HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF MARATHON
The town of Marathon was formed from Cincinnatus April 21st, 1818. It was first called "Harrison," and embraced the southwest quarter of the military township of Cincinnatus. Its name was changed to Marathon in 1828, in consequence of there being another town in the State named Harrison. It was first named in honor of General Harrison. It is bounded on the north by Freetown, on the east by Willet, on the south by Broome county and on the west by Lapeer.
The surface of the town is rugged and hilly, the ridges rising from 500 to 700 feet above the valleys. The Tioughnioga river flows through the western part of the township in a deep, narrow valley, bordered by precipitous hillsides. Hunt creek, in the northwestern part of the town, flows through a narrow, deep valley, and Merrill creek, in the eastern part, flows through a similar valley. The principal part of the arable land lies along the valleys; the uplands are broken and better adapted to pasturage. The soil is a sandy and gravelly loam.
Marathon village is the only considerable business center of the town. Texas valley, in the northeastern part of the town, was laid out first and, it being on the State road and central to the four towns of Cincinnatus, Freetown, Willet and Marathon, was formerly regarded as the most probable site of a thriving business center; but it is now a mere hamlet, while Marathon contains a population of 1,100, and is a growing and active business place.
Dr. S. M. Hunt, of Marathon village, has written some interesting historical notes upon this town, from which we make the following extracts: ----
"The first white men who entered this valley in search of future homes were mostly from the New England States, the eastern counties of this State or some portion of the Susquehanna Valley. They cut out a narrow path near the river and marked trees as an additional guide to their way; erected some rudely constructed log-cabins and then returned for their families. They brought them in canoes by way of the Susquehanna river, the greater part from a distance above, the others from below, its junction with the Chenango. This entire section of the country was then
‘A vast wilderness, ----
A boundless contiguity of shade’
well adapted as a lodge for the longing aspirations of the poet, Cowper. They severally by severe toil and indomitable energy succeeded in clearing and planting a small piece of ground with corn among the stumps and roots, which, when matured, became the staple article of food for their families. But when the corn was harvested they had no means of reducing it to meal, except by beating it in a mortar, which was usually constructed by scooping out the top of a stump, above which they suspended a pestle adapted to the size of the mortar; attached it to a spring-pole, the elasticity of which aided in raising the pestle. Yet this substitute for grinding afforded but a slow and very laborious process. There was then no grist-mill within fifty miles of them. Occasionally two of the neighbors joined in going to mill with a canoe, taking several bushels of corn for the settlement, making rather a pleasant trip down the stream, but, no unlike boys riding down hill on hand-sleds, their return to the starting point was slow and attended with considerable labor. The nearest mill was then located somewhere on the Susquehanna river.
"The timber of the town was generally of large size and when felled and cut into suitable lengths was drawn together, rolled into heaps and burned. The flats were mostly covered with hard timber, such as maple, beech, ash, etc., which was reduced to ashes with less labor than hemlock, which more usually grew on the sides of the hills, and when in a green state tenaciously resists combustion. The latter timber, when consumed, afforded no deposits of any value; but the ashes from hard timber were collected, leached and boiled in ‘black salts,’ a staple article of commerce and at that time constituting about the only article they had to sell for cash or exchange for goods.
"Their fruit was of the wild kinds, such as berries of the different species. They had no apples, pears or plums for many years, except such few as occasionally were brought in by some person returning from an eastern visit. They dispensed with tea and coffee and most of the groceries now in use, excepting sugar and molasses of their own domestic manufacture from the sugar maple.
"Of fresh meats they procured a variety, such as venison and bear’s flesh, and of the lesser quadrupeds of the woods and wild game of the different kinds, as well as the several species of fish which the streams afforded in great abundance. While wild game could so readily be obtained, they could well dispense with the flesh of domestic animals, of which they had but few in number, and none to spare for the butcher. Their cattle in the summer season subsisted on wild herbage and in winter on cornstalks, swamp hay and browse.
"Residing at such distances from any settlement where goods could be purchased, they were obliged to dispense with many of the conveniences, if not the actual necessaries, of life. Their clothing was of coarse fabrics, usually flannel, home-spun, carded by hand and colored with butternut bark, for their outer garments. Their skirting was of the same material woven into checks; as a substitute for flannel they sometimes wore buff-colored buckskin for coats, pants and vests. In summer tow cloth comprised their entire dress. At a subsequent period domestic fulled cloth was worn as their best suits for many years.
"Such was the condition of the pioneers of this section of the country in reference to food and clothing. Accustomed to coarse, simple food and constant habits of industry, the pioneers enjoyed a good degree of health, strong, athletic constitutions, and were capable of performing much more labor than a comparative number of their descendants in these degenerate times. But while their corporal powers were strengthened, the mental faculties and appliances were not much improved. With the exception of the Bible, very few books of any kind could be found in the neighborhood. Though destitute of most of the conveniences of life, they participated more freely in the domestic and social blessings than the residents of a densely populated community. Free from the pride of dress and ostentation, they envied no man’s superior success, but each contributed aid towards his neighbor’s prosperity and happiness. They had a reputation for honesty, benevolence and usefulness while living, and died respected.
"There being no mail routes or post-offices in this entire region of country at the period under consideration, no letters or newspapers were received, except occasionally by private conveyance. As last as during the last war with England a small weekly country paper was brought into town by a man on horseback and sold to persons anxious to hear the news from the war."
The first actual settlers of this town were Dr. Japheth Hunt and wife, both aged people, two sons, James and William, and three daughters, Betsey, Nancy and Hannah. The advanced age of the parents disqualified them as pioneers of a new country and unfitted them to encounter the hardships and privations incident to such an enterprise. Their children, however, were of mature age, of robust constitutions, and possessed energy of character, which enabled them to accomplish the laborious duties which now devolved upon them. They entered the valley of the Tioughnioga from the south, in canoes, in the year 1794, and located on a piece of land on the east side of the river, about a mile south of the present village of Marathon, since known as the Comstock farm and now owned by Edward Moore. Their log house was erected a few miles north of Mr. Moore’s barn, on a knoll, or rolling piece of ground, immediately west, and near the present highway. Upon this rising ground were discovered a great number of excavations or depressions, of circular form, in close proximity, rendering the surface of the ground uneven. Each of these depressions, upon examination, was found to contain human bones, which had, apparently, been deposited there for several preceding centuries. Upon removing the road a few years since, from the top to the base of this hill, some of these depressions were opened by the plow, and were found to contain not only human bones, but several curiously carved vessels or pots, of a substance resembling clay, probably wrought by the Indians to contain succotash, or boiled corn and beans, deposited in the grave, as is their custom, to supply their departed friends in their journey to the world of the spirits.
About the time that Dr. Hunt’s family settled here a road was surveyed and partially cut through the wilderness from the south, near the river, until passing their land, when, diverging from the stream, it crossed the south line of lot number 72, about three-fourths of a mile east of the village of Marathon, and continuing in a northerly direction, intersected the State road at the farm recently owned by Mr. Charles Richardson, of Freetown, and extending north to its terminus at the salt works, which gave it the name of the "salt road."
Another road, about this period, was surveyed and partially opened as a State road, by the way of Oxford westerly through the center of the town subsequently organized as Cincinnatus, and consequently on the north line of the present town of Marathon, and crossing the river at Chaplin’s ford, now known as State Bridge, and thence westerly through the county by Virgil Corners.
Dr. Hunt was an emigrant from one of the New England States, and had served his country in the Revolutionary War, in capacity of surgeon. He died March 7th, 1808, at the advanced age of 97, and was buried in the east burying ground of Marathon. His son William married Anna, daughter of Matthew Cold, an early settler on a farm adjoining the southern line, being the present residence of Col. Lucian E. Crain. His son James was never married, and died at Genoa, Cayuga county. His daughter, Nancy, married Abram Smith, and died about forty-five years since, leaving three children. Betsey Hunt married Oliver Mack, of Genoa, and Hannah, the youngest daughter, married Nathan Thorp, of the same place.
Wm. Hunt, some time after the death of his father, sold the farm and located again two miles north of Marathon village, where Stephen Johnson now resides, but finally emigrated with his sisters from Genoa to the "far West," to some part of Indiana. In the latter part of the winter of 1796 John, the eldest son of Dr. Hunt, who had married Lydia, the daughter of Major Samuel Mallory, of Hillsdale, Columbia county, was induced to move from that place into the new country in the vicinity of his father’s residence. A man with horses and sleigh was employed to bring his effects and family, which then comprised himself and wife, one daughter three years of age, and a son of six months. After several days travel over rough roads, they arrived at Oxford, then a new settlement on the Chenango river, where their teamster left them and turned back in consequence of poor sleighing, produced by a thaw. Mr. Hunt, having one horse of his own, harnessed him to a hastily constructed sled, and placed a bed and a few necessary articles of furniture and provisions, with his wife and children thereon, started westwardly by way of the State road for the place of his destination. The first day they proceeded about seventeen miles into the wilderness on this rough road, passing over several of the smaller logs which had not yet been removed from the path, when night overtook them in a dense forest, which soon became vocal with the sounds of wild animals. Fortunately they soon came to a log cabin, recently erected, covered with bark, and having a floor of slats split from logs, with a place for an entrance, but destitute of a door to exclude the air. By means of his gun and tinder he kindled a fire, and placed his horse close to the opening, with his provender in the sled, which served for a manger, and having hung up a blanket at the entrance, and placed their bed on the floor, being very weary, he retired to rest, and slept comfortably through the night. But his wife, unaccustomed to such privations, was less inclined to sleep. The howling of the wolves also annoyed her, and she wondered how her husband could sleep so composedly in such a dismal place. The next morning they resumed their journey, and before noon came to the Otselic river, and were cheered with the sight of a house on the opposite side of the stream. This proved to be the residence of Wm. Tuthill, who kindly assisted them in crossing the river, and hospitably entertained them till the next day. This was at a farm subsequently owned by Ebenezer Crittenden. From this place they traveled west till they came to the intersection of the salt road, when, turning south along the latter path, at a distance of four miles they found the new home of his parents and family. His goods were subsequently brought in canoes from Oxford down the Chenango river to the Forks, and up this branch (then generally called the Onondaga) to their new location.
John Hunt purchased one hundred acres out of the southwest corner of lot No. 72, and moved his family there, being on the east side of the river, upon which a large portion of Marathon village is located. Here his second son, Samuel M. Hunt, was born October 30th, 1793, being the first child born in this town. When a young man he chose the profession of medicine, and pursued that study with Dr. P. B. Brooks, afterwards of Binghamton. He has practiced medicine for thirty years, principally in Broome county; but for three years past he has been located in Marathon village, on the same premises formerly the residence of his parents.
As early as the beginning of the present century John Hunt was appointed by the governor and council a justice of the peace; which office he held by successive appointments to the period of his death, which occurred August 8th, 1815, at the age of fifty years. His widow is still living, in the eighty-fifth year of her age. Their eldest daughter married Mr. Charles Richardson, of Freetown, and is now residing in the village of Marathon. Two other daughters are yet living. Four others of their children lived to be married and settled in this section of the country, but are now deceased. Abram Brink with his family moved into the present bounds of the village in the spring of 1800, and located a few rods south of Mr. Hunt’s, on the north part of lot No. 82, then State land. He came from the present town of Union, below Binghamton, on the Susquehanna river, bringing his family and furniture in a canoe. He was a son of Captain William Brink, a patriot of the Revolution, who had suffered much by the depredations of tories in the war at Wyoming, and subsequently lost a great amount of property by the great ice-flood in that valley. Abram Brink was a robust and industrious citizen, and a valuable pioneer in clearing up the rugged wilderness, and preparing it for the residence of posterity. He kept the first tavern ever licensed in this town, from the commencement of the present century up to the time of his decease in 1824. Intoxicating liquors, as a beverage, were at that time considered as necessary as food in a tavern for the refreshment of guests; and although their deleterious effects were visible, not only in the physical, moral and mental prostration of all who indulged in the potation, yet the traffic was for a long period sustained by public sentiment and by the laws of the State. Mr. Brink was succeeded in the tavern by his only surviving son, Chester, for a few years, when, influenced by a strong aversion to dealing in intoxicating liquors, he relinquished the business and employed himself in cultivating and improving the same farm, and some other adjoining lands, which he had acquired by purchase.
A few years previous to the arrival of Mr. Brink here a family by the name of Alford had settled about three-fourths of a mile south, on the State’s lot, and some years after sold out to Daniel Huntley, a son of Deacon William Huntley, who resided for several years on the next farm south. A man by the name of Lee also lived a few years on the premises of Mr. Alford, having married his daughter. At the close of the last century a traveler from the north, in passing down this valley, after leaving the fordway at Chaplin’s, would find the following residents on the east side of the river: --- First, the family of Mr. Hunt; second, Mr. Brink; third, Mr. Alford and Mr. Lee; next, Dr. Hunt, and lastly, Mr. Cole, within this county. South and near the county line on the east side of the river, was the residence of General Samuel Coe, and directly opposite, on the west bank, was the house of Jonathan Cowdrey.
Soon after this period John S. Squires located on a farm south of Mr. Alford, but shortly after purchased a farm in the present town of Lapeer, and removed his family there into the forest at quite a distance from neighbors, it being the same farm where his son, Dan C. Squires, afterward resided. About the year 1800 Ebenezer Carley moved into this town from Unadilla, and located on the west side of the river, where his son Alanson subsequently resided. He was commissioned captain of militia company number one, organized in this section of the country. He had a large family of children. Ezekial C. became a captain of the militia and also held the office of justice of the peace. Of this large family none are now living except two brothers, Alanson and Oren.
It would be a difficult task, at this remote period, to ascertain the precise date of the arrival of each family of the first settlers here, as far back as the close of the last century, or the regular order as to the priority of time, in every case, when they entered this valley. In February of the year 1805 Patrick Mallery, who some years after became a captain of militia, a brother of Squire Hunt’s wife, arrived here with his wife and one child, and settled on the farm one mile north of Marathon village, afterwards occupied by G. Pennoyer. He resided a few weeks with his sister’s family, while erecting a log house for the reception of his own. This was early in the spring, when each family was actively employed in manufacturing maple sugar. To secure a supply of such an important article for domestic use, it became necessary for his to tap his trees prior to furnishing his house. The farm was situated mostly on the west side of the river, and his maple trees were on the flat, directly across the stream. Being busily engaged one day, assisted by his wife, in gathering and boiling sap, they were detained until approaching darkness reminded them that it was time to start for home. They entered their canoe and had just reached the eastern shore and found the narrow path that led down to the stream to Mr. Hunt’s, when, to their surprise and consternation, their ears were saluted with the most clamorous, violent and discordant sounds, from directly across the river, they had ever heard. The woods were apparently full of monsters in pursuit of them, as their intended victims, and engaged in fiendish strife respecting the several shares of the spoils. How to escape from these monstrous cannibals was the subject of anxious thought and hasty deliberation. Mrs. Mallery advised a rapid retreat; but her husband, being a very stout man, and wishing to retain his reputation for bravery, had a great aversion to "an attack in the rear." He therefore firmly grasped his axe, which he carried in his hand as an instrument of defense, and cautiously followed his wife, who alternately ran forward a few rods with speed and then fell back again, urging him to make a more rapid progress. Notwithstanding the captain’s resolute intentions, it is probable that the march was not very slow; and they soon reached the house of their friends without suffering an attack, and gave the alarm of the approaching enemy. But they were soon relieved of their fears, though somewhat mortified to learn that these savage monsters were nothing more than a class of nocturnal birds called owls, incapable of injuring either man or beast.
Dr. S. M. Hunt, son of Dr. Japheth Hunt, was born in Marathon, on the 30th of October, 1798. His grandfather settled on a farm now owned by A. S. Johnson, known as the Comstock place. His father settled on the east side of the river where the Marathon House now stands; there S. M. Hunt was born. He finished his education in the Homer Academy, then one of the most famous educational institutions in Central New York. He studied medicine with Dr. Pelatiah Brooks and, after receiving his diploma, practiced his chosen profession in Killawog, Upper Lisle, Maine and Marathon. He held the office of justice of the peace, judge of the Court of Common Pleas and justice of the sessions. In 1852 he returned to Marathon, where he afterwards resided, with the exception of a few years at Killawog. He was married, at the age of twenty-three, to Maria Havens, daughter of Mordecai Havens and sister of Dr. Daniel and Charles G. Havens, the latter a prominent lawyer of New York city. Their children were D. Deloss and Duray Hunt, now of Marathon, and Dr. De Forest Hunt, of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Mrs. C. A. King, of Albany. Dr. Hunt was a charter member of the Masonic Lodge at Marathon, which suffered an irreparable loss in his death.
According to Dr. Hunt’s historical notes, already alluded to, mills for sawing lumber and grinding grain were not erected in Marathon until 1808, although the want of them was sadly felt long before that. They were the first framed buildings on the site of Marathon village. Malachi Church emigrated to Marathon in 1805, from Chenango county, a distance of about forty miles. This journey was accomplished in three days of severe toil. He was born in Brattleboro, Vt., on the 15th of May, 1769, and at the age of twenty married Lucy Blakeslee; they had a large family of children. He was a blacksmith, but upon his arrival in the place, found little encouragement for a mechanic, as there were then but a few residents. Ten or twelve years after his arrival he built a framed house and shop on the west side of the river a few rods from the site of the railroad depot. There, with the assistance of his sons, he carried on blacksmithing several years. In 1815 he was made a justice of the peace and held office for many years. He was also made a deacon in the Baptist Church in 1823 and filled the office until his death in November, 1846.
Deacon Huntley, another prominent pioneer, came into the valley at an early day and located about a mile south of the village, where he worked at blacksmithing for a time. His son John was also a blacksmith.
Allen Rice was an early settler in the valley, and seeing the apparent need of a blacksmith, put up a small shop, the first in the town. Although he had not a thorough knowledge of the trade, he did considerable work at it for a time, and then moved away. He afterwards returned and built a shop for wool-carding, near where D. Hillsinger’s mill now stands. This proved to be a great convenience to the inhabitants.
An incident in the life of Mr. Brink, whose settlement in the valley we have already described, is worthy of preservation. He was returning from Lisle on foot one evening, with a plowshare on his back, which he had taken to be repaired, and had just entered the woods on the west side of the river north of Killawog, when he heard an animal following his footsteps along the narrow path, and approaching at times so near to him that he could see his eye-balls shining in the darkness. Mr. Brink’s sociability was not such as to incline him to a very close acquaintance with the stranger, and keeping on his way he tried to drive the animal back by loud shouts; but without avail. He did, however, keep the pursuer at bay until he had nearly emerged from the woods, when the animal came uncomfortably close to his heels. It was a happy thought which led him to lay down the iron plowshare and begin hammering on it with an iron bolt. This strange music actually caused the animal to retreat into the forest. Mr. Brink congratulated himself the more when he learned that his pursuer was a large panther.
About the year 1808, John Chamberlain moved into the town and built a saw-mill on the creek in the same place where David Hillsinger’s saw-mill now stands. Mr. Chamberlain was a carpent, but had little experience as millwright; yet he erected his mill, put in the wheels and gearing and all worked to his satisfaction, except the saw. This persisted in running out of a direct line to such an extent that a plank two inches thick at one end, would be cut down thin as a shingle at the other. Mr. Chamberlain was unable to correct the difficulty, and finally became fully convinced that the mill was influenced by witchcraft, a general belief in which was prevalent in those days. He was a godly man, subsequently becoming a useful preacher in the Free-Will Baptist denomination, and he was not willing to believe that any good influence was at work in his mill; and he had heard of many apparently well authenticated instances of similar evil being worked through the agency of witches; the more he thought of it, the more firmly he became convinced that this was the source of his trouble in the mill, and he resolved to do everything in his power to eradicate the influence. He accepted the prevailing belief that a witch could not be killed with ordinary powder and ball, but that if a silver bullet was used, fatal results would surely follow. He accordingly hammered out a silver bullet, put a remarkable charge of powder in his gun, followed by the costly ball, and repaired to the mill for his battle with the invisible agency. Starting the saw, he stood near, with leveled gun, awaiting the first indication of waywardness in the mill. It soon appeared as usual, when he blazed away directly at the saw. The effect was certainly all he could have expected; for the extraordinary charge caused the gun to "kick" him over in one direction, while the hard silver bullet so bent the saw in the other that its days of usefulness were over. The effect on the witch was never ascertained. The services of an experienced millwright now had to be called in, and the mill was placed in excellent running order and thereafter it worked satisfactorily.
In the year 1808, the father of Thurlow Weed, the famous politician and journalist, removed to the town of Marathon, and there the boyhood of the future eminent citizen was passed. In response to the request of H. C. Goodwin, who published a history of the county many years ago, Mr. Weed, then a resident of the city of Albany, wrote him the following interesting letter concerning his early life in the vicinity of Marathon: ----
"Albany, May 16th, 1858.
"H. C. Goodwin, Esq.:
My Dear Sir ----- Your letter of 30th of April has remained quite too long unanswered, partly on account of severe illness in my family, but mainly because your kind and not unusual request embarrasses me. Several applications, similar in character, from book-makers, I have simply declined, because, first, there is nothing in my life entitled to historic attention; and, second, if any of its events were worthy such attention, it is neither proper or becoming in me to furnish the materials. So strong are my convictions of propriety in this regard that, many years ago, after declining to furnish information relating to myself, asked for by the late Jabez D. Hammond, I declined also to read in manuscript what he had prepared. The consequence of that refusal is, that I go down to posterity --- if Hammond’s political history outlives the present generation --- as a ‘drummer in the war of 1812.’ Now, I am entitled to no such distinction; for I never learned, and never could learn, a note or stave of music. I remember to have gone, when a boy, once or twice to an evening singing-school; but after unavailing attempts at quavers and semi-quavers, the teacher snatched the gamut from my hand, and turned me out of the class. I will, however, in this instance, depart so much from my usual practice as will allow me to furnish the dates you desire, though in doing so, I feel as I suppose one should feel in robbing a hen roost. I will now give you some ‘reminiscences’ connected with my early residence in Cortland county.
"In the winter of 1808, my father, --- an honest, hard-working man, --- whose industry, subject to the various draw-backs of sickness and ill-luck, which the poor only can understand, enabled him to furnish but a scanty support for his family, in the hope of ‘bettering his condition,’ removed to Cincinnatus, in Cortland county, where Nathan Weed, his youngest brother, resided. We were settled in a log house, upon a small clearing, about a mile from the Onondaga river; or, for the purpose of fixing our locality, I had better say, about that distance from ‘Brink’s Tavern.’ Cincinnatus then, whatever may be its present condition, was in its almost wilderness state. I have not been there in half a century, and am told that there are no forests, or land-marks, or monuments by which I could recall or identify the localities of which my mind retains familiar and distinct impressions. Inhabitants were then ‘few and far between.’ Our nearest neighbor was Mr. Gridley, a farmer, rather ‘well to do in the world,’ who would work hard through ‘planting,’ or ‘hoeing,’ or ‘harvesting,’ and then seek indemnity in a week or ten days ‘spree,’ on new raw whiskey. The most fore-handed family in the neighborhood was that of Captain Carley, (one member of which, Alanson, then a boy of my own age, was, some years since, a respected Member of the Legislature), among whose luxuries, as I remember, was a young apple orchard, and the only ‘bearing’ orchard within a circuit of several miles.
"My first employment was in attendance upon an ashery. The process of extracting lye from ashes, and of boiling the lye into black salts, was commonplace enough; but when the melting down into potash came, all was bustle and excitement. This labor was succeeded, when the spring had advanced far enough, by the duties of the ‘sap-bush.’ This is a season to which the farmer’s sons and daughters look forward with agreeable anticipations. In that employment toil is more than literally sweetened. The occupation and its associations are healthful and beneficial. When your troughs are dug (out of basswood, for there were no buckets in those days), your trees tapped, your sap gathered, your wood cut, and your fires fed, there is leisure either for reading or ‘sparking.’ And what youthful denizens of the sap-bush will ever forget, while ‘sugaring-off,’ their share in the transparent and delicious streak of candy congealed and cooled in the snow? Many a farmer’s son had found his best opportunities for mental improvement in his intervals of leisure while ‘tending sap-bush.’ Such, at any rate, was my own experience. At night you had only to feed the kettles and keep up your fires --- the sap having been gathered and the wood cut ‘before dark.’ During the day we would also lay in a good stock of fat pine, by the light of which, blazing brightly in front of the sugar-house, in the posture the serpent was condemned to assume as a penalty for tempting our great first grandmother, I have passed many and many a delightful night in reading. I remember in this way to have read a history of the French Revolution, and to have obtained from it a better and more enduring knowledge of its events and horrors, and of the actors in that great national tragedy, than I have received from all subsequent readings. I remember also how happy I was in being able to borrow the book of a Mr. Keyes, after a two mile tramp through the snow, shoeless, my feet swaddled in remnants of a rag-carpet.
"Though but a boy, I was large, healthy, strong, not lazy, and, therefore, ambitious ‘to keep up my row’ in planting and hoeing potatoes and corn. The principal employment of the farmers of Cincinnatus, fifty years ago, was in clearing their land. Cattle, during the winter, for the want of ‘fodder,’ were turned out to ‘browse’ in the ‘slashings.’ As the work of clearing the land was too heavy for men single-handed, chopping and logging ‘bees’ were resorted to for aggregating labor. These seasons of hard work were rendered exciting and festive by the indispensable gallon bottle of whisky. There were ‘bees’ also for log house raisings. After the loggings, and as the spring opened, came the burning of the log and brush heaps, and the gathering of the ashes.
"But little wheat was grown there then, and that little was harvested with the sickle, the ground being too rough and stumpy for cradling.
"Our first acquisition in the way of ‘live stock’ was a rooster and four hens; and I remember with what a gush of gladness I was awakened at break of day the next morning by the loud, defiant voice of chanticleer; and when, several days afterwards, I found a real hen’s nest in a brush-heap, with eggs in it, I cackled almost as boisterously as the feathered mother whom I had surprised in the feat of parturition.
"The settlers employed in clearing and ‘bettering’ their land, raised just enough to live on ‘from hand to mouth.’ Their principal, and indeed, only reliance for the purchase of necessaries from ‘the store,’ was upon their ‘black salts.’ For these the merchants always paid ‘the highest price in cash or goods.’
"I remember the stir which a ‘new store,’ established in Lisle (some seven or eight miles down the river), by the Rathbuns, from Oxford, created in our neighborhood. It was ‘all the talk’ for several weeks, and until a party of house-wives, by clubbing with their products, fitted out an expedition. Vehicles and horses were scarce, but it was finally arranged, --- A, furnishing a wagon; B, a horse; C, a mare, and D, a boy to drive. Six matrons, with a commodity of black salts, tow cloth, flax, and maple sugar, went their way rejoicing, and returned triumphantly at sun-set with fragrant Bohea for themselves, plug tobacco for their husbands, flashy calico for the children, gay ribbons for the girls, jack-knives for the boys, crockery for the cupboard, and snuff for ‘grannie.’ This expedition was a theme for much gossip. The wonders of the ‘new store’ were described to staring eyes and open mouths. The merchant and his clerk were criticised in their deportment, manners and dress. The former wore shiny boots with tassels; the latter, a ruffle shirt, --- and both smelt of pomatum! I do not believe that the word ‘dandy’ had then been invented, or it would have certainly come in play on that occasion. Thirty years afterwards I laughed over all this with my old friend, General Ransom Rathbun, the veritable proprietor of that ‘new store.’
"The grinding of our neighborhood was done at ‘Hunt’s mill,’ which on one occasion was disabled by some defect in the flume or dam, and then we were compelled to go with our grists either to Homer or to ‘Chenango Forks.’
"I recollect, on more than one occasion, to have seen boys riding with a bushel of corn (bare-back, with a tow halter) to the distillery, and returning with the gallon bottle of whisky, balanced by a stone in the other end of the bag.
"In the autumn following our removal to Cincinnatus I had ‘worked out’ and earned leather (sole and upper) enough for a pair of shoes, which were to be made by a son of Crispin (Deacon Badger, if I remember rightly), who lived on the river a mile and a half away. The deacon, I doubt not, has gone to his rest, and I forgive him the fibs he told, and the dozen journeys I made barefooted over the frozen and ‘hubby’ road in December, before the shoes were done.
"I attended one regimental review, or ‘general training,’ as it was called. It was an eminently primitive one. Among the officers were two chapeaux, to which Captain Carley, one of the two, added a sword and sash; four feathers standing erect upon felt hats; fifteen or twenty muskets; half a dozen rifles; two horse drums, and as many ‘spirit-stirring fifes.’ Of rank and file, there were about two hundred and fifty. In the way of refreshments, there were gingerbread, blackberry pies, and whisky. But there was neither ‘sweat-leather,’ ‘little jokers,’ or other institutions of that character, upon the ground. Having, before leaving Catskill, seen with my own eyes a live governor (Morgan Lewis) review a whole brigade, I regarded that training as a decided failure.
"There were no events at all startling during my residence at Cincinnatus, --- no murders, no suicides, no drownings, no robberies, no elopements, no ‘babes lost in the woods,’ occurred to astonish the natives. A recruiting sergeant came along (it was in embargo times), and three or four idle fellows (Herrings and Wilders by name, I think), ‘listed’ and marched off.
"There were neither churches nor ‘stated preaching’ in town. A Methodist minister came occasionally and held meetings in private houses, or at the school-house. In the winter there was a school on the river, and the master, who ‘boarded round,’ must have ‘had a good time of it’ on johnny-cake for breakfast, lean salt pork for dinner, and samp and milk for supper.
"There were but few amusements in those days, and but little leisure or disposition to indulge in them. Those that I remember as most pleasant and exciting were ‘huskings’ and ‘coon-hunts.’ There was fun, too, in smoking ‘woodchucks’ out of their holes.
"During my residence there, Mr. Wattles moved into the neighborhood. He came, I think, from what was then called ‘the Triangle,’ somewhere in Chenango county, and was a sub-land agent. They were, for that region, rather ‘stylish’ people, and became obnoxious to some, and caused a good deal of remark. One thing that excited especial indignation was, that persons going to the house were asked to clean their shoes at the door, a scraper having been placed there for that purpose. A maiden lay (Miss Theodosia Wattles) rendered herself especially obnoxious to the spinster neighbors by ‘dressing up’ week-day afternoons. They all agreed in saying she was a ‘proud, stuck up thing.’ In those days, ‘go-to-meeting clothes’ were reserved for Sundays.
"Leeks were the bane of my life in Cincinnatus. They tainted everything, but especially the milk and butter. Such was my aversion to ‘leeky milk,’ that to this day I cannot endure milk in any form.
"In the fall and winter corn-shelling furnished evening occupation. The ears were shelled either with a cob, or the handle of a frying-pan. There have been improvements since in that as in other departments of agriculture.
"Such are, in a crude form, some of my recollections of life in Cincinnatus half a century ago. That town, then very large, has since been sub-divided into three or four towns. Upon the farm of my old friends, the Carleys, the large and flourishing village of Marathon has grown up. And then, too, a substantial bridge has taken the place of the ‘dug-out’ in which we used to cross the river. Of the sprinkling of inhabitants who had then just commenced subduing the forests and insinuating scanty deposits of seed between stumps and roots, but few, of course, survive. The settlers were industrious, honest, law-abiding, and, with a few exceptions, temperate citizens. The friendly neighborhood relations, so necessary in a new country, existed there. All tried not only to take care of themselves, but to help their neighbors. Farming implements and household articles were pretty much enjoyed in common. Everybody ‘lent’ what they possessed, and ‘borrowed’ whatever they wanted.
"You must judge whether these hastily written recollections of Cincinnatus would at all interest the few old inhabitants remaining there; and having so judged, you are at liberty to put them into your book, or into the fire.
"Very truly yours.
J. Zechariah Squires, whose wife was Abram Brink’s sister, came to the town from Binghamton in 1801, bringing his family in a canoe. He helped Mr. Brink build a log house near where William Squires, his son, now lives. They lived in Mr. Brink’s house a year or two and then located on the west side of the river, about a quarter of a mile south of Main street; there they remained for a time and then removed to a farm in Lapeer.
Settlements in the Texas Valley were made very early. It was the central point of the old town of Cincinnatus, when it comprised Willet, Freetown and Marathon, and about the time of the organization of Cincinnatus, in 1804, several families came in and settled at or near that point. The location was on the old State road and it was believed in view of this fact and its central situation, that a thriving village would grow up. These hopes were not realized, however. The Tioughnioga and the Otselic valleys were more rapidly settled for farming purposes and mechanics and tradesmen also located there more rapidly than at other points in the town, or at "The Center," as it was then called.
Thomas French, a man advanced in years and with a large family, moved to the "Center" soon after the organization of the town, built a small framed house and kept the first tavern in the place for a number of years. His son, Calvin, succeeded him in the homestead, where he died some years ago at the age of eighty-five years. A few years later a man named Hammond removed to the Center, bringing a large family; he located about eighty rods west of Mr. French, where he kept an inn for a time. He was also engaged in tanning and boot and shoemaking. His grandson is now carrying on blacksmithing at Texas Valley.
Dr. Mordecai Lowe located at the Center about the year 1812 and was engaged in the practice of his profession for several years. He was the only resident physician in that region for fifteen or twenty years. He is remembered as a man of fair education, bright intellect and successful in his practice; but his remuneration for his labors was meager. He died of consumption about fifty years ago. His son married a daughter of Captain Mallery and removed to a western State, where his wife died, leaving a daughter who now lives with her aunt, Mrs. Nathan Smith, in Cortand village. Dr. Lowe’s daughter married William Hinman, of Merrill Creek, town of Marathon.
An elderly man named Barton, with several grown sons, were pioneers in Texas Valley. The family were better educated and possessed ability above the average of the pioneers, who had few opportunities for improving their education and mental training. Moses Barton was justice of the peace for some years and at one time one of the county judges. He emigrated to Michigan some forty years ago. William Barton, jr., held the office of justice of the peace some years and was elected Member of Assembly in 1824. Henry D. Barton, the youngest of the brothers, studied law and settled in a village on Seneca lake, where he became somewhat distinguished as a Democratic politician.
Samuel Edwards was, with his sons, early settlers at the Center. The Leach family, also, came there at an early day. Their names were Thomas, Alexander, Jonathan and Timothy, all large, powerful men, who did much to clear up the wilderness.
The Meachams, including five brothers, settled early in the eastern part of the town. Their names were Simon, Gideon, Issacher, Isaac and Jonah; they located near Merrill creek. Jonah kept a tavern for a time, where Homer Wightman’s cheese factory is now located.
The Sherwood family, consisting of Daniel, William L., Seth, Noah and Caleb (all now dead), came in and settled on Merrill creek a few years after the Meachams came. Daniel Sherwood served as justice of the peace for several years, and was sent to the Legislature in 1822, where he served three years. William L. Sherwood was also elected justice of the peace. Several other early settlers on Merrill creek might be mentioned with commendation, such as Capt. John Davis and Roswell Hinman, whose wives were sisters of the Sherwoods; also John and Peter Fralick, all of whom were useful and respected men.
The entire region between the Tioughnioga valley and Merrill creek was covered with a dense forest, so thick as to be difficult of passage, and the narrow path connecting the two localities continued until a comparatively late date to be a rough, muddy way that was not at all attractive to travelers.
Along the northern border of the town and on the State road, about half-way between the Center and the river, a few families settled as early as 1812-15. Of these there were two brothers, Nathan and Eleazer Taft, and an old gentleman named Noah Upham, whose lands are now owned by his grandson, Duane Upham. Nathaniel Bosworth located on the farm where Eleazer Meacham and his sons now reside. He was a man possessed of more than ordinary ability, of fine personal appearance and robust constitution. He was commissioned as captain of the first artillery company organized in the region of country. He made several applications to the State for a field-piece and finally succeeded in getting a small brass three-pounder. The captain then ordered the company to meet at Killawog, whither he had removed, to convey the gun to his former residence, where it was ordered to be kept. The ceremony of its reception and dedication to the use of the company, an able speech by the captain, the firing of the cannon and the military parade, proved highly interesting to the large gathering of people who came from far and near to witness the display. Many of them had heard of heavy artillery, and of its use in hard-fought battles; but comparatively few had ever seen a cannon, and imagined that the gun would be as large as a man’s body and taking a ball as big as a man’s head. Several of the citizens volunteered to escort the gun to its destination and followed the company on its march of six miles, witnessing the first loading and firing at Marathon, where a short halt was made. After arriving at their destination and partaking of refreshments, the military drill was resumed and general enjoyment reigned, when a casualty occurred which precipitated the entire assembly into the deepest gloom. In loading the cannon a premature discharge occurred, which horribly mutilated and fatally injured a man named Webster, and the day ended in sorrow. Captain Bosworth was afterward justice of the peace several years. He was the father of Joseph S. Bosworth, who was born in the town in 1808, practiced law in Binghamton and subsequently in New York city, where he became very successful and popular, and was elected chief justice of the Superior Court.
Barnabas Wood and wife, with a family of four adult sons and one daughter, came into the town in 1805 and settled at first on the "salt road" east of the village; afterward the family, with the exception of Erastus, located at the river on a farm north of the village, where Martin Brooks now lives. Two of the sons, Erastus and Parley P., were noted for their legal pretensions and their aversion to matrimony. Barnabus Wood, jr., was one of the first constables elected in the town. He also, like his brothers referred to, continued in celibacy till considerably advanced in years, when he married a daughter of Judge Lewis. Augustus, the youngest son, was a person of strange and eccentric habits. He claimed to hold frequent personal communications with denizens of the other world, and his mind was occupied with such delusions to the almost entire neglect of his personal appearance, dress or cleanliness; he refused to have his beard shaved off, a habit which gave considerable offense in those days, or to change his clothing as civilized people deem necessary. The family, believing he was insane, finally sought the assistance of neighbors to compel him to conform to habits of common decency. Accordingly, several young men of the vicinity volunteered to give the eccentric man a general ablution as often as once in two weeks. Wood did not take kindly to this kind of treatment, and at length decided to submit to it no longer. For purposes of personal defense he took a common case knife, ground it sharp on both edges and to a point and skillfully fitted it in a handle, making a very dangerous dirk. As the time approached for another bath, Wood watched for his enemies and when he saw their approach, retreated to the attic of the house where he took refuge behind the chimney, the top of which protruded but a little above the roof. Reaching up he secured a number of bricks from the chimney top to aid in his defense. The assaulting party arrived at the house and ordered him to come down, and when he positively declined, they advanced to capture him; but he used the bricks with such effect that the party was forced to retreat. A ladder was then put up against the house and the leader of the party had nearly reached a point of vantage, when he was hit by a brick which would have knocked him to the ground, had he not been caught by one of his comrades. A general and precipitate assault was then made and Wood was captured, but not without his using his dangerous blade with some unfortunate consequences. The late Alanson Carley was one of the party and received a wound on his cheek which left a scar that remained throughout his life. Wood was plunged into the river and given repeated washings that partially overcame his peculiarity. He was soon after taken charge of by the overseers of the poor as a pauper, and after the division of the town, each of the four towns contributed equally to his support. The board and care of the pauper was let to the lowest bidder and annually caused a good deal of local excitement. This method of providing for the poor was continued for some years, until the more humane plan now in vogue was adopted.
It is manifestly impossible to follow all of the early settlements in detail in all parts of the town; but we have noted most of the important ones, who were most instrumental in clearing it of the primeval forest and laying the foundation of the present prosperity and wealth of the community. The stage line from Syracuse to Binghamton ran through the valley, following the course of the river, and gave the inhabitants of early years their chief communication with the outer world; but the rapid growth of the village was much retarded from want of railroad communication, until the construction of the Syracuse and Binghamton road, as heretofore described. Upon the consummation of this undertaking it soon became apparent that the town of Marathon, and especially the village, was to be one of the localities which would be particularly benefited therefrom. The dairying interest, which had already gained some prominence, increased rapidly; manufacturing interests received an impetus and population was invited to the locality.
The first town meeting in the old town of Harrison was held at Marathon, March 2d, 1819. Beginning with that date, the following is a list of the supervisors and town clerks of the town, the supervisor’s name being given first in each year: ---- Daniel Steward, Luther Keyes, 1820-21; Chas. Gerard, John C. Schoonmaker, Cephas Comstock, 1824-25; Cephas Comstock, Daniel Sherwood, 1826; Cephas Comstock, James B. Church, 1827; Alanson Carley, Wm. Squires, 1828; Alanson Carley, Wm. Barnes, 1829 to 1831 inclusive, at which time the name of the town was changed; Cephas Comstock, Caleb Davis, 1832; Cephas Comstock, Wm. Barnes, 1833; James B. Church, George Peck, 1834; Alanson Carley, Wm. Barnes, 1835-36; Cephas Comstock, Wm. Barnes, 1837 to 1839, inclusive; Alanson Carley, Wm. Richardson, 1840; James F. Jones, Wm. Richardson, 1841; Wm Richardson, James Comstock, 1842; Patrick Mallery, Wm. B. Smith, 1843; James Comstock, Anson Peck, 1844; James Comstock, Wm. Barnes, 1845; Edward Moore, Wm. Barnes, 1846; James Comstock, E. C. Carley, 1847; E. C. Carley, S. Anson Peck, 1848; E. C. Carley, Wm. Barnes, 1849; Ezra W. Stratton, Nelson C. Roe, 1850; Geo. W. Crocker, Cyrus W. Newell, 1851; John Van Arsdoll, Israel W. Taft, 1853-54; Israel W. Taft, Eli B. Husted, 1855; Lucien B. Crane, Eli B. Husted, 1856; Ira Lynde, Lyman Adams, 1857; Alanson Carley, Lyman Adams, 1858; James Comstock, Anson Peck, 1859; Anson Peck, Lewis A. Hazen, 1860; Cephas Comstock, Wm. Esmay, 1861; Cephas Comstock, James A. Coffin, 1862-63; Patrick Mallery, Wm. W. Powers, 1864-65; Wm. Squires, Wm. W. Powers, 1866; Patrick Mallery, John Q. Adams, 1867; Patrick Mallery, Frank I. Maybury 1868 to 1870, inclusive; E. C. Carley, Theo. L. Gorwin, 1871; Wm. A. Bentley, Randolph R. Maybury, 1872-73; Patrick Mallery, R. R. Maybury, 1874; Wm. A. Bentley, R. R. Maybury, 1875; E. C. Carley, Jerome Pollard, 1876; Geo. P. Squires, M. B. Aldrich, 1877; Patrick Mallery, W. B. Aldrich, 1878; Geo. A. Hulbert, Carley Adams, 1879; Albertus A. Carley, Hosea B. Aldrich, 1880; Lucien E. Crane, A. Carley Adams, 1881; E. C. Carley, Jerome Pollard; 1882; E. C. Carley, Jerome Pollard, 1883.
Town officers for 1884:-----
E. C. Carley, supervisor.
Thomas W. Reilly, town clerk.
John A. McVean, David Wallace, Geo. A. Hulbert, Moses B. Aldrich, justices of the peace.
Geo. H. Chaplin, highway commissioner.
Homer Wightman, E. W. Meacham, John L. Smith, assessors.
Joseph A. Cole, collector.
William Esmay, John W. Livingston, Frederick Tarble, inspectors of election.
Cyrus B. Northrup, Deloss C. Hammond, overseers of the poor.
Joseph A. Cole, Wm. Davidson, Samuel A. Heaney, constables.
This town came forward at the breaking out of the war of the rebellion and gave freely of her resources and men in defense of the Union. Following is a list of all recruits from the town to whom bounties were paid, besides whom many enlisted whose names are not now available, while many sleep the last sleep on unmarked battle-fields or in the quiet cemetery:-----
Call of October 17th, 1863, February and March, 1864. Bounty, $300. Total, $7,200.---- Benjamin F. Whitford, Jerry Griffen, Abel N. Barlow, Charles T. Shaft, Albert F. Smith. Oliver C. Hesler, Edward Burgess, Simon Rockfeller, William Boice, Eugene Wilcox, William F. Gilman, Geo. H. Ralph, Edgar C. Carley, John W. Waterman, Garry Shapley, George Jackson, George Prentis, William P. Smith, Oren Withey, Alexander Thompson, George B. Smith, David G. Conger, Edward James, Elson F. Quinn.
Call of July 18th, 1864. Bounty, $1,000. Brokerage, $775. Total, $31,000.---- Clement Arnold, Henry S. Bacon, Edward A. Barlow, Charles A. Bunnell, Ransom Coonradt, James M. Coonradt, John L. Chase, Hiram Clark, Abram Clark, James Davern, John Dykeman, Abel Foster, Jerry S. Gross, Twing R. Hett, Lenden P. Hillsinger, Albertus C. Hillsinger, Nathan James, Nathaniel Knapp, George W. Miller, Webster Pierce, Charles A. Potts, Oren C. Reed, George Sherwood, Albert J. Spencer, Wm. Sullivan, Lorenzo Thomas, Francis F. Tompkins, Arthur Terpining, Roscoe Valentine, Stephen M. Wood, Eliakim S. Weld.
Recapitulation. ----- Paid for filling quotas, calls of October 17th, 1863, February and March, $7,200. Paid for filling quota, call of July 18th, 1864, $31,775. Grand total, $38, 975.
But a few years prior to the opening of the Chenango canal in 1837, what is now the thriving village of Marathon hardly deserved the name of village; it was in reality a mere hamlet of small dwelling houses, destitute of commercial interests; there was not a physician, attorney, minister or priest residing here; there was no store in the place and very few shops, while an occasional tailor or shoemaker came into the place for a brief visit, to mend or make the clothing and shoes of the people. The houses were mostly quite small, generally of one story or at the most a story and a half in height and very few if any were painted previous to 1820.
About the year 1840 the village began to assume a considerable degree of activity and growth; but the process was slow and it was not until comparatively late years that it has become a stirring business center for the inhabitants of a large section of surrounding country. At about the time of the establishment of the first store in the village there were not more than a dozen houses here. The east side of the river, from its favorable location in respect to public travel, offered better inducements for growth and improvement, than the opposite side. The stage road from Cortland to Binghamton, the principal thoroughfare through the valley, ran along that side of the stream and there was also located the only tavern and the post-office, all contributing to the advantages of that section of the place. The western side of the river at this point did not, previous to 1850, present many indications of an early extension of the village in that direction. There were a few respectable dwellings there, occupied mostly by farmers; but with the exception of a grist-mill, saw-mill, fulling-mill and carding-machine, a cabinet shop and blacksmith shop, there was little of a business aspect in that locality. When, however, the building of the railroad and its location on that side of the river were assured, business men and mechanics were attracted thither and an impetus was given to the growth of that portion of the village which is still felt. The building of the railroad (finished in 1854), while it practically killed many of the smaller stations along the line, was the real basis of the growth and prosperity of Marathon village, giving it connection with the New York, Lake Erie and Western on the south and with the New York Central on the north.
Mr. Brink, whose settlement has already been alluded to, as the first tavern-keeper in Marathon, was also the first to erect a structure suitable for the purposes of a store and lease it to whoever might be disposed to make the first mercantile venture. The building stood a few rods north of where the bank building is now located, and was rented to William Snyder; he could not have been very heavily supplied with capital, as he returned from a trip to New York for the purchase of goods without having bought any, giving as a reason that there were no fresh goods in that city at that time. He later became, however, able to purchase in very large quantities.
Luther Keyes rented this store after Snyder left it and put in a small stock of goods, including what was then thought to be a necessary article in all similar establishments --- whisky. He there sold this beverage freely and, as justice of the peace, administered the law, probably to some of his own customers, in the same store. He made a failure of his enterprise and was sold out to satisfy the claims of his creditors. His successor in the store was David Manrose, who was equally unsuccessful. James Burgess was also engaged in trade in the same building for a few years.
The late John M. Roe, formerly a merchant at Freetown Corners, traded in this store for a time, while awaiting the building of a larger structure for the reception of his goods in 1837, on the site of the Hazen Block. Mr. Roe continued in trade there for a number of years, a portion of the time with William Richardson and subsequently with Ira Lynde. The latter finally bought out the establishment and continued the business for a time, selling out to L. A. Hazen, and the building to Henry Carter. While Mr. Hazen occupied the store the building was burned, but the insurance on the structure and goods was nearly or quite sufficient to cover the los..
Messrs. Carley & Brink built the store now occupied by J. & G. A. Hulbert. Mr. Carley and Anson Peck were the first proprietors to engage in trade there and Mr. Carley subsequently purchased Peck’s interest and continued in the mercantile business successfully for several years.
The old store on the opposite side of the street was also prosperous under the management of George Peck and his brother-in-law, A. Hibbard, and afterward under the management of Peck & Dickson. Some years later the building was occupied for the manufacture and sale of hats, during which time it was destroyed by fire.
In the year 1853 E. C. Carley erected the first store on West Main Street, where Daniel E. Whitmore now is. Mr. Carley did business there for about two years, and was succeeded by A. A. Carley and C. C. Adams, and afterward by C. C. Carley and Adams & Birch, in 1868. Mr. Whitmore has occupied the store eight or ten years. D. D. Hunt built the store just west of the bridge and C. C. Adams went into business at that location, where he has since remained.
D. D. Hunt began business in a general way in 1855. In 1869 he built the Mansard Block, to which he removed from the building now owned by G. W. Webster. From about the time of his removal until 1875 he was in partnership with Oscar Wilde; he was then alone until May, 1882, when his son-in-law, C. M. Chapman, came into the firm under the style of Hunt & Chapman, and they carry a large stock of hardware, groceries and drugs, and enjoy a liberal patronage.
Mack & Husted have been in partnership for a number years, in the hardware trade, and are among the prominent business men of the village.
The Peck block was erected in 1854. Lyman Adams began in the dry goods trade in 1853. In 1865 he formed a partnership with James H. Tripp and for seventeen years thereafter they carried on a successful trade, the firm name becoming a household word throughout a wide extent of territory. For some years they have done a collection business and in 1883 established a private banking house, which is soon to be succeeded by a National Bank. W. C. Sanders succeeded Tripp & Adams in mercantile business in March, 1883.
L. C. Ball came to Marathon from Harford in 1874 with a business experience of about ten years. He became a member of the dry goods firm of Pollard & Ball. After three years the firm was dissolved and Mr. Ball has since continued the business alone.
L. F. Ward has recently established himself with a stock of clothing and finishing goods.
The boot and shoe trade of Marathon was begun by E. B. Husted in 1855. Since that time A. G. Smith and Waterbury & Talmadge have engaged in the business. L. A. Hazen began business in 1858 and now carries a stock of boots and shoes, clothing, etc. The old building on this site was burned in the fall of 1861, and in 1862 L. L. Hazen built the new block which now bears his name. L. A. & L. L. Hazen were associated in business for several years.
The grocery trade in Marathon, as a separate line, was begun in 1855 by Geo. L. Swift, who still continues the business in a small way. David M. Hunt began the trade at about the same time and has for many years past dealt in groceries and drugs. The firms of Corwin & Son, Hunt & Chapman and Tiffany & Pulford are all enterprising dealers in groceries and are well patronized by the public.
William Dellow began the manufacture and sale of furniture in Willet soon after 1850, and removed to Marathon in the spring of 1875, where he has carried on the same business since. Davis & Boyden began in the same line in the spring of 1884.
It was about the year 1801 before anything was done in Marathon to provide milling facilities for the inhabitants. John Hunt erected the first grist-mill on the east side of the river about twenty rods north from the present river bridge. Some years afterward John and William Smith built a grist-mill on the west bank of the river, where L. A. Burgess & Son’s saw-mill now stands. The first saw-mill was built by John Chamberlain in 1808, to which we have already alluded. Benjamin Adams rebuilt the grist-mill in the present more convenient location, and after running it for a while sold to A. Carley, the present owner, who has had it repaired and renovated throughout and all modern improvements added; the mill has a capacity of 500 bushels in twenty-four hours. A. Carley & Son deal largely in flour, feed, etc., supplying the retail trade in surrounding towns.
James Livingston built a saw-mill in the fall of 1859, just above the village on Hunt creek. It was burned in 1866, but immediately rebuilt. It is now owned by William Dellow & Son. The Livingston brothers built a steam saw-mill in 1870, which was removed to the State Bridge, and burned in 1877. The Burgess circular saw-mill, built about the year 1860, was run twelve or fifteen years and it, too, burned.
James Livingston, one of the early blacksmiths of Marathon, was born in Schoharie county in 1816, and, after two or three removals, came to this village in 1837 and began working at his trade, which he has ever since continued. His old shop was built in 1865, and the new one --- the Livingston Machine Shop and Bending Works --- in 1878. The son, James Livingston, jr., put in machinery for bridge building, and the establishment is now very prosperous and an important factor in the manufacturing interests of the village.
O. H. Smith began blacksmithing in the village thirty-one years ago, and erected his present shop in 1867. His old shop was sold to E. D. Baker in 1865, who has made additions thereto and is engaged in carriage-making. Jerome Vunk began blacksmithing and carriage building in 1881.
The dairying interest of Cortland county has developed a large demand for first class butter packages. To meet a portion of this demand has been the business of S. M. Wood for more than twenty years past. He began the cooperage business in 1861.
He bought the factory opposite the depot in 1874, and, after carrying on a large business at that location for seven years, purchased his present lot, erected his buildings, and is extensively engaged in the manufacture of firkins, tubs, barrels, etc.
The Stockwell Wagon Company is one of the largest manufacturing enterprises in Marathon, employs thirty hands constantly and turns out about 300 wagons annually. W. E. Stockwell, a man of large experience in this business, is general manager of the works. The company was incorporated in May, 1882, the first officers being G. P. Squires, president; D. E. Whitmore, vice-president; Wm. A. Stockwell, secretary; Lyman Adams, treasurer; W. E. Stockwell, superintendent.
Directors: G. P. Squires, D. E. Whitmore, Wm. A. Stockwell, L. Adams, F. H. Sweet, D. B. Tripp, C. H. Bouton.
The building was begun in June, 1882, and finished in October following. During the fall of 1883 the company exhibited samples of their wagons at the various county fairs in Central New York and carried off, in every instance, the first premiums. The most careful attention is paid
to the production of the best wheels it is possible to make, while in the ironing they use the best refined iron, Norway iron bolts, bolting on more of the iron than is generally done. The result is a wagon that it is very difficult to excell. The present officers of the company are: Geo. L. Swift, president; D. E. Whitmore, vice-president; Wm. A. Stockwell, secretary; Lyman Adams, treasurer; W. E. Stockwell, superintendent.
Directors: Geo. L. Swift, W. A. Stockwell, J. H. Tripp, D. E. Whitmore, Lyman Adams, G. E. Tarbell, Clark Pierce.
Horace Dickinson built a tannery in Marathon at a comparatively early date, and was also engaged for some time in the boot and shoe business. He sold his tannery to Mr. D. Shattuck and some time later built a new one. About the year 1860 another large tannery was erected by the firm of Phillips & Bentley, which gives employment to about fifteen men and furnishes a market annually for several hundred cords of bark. John Dumphy built the largest tannery in this vicinity in 1877 and now employs from 60 to 100 men and turns out about 600 sides of leather a day. This is one of the most valuable additions to the material interests of the village.
The old cooperage of S. M. Wood & Co. passed through the hands of E. W. Hayes into those of C. M. Chapman, who put in extensive machinery for the manufacture of wheel-barrows, toy wagons, sleds, etc. From seven to nine men are employed.
Tavern-keeping in the old building already described was relinquished about the year 1833. This business in the days of stage coaches and travel with private conveyances was far more prosperous and important in small villages and along the main thoroughfares at the period mentioned and down to the time of railroad construction, than it is at the present time. A mail stage then ran from Binghamton to Cortland each way on alternate days, connecting with similar lines to Syracuse, and the business of country hotel-keeping was one of profit.
In 1833 David Peck purchased a small house, put up an addition to it and fitted it up for a tavern. This was the beginning of the present Marathon House, which has passed through numerous hands, being usually enlarged or improved by each newcomer, until it reached its present commodious and comfortable dimensions and character. C. J. & A. Tarble succeeded Melvin A. Conger as proprietors of the house on the 1st of February, 1884.
The hotel known as the Carley House was erected in 1854 by A. Carley. The first structure, before it was entirely inclosed, was blown down by a severe gale of wind. It was at once rebuilt and has been under the management of Moses Rogers for seventeen years past. It bears the reputation of being a thoroughly first-class country hotel.
Brown’s Hotel was originally built for a cigar manufactory. It was burned down in 1877 and immediately rebuilt.
Lawyers. --- Ira L. Little, the oldest attorney in Marathon, was admitted to the bar in 1855 and soon after removed to the village, where he has practiced his profession with a good degree of success. He was born in Walkill, Orange Co., N.Y., July 26th, 1830. He was educated in Harford, studied law with Benjamin S. Bentley, in Montrose, Pa., and was admitted in that State in 1852. Besides his legal ability, Mr. Little has won considerable literary distinction.
H. L. Green practiced law for a short time in Marathon, in 1852 or 1853. He now resided in Salamanca.
G. Stillson came next in 1854, but during the fall of the same year accidentally shot himself.
Garret Z. House began practice here in the summer of 1858 but remained only a short time, going to Dryden, Tompkins county.
In the spring of 1863 E. A. Barlow came to the village for the practice of law; but in 1865 he enlisted in the 185th regiment and after the war located in South Carolina.
T. Wright came here in 1866 and remained in successful practice eight or ten years, until elected district attorney of the county, when he removed to Cortland village.
W. J. Mantanye began practice here in 1868; G. E. Tarbell in 1880 and W. C. Crombie in 1883.
Physicians. --- Dr. Japheth Hunt was the first physician in the village. His death occurred in 1808, at the age of 97 years. His son, Dr. S. M. Hunt, and his grandson, Dr. Deloss Hunt, have already been alluded to.
Dr. S. Smith was a native of this place; he was licensed to practice in 1848, but retired in 1851 and removed to Scott Center, where he practiced dentistry.
Dr. A. D. Reed is a native of Delaware county. He was educated at Roxbury, studied with Sherman Street and was licensed in 1848. He first practiced in Castleton, Vt., then at Cincinnatus, and then removed to Marathon, where he is still located.
Dr. E. H. Barnes was admitted to the Cortland County Medical Society in 1840, and has been an active and useful member of the society ever since. Drs. F. P. Howland, Lyman Tiffany, E. Winter and W. H. Hill, and Dr. Appley are all engaged in practice in Marathon.
The Press. --- The first newspaper published in the village of Marathon was a four-column, four-page paper, edited by Geo. L. Swift. It was issued monthly, began in 1857 and was called the Marathon Telegraph. The editor stated in an early number that "the Telegraph is capable of producing wonders;" if he referred to his little paper he failed in his reckoning, for it attained neither a long life nor a very exalted reputation. The next local journal was the Tioghniogan, which was edited and published by E. S. Weld, the successful teacher, whose work in the old building now used as a Catholic Church led to the establishment of the academy. The Tioghniogan was soon merged in The People’s Journal, a seven-column folio, established in 1861 by E. S. Weld and John R. Beden. Early in the late war Mr. Weld answered the call of his country, in consequence of which the newspaper enterprise was abandoned. The Marathon Leader was established in 1865 by P. D. Vradenburg, who afterward sold to his brother, C. A. Vradenburg. In 1869 C. Dwight Smith bought the old material of this office and started the Marathon News; but he soon left the place between two days. The Marathon Independent, a handsome six-column folio, was started by Wallace Kelly in 1870, who successfully conducted it to the time of his death in 1876. It then passed into the hands of Brooks & Day, with Ed. L. Adams as editor. In 1878 Mr. Adams bought the interest of Mr. Day, and Brooks & Adams conducted the establishment until 1880, when Mr. Adams took the entire concern. It is now an eight-page, five-column paper, and one of the best country journals in Central New York.1
Schools. --- The first school in Marathon was taught by Miss Miriam Cowdry, a portion of the time in a log barn, and subsequently in a log school-house which stood near where the new barn of Wm. Squires is located. This school-house was a very primitive and rude affair, the windows being covered with oiled paper instead of glass; but as early as the close of the war of 1812 the log houses in this and adjoining towns
began to gradually give way to the first small framed houses; school districts were organized and school-houses built and provisions made for the support of the common schools. Some of the older residents of Marathon village will remember that a small framed school-house was built some sixty years ago or more, near the bank of the creek, as it then ran, where Hazen’s store now stands; and that a heavy freshet so undermined the north side of the building that the structure assumed an angle of about twenty degrees. The school was, however, continued several days before the structure was repaired, during which time one-half of the pupils must have been compelled to look down somewhat on the other half. The main channel of the creek passed from the saw-mill south-westerly, crossing the road at the point where the Marathon House is now located. An elevated bridge over the stream stood between the hotel and the Hazen Block.
The first school-house of respectable pretensions was built by "Esquire" Burgess about the year 1818. He furnished the lumber and all the materials and painted it for the moderate sum of $100, receiving his pay in rye and corn, which were, more often than money, the medium of exchange at the time.
The Marathon Academy was chartered by the Regents of the University in February, 1866. The building in the condition it then was had been occupied by a high school kept by E. S. Weld, who owned the building. Mr. Weld enlisted in the 185th regiment in 1864 to go to the defense of the Union, and the building was sold to the Catholic Society about the year 1872, who have since used it as a church. The school was then given its present beautiful location and surroundings. M. L. Hawley, who subsequently edited the Binghamton Standard, was principal of the academy during the first two years of its existence. The institution is now under the principalship of Hamilton Terry, who is assisted by Hortense Hodges, Eva D. Gardner and Hattie Livingston. The present board of education consists of D. E. Whitmore, president; C. C. Carley, secretary; D. D. Hunt, treasurer; W. A. Bentley, G. W. Miller, L. A. Hazen, O. H. Smith, D. R. Hunt.
Churches. --- Most of the early settlers in this county were favorable disposed towards religious instruction and cheerfully contributed of their means for the support of such ministers of the gospel as could be procured to preach occasionally in the settlement, without regard to their creed. The Rev. Seth Williston is remembered as a man of excellent literary attainments and an effective preacher. He married a widow lady named Dudley, at Lisle, where he preached a few years, removing thence to Durham, Greene county, where he was pastor of a church a number of years, and was much esteemed for his usefulness and Christian character. He was one of the first pastors of the Union society in Marathon, which was known at its organization as the Society of Lisle, Cincinnatus and Virgil, each town contributing to the congregation. Its name was subsequently confined to Cincinnatus; then to Harrison and finally to Marathon, after the town took that name. It was received under the care of the Presbytery of Onondaga September 7th, 1814, and upon the division of that county was assigned to the Presbytery of Cortland. In 1825 the society reported twenty members. The Revs. Matthew Harrison, James Blakeslee, Peleg R. Kinne, Wm. J. Bradford, John A. Avery and J. F. McLaury, were a few of the pastors who have at different times supplied this society. The church has never been large and seems never to have been blessed with any special and fruitful revival. In 1832 it had seventy-two members, in 1840 it had seventy-five; in 1846 it had
sixty-two and it now reports sixty members. The present elders of the church are Lewis W. Uptegrove, Daniel Whitmore, Gabriel L. Oakley, Jerome Hulbert, Burgess Squires, Martin L. Brooks, Geo. W. Webster, Harris Hammond and John Robertson. The church edifice was built in 1831, by James Burgess; it was finished in 1832 and a few years later a bell was hung in the steeple. This was the first church building in the village. It is still in use, but has been much improved from time to time since its erection.
The Rev. John Lawton was another pioneer preacher of the Baptist denomination, whose voice was, like that of his prototype, "heard in the wilderness." He was pastor of a Baptist church organized at Upper Lisle in 1804. Two brothers named Aschel and Levi Holcomb were at different subsequent years pastors of that church, and both of them occasionally preached in Marathon and adjoining towns. A few of the first settlers were members of a Baptist church before their arrival here; they joined the church at Upper Lisle, or "Otselic," as it was then called. A Baptist church was formed at Freetown Corners about the year 1812, and some of those who had united with the Upper Lisle church withdrew and joined the Freetown organization. The pioneers of that day were, apparently, more zealous and punctual in attending religious meetings than at the present time; women not rarely went on foot six or seven miles to listen to the gospel. Elder Timothy Shepherd, living near Upper Lisle, preached at Freetown a few years, till that church was divided and a portion of the members went to assist in the formation of a society at the "Center" (now Texas Valley). Elder Shepherd became a pastor of the new church at the latter place and preached there for a very meager salary, which was paid in rye and corn at the regular barter price. It is stated, but not verified by living witnesses, that Elder Shepherd had his grain delivered at a distillery owned by one of his flock and had whisky manufactured from it; that he took the liquor home and sold what he could spare after supplying his own wants. While this may not have been the fact, it is quite sure that such a transaction on the part of a minister of the gospel would call forth vastly less censure in those days than it would at the present time.
An incident related in the sketches prepared by Dr. Hunt will not be out of place here. An old man named Snyder, father of a large and respectable family living on the hill in the town of Virgil which bears his name, usually came to Marathon annually to cut and assist in making clothing for the inhabitants. He was a native of Hesse Cassel and one of the 17,000 men hired in Germany to come over and help the British fail in whipping the Yankees. Snyer was a pious man and a member of the Baptist church. It was then the custom of the minister after the sermon was concluded, to call on the members of the church to deliver exhortations or relate their religious experience. Mr. Snyder was always prompt to discharge this duty. His remarks included not only a general confession of his moral short-comings, but a free acknowledgment of his former hostile feelings toward the American people, expressed in broken English and almost without variation in the following words: ---
"Mine frients, I vas once der pitter enemy of the ‘Merican beeples, but der lort has obened mine eyes to see I vas wrong. I vas told dat dey vas all wicket rebels and when I virst come to ‘Merica, I would haf kilt you all, if it had peen in my power; but I vas treated so kintly when taken brisoner by Sheneral Washington, and found he was one coot man, dot I deserted and haf been a coot frient of de ‘Mericans ever since."
It was not until 1860 that a Baptist organization was effected in Marathon village, the believers of that denomination previously attending the church at either Freetown or Lisle. The society formed in Marathon numbered at the first twenty-five members. It has now nearly one hundred and is in a flourishing and healthful condition. The Rev. Adam H. Todd, the present pastor, took charge of the church April 1st, 1884. A new church edifice was built and dedicated in 1876. R. M. Lovell is chairman of the board of trustees.
The Methodist society was formed here in 1830 and is said to have been composed at first of but four members, of whom Orley Carley was the class-leader. The society now numbers about 157. Their chapel was built in 1842 by James Burgess, but it has since been enlarged and considerably improved in appearance. The names of the trustees are O. H. Smith, John Moore, N. H. Winter, Arthur Butick, C. Hultz, E. D. Baker, Darius Boyden, E. C. Carley and John Livingston.
The Catholic society is quite small. They purchased the old Academy building and have since worshiped therein. J. L. Meagher assumed charge of the church two years ago.
Incorporation. --- The incorporation of the village of Marathon took place on the 28th day of December, 1861. The first election was held at the house of G. C. Messenger, when the following trustees were elected: Asa Hunt, Anson Peck, Garrett Pennoyer, James Brooks, E. S. Weld. Asa Hunt was chosen president and S. R. Benjamin, clerk.
Following is a record of the survey of the corporation: "Beginning in the highway on the west bank of the Tioughnioga river, four chains and eighteen links south of seventeen degrees east from the north line of lot owned by Nancy Smith, and running thence south seventy-five degrees west, twenty-four chains to a stake marked ‘corporation limits --- southwest corner,’ and standing on land owned by Lawrence Hindle. Thence north fifteen degrees east sixty-four chains to a stake marked ‘corporation limits --- northeast corner,’ ans standing on land owned by James Brooks. Thence south fifteen degrees east, one hundred chains to the center of the brook within the highway leading from the river road near Wm. Squires’s to Peter Moore’s. thence south seventy-five degrees west forty chains to the place of beginning, containing 640 acres, or one square mile of land."
The present bridge across the river was built in 1868. In a stone that lies in the eighth layer from the bottom of the western abutment, three feet and ten inches from the corner, are the following memorials: a history of the settlement of the town, prepared by Dr. S. M. Hunt; a sermon by Rev. H. Lyman; the weekly papers of the county; names of the contractors and others employed in building the bridge; U. S. coins; a ten dollar confederate bill; a slip of the apple tree under which Generals Grant and Lee arranged the terms of the surrender of the Southern army in the late war, etc.
The bridge is a handsome and substantial structure.
At a special meeting of the board of village trustees held October 15th, 18767, the following persons were appointed members of the first fire company of Marathon: A. H. Barber (first foreman), B. F. Wright, C. C. Adams, L. S. Burch, E. C. Carley, G. L. Swift, R. E. Edwards, W. W. Powers, John Livingston, Corwin Burgess, D. B. Tripp, Jerry C. Gray, C. H. Ford, J. Q. Adams, J. W. Schouten, W. Maynard, R. D. Mack, James Livingston, B. Hunt, E. D. Burgess, D. A. Mack, Wm. M. Griffin, T. H. Roe, Smith Sherwood, Duane Burgess, D. C. Lynde, E. B. Husted, Jas. Livingston, jr., Hiram Cone, J. H. McDowell, F. I. Maybury, Geo. R. Burgess, F. F. Tompkins, O. H. Smith, J. Pollard, D. D. Hunt, R. R. Maybury, E. D. Baker, M. L. Hawley, Chas. Hunt, Chas. G. Brink, James S. Burgess, Chester Nichols, F. M. Taylor, E. D. Barnes, James H. Tripp.
But few of these original members are now in the company; but ever since its first organization few fire companies in villages even much larger than Marathon have done a more effective service or secured a greater degree of respect from the community than this one. An engine was purchased at Syracuse in 1867, and the present engine house was erected a little later. The present officers of the company are as follows: L. C. Ball, chief engineer; L. D. Terwilliger, assistant engineer; B. L. Adams, president; A. C. Rohrbacher, vice-president; J. W. Livingston, secretary; W. R. Pollard, treasurer; J. A. Cole, foreman; John H. Boyd, assistant foreman; J. W. Hunt, foreman of hose; Fred L. Boyden, assistant foreman; Thaddeus Driggs, steward. The trustees are Samuel Heaney, D. B. Livingston, Leroy Stevens.
The trustees for the village for 1884 are as follows: T. L. Corwin, president; D. D. Hunt, treasurer, Adam Hillsinger, collector, J. W. Livingston, clerk; James Burgess, Henry Casler, Lyman Adams.
The population is about 1100.
1See chapter on the press of the county, in this volume.Note: not included on this site
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