Afton is situated on the south-east corner of the county and lies wholly within the original township of Clinton. It was formed from Bainbridge November 18, 1857, and derives its name from Afton Water a small river in Ayrshire, England, immortalized by the Scottish poet Burns.1 It is bounded on the north by Bainbridge and Coventry, on the east by Delaware county, on the west and south by Broome county.
The surface is a rolling upland, separated into two nearly equal parts by the broad, beautiful and fertile valley of the Susquehanna, which crosses the town diagonally from north-east to southwest, and is one of the most productive in the State. The hills rise by long and gradual ascent to the height of 300 to 500 feet above the valleys. They are very productive and generally susceptible of cultivation to their summits. The principal streams other than the Susquehanna are Kelsey Creek and Harper Brook, which flow through the central part and empty into the Susquehanna on the north, and Bennett Brook, which flows through the north-east part and empties into the Susquehanna on the east, near the north line of the town. Pratt's Pond, situated about a mile north-east of the village of Afton, is a beautiful sheet of water. It is about a mile in circumference, elevated twenty-five feet above the surface of the river, and has no visible inlet nor outlet; yet its waters are pure and fresh, as if constantly changing. It "lies like a mirror, with its frame of sloping banks, grassy and clean on the south and west, while at the northeast there spreads out in beautiful undulations of surface a grove s second growth chestnut, oak and pine."
The town is underlaid by the rocks of the Catskill group in which on the farm of Perry and Enos Ellis, about four miles east of Afton, a quarry was opened some fiver or six years ago from which good building and flagging stone is obtained. Another quarry on the Robert Corbin farm, also in the east part of the town, was opened some ten years ago.
The soil is a sandy loam and alluvion in the valleys, with some clay on the valley ridges; and a gravelly loam upon the hills. The soil in the river bottoms is very fertile, well adapted to corn, tobacco and hops. It is a dairy town, nearly every farmer keeping as may cows as his land will subsist. Dairying is carried on very largely in a private way.
The Albany and Susquehanna Railroad traverses the town in the valley and to the west of the Susquehanna.
The population of the town in 1875 was 2,237; of whom 2,193 were native, 44 foreign, 2,230 white, 7 colored; 1,140 males, and 1097 females. Its area was 28,369 acres; of which 17,582 were improved, 9,160 woodland, and 1,627 otherwise unimproved. The cash value of farms was $1,216,740; of farm buildings other than dwellings, $ 138,065; if stock $149,924; of tools and implements, $38,395, amount of gross sales from farms in 1874 $113,321.2
There are 14 districts (13 Common and 1 Union school,) having school-houses within the town and two that have not. During the year ending Sept. 30, 1878, there were 17 licensed teachers at the same time during 28 weeks or more. The number of children of school age residing in the districts Sept. 30, 1877 was 639. During the year ending Sept. 30, 1878, ten male and twenty female teachers were employed; the number of children residing in the districts who attend school was 518; of whom only 9 were under 5 or over 21 years of age; the average daily attendance, during the year was 298.175; number of volumes in district libraries 943, the value of which was $402; number of school-houses, all frame, 14, which with the sites, including 4 acres and 79 rods valued at $1,603, were valued at $10,405; the assessed value of taxable property in the districts, $988,420. The number of children between eight and fourteen years of age residing in the districts Sept. 30,1877 was 133, of whom 122 attended district school fourteen weeks of that year.
Amount on hand Oct 1, 1876............$ 14.36 " apportioned to districts....... 1,926.04 Proceeds of Gospel and School Lands......................... 102.47 Raised by tax......................... 2,251.58 From teachers' board.................. 384.00 From other sources.................... 290.36 Total receipts................. -------- $4,968.81 Paid for teachers' wages..............$4,184.38 " " libraries.................... .67 " " school apparatus............. 10.84 " " " houses, sites, fences out-houses, repairs, furniture, etc... 278.05 Paid for other incidental expenses.... 453.11 Amount remaining on hand Oct. 1, 1877............................. 41.76 $4,968.81
SETTLEMENTS.---The first settlement in Afton was made in July, 1786, by Elnathan Bush, who came in from Sheffield, Mass., with his family, then consisting of his wife and four children. They came as far as Cooperstown on horseback, and thence by canoe down the Susquehanna, leaving Cooperstown May 2, 1786. He settled on the west side of the river, opposite the forty acre island, known as Stowel's Island, about two miles below Afton. This island and another near it, one of which contains ten and the other forty acres, had been cleared and cultivated by the Indians, and derive their name from Hezekiah Stowel, who subsequently owned them. Mr. Bush had visited this locality with a view to settlement before the Revolutionary war, in company with two others who were relatives. The Dominie Johnston (Col. Witter Johnston,) was then living at Sidney Plains, where he settled in 1772. He left his improvements during the war and returned to them at its close, having rendered service therein as Colonel. He (Johnston,) continued his residence there till his death October 4, 1839, age 86. Lois, his wife, died there July 17,1787, aged 22; and Jane, his second wife, Sept. 16, 1817, aged 47. January 30, 1790, Mr. Bush exchanged his property with Hezekiah Stowel for a piece of land on lot 74 in Bainbridge, nominally containing 81, but actually 100 acres, which Stowel had taken up the previous year, the consideration being 80 £, to which he removed. It is on the farm on which his grandson, Joseph Bush, now resides, and there he resided till his death, May 15, 1791. Joseph Bush, just referred to, says he very well recollects hearing his father say there were no other settlers in the old town of Jericho when Elnathan came in. The Kirbys came next, a year or two after, and the Bixbys soon after.3
Hezekiah Stowel, to whom reference has been made, was a Vermont sufferer, and came in from Guilford in that State in 1786, and settled at Bettsburgh, on 220 acres on lot 63, on the east side of the river, and was the pioneer settler on the site of that village. He subsequently removed to the west side of the river, where he is buried, probably at the time he made the exchange with Elnathan Bush. He lived and died in the locality. It is not known that he lived on the place exchanged with Bush in Bainbridge. His children were:---Asa, who settled at Bettsburgh, on the place now owned and occupied by Enos M. Johnston where in 1788, he kept the first inn, in a log building4 which stood on the river bank, opposite the residence of Mr. Johnston and who married Hannah, daughter of Samuel Bixby, of Guilford, Vt., and died there November 3, 1826, aged 66, and his wife September 18, 1850, aged 88; Elijah, who settled on the west side of the river on the farm now occupied by _______ Chamberlain, and who died childless, in advanced years, while on a visit to a relative in Pennsylvania, and whose wife Rebecca, died here February 25, 1837, aged 70; Betsey, who married Daniel Dickinson, who settled in Guilford and afterwards at Seneca Falls; Isabel, who married Elisha Stowel, who settled at the ferry about two miles below Bettsburgh; Polly, who married Calvin Stowel, who settled on a farm adjoining Asa Stowel's on the south; Levi who settled on the homestead on the west side of the river, and afterwards in advanced life, moved to the east side, to the farm now occupied by James Pool, and died at Seneca Falls while visiting relatives there; and Sally, who married Charles Grinnells, and settled on the homestead farm on the west side of the river, where she died. His only grandchild living in the county is Gratia Ann, wife of Gustavus Greene, in Afton, daughter of Levi. Four great-grandchildren are living in the county, Abel, Nathan and Jenette, wife of Henry Jones in Afton, and Hannah, wife of Charles Bixby in Bainbridge.
Ebenezer, John, Isaiah and Joseph Landers, brothers, the former of whom had served two or three years in the army during the war of the Revolution, came in from Lenox, Mass. in March 1787. They started when the ground was covered with snow, with ox sleds, with which they arrived at Unadilla. There they built canoes to carry their families and goods down the river when the ice gave way; but becoming impatient of waiting they proceeded on foot, on the crust of the snow, Ebenezer carrying a feather bed on his back, and his wife, her youngest child, Stephen in her arms. They reached their destination the last of March. Ebenezer afterwards brought in the goods by the river, making several trips for that purpose. Ebenezer and Joseph had been in the previous year and made some preparation for their settlement. They had made a small clearing, built a log cabin, and planted some corn on Stowel's Island. Ebenezer, who brought his wife, Olive Osborn of Massachusetts, and three children, settled near Afton, on the east side of the river, on the farm now occupied by his grandson, Charles Landers. He took up 100 acres when he first came in, about forty rods above the place on which he subsequently settled, lying on both sides of the river, but his title proved defective and he had to relinquish it. His second selection was 50 acres on lot 58, to which he subsequently added by purchase. He was a carpenter and worked at this trade for several years. He died where he settled February 14, 1846, aged 87, and his wife, August 27, 1850, aged 93. The children who came with him were Polly, Thomas and Stephen, the latter of whom was then two years old. Polly was born July 6, 1781, and married David Pollard and settled on the farm now occupied by Hiram Landers, where she died. Thomas was born November 2, 1782. He married Esther, daughter of Moses Hinman, and after living at home several years, took up the farm now owned by ______ Hard, where he died June, 8, 1862, and his wife March 26, 1830, aged 46. Stephen was born August 10, 1785. He married Polly, daughter of Matthew Long, and settled one and one-half miles north of Afton, the farm now owned by his son Thomas, where he died July 19, 1870, aged 84, and his wife, October 13, 1850, aged 60. Stephen was a millwright and put a great many buildings in the town. Ebenezer's children born after he came here were Joseph, who was born July 6, 1790, and married Jerusha, daughter of Lemuel Warner; Nancy, who was born March 17, 1795, married Billings Church, and died December 25, 1841, aged 48, and her husband, January 7, 1871, aged 82; Hiram, who was born December 31, 1796, and married Sophia, daughter of Jonathan Hammond; Solomon who was born December 10, 1798 who married Mary, daughter of Benjamin Carpenter, and after her death, January 16, 1829 aged, 26, her sister, Elizabeth A., (who died April 17, 1845, aged 45,) and died December 24, 1876, aged 78; and Isaiah, who was born in March 1801 and died young. Hiram is the only one now living. John Landers, brother of Ebenezer, settled in Lisle; Isaiah, another brother, in Afton, where he died August 31, 1844, aged 75, and Thirza, his wife, April 8, 1836, aged 69. Joseph, the other brother settled nearly a mile up Kelsey Creek, on the place now occupied by Luman Pollard. He afterwards removed to Lisle. Jehiel Landers, who lives on the east side of the river, about two miles above Afton, is a son of Isaiah's, and the only one of his children living. Isaiah Landers, Jr., died March 8, 1839, aged 35.
Henry Pearsall came from Long Island about 1787 and settled in the north-east part of Afton, one-half mile west of what was known as the Middle Bridge, which went off in a freshet a number of years ago and was not rebuilt. Having built a small house in the woods, he brought in his family, consisting of his wife, Anna Simmons, and one or two children. The house thus erected answered the double purpose of a dwelling and shop, for he followed his trade till his death. About 1809 he removed to the north line of the town of Bainbridge, about three miles north of Bainbridge, village and took up 88 acres on which he resided till his death about 1840. His children were Amos, who married Clarissa, daughter of John Nichols, an early settler in the north part of Bainbridge, and settled in the locality of his father in Bainbridge, where he died February 18, 1864, aged 71, and his wife July 4, 1878, aged 83; Ann, who married Alson Searles, a resident of Bainbridge, and is now living at Unadilla, her husband having died June 26, 1871; Smith, who marred Polly, sister of Alson Searles, and settled near his father, where he died in 1874; Samuel, who married Sally, daughter of Henry Thompson, of Bainbridge, and settled and died in the same locality; Abigail, who married Ansel Phinney, a blacksmith, with whom she removed to Bainbridge village, where she died; Henry, who married Samantha Norton, of Guilford, and succeeded his father on the homestead farm, where he died December 23, 1871, aged 70, and his wife August 28, 1871, age 68; and Polly, who married Leonard Norton, of Guilford, where they settled. He died October 23, 1870. She is still living, in Coventry, with her niece, Mrs. Chester Benedict. His grandchildren living in the county are Charles and Reuben, sons of Amos, in Coventry, where the former has been Justice of the Peace for twenty years, was supervisor in 1856 and '57, and a Member of Assembly from this country in 1869; William and Hiram, sons of Smith, on the homestead of their father in Bainbridge; Frank, Charles, Emma and Sarah Phinney, children of Abigail, all in Bainbridge; James and Polly, wife of Melvin Yale, in Bainbridge, Amanda, wife of Hiram Landers in Afton, and Matilda, wife of Chester Benedict, in Coventry, all children of Samuel; and Sherman Pearsall and Ada, wife of Jerome Westcott, in Bainbridge, and Lewis Pearsall, in Guilford.
Richard Church came in from Brattleboro, Vt., in the fall of 1788, and settled on the east side of the river, one-half mile below Afton, on the place now owned by the heirs of Levi Church and Andrew Johnston and Joseph Angell, the latter a son-in-law of Billings Church. He was a son of Co. Timothy Church, a Vermont sufferer, who did not settle here, but acquired land as such, on 300 acres of which Richard settled, and which, after the latter's death, in the spring of 1813, was divided between two of his sons, Billings and Levi, Billings portion being that now occupied by Andrew J. Johnston and Joseph Angell, and Levi's that occupied by his heirs. Richard brought with him his family consisting of his wife Polly, daughter of David Pollard, and one child, Billings, then an infant. Billings married Nancy, daughter of Ebenezer Landers, and settled on the homestead, where he lived till advanced in years, when, in the spring of 1857, he sold his place to his nephew, Devillo C. Church and went to live with his daughter Frances, wife of Enos M. Johnston, with whom he died January 7, 171, aged 82. Richard's children who were born after he came here, were: Col. Ira who married Angelia Atherton, sister of Cornelius Atherton, and settled about a half mile above Afton on the east side of the river, on the farm, a portion of which is owned by Stanton T. Donaghue, afterwards purchasing the Peck farm, about a mile below Afton, on the east side now owned by Ransom Merrill, and subsequently the farm which forms a part of the Ives farm, which he subsequently turned over to his sons, and removed to Morris, where he resided till his death, March 12, 1861, aged 70, his wife having died July 15, 1847, aged 56; Rufus, who married Phebe Turner and settled in Afton, and afterwards removed to Orleans County and died there; Polly, who married Dr. Gaius Halsey, of Kortright, Delaware, county, where she lived and died; Warren, who married Saloma C. Hall, who died May 2, 1849, aged 37, who was of a roving disposition, and moved and died out of the county, December 24, 1857, aged 57, and Esther his second wife, April 1, 1858, aged 39; Levi, who married Elathea, daughter of Joseph Works, and settled and died on the homestead; Permelia, who married Ezra Corbin, and is still living in Bainbridge; Rhoda, a maiden lady, who died in the town April 2, 1866, aged 66; Richard, who died, young and unmarried of small-pox, June 2, 1828, aged 20; and Wilson, who married Eliza Ann Jones and settled in Afton, on the east side of the river, where he now resides, with his second wife, Fanny Nevins. Numerous descendants are living, then in this county, viz: Devillo C. Church, a banker, Richard, Rush, Clary, wife of James Corbin, Frances, wife of Enos M. Johnston, and Polly, wife of A.E. Estabrooks, in Afton; George Corbin, Eunice, wife of Charles J. Humphrey, and William Corbin, in Bainbridge, and C. A. Church in New Berlin. Dr. Gaius L. Halsey, a prominent physician in Unadilla; Dr. Richard Halsey, a prominent physician at White Haven, Pa.; Frank Church, Road Agent for the U.S. Express Co. at McGregor, Iowa, Alonzo S. Church, formerly Cashier of J.M. Little's Bank of Mason City, Iowa; Lafayette Church who keeps a livery at McGregor, Iowa; Gaius H. Church a prominent farmer at Cresco, Iowa; and George M. Church, a speculator at McGregor, Iowa are grandchildren of Richard Church's.
Other settlers about this period were Seth Stone, Nathaniel Benton, Isaac Minor and Orlando Bridgeman, all from Vermont.
Seth Stone settled in Afton village, on the east side of the river, nearly opposite the Universalist church, where he died April 22, 1826, aged 65; and Eunice his wife, July 12, 1815, aged 54. His son Horace married Rebecca Johnston and lived on the homestead farm. He built a tavern about 1825, the first in the village, on the east side of the river, which he kept a good many years. It stood where Noble Buck now lives. He and his wife both died there, the former, December 2, 1845, aged 60, and the latter July 5, 1874, aged 83. Seth had two daughters, Rachel and Irene, the latter of whom married Jesse Easton, both of whom lived and died in that locality. Nathaniel Benton settled on the east side of the river, three miles above Afton, at what was known as the Middle Bridge, which was built about 1825 or '6, and swept away by a freshet some thirty years ago. The Benton's were considered wealthy, and formed the nucleus for quite a settlement in that locality. A hotel was built there about forty years ago by a man named Stevens. It is now occupied as a dwelling. A grist and saw-mill were built there some sixty years ago. They have since been rebuilt and are still in operation. The Corbins, who also settled in that locality, were interested in the construction of the mills there. Quite a little business centered there at an early day in opposition to Afton. The Benton family mostly died in that locality, Nathaniel May 8, 1845, aged 84, and his wife Hannah, March 11, 1839, aged 71. His children were Belah who was a bachelor and lived and died at home, February 17, 1830, aged 40; Nathaniel, who removed to Ohio at an early day; Col. Ansel, who married Cornelia, daughter of Samuel Weeks, and settled where William B. Grover now lives, near the homestead farm, and died a year or two after his marriage, September 6, 1845, aged 48, leaving one child, Albert Hyde a druggist in Afton; Eunice who married Hiram Ramsey and is now living in Ohio, well advanced in years; William, who accompanied Nathaniel to Ohio; Jared a bachelor, who died there June 30, 1835, aged 35; Julius and Isaac, both bachelors, and both of whom died there, the form Marcy 10 1827, age 35 and Orrin, who married a daughter of James V. Humphrey. Orlando Bridgeman settled one and one-half miles below Bettsburgh, on the farm now occupied by John Pool, where he died a good many years ago. Reuben and Abner Bridgeman were sons of his. Abner married Temperance Johnston, and, after living for a number of years below Bettsburgh, removed to Elmira, where he died. Reuben settled in the same locality.
David Pollard came in from Norwich, Conn., in 1790 and settled on the east side of the river, one mile below Afton, on the place now occupied by William Landers. He made a small clearing and built a log cabin and then sent for his family, consisting of his wife Polly, and six children. He died here December 30, 1830, aged 85, and his wife June 9, 1821, aged 69. His children were Polly, who married Richard Church, Lucy who married William Olden, Cynthia, who married Heman Kelsey, Thomas who moved to Seneca Falls some fifty years ago and died there, David who married Polly Landers and lived and died on the homestead, Joseph, who married Polly Pool, and settled about a mile west of Afton, on the north end of the farm now owned by his son Luman C. Pollard, and after becoming too feeble to work it sold it to his son Jeremiah, (who is now living in California, to which State he removed in 1849,) and removed to the village, on the east side of the river, where he died March 13, 1859. Only two grandchildren are living in the county, Luman C. and Lysander Pollard, both in Afton.
In this year (1790) the first school-house in Afton was built. It was a log structure and stood at the forks of the river and bridge roads on the east side of the river, in the village of Afton, a little north of the water tank in that locality. The first teacher was Nathaniel Church. In this school-house the first church in the town was organized twelve years later.
Settlements were made as early as 1795, probably earlier, by Abijah Stevens, Abraham Benton, and Heth Kelsey, and as early as 1796 by Thomas and Capt. Enos Cornwell.
Abijah Stevens came in from Connecticut, and settled on the east side of the river, about one and one-half miles above Afton, on the farm now occupied the widow of John Carr, where both he and his second wife, Esther, died, the former May 9, 1844, aged 87, and the latter January 1, 1832, aged 76. His children were John, who married Clara Landers and settled where Jonathan Farnsworth now lives, and died there, he and his wife, the former March 9, 1861, aged 73, and the latter November 11, 1877, aged 84; and Harvey, who removed to Ohio, children by his second wife. He had one child by his first wife, Lydia, who died September 1, 1822, aged 76, viz: Sally, who married Samuel Hinman and died on the homestead. Abraham Benton, settled on the site of Afton, on the west side of the river, on a portion of the farm now occupied by Luman C. Pollard. His house stood just east of the railroad track. He was the first settler on the site of the village on the west side. He died here August 3, 1816, aged 53, and Desire, his wife, who afterwards married William Beardsley, January 24, 1858, aged 85. Heth Kelsey, a Revolutionary soldier, settled in the upper part of the village, near the mouth of the creek which bears his name, where he kept a tavern. He afterwards removed to Coventry and lived with his daughter and died there February 5, 1850, aged 94, and Rhoda, his wife, November 26, 1828, aged 80. His children were Russell, who married Fanny Mersereau, of Otego and settled on the homestead farm, afterwards removing to Bainbridge, subsequently to the locality of Elmira, and finally dying in a poor-house; Heman who married Cynthia, daughter of David Pollard, and settled on one-half of the homestead farm of 396 acres (Russell taking the other half,) and afterwards removing to the Chemung River and died there; Lois, who married Clark Smith, of Coventry, where both she and her husband died, the latter, in a fit October 8, 1864, aged 82; Lodema, a maiden lady who died in Afton; Rhoda, who married Alpheus Wright, who in 1823, in company with his brother Josiah, built the [p. 139] Sullivan House in Afton, and kept it 15 to 20 years. Rhoda died in Afton. Her husband afterwards removed with his brother Josiah to the Chemung River and died there.5 Thomas and Enos Cornwell were brothers. They settled on some 300 acres about one and one-half miles below Afton, on the east side of the river, which has since been cut up into several farms and divided among Thomas' heirs. Abel Cornwell, son of Thomas, is living on a part of the farm, and is the only one of his children living there. Thomas did on the place February 12, 1841, aged 71; and Anna, his wife, who was born February 3, 1783, died February 27, 1860. Enos was a bachelor. He deeded his farm to Samuel, Thomas' eldest son, to take care of him in his old age. He died July 27, 1843, aged 76. Samuel removed to Elmira several years ago.
Joab, Abner and Daniel Buck, brothers, came from England before the war of the Revolution. Joab settled at Canton, St. Lawrence county; Abner in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, to which county he gave his name, a Daniel settled first in Danbury, Connecticut, and a few years previous to 1800 removed to Afton, and settled on the farm now occupied one-half of it by Robert Clark, and the other half by William Ives. Daniel was a Presbyterian minister and organized in 1802 the first church in the town. Daniel S. Buck, his son came in with him but afterwards removed to Sheshequin, Pennsylvania, where he died February 8, 1870, aged 87, but was brought here for interment. Anna, his first wife died July 25th, 1835, aged 57, and Eunice, his second wife, October 9, 1851, aged 61. Three sons of Daniel S. are living, Noble in Afton; Daniel S. H., in Greene; and Lyman, in Hooper, below Binghamton.
Daniel S. Buck was a noted hunter. He took 300 acres of land for which he paid with the bounties received for the destruction of wild animals, $60 for each wolf and $75 for each panther, of the latter of which he killed eleven in one year. He made hunting his business while game lasted and some seasons made more than his neighbors did at lumbering. While in Afton we spent an evening very pleasantly with his genial son Noble, who is now well advanced in years, listening to the recital of his father's adventures while on hunting expeditions; but two must suffice to illustrate his prowess. At one time, about 1811 or '12 he, in company with Robert Church, followed a panther to its lair, which was in a ledge of rocks, about five miles south of the village of Afton, in the town of Sanford in Broome county. The passageway to the den was about three feet long and two feet wide, and terminated at the distance of 24 feet in a cave about 20 by 30 feet and 11 feet high. His dog led the way into the den, and soon returned very weak from the loss of blood from a severe wound in the throat. Buck took from his neck a handkerchief and tied it around his dogs' throat, and having stationed Church at the entrance of the cave with an ax in hand to assail the panther if it followed him out, he proceeded into the den himself with his rifle. He threaded the narrow passageway on his hands and knees. At its terminus there was a descent of some two feet to the floor of the cave, which was covered with leaves. There he halted, and on peering through the darkness discovered at the further side of the den the glaring eye-balls of the panther. He aimed between these orbs and fired, observing at the instant he did so a slight change in their position. After delivering his fire he back out closely followed by the panther, which forced its head into his face, but owing to the closeness of the quarters was unable to hurt him. On reaching the outer terminus he discovered Church retreating in the distance, notwithstanding his cries to him to be prepared to assist him should the panther emerge from the opening. Having prevailed on Church to resume his post he re-entered the den, again took deliberate aim at the glaring eye-balls, and was again followed in his retreat by the infuriated beast. He entered the third time and noticed but one orb, the second shot having taking effect in the other. He aimed at the remaining one, fired and again backed out, this time without being pursued. His dog, though weak, was then sent into the cavern, and was followed by Buck, who on reaching the further extremity of the entrance way, heard in lapping blood. He proceeded into the den on his hands and knees and had not proceeded far when his hand came in contact with the animal's head. This send a cold shudder through him, but the panther was dead and was dragged from its den.
At another time, about 1815, while proceeding toward a deer he had chased through a think brush, about two miles south of Afton, and shot, he discovered a huge panther standing upon the body of the prostrate deer, from the side of which he had torn a fragment of flesh. Without an instant's warning, the panther, as soon as it discovered him, leaped toward and within thirty feet of him. Quick almost as lightening, Buck raised his rifle, took aim between the eyes, and fired, and so nearly was the animal upon the point of making a second spring, that it half spanned the intervening distance, and, changing ends, fell dead. It measure eleven feet from the end of its nose to the tip of its tail, and was spotted with jet black spots as large as a silver dollar, in this respect differing from the ordinary panther.
Daniel Hyde came in from Claverack, Columbia county, in 1801, and settled two and one-half miles north of Afton, at what is know as Ayrshire or North Afton, on the farm now occupied by Edward Wilkinson, where he died. He children were: Edward, who married Lydia, daughter of Nathan Bateman, and settled in the same locality, and who afterwards removed to Masonville and died there; Daniel, who married a woman named Graham, and settled in Ashtabula county, Ohio, where he died; Chauncey G., who married Lucretia, daughter of Amasa Newton, and settled and died near the old homestead; Elijah, who married Jemima, daughter of Amasa Newton, and also settled and died near the homestead; Sophia, who married a man named Martin, and removed with him to Paris, Canada, and died there; Polly, who married Leighton Joyce, and settled in Green county, and died in Brooklyn; Cynthia, who married Dr. Archibald Welch, and settled and died in New Haven, Conn.; and Olive, who married Wells Newton, and settled in Bainbridge and died there. The grandchildren living in the county are: A.C. Hyde, only child of Chauncey G., a druggist in Afton; and Daniel A., Rosanna, wife of Jas. M. Olendorf, William E., Lodosca, wife of George Knight, Chauncey G., and Harriet, wife of Justus Carr, children of Elijah, also in Afton.
Judge Peter Betts came in as early as 1803 and settled at Bettsburgh, to which place he gave his name. He was a large land-holder, and opened there in 1805 the first store in the town, which he kept till his removal to Bainbridge, about 1820-'25, where he was also engaged in mercantile business. He represented this county in the Assembly in 1804-'5, again in 1808, and again in 1811. He was born in Norwalk, Conn., January 17, 1772, and died in Bainbridge, June 19, 1849. Eliza, his wife, died February 9, 1819, aged 40. His children were Peter, Sally who married a man named Kassam, Pamelia, who married Robert Harper, Eliza who married a man named Rathbun, all of whom are dead.
Cornelius Atherton came in from Pennsylvania in 1803 or '4. He was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1736, and was the fourth in descent from Gen. Humphrey Atherton of Boston, from whom all the Athertons in America are descended. He married Mary Delano and with her removed to Amenia, Dutchess Co., N.Y., in 1763. He was a blacksmith by trade, and having discovered the process of converting iron into American steel, in 1772 he entered into a contract with the Messrs. Reed, merchants of that place, to superintend the erection of steel works, to be constructed by them and to instruct their workmen in the art. The works were in successful operation during the war of the Revolution. From Amenia he returned to Cambridge, where he superintended an armory belonging to John and Samuel Adams and John Hancock, which was burned by the British soldiers during the Revolutionary war. Thence in 1775 or'6, he removed to Plymouth, Luzerne Co., Pa., where he worked at his trade. He was drafted at this time of the Wyoming massacre, but his place was filled by his eldest son, Jabez, who volunteered to become his substitute, and was accepted and mustered in. The youthful patriot fell in that sanguinary engagement and his name heads the list on the Wyoming monument. Atherton's wife, by whom he had seven children, died soon after the Wyoming massacre. He afterwards re-married and had seven children by the second wife. After his removal to Afton he continued to at his trade till his death, December 4, 1809. Humphrey, his oldest son by his second wife, was a miller. He married a widow lady named Wicks, but had no children and died in Afton, December 11, 1849, aged 62. Charles, his second son was a blacksmith. He married a lady named Bramhall, with whom, a few years after, he removed to Friendship, Allegany Co., where he worked at his trade several years, till the death of his wife, when he sold his property and went with a friend to Emporium, Cameron Co., Pa., where he died May 13, 1869, aged 76. He had no children. Hiram, the third son, married Miss Lovina Sisson of Plymouth, and followed his trade of wagon-maker a few years in Afton and subsequently for several years in Norwich, from whence he removed to Greene, and engaged in the cabinet business, which he pursued till his death, March 19, 1870, aged 73. They had five children, all of whom are dead, except one daughter, who is living with her mother in Norwich. William, the fourth son, was a shoemaker. He married Miss Jane E. Hamlin, by whom he had two children, both of whom died in infancy. They finally removed to Paterson, N.J., where both died, he August 1, 1879, aged 77. Cornelius, the youngest son, is still living in Afton. He has one son who is a telegraph operator on the Baltimore & Ohio R.R.
William Johnston, a Revolutionary soldier, came in from Hartwick, Otsego county, in 1807 and settled a half mile south of Bettsburgh, on the farm now occupied by Devillo Dutton. He took up 50 acres in Broome county, on the line of Afton, and bought about one and one-half acres in Afton, the title to which proved defective. He subsequently purchased it of Asa Stowel. He afterwards removed to the town of Sanford, in Broome county, where he died February 10, 1843, aged 91, and Deborah, his wife, April 14, 1843, aged 81. He had six children, only one of whom is now, Levi, in Afton, aged 77.
John Johnston, brother of William, also a Revolutionary soldier, came in from Montgomery county two or three years later, and settled about half a mile south of Bettsburgh, on the place now occupied by Ira Woodruff, where he and his son Samuel started a tannery and carried on the shoe business, and where he died. His children were: John S., William, Nathaniel, Nancy, Persis, Henry and Betsey, all of whom came in with him, and all of whom are dead. Nancy married Joshua Crosby, and Betsey, Whittington, Sayre. Enos M. Johnston, a banker and merchant in Afton, but a resident of Bettsburgh, is a grandson of John and son of Henry Johnston, the latter of whom was a lumber dealer, speculator and oil stock dealer, and acquired considerable wealth. Andrew Johnston, a farmer in Afton, is also a son of Henry's, and these are the only two of his children living in the town. Several of William's grandchildren are living in the town, among them Lydia, wife of Jonathan Farnsworth. Samuel Johnston, brother of William and John, also from Montgomery county, came in a few years later, and has numerous descendants living in the town. He died December 1, 1830, aged 68. Nathaniel, a bachelor brother, and Mary and Christiana, maiden sisters of William Johnston, came in with him and lived with him till their death.
Oliver Easton came in from Wilmington, Vt., in 1809, and settled on Long Hill, where Matthew Long, from Vermont, with a large family of grown-up children, was the first settler at an early day. Easton settled on the farm now occupied by his grandson, Henry Devillo Easton, about three miles north-west of Afton. He leased 60 acres of gospel lands, which he occupied till his death December 11, 1839, aged 74. Delight, his wife, died January 5, 1860 aged 86. He carried on farming and lumbering, mostly the latter. His children were eleven in number: Chauncey, who married Lucinda, daughter of Taft Pollard, (an early setter from Vermont, on the farm now occupied by Hiram Landers,) and settled and died at Ayrshire; Ebenezer N., who studied for the ministry and removed to Andover, Mass., where he married when well advanced in years and died; Jesse C., who married Irene, daughter of Seth Stone, and settled in the village of Afton, on the east side of the river, where Fayette Benton now lives, and who afterwards removed to Wellsville, N.Y., where he now resides, aged 80; Louisa, who married Stephen Williams, and settled in the south-west part of the town, and afterwards removed to Coventry, where she died; Lester, who marred Asenath, daughter of Luke Nichols, and settled and died on the homestead, where Devillo Easton now lives; Lucretia, who married Heman B. Smith, for several years a merchant in Afton village, where she still resides; Rufus, who married Prudence DeWolf, and settled in Windom, Pa., and died in Afton while on a visit, September 10, 1845, aged 37; Riley, who was born in 1809 married Betsey, daughter of Nathan Bateman, who settled in Windom, Pa., and after fifteen years returned to Afton, where he and his wife still reside; Abby Ann, who married S. C. Bump, and settled in Afton about two miles north-west of the village, where about 1846, her husband rebuilt the grist-mill erected several years previously by his father, and where she died, her husband subsequently remarrying and is now living in Baltimore; Elijah, who married Jerusha, widow of James Nichols, settled in Wisconsin, and is now postmaster at Winona, Minn.; Cynthia M., who married J.C. Flagg, a wagon-maker in Afton village, where she died.
Other early settlers were William Bateman, Aaron, Slade, Joseph Peck, Levi Pratt, Silas Wright, and Moses Hinman. William Bateman came from the New England States and settled at Ayrshire, on the farm until recently occupied by his grandson Henry Batemen, where he died. He was an Irishman and a Revolutionary soldier in the American army. His sons were Nathan, who married Dolly, daughter of Samuel Nichols who settled at Ayrshire, opposite his father, and died there; and David, who married Margaret Campbell and settled in Bainbridge. After the death of his wife he went to live with his daughter in Masonville. He died June 7, 1866, aged 89, and his wife, September 5, 1862, aged 75. Aaron Slade was from Vermont. He too settled at Ayrshire and died there. Among his children was Aaron, who went to Buffalo with the Mormons when en route for Nauvoo, but returned and settled on the Chemung. He had a grandson also named Aaron. Joseph Peck settled about a mile below Afton, on the east side of the river, where Hezekiah Medbury now lives, and died there. His children were Joseph, who lived and died at Ayrshire; John, who lived in the south part of the town, where Abel Stowel now lives, and afterwards removed to Lisle; Ezekiel who married Electa Buck, and after living some years in the town joined the Mormons; Noah, who was a bachelor; and Benjamin who married Phebe Crosby, and lived and died on the homestead farm April 30th, 1829, aged 41. Levi Pratt came in from the New England States and settled near the Pond which bears his name, on the farm now owned by Joshua Hallett, where he died March 3, 1846, age 81, and his wife, Sarah, August 11, 1858, aged 92. Silas Wright came in from Vermont and settled on the site of the village of Afton. He bought of David Church, who came in shortly previous and was dissatisfied with the quality of the land, a plank house which the latter had erected on the site of Dr. James B. Cook's residence, and lived there till his death, May 27, 1827, aged 75. He was a farmer and lumberman. His sons were Alpheus and Josiah, the former of whom married Sophia Mersereau of Otego, and the latter Rhoda, daughter of Heth Kelsey, and who jointly built and kept for several years the Sullivan House in the village of Afton. Both subsequently removed to the Chemung River country and died there. He had one daughter, who married a man named Kelley, who is also dead. Moses Hinman settled about one and one-half miles above Afton, the east side of the river, on the farm known as the Carpenter farm. He was a wheelwright and worked at his trade. He died July 22, 1872, aged 81. None of his children are living. Harvey, John, Seth and Pliny, who live in the south part of the town are grandsons of his.
The officers elected March 2, 1858, were as follows: Daniel A. Carpenter, Supervisor; Edgar Garrett, Clerk; Hiram Willey and Morris J. Madge, Justices; William Corbin,6 Robert M. Littlefield and Jackson W. Poole, Assessors; Albert Pratt, Commissioner of Highways; Thomas Yale and George F. Hard, Overseers of the Poor; Eli M. Shay, Collector; Luman C. Pollard, William Corbin and James Poole, Railroad Commissioners;7 Whitcomb Broad, Harvey A. Wakeman, Wilson Landers8 and Reuben Dean, Constables; James Poole and J. Dwight Chaffee, Inspectors of Election.
Following is the succession of Supervisors and Clerks from the organization of the town:---
SUPERVISORS. CLERKS. 1858-9 Daniel A. Carpenter. Edgar Garret. 1860 Charles W. Griswold. Lewis Post. 1861 Jonathan Farnsworth. Alonzo L. Farnam. 1862 Joseph B. Chaffee. Geo. M. Champlin. 1863-4 James B. Cook. do 1865 Jonathan Farnsworth. do 1866-7 Edgar Garret. do 1868 Jonathan Farnsworth. do 1869 Erastus Fisher. do 1870 Presson R. Peck. do 1871 Horace C. Chamberlin. do 1872 Robert M. Littlefield. John C. Chamberlin. 1873 John C. Chamberlin. Henry G. Carr. 1874-7 do Martin D. Howard. 1878-9 Eli M. Shay. Marshall G. Hill.
The following list of off the officers of the town of Afton, for the year 1880-81, was kindly furnished by Charles W. Spencer:---
Supervisor---Eli M. Shay.
Clerk---Charles W. Spencer.
Justices---Oliver N. Swift, Reid Peck, Elijah R. Snell and L. E. Jackson.
Assessors---Warren Dutton, Lucius Hunt and John Hinman.
Commissioner of Highways---George Clapper.
Overseers of the Poor---Isaiah Snell and Harry Hull.
Town Auditors---Cornelius Atherton, Samuel Weeks and Morris J. Madge.
Game Constable---Samuel Jamison.
Constables---Justus H. Carr, Norman Hall, John Hoyt, Eri W. Lingle.
Inspectors of election---Hiram Cornwell, Orlando Coss, George M. Champlin.
Sealer of Weights and Measures---E. Fairchild.
Excise commissioners---Edward V. St. John, J. B. Mayhew and Abijah Carrington.
Afton is situated on the Susquehanna River, near the center of the town, and on the Albany & Susquehanna R. R., by which it is distant 28 miles from Binghamton and 114 from Albany. It lies mostly upon the west side of the river, and principally along the street running parallel with it. The hills which bound the valley upon the east side are somewhat precipitous and large covered with primitive forest or secondary growth timber; while upon the west they are more rolling and susceptible of cultivation.
It contains five churches, (Baptist, Episcopal, M.E. Universalist and Presbyterian,) a Union School, with academic department, three hotels, a newspaper office, (Afton Home Sentinel, John F. Seaman, publisher,) a private bank (Enos M. Johnston & Co.,) a flouring and grist-mill, a saw-mill, a sash and blind factory, two wagon shops (kept by L. E. Jackson and W. E. Fleming,) three blacksmith shops (kept by W. A. Piper, J. R. Brown, ________ Randall and Eli Christian,) two manufactories of butter tubs and firkins, one harness shop (kept by R. E. Smith,) thirteen stores of various kinds, and a population of 700. The village is growing very rapidly.
The Susquehanna is spanned in the upper part of the village by a suspension bridge, which is one of the finest structures of its kind in the State, and is at once an ornament to the village and a credit to the enterprise of the people. The bridge has a main span of 362 feet and an approach span upon the east side of 74 feet. It is supported by six cable 558 feet in length, each composed of 132 wires. They are double anchored, and were manufactured at Trenton, N. J. The height of the towers is 36 feet, and the arch of the bridge 4 feet. The suspending rods are five-eights of an inch in diameter, attach to needle beams four feet apart. The roadway is 16 feet wide,
and a railing four and one-half feet high, extends the whole length. The weight of the bridge is 100 tons, and the supporting weight 240 tons. It was built in 1868, at a cost of $15,000. The contractors were G. W. and J. V. V. Fishler, of Wellsburgh, Chemung county, N.Y. and James Crowell, the master-builder. A meeting was held on the evening of April 1st, 1868, in the village of Afton, and a bill authorized to be drawn for a charter for its construction, and A. C. Hyde, Thomas Landers and H.R. Caswell were appointed a commission to supervise the work. To pay for the bridge the town issued its bonds for $12,000, $2,000 of which was to be paid in February, 1869, and the remainder in annual installments of $2,000 each.
Soon after the close of the war a beautiful covered bridge which spanned the Susquehanna within this village was lifted from its piers and dashed to pieces by a fearful tornado, leaving the town with nothing but a scow to cross the stream. The bridge company by duplicating their stock, erected another in its place, quite inferior and unsafe from the first. After standing about 18 months, "a reproach to the builder and a disappointment to the company, as well as constantly threatening peril to the public," it was carried off by an ice floe. The bridge company then proposed to surrender their franchise to the town, on the condition that a good, substantial, free bridge be erected, and this action resulted in the present noble structure.9
MERCHANTS.---The first merchants in Afton were probably Sayres Burgess and Isaac Miner, who did business during the war of 1812 and a few years afterwards in a frame building which stood on the site of the store now occupied by Harris Briggs. Burgess lived and died in the town. His death occurred January 7, 1832, aged 35. Minor, in company with David Cooper built on Kelsey Creek, about 1809, the first saw-mill in the town. There has been a mill there every since. The old mud-sills are still in use. The mill is about one-fourth mile above the village and some seventy rods about the mouth of the creek. The water is conducted from the creek to the mill by means of a race about forty rods long. Albert Neely did business some three or four years and left the town at an early day. Hiram Long, a native and resident of the town till his death, February 9, 1844 at the age of 45, did business some six or seven years from about 1825. He afterwards, about forty years ago, built the Musson House, which was kept by his brother Lewis some ten years. Heman B. Smith who was born September 11, 1803, and died August 28, 1858, came from Delaware county and opened a store about 1828 or '9, and kept it some eight or ten years, when he failed. He was succeeded by David Loveland, who continued about two years, and died here August 20, 1842, aged 63. Murrin Jackson came from Butternuts, Otsego county, soon after Loveland failed, and was the principal merchant here for a good many years. He sold to J. B. Chaffee about the opening of the war of the Rebellion and removed to Binghamton, where he died. Chaffee did business some six or seven years and failed, when he removed to Binghamton where he now resides.
Whittington Sayre and _____ Goodsell commenced business on the east side of the river about 1815 or '16 and continued some two years. Goodsell came from Cooperstown and returned there. Sayre removed to Elmira and engaged in the lumber business their store stood a little above where Stanton Donaghe now lives. They are the only merchants who have done business on the east side of the river.
Following is an account of the present merchants and those who have been associated with them:---
Daniel A. Carpenter, general merchant, commenced business here in 1854, in company with his brother-in-law, Daniel Carpenter, to whom he sold his interest in 1857. In 1859, he and Eli M. Shay bought out Daniel Carpenter, to whom they sold again at the expiration of five years. The latter continued about three years, a part of the time in company with his son-in-law, James Collins, with whom two or three years later he removed to Bath and afterwards to Addison, where they now reside. Daniel A. Carpenter recommenced business in the fall of 1869, and has since continued it. He is a native of Afton, where he was born August 13, 1820. He is a son of Benjamin Carpenter, an early settler and prominent man in Bainbridge. He was elected sheriff in 1864 and served one term.
Eli M. Shay subsequently engaged in the sale of groceries and clothing, which business he still continues, having been associated from 1876 to February 1878, with Norval W. Fletcher. My Shay came from Colesville, in Broome county.
George B. Hickox, hardware dealer, a native of Gilbertsville, Otsego county, came from Sherburne and commenced business in the spring of 1865. After one year he was associated about two years with Robert Paddock, who sold his interest to B. Frank Williams. The latter remained a like period and sold to Charles Fisher, who sold his interest to Mr. Hickox, April 1, 1879.
Harris Briggs, grocer, came in from Coventry, where he had carried on mercantile business six years, and commenced business here April 1, 1866. He was associated as partner with H. S. Chamberlin three years, and with C. L. Seeley about one and one-half years.
R. N. Gallup, came from Walton, Delaware county, in the sprint of 1866, and commenced the hardware business. In march, 1877, he sold to his son Russell Gallup, who still carries on the business, having been associated the first six months with Robert Beach, the second six months with Porter G. Northrup, and the succeeding two years with Robert Yale.
Charles Hill, grocer, came from Meredith, Delaware county, and commenced business in December, 1868.
Albert C. Hyde, druggist, who is a native of Afton, commenced business in the early part of 1869, in company with Joseph Angell, under the name of Angell & Hyde, and bought his partner's interest at the expiration of five years.
Martin D. Howard, furniture dealer and undertaker, commenced business December 29, 1869. He came from Hartford, Conn., where he was engaged in the manufacture of locks.
Enos M. Johnston & Sons. In the spring of 1875, Enos M. Johnston, Hiram Cornell and H. B. Johnston, commenced a general merchandise business, under the name of Johnston, Cornell & Co. In the spring of 1878, E. M. Johnston bought Cornell's interest and admitted to partnership another son, E. C. Johnston, and the business has since been conducted under the name of Enos M. Johnston & Sons.
Joseph A. Decker, grocer, commenced business in August, 1877. He is a native of the town.
Henry G. Carr, druggist, commenced business April 1, 1878. He is a native of the town. He bought out T. L. Willey, who had done business some three years.
H. J. Fox, general merchant, commenced business April 1, 1878. He came from Binghamton, where he had done business nearly four years.
Mrs. A. L. Welch, milliner and fancy good dealer, came from Worcester, Otsego county, and commenced business in March, 1879.
POSTMASTERS.---Previous to the division of the town of Bainbridge, the village and post-office at Afton were known as South Bainbridge. The first postmaster was probably Albert Neely or Joseph P. Chamberlin, at least fifty years ago. Josiah Wright succeeded Chamberlain about 1830. Next was Zaccheus Smith, who came here from Delaware county and kept hotel in the Sullivan House. He held the office till about 1840 and was succeeded by Murlin Jackson. Cornelius Atherton was appointed about 1855 or '6, and was followed in 1861 by Lewis Post, who held it till his death February 12, 1863, aged 54 when Daniel A. Carpenter was appointed. Carpenter was succeeded in a short time by E. M. Shay, who held the office till June 12, 1877, when Theodore L. Willey, the present incumbent, was appointed.10
PHYSICIANS.---William Knapp, who lives at Bainbridge, is believed to have been the first physician who practiced in this locality. He removed to Elmira. Dr. Nathan Boynton, who was located at Bettsburgh, and Drs. Starkey and Root, who studied with Boynton, and the latter of whom practiced in company with him at Bettsburgh, practice here at an early day. They all removed to Elmira.
Abraham Benton, brother of Orange Benton, studied medicine with Dr. Boynton at Bettsburgh and settled in the village on the east side of the river, where he practiced several years nearly fifty years ago. He was a noted temperance man. He sold out in 1837 to Elam Bartlett and removed to Illinois. Dr. Bartlett practiced some ten years when he bought a small farm in the town of Colesville, on which he died, January 9, 1862 aged 53. Herschel D. Spencer, M.D., came in from Lisle, his native place, and bought out Dr. Bartlett. He practiced her till his death July 27, 1857, aged 33. Dr. Koon, who came from Mt. Upton, succeeded Spencer, and remained about three years.
The present physicians are James B. Book, Philetus A. Hayes and George Bissell.
James B. Cook, was born in Harwinton, Litchfield Co., Conn., July 20 1817, and studied medicine in Oswego, N. Y., with Drs. Gardner and Brown, with whom he remained a little over two years. He next pursued his studies for one year with Dr. Frank Hine, in Franklin, Delaware county. He attended courses of lectures at the Fairfield Medical School in 1838 and '9 and in 1840 he attended a course of lectures at the Albany Medical Institute, where he was graduated in Feb'y, 1841. He commenced practice the latter year in Hobart, Delaware county, and removed thence in January, 1841, to Afton, where he is still practicing.
Philetus A. Hayes was born in Castle Creek, Broome county, September 10, 1848. He commenced the study of medicine in his native place with Dr. S. P. Allen, with whom he remained two years, one year before entering college and one between terms. He entered Geneva Medical College in the fall of 1868, and was graduated January 27, 1870. He commenced practice at Killawog, Broome county, immediately after graduating, and a year afterwards he removed to Afton, where he has since practiced.
George Bissell came from Valcour Island, Clinton county, N.Y. in the spring of 1877, and practiced a few months, till about the 1st of December, when he returned to Clinton county. He again came in the fall of 1878 and has since practiced here.
LAWYERS.---The first lawyer in Afton was probably George Smith, who was here in 1830. He came in a young, single man and married a daughter of Henry Olendorf. He practiced here several years and removed to Norwich where he died. He was the only lawyer of any note who located until the present ones came in.
The present lawyers are Jacob B. Kirkhuff, George A. Haven and Josiah d. Merritt.
Jacob B. Kirkhuff was born in Stanhope, N.J., September 12, 1836. He read law in Red Creek, N.Y., with Jacob B. Decker, with whom he remained six months. He entered the Albany Law School march 7, 1861, and was admitted on examination in November of that year. He commenced practice in Red Creek the same year and after six months removed to Savannah, in the same county. After two years spent west in 1870, he located in Afton, where he has since practiced, since the spring of 1879 in company with Josiah D. Merritt. He has been a notary public since 1873.
George A. Haven was born in Pitcher, N.Y., October 1, 1844, and read law in Oxford with Hon. Solomon Bundy. He entered the Albany Law School in September, 1872, and was graduated May 17, 1873, having been admitted a month or two previously at a general term. He commenced practice in Oxford in 1873, and removed to Pitcher in 1875, and from there in April, 1878 to Afton.
Josiah D. Merritt was born in Bainbridge, September 24, 1852, and commenced the study of law at Chicago, Ill., in the Law Department of Chicago University. He subsequently pursued his legal studies in the North-Western University, from which he was graduated June 9, 1877. During his second college year he also read law in the office of Bage, Denslow & Dixon, of Chicago. He was admitted June 13, 1877, and commenced practice in Racine, Wis., where he remained about a year, when he removed to Hampshire, Ill. He removed thence after about eight months to Afton and formed a law partnership with Jacob B. Kirkhuff, which still continues.
BANKS.---The first bank in Afton was established in the winter of 1875, by Carver & Crassaus, who did business only one winter, in the building now occupied at a saloon by Brower & Hunt. They were from Bainbridge and continued their residence there.
E. M. Johnston & Co.'s Bank (private,) located in Willey's Block, was established Jan. 1, 1876, by Enos M. Johnston and Devillo C. Church.
MANUFACTURERS.---The grist and flouring-mill is located one-fourth mile north-west of the village, and is owned by Asa Pixley. The saw-mill is located about one-fourth mile up the river, on Kelsey Brook, about seventy rods above its mouth, and is owned by George Landers. It was originally built about 1809 and the mud-sills in the present building are the same as were used in the construction of the first. The water from the creek is conducted to the mill by a race about forty rods long.
Wright & Hinman's sash and blind factory was built in the fall of 1869 by Addison Brewer and Wm. & & Wright, who did business a little over four years, about half the time in company with J. B. Pierce, when Brewer sold his interest to the remaining partners, who, in 1875, admitted Harvey Hinman to partnership. In September, 1878, Pierce sold his interest to Wright and Hinman, who have since conducted the business. They employ form six to eight men in the manufacture of sash, doors, blinds, moldings, brackets and scroll work. The machinery is propelled by a sixteen-horse-power engine; which also furnished power for the establishment of John B. Pierce who gives employment to six men in the manufacture of butter tubs, pails and firkins in the same building.
HOTELS.---Cook's Hotel was opened in December, 1878, by Nathaniel M. cook, the present proprietor, who in that year converted it to its present use from a saloon, which he had kept there since 1872.
The Central House is owned by Richard Munson and kept by Miles Parsons, who became the proprietor in April, 1879.
The Sullivan House was built about fifty-six years ago by Josiah and Alfred Wright, brothers, and is now owned by Erastus Sullivan, who has kept it since Marcy 10, 1869. He came here from Oneonta, his native place, in 1845. A hotel which stood on the site of James Nickerson's residence was previously kept by Madison Slater.
The Union Free School District No. 12, of the town of Afton, was formed a joint district August 8, 1874, by consolidating districts numbers 5 and 12, under authority of D. G. Barber, School commissioner of the Second School District of Chenango county, given July 8, 1874. The number of persons in the district at the time of its formation qualified to vote was 184.
The first school meeting in the new district was held at the Union school-house in district number 12, Sept. 25, 1874. R. M. Gallup was chosen Chairman, and Thomas Covert, Clerk. D. A. Carpenter, Thomas Covert and D. C. Church were elected trustees; G. M. Champlin, Clerk; and Deloss Lyon, Collector.
At a special school meeting held in the new school-house of District No. 12, Oct. 6, 1874, at which time there were 200 persons qualified to vote, it was decided to establish a Union Free School within the limits of that district, pursuant to the provisions of chapter 555, of the laws of 1864, and the amendments thereto, and the following named trustees were elected:---Edgar Garret to serve for three years; Thomas Covert for two years; and G. M. Champlin for one year.
The trustees met as a board of Education, Oct. 7, 1874, and organized by the election of Edgar Garret, Chairman, and G. M. Champlin, Clerk. The Board appointed Deloss Lyon, Collector, and George Hickox, Treasurer, but the latter refusing to serve. Eli M. Shay was appointed Treasurer Oct. 12, 1874.
G. M. Champlin was re-elected trustee in 1875, and Thomas covert in 1876. In 1877, D. A. Carpenter was elected trustee in place of Edgar Garrett; and in 1878 Amos D. Caswell was elected in place of G. M. Champlin. The Board at present (1879) consists of D. A. Carpenter, President, A. D. Caswell, Clerk, and Thomas Covert, Trustees; Eli M. Shay, Treasurer; and Joel Gillett, Collector.
January 2, 1875, the school-house and lot in what was formerly known as District No. 5, on the east side of the river, was sold at public auction to Harvey Church for $280.
The following amounts have been appropriated for school purposes:---In 1874, $1393; in 1875, $1366; in 1876, $1,555; in 1877, $1650; and in 1878, $1,630.
The school building is constructed of wood. It consists of a main part 28 by 56 feet, two stories high, and a wing 28 by 40 feet, also two stories. It is kept in good condition, well ventilated and clean, and is supplied with patent iron standard folding seats. It contains three school rooms, one recitation room, and good black-boards extending on all sides of each room, two cloak rooms and a library room.
The present estimated value of building is ..................$4,000 00 " " " " " lot is ................... 1,000 00 The Academy library contains 314 volumes, valued at .......................................... 200 00 The Philosophic Apparatus (original cost) is valued at......................................... 173 00 --------- Total value of school property is ...................$5,473 00 Revenues and expenditures during the year 1878:--------------- Received from tuition ......................................$ 192 45 " " Regents ...................................... 82 36 " " Common Sch'l Fund ............................ 558 85 Received from local tax .................................... 1,602 42 " " Gospel and Literature Fund ................... 47 87 ---------- $2,483 95 Paid for salaries of teachers...................$1,949 90 Paid for repairs of building and other property. 510 27 Paid for apparatus (Globe)...................... 5 00 Excess of expenses over expenditures............ 18 78----$2,483 95
The teachers in 1878 were James M. Sprague, principal, and Mary E. Littlefield, assistant.
The whole number of scholars during the year ending August 19, 1878, was 95: of whom 30 were males and 56 females. Their average age was 15 5-10 years.
The number of academic students June 29, 1878, or enrolled during part of the year ending that day, who pursued for four months or more of that year classical studies, or the higher branches of English education, was 34; of whom 13 were males and 21 females. The average age of the males was 17 3-10 years, and that of the females 17 years. The number of scholars pursuing classical studies during he year was 11, 8 males and 3 females. The number preparing for college in that year was 2.
Rates of tuition---Common English studies, $18.00; mathematical and high English, $24.00; classical including the preceding, $30.00.
CHURCHES.---The first church in the town was of the Presbyterian order. It was organized in 1802, by Rev. Daniel Buck, who was the first pastor, in the log school-house, which stood on the east bank of the river, within the limits of the present village of Afton, and was the first school-house in the town. The church disbanded about forty years ago, but is perpetuated in a measure by the Presbyterian Church of Ninevah, which was organized in 1831, largely by members from this. Many of the members of this church had united with the Universalists, who were a numerous and influential organization at an early day, and with whom the Presbyterians were associated in the building of the Universalist Church, which was erected in 1818, and is the only one of the churches in the village on the east side of the river.
The Baptist Church of Afton was organized as the South Bainbridge Baptist Church. At a meeting of a number of members of several Baptist Churches, at the house of Moses Caswell, Friday, January 15, 1836 to take into consideration the propriety of locating a church of this denomination in "South Bainbridge," articles of faith and practice were agreed upon and it was unanimously resolved to request a council of examination to convene at the house of Isaac Seely, February 17, 1836 to admit them to fellowship as a church. Rev. E. B. Sparks was delegated to invite delegations for that purpose from the Second Church in Guilford, the churches in Coventry, Masonville, South New Berlin and the Second Church in Butternuts, and to request the attendance of Rev. Aaron Parker.
The council convened at the appointed time and organized by choosing Rev. E. B. Sparks moderator, and Rev. H. Robertson clerk. Delegates were in attendance as follows:---Jesse Skinner, Wm. Mudge, Samuel B. Covey and Peter Surine, from the First church in Guilford; Rev. E. B. Sparks, Elon Yale, Asa Jordan, Martin Post, and Uriah Yale, from the Second church in Guilford; Deacon Luman King, from the Church in South New Berlin; E. Porter, L. Hendrick and George Smith, from the Church in Coventry; Rev. H. Robertson, Deacon A. Cady, P. Bennett and L. Chandler, from the Church in Masonville.
The following communication was addressed "To the Brethern of the Council to be convened at the house of Isaac Seely, in Bainbridge, on the 17th of February, 1836:"---
"Dear Brethren---We, the undersigned, believing it to be the duty of all who profess godliness to do all that is in their power to promote the interest of the Redeemer's kingdom in the world, and being desirous to promote it in the south part of Bainbridge, were Satan's seat has been of long standing, and we being located so that we cannot enjoy the privileges of church fellowship, humbly ask you to take into consideration our situation, and the blessed cause of Christ and if expedient give us your fellowship as a Church of Christ, for which your brethren and sisters do humbly pray."
The council decided to extend the hand of fellowship, and the Rev. H. Robertson was delegated to preach the following day, and Rev. E.B. Sparks to present the hand of fellowship and address the church. The following named persons were thus constituted a church:---Eli Seeley, Seth Seeley Garrit Dedrick, Savilian Thomas, Charles Toby, Moses Caswell, Eunice Seeley, Nancy Dedrick, Phebe Smith, Caroline Thomas, Nancy Tobey, Abigail Caswell, Bernetty Woodard, Lydia Night and Elizabeth Woodard.
The church petitioned to unite with the Chenango Association July 16, 1836.
Their first pastor was Rev. E. B. Sparks who closed his labors with them in April 1838. He was succeeded the following May by Rev. Mr. Crane, who remained two years. November 28, 1840, a call was given Rev. Jeremy H. D. Dwyre was voted a letter of dismission October 20, 1841.
The church was probably built in 1841, for July 11th of that year the records show that action was taken relative to finishing it and procuring a bell.
The next pastor whose name appears on the records is Rev. Daniel M. Root, who entered upon his labors March 5, 1842 and was granted a letter of dismission May 6, 1843. Rev. Levi Peck commenced his pastoral labors the third Sunday in May, 1843, and was dismissed in April 1846. Rev. Lewis Robinson assumed the pastoral relation in May, 1846 and was ordained the last Thursday in August of that year. He resignation was accepted September 30, 1848. Rev. A. Virgil entered upon the duties of pastor February 24, 1849, and received a call April 1, 1849. He was granted a letter of dismission May 19, 1850.
July 14, 1849, the church adopted the declaration of faith and covenant recommended by the New Hampshire Convention.
The church seems to have been for some time without a regular pastor. They were ministered to at intervals by Revs. A. Virgil and Martin. October 12, 1852, a call was given to Rev. J. W. Vanhorn, who entered upon his labors and united with the church Nov. 1, 1852. He was voted a letter of dismission September 3, 1853. Geo. Balcom, who was received to fellowship March 5, 1854 was ordained to the ministry October 4, 1854, and officiated as pastor till April 1, 1856.From that time till July 1, 1856, there was no stated preaching, and the meetings and records were much neglected. About the latter date Elijah Baldwin commenced preaching once in two weeks and from the 1st of November of that year each week. April 1, 1857, his services were engaged for a year. He and his wife were received from the Unadilla church. His resignation was accepted March w, 1859; but he seems to have been re-engaged, for it was again accepted March 10, 1860. Suring the first year of his pastorate, August 30, 1857, the church had a membership of 91. Rev. G. G. Donnelly appears to have been the next pastor, but just when his labors were begun or ended, the records do not conclusively show. He was admitted to church fellowship September 1, 1860, and officiated here as late as April 5, 1862.
Rev. G. A. Hogeboom commenced his labors November 1, 1862, and continued them about five months. Rev. A. R. Hamlin closed a two years' acceptable pastorate the first Sabbath in April, 1865. There was no preaching for several weeks following. Rev. E. Baldwin then in poor health, commenced preaching one sermon each Sabbath, and continued with some interruptions, until March following. Rev. E. T. Jacobs commenced his labors with this church in the early part of March, 1866, and continued them till February, 1870. Rev. J. A. Ball, from Laceyville, became the pastor about the middle of April, 1870, and closed his labors in February, 1871.
March 9, 1871, it was "Resolved, That we have no fellowship with secret societies founded on oaths and death penalties, and will not receive such into our fellowship, nor continue fellowship with such as are in our midst, or may become such." Eight votes were cast in favor of and four against the resolution. This action was rescinded March 23, 1871, at a meeting at which 35 were present, with but two dissenting voices.
Rev. John Smith commenced ministerial labor with this church March 16, 1871, and received a call to the pastorate March 23, 1871. He closed his labors April 1, 1873. Rev. Jenkins Jones, the present pastor, (July 4, 1879,) assumed that relation April 5, 1874, the pulpit having been supplied the preceding fall and winter by Rev. Mr. Martin, who closed his labors April 1, 1874.
The church was repaired in 1875 at a cost of about $400. The present (July 4, 1879,) number of members is 101.
St. Ann's Church (Episcopal) of Afton---Occasional church services were held from quite an early period, of which no very accurate record can now be obtained. Episcopal services were conducted as early as 1793, by Rev. Joseph Badger, at Harpursville, but a few miles distant, in the north edge of Broome county, and St. Luke's Church of that village was organized April 15, 1799 by Rev. (afterwards Bishop) Philander Chase, who was its first pastor. It is presumed that these ministrations extended occasionally to this locality, though there is no records of the fact. The Rev. N. M. Adams, of Unadilla, preached her once certainly prior to 1838. Rt. Rev. W. N. DeLancey, D. D.., first Bishop of Western New York officiated here twice, once in the Baptist and once in the Universalist meeting-house, in the years 1840 and "42. the first attempt at regular services was made by Rev. W. E. Eigenbrodt, D. D., who, in 1838, the first year of his ministry in St. Peter's Church, Bainbridge, commenced services, which he continued during the four years of his rectorship at Bainbridge, generally in the afternoon at 5 or 6 o'clock, after the full services at Bainbridge, occasionally, but rarely, by candle-light. The services were held in the old school-house, a forlorn and rickety building, and were entirely gratuitous.
Mr. Eigenbrodt, in writing of these services, January 28, 1860, in answer to inquiries made on the subject, says:---
"I rode down sometimes with one, sometimes with another of the congregation, [of Bainbridge,] generally with Colonel Juliand; and Captain Newton would often go to give us his valuable aid in the music. I always used the church service in full in the school-house. Mrs. Damaras Garrett lived near it; and there I was often refreshed and put on my gown. Sometimes I went on horseback. Mrs. Garrett was a good woman and deserves to be remembered. I always thought that, generally beloved as she was for her goodness and resorted to for her intelligence, she was the light that was eventually to drive off the thick darkness of the neighborhood. For I do think there were few spots in the civilized State, less favored with a knowledge of truth than South Bainbridge was at that time Universalism was dominant and strong, and the sects in their attempts to cope with it only made it more obstinate and indifferent."
The old school-house stood by the Baptist meeting-house, but was afterwards moved across the road and used as a cooper shop;
Rev. Israel Foote also held services in the Baptist meeting-house, (to which the church had a claim when not used by the Baptists,) toward the close of his ministry in Bainbridge, about the years 1849-'52.
In 1857 a seemingly providential opening led Rev. W. A. Johnson, then officiating at Bainbridge, to propose fitting up a suitable room for regular services. The work was begun in the summer of 1858, and the chapel opened for service November 21st. Previous to this Rev. Mr. Johnson held no religious services in the place, the only preparation for the full and regular worship of the church being a lecture on "the church and popular prejudice," delivered by him in the Baptist meeting-house two weeks previous.
A two story building erected for a select school-house, but looking extremely like one of the common smaller meeting-houses, fell under the control of the only male communicant in the place, Mr. Harrison R. Caswell. The upper story was fitted up in a plain way for a chapel, at the expense of a little over $300, more than one-third of which was generously given by Mr. Caswell from his moderate means. The larger portion of the remainder was contributed by liberal church people, chiefly in the city of New York. The chapel was 38 x 23 feet, but sufficiently large for the needs of the place, which then contained only three communicants. A chancel ten feet deep was formed by setting off a vestry and library room on each side.
In this, evening services were held once a fortnight by Rev. W. A. Johnson of Bainbridge. The first service was held November 21, 1858, and through the aid of Rev. Noble Palmer of Harpersville, twice given, and of Rev. Dr. S. R. Johnson of New York, weekly services were held till January, 1859.
In April, 1859, a Sunday school was opened which numbered during the term ending Christmas, some 28 scholars; in 1860 about 40; and in 1861, from various causes but 14.
A parish library, of loaned books, was formed, and a Sunday school library of 127 volumes procured in 1859.
The Bishop visited the congregation for the first time September 11, 1859, when two were confirmed. The consent of the Bishop having been obtained November 29, 1859, legal notice of a meeting for the organization of a parish was given on the 8th and 15th of January 1860. On the 16th a meeting was held in the chapel, when the person present incorporate themselves under the name and title of "The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Ann's Church in the town of Afton," and John Russell and Harrison R. Caswell, were elected Wardens; and William Wilkinson, Z. Woodward, Wright Dean George Landers, Eli M. Shay, Daniel Carpenter, Daniel A. Carpenter and Horace Jones Vestrymen. Rev. W. A. Johnson was chosen rector, and served as such till October 13, 1862.
Up to October, 1859, services had been held once a fortnight; from that time till October, 1861, every week, either in the afternoon or evening, with a single morning service, and the Bishop's second visitation, also in the morning. The holy communion was administered four times during the diocesan year ending August 1, 1861. During 1860, the offertory yielded $50.06.
The records do not show that there was any pastor from the date of Mr. Johnson's resignation till April 3, 1866, when the name of Rev. J. A. Robinson appears as rector. He continued his ministrations until April 7, 1781. During his rectorship, the present church seems to have been built, probably in 1867-8. It was consecrated Thursday, Oct. 1, 1868, by Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Bishop of Western, New York. June 25, '66, Daniel Carpenter, S. Woodard and H. R. Caswell were appointed a committee to locate a site for the church; Sept. 10, 1866, H. R, Caswell and Charles Seeley were appointed to circulate a subscription for the purpose of raising money to build it; and April 30, 1867, H. R. Caswell, H. Hinman and George Cook were constituted a building committee.
Rev. E. Dolloway succeeded Mr. Johnson in the rectorship, and continued afternoon services till Oct. 29, 1871. Rev. N. Palmer then conducted morning services from Nov. 5th to Dec. 17, 1871. Dec. 18, 1871, an invitation was extended to Rev. S. S. Lewis to take charge of the parish. The records do not show how long he served then, but his name appears as rector in connection with a confirmation service by Bishop F. D. Huntington, May 11, 1872. May 26, 1871 an indefinite call was extended to Rev. Moses E. Wilson, who seems to have commenced his services that day. He continued them as late as May 4, 1873. He was succeeded by Rev. Joel Davis, who was the rector June 20, 1874, but the records do not show when he commenced or closed his labors.
Rev. G. W. Porter, D. D., accepted an invitation to become the rector of this church in connection wit St. Peter's church of Bainbridge, In August 1874, and entered upon the duties of his joint rectorship on the 16th of that month. His rectorship was terminated June 30, 1876, when he removed to Hamilton, Rev. A. W. Cornell, of St. Luke's church, at Harpersville, commenced his ministerial labors with this church in July, 1876, and still continues them.
It appears from the records that there are thirty families connected with the church; that 56 have been baptized, 9 by Wm. Allen Johnson, 30 by James A. Robinson, 1 by E. Dolloway, 5 by Moses E. Wilson, 3 by Joel Davis, 2 by G. W. Porter and 6 by A. W. Cornell; that 31 have been confirmed; that 16 marriages and 27 burials have been solemnized, and that the whole number of communicants has been 69, of whom 24 have been lost by death, removals, &c., and that the present number of communicants is 45.
The M. E. Church of Afton was organized as the M. E. Church of South Bainbridge, Nov. 24th, 1851 by Rev. E. D. Thurston, at the district school-house at "South Bainbridge." Its incorporation dates from the same time, and the first trustees, then elected were Dor Stowell, Charles W. Griswold, Samuel C. Bump, Luman C. Pollard and Isaac Fergason. The applicants for incorporation were Jesse C. Flagg and Dor Stowell, and the articles of association were certified before S. T. Donaghe, Justice of the Peace.
Meetings were held occasionally previous to the organization and until the erection of their church edifice in 1853, in the district school-house.
April 22, 1853, forty-four rods of land on lot 57 in Afton was purchased of Damaras Garrett for a building site for $150. The church edifice were completed in the fall of 1853, through the indefatigable efforts of the pastor, Rev. E. D. Thurston, at a cost of a little more than $1,500, and was dedicated in September of that year.
The Rev. Mr. Thurston was succeeded in his pastorate in 1853, by Rev. B. B. Carruth, who served them during that year; Rev. R. L. Southworth, 1854-'55.; Rev. J. Moon, as supply, in 1855; Revs. Joel Davis and T. J. Bissell, 1856-'57; Rev. J. W. Mitchell, 1858-'60; Rev. W. S. Queal, 1860-'62; Rev. Leonard Bowdish, 1862-'64; Rev. B. H. Brown 1864-'67; Rev. W. W. Andrews, 1867-'70; Rev. B. B. Carruth, 1870-'73; Rev. T. P. Halsted, 1873-'75; Rev. H.N. Van Dusen, 1875-'78; and Rev. N. G. Hawley, the present pastor, who commenced his labors in April, 1878l
The number of members, April 1, 1879, was 93 and 24 probationers. The estimated value of the church property is $2000, and the parsonage, $1800.
The M. E. Church at Ayrshire in the north part of the town, is on the same charge as this. It has a membership of 77, with 11 probationers. The church property is valued at $1,800.
The First Universalist Church of Afton was originally incorporated as " the First Universalist society of the town of Bainbridge," at a meeting held in the school-house in the Kirby settlement September 14, 1818, of which Matthew Long and Thomas Humphrey were presiding and returning officers. James Johnson, Reuben Kirby, Ebenezer Landers, James Davidson, Stephen, Stilwell and James H. Humphrey were elected trustees. Their house of worship was erected in 1818. How long this organization continued there is no record to show, but that it exerted a wide and powerful influence for many years thereafter the records of the Baptist and Episcopal churches abundantly testify. It was re-organized as "the First Universalist Society of South Bainbridge," May 5, 1855, at a meeting held at the Universalist church in South Bainbridge, (Afton,) and presided over by Rev. Chas. S. Brown, the pastor. Noble Buck, Reuben Kirby, Thomas Humphrey, Murlin Jackson, Stephen D. Pratt and Philo Landers were elected trustees and a constitution was adopted. The records of the society subsequent to 1855 are very meager and furnish very little definite information in regard to its history. Rev. J. G. Bartholomew commenced his labors as pastor June 22, 1856, preaching half the time, and closed them April 18, 1858. Rev. W. Delong commenced preaching one-fourth time May 14, 1865, but how long he continued does not appear; neither do the records show who filled in the interval been a858 and 1865. The desk was occupied every Sabbath in 1867 by Rev. J. F. Porter. The church was again organized under its present name February 20th, 1860. Rev. T. L. Dean filled the office of pastor from November 8, 1875, to May 1 1875, after an interval of two years of partial inactivity. Our informant, who is a member, says, "the Society is in a law state and has the appearance of becoming extinct, as there is not life enough in the present members to do anything towards keeping up the organization."
The Presbyterian Church of Afton.---The Presbyterians, though the first to cultivate the spiritual field, suffered a long period of decline and inactivity. Under their instrumentality, in 1802, the first church in the town was organized, and February 1, 1819 was incorporated as the "south Presbyterian society and Meeting-House of the town of Bainbridge," at a meeting of the inhabitants in the south and west part of that town, "assembled at the new meeting house near the house of Horace Stone." Calvin Stowel and Silas Stevens were chose presiding and returning officers, and they together with Asa Stowell and Arad Stowell were elected trustees. This society seems to have been short-lived and to have subsequently changed its name and form of government to Congregational. February 8, 1825, it is recorded that "at a meeting of divers persons inhabitants of the town of Bainbridge * * * being male members of full age belonging to the late Congregational Society of South Bainbridge, assembled at the place where the statedly attend for dive worship, " February 7, 1825, at which Deacons Calvin and Arad Stowel, two of the members of said society presided, The South Bainbridge Presbyterian Society was organized, and Arad Stowel, David McMaster and Nathan Boynton were elected trustees.
A long interval elapsed from the decline of this Society in which the Presbyterians ceased to have an organized existence. In January, 1875, at the request of several residents of the village of Afton and vicinity, Rev. Wm. H. Astelle, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Ninevah, commenced preaching once in two weeks, on Sabbath afternoons, in the Baptist Church in Afton, with a view to the organization of a Presbyterian church. Soon after, notice of a meeting to be held in the Baptist Church of Afton, on Friday, February 19, 1875, for the purpose of organizing a Presbyterian Society, signed by G. P. Smith, B. Whittaker and Robert Yale, was read from the pulpits of the village churches. At that meeting, of which Rev. Wm. H. Sawtelle was Chairman, it was resolved to incorporate under the name of the First Presbyterian church of the town of Afton, and Henry Doolittle, Robert Yale and Geo. P. Smith were elected trustees. The proceedings were certified to before J. B. Kirkhuff, Notary Public, February 23, 1875.
The persons who then united in church fellowship were Robert and Harriet L. Yale, from the Presbyterian Church in Unadilla; Ira A. and Martha Yale from the Presbyterian church in Bainbridge; Deloss Lyon, for the Presbyterian Church in Laurens; "Selar" and Mary E. Decker, and Henry, Betsey and Henry S. Doolittle from the Presbyterian Church in Nineveh; and Emeline Merritt from the Presbyterian Church in Windsor. They were formally organized by a committee of the Presbytery June 1, 1875, at which time "Selar" Decker, Henry Doolittle and Ira A. Yale were elected elders. Deloss Yale was elected elder June 30, 1876; Henry Doolittle re-elected June 26, 1877; and "Sebar" Decker June 25, 1878.
February 7, 1875 Rev. Wm. H. Sawtelle, of Nineveh, commenced to supply the pulpit every other Sabbath at 3 ½ P.M., and continued his labors with them till Jan 13, 1878. He was succeeded, April 21, 1878, by Rev. D. Grummon of Bainbridge, who still supplies the pulpit every Sabbath at 2 P.M.
The whole number of members who have united with the church is 42; of whom three have been dismissed and one has died, leaving a present membership (July 1879) of 38. Four have been baptized, two adults and two infants.
In the spring of 1876 measure were taken to erect a house of worship. A building site was purchased of Edgar Garret for $500. The trustees, consisting of Henry Doolittle, Robert Yale and Wm. A. Wright, were associated with Deloss Lyon as a building committee. Subscriptions of money, materials and labor were solicited, and the work of construction was begun early in the summer. A building 28 by 40 feet with an alcove for the pulpit and choir, and a front extension for the vestibule, was erected at a cost of $3,000. It was completed, furnished and formally dedicated January 31, 1877.
A grant of $800 was obtained from the Board of Church Erection. The rest of the sum was raised by subscriptions from the citizens of Afton and some of the neighboring towns, except, a few contributions from some of the neighboring churches; so that the church was cleared from all indebtedness soon after the dedication.
It is but justice to say that the Society is largely indebted for the success of the enterprise to the devotion and perseverance of Robert Yale, one of the trustees, who superintended the work, procured most of the subscriptions, and generously gave his time and labor until the building was completed.
SOCIETIES.---Afton Lodge, No.360, F. & A. M., was organized as Nineveh Lodge, January 11, 1855, at which time the first communication was held, and was charted June 20, 1855. The name was changed June 24, 1862, when it was decided to remove the lodge from Nineveh, where the meetings had formerly been held to Afton. The first officers were Harvey Bishop, Master; Platt Bishop, S. W.; C. G. Northrop, J. W.; Fenner Brown, Secretary; W. H. Scott, Treasurer; T. C. Healy, S. D.; J. Kelly, J. D.; Jess Brown, Tiler; E. M. Brown and E. Badger, Stewards. Meetings are held on the 2d and 4th Tuesdays of each month.
Vallonia Chapter, No. 80, R. A. M., was organized December 19, 1856 as No. 62, at Vallonia Springs, in the town of Colesville, in Broome county, where the meetings were originally held. The charter was granted February 3, 1857. The first officers were R. W. Juliand, High Priest; T. C. Healy, King; and E. Bishop, Scribe. The chapter meets the 1st and 3d Tuesdays of each month.
Vanderburg Post, No. 12, G. A. R., S. N. Y., was organized April 5, 1878. The charter members were John Robb, Alonzo Phillips, Washington Mead, W. H. Wilder, John S. Kelley, Perry Ellis, A. Huffcut, Geo. P. Smith, Theodore Cables, Charles G. Aynsworth, James A. Houston, B. Whitaker, Geo. Figger, John Higley, Geo. Woods, F. L. Willey, Charles Handy, Geo. B. Hickox, Charles fisher, Thomas Wilkins, Zenas Tarble, Frank M. Mead, Charles A. Davis and Henry Andrews. The number of members in July, 1879, was 98. Meetings are held every Saturday evening.
Susquehanna Lodge, No. 185, A. O. U. W., was organized December 5, 1878. The charter officers were Rev. N. J. Hawley, P. M. W.; T. L. Willey, M. W.; Harvey Hinman, G. F.; C. W. Spencer, O.; Wm E. Hyde, Recorder; M. D. Howard, Financier; H. B. Johnston, Receiver; L. B. Farnsworth, G.; J. B. Pierce, I. W.; J. H. Carr, O. W. The additional charter members were G. B. Hickox, Devillo W. Colvin, H. G. Carr, Washington Mead, Chester Corbin, W. A. Wright, Britton Whitaker, John F. Seaman, G. R. Bissell, M. D., and Geo. W. Woods. The officers remain the same, except that D. A. Hyde was elected to fill the vacancy occasioned by the withdrawal of C. W. Spencer. The number of members in July, 1879 was 27. Meets the 1st and 3d Mondays of each month.
________ Lodge, No. ___, I. O. G. T., was organized March 21 1879. the charter members were M. B. Dutton, W. C. T.; Minnie M. Bolt, W. V. T.; W. E. Mead, W. Chap.; D. Van Woert, W. S.; Nellie Swift, W. A. S.; Geo. Tanner, W. F. S.; Annah Garret, W. T.; E. A. Goodsell, W. M.; Ella L. Stanton, W. D. M.; M. A. Garret, W. I. G.; J. E. Searles, W. O. G.; Ollie Bolt, W. R. H. S.; C. E. DeVoe, W. L. H. S.; P. A. Hayes, P. W. C. T.; Gertie Merritt, Allie Gallup, Minnie Estabrook, Jennie M. Bolt, Olivia Bolt, Polly Estabrook, Cora Mead, Agnes E. Gallup, Kate A. Hyde, Thomas Hannahan, Frank Carpenter, R. E. Merritt, Edgar Garret, Mary A. Bliss, N. J. Hawley, Mary Seymour, Mrs. Abbott, R. M. Gallup and Effa Jay,
BETTSBURGH is a hamlet situated in the south part of the town, on the east side of the river, about two miles below Afton. It was once a place of considerable importance, but its business had been diverted to contiguous villages. The first post-office in the town was established at this place, and was first kept by Peter Betts, who held the office until his removal to Bainbridge. He was succeeded in the office by Dr. Nathan Boynton, who held it several years, till his removal to Elmira, when Peter Dickinson was appointed. He held it about 11 years, till his removal to Afton.
The first store at Bettsburgh was kept by Peter Betts, from whom the place derives its name. He traded some ten or fifteen years and was succeeded by Dr. Nathan Boynton, who traded during the period of his medical practice there. He also carried on a saw-mill and a grist-mill. Robert Grant, who was located just over the line, in Colesville, traded some three years, in 1857, '8 and '9, and also carried on a tannery. Enos M. Johnston, who had previously kept a small grocery, opened a store after Grant's failure, and traded several years, until his store in Afton was opened. Frank Shepard kept a store here a few years at an early day.
Asa Stowell built a saw and grist-mill at Bettsburgh some seventy years ago. It was destroyed by fire about 1872. A grist-mill was built on the same site about two years after by Isaac N. Smith, who still operates it. It has three run of stones.
A carding machine was established and operated several years at Bettsburgh by Thomas Terry.
There is a cheese factory located at Bettsburgh, which is owned by Enos M. Johnston, by whom it was converted to its present use from a dwelling-house in April, 1878. He is making 550 pounds of cheese per day.
Ayrshire, or North Afton, is a hamlet in the north part of town. There is a M. E. church here, which is known as the North Afton M. E. Church. It was incorporated Feb. 17, 1829, "at a meeting of the members of the society of the M. E. church and congregation in Newton Hollow, in the west part of the town of Bainbridge, at the store-house of Benjamin Jacobs in said town," at which Geo. Evans, their preacher in charge, and Peter G. Bridgeman presided, and Cooley Wilkins, Charles Curtis, Lewis Weeks, Thos. Newton and Peter Bridgeman were elected trustees as the West Bainbridge M. E. Church.
Having become dissolved by the failure to elect proper officers, it was reincorporated Sept. 10, 1833, at an adjourned meeting held at the chapel, their usual place of holding meetings, at which time Edward Z. Hyde and Reuben Reynolds were chosen presiding officers, and Dann Post, Button Stowel, Wm. Cleveland, Westley Cleveland and Edward Z. Hyde were elected trustees.
Their house of worship was built in 1829, at a cost of $1, 500.
MANUFACTURES.---On the east side of the river, about two and one-half miles above Afton, is a grist and saw-mill, operated by water from the river and owned by Preston R. and Frank Peck.
On Bump's Creek, about a mile west of Afton, is a saw-mill owned by Wesley Seeley.
On Kelsey Creek, about one and one-half miles north-west of Afton, is a saw-mill owned by Henry Kirtland & Son.
On Lander's Creek, on the east side of the river, about two miles east of Afton, is a steam saw-mill owned by Messrs Baker & Newton.
About two miles north-west of Afton is a butter factory, owned by a stock company, which was organized in the spring of 1879, at which time the factory was built. It is managed by Hiram Derby.
WAR OF THE REBELLION.---At a special meeting of the inhabitants of this town, held March 29, 1864, it was resolved by a vote of 54 to 1, to raise a bounty of $610 to be paid to volunteers, applied on the quota of the town under the last call of the President of 200,000 men. If the Board of Supervisors paid a bounty for the same purpose, the amount so paid was to be deducted from the amount voted by the town, so that the aggregate bounty paid by the town, county State and U. S. should not exceed $1,000 except to veteran volunteers. In was further resolved that in case if inability to fill the quota with volunteers, and a draft should be ordered to supply the deficiency, to pay $300 to each man so drafted or who furnished a substitute credited on the quota of the town. Wm. Beatman, S. T. Donaghe, D. A. Carpenter, J. B. Chaffee and John Carr were appointed a committee to carry the above resolutions into effect, and to issue the bonds of the town to raise the money therefor.
The next call was anticipated, and at a special meeting held July 15, 1864, it was unanimously resolved to offer a bounty of $300 to a sufficient number of volunteers to fill the quota thereunder. Three days thereafter, July 18, 1864, the call for 500,000 men was made, and at a special meeting, held on the 30th of the same month, it was voted to offer a bounty not exceeding $500 each to a sufficient number of volunteers to fill the quota under it. At a special meeting held Sept. 10, 1864, it was decided by a vote of 178 to 9 to offer an additional bounty of $500 each to a sufficient number of volunteers to make up the deficiency existing in the quota under that call, Aug. 31, 1864.
At a special meeting held January 4, 1865, it was decided by a vote of 142 to 31 to offer a bounty, not to exceed $800, to each volunteer and person furnishing a substituted to apply on the quote of the town, under the call for 300,000 men.
Under these resolutions bounties were paid as follows:---In 1864, $610 to 13 men, $500 to 9 men, and $1000 to 27 men; and in 1865, $700 to 24 men.
Received from local (town) taxes in 1864.............$11,147 24 " " " 1865............. 17,505 13 ---------- $28,652 37 Received from town loans in 1864.....................$39,430 00 " " " 1865..................... 16,800 00 ---------- 56,230 00 Received from State Paymaster, in 1865, to reimburse for bounties paid in 1865 in cash................ 5,600 00 State Bonds.......................................... 5,000 00 ---------- 10,600 00 ---------- Total.......................................... $95,482 17 Paid for town bounties...............................$56,230 00 " recruiting fees and other expenses connected with enlistments.................. 772 66 " interest on town loans...................... 4,679 99 " principal of " " ...................... 22,961 37 " support of families of soldiers............. 242 35 On hand at date of statement, Feb. 1, 1866 : State Bonds................. 5,000 00 Cash........... 5,600 00 ---------- 95,482 37
April 14, 1864, 50 Bonds, running 1 to 3 years, at 7 per cent interest $ 6,800 June 1, 1864, 3 " " " " " " 1,220 Aug. 24, 1864, 8 " " 1 to 2 years" " " 7,110 Sept. 15, 1864, 55 " " 1 to 3 years" " " 24,300 Jan. 16, 1865, 37 " " " " " " 16,800
These bonds were issued to residents of the town mostly, in amounts varying from $50 to $1000.
Quotas of the town of Afton:--
1. By order of Governor Morgan, under President's call of July and August 1862 for 600,000 men................................................ 55 2. By Provost Marshal, under calls of 1863, which were united in Proclamation of February 1, 1864 for 500,000 men, (including the draft of 1863,) and all calls to latter date............................... 40 3. By Provost Marshal, under call of March 4, 1864, for 200,000 men.............. 13 4. " " " July 13, 1865 " 500,000 " .............. 24 5. " " " Dec. 19, 1864 " 300,000 "............... 13 ---- Total .................................................................. 147
1. Under President's call of July and August, 1862, for 600,0000 men ............ 56 2. " " " 1863 for 500,000 men, embracing all enlisted July 1, 1863, until such calls were filled........................ 26 3. Under President's call of March 14, 1864, for 200,000 men, embracing all enlistments after filling quota under former calls to July 1, 1864..... 13 4. Under President's call of July 18, 1864, for 500,000 men, (for one year, 35 men; for two years 1 man; for three years, 1 man)................. 37 5. Under Presidents call of December 19, 1864, for 300,000 men................... 24 ---- Whole number of men furnished by the town during the war..................... 156
Of this number, 1 united with the 51st Regt. N.Y.V.; 1 with the 89th N. Y. V.; 33 with Co. G, of the 114th N. Y. V,; 51 with the 5th N. Y. Art., 7 with Co. E, and 35 with Co. G; 1 with the 8th N.Y. Cav.; and 6 with the 144th N. Y. V. It does not appear with what branches of the service the remaining 63 were connected.
The number of men between the ages of 20 and 45 enrolled in the town under the U. S. Enrollment Act in 1863 was 292. Of this number 51 were drawn; and of the number drawn 16 passed the medical examination. Fourteen of these sixteen commuted by the payment of $300, leaving only tow of the number drafted who entered the service personally.
The town also furnished voluntarily for objects connected with the draft $200 by individual subscriptions and $600 by associations.
MORMONISM.---It is a fact worth of note that a portion of the early career of Joseph Smith, Jr., the author of Mormonism, was spent in Afton, and that here were enacted some of the incidents which were precursors of his subsequent notoriety.
Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in Sharon, Windsor Co., Vt., Dec 23 1805, and in 1815 or '16 removed with his father, Joseph Sr., and his family, to Palmyra, and soon after just across the line of that town into Manchester, some two miles south-west of Palmyra village. Previous to the Mormon dispensation Joseph Smith, the father of the "prophet," supported himself and family by digging and peddling "rutes and yarbs," selling cakes, beer, etc. When a mere lad, as appears from evidence elicited in his examination before a court of justice in Afton, in 1826, Joseph Jr., became acquainted with a girl in the neighborhood of his home who was reputed to be able to see in a glass things which were hidden from others. He had frequent opportunity to look into this mystical glass, which always revealed to him a small luminous stone, situated, apparently, beneath the root of a tree, standing near a small stream which empties into Lake Erie not farm from the New York and Pennsylvania line. This singular circumstance occupied his mind for some years, and he subsequently made a journey to the locality indicated and procured the treasure thus revealed to him. The stone in question was exhibited on his examination and is described as being "about the size of a small hen's egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe." It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through, and was very hard and smooth.11 By means of this stone, placed in his hat so as to exclude the light, he claimed to be able to see whatever he wished, even in the depths of the earth, and there were not wanting those whose testimony corroborated this affirmation. In 1819 or "20 the Smiths commenced digging for money and other hidden treasure for a subsistence. Their vocation was noised around among the community, and not a few were credulous enough to believe that they were within reach of a "chest of gold," "which had repeatedly eluded their grasp," and contributed money to enable them to continue their excavations. The Smiths, it is said, used the money thus obtained for the support of the family, and in the meantime kept their friends in a feverish state of excitement and expectancy while treasure hunting. Invocations, the blood of sheep slaughtered for the purpose, sprinkled upon the earth, and other mystical rites were employed in the presumed effort to propitiate the angry demon who was supposed to guard the coveted treasure.
During the progress of these events in the obscure town of Manchester, Isaiah Stowel, a Vermont sufferer, and an early settler on the Susquehanna in this town, about two miles below Afton; a deacon in the First Presbyterian church of Afton, educated in the spirit of orthodox Puritanism; a man of much force of character, possessing in indomitable will; a very industrious and exemplary man, who, by severe labor and frugality, has acquired property which "excited the envy of many of his less fortunate neighbors;" and who at this time had "grown up sons and daughters to share his prosperity and the honors of his name." became infatuated with the idea that he must go in search of hidden treasures, which he believed were buried in the earth. With hired help and provision he repaired to the vicinity of Lanesboro, In Northern Pennsylvania, where for weeks at a time he encamped on the bleak hills of that region and prosecuted search for hidden treasure, heedless of the admonition of his neighbors, the members of the church, and the importunities of his family. Rumors of the success if the Smiths in discovering concealed treasure reached his ears and fanning into a blaze his cherished hallucination. With his wagon filled with provisions he started in search of the youth, whose mysterious powers would, he fully believed, make him the possessor of untold wealth. He arrived in due time at the rude log cabin of the Smiths, who were living in squalor and poverty, and the object of his search, with his mystic stone, was soon transferred to his more pretentious mansion.
Mr. Stowel with his ward and two hired men, who were, or professed to be, believers, spent much time in excavating near the State line on the Susquehanna and many other places, among them his own farm. Rocks containing iron pyrites were drilled for gold.
In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowel then residing with their father, seeing that the latter was squandering his property in search for hidden wealth under the direction of the youthful, caused the arrest of Smith, who was tried in that month before Albert Neeley, Esq., father of Bishop Neeley, of Maine. The trial was largely attended and the proceedings attracted much attention, though they elicited little but his history from his early boyhood. The witnesses examined besides Smith, were his father, Deacon Isaiah Stowel, and a Mr. Thompson, an employee of Stowel's who always attended the deacon and Smith in their nocturnal labors.
Smith, while here, attended school in district No. 9. He gathered around him a few who were profoundly impressed with the reality of his supernatural powers, and these, some of whom afterwards joined him in the west., Stowel among the number,) he formed into a society at the house of "Joe Knight," on the south side of the river, near the Lobdell House in Broome county. It is related that in order to convince unbelievers that he possessed supernatural power, he announced that he would walk upon the water. The performance took place in the evening, and to the astonishment of many, he did walk upon the water, where it was known to be several feed deep, sinking only a few inches below the surface. This proving a success, a second trial was made which bid fair to be as successful as the first; but when he had proceeded some distance into the river, he suddenly sank, much to the chagrin of himself and proselytes, but to the great amusement of the unbelievers. It appeared on examination that planks were laid a few inches below the surface of the water, and that some wicked boys, being actuated by a greater desire for fun than to promote the prophet's fame, had removed one of them. Smith also pretended to heal the sick, cast out devils, etc. but his career here was terminated by his prosecution as an imposter before Joseph P. Chamberlain, Esq. Two pettifoggers named John S. Reed and James Davison volunteered to defend him, and three witnesses, Mr. Knight and his son and Mr. Stowel, testified that they had seen him cast out devils.
It may be well to relate here an incident replete with interest from its intimate connection with the rise and progress of Mormonism. In 1809, rev. Solomon Spaulding, then residing in Conneaut, Ohio formed the basis of a romance purporting to give the history of a lost race of people, the idea being suggested by the numerous mounds and relics of dilapidated fortifications in that vicinity. The original design of this literary production, which was entitled Manuscript Found, was merely to amuse himself and friends by an imaginary history. It claimed to have been written by one of the lost nations and recovered from one of the mounds. After its completion it was left for perusal with a Mr. Patterson, publisher of a newspaper there; but as it possessed no real merit, Mr. Patterson refused to publish it. Spaulding neglected to call for the manuscript, and it was finally thrown among the waste paper, where it came under the observation of Sydney Rigdon, who was at that time connected with the office, and who took a copy of it. Rigdon, upon hearing of the doings of the Smith family in Palmyra, conceived an idea which resulted in the printing of the Mormon Bible. He at once p0roceeded to Palmyra, and had long and frequent private interviews with Joseph Smith, Jr. At this time, it is supposed, they formed the plan of a new religious dispensation. From this romantic legend the Book of Mormon was paraphrased. Smith repaired at night to a cave in the hillside, and dictated to his amanuensis, Oliver Cowdery, what he "mysteriously translated from golden plates," which he pretended to have found while digging for money in September, 1823, by the aid of spirit revelation, but was not permitted to take them form the earth until 1827, about the time the Bible was commenced. The greatest secrecy was observed during these pretended revelations, which were only given in the cave at night, without any light, no one else but he being able to read the inscription on the plates. When it was completed, they were in a quandary as to how to get it printed. This obstacle was soon removed, however, by Martin Harris, a convert, mortgaging his farm to defray the expenses, ruining himself in doing so. Application was made about June, 1829, to Mr. Egbert B. Grandin, the publisher of the Wayne Sentinel at Palmyra, for the printing of the book. Grandin at once advised them against the folly of the enterprise. All importunity, however, was resisted by Harris, and presented with assumed pious indignation by Smith. Upon the refusal of Grandin, application was made the same year to Mr. Weed, of the Anti-Masonic Inquirer, at Rochester, who likewise refused. They again applied to Grandin, who, seeing their determination consented to print it, stipulating to print some 5,000 copies of the book for a compensation of $3,000.
From such insignificant seed sprang the giant evil, which for fifty years, on the soil of a distant Territory, has subverted all principles of law and order, built a mighty hierarchy of falsehood and licentiousness, and has thus far thwarted nearly every effort made to suppress it.