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


Contains that part of the county beginning at the northeast corner of lot number thirty-seven, in the second allotment of the Royal grant, and running thence east along the tier of lots to the west bounds of Salisbury; then along the same, north, to the south bounds of West Brunswick (now Ohio); then along the same, westerly, to the town of Russia; and then south, along the towns of Russia and Newport, to the place of beginning.

This town contains portions of the second and third allotments of the Royal grant, and not any other original patents or grants from the crown or state.

Fisher Potter, and his father, Jeremiah Potter, with their families, came into the county from Rhode Island, in 1788, and settled about eight miles north of Fairfield village. They opened a small clearing, and built a log hut to shelter them from the snows and frost of winter. Their whole store of provisions, to carry them through their first long northern winter, was a crop of potatoes, with some salt, and forest game had to supply the residue of a meager subsistence. A gun and suitable ammunition, were indispensable to a frontier forest life, and they were of course provided. A severe tempest had prostrated several acres of the forest, near the place where this family had made their clearing, and this spot in those days was called a hurricane, and here were found the white forest rabbit in abundance. The winter set in, and the snow fell in heaps, to the depth of four or five feet, banking up the outside walls of the log hut and rendering it quite comfortable inside, during the whole winter. The men were employed in procuring food and hunting game; one cold frosty morning Fisher and his father strapped on their snow-shoes, took their guns and went into the hurricane after rabbits. They had a small dog with them, only useful to start up the small game. While earnestly intent on obtaining something which would render their potatoes and salt a little more savory and palatable, and somewhat more nourishing, they discovered a hole in the snow "nearly as large as a quart cup," extending down to the ground some four or five feet deep. The sides of this hole in the snow were hard, and covered with white frost flakes, showing that there was some heat below, the exhalations from which escaped through this aperture, and kept it open.

Whatever it might be, our pioneers were not backward in finding it out, and Fisher Potter converting his snow-shoes into a shovel, with right good will dug away the snow down to the ground, until he reached a mass of hemlock boughs; and after removing a portion of them, a considerable cavity was observed in the earth below, but nothing more. A question of some importance now presented itself, and that was, whether they should proceed further to uncover the cavity, in order to ascertain its contents, or to resort to other means to find out whether any living animal was still there; finally, the services of the little dog were put in requisition; he was brought to the hole, and after taking two or three scents, barked valorously, but keeping himself ready to make a safe retreat, if needful. This unusual disturbance roused the habitant below from his torpidity, and he gave evident tokens of disquiet. In the mean time, Fisher, believing he had uncovered an animal that would require something heavier than rabbit shot to quiet him, had stepped back a few paces from the hole, charged his gun with a ball, and both were ready for the encounter.

Bruin, not intimidated by the noise, and resolved to punish the intruders upon his dominions with a few heavy squeezes, if he could catch them, presented his comely visage at the hole of his den, when Fisher placing the muzzle of his gun within a few feet of his bearship's head, gave him the whole charge. The bear was killed, and being large and fat, and the meat tender, he was worth more than his weight in white rabbits, to the famishing family. My informant, Mr. A.B. of F., now seventy-four years old, and who possesses a remarkably clear and accurate recollection of the incidents attending the first immigration of the New Englanders into the county, says, he saw old Mr. Potter and his son Fisher, when they first came out of the woods, the spring after the incidents above related. He says that Fisher was a tall man, but lean and gaunt when he came out first; his complexion was sallow, and he appeared very much as though he had been nearly starved. Old Mr. Potter said, that killing the bear was a very lucky thing for the family, and probably saved them from starvation, as their other provisions, potatoes and rabbits, when they could kill any, were getting quite short. Mr. Potter lived to a good old age, and died in 1813. Between 1788 and 1790, John, Andrew, and Amos Coe and Capt. Hinman, came into the town from Connecticut; John and David Corp, N. Faning, Thomas Manly and David Underhill, from Vermont; five families by the name of Brayton, from Rensselaer county. The first effort at clearing up farms in this town, was made in 1786, by a Mr. Whipple and Christopher Hawkins, from Rhode Island. They did not prosecute their enterprise. The first grist mill in this town was built by Carpenter Cole, on Du Bois brook; the first saw mill by Capt. David Hinman, northwest of Norway village.

Drs. Willoughby and L. Dewey, and the father of Colonel D.C. Henderson, the latter from Vermont, settled in the town in 1792. Some discrepancy as to dates may exist, growing out of this state of facts. It was often the case, that settlers would come into the town, make a small clearing, put up a log house, and make all the preparations they could in one season, return home in the fall of the year, and bring on their families the next spring. There is no probability that any portion of the Royal grant received any accession of population, after the revolution, until the sale of it was perfected by the commission of forfeitures, and they only sold five of the small lots in the first allotment late in the year 1784.

Norway village lays on the old state road, is located near the centre of the town, and contains about thirty-three dwelling houses and 150 inhabitants. This town must divide the honors with Ohio, in respect to the paternity of Graysville, a small but thriving village on the north bounds of it, and which has grown into importance by the lumber and tanning business. Like all the lands on the Royal grant, those in this town are well adapted to grazing, and butter and cheese constitute its principal agricultural products.

In the year 1842, some members of Mr. Fisk's family, in Norway, in chopping down a maple tree, discovered, near the heart of it, indications of cuts made in the wood with a sharp instrument. The tree being a large one, curiosity was excited, they then chipped off the exterior wood, when they found the plain marks of an iron or steel hatchet. These wounds appearing to have been made in the tree when it was a small sapling, the parties were induced to make a careful count of the grains of wood that had grown outside of the blaze and hacks, and found three hundred full circular grains of wood formed around the tree. The small piece of the hatchet and a block of wood from the tree were preserved.

A healthy tree makes one new grain or layer of wood a year; these cuts and hacks must, therefore, have been made in 1542, if there was no mistake in counting, and it is said there was none whatever. The inquiry is made, whence came and who bore this instrument, denoting European civilization, more than fifty years before Henry Hudson made his appearance in the bay of New York. Was it obtained from the Spaniards, under Cortes, who first landed in Mexico, in 1509? No permanent settlements were made on the Atlantic coasts of the United States till after the beginning of the seventeenth century, and it is quite certain the hatchet did not come from that quarter. Was it obtained from the French in Canada? No colony was founded there until 1608, by that nation. Whence, then, did it come? It may have been obtained on the sea coast, from the people attached to an European vessel, who had made a temporary landing at some point. But were native Indians accustomed to blaze and notch or hack the forest trees, under any circumstances? Certainly not when on the war path. They never left any such permanent evidences of their whereabouts. The existence of the blaze and hacks inclosed inside of three hundred grains or layers of sound wood, either cast a doubt on what has hitherto been viewed as certain, so far as regards our American forests, or presents an interesting question for antiquarian inquiry.

The extracts given in another chapter, from the journals of two missionaries, sent from Massachusetts, in the early part of the present century, to spy out the nakedness of the land, supply destitute places, and look after the scattered members of their own denomination, descendants of the Pilgrims, will attract some attention to this town. Norway, in 1855, is not what it was in 1801-2. Since then it has been shorn of territory equal to some German principalities, although not quite as productive and populous.

The statistical returns of the late census show there are two Baptist churches in this town, one Episcopal, one Methodist episcopal, and one Presbyterian. I have been kindly furnished with a history of the organization of one of these Baptist churches, to which I cheerfully give a place, premising it with an expression of the deep regret and disappointment I have felt, while penning these sheets, in not being able to do the like with every church organization in the county.

On the 25th of December, 1828, the members of the regular Baptist church, of the town of Newport, then residents of the town of Norway, met at the house of Mr. Dudley Smith, and organized by appointing Mr. Osee Bronson, moderator, and Jefferson Tillinghast, clerk, after the usual religious exercises.

This meeting resolved to petition the "mother church" to be constituted into a church in the town of Norway. The petition was granted May 24th, 1830, and on the 14th of June following the Norway members, 8 males and 15 females, 23 in all, were convened as a conference, a preliminary step to church organization. On the 28th of September, 1830, a council of delegates from the neighboring churches was convened at the Presbyterian meeting house, to consider the subject of organizing a Baptist church in this town. Of this council Samuel Dexter, of Frankfort, was chosen moderator, and the Rev. Willard Judd, of Salisbury, appointed clerk.

The council resolved to fellowship the members of the conference as a church of Jesus Christ. The Rev. Elon Galusha, of Whitesboro, preached on this occasion, and the Rev. William Hogeson, of Stratford, gave the hand of fellowship.

The first pastor of this church was the Rev. R.T. Smith, who commenced his services in January, 1831. He was succeeded by the Rev. W.B. Curtis, C.E. Brown, L.O. Lovel, N. Furgoson, E.D. Towner, Francis Prescott, Mr. S.A. Douglass, a licentiate, and again by the Rev. C.E. Brown, in March, 1853, who is the present pastor of this church. Since its organization, the church has had 294 members connected with it, 170 of whom were added by baptism. The number reported to the association in 1854, was 90. Four members of this church have become ministers of the gospel; and one, a lady, went on a foreign mission to Assam, where she died soon after her arrival. This church has a lay organization, under the statute, which holds the temporalities, the church building and parsonage. The Rev. Mr. Brown promptly furnished the foregoing information. I thank him for it, and have followed his suggestion in another matter.