HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF HOMER
The town of Homer embraces a part of the original township No. 19 of the Military Tract (Homer) and lies on the western border and just north of the center of the county. It is bounded on the north by the towns of Preble and Scott; on the east by Truxton and Solon; on the south by Cortlandville, and on the west by Cayuga county.
The surface of the town is broken by the east and west branches of the Tioughnioga river and its two tributaries, Cold brook and Factory brook. The western part of the town consists of an elevated upland, rising to the height of 1500 to 1600 feet above the tide. The valley of the western branch of the Tioughnioga in the town is of nearly an average width of a mile, and is elevated 1096 feet above tide. The eastern valley is much narrower. A ridge of hills lies between these two valleys, ranging from 2 to 500 feet in height above the Tioughnioga, and a similar ridge occupies the southwest corner of the town.
The soil of the river valleys is a deep, rich alluvial and dark loam, which is well adapted to tillage. On the hills it is a sandy or gravelly loam, better adapted for pasturage.
The township of Homer, when erected in 1794, and down to the year 1829, embraced the present town of Cortlandville. Prior to the year 1791, when Amos Todd and Joseph Beebe explored this beautiful valley, the territory now comprised within the boundaries of the town of Homer, as well as the surrounding vicinity, was known to the whites only on maps and charts, and though constituting a part of the State of New York, was considered, chiefly on account of its location, of but minor importance to settlers. Previous to its settlement by Todd and Beebe there was but a legendary history of the locality, consisting of reminiscences treasured in the memory of the scattered remnants of the Indian tribes who occupied the banks of the Chenango and the Tioughnioga rivers. (Footnote: The name of the Tioughnioga, in the Indian language, was O-nan-no-gi-is-ka, signifyng "shagbark, " or hickory). The natural beauty of hill, dale and valley in this region, with the material advantages surrounding, soon, however, attracted other eyes than those of the red man, which led to the beginning of the settlement on the site of the present quiet, rural village of Homer whose spires and domes lend additional attractiveness to the valley. (Footnote: Homer was called by the Indians, "Te-wis-ta-no-ont-sa-ne-ha," signifying "the place of the silversmith."
To record the events in the lives and early settlements of those hardy adventurers who first located on the banks of the Tioughnioga, or reared their cabins on the hillsides, is in part the task before us. Fortunately some records we kept of early events in this region at a time when they were available and could receive verification. There also remain here and there the aged resident, whose memory reaches back to early days and whose cooperation has enabled us to give the principal facts connected with the history of this and other towns. (Footnote: It is worthy of mention that the people of Homer have always been noted for their patriotism to their country, their religious character and their longevity; there still reside here a number of early settlers who have passed through the different stages of the history of the town, to its present condition of growth and prosperity; to them we are indebted for valuable assistane and especially to Charles Kingbury, Hosea Sprague, Thomas D. Chollar, and others).
The first settlers in the town of Homer as they were also of the county, were Amos Todd and Joseph Beebe, the latter's wife Rhoda, and John Miller, whose experiences will be given a little farther on. In the spring of 1792, Mr. Miller, after a visit home, returned with John House, James Matthews, James Moore and Daniel Miller.
In 1793, Darius Kinney, Roderick Owen, John Ballard and Captain David Russell came into the town. In 1794, Jonathan Hubbard and Moses Hopkins (who located in the present town of Cortland) came in, and were followed in 1795, by Thomas L. and Jacob Bishop, Thomas Wilcox, Zebulon Keene, John Stone, Joshua Atwater, Libeus Andrews, John Keep, Solomon and John Hubbard, Thomas G., Ebenezer and Charles Alvord.
In 1797, Joshua Ballard, John Albright, Asa White and Caleb Keep came into the town, and in 1798, considerable accession was made to the population, by persons settling in various parts of the territory, but more especially along the borders of the east and west branches of the river. While the names of all who came in after this date cannot probably be given, we can mention the following: Stephen Knapp, Daniel, Samuel and Gideon Hobart, Titus Stebbins, Samuel Hotchkiss, Dr. Lewis S. Owen, Deacon Noah Hitchcock, Zenas Lilly, Timothy Treat, Enos Stimson, William Lucas, Asahel Miner, Col. Benajah Tubbs, John and Richard Bishop. (Footnote: Several of these pioneers settled within the present limits of Cortlandville and became identified with that locality. See history of that town.) These pioneers all came into the town prior to 1800, and constituted the beginniing of the new settlement. They were the men who suffered many and great hardships, privations and inconveniences while subduing the wilderness, all the details of which it is impossible at this late day to obtain. Those who followed during the first quarter of the 19th century also endured privations and made sacrifices that are little realized at the present day. They all possessed aggressive spirits and labored not for themselves alone, but for their children and future generations as well. For this life and purpose they abandoned the hearthstones of their boyhood days, the endearments of social ties, cultivated associations and the many luxuries common to older settlements.
The forefathers of Homer could have been none other than men of enterprise, with positive characters and unfaltering determination, to have attained so high a degree of success in their effors for the extension of civilization into what was then an unknown wilderness.
Amos Todd and Joseph Beebe, whose advent into the old town of Homer has been already alluded to, migrated from New Haven, Conn., and located at Windsor, Broome county, NY, during the year 1789. They explored the valley of the Tioughnioga in the summer of 1790 and in 1791 left Windsor to become the first settlers in Cortland county and probably, in the town of Homer. They were accompanied by Mr. Beebe's wife, Rhoda, who was Todd's sister. The current narrative of the early experiences of these pioneers, as it has often been told and written, is as follows: -
Coming up the valley from the southward they selected the site for their primitive home, just north of the present village of Homer, within a few rods of the bridge across the Tioughnioga, and nearly opposite the residence occupied in later years by Erastus Goodell. Their rude dwellling was composed mainly of poles and was, perhaps, twelve by fifteen feet in its dimensions. Before this temporary abode was finished their team strayed away into the forest. Leaving Mrs. Beebe alone, the two men set out in pursuit of the animals. Without any protection other than the four walls of her unsubstantial cabin, which was yet without roof or floor, and with no door save simply a blanket hung upon the poles to cover the opening, the brave woman remained alone three days and nights. During these long, lonely hours she is said to have retained a tranquil mind and and received no annoyance save such as was caused by the howling wolves and occasional screaming panther, which at that time often made the nights hideous. She received but one call during the time the men were abesent, and that was by a wolf which, being rather timid, only displaced the blanket door sufficiently to introduce his nose and take a survey of the apartment and the shrinking woman.
A severer trial, however, awaited this pioneer woman, During the following winter her brother and husband were compelled to return to Windsor for their household effects, etc. At the end of their journey they were snow bound for a period of six weeks, during which time Mrs. Beebe remained in her lonely wilderness home, the sole occupant of the forest and "palace of poles." She must have been blessed with far more than ordinary courage and fortitude or she could never have lain calmly down in a dense forest, night after night, many miles distant from any human habitation, to rest by the lullabys of the wolves and panthers. Mrs. Beebe is said to have been thus situated, and it was not until the middle of the winter that her husband and brother pushed their frail craft to Binghamton, where they were joined by John Miller, father of the afterward well known deacon Daniel Miller. The little canoe was again pushed from shore and on their way homeward up the river "the men took turns in directing its course and removing obstacles, or following on foot and driving the cattle." Sometimes the stream was found too shallow and boat was drawn across the rift by oxen and then again set afloat. Time, which is the author of all changes in human affairs, at last brought the pioneers near to their wilderness home. The imagination of the reader can best depict the meeting of the two men with the brave and lonely wife and sister. So runs, in substance, the narrative of the first settlement of this town.
Unfortunately for the authors and circulators of this interesting story, there is a somewhat different version of it given upon undoubted authority (that of Mr. Charles Kingsbury, of Homer) which it is our duty to reproduce. Mr. Kingsbury has written and published many reminiscences of early times, and of the account of the winter journey of the three men from Broome county, says: "Now, it strikes me as being singular that those first settlers should pull from shore in midwinter and be able to propel their frail craft, not only against the current of the stream; but the winter must have been of a much milder type than modern winters, or the stream would have been filled with heavy ice which, of course, would have seriously obstructed the navigation. It appears that this story lacks confirmation." These are Mr. Kingbury's own words, and the narrative as best substantiated to him is to the effect that " Mr. and Mrs. Beebe and Mr. Todd, a brother-in-law of Beebe, and at that time, unmarried, came up the river in a boat from Windsor and landed on the west bank about midway between the present Port Watson bridge and the point where the two branches of the river unite. (Footnote: This would locate their first settlement within the present boundaries of Cortlandville.) There they constructed a temporary cabin of a few logs, but mostly of poles, and the men returned to Windsor for provisions and such articles as they could bring back, and which their circumstances imperatively demanded. It has been asserted almost times without number, that Mrs. Beebe remained alone during their absence; but it now appears upon good authority that she had a daughter named Clara, who remained with her. For some cause, at present unknown, the men were detained much longer than they expected to be; even more than twice the length of time they had marked out had already passed. Mrs. Beebe's small stock of provisions was exhausted, and she was reduced to the necessity of resorting to roots and the barks of trees to appease their hunger and sustain life. At length she came to the conclusion that some serious misfortune had befallen her husband and brother, and that some decided effort was necesary on her part; the only alternative which presented itself, which appeared at all feasible, was to make the journey down the river through the forest on foot This bold resolution she finally adopted, although well aware that the woods were inhabited by wild animals, many of which were fierce and dangerous. She hoped by keeping near to the stream, to avoid the danger of being lost in the woods, and thus by patient and persevering effort, she would at length succeed in emerging from the forest and discovering a settlement. The day for beginning the journey was fixed, the small means she possessed were in readiness, when, sometime in the night preceding her start, upon looking out of her cabin, she discovered a light some distance down the river. This was something so unusual that it created much interest in her mind, and watching it closely, she saw it was approaching. In a little time it drew near and with it her husband and brother, with a stock of provisions and other goods which they so much needed."
This cabin was their temporary residence during the time the men were engaged in building a log house, on the farm upon which Mr. Beebe located, west of Homer village, on lot 43, on the south side of the road formerly known as "the turnpike." Here the Beebes spent the remainder of their lives, Mrs. Beebe dying in 1830 and her husband in 1802. An old-fashioned headstone marks their graves, in what is now Glenwood Cemetery. Like a majority of the early settlers, Mr. and Mrs. Beebe were very worthy people. We find their names among the earliest members of the first Baptist Church society of Homer.
Mr. Todd subsequently settled on the farm adjoining Mr. Beebe's on the east, where himself and his wife passed their lives. They were also worthy and respected members of the community. Both of these families reared a number of children, all of whom removed from the town. Harry S. Beebe, son of Joseph, succeeded his father on the farm, but subsequently removed to the State of Pennsylvania, where he died several years ago.
This last account of the first settlement in this county is undoubtedly reliable and correct, in the main, as we have it directly from one who is, probably, the oldest native citizen now living in the old town of Homer, to whom Mrs. Beebe herself related the circumstances, going with him to the spot upon which their first cabin was built, which she was enabled to recognize by a spring of water issuing from the ground near to and in a certain direction from the location of the cabin. The land on which the dwelling was built was owned and occupied in later years by Samuel Hotchkiss.
This last account of the first settlement in the county by white persons becomes of considerable importance when we consider its authenticity, its bearing upon the most prominent of the early experiences of the pioneers, and the fact that it removes the first settlement from the town of Homer to a point within the present boundaries of the town of Cortlandville.
As we have before stated, John Miller accompanied Todd and Beebe on their second journey up the Tioughnioga river and in the spring of the year, 1792, brought to the town of Homer his wife and two sons; they came from the State of New Jersey and constituted the third family in the town; although John House, James Mathews and James Moore accompanied him on his return from his former home in the spring of the year last named. It appears by an old record that the Miller family formerly resided in the State of Maryland, about fifty miles west of Baltimore; but at what time is not known; nor is the place in New Jersey, from which he is said to have migrated to this county, known at this time, as far as we have been able to learn. He settled on lot 56, now embraced in the town of Cortlandville, and further reference to the family will be found in the history of that town.
John House, James Mathews and James Moore, who came into the town with the Millers, were from Binghamton; they camped at the forks of the river, where their wives remained while the pioneers went forward and erected cabins for their temporary homes. "Mr. Mathews built on the upper end of Mr.Miller's lot (56). Mr. House about eight rods west of where Ebenezer Cole afterward lived. Mr. Moore near the bridge just south of the cotton factory." (Footnote: Goodwin's "History".)
Darius Kinney came into the town from Brimfield (from which Massachusetts town very many of the early settlers in this section migrated), and located in 1793 on the East river. Mrs.Kinney was a sister of the wife of Judge Keep. Mr. Kinney resided on that farm about four years, and near the dwelling of Judge Keep on the site of the present county poor-house. Mr. Kinney then disposed of his farm and purchased another in the valley of the west branch of the river, since owned by Abel Kinney (now owned by a Mr. Gallup), where he died in 1816. Mrs. Kinney survived her husband something more than twenty-five years and was one of the little band that constituted the first Congregational churh in Homer, in October, 1801; at the time of her death she was the last of the little company.
The Ballard family came from Holland, Mass. John located on the east side of the Tioughnioga, and three years later settled on the farm subsequently owned by Paris Barber. It was owned at that time by Capt. David Russell, who had erected a double log house near the northwest corner of Mr. Barber's orchard.
During the year 1795 several small companies came in by way of Manlius and Truxton. Thomas L. and Jacob Bishop, from Brimfield, located on lot 25, on lands afterward owned by Noah Hitchcock, now occupied by his son, Dwight Hitchcock. The farm was known in early days as the Vanderlyn farm. Thomas Wilcox came from Whitestown, NY and located on lot 64, where Joshua Ballard afterwards lived. Zebulon Keene located on the farm afterward owned by Mr. ---- Sheffield. John Stone, from Brimfield, settled on lot 25, on what was subsequently known as the Albert Baker farm. Joshua Atwater located on lot 13, northwest of the village; Ezra and Joseph Atwater were his sons.
Solomon and John Hubbard, brothers, came from Massachusetts in 1795 or '96; the former settled on lot 25 and the latter on lot 26, a little north from the present village. These men were active, intelligent citizens and their efforts in various dirctions for the good of the community became in after years importatnt and influential. Solomon Hubbard's residence, when originally erected, was looked upon as one of the largest and most pretentious in the county.
Thomas G., Ebenezer and Charles Alvord came in from Farmington, Conn., in 1795 or '96, and settled in the northwest part of the town on lot No. 13. The former, however, drew lot 56. When he reached Manlius on his journey into the county he was met by two "land-sharks," who, on learning the number of the lot on which the old hero was intending to settle, coolly informed him that they had been to Homer and that they were well acquainted with the position of his land, and would assure him that it was of very little value, was wet, the greater part of it being covered with water. By virtue of plausible lies of the character they induced him to part with six hundred acres of most valuable land for a few dollars.
In 1795 Enon Phelps emigrated from Morristown, NJ, and settled on the north-east corner of lot 50 in the extreme south-east corner of the present town of Homer; there, on the hill adjoining the town of Solon, he located on a hundred acres of land which he had bought of George Clinton. It is believed that Mr. Clinton drew this lot as bounty land for services rendered in the army. The location of Mr. Phelps was about three miles from the valley, between which points there was at that time, of course, no road. Mr. Miller, on lot 56, (where T. Mason Loring now resides) was desirous of opening better means of communication with his neighbor Phelps; he accordingly started for the purrpose of locating a road by "blazing" trees - making what was early called a bridle-path. Leaving the valley, he proceeded, as he supposed, in the direction of Mr. Phelps's house; he made good progress, finding the route a very feasible one. Pushing on as fast as the brush and his labor marking the trees would admit, he finally emerged from the forest into a clearing. His astonishment may be imagined on finding himself not more than half a mile in a southeasterly direction from the place where he left the valley, and but a short distance from the ground now occupied as a burying-ground. He made a second attempt, but again failed utterly. Procuring a compass, his third effort at road making was successful. (Footnote: This is by no means an isolated instance of the kind. Most old settlers will remember similar experiences on either their own part or that of their neighbors. It has been often proved that it is an absolute impossibility for a person unacquainted with woodcraft to follow any point of the compass through a thick forest; he may do it by chance, but as an intention the probabilities are all against his success. On the other hand, the Indian, by some power that is difficult of comprehension by civilized man, finds no trouble in going miles through an impenetrable forest direct to a distant point,and seldom or never erring. Instinct, as it is called, often seems to baffle reason.)
William W. Phelps was a son of Enon Phelps and a printer by trade. He was at one time connected with one of the county Democratic papers, but subsequently removed to the western part of the State, where he became a leader among the Mormons, then located in that section, and printed their bible. Later still he returned to Homer and baptized his father, mother and brother. Enon Phelps cleared up his land and planted the first apple orchard in the town.
Joshua Ballard came from Holland, Mass., in 1797, and selected a location on lot 45. He was twenty-one years old at that time. During the next year he returned to his native State and brought back with him his young and interesting wife. They came by the way of Cazenovia into the town of Homer on horseback. Mr. Ballard taught the first school in the old town and gave valuable aid to the Cortland Academy, being one of its founders and most prominent supporters. He was appointed sheriff on the 10th of April, 1810; was a member of the Legislature of 1816; was appointed county clerk in July, 1819, soon after which he removed into the boundaries of the present town of Cortlandville.
In 1798 Daniel Crandall came to Homer and worked for Judge Keep, chopping the timber and clearing ten acres of land on the site of the county poor-house farm. He was a native of Voluntown, Windham county, Conn. He came in alone and it is believed he made the entire journey on foot. Late in the season after his arrival he was seriously wounded by an axe cut in his foot, which made it impossible to continue his labor in the woods. Under these circumstances he collected a few tools and began the business of "cobbling" in Judge Keep's house. Here he was permitted to occupy a small space in one corner of the family room, which was not a large one, and contained a bed, a loom and other domestic furniture, for the use of which and his board he gave the judge one day's work in each week. He soon became sufficiently expert in his new avocation to begin making boots and shoes, and so spent the winter in industry. It is quite probable that this was the first manufacturing of any kind, other than spinning and weaving, carried on in the county. Mr. Crandall subsequently returned to Connecticut, and in the winter of 1799-1800 was married and removed with his wife back to Homer; they made the journey with an ox team, crossed the Hudson river on the ice, opening and breaking his own road a portion of the distance, and being twenty-one days on the way. He afterwards helped to chop the trees from the ground now occupied by the "green" in Homer village, and also to build the structure there for school and religious purposes. He purchased fifty acres of land on lot 38, which included the site of the East River Mills, where he built a log house; he moved into it when it was without a door and the gables were open, and kept his oxen, a cow and a calf through the first winter on "browse." The wolves attempted to kill the calf, but, strange to relate the cow and oxen fought desperately in the feeble animal's defense and came off victorious. Captain Crandall built the first saw-mill at East River, and subsequently, in company with Samuel Griggs, erected the first grist-mill at that point. He was one of the sixteen persons who constituted the first Baptist Church society in Homer.
In the pioneer days Mr. and Mrs. Crandall were in the habit of walking to the house of Judge Keep for the purpose of attending meeting, that being the place where, for some years, religious and other public gatherings were held, Mr. Crandall carrying their first-born child in his arms. On one of these occasions they had proceeded about half a mile, when they came into a small opening in the forest where the water bubbled in several springs from the ground and formed a little rivulet. Here they suddenly encountered a large bear, deeply engaged in digging roots from the soft ground for her cubs; the bear, being a mother and suddenly surprised, instantly reared on her haunches and for a few moments intently surveyed her enemies. It was a critial time; Mr. and Mrs. Crandall confidently expected an attack, and that at the next moment they might be clasped in the too ardent embrace of the animal and their flesh be torn by her teeth. But after a few moments, when her curiosity was apparently satisfied, the bear turned and disappeared in the forest, to the great relief of the church-goers.
In 1797 John Albright located on lot 29. He was an excellent citizen, respected by his friends, and his experience was of a very interesting character. He passed through much of the severest service in the Revolutionary War, faithfully and honorable serving his country. He was of Swiss parentage and early in life followed the tailoring business; but he did not like the work to which he was apprenticed, and the son of his foster-parent having been drafted, young Albright saw an opportunity of escape from his irksome position by taking the place of the drafted son in the colonial service, surrendering his indentures to the tailor's trade. After his enlistment he was ordered to Fort Mongomery, Orange county, where he was stationed during the siege. He was afterwards engaged in the defense of Fort Stanwix, and was subsequently captured by Tories and Indians and taken as a prisoner to Canada. Afterwards he was a participant in the terrible march of the Continental army from Philadelphia to Valley Forge, where they could have been tracked upon the frozen ground by their bleeding feet. Finally he was in the siege of Yorktown, which ended in the capitulation of Cornwallis. For his services to his country he drew the military bounty lot on which he located.
Daniel Todd, brother of Amos Todd, located on a farm lying directly south of Mr.Beebe's. It is now known as the Bedell farm. Titus Stebbins settled immediately south of Amos Todd prior to the year 1800, and Chester Boies located to the north of Stebbins, where he was succeeded by Bildad Hotchkiss. THe latter was succeeded on this farm by Samuel Bunn; it is at present owned by his widow and children. Mr. Bunn gained the reputation of being an honest, upright and respected member of the community. A short distance to the east and adjoining his farm was that of Pliny Polly, the first settler on that farm. One of his daughters became the wife of Charles Todd, son of Daniel Todd; Another the wife of A. Harris, of Little York, and another married a son of Dr. Carpenter, of East River; he removed to the west.
Asa White and Caleb Keep came from Monson, Mass., before 1798. The former located on lot 45, within the present limits of the village, and built his house on the grounds so long occupied in subsequent years by the residence of Jedediah Barber. He was the father of Horace and Hamilton White, afterwards bankers in Syracuse. He, in company with John Keep and Solomon Hubbard, built the first grist-mill in the county, in 1798, on the site of the present mill near the northern end of the village.
Other considerable accessions were made to the population during the year 1798, many of whom settled along the two branches of the river. Stephen Knapp came in with his brother-in-law from Goshen, Orange Co., NY, to make explorations. Knapp's father had been killed in the War of the Revolution, leaving him to make his own way in the world; for this laudable purpose he sought the wilderness country and purchased a large tract of land. Returning to Goshen he made preparations to permanently remove to his new possessions; but he was delayed until the year 1798. He came in by the way of Poughkeepsie, Kingston, the head waters of Schoharie county; followed down the river to Prattsville; thence to Harpersfield, crossing at Wattles's ferry; thence to Oxford; thence to Solon, where he took the Salt Road about two miles to 'Squire Bingham's; thence over the hills to Judge Keep's and thence to the house of John Ballard, where he remained some time. One hundred acres of the land bought by Mr. Knapp, which afterward constituted the homestead, was a portion of what is now the cemetery grounds. His house, a simple log cabin, stood where the "tool house" of the cemetery is now located. Two hundred acres were below the village and within the present boundaries of Cortlandville (on lot 55) on both sides of the river, and two hundred acres on lot 85, also in the town of Cortlandville. During the following winter after Mr. Knapp's location his mother, Hester Knapp, with her famiy consisting of Stephen, Daniel, James, Nathaniel and two daughters, Polly and Sally, came in over the route as above given. Stephen Knapp became a man of prominence and energy; one whose influence in bringing the wilderness under civilizing influence was permanent and important. During the earlier years of his life in Homer the broad valley of the Tioughnioga was covered with a dense forest, and it was easier for him to reach the lands on his lower tracts by following down the bed of the stream, than by making a journey through the wood. Mr. Knapp married Abigail Treat, and was the grandfather of William O. Bunn, late editor of the Homer "Republican", and deputy U.S. Internal Revenue collector, with headquarters at Syracuse. Mr. Knapp lived to the venerable age of eighty-four years, sixty-six of which were passed in the town of Homer.
Daniel Knapp, older brother of Stephen, erected a dwelling house on the north part of the farm and near the four corners of the road at the cemetery, which he opened afterward as a tavern and kept it as such for several years. The succeeding residents of this farm were Chauncey Keep, Mr. Dickson, and General Martin Keep, who bought the property about 1824 and resided there ten years, removing to Tompkins county. The farm has since been owned by Walter Jewett, and by Paris Barber, who sold the grounds of the cemetery to the association. With the exception of twenty acres on the east side of the road, the farm is now and has been for some time owned by Henry Dennison.
A short distance up the river on the opposite side of the stream and near the foot of the hill is the location whree Stephen Knapp resided for some years, now owned by Andrew Kingsbury. Aaron Knapp settled south of his brother Daniel on the farm now owned by Allen Smith.
Enos Stimson was from Monson, Mass., and settled on the site of the well known Schermerhorn residence in Homer village. He built a small house and hung out a tavern sign; but he was compelled to send his wife and children away the following spring, on account of the ravages of the small-pox. They sojourned at the house of Aaron Knapp, where they were vaccinated. An incident occurred during the absence of Mrs. Stimson, which shows what a strong appetite the Indian had acquired for the white man's "fire-water." Twelve Onondaga Indians called one evening at Mr. Stimson's inn, where they drank freely, and became exceedingly hilarious. Demanding more liquor, it was refused by the landlord, but they were not at all disposed to depart until their now raging desires were gratified. They became threatening in their attiude, and prepared to attack Mr. Stimson, who was compelled to seek safety up the stairs, pulling the ladder after him. The field was now clear, and it was but a few moments before the bottles and decanters were emptied of their contents down the capacious throats of the red drunkards. A bacchanalian revel followed. In the midst of it, and after vainly searching for more jugs to empty, an old sachem found a bottle half filled with "picra," from which he took a liberal drink; passing it on to a young chief, he swallowed the whole of its contents. The effect was pitiful and at the same time decidedly comical. The two sickened Indians felt sure they were poisoned to death; and indeed, there was danger of such a result. At this juncture, while some of the party were guarding the hole through which Mr. Stimson had disappeared into the upper regions, and others were bending over the supposed dying Indians, another one, who was in that glorious condition of uncertainty which might be expected under the circumstances, rushed hurriedly out of the door, and mistaking the side of the wellcurb for a yard fence, gave a leap, and the next instant was at the bottom of the well. This method of diluting the spirits he had swallowed did not please the old warrior, and he yelled and cursed with all the ardor and variations of which the language was capable; but there was too much of similar amusement going on in-doors to make it possible for his companions to hear him for some time. When assistance finally came he was drawn out of the well with blankets, a wetter and a wiser savage. With the coming of morning, and the disappearance of the enire stock of liquor, the Indians regained their reason, and the besieged landlord was permitted to descend to his proper sphere.
The Hobart family, consisting of the two brothers, Daniel and Samuel, were from Monson, Mass.; Daniel located on lot 43, west of the village; Samuel on lots 15 and 16, between the village and Little York. Gideon settled with his father, and remained on the same farm until his death in 1857.
Titus Stebbins came from the same town and settled on lot 43. It is now occupied by his son-in-law, Lyman Hubbard.
Samuel Hotchkiss came from New Haven, Conn., in 1798; located on lot 44. He became a prominent citizen, attaining a most enviable position in the community. He was county clerk several terms between 1822 and 1843, and was given other positions of trust. George Eldridge now occupies this farm.
Noah Hitchcock, before mentioned, came in from Brimfield, and located on lot 25, north of the village. He became one of the leading farmers of the county, and a respected citizen.
Zenas Lilly was an early-resident whose life was closely identified with the growth of the town. He was also from Brimfield, and first located on lot 33, where he remained about twelve years, when he sold out and settled on "Factory Hill." Some years later he disposed of his property and settled in Lenox, but he subsequently returned to Homer and located on lots 34-5.
Timothy Treat was from Berkshire, Mass., and settled about eighty rods north of the later residence of John Barker, subsequently owned by Mr. Bowen. He had a family of eight children, one daughter becoming the wife of Stephen Knapp.
William Lucas and Asahel Miner were from Woodbury, Conn.The former located on lot 35, and became a prominent and valuable citizen. His children removed to the State of Ohio. Mr. Miner settled on the farm afterward occupied by Lucas Welch, and was the first sheriff of the county. His son, Martin Miner, was long a prominent citizen of Cortland village.
Colonel Benajah Tubbs came from Washington county, and located on the site where George W. Philliips's store afterward stood. He was one of the early merchants, and continued in business for many years.
Dr. Lewis S. Owen came from Albany, and located on lot 66. After remaining there three years he removed to Homer village, and erected a house on the site of the present residence of George Murray, where Dr. Robert Owen lived for some years.
After the year 1800 the town began to fill up with settlers at a more rapid rate. Those who had already made homes for themselves were gradually clearing their farms and homesteads, and surrounding themselves with such evidences of civilization and comfort as were available, making it more attractive to future prospectors. It is manifestly impossible, even if it were desirable, to name and locate all the settlers of the town from the beginning of the century down; a few of the more prominent may, however, be briefly referred to.
Ephraim P. Sumner came in from Connecticut in 1800, and located on lot 47, where his son of the same name now lives. He purchased two hundred acres, and died in 1843. His wife died in 1840.
Noah Carpenter came in from Pomfret, Windham county, Connecticut and located on lot 16, north of the village. His son, Asaph H. Carpenter, was born during the journey of his parents from the East. He lived on the parental homestead until his death recently. Francis B. Carpenter, one of the eminent artists of the country, and a resident of New York city, is a son of A. H. Carpenter.
Thomas, Nathan and Samuel Stone were from Brimfield, and located on lot 46.
Levi Phillips came in with his brother Waterman (who settled in the town of Cortlandville), and located on lot 16; he came with an ox team from Connecticut, bought fifty acres, and subsequently added ninety-seven more. He died in 1845 and his widow in 1850; his son, Oren, long occupied the homestead.
In the year 1801 several additional settlements were made. Among them was that of Seth Keep, who came from Massachusetts originally, but migrated to Homer from Vermont; locating on the northeast corner of lot 33.
Gad Hitchcock was from Monson, Mass.; his son, Horace Hitchcock, was for many years a respected citizen of the village.
John Coats located near the site of the Congregational Church in 1802.
In the same year Thomas Chollar came from Windham, Conn.,and remained in the town about three years, during which time he made explorations in various parts of the surrounding country, informing himself thoroughly upon the soil and other peculiarities of the region. In the latter part of 1804 he selected a location on lot 17, upon which he settled in 1809. Mr. Chollar was a prominent citizen; he was the father of Thomas D. Chollar, who now lives in Homer village.
Rev. Alfred Bennett came into the town in 1803, and settled on the farm now owned by NIcholas Starr; he soon after entered the ministry and became a noted and successful divine. His church work will be referred to hereafter.
In this year, also, Jacob Sanders, Levi Bowen and Elijah Pierce settled in the town. Mr. Sanders was from Swansey, Mass., and located on lot 56 (now Cortlandville). Levi Bowen settled on lot 7, near Little York, coming here from Woodstock, Conn. He died in 1832, leaving eight children. Mr. Pierce was from Brimfield.
Moses Butterfield came from Canterbury, Conn., in 1803, and located about a half mile in a northeasterly direction from the Miller farm at East River, and on the same side of the stream; it was on lot 47, and where Charles Kingsbury now resides. In the spring of that year he built a house on the lot, and planted a small piece of corn on a spot which was supposed to have been cut and cleared by the Indians. Mr. Butterfield returned to Connecticut, and in October of the same year returned again to Homer, bringing his famiy. They passed their first night at Deacon Miller's, and he accompanied them to their home the next morning. On going to the doorway (the door itself was not yet in existence, and the gables were open) Mrs. Butterfield looked in, turned around, and with a look of home-sickness and despair, said to her husband: -
"Mr. Butterfield, is this my home?"
By dint of hard labor, however, Mr. Butterfield soon had a respectable floor and roof for his house, splitting the "puncheons" out of logs, and smoothing them down with his axe.
Adjoining the farm of Mr. Butterfield on the east is the one on which his brother, Parker Butterfield, first located in 1806; he resided there until 1822, when he sold to Ward Woodward, who came here from New Hampshire. Mr. Woodward became a respected citizen of the highest moral character, and was long a consistent member of the Congregational Church.
About a mile from Mr. Butterfield, John Frazier settled on a small farm on lot 36, in 1803. He was born in 1749 in England, entered the country's service, or, rather was dragged from his bed and forced to enlist under the banner of King George, and served in the army of General Burgoyne; he remained in the same division until the battleof Stillwater, and the surrender of his army to General Gates, in October, 1777. At that time he escaped from the service, and subsequently reached Pomfret, Connecticut, where he was employed by General Putnam. There he was married in 1799, and removed to Homer, as stated. He thought to make sure of a valid title to his land by paying for it; but he failed in this and paid for it a second time, and his title being disputed, he actually paid for a portion of it the third time, and even then was forced to abandon it altogether; he died in the alms house in 1839. This incident will give the reader an idea of the trouble arising out of early land titles on the military tract, as narrated in the preceding history of that tract.
When Mr. Frazier came in from Pomfret he drove seven cows for Samuel Griggs, who came at the same time and located on lot 38. He was a prominent farmer; was president of the first agricultural society in 1822, and very active in the construction of the Albany turnpike through Cortland county. He removed to Cayuga county in 1829 or 1830, where he died.
Zebadiah Abbott migrated from Brimfield in 1803 and settled on the eastern part of lot 47, one-half of which he purchased,and resided there until 1820, when he died. His wife survived him about twenty years, and though she was totally blind and partially deaf, manifested the patience and resignation born of a Christian character. Their sons were Asa, Joseph and Nathan, who became valuable citizens.
Adjoining Mr. Abbott's farm on the east is the one on which Eli Sherman located; he also came from Brimfield, Mass., in 1804, and lived on this farm and greatly improved it, until 1866, when he died at the age of 87 years. The farm is now occupied by Philander Manchester.
Adjoining the farm of Mr. Sherman is that where Frederick Partridge settled in 1803, or '04; he purchased land of Mr. Abbott, on lot 47. He lived here about ten years, and was noted for his strict sobriety and temperance principles - something of an exception in those days. He was succeeded on the farm by Samuel Sherman, who also came from Brimfield, and settled on the Partridge farm in 1814. He became pecuniarily involved, and for the purpose of meeting his obligations, hauled cherry lumber from Homer to Boston, Mass. He also drew wheat to Albany, where, after discharging his load, would return with a cargo of Merchant's goods, or stock for mechanics.
James Horton also lived on a lot that was taken from Mr. Abbott's farm; but at precisely what period is not now known. He engaged in the tanning and currying business and was a skillful mechanic.
Benjamin Knight, a native of Monson, Mass., first came to Homer in 1801, in the month of February, having probably made the journey on foot in ten days, and at an inclement season of the year. In January, 1802, he returned to Massachusetts, accomplishing the journey in twelve days. The next month he returned to Homer, again being twelve days on the road. He located on the southern part of the lot originally purchased by Judge Keep and subsequently again returned to Connecticut where, on the 11th day of September, 1803, he married Susan Goodell of Pomfret; she was a sister of the wife of Judge Keep and also of the wife of Darius Kinney. Thus the three sisters came from Connecticut and settled within the radius of a mile. On this farm Mr. Knight resided during the remainder of his life. He united with the Congregational Church in 1806 and died in 1843, at the age of 66 years.
Capt. Zephaniah Hicks, originally of Rhode Island,migrated from Connecticut in 1805, and located on the southeast corner of the State's hundred, on lot 17. He has been described as an active, energetic, high-minded man; generous, humane and courteous. His prompt and manly greeting gained him the good-will of his neighbors and gave him much influence in all pioneer gatherings. He removed in 1835 to Ingham, Michigan. Jacob Hicks was his son, who was two years old when he came to Homer. He afterward settled on lot 27, and is now dead. Capt. Hicks's daughter married Silas Elbridge Mann, afterward a prominent merchant in Jordan, NY.
In 1806, Col. David Coye, from Royalton, Vermont, and Lemuel Bates from Cincinnati, came into the town. The former located on lot 45, where he lived many years. He purchased the first acre sold as a village lot, and followed his trade as a joiner. In 1815 he bought one hundred acres on lot 44. His shop stood on the site afterward occupied by C.O. Newton's store, on Main street, now occupied by Higbee's store. Mr. Coye filled several county offices, among which was that of sheriff in 1825. He was the father of eleven children. Mr. Bates settled on lot 26; his sons were Joseph and Ransford Bates.
William Shearer came from Washington county in 1807 and located on lot 36. Stephen and Joel R. Briggs, Arial Tickner and Erastus Hayes were from Otsego county and also came into the town in 1807, locating on lot 50, in the southeast corner of the town. Joel R. Briggs afterward lived on lot 38.
Deacon Ira Brown came from Brimfield in 1808 and located on lot 34, but subsequently removed to Cortland.
Joseph Bean settled in the town in 1809; his sons were Jeremiah, who lived in Cincinnatus,and Samuel, of Homer. In the same year Noah R. Smith and Matthias Cook came in. The former located on lot 45, in the village; he was from MIddletown, and became a prominent and useful citizen; he was sheriff of the county in 1819. Mr. Cook was from Albany and engaged in the hatting business, which he continued for many years; his partner at one time was Col. Benajah Tubbs. Mr. Cook was honored with the appointment of county clerk in 1821; was elected to the Legislature in 1824, and was also justice of the peace.
Deacon Jesse Ives and Andrew Burr came in, in the year 1810. Mr. Ives was from LItchfield,Conn., and located on lot 16, where he originally purchased ninety acres. He was an industrious and enterprising farmer and universally respected. He died November 27th, 1857, at the age of 81 years. He was the father of Frederick Ives, one of the prominent citizens of Cortland village. Mr. Burr was from Sharon, Conn. He located on the lands afterward owned and occupied by William Kingsbury and now by Augustus Kingsbury. He was early engaged in the tanning business, but subsequently sold out to Mr. Kingsbury, and engaged in the saddlery and harness business, which he followed for thirty years. He made his influence felt on the growth of the village, erected several dwellings and otherwise labored for the good of the community.
Richard Graham and Henry Corl came in and located, the former on lot 28, in 1811; he was from Herkimer county. Mr. Corl came from Schenectady originally, but came here from Locke, Cayuga county, and settled on his farm on "the hill," which was given his name.
During the progress of the war, from 1812 to 1815, settlement was greatly interrupted in all parts of the county. Down to this period we have noted most of the more prominent persons who came into the town - making a list that is much more complete than can now be given in any other town in the county.
A noteworthy arrival in 1812 was that of George W. Samson, (Footnote: Mr. Samson was originally a seafaring man. His first voyage was to Charleston, SC at the time of the great fire in 1796. In 1800 he sailed for England, at the time of the war between that country and France; the vessel was captured by a French cruiser in the channel and the crew taken into the port of Brest. Mr. Samson was taken from there under an escort and afterward saw the inside of thirteen different prisons. Upon his arrival at Nantes the American Consul procured his release. In 1803 he sailed as mate of the brig "Apollo" and visited many of the southern ports. His death occurred in Homer in February, 1868, at the age of 86 years.) who came here from Plympton, Mass., and settled first on lot 19, near the place since occupied by Joshua Pratt and his son David and still later by Harry Lathrop. Mr. Samson removed to lot 29, where close to the Truxton turnpike he expended much labor in excavating the hillside for the purpose of making the foundations of a building. He erected his house in 1814, moved into it and the following year opened it as a hotel, giving the place the name of Mt. Etam. (Footnote: Named from the Bible history of Samson.) This was for many years a popular and well known stopping place on the turnpike. At this time there were but four families in the West Homer school district. Mr. Samson sold his tavern to Peter Westerman and engaged in the same business in Preble, and later in Homer village, where his son long kept the "Temperance House."
William Wood, a native of Hinsdale, Vermont, migrated to Herkimer, NY,and in 1814 came to Homer, at first locating on the road leading from the valley on the east branch of the river to Enon Phelp's on lot 48. He lived there two years and removed southward on lot 58, and in 1819 to lot 39, on the hill and adjoining the farm of Capt. Crandall. After planting an orchard and otherwise extensively improving the place, he was forced to leave it for want of a valid title. He removed into the valley and subsequently to the hill on the northwestern side of the river, where he died in 1850. His farm on lot 58 is now embraced in the town of Cortlandville.
John Burnham purchased of Mr. Hilliard 300 acres of land on lot 30, adjoining the town of Truxton, cleared it of the forest and in 1818 erected a saw-mill; he afterward bought land on lot 20, adjoining his first purchase on the north and annexed it to his farm, where he lived until 1864 and died. A portion of his first purchase was made of John B. Henry, who settled on lot 30 in 1804.
Erastus Goodell, father of C.B. and Erastus, jr., located on the State's hundred, lot 7, in 1816; they were from Sturbridge, Mass. He became a prominent farmer.
William Andrews came in from Fabius, Onondaga county, in 1817. He secured the confidence of his fellow-citizens to such a degree that he was honored with several offices; he was constable and under-sheriff from 1820 to 1843 and in 1831 was elected sheriff on a Union ticket. He was one of the well known men of the county for many years.
Daniel Josling located in 1818 on lot 17; he was from Windham, Conn. Kenneth Scudder, from Monmouth, NJ, settled in Herkimer county in 1813, but subsequently came to Homer, locating on lot 18, he died in 1843.
From this date on to the year 1825, the progress of settlement in the town of Homer was uninterrupted. What was almost an unbroken wilderness a quarter of a century before was rapidly becoming a rich and prosperous farming country, while the village was already the leading place of business in the county - a prestige it retained for many years. The town suffered long, in common with other parts of the county, for want of railroad communication; the business of teaming for the transportation of the products of the town to Syracuse, while an importatnt industry in itself, was at the same time a discouraging sign of the helplessness of the community in this respect. When the charter of the first proposed railroad was obtained in 1836, the hearts of the residents of the town beat high with anticipation of speedy relief from their isolation; but they were doomed to disappointment, and two more decades passed before the consummation of their hopes was reached in the construction and opening of the Syracuse and Binghamton railroad. In this important enterprise the people of the town of Homer took a prominent and active interest, realizing that much of the future prosperity of the town depended upon it. It would be invidious at this time to single out those men who devoted their means and energies directly to the work, while all did whatever they were able towards the completion of the road; and when it was finally opened, there was an era of rejoicing on every hand. The disappointments and apparent losses which subsequently fell upon the town through the sale of the road, although grievous at the time, are now all forgotten in the general prosperity of the community - a prosperity that could never have been attained without railroad communication with distant points. From about the year 1850, the dairying interest of this town has kept pace, at least, with that of other portions of the county and vicinity; the quantity and quality of the product has increased and advanced; cheese factories have been erected and the housewives of Homer have gained a reputation for their work in the dairy of which they may well feel proud. The Homer cheese factory, so-called, is situated a mile and a half north of Homer village, on the farm of Frederick G. Williams. It was erected in 1864, is two stories high and 32 by 175 feet in extent. A large business is done there, which is now controlled by a stock company.
Having given the early settlements of the town to as recent a date as is practicable, we will now revert to the first organization of the town of Homer. This event occurred on the 5th of March, 1794, when the county of Onondaga was erected, of which Homer was then a part. The town officers were not, however, drawn entirely from within the present town limits; VIrgil and Solon, then a part of Homer, and each embracing towns since formed, as detailed in the general history, were permitted to share in the political honors and emoluments of that early day. Political ambition and activity was then at a low ebb, if we may judge by the following record from the town book: -
"State of New York,
"Whereas, the town of Homer, in said county, on the 5th day of
April, did neglect to appoint the necessary town officers for the year
one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, and
"Whereas, By a law passed on the 7th day of March, one thousand
seven hundred and eighty-eight, directing three justices of the peace of
said county to nominate, and under their hand and seals,, appoint such
officers as under said act is necessary - therefore, we, Asa Danforth,
Hezekiah Scott and Daniel Keeler, three of the justices of the peace,
appointed in and for said county, nominate, and by these presents do
"For Supervisor - John MIller.
"Town CLerk - Peter Ingersoll.
"Assessors - Thomas L. Bishop, Moses Hopkins, Joseph Beebe, Daniel
"Commissioners of Highways - Samuel Benedict, David Russell, Moses
"Overseers of the Poor - Joseph Beebe, Christopher Whitney.
"Constable and Collector - John House.
The meeting at which these appointments were made was held at the house of "Squire" Miller, on the 9th of April, 1795. The first annual town meeting for the election of officers was held at Mr. Miller's house, on the 8th of April, 1796, when the following were elected: -
Supervisor - John Miller
Town clerk - Peter Ingersoll.
Assessors - Ezra Rockwell, Billy Trowbridge, Daniel Miner, Francis Strong, David Russell, Jacob Bishop.
Collectors - Roderick Beebe, Barzilla Russell.
Overseers of the poor - Zera Beebe, Thomas L. Bishop, Oliver Tuthill.
Constables - Barzilla Russell, Roderick Beebe.
Overseers of highways - William Tuthill, Ebenezer Jones, Zera Beebe, Samuel C. Benedict, Joseph Beebe, Solomon Hubbard, John Morse.
Fence viewers - Elnathan Baker, George Trowbridge, John Bingham, David Jackson, John House, Moses Hopkins.
These early elections were carried on in a different spirit from that which characterizes the political contests of the present time. There was seldom much rivalry, and none of the bitterness of later days. In the year 1800, however, there was quite a spirited contest.
At the town meeting in 1796 it was agreed by vote, "That every man should make his own pound; and that hogs run at large without yokes or rings; that fences be made four and a half feet high, and not to exceed four inches between logs or poles."
In the following year (1797) it was agreed by a unanimous vote, "That every man in town may provide his own pound for every creature that does him damage, and yet be entitled to damage the same as at the town pound; that hogs be free commoners; that three feet of sound fence shall not be more than five inches between earth, logs or grass."
The special meeting that year was held at the house of Daniel Knapp, at which the following were a portion of the proceedings, quoted vebatim: -
"Voted, 1st, That the inhabitants of the town build a bridge across the river at the mills.
"2nd, That the bridge be built by a tax on the inhabitants of the town of Homer, as filed in the secretary's office of this State.
"3rd, That Martin Keep, Aaron Knapp and Solomon Hubbard be a committee to report what plan said bridge be built upon."
Such were the problems that engrossed the chief portion of the official attention of our forefathers.
The town was divided into highway districts in 1797. In 1798 a wolf scalp commanded a premium of from five to ten dollars, according to size; bear's, five dollars; panther's, ten dollars, and fox's fifty cents.
Following is a list of the supervisors and town clerks of the town of Homer, the supervisor's name being given first in each instance: -
1795, John Miller, Peter Ingersoll; 1796, John Miller, John Keep; 1797-98, Joshua Atwater, Thomas L. Bishop; 1799, James Knapp, Thomas L. BIshop; 1800, Caleb Keep, Joshua Ballard; 1801, John Ballard, Joshua Ballard; 1802-03, Joshua Ballard, Joshua Atwater; 1804 to 1806 inclusive, John Ballard, Joshua Ballard; 1807-08, Asahel Miner, Joshua Ballard; 1809, Mead Merrill, Adin Webb; 1810-11, Daniel Miller, Adin Webb; 1812-13, William Lucas, Adin Webb; 1814, Moses KInney, Adin Webb; 1815 to 1818 inclusive, Wm. Lucas, Adin Webb; 1819-20, Levi Bowen, Adin Webb; 1821 to 1829 inclusive, Martin Keep, Adin Webb; 1830-31, Martin Keep, Orin Stimpson; 1832-33, Noah R. Smith, Orin Stimpson; 1834, Chauncey Keep, John Sherman; 1835, Horace White, John Sherman; 1836, Wm. Walter, John Sherman; 1837-38, Wm. Walter, G.J.J. Barber; 1839, John Keep, Erasmus Bowen; 1840 to 1842 inclusive, Chauncey Keep, Erasmus Bowen; 1843, Lemuel D. Newton, Erasmus Bowen; 1844, Noah Hitchcock, jr;, Loammi Kinney; 1845, Joseph L. Clapp, Loammi Kinney; 1846, Lemuel D. Newton, Loammi Kinney; 1847, Geo. J. J. Barber, Horace Pierce; 1848, Frederick Ives, Horace Pierce; 1849, Frederick Ives, Rufus A. Reed; 1850, Samuel Sherman, Horace S. Babcock; 1851, Giles Chittenden, Horace S. Babcock; 1852-53, Manly Hobart, Horace S. Babcock; 1854, Jacob M. Schermerhorn, Nathaniel Jones; 1855, Peter Walrad, B. D. Benedict 1856, Peter Walrad, Uri H. Patterson; 1857, Peter Walrad, Edwin Miles; i858, Giles Chittenden, Edwin Miles; 1859-60, Giles Chittenden, C. 0. Newton; 1861-62, Geo. W. Phillips, Wm. H. Burnham; 1863, Geo. W. Phillips, John H. Munger; 1864-65, Geo. W. Phillips, Martin Miner; 1866-67, Alphonzo Stone, Martin Miner; 1868 to 1870 inclusive, Geo. W. Phillips; Martin Miner; 1871, Manly Hobart, Martin Miner; 1872-73, Vernon T. Stone, Martin Miner; 1874-75, John H. Hicok, Martin Miner; 1876-77, S. McClellan Barber, William A. Kellogg; 1878, S. McC. Barber, J. Clayton Atwater; 1879-80, Wm. 0. Bunn, J. Clayton Atwater; 1881, John J. Murray, J. Clayton Atwater; 1882, H. Wilson Blashfield, J. Clayton Atwater; 1883, Wm. H. Crane, J. Clayton Atwater.
At the annual town meeting held in the town hall in Homer, on the 20th of February, 1883, the following officers were elected : -
Supervisor Wm. H. Crane.
Town Clerk-J. Clayton Atwater.
Justices of the Peace-Melvin J. Pratt, A. J Kneeland, Stephen Klock, Elliot L. Stone.
Assessors-A. Dwight Kingsbury, C. H. Sherman, James H. Clark.
Commissioner of Highways - Harrison W. Southwick.
Inspectors of Election, District No. 1 - Irving Alexander, Abram Griffith; appointed, Ellis Briggs.
District No. 2-Frank Galluss, Ossian B. Andrews; appointed, Wm. A. Coon.
District No. 3-Harlan P Hull, Vernon Stone; appointed Andrew P. Henderson.
Town Auditors-A. W. Hobart, Chas. B. Goodell; appointed Frank D. Carpenter.
Excise Commissioners-Warren Salisbury, H. W. Southwick, W. B. Beach.
Overseers of the Poor-Augustus W. Kingsbury; Stephen P. Hoag.
Constables-Wm. A. Shirley, Alfred B. Raymond, Elisha Williams, John Bennett, Wm. T. Sanders.
Game Constable - Henry L. Carpenter.
HOMER IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION.
No town came forward with more leadi ness to aid in putting down the gigantic rebellion which threatened the life of the governmment than did old Homer. Enlistments were made from the town at the very first call for soldiers, which were followed as long as there was opportunity, by the most patriotic offers of service and life, and generous outlay of money, in aid of the government. A special meeting of the town officers was held at the town hall on the 6th of July, 1862, pursuant to a call of the freeholders, for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of raising money for soldiers' bounties, to encourage enlistments to meet the call of the government for troops. The names of the freeholders signed to the call for the meeting were: George Murray, S. S. Day, Charles Tower, G. S. Simmons, D. S. Totman, S. Plumb, B. W. Payne, Thomas Holbrook, E. Stimson, M. C. Darby, R. F. Smith, W. T. Hicok, Joseph R. Dixon, G. W. Bradford, D. D. R. Ormsby, Josiah Stone, J. Sanders,.O. Newton, Samuel Babcock, L. Darby, Ira Green and H.S. Babcock. The meeting passed the following: -
"Resolved, That the electors proceed to vote uupon the question of raising by tax fifty dollars to be paid to each person who shall volunteer fro the town of Homer, from July 2d, 1862, until the whole number of the quota shall be raised."
The limit of the period during which enlistments might be made under this resolution was from July 2d to the 3d day of the following September, or until the time of a draft which might be ordered by the authorities; the number of such volunteers not to exceed that of the quota for the town under the two previous calls for soldiers.
Under this resolution three hundred and sixty-three persons voted, three hundred and sixty of whom were in favor of it. The finance committee, whose duty it was to receive and disburse the money raised under the resolution, to procure from the next Legislature legal sanction of the proceedings, and to co-operate with the town authorities in carrying out the measure, were Geo. W. Bradford, N.. Randall, J.M. Schermerhorn, G.J.J. Barber, George Cook, W.T. Hicok and A.W. Kingsbury. This fifty dollar bounty was paid by the town outside of the State or county; but thereafter the town made the amount of its bounties to correspond with the suggestions and regulations of the Board of Supervisors of the county, thus preventing unnecessary competition among the different towns in filling their quotas. Whenever calls were made for troops, and the quotas of the towns were established, with the amount of bounties to be paid throughout the county, the freeholders of Homer never failed to call special meetings for the consideration of the matters involved. Thus, when the president issued a call for 500,000 men in 1864, another special town meeting was called under date of July 21st, which was signed by J.Murray, P.C. Kingsbury, I.W. Brown, Wm. Coggshall, Geo. W. Bradford, C.M. Clark, Geo. J.J. Barber, Thomas D. Chollar, D.D.R. Ormsby, W.T. Hicok, C.A. Collins, J.M. Pierce, O. Bowen, Samuel Babcock, George Murray, Lorenzo Bennett and Luke Babcock. The meeting was held on the 30th of July, pursuant to the call, and the following was offered for consideration: -
"Whereas, On the 27th day of July, 1864, Tthe Board of Supervisors of Cortland county in special session, at the court-house in Cortland village, in said county recommended to the electors of the several towns to hold special meetings in their respective towns and adopt the following resolution: -
"Resolved, That the town of Homer hereby offers bounty to each volunteer of $150 for all who enlist for one year, and the sum of $250 to each volunteer who may enlist for two years, or for a a longer term, and who shall be accepted and mustered into the service of the United States and credited to said town, under the last call of the president of the United States for 500,000 troops; and in case other counties offer larger bounties than those above named, these offers be correspondingly raised, if deemed expedient by the committee, - therefore,
"Resolved, That this meeting does now proceed to vote on the above resolution, by the town clerk recording the ayes and noes of each elector who may desire to vote on said resolution."
The certificate of the clerk showed that the whole number of votes cast was one hundred and forty-seven, of which one hundred and forty-two were in favor of it.
On the 30th of August, 1864, the freeholders of the town again met to consider the propriety of raising the bounty of soldiers; this meeting terminated in a request to the town clerk to call a special town meeting of the electors of the town, to be held on the 7th day of September, 1864. The meeting was held and the following resolution adopted:
"Resolved, That the town of Homer will endorse the resolution of the war committee of the Board of Supervisors, given on the 3d day of September, increasing the bounty to volunteers and substitutes to one thousand dollars; and that we hereby instruct our supervisor to endorse the same to date from the 3d day of September, 1864, and for all volunteers who have enlisted and have been credited to the town under the president's last call for 500,000 men, except the thirteen men previously credited."
At a meeting of the board of town auditors of the town of Homer on the 10th day of November, 1864, the following resolution was adopted: -
"Resolved, That the supervisor of the town of Homer be directed to levy upon said town at the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the county, the sum of eight hundred dollars, for the purpose of paying additional bounty and incidental expenses incurred in filling the quotas of this town under the call of the president of July, 1864."
The following resolution was also passed at that meeting: -
"Resolved, That the sum of fifty-eight dollars and eighty-five cents be raised in like manner for roads and bridges in said town."
Another special town meeting was held, pursuant to call, on the 10th of January, 1865, at which the electors of the town voted to offer a bounty of $400 to each volunteer, or substitute who should enlist for one year; $500 for two years, and $600 for three years. The number of votes cast at this meeting was one hundred and twenty-six, of which one hundred and fifteen were in favor of the measure. It was also further resolved that Chester M. Clark, Nathan Randall and J.H. Munger be a town committee for the purpose of procuring enlistments to fill the quota of the town, under the last call of the president for 300,000 men.
At a town meeting held on the 21st of February, 1865, it was resolved to pay a bounty in addition to that offered pursuant to the action of the Board of Supervisors, sufficient to make the whole amount $1000.
We have thus given at considerable length all of the important proceedings by the town authorities in the matter of filling the different quotas of soldiers, the payment of bounties, etc. It will be seen that the proceedings conformed in all esssential particulars to those of the Board of Supervisors of the county, as detailed in the chapter of the general history devoted th this subject; and as the meetings in the different towns held for the same purpose, and the proceedings of the same were, in their main features similar to those above described, we shall not deem it necessary to occupy our space with their details in separate town histories in subsequent pages.
The names of all the volunteers of the town of Homer are given in the following list, except those of the first thirteen enlistments. Of those we have only the names of George Snyder and Eugene R. Rawson, his brother-in-law, who was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and killed in July,1865, and Joseph Hotchkiss: -
Call of October 17th, 1863 Bounty paid, $300. Total, $15,000. -
Oscar Elmer, Charles A. Ford, William A. Wilcox, Hiram Burt, Ezra P. Haight, Lester H. Benedict, William H. Tubbs, Alonzo Miller, Deloss Sperry, William A. Benedict, Beman Crosby, Arden Haight, Albert Dyde, Ichabod Chapman, Burdin H. Barrett, Albert G. Sheffield, Charles, J. Earle, Oliver Schermerhorn, William H. Gillett, Richard S. Valentine, Rensselaer Mills, John Reys, Dwight Chapman, Franz Dick, Franklin B. Corl, E. Washburn Moore, John G. Simmons, Jay J. Salisbury, Joseph Bushby, James M.D. Pierce, Edwin B. Swift, Franklin Winslow, Luman S. Hicks, Charles Doole, George W. Burdick, John G. Johnson, William Connell, Robert S. Howard, Martin Darling, William Reese, Benjamin Wilson, James Oakly, Nathaniel Butler, Benjamin F. Burch, Thomas Dunn, William Sears, William H. Brotherton, Lavvison Stebbins, Theodore DeBar, Thomas Jones.
Call of July 18th, 1864. Bounty paid $1000, except $500 to three,and $700 to four. Total bounty, $52,300. Brokerage, $1,375. -
Michael O'Brien, sub for P.C. Kingsbury, William Morehead, sub. for Charles E. Bates, Lewis V. Huttleson, Albert J. Donaldson, Daniel A. Berry, sub. for S.M. Barber, Daniel Hands, sub. for J.H. Price, Lewis W. Shorinder, sub. for Levi Klock, John Smith, sub. for C.A. Persons, James Mongovan, sub. for Stephen Klock, Simon Fox, sub. for M.M. Hibbard, John Ripley, WIlliam W. Briggs, Robert P. Bush, Peter Conine, Philo Conine, Philip Conine, Washington Dayton, Leroy Galpin, Christopher H. Gettey, Theron Geutcheous, Frederidk H. Goodell, James W. Henry, Earl A. Hill, William How, Henry D. Keeling, James R. Mann, Charles M. Macumber, John R. Miller, Asahel P. Nott, Asa Palmer, Earlman R. Palmer, Henry M Phillips, Elijah B. Pender, Martin L. Rose, Ruel H. Rose, Jeremiah Starkey, George W. Stebbins, Oliver H. Topping, Charles H. Weaver, William M. Whiting, Peter York, Chas. H. Gould, sub. for Jed. Barber, 2d., William E. Kerby, Thomas Baldin, Abraham Wolf, John Williams, sub. for D.N. Hitchcock, Jacob Stickle, John Brown, sub. for H.P. Hull, William Bliss, sub. for J.D. Hull, William T. Reed, William O'Conner, Thomas Green, sub. S.H. Hibbard, Edwin M. Seaver, Beverly Johnson, Archie Taylor.
Call of December 19th, 1864, Bounty paid, $300. Total, $15,500. Brokerage, $390.00. -
John Blanch, James Williams, Eugene Collins, James Kelly, Patrick Foley, Patrick Mansfield, Jeptha W. Owen, Robert W. Leach, William B. Kimball, James Hall, John Cameron, WIlliam Garwood, Louis Zenloich, Joseph Lewis, John Summons, Renna Wearanger, David Williams, Elisha S. Lawrence, James Francis, William L. Stickney, Nathan Givens, Richard Epps, Joseph Dunger, John Cane, Frederick Roy, Samuel Rand.
Recapitulation - Paid for filling quotas, calls October 17th, 1863, February and March, 1864, $15,000; paid for filling quota, call July 18th, 1864, $53,675; paid for filling quota, call December 19th, 1864, $15,890. Grand total, $84,565.
What is now the pleasant and prosperous village of Homer was once, of course, but a mere collection of houses, around which the insignificant business of early days gradually collected; there was then more business in the surrounding vicinity of what is now the center of the village, than directly among the dwellings that constituted the nucleus of the place. Every new settlement shows more or less hesitancy about selecting its business center. Here springs up a small industry; there is built what becomes a popular public house, and yonder is located a store by a man who shows a capacity for success, and the mind of the little public vacillates until some, perhaps, trivial event decides the question of the site of a village in favor of some particular locality. Of the scattering industries referred to we will speak, before entering upon the business history of the the village proper; they were what gave early life and energy to the young settlement,and are thus worthy of particular mention.
The Wright Hotel. - On the northward of Amos Beebe's farm, and separated from it, is the farm on which James Wright was quite an early settler. Whence he came, or just how long he remained, is not now known; but he cleared his land of the forest, placed it under cultivation, and, after a few years residence in a log cabin, erected a frame dwelling of larger dimensions than characterized most of the early dwellings, and eventually opened it as a hotel. It may seem singular to many at the present day that a public house should be opened in a locality apparently secluded; but this was on one of the main thoroughfares through Central New York, then denominated the Cooperstown Turnpike, which diverged from the Great Western Turnpike at Cherry Valley and came westward through the central portion of the State. This road was heavily traveled for many years by teams hauling produce, etc., and especially wheat to Albany. It was prior to the construction of railroads or canals, and consequently a tavern for the accommodation of the teamsters and other travelers, if not an actual necessity, would be a great convenience, and sure to command considerable business. Such turnpike inns were thickly scattered throughout the State in early days.
Mr. Wright kept his hotel for many years, and spent the remainder of his life on the same farm, which is now owned by the heirs of Edmund Butler, to whom it was deeded by Wright.
A little northward from Mr. Wright's lived a Mr. Tanner, who was one of the first (if not the very first) weaver in the town. He made a specialty of weaving coarse hair cloth for use in sieves. He died at that place.
The first tailor in the vicinity of Homer village was Hooker Ballard, who came here in 1803. He is remembered as a worthy man and a good workman, who lived a quiet and retiring life.
Nathan Stone came to the vicinity of Homer village in 1800, and for many years worked at his trade of brick and stone mason. He located upon the farm now occupied by Erastus Jones. His brother, David Stone, the youngest of five brothers, also came here and worked at the trade of carpenter.
We have already referred to the arrival of Daniel Crandall in 1798, and his working at shoe mending, and finally at shoe making, in the house of Judge Keep, at East River. He was undoubtedly the first shoemaker in the town and perhaps in the county.
Samuel Hotchkiss, who came in 1798, was originally a shipbuilder; he located a little east of Mr. Todd's farm, and worked as a carpenter. He built the house now occupied by Thomas Fisher, in which he lived for a time. He had charge of the erection of the frames of many of the houses in this vicinity at an early day.
During the earlier years of the history of the town the manufacture of whiskey was one of the leading industries; it probably stood at the head in this respect. It was a practical and profitable method of disposing of surplus grain at home, instead of transporting it many miles to other markets. The liquor was then used with a freedom that would at the present time cause a general sentiment of horror in any community; but at the same time. the knowledge of chemistry was not so profound among the distillers as it is today, and their products consequently were of a much purer and more wholesome character than a great deal of the spirits sold at present. As late as the year 1829, as we are informed on good authority, there were ten distilleries in the town, at least six of which were within the present boundaries of Homer and four within the limits of Cortlandville. It is probable that there were more; but perhaps it is well to not push the investigation any farther. Orrin Utley had one at East River; Samuel Griggs one "on the turnpike," and Ira Bowen one where the Homer cheese factory now stands; Benajah Tubbs one on "Brewery Hill;" Dr. Lunde one where Amos Hobart now lives, and Jedediah Barber one in the village. The lover of ardent spirits in those days could go to a distillery, buy his gallon of whisky for twenty-five cents, and be presented with a jug in which to carry it home. Yet is is said that, while there was undoubtedly much more liquor consumed to the number of the population than there is now, still there was no more of what may be called intoxication than there is at the present day.
The business of tanning leather was one of the prominent early industries, also. Hitchcock & Bennett, two skillful boot and shoe manufacturers, erected a tannery on the summit of the hill near David Hannum's farm, at an early day, and continued the business there for many years. Andrew Burr, who came to Homer village in 1809, in company with a man by the name of Coats, erected a tannery, in addition to other buildings which he had built; but it appears that the business did not prosper under their managemant, as Mr. Burr sold out his interest in 1816, and not long afterward Mr. Coats disposed of his share in it and removed from the town.
Homer village is delightfully situated on the west branch of the Tioughnioga river on the southern boundary of the town, and nearly central from east to west. Iti s three miles north of the village of Cortland, on the Syracuse, Binghamton and New York Railroad. For a number of years in the early history of the place, it was the most important village in Cortland county; it now contains four churches, an academy, a newspaper, a bank, two hotels, several manufactories, numerous stores, and about 2,500 inhabitants. The streets and walks of the village are broad and ornamented with beautiful and thrifty shade trees, and lighted with gas. There are many tasteful residences and several fine business blocks. Main street is about a mile in length extending north and south and embraces most of the business part of the village.
Near the center of the village is a beautiful park, along the west side and facing which stand the Baptist, Congregational, Methodist and Episcopal Churches, and the Cortland Academy. The village contains two public halls - Keator (formerly Barber) and Wheadon Hall; the former is finished and furnished in good style and has a seating capacity of one thousand; the latter is forty by fifty feet in size.
The family that first settled on any part of the ground now occupied by Homer village, was, from the best information now available, that of John House, who located in the northeastern part of the village, near what is now known as the upper bridge, and probably on the site of the present residence of Erastus Goodell; but there is some difference of opinion in the minds of the present generation as to the exact site of the dwelling. But little is now known of Mr. House - whence he came, the length of time he remained, or whither he went. He was succeeded on his place of residence by Stephen Knapp, who had previously lived in a house at the foot of the hill, on the farm now owned by Andrew Kingsbury. Mr. Knapp was succeeded on the farm near the bridge by William Cummins, and he by Henry Woodward.
Asahel MIner came to Homer about the year 1797 and located first on the road north of the factory building. In 1803 he removed to the village and occupied the house where his son, Martin Miner, subsequently lived for many years. Asahel Miner resided on this place until his death in 1817. It has been said of him that during his residence in Homer (which was about twenty years) he was called to fill more positions of responsibility and trust than any other man in the town. Among the early settlers of Homer village were the five brothers by the name of Ballard, who came here from Brimfield, Mass., and located upon ground now occupied by the village and its immediate vicinity. Their names were John, Hooker, Sherebiah, Jonathan and Joshua. John and Hooker Ballard came to Homer in 1803. The former purchased a farm on the west side of Main street , locating his first dwelling on the site of Mr. Schermerhorn's house. This dwelling was used by him as a tavern and was the one in which he was succeeded by Enos Stimson, and where the Indian orgie occurred, as before narrated. In 1804 John Ballard was elected a member of the Legislature and in 1807 was elected to the State Senate. He was clerk of the county in 1808-09 and 1811-12. Joshua, who arrived here in 1797-98, bought a farm on the east side of the river, being a part of the farm since occupied by E. Kingbury. He subsequently purchased land lying between Main street and the river, and erected buildings on or near the corner of Albany and Main streets.
Hooker Ballard purchased a farm adjoining that of John on the south and extending to the south line of lot 45, which now forms the boundary line between the towns of Homer and Cortlandville. Jonathan Ballard located on lot 54, adjoining the farm of Mr. Knapp. The two farms owned by Daniel Knapp, and those of Hooker and Jonathan Ballard, were situated in the corners of four different lots - 44, 45, 54,, and 55 - one corner of each farm meeting at the same point.
The original house, now occupied by Mr. Schermerhorn, was erected by Caleb Ballard. He died in 1836 and his brother, Marsena Ballard, married his widow, removing from the town a few years later. In 1830 the property passed into the possession of Andrew Dickson, by whom important additions were made. Marsena Ballard bought it of him; it then became the residence of Col. Williams and Robert Ellis became its next owner (and) he refitted and improved it. The premises subsequently passed into the hands of the present owners, who in the course of time made the additions and improvements which gave the place its present magnificent appearance.
Joshua Ballard, before 1820, erected the house afterwards owned and occupied by I.M. Samson. The eastern part of this building was fitted up for a store. In 1822 it was kept as a hotel and was afterwards owned and occupied by Col. Benajah Tubbs. In 1819 Mr. Ballard removed to Cortland village.
A little northward of the cabin built by John Ballard, Hezekiah Roberts erected a house on the southeast corner of the lot now occupied by A.T. Ney. He also built the house now occupied by James P. Sherman; but the dates when these buildings were erected are not now known. The latter named house was, subsequent to the year 1840, owned by Townsend Ross, and then by Oliver M. Shedd. It is stated that Rev. John Keep, who came to Homer in 1821 or 1822, also resided here for several years, being succeeded by Chas. W. Lynde. Albert Sherman now owns and occupies the premises.
The two houses on Main street, one at present owned by MIss Emily Ormsby and the other by G. Frazier, were evidently built at an early day; they were formerly owned by E. and C. Shirley, who came to Homer about 1825.
Andrew Burr, who occupied the house situated on the east side of Main street, directly south of the building erected on the corner of Albany street by Joshua Ballard, came to Homer from Connecticut in 1809. Who built the house occupied by him is uncertain. It was at first three stories in height and was used for a time as a hotel. Mr. Burr purchased the building and reduced its height to two stories.
Jared Babcock came to the town at an early day and erected the building on the north side of Albany street, second house from the corner. He, in company with J.T. Clapp, also erected the building long known as the old brewery and were engaged in the brewing of strong beer for many years. The business was disposed of to Almus Stebbins, who continued it until the building was burned.
The residence next to that of Mr. Babcock on the east appears to have been built at an early day, but by whom is not known. Almus Stebbins began his residence there prior to 1830 and lived there a number of years. It was afterwards occupied by Mosely Clark, who was succeeded by Col. Eleazer May, both of whom died there at upwards of ninety years of age. Calvin Bosworth and family removed to the house next and remained for a time.
Just east of the residence of Mr. Babcock and across the river at the stone bridge is a dwelling occupied by Charles Mead, the front portion of which was built by Clement Hayden in 1815. The house on the opposite corner, occupied by George Martin, was also built at a very early day. A little north of this on what is now a vacant lot was the house of Isaac Chaffy, who was an early settler. He was a house joiner, was a member of the Congregational Church and of the choir, and for several years their organist.
Going northward from the present residence of A.E. Hibbard we come to the site formerly occupied by Seth Shaw, where his dwelling stood at a very early day. The front of his house was two stories high, the rear but one, as it stood on the side hill. Mr. Shaw was a wheelwright and manufactured the wheels used in those days for spinning wool and flax. He was a brother-in-law of Titus Stebbins and died about 1825 or 1826. In 1808 Adin Webb erected a dwelling house on the site now occupied by the Barber Block, but a few years afterward disposed of it and purchased a lot of Capt. Hezekiah Roberts, now occupied by the Baptist Church, where he built a house. He subsequently sold this to Chauncey Keep, and lived two years in the southern part of the village. In 1823 he removed to Cortland.
Daniel Glover, an enterprising mechanic, occupied the first residence south of Mr. Clark's. He came to Homer in 1825, or 1826. He, in company with others, erected "Mechanics Hall" a few years afterward and subsequently purchased the house on North Main street of M. B. Butterfield, where he remained until he went to live with his son-in-law, where he died. His house in the south part of the village was for several years owned and occupied by Judah Pierce, sen., who died there.
The oldest house now standing in the village of Homer was erected by Andrew Burr and is now owned by Miles Van Hoesen, it being a wing of the house in which he resides. It was used as a meeting-house for a time.
In the year 1800 there were but six houses within the present corporation limits; these have been noticed in connection with the many others above referred to. In 1798 the first school-house was erected; it stood about twelve rods beyond where the railroad crosses the road leading to Little York. The first grist-mill was also erected in that year, where the Darby mill now stands; there religious meetings were first held; but there seems not to have been any trading carried on up to this time.
The first store in Homer village stood a little north of the present residence of J.A. Sherman; it was, as was customary in early times, filled with a miscellaneous stock of goods for the retail trade, adapted to the wants of pioneers. The building was erected by Hezekiah Roberts, who also built the house now occupied by Mr. Sherman, prior to 1809. It is not known how long Mr. Robers remained in the village, or where he went. He appears to have been a man of some prominence in the community; was made the commander of an independent company of light grenadiers which became famous for the excellence of its drill and discipline. In 1821 or 1822 the Rev. John Keep took possession of the house erected by Mr. Roberts and resided in it several years. The house and store subsequently became the property of Chas. W. Lynde, who continued mercantile business for several years and resided in the house several years after closing his business. He accumulated considerable property, being considered one of the wealthiest men in the place at the time he left. He was surrogate of the county from 1828 to 1831 inclusive, and State Senator from 1831 to 1834 inclusive. He resided in Homer about twenty years and removed to New York, or Brooklyn, about the year 1840. The old store was occupied subsequent to Mr. Lynde's period of trade by Giles Chittenden, and later by G.W. Sturtevant & Co., but was several years ago removed to the west part of the village, on Cayuga street, repaired and fitted up for a dwelling. Hiram Herrick lived in it for a time and afterwards Oliver Arnold, whose heirs now own it.
Some of the older residents of Homer believe that Reuben Washburne was the first merchant in the village; but if this is true, it cannot be definitely settled at this time. The old building he occupied was a frame structure and is now owned by Justin Pierce. It formerly stood between the Windsor House and William Sherman's "Homer Exchange," and now stands just back of the latter building. Mr. Washurne died just before Mr. Sherman built his store, and upon the erection of the Exchange, the old store was removed to its present position.
Mr. Washburne raised a respectable family, one son becoming a distinguished physician. During the war he was surgeon of a New York regiment and died during that period. His widow, a daughter of ex-congressman Reed, formerly of Homer, is now in California.
Goodwin states in his "History" that the first merchant in Homer was John Coats and that "his store stood on the ground near Harrop's sign post" (the Mansion House), but if so, it could not have been so early; as it was after he and Andrew Burr sold out their tannery before referred to and not much before 1816, when Coats left town; nor could Coats and Burr, who erected their tannery in 1809 have been early enough to have afterwards established the pioneer store in the place.
Jedediah Barber was the first permanent merchant who settled in the place. He came to the village in 1811, but did not engage in the mercantile trade until 1813. The original part of his store, long known as the "Great Western," was erected about that time. He entered into business with limited means, but was very successful and eventually became the heaviest dealer in the Tioughnioga valley, establishing a financial reputation unrivaled in the county. (Footnote: A wager was made between two men at one time relative to the stock of goods Mr. Barber carried. One bet that any article of commercial value needed in the county could be found in his store. The other taking the bet, they called for a goose yoke. Upon inquiry it was found in stock and the bet was paid.)
The "Great Western" stood where the Keator block (formerly called the Barber block) is now located and was known by that name up to the time it was burned. The Keator block was built on these grounds some ten years afterwards, the lot being idle during the interim. Mr. Barber did more to improve and beautify the village of Homer than any other man and left a name identified with the history of the county.
Benjamin Roberts hauled the first stock of goods sold by Mr. Barber from Albany in a four-horse wagon. He also moved Horace Wilson from Massachusetts to Homer in 1824 or 1825, it taking three weeks to made the trip.
William Sherman, the second pioneer merchant, came to Homer during the summer of 1815, and first engaged in the manufacture of nails. In 1827 he erected the "Homer Exchange," corner of Mill and Main streets, and for nearly thirty years thereafter conducted a heavy mercantile trade.
About the year 1819 Colonel Benajah Tubbs erected the building on the corner of Albany street, at present occupied by G. Chittenden. Mr. Tubbs was succeeded in the store by Thaddeus Archer, following whom came Horace White, Marsena Ballard and Amos Graves. The cost of the brick part of the structure was $4000.
Caleb Ballard, son of John Ballard, engaged in trade a few years before his death in 1830. His brother, Marsena, succeeded, purchasing the goods left by his brother, but after a few years left the town.
In 1853-54 Mr. Sherman built his new brick structure to the south and adjoining the "Exchange." His brother, John Sherman, and William L., now deceased, were at one time actively engaged in the mercantile business with him. John subsequently left the firm and established the store on the corner of Main and Clinton streets where W.A. Kellogg's residence is now, and continued there some time.
George J.J. Barber succeeded his father, Jedediah, as a merchant, and afterwards formed a partnership with C.O. Newton, who has been engaged in mercantile business in the village for more than thirty years. George J.J. Barber is now a resident of Syracuse.
George W. Phillips is well-known in the county as an enterprising merchant of over thirty years' standing. Mr. Phillips has been nine years supervisor of the town and was assemblyman two years.
Giles Chittenden was one of the successful early merchants of the place. He commenced business in Hezekiah Roberts's store, as before stated, and afterwards built the store now occupied by Geo. W. Phillips. He has been for fifty years a money lender and has accumulated a large fortune.
Prior to the year 1849 the stores of the village were general in character, each carrying a full line of all kinds of goods; but about the time mentioned business began to be divided, different merchants dealing in special lines.
About 1854 Danziger Brothers began the manufacture of clothing on Main and James streets, where they carried on an extensive business for eight years, both wholesale and retail. They are now located in Syracuse in the same business. O.H. Short, son of the well known Hammond Short, also carried on dry goods business for a few years. He was succeeded by Kingsbury & Walrad in 1861, who traded in the Wheadon block until 1866, when W.H. Haines formed a partnership with Mr. Kingsbury, and under the name of Haines & Kingsbury did business in the Keator block (formerly the Barber block) until 1869, when G.D. Daniels succeeded Mr. Haines, the firm name being Kingsbury & Daniels. In 1875 C.A. Skinner was taken into the firm, which is now known as Kingsbury, Daniels & Co.
Arnold Woodruff & Pierce formed their partnership in 1877. J.D. Hebard engaged in the trade of fancy goods and notions a year or so afterward, and is now carrying a special line. In 1877 Miss E.S. Dresser & Co. established the millinery business and are still engaged in it. In 1880 Mrs. G.W. Cottrell also began this trade, and in 1832 Mrs. Baldwin, who was succeeded by Miss Libbie Fisher in the spring of 1883. Each of these ladies carries on a successful business.
Grocers - The general store of former times excluded special lines, and especially in the grocery business. The following short sketch relates particularly to that branch of trade: The general store of early days supplied the inhabitants with all their family groceries; this was the case down to a comparatively recent period. Not far from the year 1832, when "Mechanics' Hall" was built, Benjamin Roberts kept a small grocery in the east part of that building. Wm. Smith probably kept the next grocery store in the village. It was in the building now occupied by Mr. Simmons as a meat market. Mr. Smith traded there a number of years. The special line of groceries was carried a number of years before the war by Horace Storr, and some time afterward by G.K. Farrington, who was succeeded in 1865 by P.F. Smith & Co. The firm soon changed to Riggs & Smith (1866) and remained such until 1877, when Smith sold out to Riggs, but in 1878 Mr. Smith bought out Mr. Riggs and now conducts the business. His store is well stocked and his trade is good. Mr. Smith's store was burned down on the 16th of December, 1883. He immediately rebuilt and moved into his new and commodious quarters during the month of September following.
L.P. Babcock began the grocery business in 1862. In 1868 he sold to his son, O. A. Babcock, who took in Geo. H. Daniels and traded with him until 1872, when Lytle Ferguson bought Daniels out and remained until 1875. W. Gilson took his place in 1876 and sold out to John Gilkerson in 1877, and was succeeded by Joseph Maplethorpe in 1878, but in 1879 Mr. Babcock took the store alone. His store was burned December 4th, 1879.
The firm of Frederick & Hovey was established in 1882, in the building erected by Henry Watrous, who had been in the grocery business some years previous. The business carried on by Andrews Brothers, grocers, was established by O.B. and Homer Andrews in September, 1882. The present store building of Newcomb & Churchill was erected by F.T. Newcomb in 1878. Mr. O.C. Churchill bought out Mr. Newcomb in 1879 and in 1882 the present partnership was formed.
Druggists - The drug business was first conducted in Homer by Geo. Cook, who kept his stock on one side of his hat store. His establishment was on the corner of Main and Pine streets. He sold his stock to Edwin Miles, who was succeeded by J. H. Munger and he by W.C. Coggeshall, who continued the business until December, 187, when J.C. Atwater bought an interest. A few months later W. H. Kellogg became a member of the firm and they have since carried on the business together. Dr. Loomis kept a drug store for some years, and about the year 1861, John Watson put a line of drugs in his store; he was succeeded in 1880 by C.A. Watson.
Confectioners. - The pioneer fruit and confectionery store of Homer was established by H.A. Kendall in 1846. He did a good business for a number of years. Geo. W. Cottrell afterwards carried on the business and has been very successful. Johnston Brothers established their store in 1877. In 1880 H.B. Johnston took the business and has continued it to the present time.
Manufactures, Milling, etc. - Clement Hayden began the business of cabinet maker in Homer as early as 1815, and for a time carried on quite an extensive business; but, owing to the influence of some bad habits, became bankrupt. His house was the one at present occupied by Charles Mead, the largest portion of which was used as a cabinet shop. The house was subsequently owned by Philip Putnam,. and afterwards by Joseph Clapp, who erected one of the additions on the rear. Cabinet and furniture manufacture was next carried on in Homer by two brothers, E. and C. Shirley, natives of New Hampshire, who came to Homer about 1825. They continued the trade for several years and became the owners of a lot on the west side of Main street (the north corner of what is now James street), where they erected a large addition to the building already on the lot. This building was consumed by fire some years afterward. The Shirley brothers eventually dissolved partnership; C. Shirley went to Syracuse and the other brother carried on business for some years in a shop on James street, with sale rooms on Main street.
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