History of McDonough


    McDonough, the 15th of the Twenty townships, was formed from Preston April 17, 1816.

    The settlement of this town was begun in 1795, in which year several had located here, among whom was Sylvanus MOORE, James TALMADGE, Nathaniel LOCKE, Captain Joshua A. BURKE, Loring and Emory WILLARD, and Henry W. LUDLOW.

    From a written account of his father's settlement here, prepared in 1879, by William S. MOORE, in his 79th year, who is perhaps the best living authority with regard to the early settlement of this town, and to which we have been kindly permitted to refer, it appears that Sylvanus MOORE emigrated from Simsbury, Conn., in 1795, with the intention of locating at Oxford, where there was then but one frame house, that of Benjamin HOVEY's, but the prevalence of fever and ague along the river bottoms induced him to change his purpose. In Oxford he met Henry W. LUDLOW from New York, who had come on for the purpose of promoting the settlement of a large tract of land owned by his father in this town. From overtures made by Mr. Ludlow, among them a promise to speedily erect a saw-mill on the tract, Mr. Moore concluded to look at the land. He penetrated five miles into the wilderness, following a line of marked trees, before he found a desirable location. He contracted for one hundred acres, to which he soon after added another one hundred, in the south-east part of the town, the farm which is now occupied in part by Perry TILLOTSON, on which he continued to reside till his death, at the age of 81 years, and is buried in the cemetery on the farm. He was then a young, single man, without a dollar to apply on the purchase price of his farm. His entire wealth consisted of his clothes, an ax and a few shillings in money. With the latter he procured a few days' rations in Oxford, and started in early spring with a stout heart, a strong purpose and resolute will to wrestle with the harsh conditions which surrounded his future home. His land was densely covered with beech, maple, black cherry, basswood and ash, which was the prevailing timber in this section. His first work, as in all the new settlements in this country, was to roll up a log cabin and clear a spot for his first crops. This accomplished, he returned late in the fall to Oxford and taught school during the winter. The money thus earned was applied to the building of a house on his lands, and while this was in progress, in December, 1797, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Solomon CURTIS an early settler one and one-half miles east of Oxford, on the farm now occupied by Andrew MOREY. Their wedding tour consisted of the journey to their wilderness home. By what mode of conveyance the journey was made we are not advised. This was the first marriage contracted in the town.

    Mr. Moore soon succeeded to the agency of Mr. Thomas Ludlow's lands in this town, the son of that gentleman having become, by dissipated habits, incapacitated for that trust. After the completion of the State road to Ithaca he opened a public house to accommodate the tide of emigrants which passed over it in search of homes in the Genesee county. The increasing travel and new accessions to the settlements soon necessitated an addition to his house. This was the first public house in the town, and was opened in 1799. Mr. Moore continued to dispense these hospitalities for many years.

    Having paid for the farm, and raised sons large enough to undertake its management, he relinquished the farm to them and bought the Ludlow mill property together with one hundred acres of land, and devoted himself to its management. He soon rebuilt the mill and purchased an additional three hundred and eighty acres of land, mostly covered with pine timber, so that he was able to supply the demand for lumber. This saw-mill was built by Henry W. Ludlow in 1798, on the outlet of Ludlow Pond, named from the builder of the mill. It was the first mill in the town and tended largely to promote the settlements in this locality. Mr. Moore still continued to invest in lands until he had acquired 1,100 acres free from debt.

    He was early commissioned captain of a military company, then an office of no little distinction, and held his commission until he became the oldest member of his regiment. He represented the town as Supervisor some eight or ten years, and was magistrate for a number of years.

    The great abundance of game and fish in the forests and streams vastly mitigated the privations of which the early settlers were exposed; indeed without them the settlement and subjugation of this wilderness would have been well nigh impossible with the class of people who generally braved the trials and dangers incident thereto, as most of them were utterly destitute of means and depended largely upon these as a means of subsistence, especially during the earlier years of their settlement. Most of the early settlers therefore became more or less expert as marksmen. The gun was as indispensable as the implements of husbandry, not only as an aid in furnishing the means of subsistence, but also as a means for protection against the beasts of prey which infested the forests and were a constant source of alarm for many years.

    On one occasion Mr. Moore was reminded during the early part of his settlement that the meat tub was getting low; so at the close of his day's labor he repaired to the woods with his gun and soon had the good fortune to start a deer, which he speedily shot. He was quickly on the spot and to his surprise he found that though he had seen but one, he had shot two, which lay within a rod of each other. His attention was attracted by a rustling in the bushes near by and he discovered a third deer, which was rising to its feet. He instantly grasped it and with a tremendous effort succeeded in holding it till he cut its throat. Thus he had the satisfaction of carrying home three full grown deer, which was sufficient to replenish his meat tub and supply his neighbors besides.

    Mr. Moore's wife was truly a help-mate. She was a woman of great energy and perseverance, as well as amiability, and greatly assisted by her industry in paying off the indebtedness on the homestead; for in addition to her domestic duties, including the manufacture of cloth from flax, a very essential crop, from which the clothing for the family was made, she also found time to assist her husband in various ways with his work of clearing up the land, and to weave for her neighbors who did not have looms. One season, while she had the care of five children, she carded, spun and wove two hundred pounds of wool for Mr. LUDLOW, thus helping to make the last payment on their farm. Mrs. Moore was very skillful and successful in the treatment of disease and during the early years of settlement her aid was frequently called into requisition in critical and dangerous cases, so that for many years, when professional aid was not easily obtained, she supplied quite satisfactorily that deficiency. Her oldest daughter has in her possession an old account book of her mother's which contains a record of one hundred and forty-four births which she attended professionally, and this number does not include the many for which payment was made at the time an of which no record was kept. She died in 1822, at the age of 44 years.

    After the death of his first wife Mr. Moore married Miss Polly COVILLE, who is still living in Oxford, with her son, Thomas, aged 89 years. He had six children by his first wife, Eliza T., William S., Nathaniel Locke, Joshua Burke, Lysander and Cynthia H.; and three by his second, Mary, Thomas and George. Eliza T., who was born March 20, 1799, was the first white child born in the town of McDounough. She is still living in the town. She married Daniel SMITH, who died where she now lives, Sept. 25 ,1877. William S., married Mercy HAYES and settled in Guilford, where he still lives. Nathaniel Locke married Polly PALMER of Rochester, where he was then teaching school. He settled and still lives in McDonough, where his wife died Sept. 15, 1877. Joshua Burke died young and is now living in McDonough, where they first settled and have lived 51 years. Cynthia married Vinson LOOMIS and settled in Smithville, where both died. She died Aug. 8, 1839. Mary married Edward CURTIS and is living in Washington, D.C. Thomas married Maria RANDALL, and after her death, Elizabeth DUSHONG. He is now living in Oxford. George married Lorette WIDGER and is living in the Western States.

    Jonah MOORE, brother of Sylvanus, came in some three or four years later and settled on the farm adjoining his brother's on the east, where Peter SHARPE now lives. He was drowned in the Chenango at Oxford some sixty-five years ago, under circumstances which induced the belief that he was murdered. He married, shortly before coming here, Marcia PIERCE, by whom he had ten children: Lyman, who died in Oxford, unmarried, when a young man; Chester, who married Patty CLEVELAND and lived and died in the town in 1876; Phebe, who died young and unmarried; Stoughton, who married Maria SHERBURNE, of Sherburne, and lived and died in St. Catharine's, Canada; Sylvanus, who went South and married there; Barney, who married and removed to the west part of the State and died there; James, who married, lived and died in the West; Henry, who died unmarried at an advanced age; Zalmon, who married Hannah WILLCOX and lived and died in the West; and Marcia, who died in the West, unmarried.

    James TALMADGE, Nathaniel LOCKE and Captain Joshua A. BURKE settled in the same locality and within a mile of Sylvanus MOORE, the former on the place now owned by H. O. CURTIS, of Oxford, in the east part of the town. His death was the first in the town.

    LOCKE afterwards removed to Oxford and died there.

    BURKE settled in the locality of Ludlow Pond, where E. ECCLESTON now lives. He taught the first school in the town, and afterwards removed to New Hampshire.

    Loring and Emory WILLARD were young, single men, and brothers. They removed about 1801 to Cayuga, on the east shore of Cayuga Lake, where they married, raised up families and were active participants in the events connected with the early settlement of the town of Aurelius, where descendants of theirs still live. Loring died there in 1845.

    Henry LUDLOW settled at the head of Ludlow Pond, but there is nothing left to mark the locality of his settlement. He built on the outlet of that Pond, and on the site of the one now owned by Stephen L. ECCLESTON, the first saw-mill, and the first mill of any kind in the town, as before noted. He also kept in his house the first store in the town. He opened it in 1802, but kept it only a short time. It is presumed that he kept the goods mostly for the accommodation of those in his employ and the new settlers then coming in. He held the agency for the sale of the lands of his father, Thomas Ludlow, till dissipation unfitted him for that office. He died on the limits of Norwich, Sept. 7, 1814, aged 40.


    Ephraim FISH and Nehemiah DUNBAR came in soon after MOORE, and settled o the adjoining farms on the old State road, about three miles east of McDonough village, FISH on the farm now occupied by Ira HILLER, and DUNBAR where Charles DUNNING now lives. Reuben and Benjamin FISH were sons of Ephraim, and Ephraim Fish now living in McDonough is a grandson; but none of his children are living.

    DUNBAR died where he settled and left a somewhat numerous family. His children were Polly, who was born in Greenfield, N.Y., June 16, 1796, married Walter OYSHTERBANKS and settled in the town, and after the death of her husband, June 12, 1862, went West and died in Ann Arbor, April 15, 1872; Sally, who married Friend HAYES and is living in Guilford, having again married since the death of her first husband; Hannah, who married and settled in Oxford and died there; Willard, who married "Hopy," daughter of Daniel MATTESON, and lived and died in the town; Cynthia, who married Henry HAMILTON settled no the old homestead, and afterwards removed to Cortland county, where she now resides; and Samantha, who married Prince HILLER, settled in McDonough, and is now living in Smithville.


    Benjamin KETCHUM and his brother-in-law, Benjamin KENYON came in about 1796, and settled on adjoining farms about four miles south-east of McDonough village, KETCHUM on the farm now owned by Amelia DAILEY and occupied by Charles CURTIS, and KENYON on the farm now occupied by the WIGHTMAN brothers. KETCHUM afterwards removed to Smithville, and after four or five years to the springs in the south edge of McDonough and died there. His wife was probably the first wife female who died in the town. [French says her death was the first in the town; but Lysander MOORE, son of Sylvanus, says that this is not the fact-that James TALMADGE was the first person who died in the town.] Ketchum's children were: John, who removed to Ohio when a young man; Isaac, who married a HOTCHKISS and settled in Smithville, afterwards removed to Binghamton, but died in Smithville while on a visit Dec. 17, 1873, aged 77; and Sally, who married Hiram READ and settled on a part of the Ketchum farm in Smithville. They afterwards removed to the town of Greene, where both died only a few years ago.

    Benjamin KENYON died near where he settled, near the springs in McDonough. His children were: John, who removed to Onondaga county on becoming of age, and is now living in Niagara county; Polly, who married Amos BURDICK and removed to Illinois, and subsequently to Michigan, where she died; Hannah, who went to Onondaga county, and married there; Israel, who married Sally PHILLEY and settled in McDonough, where both now live; Singleton, who married Susan HILLER, and settled and is now living in McDonough; and Lydia, who married a man named ALLEN, and lived and died in Cortland county.


    William MEAD, who soon after removed from the town, and Joseph and Ransom COOK, brothers, came in about 1798, the latter from Simsbury, Conn. Joseph COOK settled a half mile west of Sylvanus MOORE, and Ransom on the farm adjoining his on the north, where he and his wife died. Their brother John came in soon after, and he and Joseph removed to the town of Franklin in Delaware county. Their father, Ebenezer Cook, came in some twenty years after, and settled a little north of Sylvanus Moore's, on land which now forms a part of Eli CORBIN's farm. His wife died in the town, but he removed to Connecticut before her death and died there. He was poor and lived mostly with his children None of Ransom's children are left here. They removed to Ohio, some before and some after his death. Two or three of the family are now living there.
    Other settlers of about his period were Edward COLBURN, John ANDERSON, Daniel WAINWRIGHT and M. TURNER.

    WAINWRIGHT settled, but remained only a short time, about a mile east of McDonough village, on the farm afterwards occupied by William NORTON, who came in from Vermont about 1803 or '4. One son, William is now living in German, aged about eighty.


    The first settler on the site of McDonough village was a man named DIBBLE, who came in about 1805. He was an auger maker and followed that vocation to some extent after settling here. He lived a good many years in the town, but removed previous to his death.
    Adam OYSHTERBANKS, [This name is spelled as above in old records and upon the monument which marks his grave; but the descendants now omit the prefix Oyshter, which Walter O. Banks of German, a grandson says is simply a nick name appended to BANKS, which is the correct name, and uses the initial letter of Oyshter as a middle initial.] who was born in Fairfield, Conn., March 28, 1769, came in from the east about 1808 and settled on the chestnut ridge, about two miles east of McDonough village, on the farm afterwards occupied by Adam STANLEY, an early blacksmith at McDonough village, and at present by Leander BEEBE. He afterwards removed to the locality of Milo WEBB's mill, a little east of the village, and died there, August 2, 1826. His children were Abby, who married Roswell BUTTON, lived at first with her father, afterwards removed to Pharsalia, and subsequently to Pennsylvania, where she now resides; Laura, who married Albert ALLEN and settled first in McDonough, but is now living in Michigan; Betsey, who married Nathan DANIELS, settled in McDonough, and afterwards removed to Wayne county; Aaron, who married a SIBLEY and settled in Wayne county, now living in Michigan; and Walter, who was born in New Baltimore, N.Y., August 18, 1792, married Polly DUNBAR, and settled and died in German, June 12, 1862. Numerous descendants of this family are scattered over the country; but only three are living in this State, Harmon W. BANKS in Greene, Loren O. Banks in Wayne county, and Walter O. Banks in German, all sons of Walter and grandsons of Adam.

McDonough Village

Merchants:- The first merchant at McDonough, was John Fisk HILL, a native of Athol, Mass., who came to Oxford about 1818 and did business there with Epaphras MILLER two years. He then removed to McDonough and commenced mercantile business in the old red store which occupied the site of the store now occupied by Joseph G. BROWN, in company with Epaphras Miller, of Oxford, whose interest he bought after about two years. In 1834 his brother Jacob P. Hill, who had clerked for him three years, became his partner; and in 1837 the latter bought John F.'s interest and associated himself with Martin DANIELS, whose interest he bought after three years. Jacob P. Hill has since carried on business alone. The building in which John F. Hill commenced business has been twice moved and is now occupied as a dwelling by Nathaniel THORINGTON. He built the store now occupied by Mr. BROWN about the time he dissolved partnership with Mr. Miller.

    John Hill, father of John F., and Jacob P. Hill, came in from Richmond, N.H., in 1817, arriving at Preston in February of that year. The following March he removed to Chestnut ridge, two miles north-east of McDonough village, where J. C. SIMPSON now lives. He died there Oct. 13, 1852, aged 80. His wife, Susanna, died in the house of her son, Jacob P., in apparent good health, while engaged in ordinary conversation, Dec. 24, 1846, aged 71. His children were, besides John F. and Jacob P., Susan, who married Ira COLE, and is living in the West, aged near 90; Chester, who died Dec. 1, 1873, aged 71, and Emeline B., his wife, Jan. 8, 1852, aged 45; Sophia, who married Samuel BACHELLER, and died Oct. 24, 1855, aged 50, and her husband Feb. 24, 1844, aged 46; Edwin, now living in Norwich; and Theodore, the only one of the children born in McDonough, also living in Norwich.

    The next merchant to John F. Hill was Ransom RATHBONE, who lived and was engaged in mercantile business in Oxford, and owned in McDonough a paper mill, which was built by John Nevins, in 1828, and burned about 1836-'40; about 1833 Mr. Rathbone sent here his son Henry W., who carried on the mercantile business till his father's removal to Elmira, about 1839-'40. Mr. Rathbone built the store now occupied by V. C. EMERSON.

    Immediately after Rathbone discontinued, a "community store" was started by an association of farmers, under the name of Drew, Lull, Birdlelbough & Co., which was managed by Horatio MACK, assisted by Alex. HAMILTON, and continued two or three years. About this period, from 1840-'2, Nelson COVILLE, a native of the town, was also engaged in trade here. His father, Micah Coville, who died here July 16, 1869, aged 87, built the first frame house in McDonough village, in 1818; and Leroy, son of Micah Coville, who was born in 1818, is said to have been the first white child born in the village. Nelson died Nov. 19, 1858, aged 47. The house, to which additions have subsequently been made, is still standing, and is now occupied as a residence by Charles K. GREENE.

    Theodore Hill, brother of John F. and Jacob P . Hill was engaged in trade here from about 1841 to 1862, and was associated from about 1842-'7 with Martin DANIELS. Samuel R. BLIVIN opened a shoe store about 1863, and sold about 1866 to Randall PERRY, who sold to Stephen LEWIS after about a year. Lewis, after a year or two, took in a partner and added groceries to the business, which he continued till 1875, when he sold to Seymour MARTIN, who added dry goods and clothing, and in February, 1876, sold to Eneas L. ENSIGN and James V. GALPIN, who added drugs, and in September, 1877, sold to Galpin & Dailey. In August, 1877, Ensign and Galpin sold their stock of boots, shoes and ready-made clothing to Lewis E. BURDICK who is a son of William R. Burdick, of McDonough village, and who is still engaged in the business, having added hides and leather thereto.

    John OSTRANDER came in from Tully in the winter of 1869 and opened a hardware store and tin shop, and Oct. 1, 1871, sold to Joseph G. BROWN, a native of Smithville, who still carries on the business.

    Varanes C. EMERSON, general merchant, commenced business here June 14, 1858, in company with Eleazer ISBSELL, whose interest he bought in December, 1865, since which time he has carried on the business alone. Mr. Emerson is a son of Moses S. Emerson, a native of Candia, N.H., who removed thence to McDonough in 1818. He was a carpenter and joiner and mill-wright, and followed that vocation in connection with the management of a small farm of thirty acres, in the village of McDoough, till 1846. He died of apoplexy Sept. 25, 1856, aged 51, while on a visit to his native place, but his remains were brought here for interment. Eliza, his wife, died March 22, 1874, aged 65. He had four children besides Varanes C. Maria T., who died in infancy, Elizabeth S., widow of David R. RANDALL, living in Wilkesbarre, Penn., Lucinda F., who married Jonathan C. JONES, of German, where she lived and died in May, 1878, and Herbert, who is now living on the homestead.


Postmasters:- The post-office at McDonough was established about 1825, and John F. HILL, who was instrumental in securing its establishment was the first postmaster and held the office till 1837, when his brother, Jacob P., succeeded him, and held it till the return and re-appointment of John F., who had spent some five years in in Catskill and Norwich. The latter then held it till his death, Nov. 1, 1846, when his brother Theodore was appointed and held the office till 1861. He was succeeded by his brother, Jacob P. Hill, who has since held the office, with the exception of 16 months under Andrew Johnson's administration, when Varanes C. EMERSON held it. Mr. Hill was re-appointed within fourteen days after Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated President. It is a noteworthy fact that, with the exception of these sixteen months, the office has been in the hands of the Hill family since its establishment.

    When the office was first established the mail was carried on horseback, in saddle-bags, from Oxford to Cincinnatus. In 1848, on the completion of the New York & Erie railroad to Binghamton, they commenced, and still continue, to receive a daily mail from Greene.


Physicians:- The first physician at McDonough was probably Russel W. MORLEY, who was licensed in New Hampshire and came from Athol, Mass., about 1818. He located on two acres, a mile east of McDonough village, which are now owned by Ross BLIVIN. He afterwards removed to the village and built the house where Mason WHIPPLE now lives. He practiced here more or less till his death, April 29, 1859, aged 74, or until incapacitated by age. Silas G. CHAPPELLE was practicing here as early as 1827, Oct. 9th of which year he joined the County Medical Society. He practiced a few years and removed to Penfield, Monroe county. Elam BARTLETT and William D. PURPLE, the latter now of Greene, practiced here a short time between 1830 and 1840. Milton MASON, of Preston, commenced practice here about 1840 and continued till his death, Oct. 20. 1843.

    Ephraim K. FROST, who was a physician, surveyor and farmer, came from New Hampshire about 1835, and followed all those vocations till 1854, when he removed to Delaware county, Iowa, and died there a few years ago. It is recollected that he had an inordinate appetite for petty town offices.

    Seneca BEEBE came from Lincklaen in 1843 and practiced till 1858, when he removed to Norwich and practiced there, in Hamilton, Cincinnatus, and Oxford successively, in each place about a year. From Oxford he removed to Cincinnatus, and thence about two years ago to Marathon, where he now resides.

    Eneas L. ENSIGN, son of Solomon and Irene Ensign, and the seventh of eight children, was born in Pitcher, Sept. 8, 1830. His earlier life was spent on the farm and at school, surrounded by the best of home influences. At the age of seventeen he began teaching, and from that time till he was twenty-one divided his time between teaching and attending school. At the age of twenty-one he commenced the study of medicine under the instruction of Dr. Horace HALBUT, of Pitcher, and the following year placed himself under the tutorship of his brother, Dr. Samuel Ensign, of Freetown, Cortland county, with whom he completed his studies in 1856, in the spring of which year he was graduated at the Albany Medical College, where he attended two courses of lectures. April 1, 1857, he bought Seneca BEEBE's practice in McDonough, where he has since been in active practice.

    Luther James PURDY commenced practice here Jan. 1, 1871, and after two years removed to Smithville Flats, where he has since practiced. Further mention is made of him in connection with the history of Smithville.

    Lucian P. ENSIGN, nephew of Dr. Eneas L. Ensign, came in 1873 and practiced till 1877, when he removed to Nebraska.

    Louis P. BLAIR, the only other physician now practicing here, was born in Castle Creek, N.Y., July 8, 1854, and received his literary education at Binghamton Academy. He commenced the study of medicine in the Buffalo Medical College in 1874, and in 1876 entered the Kentucky School of Medicine, where he was graduated June 28, 1877. He commenced the practice of his profession here in April, 1878.


Lawyers:- Henry WELCH, a native of this county, came here from Smithville in 1862, and practiced law one year. He removed to Norwich and subsequently entered the army, and is now practicing in Jefferson county. He is the only lawyer who has practiced at McDonough.

East McDonough

    Deacon Elijah THOMPSON kept store here for several years some twenty-five years ago, in the building now occupied as a dwelling by John FRANKLIN. He was succeeded by his son Giles, who traded three or four years in the building in which the widow of Edson GALE now lives, which then stood on the opposite side of the road from the old tavern stand, just west of the house now occupied by the widow of Rev. Cyrus STEERE. The building was originally a barn or shop and has been moved four times. Ephraim SPRAGUE, who came from the east, opened a store in the same building about 1865 and traded till his death two or three years after. He kept a general stock of goods and is the only one who has kept any considerable store here. Philo FOSGATE commenced trading soon after Sprague's death, in the same building, which he removed to the corner opposite the old tavern stand. He sold after two or three years to his brother-in-law, Elijah W. THOMPSON, who continued the business till his death, Sept. 21, 1873. Jeremiah CALVERT, Jr., came here from McDonough village in March, 1875, and has kept a small grocery since.

    The post-office at East McDonough was established about thirty years ago, and Horace CORBIN was the first postmaster. He was succeeded by Stephen RANDALL, who held it from 1853 to 1857, when John Giles THOMPSON was appointed and held the office till Dec. 31, 1861, when Stephen RANDALL was again appointed and has held the office continuously since. An office was previously established a mile below East McDonough and Benjamin RANDALL was the postmaster there.

    On a small stream emptying into Ludlow Pond outlet, about three miles south-east of McDonough village, is a saw-mill owned by E. J. SPAULDING and built some 30 to 40 years ago. On Bowman creek, in the south-east part of the town, is a saw-mill which is owned by Nathaniel Locke MOORE. It was built forty years ago or more.


End of McDonough (pg 369-378)
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