HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF HOMER part 2Back to part 1
William N. Brockway began furniture manufacture in 1852. His large wareroom was kept filled with a variety of finely made and finished goods; he employed a number of skilled hands and built up a very large trade. His place of business was first located on the corner of Cayuga and Main streets, where he also carried on the business of undertaking. In 1855 he removed into the handsome warerooms now occupied by Tripp & Williams, where he continued until 1882, when the above named firm succeeded him. In January, 1884, Mr. Tripp went out of the firm, leaving Mr. Williams sole proprietor.
The first saddle and harness business in Homer was probably carried on by Andrew Burr, who began the enterprise prior to 1816, while he was yet engaged in the tannery business. For many years thereafter, he followed this trade very successfully. Eight or ten years later Mr. Burr formed a partnership with Hammond Short, who came to Homer from DeRuyter, Madison county; they continued together for several years. In the mean time Mr. Short erected the house south of Mr. Burr's residence, now occupied by Thomas S. Ranney; he also built another structure on the same lot which he occupied as a harness shop, in which he continued the business several years succeeding the dissolution of the firm, and until the erection of Mechanics' Hall, in 1833, when he removed his business into that building, taking forty feet of the eastern front. This building, for many years the most pretentious in the village, was erected by a company consisting of Horace Babcock, Hammond Short, Daniel Glover and a Mr. Bliss. Mr. Burr purchased the building previously occupied by Mr. Short, and removed it to the opposite side of the street, where he continued the harness business for some years. He died in 1872. Both Mr. Short and Mr. Burr had the reputation of being reliable mechanics and enterprising business men.
C.H. Wheadon was long engaged in this branch of manufacture and trade, being at first associated with Mr. Short, and continuing alone during a period of more than thirty years in all. Ira Tubbs was also a harness maker for several years, occupying a shop in the Mechanics' Hall. R.B. Newcomb began the business in 1869, and in 1878 sold out to his son, W.B. Newcomb, who still continues it. C.A. Ford & Co. have been engaged in the trade since 1872, at which time they bought out Mr. Wheadon.
George Murray established the hardware trade and tin and copper manufacturing iin Homer in 1842. His store was the pioneer in the village in that line; he continued for many years, until succeeded by his sons, G. & J. Murray, in 1869, who enlarged the stock, extended the scope of the business and built up a very large trade. J.J. Murray is now the sole proprietor; it is the only hardware store in Homer.
Samuel B. Hitchcock came to the town at an early day. His father, Peter Hitchcock, who long resided with his son, was elected one of the deacons of the first church of Homer upon its organization. Mr. Hitchcock settled first upon the land recently owned by David Hannum, near the summit of the hill; his brother-in-law, John Bement, also settled near him. These two men erected a tannery, but how long they continued the business we have been unable to learn. They were both practical boot and shoe makers, and subsequently moved to the village, where Mr. Hitchcock carried on the latter business in a building owned by Mr. Bowen, on Main street. It is stated on good authority that Hitchcock & Bement obtained from the government the first patent for securing the soles of boots and shoes to the uppers with wooden pegs.
Daniel Glover removed to Homer from DeRuyter, Madison county, about the year 1825 or 1826. He was a thrifty mechanic, and followed boot and shoe making for many years. He was one of the company that erected Mechanics' Hall, and continued his business in that building for several years.
Lorenzo Bennett was an early boot and shoe maker, and was succeeded by Benedict & Corey. In 1845 Asa Corey was succeeded by David B. Corey, and continued until 1861, when A.H. Bennett succeeded Mr. Benedict. In 1877 Mr. Corey died, and since that time Mr. Bennett has successfully carried on the business.
Messrs. Chollar & Jones kept a prosperous boot and shoe store in the place for a number of years, beginning in 1849. They were practical business men, well qualified for their work, and secured a liberal patronage. After a partnership of seven years Mr. Chollar continued the business alone until 1879, when he was succeeded by Allen & Shattuck, who still continue it. In 1874 C.E. Wills began this trade in a small way, and, with considerable increase in his stock, is now engaged in it.
The first silversmith in the village of Homer, who made a permanent location, was John Osborne. He erected a building directly east of the one on the corner of Main street, north of Giles Chittenden's present residence, and which was used for a long time as the post-office. Mr. Osborne came to Homer about the year 1826, and followed his calling until somewhat advanced in age, when he sold his business and spent the remainder of his life in retirement; he died many years since. He was succeeded in this line by D.D.R. Ormsby, whose honorable business career extended over many years. George Dana traded after his for a time, but left the village in 1881. J.J. Reider began the business in 1879, and is now the only jeweler in the village.
Mattthias Cook came to Homer about the year 1809, and began the manufacture of hats - the first establishment of the kind in Homer. He erected a building suitable for his purpose, which is still standing near the river. Mr. Cook was a young man possessed of industry and integrity, and built up a successful trade. He was made county clerk in 1821; Member of Assembly in 1824, and received a second nomination in 1831, but was defeated by Andrew Dickson. This event produced such a depressing effect upon Mr. Cook's mind as to partially unsettle his reason, in which condition he committed suicide in November, 1831. After Mr. Cook's death his son, B.K. Cook, succeeded to his father's business; but his death about the year 1832 transferred the establishment to his brother, George Cook,who continued it for many years, gradually relinquishing the manufacturing branch.
A manufacturing interest of importance was established in Homer in July 1874, by Willett Fisher, for the production of the celebrated Fisher platform spring wagon gears. Only four or five men were employed at the first, which number has increased to twenty-one. About 3,500 gears are manufactured annually, which find a market in all parts of the country.
In the year 1875 W.N. Brockway began the manufacture of platform spring wagons in Homer, in a building opposite the foundry at the southern end of the village. The first year about fifty wagons were turned out and an equal number of buggies. Under good management the business rapidly increased, until it is one of the most prominent industries of the place. Several large new buildings have been erected, nearer the center of the village, and a fifty horse power engine furnishes motive power for the establishment. The blacksmith shop has twelve fires, is 160 by 30 feet and employs 40 men in ironing the wagons. About 150 men are employed and 2,500 excellent vehicles are turned out annually.
The banking business of Homer is now transacted by the First National Bank which was organized on the 7th of September, 1878, with a cash capital of $100,000. Business was begun in this institution on the 8th of October of the year mentioned. The executive officers have remained unchanged since the organization, with one exception. They are G.N. Copeland, president; George Murray, vice-president; W.H. Crane, cashier. The directors are J.M. Schermerhorn, J.P. Cottrell, George Conable, G.W. Phillips, A.W. Hobart, Nathan Kinney, P.C. Kingsbury, A. Francisco, with the president, vice-president, and cashier. The bank has been very successful and its credit is high.
It will be inferred from the foregoing review of the manufacturing and mercantile interests of Homer village that rapid strides in those directions have been made since the incorporation of the place; indeed, a good deal had been accomplished in this respect previous to that event. The populaion had reached about one thouisand, and it was generally believed that the village would be the leading one of the county. But better facilities for communication with distant markets were sadly needed. All hopes of making the Tioughnioga river permanently available as a commercial highway had been given up, and reliance placed upon State roads, teams, stage coaches and ordinary wagons. Prior to the opening of the Erie canal in 1825, the merchants' goods were brought up to Albany, then conveyed by land to Utica and thence to Homer; or, were sent through Wood creek, Oneida lake, Onondaga river and down the Tioughnioga. Wheat, potash and other products were either shipped on rafts and boats down the Tioughnioga and Susquehann rivers to Baltimore, or were transported to distant markets by teams. This unpromising state of affairs led to frequent and anxious discussion of railroad connection with the outer world, resulting finally in the building of the Syracuse and Binghamton Railroad. The charter was first secured in 1836, but the road was not built and opened for business until 1854. Deacon Amos Rice, Jedediah Barber and Israel Boies, of Homer, were very prominent in forwarding this enterprise,, which was destined to be of such vast importance to the town. Further details of the construction and opening of this railroad will be found elsewhere in these pages.
Incorporation. - By the year 1821 Homer village had reached an important position in the county. There was not very much wealth in the place, but a good deal of business was done, principally in the way of exchange. Jedediah Barber, Captain Tubbs, Hezekiah Roberts, Giles Chittenden, Keep & Dickson and Andrew Burr each had a store. The cotton factory and grist-mill were doing a prosperous business; numerous asheries and distilleries were in operation; travel was considerable, stages running north and south through the valley, from Syracuse to Binghamton and Owego, and to DeRuyter. Goods were transported from Albany to Homer at one dollar per hundred pounds, and hotel patronage was good. There was then (1821) but three brick houses in the village - that of Dr. Owen, where George Murray now resides, and those of Newell Jones and Captain Tubbs.
Mr. William O. Bunn came to the village in 1834 and has given us a brief description of the place at that time. The number of stores had considerably increased. Russell Williams carried on a general trade in a wooden building where W. Kellogg's residence is now located, and William and John Sherman where John Arnold is now. Deacon Loammi Kinney, now more than eighty years old, cut and made clothing for gentry in a little shop standing on ground now occupied by the Homer bank. Hardin Slocum was located near by in a gun shop, where he repaired and made guns for many years. Mr. Barber's store stood where the Keator block now is. Coye & Stone had a wagon shop where the Wheadon block stands. Joel Heberd was near by in a general store and just south of him Dr. Lewis Riggs was located. Harry Coburn sold groceries, and Mr. Southwick was conducting the cotton factory. Calvin Slocum kept the hotel which is now the Hotel Windsor. Wm. Heberd was offering cast steel axes (work done by Stephen Vail) at $1.75; old axes jumped and ground for seven shillings, as we learn from the "Cortland Observer." Giles Chittenden was dealing in dry goods. Miles Morgan and E. & C. Shirley were in the cabinet business.
Such was the general business aspect of the village when steps were taken for its incorporation. For this purpose a meeting of the inhabitants was called in the basement of the old Calvary Church which was long used as a town hall, on the first Tuesday in June, 1835, under and in pursuance of the act of Legislature, entitled an act to incorporate the village of Homer, passed May 11, 1835. Augustus Donnelly and Lewis B. Canfield presided as inspectors of the election of trustees directed to be chosen. Candidates were voted for separately, resulting as follows: Augustus Donnelly, David Coye, Russell Williams, Hammond Short, Lewis S. Owen, Geo. J.J. Barber. Jonathan Hubbard was chosen clerk.
These trustees held a meeting at the office of Augustus Donnelly on the 18th of June at which Mr. Donnelly was elected president of the board. The board again convened on the 25th of June, and their first enactment was as follows: -
"It is hereby ordained by the trustees of the village of Homer, that from and after the first day of July next, all firing of crackers and squibs be prohibited at all time; that all firing of cannon, guns and pistols, ringing of bells, making any noise so as to disturb the quiet of the inhabitants within the corporation between the hours of ten o'clock in the evening and four o'clock in the morning be prohibited, under the penalty of five dollars for each offence."
The following are the present officers of the village: -
Trustees - Coleman Hitchcock, Joseph Watson, Frank T. Newcomb, Philip Zimmer and James A. Sherman.
Clerk - John M. Coats.
Treasurer - Charles O. Newton (footnote: Mr. Newton failing toqualify, the board appointed W.H. Crane, who now fills the office.)
Police Justice - a. Judson Kneeland.
Police Constable - Wm. A. Shirley.
At the meeting of the village board on June 25th, above referred to, they resolved to take into consideration the expediency of raising money for the purpose of building a fire engine house, procuring hooks, ladders and "for such other business as shall be deemed necessary." For this purpose a special meeting was called for Friday, the 3rd day of July. It was there decided to build a suitable house, large enough to contain two engines, the building to be located in the center of the public green; the cost to be $150. A small hand engine was subsequently bought, which is still in use and sustaining the reputation it has always borne for efficiency in extinguishing fires, in spite of its insignifiant size. The little engine-house is also still standing.
These were the facilities for extinguishing fires until in March, 1873, when steps were taken towards the purchase of a steam fire engine. This was accomplished at a cost of $5600, including hose cart, 1,000 feet of hose and other appurtenances. Hoel Pierce was the first engineer, at a salary of $125 a year. A. W. Hobart, C. Collins and John Van Hoesen were made a committee to purchase a lot for the engine house. This resulted in the purchase from T.D. Chollar of a lot 28 feet front and 43 1/2 feet deep on James street, for which $285 was paid. The engine house was built in 1873 by A.H. Perry at a cost of $2,100.
Post Office. - Townsend Ross was the first postmaster in the village of Homer. The office was first located in a building near the store of George W. Phillips. John Osborne was the second official in the office, and he was followed by Dr. Lewis Riggs, who came to Homer 1818. Then there were successively in the office, George Ross, J.P. Stone, G. J. J. Barber, W.W. Kingsbury and present incumbent, Newell Jones. Each of the last three mentioned held the position eight years. Five mails are received and distributed daily from the post-office at the present time.
Hotels.- The first tavern established in Homer village was kept by John Ballard; it was opened to the little public soon after Mr. Ballard came in, in 1803. He purchased his farm on the west side of Main street and built his log cabin on the ground now ocuppied by the resident of J.M. Schermerhorn; to this he added a room inclosed with boards and hung out his sign of entertainment. It is probable that this pioneer hotel was not kept open more than a short time.
The first permanent hotel in the village, was what is now the Hotel Windsor, which was built by Major Stimson, who conducted it for many years. In 1829 he was succeeded by Calvin Slocum, who continued it untiil 1850. Thomas Harrop was the next proprietor of the house; he gave it his own name, but retired five years later and was followed by L. Van Anden; the house enjoyed a prosperous career as Van Anden's Hotel. He was followed by John Patten, who kept it for several years, since which time there have been numerous changes in the management, which need not be specially alluded to. The present proprietors, Thomas White & Son, took the house in 1883, and under their experienced direction it has become a popular one.
The Mansion House was erected about the same time as the other house. The exact dates in either case are not available, but it is generally believed both houses in their original form, were built as early as the War of 1812. Judge Bowen was probably the first landlord of the Mansion House, and afterwards his son, Oren Bowen, kept it down to 1853, when it was sold to Amos Graves. D. Chollar was the next owner (1859) but three years later he sold it to Richard Beck, of New York, whose heirs still own it. The house was leased to Thomas White in 1860, he succeeding Thomas Harrop, who had conducted it as a temperance house under Mr. Chollar's ownership. In 1868 Ingles & Mills took the house for three years. A Mr. Tripp then occupied it; then Thomas White until 1877; John Klock until 1879; George Crane until 1881; Thomas White again until 1883. In April of that year the property passed under the management of John Ryan, the present proprietor.
The third hotel in the village was the building at present occupied and owned as a dwelling house by Miles Van Hoesen. It was not open to the public very long.
The fourth public house was built in 1816 by Joshua Ballard, and is at present used as a store and dwelling by I. M. Samson. Peter Westerman kept it for a time about 1824. He was followed by Benajah Tubbs, who was there in 1832. Judge Harris, a son-n-law of Mr. Tubbs, then kept it for a time and was followed by Geo. W. Samson, 1838-39; Hiram Bishop, 1848-50; George W. Samson to 1853; I.M. Samson, his son from 1853 to 1873, when it was closed to the public.
A glimpse over the local newspapers twenty years after the incorporation of the village (1855) will give us an indication of its growth and its business status at that time. Here we find notice of a meeting of the stockholders of the American Chemical Ink Company, of which H.H. Gross was president. Babcock & KInney announced a great rush at the Homer clothing store. W. Sherman & Son were in the dry goods trade and made announcement indicating a thriving business. Mrs. Preston decorated the heads of the ladies, and Chester A. Collins was then doing a successful business as a merchant tailor. George W. Phillips offered to make hard times easier by selling his dry goods cheaper than the cheapest. C.O. Newton, groceryman, advertised a large stock of goods, but during the following year formed a copartnership with Geo. J.J. Barber and V.T. Stone, in the "Great Western." Paris Barber was engaged in the lime, plaster and sand trade. Chollar & Jones were in a shoe store in the north half of the Bank block, doing a business of $10,000 a year. E.F. Phillips carried a stock of gloves, etc., and Lorenzo Bennett of boots and shoes. E.H. Osborne and Geo. W. Bradford were selling books, and Henry B. Burr was in the insurance business. Raymond Smith was manufacturing wagons near the southern river bridge and Wm. N. Brockway had just entered his new furniture warerooms. Chas. W. Wheadon announced the removal of his stock of new harness, saddlelry, etc., a few doors south of J. Barber's store. D.D.R. Ormsby was in the jewelry business, while L.P.Wood sold the heavier metals in the shape of iron and copper ware at No. 8 Sherman Building. Bennett & Woodruff sold cloths and clothing. W.P. Beck was the well known daguerrean artist. A. Roberts, who had purchased the grocery story of Wm. R. Smith, advertised ice for sale. What is now the Hotel Windsor was then Van Anden's Hotel, while the Mansion House was then occupied by Thomas Harrop, for many years a popular landlord. W.L & C.A. Morgan kept a restaurant under Wheadon's Hall. R.D. Cornwell & Co. had a livery stable and ran a daily line of stages to Glen Haven. J.C. Terry also was in the livery business. J. Ball, G.W. Bradford, Josiah Patterson, C. Green and W.R. Brown were the physicians of the place.
Schools - The first school-house erected in the village of Homer was located about twelve rods beyond where the railroad crossed the wagon road leading to Little York. The seond school building stood on the public green; it was a small, rude affair and was built prior to 1801. The third building for school purposes was also erected on the green; it was a two-story structure in which were employed two teachers. This building stood until the year 1839, when it was sold at auction and bid off by "Squire" Canfield for the Methodist Church society. In it the first court in the county was held prior to 1809. The building is at present owned by Pembroke Pierce and stands on the corner of Eagle and Cayuga streets. In the year 1819 the first academy building was erected. It was originally two stories high and of wood, 54 by 32 feet in dimensions; subsequent additions were made until it was 54 by 100 feet. It was used until 1869, when the present handsome structure was erected.
Joshua Ballard was the first teacher in the town of Homer; but it is not now known how long he presided in either of the early school-houses. The next teacher of prominence was Adin Webb, who is described as "a tall, straight, sprightly young man, dignified in demeanor and with a good education." With but one year as an exception Mr. Webb taught seventeen successive years. He was a native of Windham county, Conn.; his father was one of the heroes of the Revolution and served in that portion of the army that was engaged in the battle of Bennington and the capture of Burgoyne. In 1800 Mr. Webb was married to Deborah Carter, and they came with his parents to this State, locating near Cazenovia lake. In 1805 he was solicited by friends to come to Homer and teach the village school for a term of ten months. Being a capable singer he taught singing school at the same time, and being successful in both vocations, he decided to remain and make his permanent home in Homer. During the whole period of his residence here he was leader of the choir in the Congregational Church. (Footnote: Further reference to Mr. Webb's life will be found in the history of the town of Cortland.)
In this connection mention should be made of the name of Stephen W. Clark, who for a number of years was principal of the Academy. He was a man of varied attainments and was the author of an analysis of the English language, an etymological chart and a practical grammar, in which words and phrases are classified according to their offices and their various relations to one another, all of which works met with general recognition. Mr. Clark was the third son of Joseph and Mary Clark, and younger brother of Myron H. Clark, ex-governor of New York. He was born at Naples, N.Y., April 24th, 1810. After spending his earlier years in agricultural pursuits in his native town and as a mercantile clerk in Canandaigua, he finished his preparatory studies in Franklin Academy, Prattsburg, N.Y., and entered Amherst College in 1833. Here he devoted himself especially to the study of natural sciences, graduating with honor in 1837. He soon entered upon his chosen profession and followed teaching almost without interruption for many years. He was at different times principal of Groton Academy, the Monroe Collegiate Institute, East Bloomfield Academy and Cortland Academy.
From the common school which was so long and so successfully taught by Adin Webb on the spacious "green" grew the Cortland Academy, which has for sixty-five years nestled among the churches, gradually and surely earning a reputation and making for itself a history honorable to its conductors and to the county. The academy was chartered under its present name on the 2d of February, 1819. Among its original trustees were Rev. Elnathan Walker, Dr. Lewis S. Owen, Dr. John Miller, John Osborne, Chauncey Keep, David Coye, Noah R. Smith and Rufus Boies. Revs. Alfred Bennett, John Keep and Hon. E.C. Reed were soon after elected to fill vacancies in the board. Prosperity attended the school almost from its first opening. The inhabitants of Homer and surrounding towns took a deep and abiding interest in the institution, patronized the school liberally and aided its success in many other ways. It soon became the most popular and widely-known institution of learning within a circuit of many miles. The only endowment ever possessed by the academy, other than the good will of the people, was the use of a county school lot, which was sold in 1835 for $3,733. The prosperity of the academy continued until the breaking out of the Rebellion, which partially paralyzed its work for a time.
In 1873, an unsuccessful effort having been made to secure an endowment, and the condition of educational matters in the village demanding the provision of better facilities for free instruction, five districts were mainly consolidated in Union District No. 1, of Homer, the trustees of the academy resigned their trusts, according to law, to a board of education, the district assumed all the indebtedness of the academy, and guaranteed to maintain a first-class classical and academic department, and the school was reorganized under the present system and name. Each year since this change was effected has increasingly shown its wisdom and witnessed the growing prosperity and success of the institution.
It is impossible in this brief sketch to name the subordinate teachers who, during all these years, have helped forward the good work of the school; much less can the many noble names enrolled among the graduated of Homer be here recorded. The first principal of the academy was Prof. Catlin. He was shortly succeeded by Prof. Noble D. Strong. Then came Prof. Avery now of Hamilton College; Prof. Franklin Sherrill and Dr. Taylor, now of Auburn. In 1830, Dr. Samuel B. Woolworth, now Secretary of Board of Regents, accepted the principalship, which postition he held for twenty-two years. To him the school was greatly indebted for its prosperity and commanding influence during this period and for years succeeding. He was followed by Prof. Stephen W. Clark, who remained for twelve years. Then during the trying days of the academy's history, came successively Profs. Nichols, Sanford and Manley. The first year following the reorganization the school was under the charge of Prof. C.W. Verrill, since which time (1871) it has been under the care of Prof. Ezra J. Peck, A. M.
A substantial fund is in trust for the academy, through the bequest of Zebadiah Coburn, the avails of which are used in payment of tuition for Christian young men of all denominations who study here in preparation for the university.
The present instructors of the academy are: E.J. Peck, A.M, principal; Latin and Greek. Miss C.E. Hutchins, A.B., preceptress; Higher English, French and German. H. Frank Miner, A.B., mathematics and natural science. Charles V. Coon, preparatory. William A. Coon, first intermediate department. Mrs. H.M. Sheldon, second intermediate department. Miss Flora Copeland and Miss Emily C. Ormsby, third intermediate department. Mrs. S.C. Webb, first primary department. Miss Elma L. Williams, second primary department.
The board of education consists of Wm. A. Robinson, president, Thomas D. Chollar, Edward J. Bockes; terms expire 1885. Vernon T. Stone, George Murray, jr., Sumner C. Webb, M.D..; terms expire 1883. J. Clayton Atwater, Caleb Green, M.D., George W. Phillips; terms expire 1884.
The first Baptist church. - The three Baptist Churches, namely, in Homer, Cortland and McGrawville, having had a common origin in the original Baptist Church of the old town of Homer, it is proper that a preliminary sketch should be made in this place, beginning in the spring of 1793, after four or five families had moved in and made a permanent settlement, and reaching up to the organization of the present society in 1827.
The first inhabitants of Homer, irrespective of creed, met in common on the Sabbath for worship, until the year 1801, when circumstances occurred which led the Baptist members of the little community to make provision for their divine worship. On the 3d day of October, 1801, sixteen persons united and were publicly recognized as a Baptist Church. The council consisted of Rev. James Bacon, New Woodstock; Rev. Nathan Baker, De Ruyter, with one lay brother, and Rev. Joseph Cornell, a missionary who was providentially present. This was the first church of any denomination formed within the limits of Cortland county; but it was only nine days earlier than the organization of the Congregational Church. The names of the first membres of the Baptist society were John Keep, Joseph Beebe, Daniel Crandall, Peleg Babcock, Cornish Messenger, Roderick Beebe, James H. Wheeler, Frances Keep, Rhoda Beebe, Submit Keep, Rhoda Miner, Martha Messenger, Mary Bishop, Susannah Crandall, Esther Wilcox and Molly Wheeler. John Keep was appointed clerk of the church, which office he held for twenty-seven years. Joseph Beebe was appointed deacon, but he died about seven months later, and Prince Freeman, of Virgil, was appointed to the office. No regular pastor was stationed in the hamlet for some time; but an ordained minister named Leisure preached for church once in two months until Rev. Rufus Freeman was called to preach once a month for one year. Prior to this time they had occasional sermons from Rev. Joseph Cornell, James Bacon and P.P. Root.
The first effort to raise money to support the Gospel was an average assessment upon each member, which amounted to seven dollars and two cents. The highest amount paid was two dollars and six cents and lowest thirteen cents.
Rev. Alfred Bennett subsequently became pastor of the church. He was a remarkable gifted man and became known throughout the country as such. He served this church twenty years, having come to the town in 1803 and united with the church in 1804. He began preaching in 1805. In April, 1806, the church record shows the following: -
"Voted, that Brother Alfred Bennett have liberty to improve his gifts where God, in His Providence, shall open a door."
A resolution was recorded in February, 1807, calling him to ordination, which event occurred on the 18th of June of that year, in Judge Keep's barn, which is still standing. At the same meeting which passed this resolution of the ordination the following was passed: -
"Voted, that Dr. Asa Bennett be on trial for a deacon."
It appears he united with the church by letter in 1806. Thomas Chollar united with the church by letter in 1810, and was made a deacon in 1812; he filled that office for about thirty years. His son, Deacon T.D. Chollar, was called to the same office forty-two years ago and has ever since maintained the same high Christian standard of character of which he had an example in his father.
The increase and changes in the pioneer church during the first ten years of its life were as follows: Added by baptism, 67; by letter, 65; dismissed by letter, 47; seven were excluded and five died. During this period the meetings were held alternately in Homer, Cortland village, Port Watson, on the East river; and finally, by the united energies of the denomination, a site was secured on the road from Homer to Cortland, at the point where it turns northward, now within the boundaries of Cortland village; there a comfortable church building was erected; it was 52 by 36 feet, with gallery on three sides, and without steeple. This church was erected in 1811 and was consecrated to the worship of God in June, 1812. In the building of the church a debt was incurred of about $1000, or nearly one-half its cost, and they were without means to pay it; but before a year had passed the society had doubled its membership, the debt was paid off and the regular congregations were large and devout. In the revivals of that period, forty-nine heads of families were converted and brought into the church.
As early as 1808 the society voted to meet on a given day to improve themselves in singing; from that time forward a few of the members devoted their indefatigable efforts to raising the standard of the church music. From 1811 to 1821 was a period of remarkable prosperity to the church, the number of members increasing from sixty eight to over four hundred. In 1820 there was a revival which added to the number largely; but towards the close of the year the little community suffered irreparable loss to its Christian workers in the death of Rev. Elnathan Walker, of the Presbyterian Church, and not long after, the death of Deacons Jacob Hobart and Asa Bennett, and John Keep.
In 1820 Moses Curtis and Oliver Stedman were elected deacons of the church. During this second decade of its existence there were added to the church by baptism 333, and by letter 107; there were dismissed by letter seventy-nine; twenty-one were excluded and twenty-two died. In the year 1827 the church contained nearly 500 members, and the little edifice had become far too small to contain the congregations who assembled from Sabbath to Sabbath. The result was the establishment of three Baptist Churches - one in Homer village, one in Cortland village, and one in McGrawville. New buildings were erected in these places, leaving the mother church in the center, which was, however, soon abandoned, and a new structure erected in Cortland, as stated in the history of that village. After these changes the pastor continued his labors in Homer village until 1832, when he was succeeded in the Cortland church by Rev. Peleg Card, and he by Rev. Alfred Gates; in the McGrawville church by Abner Sylvester. The number of members added to the church from 1820 to the time of its division in 1827 was about 122 by baptism and fifty-two by letter.
The great popularity of Rev. Alfred Bennett led to his being offered and solicited to take the nomination for Assemblyman against Samuel Nelson. The latter was a candidate who could be defeated only by one whose popularity would draw the entire strength of the Republicans, and the approaching convention for the revision the State constitution made the election one of the greatest importance. But Mr. Bennett demurred to allowing the use of his name for political office, and finally positively declined; he was, however, made the candidate against his wishes, and was defeated only by a few votes from members of his church, who voted against him from Christian principle.
As the church became larger, and the community advanced in culture and refinement, Mr. Bennett's innate modesty and distrust of his own power led him to urge the society to accept his resignation, and put in his place a man with broader education. With much reluctance these requests were finally acceded to, and after securing the services of Rev. W.R. Whiting, Mr. Bennett resigned and accepted the office of agent of the foreign missionary board of the Baptist Church in the United States, which place he filled for twenty years. Rev. Mr. Whiting remained with the church about two years, and then became connected with the American Union Baptist Bible Societies, and for the next forty years labored on translations of the Bible, in which work he became eminent.
The next pastor was the Rev. Edward Bright, D.D. now editor of the "Examiner," the most extensively circulated Baptist journal in the world. Following him came Revs. Reuben Morey, Hezekiah Harvey, Mr. Clark, G.W. Brigham, and some others, for short periods, until 1880, when Rev. S.E. Wilcox became pastor. He has recently resigned (1884). The membership is now two hundred and sixty. T.D. Chollar, M.A. Radway, M.M. Newton, Joel Gates are the deacons. C.E. Benedict is superintendent of the Sunday-school.
The Congregational Church (footnote: prepared by Rev. William A. Robinson) - This has often been styled a church with a history, not only as one of the oldest churches of this denomination in this vicinity, but especially because of its eventful record, and its prominence and influential position among the churches of Central New York, is this designation appropriate. The early settlers of the town often impress their characteristics upon the subsequent history of that town in a marked degree. If they are pious and God-fearing men, the institutions they found and the prevalent tone of society they give will long manifest the effect of their godly and self-sacrificing character. Homer was peculiarly blessed in this respect. Of the two men, Amos Todd and Joseph Beebe, who made the first settlement here in 1791, the first named was a constituent member of the Congregational Church, and the other a member and office-bearer in the Baptist Church. As soon as six families had settled here, in 1793, religious worship was instituted upon the Sabbath, and it has been steadily maintained from that day to this. Well may "Father" Keep exclaim in his historical sermon, preached in 1824, "Memorable was the day and mighty in its influence upon the character of this town when these six families erected a public altar for the honor of God." Such was the character of these pioneers of society here that it passed into an adage that it would not do for any but "go-to-meeting folks" to settle in Homer. At the first the Sabbath services were held in the houses or barns of the settlers, and most frequently near the present Glenwood Cemetery. The first school-house - a rude log structure, built in 1795, which stood a little north of the present site of the village, was sometimes used as a meeting place. In the fall of 1798 a grist-mill was built upon the site still occupied for like purpose near Mill street, in this village. This structure was used as a place for Sabbath worship when the cold was not too intense. During these years the inhabitants themselves conducted their public srvices on the Lord's day. From the spring of 1798, however, there were occasional visits to the town by missionaries sent out by the Connecticut Missionary Society and the Presbyterian General Assembly. The first sermon preached in town was by Rev. Asa Hillyer, D.D., of New Jersey, in the early summer of 1798. Not long after Rev. Seth Williston, of blessed memory in all this region, spent some weeks in special labors here, and a number were hopefully converted to God. September 10th, 1799, the first religious society of Homer was organized, and duly incorporated on the 25th of November following. This society still maintains a vigorous existence, supporting the institutions of the Congregational Church.1
A few days after the incorporation of this society, viz: December 1st, 1799, a building, designed to serve the double purpose of a school-house and place for public worship, was dedicated, the sermon, from I Kings, VIII chapter, 38th verse, being preached by Rev. Mr. Lindsley. This particuliar edifice was divided within by an immense swing partition, and stood near the northeast corner of the present village green. Prior to the organization of the first religious society, the formation of a church had been proposed, and at a meeting held in the fall of 1798, twenty persons presented themselves for that purpose; but questions of church polity and denominational preference arose, and though discussed temperately, and in a Christian spirit, caused the postponement of any church organization, all continuing to worship together and to sustain the first religious society. A satisfactory adjustment of the questions about polity was made in the fall of 1801 and on October 12th fourteen persons entered into solemn covenant with God and with each other, as "The Congregational Church of Homer." The following were the constituent members in this important organization: Eliphalet Rice, elected the first deacon of the church, April 21st, 1803, and his wife, Mary; Samuel Hoar and his wife, Dorothy; Timothy Treat and his wife, Beulah; Darius Kinney and his wife, Lydia, who was the last survivor of the original fourteen, dying in 1845; Peter Hitchcock, the second deacon, elected December 13th, 1804; John Ballard, Thomas L. Bishop, John Baker, Daniel Miner and Amos Todd, already mentioned as one of the two pioneers of the settlement of the town.
At the time of the formation of the church, Mr. Abial Jones, who is styled in the records "a candidate preacher," was chosen as the moderator and served in the ministry of the word till the following year. In the fall of 1802 Rev. Nathan Darrow came to Homer and December 10th he was called to the pastorate of the church. Accepting their invitation he was ordained and installed February 3d, 1803, by a council of representatives of the churches in Manlius, Geneva, Owasco, Lisle, Pompey, Clinton and Cazenovia. This was a marked event in the history of this church and of religious progress in Central New York. Less than a year after this, "the middle association" was formed at Marcellus, this church being one of the constituent churches and being represented by its pastor and Deacon Rice. Rev. Mr. Darrow is described as a man of medium size, with brown hair, a light hazel eye, endowed with good natural talent, but without extensive culture; somewhat austere in his manner, but full of energy and decision, and faithful in the discharge of his duties. He filled the office of pastor till 1808, and the church, which numbered about twenty when he came, had received ninety-three additions under his ministry, nearly half of them the fruit of a revival enjoyed in 1806. During his pastorate the church took efficient action in looking after the education of the childen and youth of the town, instituted "the standing committee," to attend to executive affairs of the church, and established "the Thursday p.m. meeting," which has been sustained with remarkable vigor to the present time. In 1805 a church edifice, 50 by 72 feet in size, was erected upon the site now occupied by the present church edifice, six acres of land, including the present village green, having been given to the society for this purpose and for public uses. It was a great undertaking for that day, to build so commodious and elegant a structure; and with subsequent repairs and enlargements, it served the uses of the congregation till replaced by the present edifice.
Rev. Mr Darrow was succeeded in the pastorate by Rev. Elnathan Walker, who was ordained and installed October 24th, 1809. Mr. Walker was a person of dignified bearing and fine personal presence. He was tall and erect in carriage, easy and graceful in speech and gesture, of fair complexion and clear gray eyes, looking out through the spectacles which he constantly wore. He was a native of Taunton, Mass., and a graduate of Brown Univesity. He is the only pastor who has died in town. His death occurred June 4th, 1820, and occasioned universal sorrow. A plain marble shaft in the cemetery bears this instription to his memory:-
"This monument is erected by an affectionate people, as the last testimony of respect to their beloved pastor."
The pastorate of Mr. Walker covered what was a determiining period in the growth and prosperity of this church and society. The church, which numbered 99 members when he came, had increased to 427 at the time of his death. Especially did the three marked revivals enjoyed during this time contribute to this result. The memorable one of 1812-13 added 188 persons to the church in a single year. That of 1816 was also one of especial power, while the one that immediately preceded Mr. Walker's death was inaugurated by a peculiar victory of divine grace over personal estrangements and animosities. Some members of the church had become alienated from the pastor and at length a council was called to consider and act in reference to these grievances; but being debarred by the rules of the Presbytery (with which the church had become associated in 1811) from acting officially, the members of the council set themselves at work to effect a reconciliation. In this they were remarkable successful and the records say, "Mutual concession and forgiveness commenced and, after a most tender and melting season of two days, all their difficulties were amicably settled."
The successor of Mr. Walker n the pastorate was Rev. John Keep, who was installed November 7th, 1821. Mr. Keep was a man of sterling good sense, strong in his convictions and interested in all matters of public welfare. He, with the church, took pronounced position upon temperance, and were foremost in every good work. In 1824 the meeting house was thoroughly repaired and re-dedicated November 23d. The following year the Presbyterian Church at Cortland was formed, several membrs being dismissed from Homer to co-operate in its organization. In 1826 the church was blessed with a revival and fifty-seven additions. In July, 1827, the present Baptist Church of Homer was established. The following year the town of Homer was divided by act of Legislature and town of Cortland organized. The academy, which had been incorporated in 1819, found in Mr. Keep a wise counselor and staunch supporter. Under Mr. Keep's leadership the church inaugurated the holding of so-called "protracted meetings" in 1831, and six such seasons were held within three years and large accessions made to the membership of the church. In the last of these meetings held in June, 1833, Rev. Jed Burchard labored in his own eccentric way and with mixed results of good and evil for the church; as one effect, the pastor resigned his charge and was dismissed the 3d of October, 1833.
In December of the same year Rev. Dennis Platt was called to the pastorate and was installed March 12th, 1834. Mr. Platt was a decided and positive man and held a firm hand in the discipline of the church. He was a good sermonizer and possessed of no ordinary executive ability. The year 1835 was a year of in-gathering eighty-two being added to the church. Mr. Platt resigned his pastorate and was dismissed April 7th, 1842. His death occurred in Norwalk, Conn., in 1878. All of his successors in the pastoral office are yet living at the time of this writing, and therefore no reference will be made to their personal charateristics. The immediate successor to Mr. Platt was Rev. Thomas K. Fessenden, who was called by the church December 1st, 1842, and installed early the next year. The year of his installation was also a year of revival, sixty-three being added to the church. The chapel was erected in 1843 and dedicated with appropriate service January 12th, 1844. Another revival was enjoyed in 1850. During Mr. Fessenden's pastorate, which was terminated at his request, in 1853, 276 persons were added to the church. Throughout this period the benevolent contributions, which were faithfully watched over for many years by Dr. Geo. W. Bradford, steadily increased. For a year after Mr. Fessenden's dismissal the pulpit was ably supplied by Rev. Thomas Lounsbury, D.D. March 6th, 1855, Rev. J.A. Priest was invited to the pastorate and soon after installed, and again a pastor's first year of service was gladdened with a precious revival and eight-two added to the church. The pastoral relation with Mr. Priest was dissolved in May, 1858, at his urgent request, on the ground of his health. September 7th of the same year Rev. Albert Bigelow was called to the pastorate, soon after installed and continued in that office till he resigned and was dismissed October 1st, 1863. The 8th of the previous July the present commodious and elegant church edifice was publicly dedicated to the service of the Most High. The sermon on the interesting occasion was preached by President Fisher of Hamilton College, and Rev. John Keep was present and participated in the services. In addition to the generous and liberal efforts of the church and society in building its substantial house of worship, the later years of Mr. Bigelow's pastorate witnessed the inception of the War of the Rebellion, and pastor and people felt the urgent demands upon their patriotism and nobly responded with earnest efforts to provide men for the army, and generous contributions through the Sanitary and Christian Commissions to alleviate the horrors of war. February 23d, 1864, Rev. John C. Holbrook, D.D., was called to the pastorate and was installed in July, 1865. In 1868 a very powerful revival was experienced and 148 were added to the church. The same year the church withdew from the presbytery, with which it had been connected on the "plan of union," and assisted in the formation of the "Central Association." In October of the same year the "State Assoication" met at Homer, Deacon S. Holmes serving as moderator, and L.W. Bacon, D.D., preaching the sermon. In September, 1870, Dr. Holbrook accepted a call to Stockton, Cal., and was dismissed from his pastorate of this church. April 18th, 1871, Rev. Wm. A. Robinson received a unanimous call to the pastorate and began his labors here June 8th. He was installed by council on the 13th of the following December. In 1873, the State Association again met in Homer, H.M. Storrs, D.D., serving as moderator, and Wm. M. Taylor, D.D., preaching the sermon. The following year the chapel was thoroughly repaired and refurnished. In 1875 the church edifice was renovated and improved in its interior, at an expense of over $1200. October 12, 1876, the church and congregation celebrated with great interest the 75th anniversary of the formation of the church. An historical sermon was preached by the pastor. Letters from former members and from the sons of Homer in the ministry were read, suggestive tributes were paid to some of the earlier pastors and deacons, and the work and influence of the church set forth in appropriate addresses. The present pastorate has continued at the time of this writing nearly thirteen years, being the longest upon the record of the church. It has covered a period of peculiar transition. Very many of the fathers and mothers who were conversant with the earlier history of the church have finished their earthly course during these years. Marked changes have also occurred in the business condition of the village and town, and in the character of the population. Reorganization of the academy, long the pride of the town, has also been effected during this time, and the school brought up to the efficiency and success of its palmiest days. The pastor of this church has been for nearly eleven years president of the board of education, and has helped to secure the results in the quality and work of the academy which have been accomplished. Amid all these changes this church has kept steadfastly on its way, doing a noble work and exerting an influence that is widely recognized by an intelligent and genuine public spirit, by a ready and generous beneficence. By a staunch and evangelical faith, and by the endeavor to use those methods that tend to build up and strengthen true Christian character in young and old, it has been true to its former hisotry and able to maintain its honorable position.
The review of the record of this church so closely and influentially identified with the history of the town, discloses several causes which, under God's blessing have contributed to its notable strength and efficiency. It has been blessed with a succession of able and consecrated officers. Its ministers have been faithful and devoted, and some of them men of rare ability and power. Its deacons have been earnest and capable and not a few of them have been conspicuous examples of the truth that "they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." The church has also enrolled upon the list of its members an unusual proportion of men and women, strong in their convictions, catholic in their spirit, devoted in their piety, generous in their giving, and consecrated in the life and example. It has from the first taken a wise and consistent interest in the right training of the young. Throughout the years it has watched over the home nurture and school instruction of the youth with sedulous care. It was foremost in the sacrifices which brought the academy into being, and which have accompanied its history. Its Sabbath-school was just about coeval in date of origin with the academy, and it has enjoyed the faithful labors of officers and teachers throughout these more than sixty-five years. In benevolent contributions to carry forward the great evangelical movements at home and abroad, this chuch has an enviable record. By its organization of young and old for this end, and by its stated gifts, it has fostered the missionary spirit, and tried to do its part in fulfilling our Lord's great commission to his followers. For many years there has been upon the whole a steady increase in the amount of such benefactions, till the last decade, under the faithful care of Dr. S.C. Webb, they have averaged over $1600 per year. The social meetings have from the first been both the evidence and the aid of genuine spiritual life. The Thursday p.m. meetings, already spoken of, and the young peoples' meetings have contributed greatly to the efficiency and growth of the church. More than a score of the sons of the church have entered the ministry, and many of these in missionary fields at home and abroad, or in important pastorates, have wrought ably in the Master's name. About 2,500 persons have been enrolled as members of the church. Its greatest numerical strength was during the pastorates of Mr. Fessenden and Dr. Priest. According to the report of 1883, its membership now numbers 405 persons.
Reviewing the notable history of this church, who can fail to be impressed with the thought of the breadth, importance and duration of its direct and indirect influence. From this quiet, rural town, by its aid, streams of blessing have flowed out and on, whose renewing and refreshing power has been felt near and far, and whose results for human good only eternity can disclose. If "they who direct an age's intellect are more potent than they who do its deeds," certainly the work of a church like this, which has done so much to direct the intellect, inspire the faith, cultivate the character and shape the life of so many, may claim an importance and grandeur which words cannot fully portray.
The Methodist Episcopal Church - Memoranda from which to make a history of this church is exceedingly meagre. The church records have been mislaid or lost, and but few facts are now attainable. The first organization was formed at the comparatively recent date of 1833. The Methodists of Homer were formerly connected with the church in Cortland, and thirteen of the original members of the Homer church were from that society. To these were added sixteen others, making the first membership of the Homer church twenty-nine, a little band which has grown into a flourishing society.
The first public services were held in the seond story of the public school-house, which was afterward purchased, repaired, and transformed into a church. This was used until the year 1841, when a new church was built at a cost of about $2,400; Rev. George Parsons was the pastor at that time. In 1864 the church was enlarged and repaired, during the pastorate of Albert L. York. Again, in the year 1881, an addition was made to the church building by raising it and putting under it a basement. It was also refitted and furnished, at a cost of about $4,400; Rev. R.C. Fox was then pastor.
The first trustees of the church were Caleb Cook, David Baker and Samuel Lane.
The successive pastors, with the years of their service, have been the following: -
Nelson Rounds, 1834; Rufus Stoddard, 1835-36; John Crickman, 1837; John E. Robie, 1838; E.L. Wadsworth, 1839, John Nason, 1840; George Parsons, 1841-42; William Bixby, 1843-44; John E. Robie, 1845; E.G.Bush, 1846; Z. D. Paddock, 1847-48; William N. Cobb, 1849; J. L. Hartwell, 1850-51; S.H. Brown, 1852-53; Isaac Foster, 1854; W.H. Willis, 1855-56; H. Gee, 1857-58; H.S. Richardson, 1859-60; J.L. Wells, 1861-62; S.L. York, 1863-64; Alexander Hale, 1865; D.R. Carrier, 1866-67; A.M. Lake, 1868-69; A.N. Damon, 1870-72; J.V. Benham, 1873-74; M.S. Leet, 1875; S. Ball, 1876-78; R.C. Fox, 1879-81; M.S. Leet, 1882-84.
Trustees - S.F. Salisbury, F. Pierce, J. Wilber, W.H. Blaney, E.J. Bockes, J.J. Woodruff, J.J. Arnold, Warren Salisbury, Charles Joslyn.
Stewards - S.F. Salisbury, J.J. Woodruff, Charles Joslyn, M.J. Pratt, J.J. Arnold, Warren Salisbury, H.D. Allen, H.C. Wildey.
Local elder - L.J. Wheelock.
Local preacher - E.D. Terpenning.
Class leaders - F.G. Williams, John Van Denberg, J.J. Woodruff, J.J. Arnold, G.N. Bryant, E.N. Warfield.
The congregation, at present under the charge of Rev. M.S. Leet, is in a flourishing condition, and membership is something over two hundred.
Calvary Church. - The first service of the Episcopal Church within the limits of the present town of Homer, was held in the Congregational meeting-house, by the Rev. Reuben Hubbard, rector of St. James's Church, Danbury, Conn., in June, 1813. Mr. Hubbard was visiting relatives then living here and had many kinsfolk among the early settlers of the town, and on one or more Sundays in June, 1813, was invited by the Rev. Mr. Walker, the pastor of the Congregational Church to officiate in his pulpit. While visiting here Mr. Hubbard called on a family in the western part of town by the name of Terrill, and baptized several children. This was probably the first time a sacrament of the Episcopal Church was ever administered in this county.
The next ten years came and went with no record of visitation of any clergyman of this church, except that Bishop Hogarth passed through the county and peached but whether at Homer or Cortland is not known.
In 1823 Mr. Hubbard again visited Homer and on the evening of February 23d preached in the Congregational Church, by invitation of Rev. Mr. Keep, then its pastor. In 1828 Mr. Hubbard again came to Homer and again on March 2d preached in the Congregational Church, by invitation of Rev. Mr. Keep.
In February, 1831, Rev. Henry Gregory, then missionary at Moravia and Genoa, visited Homer and held service on Monday evening, February 14th, in the upper room of the old academy, and shortly afterward arrangements were made by which Mr. Gregory was to officiate at Homer one-third of the time. It was soon determined to organize a parish and due notice having been given according to law, on Monday, June 6th, 1831, Calvary parish was regularly organized by the election of Daniel Glover and Augustus Donnelly, wardens; Lyman Kendall, John C. Marvin, Asa Austin, Ammi Beers, Hiram Bliss, Joel Hubbard, Marsena Ballard, Albert F. Boland, vestrymen. On December 5th, 1831 the first meeting of the vestry with reference to building a church was held, and on June 21st, 1832, the corner-stone of Calvary Church was laid; on Advent Sunday December 2d, 1832, the church was occupied for the first time. The Rev. Thomas Meacham officiated for several months on the Sundays when Rev. Mr. Gregory was absent, and on February 14th, 1833, the Rev. Mr. Gregory, having resigned his charge at Moravia and Genoa, became rector of the parish and continued as such until November 10th, 1835, when he resigned to become a missionary to the Indians at Green Bay. The Rev. Charles Jones succeeded him and remiained in charge of the parish till October 23d, 1836, when the Rev. Mr. Gregory was invited to take the rectorship again, at a salary of $500 and expenses of his return. June 13th, 1837, Mr. Gregory reached town and resumed his charge. In September, 1838, Mr. Gregory was granted leave of absence for one year, in order that he might go as missionary to the Indians at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The Rev. Mr. Ogle acted as minister of the parish during the rector's absence. In November, 1840, Mr. Gregory was called to the rectorship of St. Paul's Church, Syracuse, and offered his resignation to the vestry, which was regretfully accepted. In January, 1841, Rev. E.B Foote, of Newark College, Delaware, was invited to become the rector of the parish and shortly after he accepted the charge, which however, he retained but two years, when he was succeeded by Rev. Samuel Goodale, who remained as rector until July 1st, 1846, when he was succeeded by Rev. G.M. Skinner, who remained until the fall of 1848, when the Rev. Charles E. Phelps became rector and continued as such until August, 1851. He was succeeded by the Rev. Reuben Hubbard, who remained three years and was succeeded by the Revs. Geo. L. Foote and H.V. Gardner as ministers in charge of Calvary church and the outlying parishes of Cortland, McLean and Truxton. In 1857 Rev. Peyton Gallagher became rector. He was followed by the Rev. C.S. Percival, who resigned in the spring of 1864. In the fall of 1865, after an interval of more than a year without a service, the church was opened and services were resumed. Lewis B. Henry, esq., of New York City, having returned to this village, acted for a time as lay reader, and through his influence among church people in New York, funds were raised by which the interior of the building was refitted, and in April, 1866, Rev. A.W. Cornell, of Jamaica, L.I. was called to the rectorship. Mr. Cornell remained in charge of the parish until the summer of 1871. From that time until 1874 only occasional services were held by visiting clergymen. In the fall of 1874 Rev. J.W.H. Weibel was called to the rectorship and remained nearly two years, since which time srevices have been held at very infrequent intervals, until the present year, when Rev. A.D. Allen, missionary in charge, has established regular and stated services.
This hamlet is situated in the northern part of the town of Homer, on the line of the Syracuse and Binghamton railroad; it is a small place containing one grist-mill, a store, hotel and about twenty houses.
The early settlers on this lot (No. 6) were Jabez Cushman, who was one of the very first; William and I. Blarchfield (sp. ?), and Oren Cravath. Cushman was probably from Massachusetts, and erected the mills, the saw-mill being built first. This mill was in use in 1813, when Thomas Howard removed to Preble, and may possibly have been the one in which the lumber was sawed for first frame houses built in Preble before 1806. Mr. Cushman also built the carding-mill at this place, in an early period. Daniel Radway probably purchased it of him. In the Cortland "Observer" of December 28th, 1832, we find the following: -
"The subscribers having taken the woolen factory in Little York, of Mr. Daniel Radway, will manufacture cloths, cassimeres, satinets and flannels as low as any other establishment in the county. They will manufacture either on shares or by the yard all colors except indigo blue. Also carding and cloth-dressing at the usual prices. The best of machinery for manufacturing will be put into operation. Being all experienced workmen, they flatter themselves that they will give general satisfaction.
Ralph Palin, Joseph Bradley, William Taylor. Homer, June 20, 1832."
This business continued prosperous for many years, Jedediah Barber owning it at one time; but it gradually declined, as was the case with all similar factories in the vicinity, and the building is now used as a general shop by B.J. Salisbury.
The grist-mill was erected soon after the building of the factory; but it changed hands a number of times. J.E. Cushing bought one-half of it in 1840 and continued in it until 1860; Gideon Curtis owned the other half. Anthony Kenyon, Gustavus Lyman, whose name was changed at his request by the legislature to Nathaniel Bradford, and others owned the mill. Mudge & Son have owned it for about twelve years past and it now does a good class of custom work only. Mr. Powers Mudge has the entire management of the mill.
It is probable that the early trading at LIttle York was done by Jabez Cushman (but nothing very definite regarding it is known) until the arrival of Isaac Otis and Gideon Curtis in 1830. They had an interest in the mill property and probably had a small store in connection with their other interests. Curtis was an intelligent Quaker and was Member of the Assembly in 1829. Mr. Otis removed to the West. Mr. Curtis continued the store from 1834 to 1846. In 1844 J.E. Cushing joined with Curtis in the store and in 1846 bought out his partner; since that time he has conducted the business alone. The post-office has always been kept in the store, the proprietors of which have been the postmasters.
A public house has been kept in Little York from an early period. Mr. Cushing first kept a boarding-house during his stay in the place, and in 1833 John L. Wilcox built a private house which he afterwards transformed into a tavern; this was subsequently burned. The present hotel was erected in 1875, by Chas. Foster. Charles Gay took possession of the property n 1883.
The shop for the manufacure of churns and chopping knives was established in 1883 by Isbell & Cushing. Their knives are made from the best Sheffield steel, are corrugated and reversible, and promise to attain a large sale. They also manufacture the celebrated rotary gang churn.
Of the early settlers on this lot one of the most prominent was Oren Cravath, a noted abolitionist and one of the foremost supporters of the "underground railroad," an organization engaged in helping southern slaves to attain their freedom.
In order to secure the stoppage of the railroad trains at Little York (which was at first refused by the company) the citizens built a small frame depot, the use of which they gave to Frank Donegan, an industrious employee of the road. On the morning of May 15th,1877, while Mrs. Donegan was out milking her cow, the building caught fire; it was a period of drought and before assistance could be rendered the little structure was burned to the ground, and the lives of five children, the oldest of whom was but nine years, were sacrificed. The people of Little York rendered all possible assistance to the afflicted family and immediately rebuilt the present depot.
This is a small hamlet situated on the east branch of the Tioghnioga river, and contains a hotel, Methodist church, a store, two blacksmith shops and a carpenter and wagon shop.
The first settlement made on this site was in 1797, by John Albright, a Revolutionary soldier who, for his services in that struggle, was assigned a bounty lot, which he resolved to set out in search of, thinking he would dispose of it and return to New York. He had married and had four daughters. Mrs. Albright had a different object in view, and, as sometimes happens, her plans were carried out. She resolved to accompany her husband on his expedition into the wilderness, and if they succeeded in locating their lot, to settle upon it and make it their home. The family left New York with a span of horses and wagon and proceeded as far as Johnsown, then in Montgomery county, where they left their wagon and children in the care of friends and proceeded on horseback, arriving in Homer in the year above noted.
They succeeded in finding their lot (No. 29), built a log cabin on a small piece of ground which they cleared, returned to Johnstown and brought their family and little outfit to their forest home. Upon this lot is situated the little village of East Homer. Mr. Albright's house stood a few rods distant from the site of the Methodist chapel. From Charles Kingsbury's published reminiscencees of Homer, we copy the text of the original deed which secured to Mr. Albright his land: -
"The deed 'grants and confirms unto John Albright all that tract of land lying and being in the county of Montgomery, and in the township of Homer, known as lot No. 2, containing six hundred acres, with all the rights and appurtenances to the same belonging; excepting and reserving to ourselves all gold and silver mines, and also five acres of every one hundred acres of the said lot of land for highways; on condition that within the term of seven years from the first of January next ensuing the date thereof, there shall be one actual settlement made on the tract or lot of land hereby granted. Otherwise, these, our letters patent to the estate hereby granted shall become void.'"
This deed is dated at the city of New York the eighth day of July, 1790, and passed the secretary's office on the 4th of the following September. It is quite a curiosity, and bears the old-fashioned heavy detached seal of the state, which is made of wax enclosed in paper and tied with a stout string to the parchment.
After Mr. Albright's settlement in the wilderness he experienced some trouble and several narrow escapes from wild animals. On one occasion, after having killed and dressed a pig, he carried some of the pieces to a brook a few rods away, when a wolf, which had scented the blood, bounded on the scene. Mr. Albright placed himself inside the fence surrounding the yard; but none too soon, for the wolf was close to the fence on the other side. When Mr. Albright assumed the offensive from behind the fence the cowardly brute disappeared in the forest.
On another occasion Mr. Albright started in search of his cows. He soon learned by the sound of their bell that they were in the woods on the opposite side of the river. He forded the river, but as night came on the sound of the bell ceased, the animals having lain down. As he stood under the branches of a tree, gun in hand, listening for some sound which would indicate the whereabouts of the cows, he heard a movment in the boughs of the tree directly over his head. Immediately a large bear descended the tree, reaching the ground near where Mr. Albright stood, and he shot him. Before he had finished reloading his gun a second bear came down from the same tree and escaped. The third bear then came down and was shot, and while Mr. Albright was reloading two more of the animals descended from the tree and disappeared in the woods; thus he killed two out of five bears, in the darkness.
A Mr. Holford was probably the second inhabitant of east Homer; he built his cabin for the time being on Mr. Albright's land. On one occasion when Mr. Albright was absent from home, Mrs. Holford heard a disturbance near the house, where a pig was shut in a pen. On going to the door she discovered a bear of such size and strength that he took the pig of 135 pounds weight and carried him bodily over the fence. Mrs. Holford comprehended the situation at a glance and hastening into the house, she grasped the loaded gun, ran out and fired at the bear with such excellent effect that he fell dead in his tracks. The pig was unharmed.
An early settler at east Homer was James Smith who came to that locality in 1798 and built a log cabin near the southwest corner of the lot, a few rods from the present road, on the southeast side and a short distance from Mt. Etam. Whence he came is not now known, but he spent several years of his life here and had two sons, one of whom, Cornelius Smith, lived to an advanced age and passed his entire life in the town.
The first tavern in the vicinity of East Homer (on lot 29) was built by George W. Samson, who removed to the place in 1812. He erected his buildings on the steep hillside, excavating for that purpose, and opened a hotel in 1825, to which premises he gave the name of Mt. Etam.
>From a spring on the side of the hill he brought excellent water in a pipe, for domestic uses and to supply a reservoir at the roadside for travelers. Near at hand he set up a post, on the side of which and protected from the weather by a glass, was posted a paper on which was inscribed, in one of Mr. Samson's poetic effusions the invitation of the fountain, as follows: -
"Come, traveler, slake they parching thirst,
And drive away dull care;
Thou needst not broach they little purse,
For I am free as air.
"My source is on the mountain side,
My course is toward the sea;
Then drink till thou are satisfied,
Yea, drink, for I am free."
Mr. Samson resided at Mt. Etam for a number of years but finally sold the premises to Peter Westerman, and removed to a hotel in Preble.
In the year 1806, or 1807, Benjamin Goff, an industrious laboring man, came to East Homer from Vermont. He married the eldest daughter of John Albright and during the life of his first wife resided on the eastern side of Mr. Albright's lot. He afterward married the youngest sister of his first wirfe; he kept the tavern from 1831 to 1837, in the same house now kept by Mrs. L.R. Rose, to which locality he removed when Mr. Albright made a division of his property. Luther R. Rose was Mr. Goff's son-in-law; he kept the hotel from 1840 until his death in 1881,and it is continued by his widow. (Footnote: It is worthy of remark that at one time Mr. Goff's father and mother, and his wife's parents all resided with him, making four ocupants of one dwelling all of whom were between the ages of 82 and 89 years.) Travel, however, has been comparatively light through this place since the completion of the Utica, Ithaca and Elmira railroad through the valley, as elsewhere described. Formerly the village and vicinity was given an appearance of thrift and business by the passing teams engaged in the transportation of goods and by stages, all of which made East Homer a stopping place for rest or refreshment. Tavern-keeping at such points was then a profitable business; but like many other small villages located between those of greater size, the building of the railroad carried away the larger share of its trade to other points.
Trade and Manufactures - Benjamin Goff was the first citizen of East Homer to engage in a manufacturing industry. He bagan early in the manufacture of rakes and other minor agricultural implements and eventually carried on quite a profitable business. He subsequently built a saw-mill, which is now in the possession of his heirs.
The present blacksmith and wagon shop was erected by Henry Meeker some years prior to the last war. The structure was originally built for a grist-mill and was used as such for a time. It was finally sold to Leroy Smith and others and at last passd into possession of D.D. Locke, who changed it to a wagon shop about the year 1860. S.B. Hoag took possession of the property in 1876, and is now manufaturing about forty wagons annually.
Jabez Haight began blacksmithing in East Homer at a very early day, and followed the trade for over forty years. His son, George Haight is a skilled taxidermist and has become eminent in that work.
Physicians - Dr. Sheldon Hinman came to this place in 1864 and is the only physician now in East Homer. He is of the homoeopathic school, a licentiate of the Cortland County Medical Society. He succeeded Dr. Barris, who was eclectic in his practice. He was the first physician here.
Post-Office - The post-office of East Homer was probably first kept by William Haight. He came to the village in the year 1809 and was for several years an eminent preacher in the Methodist Church. He married the second daughter of Mr. Albright, became a drunkard, forfeited his license, but afterward reformed and did useful work for the church. William Bennett afterward took the post-office, and was the first to establish a store. Mrs. Bennett followed the trade until 1883, when it passed into the hands of the present prorietor, W.R. Woodward. Mrs. Melissa Haight now has charge of the post-office.
The Methodist Episcopal Church - This church had its beginning in the humble home of Mr. Albright, of which denomination he was an exemplary member; his house was the place of worship for quite a period. The present church building is an old structure, the main part having been erected in 1841, since which time it has been somewhat improved and repaired. It was dedicated in 1842. Rev. H. Hawley was the first pastor. The present membership is between sixty and seventy. The Rev. T.F. Harris came here from Woodstock in 1883 and assumed charge of the church; he is also superintendent of the Sabbath-school. The present trustees are Abram Griffith, Pardon Lyon, Levi Klock, and Andrew Briggs.
Hibbard's cheese and butter factory is situated about a mile and half north of East Homer. The building was erected in 1866, and is 30 by 120 feet, two stories high. Modern appliances have been put in for the perfect manufacure of butter and cheese, and a large business is done.
This is a hamlet of a dozen houses on the line of the Utica, Ithaca and Elmira railroad, about four miles from Cortland village. James Horton was an early resident at this place and carried on a tannery. He was thrifty in his business and secured a competency. His tannery buildings were once burned; but he rebuilt them and finally disposed of his real estate to Conrad Kleine, who continued the business for several years on a much larger sale. The tannery was subsequently burned again and was not rebuilt.
The first saw-mill erected at East River was located near the present East River Mills, and was built by Daniel Crandall. He had purchased and moved to lot No. 38 in 1800, and built for himself a house on the site now occupied by the mill. It was a characteristic pioneer structure, apparently not adapted for occupancy by human beings; but Mr. Crandall was a man of industry, sound judgement, and integrity, and he prospered accordingly. In company with Samuel Griggs he finally erected a grist-mill, which did a good business for a number of years. He also erected other buildings on his farm and at the time of his death (1857) had a large and excellent house there.
The water power at this site is a very valuable one. In 1816 Eli Carpenter came from Tolland, Conn., purchased a share in the water privilege and lands contiguous thereto and put up a fulling-mill and facitities for dyeing and dressing cloth, with carding machine, etc. This establishment was very prosperous for several years and the business was further extended by Mr. Carpenter in the manufacture of carpets of brilliant color, dyed by himself. In the mean time Mr. Crandall's mills had become somewhat imipaired by age and about thebyear 1835 or1836, he became the sole owner of the site and water power, and proceeded to erect new mills. The business revived, but the domestic manufacture of cloth declined yearly and was eventually abandoned. The mills erected by Mr. Carpenter are still standing, but have been much enlarged and changed to meet the growing needs of the vicinity. A large businss is done in the manufacture of flour and feed and in the production of lumber. Alfred Utley succeeded Mr. Carpenter in the mills, following whom came the present proprietors, the Holmes brothers in the saw-mill, and the Cortland Wagon Company in the grist-mills, which are managed for the company by Wm. H. Moore. Mr. Carpenter was a man of energy and business ability and prospered in whatever he undertook. He was justice of the peace a number of times, and died in 1863.
Hosea Sprague, a native of Brimfield, Mass., came to East River with his brother-in-law, Samuel Sherman, in 1821 (?). He was a good mechanic, a carpenter and joiner, at which he worked until the year 1850, when he settled in Homer village and retired from business. Mr. Sprague was one of the pioneer carpenters of the town and has helped to erect many of the early buildings in this part of the county. He still lives in Homer village and enjoys good health at the age of ninety-three years.
The mill built by Asa Austin passed into the hands of Samuel Summers; then to Isaac and Wm. Miller; then to John Hammond, who sold it to Samuel Byram, the present owner.
You are our 12990 visitor -- since the counter was installed on September 17, 2000