HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF CUYLER
The town of Cuyler is situated in the extreme northern part of the county. It was formed from the town of Truxton on the 18th of November, 1858, and was the last town erected in Cortland county.
The surface of the town is broken, consisting largely of hilly uplands, excellently adapted for grazing. The principal stream is the east branch of the Tioughnioga river, which flows diagonally across the town, entering near the northeast corner and crossing the eastern boundary near its center. The Onondaga branch of the river is its largest tributary, and flows directly south from Kenney's Settlement. The other streams of the town are small brooks, most of them tributary to the Tioughnioga, and generally of clear, wholesome water.
Muncy Hill, near the center of the town, is the highest land. The town comprises 27,581 5/8 acres of land, with an assessed valuation of $1.04 per acre. The soil on the hills is a yellow loam with a clay subsoil; in the valleys it is a light, sandy loam, mixed with alluvial deposit.
As before stated, the town of Truxton originally embraced that of Cuyler. The first settlement made in that territory was in the year 1793. Prior to that date the region was a favorite home of the bear, the panther, the wolf and the deer, which roamed in great numbers over its hills, through its gorges and along its streams, in blissful ignorance of the coming crusade of the white man. The first house erected in that broad domain was called "Home," a name significant of approaching civilization, and the beginning of an era of progress.
The first settlement within the present limits of the town of Cuyler was made in the year 1794, when Nathaniel Potter, Christopher Whitney, David Morse and Benjamin Brown came in. Samuel C. Benedict had then occupied lot number 12 for one year, during which period he was monarch of all, and more, than he surveyed. French traders may have visited the lands in this section at an earlier period, coming in from Onondaga and Madison county; but if so, there was no trace of them left, nor anything to indicate to the first settler of whom we have any record that he was not the only white man who had thus far penetrated this wilderness.
Nathaniel Potter came from Saratoga county, NY, in the spring of 1794. The family consisted of himself, his wife and an infant daughter five weeks old. Mr. Potter settled on lot 96, paying one dollar and ten cents an acre for his land. He built a small house near the State bridge. The reader of today finds it difficult to realize the privations and hardships to which the earlier settlers in the remote parts of this county were subjected. A bit of Mr. Potter's experience may aid in such realization. Penelope Potter, the infant before alluded to, was born in 1793, a little prior to the removal of her parents to their wilderness home. In one year after their arrival the mother died, it being the first death in that town. Mr. Potter was then compelled to go a distance of 4 miles for assistance in performing the last sad rites (and doubly sad under those circumstances) over the remains of his dead companion. Returning, he found the infant child nestled close to the breast of its departed mother, as was its wont when satisfying its hunger. The dead at such times had but few mourners; but none can doubt their depth of grief; and the preparations for interment were necessarily of the simplest kind. The coffin for Mrs. Potter's remains was constructed in part from the door of the house, that furnishing the only suitable boards then available.
In the year 1798, the children of Mr. Potter were entirely bereft, the father being killed in the month of July by the falling of a tree. His little boy, then about five years old, was with him at the time of the unfortunate event. Mrs. Joseph Keeler was the first to find the body, mangled and crushed under a large tree. She kindly administered to his wants as best she could; water, for which he asked, was brought to him in his hat, there being no other means at hand.
The little daughter, Penelope Potter, always resided on her father's land, in the homestead, and died there. Owing to some defect in the title to the farm (a common occurrence in those days), she bought and paid for the land a second time. In 1810 she was married to Nathaniel Patrick, by whom she had 14 children, one of whom was the Hon. Stephen Patrick, of the town of Truxton.
David Morse came from New Jersey and settled on lot 8, which embraced the site of the present village of Cuyler. He was a Revolutionary soldier, and drew this lot as a bounty. He was a successful farmer, and became a prominent member of the Methodist church at a later period. His two sons, David and Joseph Morse, located on the same lot. His grandson, William A. Morse, now owns and occupies the house he built.
James Lockwood came with Mr. Morse, from Pennsylvania. They came up the Tioughnioga river in a canoe, and then took an ox team to their destination.
Benjamin Brown also came in during the year 1795. He was a native of Connecticut and selected lot 57, becoming the first settler in the Kenney Settlement neighborhood. Benjamin Brown, his grandson, well known as one of the early teachers of the town became a very successful agriculturist, and gained the reputation of an enterprising and worthy citizen.
Isaac Brown settled on lot 99, about the year 1806, where his son, I. N. Brown, now resides.
Zebediah Gates located on lot 88, in the year 1807, where his son, Elias, now lives; he was a native of Colerain, Mass.
Joseph and Martin Keeler, brothers, settled on lot 96, about the year 1797, near the present residence of Nelson Keeler, who is a grandson of Martin.
Jesse Blanchard located on lot 66 in the year 1798. With him came his brother William; they married the sisters of Amasa, Eber, Job and Silas Whitmarsh, who also migrated the same year from Vermont and settled on lot 77. Azariel Blanchard, father of Jesse and William Blanchard, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and in all probability drew this lot as his bounty. He also participated, under General Stark, in the War of 1812, and died in 1818, aged 82 years.
In order to enjoy a feast of white bread, Jesse Blanchard carried a sack of wheat to Manlius, 20 miles away; that was then the nearest grist-mill. He made he journey on foot, carrying the sack of wheat and guided only by marked trees. When he or his family needed medical aid he went to Fabius, generally carrying his musket and, if benighted on the way, a firebrand with which to defend himself against the numerous wolves. Jesse Blanchard died in 1847, aged 82 years.
William Blanchard took part in the War of 1812, and upon his return to Cuyler, followed his trade of blacksmith. He was a skillful mechanic, the first in that business in the village and kept his smithy for many years. He learned his trade of Alexander Little, who seems to have been a pioneer blacksmith in or near Cuyler; but of him we have been unable to procure data. William Blanchard was for a time postmaster of Cuyler; was elected assessor several terms; was justice of the peace a number of times and was honored with other positions of trust, all of which he filled wih credit and ability. Dr. Blanchard, the eminent physician and surgeon, who died in Milwaukie in 1871, was a son of Jesse Blanchard; he was for many years previous to his death totally blind.
Charles Vincent settled on lot 78 in 1806. James Vincent had preceded him 6 years. Henry Vincent, son of Charles, still lives at the advanced age of 84 years, retaining to a remarkable degree his physical strength and mental faculties.
Daniel Page settled on lot 79, where the Widow Hinds now lives.
James Dorwood, from Rhinebeck, NY, came into the town in 1806 and located on lot 79. He was an ingenious and skillful mechanic, and is said to have built the first carding-machine in the State of New York. He was a native of Scotland and left his country when 18 years of age to escape being forced in the army of King George the Third. Huldah Dorwood lived to the great age of 98 years.
James Hollenback and John Brown settled on lot 77 in the year 1806-08. Thomas Fairbanks located on lot 60 in 1803, and Ephraim Fairbanks on land afterward occupied by Joseph L. Burdick, on lot 80; the farm was owned later by H.F. Boyce. Simeon Feeney, William Wallace and the two Webster families came in a few year before the War of 1812, as did also the Fox families; but we have no farther data concerning them.
Hon. Stephen Patrick came to Cuyler with his parents in 1812, locating on lot 86. His father was Nathaniel Patrick, who married Penelope Potter, before alluded to, in 1810. Mr. Patrick is a prominent citizen; was in the employ of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company from 1833 to 1839; has held many minor positions of trust and in the year 1866 represented Cortland county in the Legislature. He is a successful farmer and largely engaged in dairying.
Mr. Goodwin, in his "Pioneer History of Cortland County," refers to the struggles of the pioneers in the procurement of food for their families in the following language: "The luxuries they enjoyed were the real necessities of subsistence. They dealt only with the stern realities of life. The follies of our time were unknown to the primitive settlers. They studied nature as she really was, rather than as what they would have her to be. When success had so far crowned their laborious efforts as to enable them to spare a portion of their products, they did not deem it a hard task to place the scanty surplus on an ox-sled and taking an Indian trail, or such road as had been cut through the wilderness by wandering emigrants, and thus trudge on from day to day until they reached Utica, Whitestown, or Herkimer, where they exchanged their load for the substantials of the farm and kitchen. This exchange did not then, as in these days of refinement, consist of satins, silks and laces for their daughters, but in a few yards of lindsey-woolsey, an ax, bush-hook, grubbing hoe, and last, but not least, a half pound of old Bohea (black tea), which was always received by the happy matron with a smile.
One of the chief obstacles always encountered by the early settlers and which caused them often great annoyance and loss, was the depredations of wild beasts. Wolves were the most numerous and troublesome. Though great cowards in daylight, under cover of the nights they would come down from the forest-covered hillsides in this town to prey upon the farmer's sheep-fold, and only those which were carefully and substantially fenced were safe from the ravenous beasts. The deep gorges and densely wooded hillsides of Cuyler afforded favorite haunts for these cowardly beasts, where they gathered in droves, as was their wont, to go on nightly raids. It was common for them to set up their concerted howlings at about sunset, and soon the distant hillsides and the deep valleys would resound with their blended voices, discordant in themselves, and yet possessing a sort of wild, weird melody, to which old settlers often revert with pleasant memories. But when the hour of their depredation on a sheep-fold arrived, their instinct prompted them to still their voices and they stealthily crept to the scene of their plunder; luckily for the farmer if they did not kill and carry off his last sheep. The bounty offered for killing wolves was always a considerable one in pioneer days, and the settlers sometimes eked out their slender incomes by killing the brutes. John Hooker, of Cuyler, on one occasion, after having a cow killed by them, excavated a deep pit to entrap them, suitably baited it and had the satisfaction of catching seven; he received a bounty of about $40.
The first death in the town of Cuyler was that of Susannah Potter, in June, 1795; and the first birth was that of her son, which occurred about four months prior to her death.
Wanton Corey and Deborah Morse (the former 18 years of age and the latter 17) were the first couple married in the town. The event occurred in May 1806. Mr. Corey died in 1881, at the advanced age of 95 years. Garret Lockwood and Irene Culver were married at about the same time of Corey's marriage.
The first school was taught in Daniel Morse's log house by Jabez Keep, in 1800, and about the same time Thomas Queensbury taught a school in Hollenbeck's barn on lot 77. The first religious services were held in Mr. Slingerland's barn on the same lot.
Mills. - The early settlers in this region seriously felt the absence of saw-mills and grist-mills. With boards, which are always comparatively cheap where timber is plenty, and a few common tools, the average pioneer could construct his house, rude though it was, and out-buildings, and could provide his wife with many articles of convenience for house-keeping; but without them, and with only his axe to depend upon for the production of anythng bearing even the semblance of a board, and with saw-mills at long distances, the privation was a serious one. And so with the grist-mill; it was a real necessity, and when it came within a reasonable distance, displacing the primitive enormous pestle, which was lifted up and down in the mortar, made by hollowing out the top of a hard wood stump, it was a boon the value and convenience of which are difficult to realize at this day.
The first mill in the town of Cuyler was built by John Corbet in 1803. This was a saw-mill and it undoubtedly found ample business in a territory as heavily timbered as this with hemlock, maple, basswood, beech, cherry and white elm. Not very long after this mill was built James Dorwood erected a carding-mill and grist-mill on the same lot with Corbet; it was probably the first carding-mill in the State and was extensively patronized. It afterward passed into the hands of Tydman Hull and his son George, who ran it until about 1860, when it was abandoned.
In 1805 Joseph Sweetland built near the same site a grist-mill, which soon also passed the hands of the Hulls. It was an old-fashioned water-power mill, with 2 runs of stone, but sufficed for the custom work of the vicinity. H.A. Blackman afterward became its owner, and finally its present owner, W.H. Seamans, bought it
The second saw-mill in the town was built by Judge Charles Vincent, on lot 78, and was run by him until 1844.It was a prominent mill in an early day and stood about half a mile below the other one. It changed hands a number of times and is now in ruins.
The third mill was a grist-mill and saw-mill together; both were built by Ephraim Griswold at the falls of Tripoli in a very early day. The mill is now owned by A.P. Spicer & Son, and has a good circular saw and 2 runs of stone; it is a good country mill.
In addition to these mills which we have mentioned, there were other early ones, but they were generally small affairs, with inadqquate water power, and have been long since abandoned in favor of portable steam saw-mills, now in common use. One of these is now on the farm of M.J. Keeler, but will soon be removed to the village of Cuyler; it is owned by the Brown Brothers, who are great-grandsons of Benjamin Brtown, one of the first settlers before mentioned.
The dairying business has received more attention in this town in late years than formerly and more than any other branch of agriculture. In this respect the town of Cuyler is not surpassed by any other part of the county; perhaps no other similar portion of the State. The rich lowlands and the excellent pasturage on the hillsides connot be excelled and the dairy products are proportionately fine in quality and large in quantity.
Silas Blanchard was the first to erect a cheese factory in this town. It was built about the year 1864, in the village; a hundred feet of the building is still in use. The business is now owned by M.S. Allen and managed by J.B. Howard. The patronage of this factory has been very large at times, consuming the milk of a thousand cows; at other seasons it has been much more limited.
The second butter and cheese factory was built on or near the line between Cuyler and DeRuyter, Madison county, about the year 1875, by Lewis Sears. Since his proprietorship, Edwin Saunders, A. Buckingham and, at the present time, Mr. McAdams have owned it. The factory received considerable patronage from both town, but it is not so large in capacity as others in the town.
The factory at Kenney Settlement is of still later origin. It was built and is now managed by a company and commands a good patronage.
The Cuyler Hill Cheese Factory Association, organized about 10 years ago, and the Cold Spring cheese factory, located in the south part of the town, are each doing a moderate business. There are also several dairies in the town, the products of which rank high in the markets.
When the Rebellion broke out it found this town ready with its sister towns of the county to send her young men to the battle-field in aid of the government and willing to pay them well for the hardship and dangers they were to undergo. Special town meetings were held in about the same order and for similar purposes as those already described in the history of Homer, and bounties were paid conforming with those of the other towns. Following is a list of all the enlistments from the town, of those who received bounties, with other details:
Call of October 17th, 1863. Bounty paid, $300. Total bounties, $9000. - Henry Couch, Hiram Hills, Benjamin Austin, Alpha V. Culver, John Scott, Harlow I Phillips, William B. Mudge, William B. Weggant, Michael Donnelly, Cornelius Steel, Oscar H. Smith, Edmund O. Rice, John A. Stewart, George Deitz, Charley Lollis, Theodore Knapp, Isaac Brockett, Loyd D. Culver, James Wilson, George Hopper, Chas. Hall, Stephen Cornell, Stephen H. Vosburgh, Albert C. King, George Ridder, George Ufford, David P. Rood, Charles Van Why, Azariah C. Torrey, Arvin N. Albro.
Call of July 18th, 1864. Amount of bounty, $700; except $600 to nine; $300 to two; $500 to one; and $650 to one. Total Bounties, $18,350. Total brokerage, $700. - William H. Shaw, James A. Shaw, Wm D. Hakes, Thomas Edwards, Henry Kreiga, David H. Lyon, Charles Mitchell, John Beavers, Charles Nelson, Sebastian Staff, Christ. Bender, John Sherman, Demus Walsh, Daniel Foster, Freman Day, Peter Sanger, John R. Williams, Curry Magnus, John Quinn, Thomas Williams, Jacob Jacoba, Stephen R. Nye, John R. Wells, Wesley Porter, George H. Green, Daniel Hennessy, Cyrus A. Smith, S.E. Corwich, George Bromley.
Call of December 19th, 1864. Bounty paid, $400; except $600 to two. Total bounty, $3600. Total brokerage, $120. - Geo. E. Willey, Samuel Johnson, Dewitt C. Burch, Nelson Moore, N. Childs, Wm. Hatless, Charles R. Lord, Ezra Stone.
Recapitulation - Paid for filling quotas, calls of October 17th, 1863, February and March, 1864, $9000. Paid for filling quota, call of July 18th, 1864, $19,050. Paid for filling quota, call of December 19th, 1864, $3720. Grand total, $31,770.
The town of Cuyler was without railroad communication until about the year 1870, when the Midland road ran its branch (the Auburn branch, so called) directly through the town, giving it direct connection with Cortland village on the south and Norwich on the east. This road, although not yet managed so satisfactorily as it undoubtedly will be at no distant day, has been of great advantage to the town.
Following is a list of the names of the supervisors and town clerks, the supervisor's name being given first in each instance: -
For the years 1859-60, Lewis Sears, Alexander Dunce; 1861-1864, inclusive, Silas Blanchard, A.W. Dunbar; 1865, Silas Blanchard, Gilbert S. Poole; 1866, Hiram Whitmarsh, Geo. F. Fairbank; 1867 to 1872, inclusive, Alexander Dunce, Wm. Blanchard; 1873, Alexander Dunce, Geo. F. Fairbank; 1874 to 1876, inclusive, Alexander Dunce, Clarence N. Knapp; 1877-78, Henry D. Waters, Clarence N. Knapp; 1879-80, John W. Patrick, Clarence N. Knapp; 1881, Henry D. Waters, Clarence N. Knapp; 1882, Harlan P. Andrews, Clarence N. Knapp; 1883, Wm. Baldwin, James B. Hills; 1884, Harlan P. Andrews, James B. Hills.
Of those who have been prominently identified with the management of the public affairs of the town of Cuyler, no one is more honorably conspicuous than Alexander Dunce. He was born in Schenectady, NY, in 1809, of Scotch parentage; his parents being educated people, they carefully trained their son in the same direction. He became at an early age a successful teacher in common schools, and he has ever since identified himself with educational interests. He removed to the town of Cuyler in 1838 where he continued teaching winters, and farming in summer seasons. His capacity and education for official duty was soon recognized by his townsmen, since which time he has been honored with almost constant public work, which engrosses a large share of his time and attention. He was superintendent of common schools in the old town of Truxton for 10 years; town clerk of Cuyler, after it was set off from Truxton, 2 terms, justice of the peace, 2 tems; supervisor 9 terms; railroad commissioner 6 years and has been notary public during the past 15 years. Mr. Dunce was originally a Whig in politics and is now a thorough-going Republican, strong in his convictions of right and unflinching in his efforts to carry out his convictions. Although now 76 years of age, he still attends to his public duties with sound judgment and all the vigor and care of his younger days,and lives in the enjoyment of the respect and confidence of the entire community.
The village of Cuyler is situated a little north of the center of the town, on the Utica, Ithaca and Elmira railroad, and contains a Methodist church, several mechanics' shops, 3 stores, and population of about 120.
The first trading done in the village proper was probably by C.J. Vincent, who began in 1832, although it has been stated that a man named Hull had a small store there as early as 1806. The successors of Mr. Vincent were Phillip and Joseph Morse in 1833; Alanson Lake in 1838; Lewis & Sprague Brothers in 1845 and Abial Davidson in 1859.
In another building Halsey Patrick began trading in 1858, and was succeeded by Austin Waters in 1860; Marshall Blanchard in 1861. In still another building Frank Wise began business in 1864 and was followed by Adelbert Fuller in 1866, who still continues. H.G. Warner began business in 1881, and C.M. Knapp, the present hardware merchant in 1871.
Joseph Sweetland kept the first inn in Cuyler in 1806, his sign being hung upon a tree. Oliver Mix taught the first school in Mix's bar-room, in 1807. Mr. Alexander Dunce, who is excellent authority and to whom we are much indebted for information of this town, thinks that a Mr. McWhorter kept a tavern here in 1806. He was followed in 1820 by A. Petrie; in 1822 by David Morse; 1824 to 1836 by Joseph Brush; Wm Morse from 1830 to 1834; Geo.W. Samson from 1834 to 1838; Peter Westerman from 1838 to 1841; William Blanchard from 1841 to 1848; A. Parker from 1848 to 1860; D. Raymond from 1861 to 1865; M.D. Eaton 1870 to 1873; R. Ashley from 1873 to 1875; D. Pence, the last in the place, from 1875 to 1877, when the hotel was burned.
Alexander Little was the first blacksmith to locate in Cuyler, beginning in 1816. He was followed by Wm. Blanchard in 1820. Luther Holmes, the present blacksmith, began business here in 1871.
James Pomeroy, a cabinet maker, began work in that line in 1816; he
died in 1870. Jefferson Vincent began in 1882.
The first physician to locate in the village of Cuyler was Dr. Christopher L. Main, who became a member of the Cortland County Medical Society in 1836, about which time he settled in Cuyler; he remained only to the year 1840 and was succeeded by Dr. W.B. Sturtevant, who practiced here a few years and removed to DeRuyter, where he soon afterward died. He became a member of the County Medical Society in 1846. Dr. Frank C. Clark settled here in 1878 and is still in practice.
The first lawyer in Cuyler was Joseph Morse, youngest son of David Morse, who settled on lot 87. He began pettifogging in justice's court at an early day, and soon after the constitutional changes of 1846, which permitted candidates to be licensed to practice in courts of record, without regard to the time spent in study, he was admitted an attorney at law in the courts of the State. He died in 1872 or 1873.
The second lawyer was M.M. Waters, a native of the town. Mr. Waters obtained a good education, and was a teacher of some prominence, after which he studied the law, and was admitted about 1854. He practiced in the county until 1882, when he removed to Syracuse, where he is now the seniour member of the well-known firm of Waters, McLennan & Dillaye. He is an able and wise counselor.
Henry D. Waters, the only lawyer at present in Cuyler, is a brother of M.M. Waters, with whom he studied his profession in Cortland village. At the breaking out of the Rebellion he enlisted in Company E of the 157th Regiment, and was a participant in the battles of Chancellorsville,Fredericksburg, Antietam and Gettysburg. In the latter engagement he lost 2 fingers by the bursting of a shell, on which acount he was transferred to Veteran Reserves. Mr. Waters was twice promoted, to the offices of lieutenant and captain. He finished his law studies, and was admitted to the bar after his return from the war. Sine that time he has been justice of the peace 15 years, supervisor 4 years and clerk of the board 2 years.
Churches - The first sermon preached in the town of Cuyler was by Benoni Harris, in 1808. The services were held in Singleton's barn. After that event religious services were kept up with something like regularity by supplies or traveling ministers, who preached in private houses, or school houses, until the year 1839, when the Methodist church building of Cuyler was erected. This building was raised by Alexander Dunce, and the society has since prospered. The Rev. James Staunton is the pastor at present in charge of the church. Isaac N. Brown, J.W.Patrick, I.D. Brown, Adam Petrie and Alexander Dunce are the trustees. The class-leaders are Isaac N Brown and George Brown. The membership is about 80.
About the year of the organization of the Methodist Church in the village, and not later than 1840, the members of the Baptist society erected a frame church building in the Kenney Settlement. The members of this were greatly scattered, and in a few years the church was disbanded, the members going to Fabius and Truxton to attend worship. The Rev. Mr. Purinton ministered to this people most of the time whilr they continued to meet for worship. He was a man of sterling Christian character and was greatly loved by his congregation. John A. Kenney, Orange Cadwell, Abner Brown, and others, were among the earnest supporters of the church. The building was purchased by the Methodists about the year 1866, and is connected in a circuit with the church at Fabius. The Rev. Mr. Shurtliff, now of Fabius, preachesi n the church. Edmund Fox, John B. Webster, Nelson Haskins, Silas Haskins, Oren and Gurdon Hulbert, H.P. Andrews, and others are prominently connected with the society. The original trustees were PH. Saunders, Leonard Woodruff, Owen Woodruff and J.B. Webster. The present trustees are P.H. Saunders, Hiram Whitman, Isaac Babcock, Albert Haskins, Elisha King, Edwin Saunders and H.P. Andrews.
The Union Church society of South Cuyler, consisting of members from various denominations, erected a building at that place just prior to the late war. The society thus formed is not a very strong one, but its members are earnest in their desire to build up a church and regularly attend all the services. The Rev. Mr. Ketchum was instrumental in securing the subscription with which the frame of the church was erected.
The Seventh-day Baptist Church was organized about the year 1850 and a building erected on the Burdick hill. The Revs. Fisher, Alexander Campbell, Joshua Clarke and Thomas Fisher have preached to this society at different periods. Phineas and James Burdick, Arza Muncey, E.B. Irish, A.L. Cardner and others have done much for the prosperity of the church.
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