HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF LAPEER
This town embraces the southeastern corner of the original township of Virgil, and was not organized until the 2d of May, 1845. It lies upon the high ridges that rise west of the Tioughnioga river, and is upon the southern border of the country, just west of the center. It is bounded on the north by Virgil; on the east by Marathon; on the south by Broome and Tioga counties, and on the west by Harford.
The surface of the town is, for the most part, hilly and rugged. The declivities of the hills bordering upon the river are precipitous. Luce Hill, in the northwestern part of the town, is the highest point, rising from 1600 to 1700 feet above the tide. The hills are laterally cut by narrow ravines worn by small streams. Fall creek runs through the town, and upon this stream, near the southern border of the town, is Huntís falls, a beautiful cascade fifty or sixty feet in height. The soil of the town is a sandy, gravelly loam.
The first settlement in Lapeer was made by a colored man named Primus Grant; he purchased lot 594, and settled on it in 1794. He was a native of Guinea, and the farm on which he lived long bore that name. He died there and was buried on one of the high bluffs which overlook the stream known as the Big brook. The Grant farm is now owned by Orlando Jennings.
Peter Gray, a native of Fishkill, Duchess county, was the first white settler in the town. He came from Ulster (Sullivan) county in July, 1802, and located on lot 70. His son, Ogden Gray, afterward lived on the farm, which is now occupied by a younger Peter Gray. He left a respectable family of children, the youngest of whom became the wife of Dan C. Squires; she is now dead.
In the year 1803 Seth Jennings settled on lot 597, where he remained until his death; he was from Connecticut. His son, Harry Jennings, lived in Harford where he died. Seth Jenningsís sons were Rufus, Alfred and Harry. Rufus settled where Aaron Genung now lives, and Alfred where George Jennings lives. The Seth Jennings farm is now owned by D. D. Dye.
Dan C. Squires, one of the foremost citizens of this town was born on the 23d of November, 1798. His father was John S. Squires, a native of Connecticut, who removed to Lapeer from Lisle, Broome county, and settled on lot 68, in 1807. Dan C. Squires acquired a good education in spite of his limited opportunities, which enabled him to fill many public offices and places of trust with signal ability. It is related of him that his youthful desire to obtain an education led him to lie on the hearthstone, often the entire night, studying by the fitful light of a pine knot, going to his arduous farm labors the next day. Mr. Squires held the office of justice of the peace twenty-eight years; supervisor of the town fourteen years, and was chairman of the board six years; was superintendent of schools several years and school commissioner one term; justice of sessions three years and Member of Assembly in 1865 and 1872. Mr. Squires was a successful school teacher for some years, and the faith of his townspeople in his integrity often led to his being called upon to administer estates. He was instrumental in the procuring the division of the town and in giving the name of Lapeer to the new organization. He served twenty-two years in the militia of the State, holding the offices of captain, lieutenant-colonel and colonel. In early life he interested himself in religious matters and was among the first to espouse the cause of temperance, while the anti-slavery movement found in him a courageous worker. James S. Squires, a prominent citizen of Cortland village, was a brother of Dan C. Squires.
Timothy Robertson, from Connecticut, came to Lapeer about 1803 or 1804, and lived for a short time with Seth Jennings. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and was with Montgomery at the storming of Quebec. He had a son, Eliphalet Robertson, who made his home in Lapeer.
Thomas Kingsbury and Robert H. Wheeler settled in the southeast part of the town in 1804. The former was a Revolutionary soldier and drew a pension as such. One of his daughters married Marvin Balch. Kingsbury and Wheeler were both from Connecticut.
Simeon Luce located on lot 57, in 1805. It is believed that he kept the first tavern in the town. He was an ingenious mechanic and a useful citizen generally. He lived to a very old age and left a large family. Martin Luce, long a prominent resident of Virgil, was a son.
In 1806 Zachariah Squires and Robert Smith located on lot 70. The former was the father of Col. William Squires, afterward of Marathon. Mr. Smith was an officer in the Revolutionary army and was a pensioner.
James Richards settled on lot 79 in 1807, on the farm now owned by John P. Sessions.
Sixteen soldiers of the Revolution settled in Lapeer, all but one of whom died here. We have been able to obtain the names of all but two. They were Robert Smith, George Totman, Thomas Kingsbury, Stephen Kelly, Oliver Hopkins, William Parker, David Crowell, Nathan Smith, Henry Turk, Nathan Walker, Timothy Robertson, Samuel Soule, Asa Parker and James Pollard.
Asa Hunt, founder of Huntís Corners, was a native of Windham, Windham county, Conn. When eighteen years of age he went to Boston, Mass., and in 1822 came on foot to Harford, locating on lot 41, where he remained until 1854, when he went to Marathon, where he now lives. His paternal grandfather was a Revolutionary soldier, whose heroic wife did her share in the great struggle by making gunpowder and casting bullets for her husbandís use. He married Sally Johnson, daughter of Abner Johnson, who settled on lot 89. Mr. Hunt has been engaged chiefly in agriculture, but has also carried on a mercantile business in several different localities. He has been justice of the peace and supervisor. His son, Wm. E. Hunt, who resides on the homestead, has been a prominent citizen of the town; was elected supervisor in 1866, 1879 and 1881; has held the office of justice of the peace seventeen years and town clerk several terms.
An incident in the life of Mr. Hunt will bear relating. While a boy in Boston he worked for a man named Sigourney, and by stringent economy saved the sum of five dollars, which he placed in the State Savings Bank of that city. Not long afterward he learned of the downfall of that institution. With shattered faith in monetary establishments he started for New York, without making any attempt to regain his deposit. Two years ago, in 1882, more than sixty years after this occurrence, he was surprised by a notification that the defunct bank was ready to settle his account, and he received a draft for $79.98. His unfortunate Boston experience had entirely escaped his memory. Mr. Huntís father-in-law, Abner Johnson, died many years ago, from the effects of a slight cut on his hand.
Jesse Storrs was an early resident of this town, who subsequently became known as a great nursery man throughout a large part of the country. He was a school-teacher in his early life, and on a small property which he owned, turned his attention to the raising of fruit trees. He subsequently sold out and removed to Painesville, Ohio, where he was long the head of the nursery house of Storrs, Harrison & Co. He died a few years since.
It will be correctly inferred that a large proportion of the settlement in this town has been effected during a comparatively recent period. It is within the memory of living men and women, that the greater portion of the land was forest-covered, while the howl of the wolf and pantherís scream is not forgotten by them.1 We have given a majority of the names and locations of the earlier pioneers, who, with their immediate successors and co-laborers, laid low the heavy forests and brought the land into a state of cultivation that places the town in a position that compares favorably with others in the county.
The first grist-mill in this town was erected by Simeon Luce, in 1827. Previous to that comparatively recent date, the inhabitants of Lapeer, like their brethren in surrounding towns at an early period, were compelled to go long distances in order to get the most imperative necessity of the table --- corn meal --- or else manufacture it themselves in the primitive way. We have not learned when this mill ceased operation, but there is now no grist-mill in the town.
In 1825 Samuel and John Gee built the first saw-mill; this was followed by a number of similar mills in different parts of the town where the brooks supplied sufficient water to run them. But the streams have all decreased in volume with the falling of the forests, and the water-mills have gradually been abandoned. The Gees were succeeded in their mill by Isaac Barrows; but it ceased operation long ago. Harry Jennings owned the last water-power saw-mill, which was burned many years since.
Sidney Pease built his steam saw-mill in 1874. He has in connection with it a feed-mill, a planer and matcher, and a cider-mill, doing a comparatively large business.
John Butterfield built a tannery just west of the Corners, which was subsequently purchased by Stephen Atwood and removed to and upon Spring brook, where it burned in 1883. It formerly did a good business, which, however, declined in later years.
Hunt & Kelly were the first merchants in the town of Lapeer, Mr. Hunt afterward running the business alone. In 1855 W. E. Hunt and Lewis Swift became the proprietors, continuing together until 1860, when the mercantile business at that point was abandoned.
The trading for the town during earlier years was done largely at Virgil Corners.
Asa Hunt kept the first and only tavern in the town, at Huntís Corners; this was, however, scarcely a regular public house, but was opened hospitably to whoever happened to require such accommodations. He purchased of John Smith the farm adjoining his own and removed from his own log-house into the other, which was a framed structure and the second one of that description built in the town. This building was afterward moved to its present location, where it was occupied by William E. Hunt, a son of Asa Hunt. The house in now the property of Mrs. Betsey Ann Peck. It is worthy of remark that in all these years no death has ever occurred in this house. There is now no hotel in the town.
The first framed house in the town was built by Origen Roice, and is now owned by Philip Clark and used as a barn.
There are two cheese factories in the town. The one at Huntís Corners was erected in 1875, by a stock company. There were twenty shares of stock of $100 each. The company was called the "Huntís Corners Cheese and Butter Company," and the following were the original shareholders: O. S. Day, G. H. Brown, Wm. E. Hunt, E. D. Harris, John Tarble, A. B. Jennings, D. R. Jennings, Geo. W. Goodale, Philander Jennings, Talma Hill, H. H. J. Wattles, Asa Hunt, Seymour Hultz, John P. Sessions, S. S. Bliss, S. S. Houghtaling, Eugene Cleaveland.
The present owners of the factory are: Asa Hunt, W. E. Hunt, Geo. H. Littlewood, C. Day, John Tarble, W. Johnson, John P. Sessions, Geo. Goodale, Sally Cleaveland, Talma Hill. Mr. Littlewood is business manager of the factory for 1884. The product of the factory for 1883 was 47,329 pounds of cheese; this sold for $4,525.60.
The second cheese factory was built by E. D. Harris in 1877 and is now owned by Geo. Goodale.
Churches. --- A church of Free or Open Communion Baptists was formed in the southeast part of this town about the year 1820, by Elder Lake, which embraced members from Marathon and Lisle. Their preachers were Elders Lake, Hart and Matthews. The society was at one period quite strong, numbering nearly eighty members. The Methodists also held frequent meetings in that part of the town and there was a church of the Christian order that held meetings in a school-house near the former residence of Dan C. Squires.
There is but one church edifice in the town; this is located at Huntís Corners and is called the Union Church. It was built in 1868. The original trustees were Wm. E. Hunt, S. Day, H. J. Wattles, Stephen Atwood, Miles Pollard, Wm. E. Hunt, Nelson Cleaveland, C. L. Day, Philip E. Clark.
Dr. Charles Thomas was the only physician who ever located in Lapeer. He became a member of the County Medical Society in 1848. He only remained here about two years, beginning in the year just mentioned.
Following is a list of the soldiers who enlisted from this town in the last war, under the calls of the president, and who were paid bounties for their services: ----
Call of October 17th, 1863. Bounty paid $300. Total $2,400. --- Edgar Freeman, Charles N. Eassley, Lewis Rood, Lynden Parker, Eli Parker, James M. Kells, Thomas B. Hopkins, Jerome W. Case.
Call of July 18th, 1864. Bounty paid $900; except $1,000 to one, and $600 to one. Total, $11,500. Brokerage, $325. ---- John Line, W. E. Stockwell, Furman Cook, David B. Runyan, Job Ayers, Webster Parker, Burdett Hammond, Levi Bliss, William W. Parker, Stephen Potter, Orin S. Day, James W. Parker, Peter Michaelson.
Recapitulation. ---- Paid for filling quotas, calls October 17th, 1863, February, 1864, and March, 1864, $2,400. Paid for filling quota, call July 18th, 1864, $11,825. Grand total, $14,225.
Following are the present officers of the town of Lapeer (1884): ----
Supervisor --- S. B. Jemison.
Town clerk --- J. L. Talbot.
Justices of the peace --- Wm. E. Hunt, Leroy Smith, A. B. Johnson, A. A. Alvord.
Assessors --- Mortimer Parker, Henry Hay, A. B. Jennings.
Constables --- Egbert Peak, J. C. Gray.
Collector --- Jason Gray.
Game constable --- John Q. Talbot.
Inspectors of election --- Fred Pollard, Fred Kinney.
Following is a list of the supervisors of Lapeer from the formation of the town to the present time, with the years of their service: ---
Dan C. Squires, 1847; Asa Hunt, 1848-49; Noah Pollard, 1850; Ogden Gray, 1851; Royal Johnson, 1852; Elijah Freeman, 1853; Ogden Gray, 1854; Royal Johnson, 1855; Dan C. Squires, 1856; Elijah Freeman, 1857; Dan C. Squires, 1858; D. O. Surdam, 1859-60; Royal Johnson, 1861; D. O. Surdam, 1862 to 1865 inclusive; Dan C. Squires, 1866; D. O. Surdam, 1867; Dan C. Squires, 1868 to 1871 inclusive; Royal Johnson, 1872; Peter N. Gray, 1873; Walter L. Chaplin, 1874; Peter N. Gray, 1875; Wm. E. Hunt, 1876; Jerome Squires, 1877-78; Wm. E. Hunt, 1879; James Robinson, 1880; Wm. E. Hunt, 1881; F. J. Squires, 1882; Leroe Smith, 1883; S. B. Jemison, 1884.
1A few rods to the south of the residence of H. Genung, was, at former period, an Indian camping ground. This was on a bluff overlooking and close to the Big brook. From the banks of this stream flowed beautiful rivulets of cool, transparent water. Here, too, were immense forests of elms, basswood, maple and other timber, the familiar resort of the black bear, once so plenty in Cortland county. Deer, too, roamed the hills and valleys. The wolf and panther made night hideous with their discordant notes of revelry. From this camping ground the Indians daily radiated in quest of game and fish, and at night returned to their cabins loaded with peltry, the products of the chase.
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