HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF HARFORD
The town of Harford comprises the southwestern quarter of the original military township of Virgil, (No. 244) of the military tract, and is now the extreme southwestern town in the county. It is bounded on the north by Virgil; on the east by Lapeer; on the south by Tioga county and on the west by Tompkins county. The town was not organized until May 2d, 1845, and consequently much of its early history is identified with that of Virgil, in preceding pages.
The surface of the town consists of high broken and rugged uplands rising from 500 to 700 feet above the intervening valleys, and from 1500 to 1700 feet above tidal water. The Owego hills in the central part of the town constitute the most elevated portion. The declivities are generally steep and often rocky, and most of the hilly summits are still crowned with heavy forests. The town is watered by small, clear brooks which are fed by springs, the largest stream being what is commonly called Owego creek, which runs southward through the central part of the town. The soil of the town is a sandy, gravelly loam, of moderate productive capacity and better adapted to grazing than to grain-raising.
Harford is, with one exception, the smallest town in the county, its acreage being but 519 more than that of Preble, which is the smallest town. Harford has 14,612 acres.
Settlement in this town was more backward than in most other sections of the county, and the clearing and improvement of the more remote and hilly portions proportionately retarded. Even at the present time lumbering is an industry of considerable importance to the town.
Dorastus De Wolf was the first settler in the town and located in 1803, on a farm west of the village on the hill, now owned by Norton L. Brown. He subsequently moved into a small frame house which stood on the road north of the village near the corners. Putman De Wolf, a brother of Dorastus, settled in the town not long afterward and near his brother.
The forests with which the town was then covered abounded in wild game. Wolves were very numerous and it was near the end of the first quarter of the century before the few settlers could leave their sheep unprotected at night, confident of finding them safe the next morning. The woods were traversed by numerous deer, which were often seen in droves; bears were plentiful and an occasional elk was seen in the secluded valleys.
Josiah Brown was one of the early settlers of Harford, coming in from Chenango county during the progress of the War of 1812. He settled a little north of Harford village on the farm where Homer Brown now lives, and which is owned by Dexter Brown, of Marathon. Morris Brown came in with his father, Josiah, and married Matilda Holden, daughter of Benjamin Holden, who settled in the town at about the same time with Mr. Brown; he came from the State of Maine and located about a mile southwest of the village, on the farm now occupied by Solomon Rogers. Benjamin Holden was the grandfather of Samuel Holden, now a merchant in Harford. Luther Holden, another grandson, now owns the Heaton farm and lives there. After the marriage of Morris Brown and Matilda Holden, they settled on the farm where Mrs. Brown still lives, and where her husband died in March, 1883, about a mile north of the village; there they resided permanently for nearly seventy years.
Mrs. Brown's memory of early settlements in the town is still remarkably clear, and we are indebted to her for details of the progress of settlement at the date of her arrival, which was as early as 1815 and probably a year or two earlier.
Jacob Hemingway was then in the town and lived where the hotel now stands, which he built in about the year 1820.
Of the settlers who had followed De Wolf into the town before the year 1815, Mrs. Brown gives us the names and locations of the following: Josiah Hart, father of Josiah Hart, of Cortland village, settled on the place now owned by Alanson Burlingame and built the old red house which still stands there.
Lemuel Barnes located on the Slaterville road about a mile west of the village. He was grandfather of George and Eli Barnes, who still live in the town.
Barney Norwood and George Cooley were both here before 1815. The former was the father of Philip Norwood and settled where he lived until recently, and the latter located in the village about opposite where the old hotel stands.
Calvin Totman settled on what was long known as "Chicken Point," where he kept the first store in town. It was a small affair and its existence has been forgotten by most of the old inhabitants. Philip Hardenburg is of the opinion that Totman sold goods in the village, or on the site of the village, for a short time before locating at "Chicken Point."
Levi Moore settled in the town early and lived where Mrs. Harriet Moore now resides; she is a widow of Levi's son. Levi Moore kept a tavern on this corner, which was the first on the site of the village and one of the earliest in the town.
Enoch Allen and Chas. Graves were in the town before 1815 and kept taverns, one on each side of the road near the site of the Nathan Heaton house. Allen shot himself subsequently in his own house.
Nathan Heaton settled on the site of Harford Mills before 1815 and built the grist-mill at that point before the year 1820. Warren Hart and Richard Collins were located here at the same time. The latter lived where Hiram Wilcox now resides. A saw-mill was built beside the grist-mill at Harford Mills about the same time that the grist-mill was erected; but we have not learned by whom. Colonel Hemingway built a saw-mill at Chicken Point at an early day and Tisdale Jones built another a little farther up the stream, while Josiah Hart built a third one still farther up. These mills were in operation as early as about 1844. They are all now abandoned.
Samuel Crosby settled before 1815 on what is known as the Beard place, which he owned and where he built a distillery not long after 1820. Another early distillery stood about on the site of the cheese factory, which was operated by Aaron Benedict. An ashery stood near it, which was managed by Theodore Hart.
Israel Graves and David Crosby were here before 1815. Graves lived at Chicken Point and Crosby where Robert Purvis now resides.
John Straight settled where Hallock Martin lives, a mile and a half from the village, before 1815. It is said that he owned three square miles of land at one time; but became a too steady patron of the distillery and finally lost all of his property.
Gordon Burlingame was an early settler on the farm now owned and occupied by his grandson, Allen W. Tyler, his father, Jeremiah Tyler, of Virgil Corners, having married Mr. Burlingame's daughter. The brick house now on the farm was built by Mr. Burlingame in 1828, the brick having been made on the farm near the barns. There were other brick yards in the town at an early day, which accounts for the number of substantial brick houses in different localities.
Lorenzo Totman, a brother of the first merchant, settled before 1815, about four miles east of the village on the road leading to Marathon. His father lived on that farm and must have been one of the earliest settlers.
Daniel Allen was in the town before 1815 and built one of the first grist-mills in the town, near where Sealer Jackson subsequently lived, about half a mile east of Harford Mills.
Stephen Cross settled in the town before 1815 and located on land now owned by John Valentine. He was from Chenango county. Mr. Cross built the brick house now occupied by Mr. Valentine. His son, Marvin, now of Brooklyn, built the old wooden house now occupied by Otis Clark, and kept house there for the first time. He soon afterward moved to Brooklyn and has become wealthy in the lumber business. Guy Barnes, a son of Lemuel, before mentioned, was an early resident about half a mile west of Harford village, on the Slaterville road, where Spencer Seaman now lives. John Moss was another early settler in that vicinity.
Nathan Heaton, Theodore E. Hart, Levi Moore and Seth Stevens were among other early settlers in the town. The Graves family and the Crosbys came in about the year 1814.
Benjamin Holden, a native of Massachusetts, removed from the State of Maine to Harford in 1816, and located on land now owned by Milo Day. He died in 1842. His daughter, Betsy B., now the wife of Dexter Brown, of Marathon, was six months old when her parents left Massachusetts and three years old when they cam to Harford. Dexter Brown was born in Harford in 1816, was married in 1839 and removed to Marathon in 1876. Until that time he resided constantly on the farm where he was born and which he still owns. His father, Josiah Brown, died in 1860, at the age of ninety-one years.
Henry Ballard was one of the comparatively early settlers and died in the town in 1853, having attained the great age of 109 years.
This town is more fortunate than some others in the county, which might otherwise, perhaps, have left it behind in matters of prosperity, in the fact of its having ample railroad communication over the Southern Central, with Auburn on the north, connecting with the New York Central, and Owego on the south, where it connects with the New York, Lake Erie and Western. In the year 1852 a company was organized under the name of the Lake Ontario, Auburn and New York Railroad Company, with a capital stock of $1,500,00.
A route running from Fair Haven on the north to Pugsley's Station on the south was established and much of the right of way secured. About $375,000 was spent on grading, when the company collapsed. In 1853 another company was organized and $450,000 was spent on grading between the lake and Weedsport. Operations on the enterprise were suspended with the breaking out of the Rebellion; but in 1865 the company was reorganized and the route changed to its present course. The road was completed and trains began running in 1869, when the Owego valley through the town of Harford echoed with the shriek of the steam whistle. The inhabitants of the town fully appreciated the importance of this improvement and celebrated the event in a joyful manner. The railroad has been of a vast benefit to the town and shipments of produce and lumber from the stations at Harford and Harford Mills have been large.
Ebenezer Burgess came from the State of Maine with the Brown family in 1813, and located east of the village, on lands now owned by Henry Wavle. In the following year, as stated by Erving Taintor, who is connected with the family by marriage, Mr. Burgess bought the apple trees and pear trees that are now standing on the old place. The trees were bought of John Straight (elsewhere alluded to), who then had a nursery.
Asel Sexton, father of Ransom Sexton, settled in 1814 on the premises now occupied by Miss Moore in Harford village. Ransom was born in 1813 and came to Harford Mills about twenty-five years ago.
The late Lansing Hay settled in Harford in December, 1826, locating on the farm now occupied by Henry Boyce. He was then twenty years old. Mr. Hay became one of the leading farmers of the town. One of his daughters is the wife of H. C. Gray of Harford Millls; another is the wife of Ransom Jennings; another lives at Harford Mills, and his son, L. E. Hay, is a merchant of Harford Mills.
Following is a list of the brave sons of Harford who went forth at the call of their country, with the amounts paid them as bounties, under the different calls of the government for troops: --
Call of October 17th, 1863. Bounty paid, $300. Total, $6,900. --- James Hyde, Alexander Neff, Otis C. Clark, Isaac E. Keech, Squire Morton, Emery W. Smith, Prentis Elliott, Josephus Haskell, Manville P. Teed, Hallet Shepard, David Douglass, Samuel I. Huslander, Joseph Neff, George W. Lason, Rutger B. Marsh, Miles R. Foster, Sylvester M. Foster, Taylor Maricle, Hugh Caton, Riley D. Sheppard, Cornelius Morrison, Halsey E. Leonard, Francis L. Sheppard.
Call of July 18th, 1864. Bounty paid, $1,000, except $700 to one, and $500 to one. Total bounty, $14,200. Total brokerage, $465. --- Gilbert James, Isaac Hultz, James Matterson, Alexander Ogden, Nelson Thompson, James Ryan, Thomas Ryan, Henry Adams, Erastus Babcock, Asahel Tillotson, Benjamin H. Decker, Alonzo Perry, William H. Tarbox, Robert P. Hopkins, Patrick Dunn, H. D. Goddard.
Call of December 19th, 1864. Bounty paid, $600, except $500 to one. Total, $5,300. Brokerage, $135. --- Alexander Dalziel, Charles H. Chichester, Frederick J. Turner, John Gregory, Thomas Swift, George Silas, James Callaghan, Charles H. Bennett, Thomas Miller.
Recapitulation. --- Paid for filling quotas, calls of October 17th, 1863, February, 1864, March, 1864, $6,900. Paid for filling quota, call July 18th, 1864, $14,575. Paid for filling quota, call December 19th, 1864, $5,435. Grand total, $26,910.
Following is a list of the supervisors and town clerks of Harford from its organization to the present time, with the exception of the year 1851, of which there is no record available. The name of the supervisor appears first in each instance: Josiah Hart, Oren M. Moore, 1846; Alanson Burlingame, Oren M. Moore, 1847-48; David Davis, Oren M. Moore, 1849; A. F. Delavergne, Alfred A. Jones, 1850; Josiah Rood, Wm. Lincoln, 1852; Josiah Rood, J. H. Knapp, 1853; J. H. Knapp, A. Burlingame, 1854; J. W. Rood, Jas. P. Smith, 1855; Erving Taintor, S. W. Nelson, 1856-57; J. J. Freer, S. W. Nelson, 1858; J. H. Knapp, James Heath, 1859; J. H. Knapp, Wm. Vorhees, 1860; S. W. Nelson, Daniel H. Miller, 1861-62; Robert Purvis, Homer J. Brown, 1863; Erving Taintor, Homer J. Brown, 1864; Erving Taintor, B. F. Jones, 1865; Erving Taintor, D. H. Miller, 1866-67; S. H. Steele, L. W. Tanner, 1868-69; S. H. Steele, H. J. Brown, 1870; S. H. Steele, L. W. Tanner, 1871; W. J. Baker, L. W. Tanner, 1872; S. H. Steele, M. S. Day, 1873-74; S. H. Steele, L. W. Tanner, 1875; S. H. Steele, A. W. Tyler, 1876; S. H. Steele, L. W. Tanner, 1877; S. H. Steele, B. F. Silsbee, 1878; S. H. Steele, J. C. Edmunds, 1879-80; A. W. Clinton, J. C. Edmunds, 1881; A. W. Clinton, H. T. Bushnell, 1882; H. C. Gray, G. A. Wavle, 1883; H. T. Bushnell, C. A. Sessions, 1884.
In 1849 David Davis, and in 1859, J. H. Knapp were appointed by the board, the vote being a tie.
The officers of the town of Harford for the year 1884 are as follows: ---
Supervisor --- H. T. Bushnell.
Town clerk --- C. A. Sessions.
Justices of the peace --- M. S. Day, E. J. Holdridge, A. W. Brown, R. Blodgett.
Assessors --- A. W. Tyler, John McPherson, Sherman Morse.
Overseers of the poor --- Philo A. Johnson, George R. Wilcox.
Collector --- Willis Johnson.
Constables --- Edwin Dawson, John C. Edmunds, Charles Lang, Smith Allen.
Inspectors of election ---Henry D. Bristol, E. Phelps Corbin, Jerome Maricle.
Sealer of weights and measures --- John K. Miller.
The village of Harford is a pretty hamlet in the southwestern part of the town, and contains two churches, three stores, two hotels, several shops and about forty dwellings. It is situated towards the northern limits of what was known many years ago as "Virgil Flats." The first settlements on the site of the village have already been detailed, and it remains only to notice the business places, etc. It is said that Calvin Totman was the first merchant here, but removed his goods at a subsequent date to "Chicken Point." Theodore Hart began selling goods here before 1830, where the school-house now stands. Mr. Hart was the first postmaster in 1825-26, the village then being called Worthington. It was soon, however, changed to its present name. Henry Lyman succeeded Mr. Hart as a merchant, in the same building, for about two years, and failed. His place was taken by Royce & Stevens. The store was burned about the year 1849.
In the mean time Samuel Hart built the original store on the site now occupied by Holden & Bushnell. Hart was succeeded by Smith & Tyler, and they by Samuel R. Griffin about 1854. He died and his son-in-law, Samuel W. Winston, closed up the estate. The store stood empty for a time when it was leased in 1875 by H. T. Bushnell, who conducted it for three years. The building was then bought by Mr. Holden, who rebuilt and added to it. Mr. Bushnell, who had been away for one year, returned in 1880, since which time the firm has been doing a good business as Holden & Bushnell.
When Mr. Bushnell first came to Harford in 1872, he began mercantile business with J. C. Stewart, in the Southern Central building. They were succeeded by the present proprietors, R. J. Barnard & Son.
In 1878 the firm of Edmunds & Abels opened a meat market in the old Presbyterian conference room. After about a year Lyman Austin bought out Abels. The new firm continued there about two years when they added groceries to their business and removed to their present location in the old hotel. This store was formerly occupied by Tyler & Holden. Tyler's interest was subsequently purchased by L. C. Ball, about 1870. The partners divided the business in 1873, Mr. Holden going out; Johnson & Tyler continued together in that location until 1880.
Hotels. --- The first hotel in the village was kept by Levi Moore, where the Widow Moore lives. Jacob Hemingway built the first installment of the old hotel now standing, about 1820. Orville Hart bought the house in 1838 and in turn sold it to a man named Bradley, who was also a tailor and worked at that business in a room of the house. A year or two later he sold to a Mr. McWhorter, who was succeeded about two years later by Samson & Terpening. The latter remained in the firm one year and Mr. Samson kept the house three years longer. Then Philip Hardenburg took the property (1856) and owned and managed the house until 1873, when he sold it to M. W. Hotchkiss. He sold it to James Joyner, who still keeps it.
In 1871, soon after the completion of the railroad, the brilliant anticipations of the inhabitants of Harford village as the to future of the place, led twenty-two of their number to form a stock company for the erection of a large hotel near the railroad station. This resulted in the building of the Southern Central House, a large and handsome three-story structure, costing more than $12,000. As is too often the case under such circumstances, the investment proved an unfortunate one. The house was opened by Chas. B. Ellis, but it has never proved a source of much profit, and has since changed hands several times, having been kept by C. Shafer, Capt. Signor, Fred Rainsford, M. W. Hotchkiss and now by John Stewart.
Blacksmiths. --- Seneca Howard was the earliest blacksmith in the village of whom we have any information. He was here as early as 1830; his shop stood near the site of the present hotel barn. He was succeeded by Fay Royce, and he by M. B. Williams, who built his shop on the Burlingame place about the year 1842. Nathaniel Austin and Teal Hackett were in the business later. Wesley Main now carries on the business, and Frank Maricle occupies a shop built by Mr. Hardenburg. Chas. Leonard began in the business in 1880.
Warner Stratton was a wagon maker where Burt Sessions lives about the year 1842. Nathaniel Tompkins was located in that business soon afterward in the old two story building standing near the bridge. Abram Banker was in the same building later. George Guire and Frank Maricle are now engaged in the business.
Churches. --- The old Union Church was erected in the year 1835 by all the Christians in the vicinity, the Universalists being prominent in the work. This was considered quite an event and most of the men in the community turned out to the "raising." The omnipresent whisky jug was there and circulated, as was the custom during that period at all similar undertakings. It is said that the late Lansing Hay mounted the top timber of the spire after the frame was up, swung the jug aloft and christened the building "The Union Church of Virgil Flats." The structure has since been rebuilt and passed into the control of the Presbyterian denomination, and later has become Congregational. The society has been weak for some years and there is no settled pastor at the present time.
The Methodist Church was built about the year 1858, and was rebuilt in 1882. Rev. Mr. Legg is pastor at the present time.
The first cheese factory was built on the site of the present factory about the year 1874, by D. B. Marsh. He operated it about two years when he failed and the factory was soon afterward burned. The new factory was built by Cornelius Schermerhorn some eight years since. He conducted it until 1884, when he sold it to John Blumers. It is now operated for the manufacture of several different kinds of fine cheese and first-class butter, which is sold in New York.
The first post-office was established at Harford in about the year 1826, under the name of "Worthington," which was subsequently changed to its present name. Theodore Hart was the first postmaster. Samuel Nelson had charge of the office for a long period, but in just what years we are not informed. He was succeeded by L. C. Ball and the office was taken in June, 1874, by Samuel L. Holden.
Physicians. --- The names of Drs. Fox, Owen, Terry, Houghtaling, Davis and Shipman have been given us as among the early physicians of Harford. Dr. Terry was here in 1832. Dr. Ellis was in the town as early as 1820 and lived where Worden Tarbox now resides. These physicians practiced in the town during periods of different lengths, and were followed by Dr. J. H. Knapp. Dr. Knapp became a member of the County Medical Society in 1858, and was elected its president in 1861 and again in 1867. He is a man of more than ordinary prominence in the profession and has a large practice.
Dr. E. A. Allen is a graduate of the New York Eclectic Medical College in 1879, and came to Harford in 1880. He is a member of the Central New York Medical Association and practices in the homeopathic school.
The first school in the town was taught by Betsey Curran in the winter of 1806-07, in the house afterward occupied by Abner Rounsville. The first school-house in the village of Harford was built probably as early as 1820 and stood near the site of the cheese factory; the next was located on the site of the present school-house, but has been rebuilt and otherwise greatly improved. An excellent school is now kept there.
The steam saw-mill of A. D. & I. D. Hemingway was built in 1867. It has since passed into the possession of H. W. Bradley, who now owns it and runs it a part of the time. Since the forests have been mostly cleared away, such mills find less and less to feed them.
This is a hamlet situated about one and a half miles south of Harford village, on the line of the Southern Central Railroad, and contains two stores, a church, a hotel, a steam saw-mill, a grist-mill, several shops and about thirty dwellings. Settlements on the site of the hamlet were made a little later than in the vicinity of Harford village and at what was called "Chicken Point." A post-office was established here about the year 1866, with David Wilcox as postmaster; it was then called South Harford, but was subsequently given its present name.
Since the railroad was completed this has been a prominent shipping point for lumber, shingles, posts, etc., and the inhabitants shared to some extent the bright anticipations of their neighbors as to the future of the place, leading to the erection of the large hotel, the Owego Valley House, and other buildings which were, perhaps, beyond the demands of the place.
A grist-mill was built at Harford Mills about 1820, by Nathan Heaton, which stood near the site of the present mill. The old mill was afterward used as a shed for the present mill, which was built by John C. Davis in 1841. It has since been rebuilt and improved at different times and changed hands a good many times; it is now owned by Simon Seaman and leased by the Myers brothers.
Another grist-mill was built previous to the erection of the Heaton mill, but the date of its completion is not available. It was built by a man named Clapp on Michigan creek, a little way from the corners of the east and west road. He made his dam by placing a log across the channel from the rocks on either side, driving down posts and then planked it up perpendicularly. The consequence of this mistaken engineering method was that the bottom of the dam swung outward with the pressure of the water above, and the dam hung like a gate to the log across the gulf. Clapp did not operate the mill after this calamity.
Simeon R. Griffin built the first steam saw-mill at Harford Mills near the corners of the road leading to Marathon, in 1861-62. He sold it to Perrigo & Fields about the year 1867; they operated it about four years, when it was transferred to Coots & Lytle. The latter ran it alone a year or two and failed. The assignee sold the property to R. W. Clinton, who moved it near to the railroad station and rebuilt it in 1874. It was burned down in 1880 and rebuilt to its present form.
In the same year that he erected the mill Mr. Clinton built the store building now occupied by Clintons & Chappuys. Clintons & Bristol, Clintons & Clark and Clintons & Elwell conducted the store before the present firm was formed.
The first store at Harford Mills was built by Charles Baker. The building is now occupied as a residence by the Widow Hazen. The store was kept there successively by Elisha Hart, P. L. Hardenburg, Mr. Burghart, W. J. Baker, who was there in 1870 and was closed up; Geo. Peters, who also closed out his business, and finally by Carrie Tarbox. No store has been open there for about seven years.
L. E. Hay began business in his present location in 1870, having erected the building. He has done a large business since that time in selling goods, buying and shipping produce, etc.
The hotel was built in 1870 by George W. Griggs. He was succeeded by Capt. Signor, John Hammond, Griggs & Kincaid, Kincaid alone, George Saltsman, O. M. Sears & Son and Henry Wavle, who is the present proprietor.
Solomon Smedley was one of the earliest blacksmiths at Harford Mills. A man named Rowley then began the business and Chauncey Crum opened a shop about forty years ago. He was located where Damon Miller has carried on the business for nearly thirty years. Chester Johnson also had the shop at that point for a time. Eron Hackett and Lewis Rood, with Mr. Miller, are the present blacksmiths.
Chas. W. Harrington is the first harnessmaker in the place, having occupied his present location since 1865.
William Hammond is the present wagon maker and A. W. Brown does repairing in the same line.
The postmasters of the place since David Wilcox have been W. J. Baker, George Frank, A. W. Clinton and the present incumbent of the office, A. Clinton.
Churches. --- Meetings have been held at Harford Mills since an early day, in private houses, school-houses, etc., by the Christian denomination and the Methodists. Among those who have ministered to the people have been Elders Wade, Edward Tyler, Fletcher and Austin Damon, who is the present pastor. Methodist services have been conducted by ministers from Harford at different times. The handsome little church was built by a union of the Christians in the vicinity in 1872, chiefly under the direction of H. C. Gray. The property had to be sold subsequently on a mortgage and was purchased by eight of the leading men of the place, who give the use of it for religious purposes.
You are our 8975 visitor -- since the counter was installed on June 19, 2000