Norwich (p. v.) is delightfully situated upon the Chenango River, in the north-west part of the town, and was incorporated April 16, 1816. Canasawacta Creek flows along its western border and unites with the Chenango at the south bounds of the village. The streets are regularly laid out and most of them bordered by fine rows of shade trees. The village contains the County buildings, six churches, viz., Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, F. W. Baptist and Roman Catholic, two banks, an academy, two newspaper offices, four hotels, a piano forte manufactory, several carriage factories and tanneries, a blast furnace, a hammer factory, a planing mill, a sash, door and blind factory, a foundry and machine shop, and several other manufactories of various kinds. The village is lighted with gas, contains between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants and is rapidly increasing. The Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley Railroad, now open to Sherburne, will soon be open to Norwich, and the Midland Railroad is now in process of construction and will, when completed, give direct communication with New York City.
The Piano Forte Manufactory of E. T. Hayes was established in 1838, with a capital of $150. Six or eight instruments were made the first year and the business gradually increased until about three hundred were made in one year. At present about thirty hands are employed and four instruments are made per week.
The Gas Works were started about 1862, by Hayes & Rider, and now the public buildings, many private residences and the streets are lighted with gas.
The Hammer Factory of David Maydole is a monument to the enterprise, energy and business talent of its founder and proprietor. The business of making hammers was commenced in the spring of 1847, and four or five men were employed. In the fall of 1848 the establishment was burned, but rebuilt immediately and put in operation in January, 1849, since which its progress has been onward and upward util the present. About one hundred hands are employed and the sales amount to about $150,000 per year. Sixty-four different kinds and sizes of hammers are made and are generally acknowledged to be the best in the market. Mr. Maydole gives his personal attention to the manufacture of these hammers and allows no defective work to leave the shop. To this in a great degree may be attributed the fact that he meets with no competition in the market. The number of hammers made averages from forty to fifty dozen per day.
The Norwich Charcoal Blast Furnace was erected in 1856, by Andrews, Rider & Co., and cost about $25,000. The ore used is from Salisbury, in Dutchess County, and the iron manufactured amounts to about 1500 tons annually. The present proprietors are Russell & Angel, car wheel manufacturers, of Chicago, Ill., and Adrian, Mich., J. & N. C. Scoville, of Buffalo and Toronto, and B. B. Andrews, of Norwich. The iron manufactured is used by the proprietors at their foundries in the places above named. About 25 hands are employed. On the 21st of April, 1869, the establishment was burned, but is now being rebuilt.
White Store, (p. v.) in the south-east part of the town, contains a church, a hotel, a grist mill, a saw mill, a blacksmith shop and about a dozen houses.
Polkville is a hamlet near the center of the town.
The first settlement within the present limits of Norwich was made in 1788, by Avery Power. He came here previous to the treaty by which the Twenty Towns were ceded to the State, and located on what was known as the Indian Fields, on lot 39, in the south-east part of the village of Norwich. When the surveyors came here to run out the land it is said that Power paid for his farm by boarding the surveyors and assisting them in their labors. His farm was purchased of the State at the minimum price, three shillings per acre. In 1800 he sold out to John Randall for four thousand and one hundred dollars. The farm contained 286 acres, including the whole of lot 39 and 36 acres over. In the fall of 1790 and spring of 1791, several other settlers came from Massachusetts and Connecticut and settled in various parts of the town. These settlers came via Albany to the Unadilla River and followed marked trees to the Power farm. Where the streams were too deep to ford with safety they crossed in canoes. Some came by the way of Whitestown and down the valley. David Fairchild was one of the first settlers and located near the south line of the town and subsequently removed to Preston. Silas Cole is another of the early settlers. His farm, according to Clark's History, must have embraced nearly the same as that of Avery Power. He says: "The Cole farm included all of the corporate limits of Norwich village lying north of where the Canasawacta Creek crosses South Main Street, and east of South Main Street to where East Street intersects Main Street." He built a house for a tavern, and when the first militia muster was advertised for Norwich, made great preparations to entertain the assembled multitude. Though the crowd that assembled was even greater than was expected, the inn keepers failed to gain the largest share of their patronage, as the village swarmed with hucksters who ministered to the wants of the multitude, leaving the landlords to dispose of their supplies at the best market offered. Mr. C. became involved by his outlay on this occasion and was compelled to sell his farm. He removed to the State of Ohio where he died. William Smiley came into the town about the same time and settled south of the village. His farm included the once famous Sulphur Spring which was destroyed by an attempt to improve it. Nicholas Pickett was another who came about the same time. Major Thomas Brooks, from Massachusetts, who was engaged in "Shay's rebellion," came here and settled on the west Green in Norwich. He built a log cabin without using either hammer or nails. He subsequently removed to Plymouth, where he died. He was a soldier of the Revolution and was at the battle of Bunker Hill. Israel, Charles and Matthew Graves were among the early settlers and purchased all that part of the village lying west of South Main Street, and extending to the Creek and as far north as the Green. Other early settlers were Josiah Brown, John Wait, Martin Taylor, Joseph Skinner, Captain John Harris, Samuel Hammond, William and Hascall Ransford, Chauncey and William Gibson, Simeon and Job Spencer, John Welch, Lemuel Southwick, Col. William Monroe, Lobden Jaynes, Richard Miller, Manasseh French, Joab Enos, Elisha Smith, Mark, William and Stephen Steer, Stephen Collins, James Gilmore, Moses Snow, John Randall and his son Charles, the last named still living, John McNitt, David and John Shattuck.
The first child born in the town was Lucy Power, and the first male child Marcus Cole. The first marriage was that of Hascall Ransford and Miss Harriet Graves, July 12, 1792. There was no clergyman or other person authorized to marry, nearer than Tioga Point, and Mr. Ransford at first proposed to go there to have the ceremony performed, but finally it was decided to make a Justice of the Peace for the occasion, and the oath was accordingly administered to Joab Enos, who performed his part in the drama to the satisfaction of the parties most intimately concerned. Doctor Jonathan Johnson was the first physician of the town, he came from Connecticut and settled here about 1794. His widow who was a younger sister of Mrs. Hascall Ransford, the first bride of the town, is still living. Dr. Johnson enjoyed a lucrative practice for many years. In the early years of his practice the forests were infested by wild beasts, whose howls and screams made night hideous as he pursued his lonely way over the hills and through the valleys.
Truman Enos, now living in the village of Norwich, came here in 1806 and established a tannery which he carried on about forty years. He says Joshua Whipple kept a store near the site of the drug store, on Main Street, a hogshead of whisky being the chief article of trade.
The first mills were built by Deacon Elisha Smith, on the west side of the Creek, opposite the present stone mill, in 1798. Near the site of the Hughson House was a large trough to hold the lye from several leaches, and near by was a row of kettles to convert the same into black salts.
Dr. Harvey Harris, son of Capt. John Harris, was born in 1795, and is the oldest resident of the town, who was born here. He informed the writer that five hundred Indians once stopped at his father's, on their way to attend a council at Tioga Point. They proceeded down the river in canoes.
Captain Harris's farm was upon the hill on the east side of North Main Street. The first town meeting was held at the house of Captain Harris in 1793. Subsequently the town meeting was held at the house of Hascall Ransford, who is said to have kept the first inn, though Mr. Power provided entertainment for travelers at an earlier day, and the State Gazetteer says Benjamin Edmunds kept the first inn. It appears from the best information at hand that Mr. Ranford's [sic] inn was much larger and much more worthy of the name than any that preceded it. Mr. Ransford was also the first post master, the mail being received once a week. Deacon Charles Randall, now living in Norwich, informed the writer that when eighteen years of age he moved with his father from Stonington, Connecticut, to Pharsalia, driving an ox team through the whole distance. He started with two yoke, and at Hartford added another. He crossed the Hudson at Catskill and after a journey of twenty-one days arrived at his place of destination. This was in May, 1798. A few years afterwards, his father, Mr. John Randall, purchased a farm in the present limits of Norwich and removed hither.
Mr. Leonard M. Cutting was the original purchaser of this town, and on the arrival of settlers refused to sell his land, but wished to lease it after the manner of the Van Rensselaers and some other early land holders. The settlers declined to enter upon the land upon such terms and proposed to remove to Whitestown, but finally Melancthon Smith and John Stiles purchased Cutting's land and sold to the settlers at $2.50 per acre.
Peter B. Garnsey was an extensive land owner and was during his life identified with the prosperity of Norwich, and his heirs are still land owners in the town.
The writer was unable to find the early records of the town and consequently is unable to give the early town officers and many other facts usually obtained from such records.
The first religious services were held by Rev. Manasseh French, in 1793 or 1794. Rev. John Camp preached for several years, alternating between this town and Oxford. In 1814 Rev. Joel Benedict and other missionaries visited the town and their labors were attended with such success that a church of the Congregational or Presbyterian order was organized. We quote the following from Hotckin's History: "Mr. Benedict, in his report to the Trustees of the Missionary Society, says, 'In the shire-town of the County of Chenango, called Norwich, for years past the greatest stupidity, and an almost total indifference to divine things prevailed, and the Sabbath was wholly neglected. During the last winter and spring the Lord remarkably owned the labors of missionaries in that place. I organized a church there in June, consisting of twenty members, and on the Sabbath the audience was large, nearly four hundred persons attended. It is impossible to describe the alteration that has taken place there within a short time, for the better.' " For several years succeeding this we have no report of the Church.
The Baptist Church of Norwich was organized August 18, 1814, with fifteen members; Rev. Jedediah Randall, pastor. The following are the names of the other members at its organization, viz., John Hascall, John Randall, Beriah Lewis, Elias Breed, Thomas Prentice, Reuben Nichols, Lois Lewis, Lois W. Lewis, Mary Norton, Anna Nichols, Huldah Welch, Anna York, Elizabeth Breed and Pruda Bushnell. On the first of March following, a council of members from North Norwich, Preston, Pharsalia, German and Brookfield, agreed unanimously to give them fellowship as a church. Of this council Jonathan Ferris was moderator and Nathan Noyes, clerk. The first person baptized was Miss Martha G. Randall, in May, 1815. The last of the band who organized this Church, Mrs. Elizabeth Breed, died in the fall of 1868. She was a sister of Miss Randall, the first one baptized.
The Baptist Church and Society was organized August 12, 1816. Their first meetings were held in the Court House. Their first house of worship was erected on the east side of the square, opposite. It was burned in 1845. A new house was nearly completed when the fire occurred, and was dedicated in December, 1845. It is of stone, situated on the north side of the square, and cost originally $9,000. It has recently been repaired and presents a beautiful appearance in the interior and exterior. The Church has had twelve pastors since its organization. The oldest surviving member, Mrs. Elizbeth Lewis, was baptized December 9, 1816. Soon after the great revival of 1816, one hundred and three persons were baptized. The present membership is five hundred and six; the whole number of males added to the Church by baptism is 410; number of females, 648; the whole number of additions, 1,578 and the number who have died, 214. Rev. J. D. Pope is the present pastor.
We were unable to learn at what time the Methodist Church was organized, but their house of worship was dedicated in 1836. Rev. Lyman Beach was the pastor at that time. The present membership is about 400. Rev. W. A. Wadsworth is pastor.
The population of Norwich in 1865 was 4,331 and its area 26,892 acres.
The number of school districts is twenty; number of children of school age, 1,441; number attending school, 938; average attendance, 430; amount expended for school purposes during the last year, $5,830.68.