Article Number Ten - Wright and More Families - Saybrook Creek

Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on July 12, 1879, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided by the Durham Center Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell



As we proceed eastward, and southward from Saybrook Hill, we come to Saybrook creek, which has its rise about two miles northeast of the village of Rensselaerville.  About one and a half miles from its source, there is a dam thrown across the stream, which forms a beautiful sheet of water about three-fourths of a mile long, and one-fourth of a mile wide.  It was formerly called the Rensselaerville Pond, but is now "the Reservoir."  Below this dam, the stream falls 350 or 400 feet in a short distance by a series of rapids and cataracts, as it rushes through the gorge down past the Woolen Factory and the south part of the village, until it reaches the valley south of Rensselaerville.  From here to Medusa it flows quietly through a pleasant valley, turning the wheels of Grist Mills, Saw Mills, and a Paper Mill (formerly), until it reaches the site of Saybrook saw mill, now owned by Addison Utter.  We have records to show that this mill was built as early as the year 1788, for on the 20th of April 1789, we find Selah Strong "sledding" 770 feet of boards from this mill for Silas Sears Fordham.  The original mill has long since disappeared, and its site has been occupied by a Carding Machine and Fulling Mill, then by a Grist Mill, until within a few years; and now a nice new saw mill and lumber house occupy the ground.  Who built the first mill here is uncertain; perhaps it was James Utter, Sr., but more likely it was Joseph Wright, although it was afterward owned by Silas Stannard. 
 
This Joseph Wright was full of tricks. One night there was a gathering of young people from Wright street at the house of Richard Benjamin, (who built and occupied the old house near Utter's saw mill as a public house),  for a dance. They must have walked to the place, for they crossed the mill dam just below the house in a skiff.  While they were engaged in their frolic, "Joe" Wright went and cut a hole in the bottom of their boat, and fitted a piece of board over it so nicely that the boat did not leak. To this piece of board he attached a strong cord about twenty feet long, fastening one end of this cord to a short stake driven in the ground near the shore. When the party broke up, the young people got into the boat and launched forth; but they soon got to the "end of their rope," the water came rushing in, and with screams and wet feet, they beat a hasty retreat.
 
Deacon George Wright, one of the first settlers in Wright street, came from Saybrook, Conn., very early in the history of the town, and lived on the farm now owned by Silas Wright, his grandson. He was a soldier in the Revolution---was a musician for his company.  He had a large family; his sons were Ambrose, Wise, Benjamin, Christopher, George and James.  They nearly all had large families, and their descendants are found in nearly every State of the Union.  Bradford, Anson, and Silas, grandsons of Deacon George Wright, still live in the neighborhood.  Eliakim Stannard, another early settler of Wright street, was born in Chillingford, Conn., Aug 31, 1752; and married Bathiah Kelsey, who was born March 15th, 1758. They had nine children, two of whom, Charles, aged 88, and Lyman, aged 83, are still living.  They lived on the farm formerly owned by Josiah Stannard, and now by Clark, his son. He also was a Revolutionary soldier, and when a company of light Infantry was formed in this town, he was chosen its Captain.  He was a member of the Presbyterian church of Durham, N.Y., uniting on the 3rd day of May, 1810, at which time fifty-six persons were received in one day.  Silas, one of his sons, was a soldier in the war of 1812.  His wife was a daughter of Daniel Benjamin, and they were the parents of Eli and "Grove" Stannard.  Lyman Stannard married Lodema Benjamin, a daughter of Richard Benjamin. She died in 1873.  He lived for many years on the farm now owned by his son Ransom.  He now lives in a good old age near Ding's mill.  His six children are somewhat scattered in various parts of the country. He has been honored by his townsmen with the office of Supervisor for two terms.
 
Among the other early settlers of this part of the town was Philip More, who lives on the old "More farm", now owned by Lewis Sherrill, of Greenville.  He had four sons, viz,:  William, Jacob, John, and Edward;  John was the father of Lafayette More, and lived and died near Livingstonville.  Edward lived and died a few years ago on the farm now owned by Madison More, his son. John Showerman lived on the farm lately owned by Joshua Tanner. He had four sons, Peter, Andrus, Tunis, and John.  I do not know that any of the names live in the town now.  The country about which this settlement belonged to Cockburn's Patent.  It appears that he was a kind landlord, and fond of children withal. I am told that when he went about to visit his tenants, he would fill his pockets with pennies, and when he came to a house where there was a lot of boys, he would take out a handful of them and throw them on the floor to see the boys scramble for them, so that although he collected rents of the fathers, his coming was a delight to the boys.  About this time there was a man by the name of Brown, who carried the mail, via. Freehold, on horse back, to and from Catskill, and as there was no Post-office near, he stopped at every house in the settlement, blowing his horn as a signal of his approach.
 
All this region was heavily timbered with pine and the hard woods, and after a good road was built to Catskill and Coxsackie, thousands of feet of lumber and shingles were marketed. Tanneries sprang up, and at one time the town of Durham was the leading town in the County, and Greene was the leading county in the State in that branch of industry. Sheep were raised in large numbers, and the wool was manufactured at home, giving employment to numerous carding machines and fulling mills, and to the mothers and sisters in spinning and weaving and making flannel shirts, woolen dresses and homemade suits, (full cloth as it was called) for the men and boys.

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