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History of the Town of Columbia
From Nathaniel Benton's History of Herkimer County, 1856.


Contains that part of the county bounded easterly by a line beginning at a maple tree, which stands a small distance easterly from the dwelling house heretofore or late of Abraham Lighthall, at the southeasterly corner of Young's patent, and running thence north twenty-eight degrees east, until it strikes the south line of the town of German Flats, at the distance of one hundred chains, easterly of the northwesterly corner of Henderson's patent, on the north line thereof; northerly, by German Flats, southerly, by the bounds of the county, and westerly, by Litchfield and Winfield.

This town contains the whole of Staley's second tract, except one tier and a half of lots on the westerly bounds, it also contains a small triangular piece, from the northwest corner of Henderson's patent, and the whole of the patent, to Conerad Frank and others, except seven lots on the eastern bounds thereof.

Columbia was settled before the revolution, by several German families from the Mohawk river. The heads of the families, who made one of the settlements, were, Conrad Orendorff, Conrad Frank, Conrad Fulmer, Frederick Christman, Timothy Frank, Nicholas Lighthall, Joseph Moyer and Henry Frink. The place where these families were seated was known as "Coonrodstown," before Columbia was organized, in 1812, and is to this day. A few Germans had also seated themselves at a place then and since called Elizabethtown, to commemorate the name of one or more German matrons among the settlers.

When the new town was about to be set off, and the inhabitants were casting about for a name, some of them desired to have it called Conrad. This was rejected, on account of the Coonish sound it had received, by a mispronunciation. Conrad is quite as euphonious as Columbia, and a more ancient name, by several hundred years, than Columbus, from which the town derived its name. There may have been some influential inhabitants in the territory, who had emigrated from Columbia county, and exerted an influence on this occasion; and, although feeling inclined to honor their native county, they would not hope the new town should be a political copyist of its then prominent namesake. Columbia is purely an agricultural town. The north line of it is about four miles from the canal; without villages, except Cedarville, a portion of which extends into it; it is somewhat elevated; well supplied with water, but the surface can not be called broken. It is slowly losing its population; a strong indication that cheese making engrosses the farmers' attention, although hop and grain growing is not neglected. In former times, one hundred acre farm lots seemed to content our people; now, that extent of domain is quite too limited. Nor does a small diminuation of population in our agricultural towns indicate, in the least, a lack of prosperity, or a want of wealth among those who remain. There are often those, who may wish to seek new homes for increasing families, and they soon find neighbors ready and willing to purchase their farms.

Asahel Alfred settled in this town in 1791. He was a native of Connecticut, a farmer and an honest man, of steady, industrious habits and good morals. He died in June, 1853, aged 93 years, having always resided on the farm on which he first located, and which was occupied by his son Cyrus in the old age of the father.

He was a soldier of the revolution, having entered the service of his country in his fifteenth year. He served more than three years. He was in the battle of Monmouth; taken prisoner at the Cedars, in Canada, after a smart conflict between the Americans and a party of the enemy, consisting of whites and Indians, and as usual in such cases, both parties took their covers of stumps and trees. Alfred was fired at by an Indian, but not hit. A second shot was made at him, and the ball struck the stump behind which he stood. Mr. Alfred discovered the Indian's head exposed while loading the third time, took deliberate aim at him, fired, and was not again molested from that quarter. The Americans were outnumbered and made prisoners, and as soon as they surrendered, the Indians stripped them of all their clothing except their shirts and pantaloons. They took his hat, coat, vest, neckerchief and silver knee and shoe buckles. When on the march to the British post, one of Mr. Alfred's fellow prisoners being feeble, and not able to keep up with the rest, fell behind, and Alfred remained with him to help him along. While making their way as well as they could, an Indian came up, and, putting the muzzle of his gun close to the sick prisoner's head, blew out his brains. Mr. Alfred was not slow to overtake his fellow prisoners. He was at the capture of Burgoyne and the British army.

My informant, who is a most excellent judge of such matters, says he was a good marksman, and a dead shot at fair rifle distance. He would often relate many interesting incidents that happened to the scouting parties he was engaged in. This service suited him much better than the camp. He was very fond of hunting, and while living on his farm, it was not uncommon for him, after game became scarce in his neighborhood, to leave home in the fall of the year, and be absent from it weeks, on hunting excursions.