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


Contains that part of the county beginning on the middle line in Glen's purchase, in the west bounds of Manheim, and running thence westerly along the said middle line of Glen's purchase to the southwest corner of lot number seven; thence northerly to the northeast corner of lot number five in said purchase; thence westerly along the line between lots number five and six, and the same continued to the West Canada creek; thence up and along the said creek, to the town of Newport; then along the bounds of Newport to the southwest corner of Norway; then along the south bounds of Norway, east to the west bounds of Salisbury; and then south along the same, to the place of beginning.

These bounds have been changed. See subdivision 7, Little Falls, erected in 1829.

This town contains within its limits nearly the whole of Glen's purchase lying north of the base or middle line of said purchase, and a portion of the first allotment of the Royal grant.

There was a German settlement in this town before the revolution, upon what has been called in modern times the Top notch, near the Manheim town line, and about four miles north of Little Falls. Among these German families were the Kellers, Windeckers, Pickerts and others, not of the Burnetsfield patentees, but who came up from the lower Mohawk valley, and seated themselves in Glen's purchase, under the patronage of some of its owners. Mr. Cornelius Chatfield arrived within the territory of the present town of Fairfield, with his family, March 24th, 1785, and settled near or at the spot where the village now is. He is supposed to have been the first New Englander who came into the county after the war, for the purpose of settling on the Royal grant. Mr. Abijah Mann, the father of the Hon. Abijah Mann, Jr., arrived in May following, and located a little west of Fairfield village. There was a small Indian orchard upon or near the lands taken up by Mr. Mann, and the Indians, many years after the revolution, would annually cluster around it, as a loved and venerated spot. A visit, perhaps, to the resting place of some distinguished brave, or some relative of the visitants. This duty was performed so long as the Great Spirit required it.

About the year 1770, three families, Maltanner, Goodbread or Goodbrodt, and Shaver or Shaffer, located about half a mile northeast of Fairfield village, in one neighborhood. This place is now called Maltanner's creek or spring. These people were sent there by Sir William Johnson, to make an opening upon his Royal grant. They had never been suspected by the Americans of being friendly to their cause; nor could they be charged with disloyalty to the king. In 1779, a party of Indians came to this little settlement, but one of their number being sick, they kept shy, as an Indian can, about ten days, to allow their comrade to recover, when, with a yell and a whoop, and brandishing their tomahawks, they fell upon Sir John Johnson's tenants, captured two of the Maltanners, father and son, killed a little girl, 16 years old, of the Shaver family, and then burned up all Sir John's houses and buildings in the settlement. The Goodbrodt and Shaver families and some of the Maltanners escaped to tell the sad story of their bereavements and losses to their rebel neighbors. The Maltanners were taken to St. Regis by the Indians, where they remained three years, and returned in 1782. His majesty's officials in Canada might well suppose the two captives, if allowed to return would not be very hearty and zealous in the royal cause, after such treatment; and therefore concluded to detain them. The elder Maltanner, when he came back, said he met Sir John in Canada, and told him what had happened, whereat the gallant knight was exceedingly wrathful, and fulminated big words and strong language against the d___d savages, for their conduct in killing, taking captive and dispersing his tenants, and burning his houses. He had other tenants on the grant, loyal and true, who might be treated in the same way. Sir John no doubt felt hurt, not because any tender feeling towards his fellow man had been touched, or any law of humanity outraged; but because the same rule of warfare he had applied to others, had been, and might again be, visited upon himself. This was not the first nor the last instance, in that unnatural struggle, in which the Indians made no discrimination in their warfare; amd friend and foe alike were made to sink under the hatchet's stunning blow, and feel the knife's keen edge. Kindness and humanity, in conducting that war, might have achieved what hate and cruelty did not. The ancient Roman apothegm, "Quum Deus vult perdere, prius dementat," was so strikingly verified in word and sentiment, as to induce one to think, almost, it was a prophetic enunciation of an actual event, already determined in the councils of heaven.

The first New England settlers who came into this town at the close of the war, took up lands southwesterly of Fairfield village, except those before noticed, with one or two exceptions. Josiah, David and Lester Johnson came into the town from Connecticut, in 1786; John Bucklin and Benjamin Bowen, from Rhode island; John Eaton, Nathaniel and William Brown, from Massachusetts; and Samuel Low, in 1787: David Benseley, from Rhode Island; and Elisha, Wyman and Comfort Eaton, from Massachusetts, in 1788: Jeremiah Ballard, from Massachusetts, in 1789: Wm. Bucklin, the Arnold families, Daniel Fenner, Nathan Smith, Nahum Daniels and Amos amd James Haile, most of them from Massachusetts, in 1790: the Neelys came in 1792, and Peter and Bela Ward, from Connecticut, in 1791. The Eatons, Browns, Hailes, Arnolds, Bucklins and Wards seated themselves at and near the present village of Eatonsville. Some of these people changed their residences after a short sojourn in this town. Jeremiah Ballard located about two miles northeast of Fairfield village. He left his family the first winter after he came into the town, and returned to Massachusetts, where he remained until spring.

My informant says this family had nothing to subsist on during a long and dreary winter but Indian corn and white rabbits, when any could be caught. There being no mills then in the country, and if there had been they could not be reached except by the use of snow-shoes and carrying the grist on one's back; the Ballard family resorted to what at this day would be considered a novel method of reducing their corn into a state suitable to be converted into rabbit soup. Having no hand nor other mill to crack or break their corn in, a mortar was the only thing they could resort to, and even this they were destitute of; but when did necessity ever fail to suggest some remedy for surmountable inconveniences. The family procured a large hard-wood log, and having no tools suitable to the object, they burned a hole in it, by concentrating the fire to one spot, sufficiently deep to answer their purpose. In this way, my informant says, this great achievement was accomplished. It was an easy task, after this, to make a pestle out of some hard wood, and crack corn to their stomach's content.

By these means the resolved and noble hearted mother carried her family through the winter, while the father was absent, and it should be hoped was detained by sickness at his former home in Massachusetts.

There were but a few English or New England families, north of the Mohawk, and between the East and West Canada creek, in 1786; not more than four or five, if as many. Fairfield village, the ancient seat of learning of the county, is located very nearly in the center of the town, about 800 feet above the level of the Mohawk river. A notice of the Medical college and the Academy will be found in another chapter. Middleville, a small village situated partly in this town and partly in Newport, on the West Canada creek, is at the junction of the plank roads leading from Herkimer and Little Falls to Newport. The census marshall of this town did not, at the late enumeration, designate the population within these villages. This is probably the best grazing town in the county, and has for a series of years produced and sent to market, annually, more of the Herkimer county staple, cheese, than any other town within the limits of the county.

We must not draw any conclusions unfavorable to this town - that its soil is not good - or that its population is wanting in energy and enterprise, or is destitute of wealth, because we find a moderate and steady decrease in the total number of inhabitants. To the successful progress of agriculture and the accumulation of wealth, and to no other cause, is to be attributed this gradual loss of population.