting the germ of what might happily be a village - perhaps a city.  Every preparation was made for the purpose, and when the sun gilded the forest tops, on the 4th of July, 1791, Mr. Brown's axe gleamed through its first rays, raising the first echos of the woodman's song.  Other lots in close neighborhood were selected by members of the fraternity on which clearings were made before autumn.
            All the necessary and practicable plans for a settlement having been made, and the winter approaching, all the individuals of the party excepting only Mr. Brown and his family, returned to their <:671> eastern homes, to recount the wonders and pleasures of the western clime, and induce others to join in the expected benefits and wealth.  The winter was severe, taxing the ingenuity and fortitude of Brown to trap or secure the wild deer for food and gather fodder for the few cattle he possessed.  These cattle were mainly supported by browsing in the woods with occasional treats of a coarse hay, cut on the Beaver meadow, and drawn home on hurdles attached to the tails of his oxen.
        In the following year, (1792,) a company of seventh-day baptists, from Rhode Island and Connecticut, "purchased thirteen lots in the 19th township; they took possession of their property and divided it among them by lot.  The original cost of this tract was about fifty cents per acre, conveyed to the parties by the State. Mr. Brown paid the same price for his property.
            The spirit of speculation soon placed larger tracts under the control of individuals, and we find that the entire townships No. 18 and No.20, with the unsold portions of No. 19, were conveyed to M. Myers, I. Sanger, and John I. Morgan, in consideration of 3 s. 1 d. and 3 s. 3 d. per acre.  The improvident custom of granting leases for one, two, or three lives, the rent payable in Albany, in products from the soil was entailed upon a portion of those larger tracts; producing great inconvenience and distress to the owner and to the tenant at this day.
            It has been observed in the county of Madison, that the highest grounds, even hill tops, were earlier occupied and settled than the alluvial bottoms or rich valleys; this peculiarity marked the early settlers in most counties of the State, and may be accounted for by the fact that the more level lands were heavy timbered, covered with fallen trees, or overgrown with young wood and underbrush, demanding more labor and more time to clear and subdue, than the higher grounds or hills.
            The town of Eaton, comprised in township No.2, was conveyed originally to Sir Wm. Pulteney, who sold the southeast quarter to <:672> Joshua Leland, Benj. Morris and Calvin Sanger, by whom it was distributed to settlers at the price of $2 to $3 per acre.
            In the autumn of 1792, Mr. Stowel, of. New Hampshire, Jonathan Bates, from Vermont, with John and James Salisbury, (brothers,) also from Vermont, entered this town to chop and clear a fallow preparatory to a settlement.  The Salisburys selected lot No. 94, while Stowel and Bates selected an adjoining lot, which proved to be No.7, in Lebanon.  Aware that their new home was in the depth of a forest, and tha the nearest point from which any necessary supply could be derived was the town or village of New Hartford, these hardy young men drove before them an ox, which they slaughtered on their arrival and preserved for use: they brought with them also flour and beans; with this fare, lodging in a bark shanty, with pure air, water and sound health, they chopped the timber which had stood for ages on twenty acres of rich soil.  When winter approached, this party retired to Bainbridge on the Susquehanna, intending to resume their labors in the early spring.  Mr. Bates, only with Iris family, readied the clearing in 1793, and for two years were the only settled inhabitants of the town; his industry secured to him abundant crops after a contest with the wild herbage of his soil, yielding to him a return of thirty bushels or wheat per acre.
            Colonel Leland and Mr. Hall Morris became residents at Eaton, in the year 1794.  A grist mill was erected by Col. Leland at a pond since known as Leland's pond - a saw mill was added, and were, probably, the first mills erected in the county of Madison.  To increase the power the waters of the pond were raised, causing an overflow of many acres, on which the waters were so shallow as to produce an impure atmosphere seriously affecting the health of the people; so grievous was the evil that it was deemed more wise to forego the advantages of the mills and preserve health, the neighbors, therefore, purchased the mills, removed them, and drained the waters from the pond basin, thus effecting a perfect remedy for the evil, and recovering much valuable land.  During the next year (1795) about twenty families were added to the now <:673> fast growing town; among them was Benjamin Morse, also Daniel Abbey, Simeon Gillet and Levi Barney; men from whom has been derived a large portion of the energy, enterprise and wealth which has bug characterized this town.  In 1806 forty or more families moved in; among them were Thomas Morris and Joseph Morse, both eminent benefactors.  A Presbyterian church was erected at Morrisville, in 1807, and a Baptist church at Eaton, in 1816.  Morrisville was incorporated in 1833.
            The earliest settlers in the town of Hamilton, were Mr. Samuel Payne and his wife, in the year 1794; they were the first white inhabitants of the town.  In 1795, Mr. Theophilus Pierce; with Benjamin Pierce, Jonathan Olmstead, Daniel Smith, Elisha Payne, and Nathan Foster, with their families, entered the town and erected their several log houses.  The settlement thus commenced, was known by the name of Payne's settlement, and subsequently as Hamilton.  Mr. Dominick Lynch was the proprietor of the soil, and it is said he was so much gratified by the sale of the first five hundred acres of land, at twenty shillings per acre; that he paid five dollars more than usual to have the deed of conveyance engrossed on parchment, which is yet held in the family.  As late as 1812, the village contained one tavern, two stores one meeting house, and about twenty-five dwellings.
        In 1817, the Baptist Education Society of the State of New-York, was organized.  In March following, an act of incorporation was granted by the Legislature, which act was promptly followed by the establishment of the Literary and Theological Seminary. Madison University was incorporated in 1846, and in 1847 arrangements were made by the two corporations for co- operation, and in August of that year the system of joint action was completed.  Endeavors were made in later years to remove the institution to Rochester.  These movements were quieted in 1850, leaving the institution free to extend its usefulness and give permanency to its system of education.
            <:674> The early settlers of Madison county were chiefly drawn from the New England States, and it may not be too strong an expression to say that they have left an indelible stamp on this county, of their industry, intelligence, and high moral tone.  This remark is often applied to the settlers of Cazenovia.  This town was purchased from the State by the Holland Land Company, and surveyed by their agent, John Lincklaen, in 1792.  In the year following, Mr. Lincklaen undertook the sale and settlement of this tract.  His party numbered about sixteen persons; from among them, Mr. Samuel S. Forman was engaged as a general business assistant, and charged with the disposition of a stock of goods selected and sent forward by the company to supply the settlers with comforts not otherwise to be had.  These goods were left in charge with John Post, at old Fort Schuyler, (near Utica,) the only merchant then resident at that place; from thence they were brought as need required along the "Genesee road" to Oneida Castle, being one day's journey, thence to the Chittenango creek, following its banks to the present village of that name.  Here the road terminated, and the Indian trails were the only openings westward, southward, or northward.
            To reach Cazenovia, Mr. Foreman's axemen cleared a passage to permit the advance of his loaded cart, and with much labor were enabled to reach the summit of the high hill, and set their tent, when the sun had sunk below the horizon; the next day found them at the foot of Cazenovia lake.  At this point it was determined to make a settlement.  Log cabins were rapidly erected, a store house was built, and an office opened, making a bustling, busy display.  Tempting terms were offered to settlers, such as the low price of one dollar per acre for lots purchased by the first ten settlers having families.  This offer was at once accepted, and raised up a clamorous demand for like advantages to young new married couples, fast arriving, to share in Mr. Lincklaen's novel patronage.  Surveys were pressed forward under Mr. Locke, and purchases rapidly effected at a dollar and a half to two dollars per acre.  In 1794 a grist mill was built; and a few years after a more effective mill was erected where the village mill now stands.
            <:675> The old inhabitants of the village often enjoy the pleasures of memory in recounting the obstacles overcome in their early days.  They talk with satisfaction on the work done on the lot near the outlet belonging to David Schuyler, where the first furrow was turned in the town with a Mohawk wheel plow.  They sem to hear the ringing of the axe as blow after blow fell upon the giants of the forest, making the first clearing on the west side of the lake; and with this clearing is always connected the names of James Green and David Fay.  Many talk of the pleasant times when Judge Wright laid out the village plat in 1794, of his sudden call to other parts, and the completion of the plat by Mr. Calvin Guiteau.  Others delight in recollections of early military prowess, kept awake and active by scenes of war then too recently enacted to permit the apathy which now hangs over our militia defense.  The first parade under Major Moses DeWitt, in the old oak grove at the foot of the lake, was a scene of pleasure, free from modern error or impropriety.  The second parade on lot 33 in Pompey, is remembered for the intricacies and windings of the march when at last an order was given to break ranks, and every man got through the woods as best he might, in most admirable disorder.  The following parade was intended to have outshone the usual doings of the west, and in line with a second regiment to be reviewed at Morehouse flats, in Manlius, by Adjutant General Van Horn.  The review took place, but mirth was repressed by the death of Major DeWitt, who, dying two days before the review, was borne to his grave attended by the battalion, exhibiting all the usual insignia of sorrow.
            A brigade has been formed in Madison county under the command of General Jonathan Foreman.  The successful establishment of the Oneida Conference Seminary, in 1825, giving instruction to 250 pupils, indicates, very distinctly, the intelligence and progress of the town and county.
            The town of Madison was opened to settlers by Mr. Robert Troup, as Agent for Sir William Pulteney.  Samuels Clemens, and Thomas Millin of Massachusetts, were among the first purchasers.
            <:676> Elijah Blodget and Henry Pond followed at an early day: a company from Rhode Island, purchased and settled the south west quarter of this town, and it is yet known as the Rhode island quarter.  In 1795 General Cleveland, of Norwich, Connecticut, established himself in this town, and attained a good old age.  lie happily occupies the first flamed building erected in this town.  Mr. Seth Blair entered upon lot No.66, in 1798, on which he has been a resident to this date.
            It was in the year 1802 that a survey was made of that portion of the county known as the town of Georgetown.  The name was bestowed by the Legislature, to meet, in some degree, the wishes of the inhabitants, who had petitioned for the name of Washington; the Legislature being aware that another town existed in this State, bearing that honored name, determined to use the christian name of the noble warrior statesmen, and hence the name of Georgetown.  The first inhabitant entered this town in 1804, from Litchfield, Connecticut, selecting, for their residence, lot No. 58.  This was Mr. Ezra Sexton; he was followed, in 1805, by William Paine and Michael Atwood, who erected houses on adjoining lots.  The houses on the banks of the Otselic creek (footnote = Otselic means "cup full") are good and attractive, yet much of the town is rough and hilly.  The uncultivated rough lands are estimated at about $5 per acre, while the improved lands are worth from $10 to $25 per acre.  An interest of no ordinary warmth was excited in this town about the year 1810, in regard to an accomplished gentleman who seemed to seek a sequestered home in the shades of the Georgetown hills and forests: a man of easy address, accomplished, graceful in every movement; courteous, he commanded the respect of all with whom he held intercourse: enthusiastic and intelligent, he was admired: benevolent and charitable, the poor found in him a most sincere friend; yet from whence he came is a mystery; his fate is unknown.  In Georgetown lie was known by the appellation of Lewis Anathe Muller, and as an exile from France: an obscurity as to his native home, his rank, or objects in life was evidently desired and maintained.  for a time the idea was prevalent that the name of Muller was assumed to overshadow Louis Phillipe, <:677> late King of France, who was known to wander an exile in America.  Dates, however, seem to demolish this idea, and humor has substituted, as more reliable, a statement, that a nobleman of France, strongly opposed to the elevation of Napoleon Bonaparte, expressed sentiments hostile to the consular dignity to which Napoleon was elevated in 1799; these sentiments reaching the consul's ears readily created a necessity for the expatriation of the offending noble man, who, flying from vengeance, found an asylum in the United States.
        Arriving at New-York he was induced to place confidence in a Mr. Ludlow, with whom he deposited a large sum of money, which events jeopardized and led Mr. Muller to accept a tract of land in Georgetown, rather than suffer a total loss of property left in an agent's hands.  In this forced manner becoming the proprietor of lots No. 75, 76, 87, 88 and 89, he visited his new acquisition.  There is good reason to know that he brought with him to this town, not less than $1500,000, and it is feared that when he retired he carried away not to exceed $1,500.
            For two or three years after his first arrival he resided in the village of Hamilton; at an early day he commenced clearing his purchased tract; at no time did he evidence any design or desire for accumulation, neither did he ever express a wish to become a permanent resident.  With a mind stored with information ,with a spirit impelled by energy, he sought objects for the employment of his talents and activity.
            A strange yet powerful apprehension weighed upon his mind, and tinctured his prominent movements.  In common with the views of the French nation, he believed that the powers of Europe would fall before the eagles of Bonaparte, that the haughty lion of Britain would crouch and yield, and even the American eagle would fly before the gigantic power of the Corsican.  These apprehensions pressing upon him, seemed to find some relief in the hope, that the secluded lulls of Georgetown would afford to him a residence unknown and unobserved, and a safe retreat from present dangers.
            <:678> Thus actuated, he determined to erect an edifice for himself and family; the first necessary movement was to fell the forest and clear the grounds: three hundred acres were rapidly opened to the air and sun by the application of a force unusual in this country, and only to be commanded by large capitalists.  The house is now standing a monument of taste and liberality, adapted to the luxurious views and enjoyments of Europeans, but ill-suited to the simple, unpretending wants of the American farmer citizen.  The building is 30 x 70 feet, constructed of massive sills resting upon a heavy work of masonry: cherry tree slabs, eight inches thick, and eleven feet high, were framed into the sills, side by side around the entire building, all planed very smooth, and tied together by slats dovetailed into each.  The frame work was clap-boarded, then lathed and plastered on the inside; in this manner the whole work was conducted.  The expense of so large a dwelling may be appreciated, when it is known that all the brick, lime, iron work, nails and ornaments, were from necessity brought over the hills on the backs of horses.  The fire places were trimmed with black marble, and the most costly furniture completed the comforts of the establishment.
            A brook traversed the grounds, furnishing water to an artificial pond stored with fish: around this pond he planted every variety of rich fruit, and endeavored to extend every branch of horticulture, but when excavating the fish pond, the surplus earth being gravel and hardpan, was leveled over these garden grounds, rendering them unproductive and destructive.  In this department his knowledge was deficient, and was marked by an entire absence of economy.  Ever desirous to encourage the people, he attempted the establishment of a village by erecting two store-houses, several dwellings, a blacksmith's shop, and a grist-mill.  In his family arrangements, peace and content seemed constant companions, and enlarged benevolence brightened the hours of every day: the sick and needy found their fevered pulses soothed by personal attentions, and the means for supplying all immediate wants.  The sports of the chase and the green were enjoyed largely, and in these amusements the character of Muller was conspicuous; on no <:679> account would he attack game of any kind while it was at rest: every living thing had a chance for escape, but that chance was feeble, if his fowling-piece or rifle was in his hands.  All persons employed by him were early taught to feel his unflinching, unwavering spirit; any indication of laziness, or inattention to duties required, was followed by prompt dismissal, and never could any dismissed person obtain employment from him again.  Such were a few of the characteristics of Mr. Muller.
            In 1814, when Bonaparte abdicated and was sent a prisoner to Elba, Mr. Muller returned to France, leaving his wife and children in New-York; he remained in France between two and three years, making arrangements for restoration to his natural and original condition; he then returned to the United States to dispose of his property here.  When he reached Georgetown his house was stripped of furniture, his stock and every movable article had disappeared, weeds covered the gardens, the walks, the roads and fields; and desolation marked every object of his former care and pride, his village was forsaken, the mill was deserted.  These grievous evils were the results of misplaced confidence in the individual who had charge of the property during his absence; this dishonest person had sold every convertible object and carried off the avails.
            In mute dismay Mr. Muller viewed this wreck of his exile home, tears at last gave relief to his oppressed mind.  He returned to New-York, promptly disposed of the land for any sum that was offered, returned to France, and to this day no man in Georgetown knows more of Mr. Muller than is here narrated, neither has he been heard of by any of our inhabitants.

 

 END of the local history section of Evans 1852