Lebanon is bounded on the north by Eaton, east by Hamilton, south by Chenango County and west by Georgetown. Its surface is a hilly upland, lying between the Chenango and Otselic rivers. The summits are from 500 to 800 feet above the valleys. Extending through the east part of the valley of the Chenango River, averaging about one mile in width, and bordered by steep hillsides. The Midland Railroad curves and sweeps along the brow of the ridge on the east side of the valley, and the traveler has a view overlooking a scene of enchanting beauty,---broad and gracefully glides, a trail of light on a background of velvety green,---tasty farm cottages and noble family mansions of the fashion of a day gone by,---all kept in perfect order by the thrifty husbandman. To the westward, rolls hill after hill, smooth (so they appear from the "Midland" view,) and green with verdure, bordered with remnants of the once great forest. Down these hillsides rush numerous brooks, tributaries to the Chenango. Among these hills the State of New York found a convenient "basin" to store up water for the Chenango Canal, and in 1866, at considerable expense, fashioned it into a great reservoir. In the northwest part of the town is "Cranberry Marsh," owned by the Fisk family. In 1868, parties interested in the mill facilities of the Otselic Creek in Georgetown, obtained the privilege of using this water, when they opened the outlet leading to the Otselic, and raised a dam to regulate its flow.
Passing through the southwest corner of this town was the old Utica and Oxford Turnpike, which, however, never really merited the title of Turnpike, as it was never completed. It was originated by a company who proposed to carry it through by having each farmer build that part of the road which passed his farm. Some farmers built it, but a greater number did not; consequently, the road was never chartered, never finished, and gates were never put up. There were, however, many taverns, and a great deal of traveling which kept them full of business.
On the east, Lebanon is bordered by the Chenango Canal. Besides the Midland Railroad, the town has the Syracuse and Chenango Valley Railroad, which crosses from near the center of the west line to the village of Earlville, at the southeast corner. The old State road from the Chenango Valley to Syracuse is the general course followed by this railroad. Of the two million dollars which this road cost, the town of Lebanon bears twenty-five thousand dollars in individual subscriptions; and this, when the town is bonded heavily for the Midland.
Lebanon, No. 5 of the Twenty Townships, was originally included in Hamilton. It was set apart as "Lebanon" by an act of Legislature, February 6, 1807, and was undoubtedly named in remembrance of the town of Lebanon, Conn., the native home of many of the settlers. There is, however, and anecdote related, which gives the following version of the naming of this town: When the bill was passed in the Legislature, forming this with other new towns, General Erastus Cleaveland, being the member who advocated the bill, was asked what name the inhabitants of No. 5 proposed to call their new town. This matter of a name had not been attended to by the town's people, but the General's ready wit served him in the emergency. Quick as lightning his mental vision swept over the magnificent forest which distinguished Township No. 5. A poetical fancy framed the thought, "Like the tall cedars of Lebanon!" The far-fetched and musical-sounding name leaped to his lips as soon as the thought assumed form. The question was answered, the name accepted, and the people of the new town were pleased with the title because it represented their own native Lebanon. A contemporary remarks that the settlers of Lebanon were devotedly attached to the customs of their native country, and they so firmly planted its customs here that the Lebanon of Madison County is a veritable counterpart of the old Lebanon of Connecticut. It is the spirit of steady habits, quiet ways, even, pastoral life.
To turn back to the period when these lands were first in market, we learn that Col. William S. Smith and others, resolved to locate some of the portions of the Chenango Twenty Towns. At this period, (1791) Joshua Smith, a native of Franklin, New London County, Conn., a friend, but not a relative of William S. Smith,1 set out upon a journey for the purpose of locating in the wilds of Central New York. William S. Smith commissioned him to select a tract of the best lands of the Twenty Townships, and acquaint him with the situation, that he might make immediate purchase of the authorities at Albany. Joshua Smith set out, traversing the journey on horse-back, and reached the Chenango Valley, probably before any other white settler had arrived. He stopped at what was afterwards called Smith's Valley, and upon a plateau of tableland, elevated about twenty feet above the river, he built his cabin. Around this elevation the river circled in the form of an oxbow. Across this bow, or cape, he felled trees, forming a pen where he could turn his horse. Having need of a harness, he constructed one of moose-wood bark, made chains of the same material, to haul logs with. In this manner he prepared a domicile which he might inhabit another year, and returned east. The information he communicated to William S. Smith, concerning the lands of the Twenty Townships, was immediately acted upon by that individual, and his application for a large tract is recorded as follows, in N.Y.S. Doc. History, Vol. III, p. 1073:
"The application of Col. William S. Smith, for the purchase of townships No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, being six of the twenty townships surveyed by the surveyor-general, pursuant to an act passed the 25th day of February, 1789, at the rate of three shillings and three pence per acre; one-sixth of the purchase money to be paid on the first of October next, half of the residue on the first of January, 1792, and the residue on the first of January, 1793, being read and dully considered.
(Accepted.) Acres 150,000 = £24,375."
(Accepted.) Acres 150,000 = £24,375."
William S. Smith received the patent for these townships from the government of New York State, April 16, 1794.
Subsequently, the agent of Sir William Pultney entered into an arrangement with the State and William S. Smith, whereby Sir William Pultney became proprietor of Townships No. 2, 3, 4 and 5, Mr. Smith reserving a large tract bordering the Chenango River, which, with Nos. 8 and 9---Smyrna and Sherburne---of Chenango County, still left him a large landholder, and the possessor of the best lands in the tract.
Col. William S. Smith sent on his brother, Justus B. Smith, as agent, who built him a house at Smith's Valley, and made the sale of the lands, his business. William S. Smith resided here at irregular periods, his house being a small frame one, near the mansion of Justus B. Smith. Nine brothers and sisters of the Smith family are remembered as having been residents of Smith's Valley, at one time or another. These were, William S., Justus B., John, and James, and five sisters. They were born and bred in Long Island, well educated people, used to wealth, and loved luxury. They were heirs to a princely estate from the Thorn Family, of England. One of the sisters, Ann, married Mr. Masters, and lived in Smith's Valley. Her farm was the best in Lebanon. This is now the farm of J. D. F. Smith. The brothers were all Revolutionary soldiers, held commissions, and bore an honorable reputation for bravery.
William S. Smith was aid to Baron Steuben, and for meritorious conduct was commissioned Colonel. He married Abigail Adams, only daughter of John Adams, second President of the United States. During Mr. Adams' administration, Wm. S. Smith was appointed Minister to England. Subsequently, at the period of Aaron Burr's conspiracy, he was connected with Miranda's secret expedition, which the government looked upon with suspicion, as combined with Burr's treasonable operations. As the result of Miranda's expedition foreboded peril to the adventurers, Col. Smith placed all his landed estates in this and Chenango County in the hands of Justus B. The expedition, however, brought about no definite results or penalties. Col. Smith returned to Smith's Valley and lived for a season. He was elected to Congress from the 17th District in 1813, and having served his term was re-elected in 1815.
William S. Smith had three children, Baron Steuben, John Adams and Caroline. They are all dead. John Adams Smith became a lawyer, commencing in the law office of Jude Hubbard, of Hamilton. Caroline became Mrs. DeWitt; she was lost in the disaster of the Henry Clay, in our Northern waters. Mrs. Abigail Smith was a noble woman, and her daughter Caroline, kike her, was lively in person, mind and heart. To his latest days, the Colonel is remembered as high spirited and very proud, though his fortunes and become sadly reduced.
Justus B. Smith built his house at what was called the "lower landing," where the Indians launched their larger canoes, it being the highest point on the Chenango where the depth of water admitted their navigation. They sometimes paddled lighter crafts to the "upper landing," a short distance north, and kept the Chenango River free from obstructions to the Susquehanna. They had camping grounds all along the river. Justus B. Smith made friends with the Indians, who thereafter made a practice to stop a night or more at "Father Smith's Castle," on every journey they made to and from the Susquehanna. Justus B. was a man of uncommonly fine proportions and handsome features; a jovial bachelor, possessing a convivial nature, who dispensed hospitalities to his guests with a princely hand, and many a night the dusky natives, men and maids, held high "wassail" with their white host. The Smith farm is now the farm of Whipple Clark, and the old Smith mansion is still in being, not far from the residence of Mr. Clark.
Col. William S. and Justus B. Smith both died in Smith's Valley in 1816. Both were buried in the old graveyard, on what was known as Lines' Hill, on the road between Smyrna and Sherburne.
Joshua Smith's first location was about 100 rods south of the corner at Smith's Valley, nearly due west, across the river, opposite the depot. His shanty was the first one built between Guthrie's and Cazenovia. The place is now owned by Mr. Barr. Joshua Smith, after living here some years, married a sister of Judge Payne. He was from the same race of Smiths from which have sprung several eminent authors, among whom is Roswell C. Smith, daughter of Smith's Geography, the latter being a near relative of Joshua. Jabin Armstrong of Lebanon, one of the first native born citizens of the town, was born at the Joshua Smith place, his father being one of the early settlers, and his mother being a sister of Mr. Smith.
Again we go back to 1792, the autumn of the year when Enoch Stowell, of New Hampshire, and Jonathan Bates, of Vermont, with John and James Salisbury, of the latter place, entered this town. Enoch Stowell and Jonathan Bates selected what proved to be Lot No. 7, as the location of their future settlement, while the Salisbury brothers settled on an adjoining lot, but which was in the town of Eaton. Well knowing that they were to leave the confines of civilization considerably in the rear, they accordingly brought with them a supply of beans and flour, and drove an ox which they and their comrades, on arriving at their destination, killed and preserved for future use. They erected a bark shanty, in which they lodged; and with this simple fare these hardy young men chopped the timber on twenty acres of land before the winter came on. The cold storms of that season approaching, disclosed to them the discomfort of their slender tenement, and warned them of its incapacity to protect them. Therefore the party repaired to Bainbridge to spend the seasons among friends, who were also settlers there form Vermont.
Mr. Bates only returned in the spring of 1793, bringing with him his family and commenced alone upon the clearing.
Mrs. Bates was the first white woman in the town of Lebanon. Jonathan Bates was a patriot in the Revolutionary war. He possessed some of the characteristics of his commander, Ethan Allen, with whom he went to Ticonderoga. The hardy qualities needed for the fatigues of the march, the fierce and determined spirit required for such deeds of daring as Ethan Allen and his men performed, served Mr. Bates well in the rough work of the pioneer. Many of the oldest citizens remember his resolute, bluff and unpolished manner, which, however, we doubt not, covered a heart of real worth. The following story is frequently related of him: Some time elapsed after Mr. Bates had paid for his farm, and Justus B. Smith had not yet given him a deed. The delay was owing to Smith's neglect. Bates' stock of patience became exhausted at length, and loading his rifle, he proceeded to Smith's house. On entering Smith's presence, with cool audacity, Bates stood his rifle near him, folded his arms across his broad chest, his great muscular frame erect, facing Smith, and demanded a deed forthwith. Smith replied that he would make one out the following day and bring it to him. "Smith," said Bates, with meaning in his tone, teaching for his rifle, "Make that deed today, or you are a dead man!" It is needless to state that the deed was drawn up, then and there, as speedily as Smith could transfer it to paper, and no offence was taken either, since carelessness was the only excuse Smith had to offer.
On the farm they had cleared up, Mr. and Mrs. Bates spent the rest of their lives, dying within five days of each other. On the east side of the river road, opposite the farm dwellings, is the family burial ground. On the marble slabs yet remaining, we read: "In memory of Jonathan Baits, who died 20th April, 1827, aged 72 years." "In memory of Elizabeth Baits, wife of Jonathan Baits, who died 25th April, 1828, aged 77 years," Jay Bates, an infant grandson, lies at their feet. Nearby is "Henry Bates, who died 14 August, 1831, aged 39 years."
In due season, after Mr. Bates' family had got settled, Enoch Stowell came on to clear up his farm, which he had located in 1792. He built his first log house near a cold spring which is now easily found near Mr. Stowell's garden wall. He subsequently married Miss Cynthia Church, who came with the pioneer Morses. His second house---a frame one---stood where, fifty-three years ago, he built his stone mansion.
There is an anecdote related, illustrative of Mr. Stowell's experience in pioneering. Being greatly in need of an ax, he went to Hamilton where a blacksmith by the name of Cole was just starting a forge, on the very ground where the Park House now stands. Mr. Cole, according to agreement, furnished the desired implement in due season, receiving a good sum therefor. But the ax didn't work well; grind it ever so carefully, it wouldn't hold an edge, and from dire necessity, Mr. Stowell was obliged to carry it back to have it tempered anew.
Mr. Cole took the condemned ax in his hands, looked it over, ejected a monstrous mouthful of tobacco juice, and said very quietly: "No wonder the ax don't hold an edge; it's made of iron!" then added: "I'll take it back and made you a good one." He then told Mr. Stowell that when he made the iron ax he had no steel to make a better one, but with the money he received for that, he had been to Utica and purchased sufficient steel to make a large number of good ones.
Stephen Stowell, now living in Georgetown, was the first of his family born on the farm. The father of Enoch Stowell came to this county. He was formerly a preacher, and in the Revolutionary war was a Captain. He died in New Woodstock, Madison County, at the house of one of his sons, at the advanced age of ninety-two. Enoch Stowell also lived to be ninety-two years old, dying June 3, 1859, at the family mansion. His son, Horace Stowell, succeeded to the homestead.
Samuel Felt settled on the west side of the Chenango River in the vicinity of Earlville, in the spring of 1704. He had been in the year before, selected his land and built a cabin. His brother, David Felt, came also in 1794. They were from Summerstown, Tolland County, Connecticut. David Felt located his first domicile north of the brick house built by William Felt a few years since. Samuel Felt had his place where Whitman Clark now lives. The barn he built is yet standing, moved across the road. Their land cost three dollars per acre. The location is superb.
During the first year of their settlement, they experienced great privations, particularly during the winter months. They were obliged to go to Whitestown, by marked trees, to mill, but when the path was blocked by winter snows, the journey was made with difficulty in the best of weather, at other times made impossible by the storms. As a consequence, necessity suggested many inventions. Boiled wheat and hilled corn were common articles of food, and when tired of this monotonous diet, Samuel Felt invented a novel method of obtaining meal. He sawed a section from a tough elm log, bored one end full of auger holes to the required depth, having no other tools serviceable for the work. From the fireplace he took live coals, dropping them into the augur holes, and succeeded by fanning and blowing, in burning out the inside of the log, which made a fair wooden mortar. From a tough limb of the same tree he made a huge wooden pestle. With this improvised mill the neighborhood was furnished with meal, samp and wheat flour, which was then a luxury. The old mortar and pestle saved many a perilous journey, and was of service even after mills had been built, in pounding rock salt, the only kind of salt in use for years.
There was a large family of the Felts. The sons of Samuel were Jehiel, Samuel, Elam, John, Jabin, Sylvester and David. For a time these men were all settled about here, but later they became scattered. Elam was a strong pillar of the Methodist Church, and his name is prominent in the history of that church in Earlville, from its early beginnings till his death. His home was the home of the ministers, and of his wealth he gave abundantly for the prosperity of the cause.
David Felt had a large family. His son Horace, was the first one of this family born in Lebanon. His birth was August 18th, 1795. Asa Felt who was seven years old when his father moved, yet lives in Earlville; he is in his eighty-sixth year, and is probably the oldest pioneer of Lebanon living.
William Felt, a grandson of one of the pioneers, was one of the prominent business men of Earlville. He accumulated a large property, chiefly in cattle dealing and drovering. He was a man of great judgment and tact in business, and was at the same time generous and public spirited. He built the present gristmill, about thirty-five years ago, and about twelve years ago built the Brick Block, the finest building in Earlville. His late residence, a fine brick house on the west side of the river, is pointed out as the earthly home of one whom all Earlville remember with respect. On his death, having no children, he bequeathed $75,000 of his estate to the town of Lebanon for her poor. Through the litigation of contesting parties, only about $5,000 was received.
From 1794, onward, the tide of emigration settling toward the "Chenango Twenty Towns," poured in. No. 5 had been surveyed, and Robert Troup, agent for Pultney, was selling out the hill lands, while Justice Smith had little difficulty in selling the valley. The interminable forest, which had waved like a vast sea over the valleys and hills of Lebanon, became dotted here and there, for miles apart, with clearings. The spirit of aggression, of the war of civilization with untamed nature, manifested itself in those veteran pioneers, who should no more be forgotten in our country's history, than should the names of those veteran soldiers in another and different war, who battled for our rights and our homes also, be consigned to oblivion. Both deserve far more than can be given in meager records.
The list we have obtained, gives us, on the river road, besides those already mentioned, Malachiah Hatch, Dea. King, Dea. Tinney, David Shapley, Benjamin Hatch, Mr. Crocker, the Wheelers, and many others. The fine old family mansions along the whole length of the river road to Earlville, attest to the thrift and progressive spirit of the pioneers.
For a time the Smiths planned for a village at their place. The fine table land on the Masters farm now owned by J. D. F. Smith, was the location chosen. The village plot was already marked out, and the stakes stuck, when Judge Elisha Payne came down from Hamilton to disarrange the matter. He had decided that the village of the Chenango Valley should be at Payne's settlement. Between Justus B. Smith and Judge Payne there came near being a battle fiercer than words, in which Smith lost his self-command and muscular force took possession. Although in the quarrel Smith might have got the better of Payne, yet in the long run Payne got the better of his opponent, for the village of Payne's Settlement was certainly built, and the streets of the proposed village at Smith's Valley were never opened. At a late day, some of the charred bottoms of the stakes then stuck, were found on Smith's village site.
The first necessities of the times were gristmills and sawmills. The gristmill built by the Wheelers was the first in town, its location being on the site of Mr. Armstrong's mill, near the feeder, in the east part of the town. [This mill is mentioned more fully in the chapter on Hamilton.]
Daniel and Elisha Wheeler were enterprising men, as their first works in Lebanon show. They were carpenters and mechanics, the best the new country produced, and were engaged in every large enterprise of the first twenty-five years.
The first house which Daniel Wheeler built, on moving into Lebanon, was a log tenement, which, like those of all the pioneers, for a time boasted of only the opening of r a door and windows, which were protected by blankets and sheets. However, immediately after the erection of a sawmill, a door was made, and though not finely carved or paneled, it was nice and strong, and for a number of years its friendly latch-string hung out. All the settlers then used sliding boards for windows.
Mrs. Wheeler's milk pantry I this house consisted of some fine stone shelves, whose surfaces were as smooth as a bottle, and which proved to be most excellent coolers for milk in the hot days of summer.
About 1800, Mr. Wheeler erected a plank building for a wagon shop. After it was finished, Mrs. Wheeler entered it one day to view its fine proportions, when she remarked to her husband that she should be glad to change houses with him. To this he readily agreed, and so the log house was used for a wagon shop, and the plank one for a dwelling. This house is yet standing and occupied, near the mill now owned by Mr. Armstrong.
The shocking accident causing Daniel Wheeler's death, which, though occurring in Earlville, may be appropriately mentioned here, as his life previously had so identified him with the inhabitants of this section, that he had become, as it were, a part of their fraternity.
He had sold his mill property here and purchased one at Earlville, and though at work in his newly acquired property there, he had not yet removed his family thither. It was in the month of December, and a severe cold night had frozen the water in the mill wheel. Entering the wheel-pit in the morning, Mr. Wheeler proceeded to cut away the ice, which proved to be not so firm as he had supposed. The moment the ice yielded, the water rushed in (the gate being up) and set the wheel revolving before he could extricate himself, when he was thrown round and round the wheel. A man above as quickly as possible closed the gate, and hastening below, found Mr. Wheeler standing, clinging with one arm to a post. In his excitement the man caught up in his arms and ran up the ladder as swiftly as he would had he only been bearing a child in his arms. The suffering man was still alive, his body seriously bruised, his ribs broken, and one arm literally crushed in fragments. His wife was sent for, and eminent physicians immediately brought, one from New Hartford, (his name is forgotten,) who amputated his arm. The utmost efforts were put forth to save his life, which, however, availed nothing, and after a week of suffer, he died on Christmas morning, 1806. His remains were carried to his house in Lebanon, where the funeral was held, and he was buried in the graveyard nearby. Thus perished, at the age of thirty-five, one of the best of husbands and kindest of fathers---one of the most worthy and useful men of the country. His loss was deeply deplored by the whole community. The graveyard where his remains lie, was once a portion of his own farm, having been donated by him and Mr. Shapely to the public for a burial ground. It is a pleasant spot, and is sacred to the memory of many of the pioneer settlers of Hamilton and Lebanon.
The first store of Lebanon was kept by Joshua Smith in the basement of a house built by himself at Smith's Valley. Afterwards Clark, Dorrance & Smith kept the store and a tavern together in the same place.
Jonathan Thayer settled at Lebanon village and set up potash manufacturing; he afterwards went into the hattery business, and then opened trade. He also built the first store of Lebanon and was in fact the first who established the mercantile business in Lebanon. His store yet stands in Lebanon village, being the present post office.
The travel directed toward the routes of the various State roads which were opened at an early day, demanded the establishment of inns. This demand in Lebanon was first supplied by Philip Kibbie, who kept for years what was known far and near as the "Old Kibbie Tavern," north of Earlville, on the road between there and Smith's Valley. After the first opening settlement, there followed a few years of arduous struggles in subduing the wilderness---struggles in which the forester laid away in his brain material for many a tall yarn to be spun out of evenings at the tavern of "Old Jolly Kibbie," as he was familiarly called. Mr. B. B. Wilcox owns the place upon which the Kibbie House stood, and some two years since lived in it. He then built a new house and removed the old tavern.
The second hotel was built at Smith's Valley and about forty years ago was burned. The present one is built upon the site.
Many of the pioneers located on the tops of the highest hills, thereby securing a pure atmosphere, and avoiding the noxious miasmas of heavily-wooded, damp valleys. As the forest gradually receded from these oases, many planted by their humble doors the lofty-growing poplar, which, in the course of a decade or so of years, became magnificent trees, rendering the home of the farmer comely and conspicuous.
Capt. Gaylord Stevens settled in the northwestern part of the town and took up considerable land. In that day the farmers were obliged to let their cattle roam at large in the woods, having no pastures or fences, and the flock were allowed to take their choice between the green leaves and weeds of the woods, or the moist but coarse grasses of the swamps. The leader of the flock always wore the bell to warn the herdsman, as he sought them at night, of their whereabouts. Often in the spring of the year, when the swamps were full, has the seller found a cow missing, perhaps his best, when he gathered them at the close of day, and on search being made has found her mired in the yielding morass, exhausted, or perhaps dead from over exertion trying to extricate herself, or drowned by sinking into the water. Near Capt. Stevens' farm was a large marsh, containing a body of water, small in circumference, but very deep. "Cranberry Marsh" it was named, from the abundance of cranberries growing there, and among whose deceitful morasses many accidents to stock have occurred. For rods from the water's edge the turf of this marsh lies loosely, like an apron, over fathoms of water beneath, and when once mired, and the turf broken through, the poor creature had little chance for its life. Losses of this nature were often suffered, and were grievously felt by those living where there were no cattle to be purchased to replenish their herds.
Roads were then what would now scarcely be called by the name. They crossed over the highest hill tops to insure the driest route, and in every hollow was a swamp or mire, which was bridged by logs transversely laid in the track, so that between the tedious hills and those jolting causeways, a journey of a dozen miles was a laborious affair. As the forest was cleared away and the sunlight let in, these quagmires dried up, and with them many a rushing rivulet which made music by the settler's door, and supplied his house with pure, soft water. Only the beds which marked the course of some of these streams are now to be seen, while many more have been completely erased by the progress of cultivation.
Wild animals were exceedingly bold. An instance is related of a bear attacking a calf in the day time, close by the house of Elihu Bosworth. Mrs. Bosworth was alone with her young children, when she heard the distressed bleating of the calf. Going to the door to ascertain the cause, she beheld it dying, terribly mangled and torn by a huge bear with she saw in full view of her door.
Wolves were often troublesome. As late as 1815, in the month of February, an exciting wolf hunt took place in the eastern part of this town. The circumstances are related as follows:---
A hunter had started up a large wolf in the vicinity of Leland's Pond, in Eaton, but failing to hill him, he notified the inhabitants along the route the wolf had taken. The men of Hamilton and eastern Lebanon turned out en masse to assist in the capture of this formidable enemy to their flocks. They were formed into a company, and stationed at proper distances along the route. He came along the stream from Leland's Pond into Hamilton, and then struck off over the hill, in a southwesterly direction into the edge of Lebanon. Outposts of men were prepared to cut off his passage, while a party pressed hard in the rear. Being driven by the hunters to the limits of this, the wolf made a bold push and pressed some of the sentinels, who closed in with the pursuers, but yet who did not get near enough to make a good shot at him in his desperate leaps. He was making bold moves for liberty, though nearly tired out; the outposts were all passed but one, which was guarded by two men, who happened to be armed only with clubs. The underbrush was thick, the snow breast deep, but the intense excitement at this point made the chase a stirring one. The wolf strove to redouble his failing speed, but in his blind haste in passing this last outpost he rushed between two saplings not a foot apart, which caught and held him, though from which he, no doubt, soon would have released himself, had not the two unarmed sentinels dispatched him. One of them (Jeremiah Lillibridge by name,) caught him by the tail and held him from escaping, while his comrade beat the head of the imprisoned brute till life was extinct.
It is remarkable with what facility and rapidity the land in Lebanon was settled. We have before us a map drawn by Silas Seymour, surveyor, in 1815, which locates the lots, and every farmer then living on them. The following names will be recognized as being a large percentage of the inhabitants of that period:
In the northeast quarter, in the east part, were Benjamin Church, Jonathan Bates, Enoch Stowell, John Groves, David Shapley, Jabin Armstrong, Benjamin Hatch, Amos Crocker, Samuel Sherrill, John Powell, Jacob Hartshorn, Henry Palmer; the Campbells on Lot 26; Jeremiah, John and Jonathan Tift, large landholders near the center of the quarter; Ann Masters, owning a farm of 265 acres on Lots 31 and 50; David Hartshorn, Amos Kingsley and Walter Allen on Lot 49; Elisha Wheeler on Lot 32, and Daniel Briggs on Lot 48. The Eddys near the south line of the quarter, and A. Mosley near the west line, besides Wm. Smith on the Smith estate.
In the northwest quarter, Curtis Hoppin and Joseph Tayntor were located on the northwest corner Lot, being No. 1. M. Merritt, N. Crary, on Lot No. 2. There were Lent, Joel, John and William Bradley in different sections. On the road leading from Eaton to Lebanon village, lived, besides Mr. Hoppin, G. Morey, E. G. Grosvenor, Richard Taylor, Aaron gates, Marrs Blair, Abram Webster and A. Norton. There were Josiah Lasell, Peter Wylie, Moses Wylie, the farm of Samuel Lewis and that of Silas Seymour, which was on the east line of this quarter and west of the Campbell settlement. Northwest of the center of the town was Ezra Gates, Ira Lamb, Thomas Jerrels, E. Sabins; also Brown Blair, John Blair and C. C. Huston. In the northwest part of the quarter were Elihu Bosworth, Timothy W. Lull, Mathias Cazier, Gaylord Stevens and John Fisk. ON the road leading in from Georgetown, --- Samuel Stetson, Benjamin Hewes, Julius Hitchcock, V. B. Gilbert, John Blair and Israel Thayer.
In the southwest quarter were the Benedicts, near the center of the town. In the north tier of lots in this quarter were Ephraim Gray, Orsamus Gilbert, Jonathan Thayer, Constant Merrick, Dane Ballard, William Taggart and others. In various parts were Joseph Patridge, Sheldon Swan, Gilead Knapp, Samuel Ballard, Sanford Head, Asahel sexton, Giles Collins, Jabez Billings, John Sheldon, Gaius Stebbins, John Stone, Joseph Mack and Thomas Ward. In the south border of the quarter and of the town, were Joseph and Reuben Bisby, Jesse Leonard, Comfort Johnson, Eleazur Fellows, Oran Seward and others. Niles Settlement, included a large tract on the west border of this quarter, being also the west border of the town.
In the southeast quarter on the east side of the river, near Earlville, were Robert Cormick, Margaret De St. Viliers, Belinda Clarkson, Sarah Adams, E. Daniels and others. In the southeast corner near Earlville were the Felts; Rufus, William, and John Henry, Thomas Kershaw, Stephen Jones and Daniel Clark. Up the river road to the north were John Polish, Christopher Babcock, Harry Waters, Joseph Clark, John Douglass, J. W. Bulkley, Jas. Sheffield and Allen Wood, being here at the last named, the north line of the quarter. From Earlville on the road northwesterly, was the large farm of Thomas Buell; there were Joel and Oran Stebbins, Solomon Baker, David Baker, Hezekiah Willis, the Ostroms and others. In different parts were Peleg Wilcox, Zerah Lillibridge, Otis Follett, John Persons, and a large farm toward the center of the quarter owned by Leverett Rexford. On the old State Road were Joseph Card, Palmer Sherman, James Dye, Isaac Wilcox, Abijah Snow, Perry Lillibridge, Thomas Murphy, James Muir and Benjamin Willis.
Some of the settlements were made by large families taking up farms adjacent to each other. One of the earliest and one of the largest families who thus settled, were the Campbells.,2 They consisted of nine separate households, viz: Allen, Daniel, Charles, Archibald, Stuart, John, James, Littlejohn and Isaac Campbell. These were not all brothers, but were among the emigrants, being mothers of some of these men. Mrs. Nancy Campbell taught the first school of the town, when she was seventy years of age. Campbell's Settlement comprised several hundred acres of land, situated east of the center line in the northeast quarter. Of this numerous family, but few are left: A. B. Campbell and N. M. Campbell, grandsons of Archibald Campbell, still represent the race in Lebanon.
The Billings, located south of the center of the town --- Capt. Truman and Jabez Billings, pioneers, who with John Sheldon and Giles Collins, settled Billing's Hill. These men made their settlement one of the most active, progressive and prominent localities of the town. It is related of John Sheldon, that when he came to the new country he was very poor, and carried all he possessed in a small pack slung over his shoulder on his ax helve. He located, and eventually cleared and paid for, a noble farm of three hundred acres, and became a useful and an influential citizen.
Perhaps the largest settlement of the family was that of Niles. The pioneer, John Niles, was from Chesterfield, Massachusetts. When nineteen years of age, he left his parental home, with nothing in his pocket but a York shilling his father gave him when he started. With this he purchased a loaf of bread, which lasted him the entire journey of 150 miles, --- a journey he performed on foot. Doubtless he found many on his way who generously extended hospitality to a youth so enterprising. He reached the home of Rev. Samuel Kirkland in Clinton, safely, hired to him, and there remained till he married. In 1792, he, with a few others, went into Madison, and there took up his farm, for which he paid twelve shillings per acre. He and his wife, ambitious and hopeful, entered their new home, labored hard, and were abundantly prospered. In the course of a dozen years Mr. Niles had a good deal of cleared land, had built two thirty and forty foot frame barns and a sixty foot shed between, to shelter his accumulated stock and crops. He had also built a good frame house, "which had glass windows, was painted vermilion red, with white trimmings," the handsomest house of its day, in that vicinity, (Bouckville). Among several children born there, the eldest, Luther C. Niles, born July 2, 1795, is now living in Lebanon.
Mr. Niles sold his farm in Madison,3 to James Cooledge, and next located in Lebanon. He had previously sent for his father, mother, brothers and sisters, offering them homes in the new country. They came on, and after staying a brief time in Madison they joined him in Lebanon. The tract he took up was located in the western part of the southwest quarter, and it contained 3,000 acres, for which he paid three dollars per acre. Upon this tract settled the Niles family, and from them it was named Niles' settlement. The patriarch was Nahum Niles. His sons were: Nathan, John, Isaac, Samuel, Ephraim and Calvin. The Niles were farmers of the substantial and progressive sort. The first and second generations have gone the way of the earth, and but few of the third generation, which was once very numerous, are to be found in Lebanon. Luther Niles is one of three, left of John Niles' family of eighteen children, and the only one in this town.4 Descendants of other branches of this race may be found in various parts of the county,
Thomas Buell, from New Hampshire, took up a large farm in the southeast quarter, and settled upon it, locating his large family around him. He and family were prominent in public matters and in society. He died here. One of his sons Chauncey Buell, and his son Philander C, Buell, have in succession owned the family homestead, and both also died here, the farm is now owned by Joseph E. Morgan. The Buells, as a family, were distinguished for musical circles as a superior vocalist, was grandson of Thomas Buell.
Sanford Head was born in Rhode Island, in 1788, and came with his father, Joseph Head, to the town of Madison, when but a lad, he being the oldest of a family of six sons. In his early youth he commenced teaching, and before he was eighteen years of age, had taught several terms, in Brookfield, Madison, Lebanon, and Augusta. He married them and afterwards, at the age of nineteen, located his farm of 300 acres in Lebanon, about one mile south of the present village. Becoming a citizen of this town, and being greatly interested in schools, he exerted his influence to promote education. The same spirit was implanted in, and characterized his large family, all of whom, sons and daughters, except one, we believe, became teachers. School offices, for the town of Lebanon, form the least to the greatest, have been committed to the care of Sanford Head and his sons. Sanford Head is still living, at the advanced age of 84 years, on the homestead he first planted, enjoying the benefits of his well-directed labors.
Ephraim Gray from New Lebanon, Columbia County, N.Y., became another of the substantial citizens of this town. His son, Cooley C. Gray, resides on the same farm his father owned in 1815. Competent, public spirited men, in who people reposed confidence, have been the Grays, father and sons.
Dr. Constant Merrick, the first physician of Lebanon, and one of the large land owners of the early days, was very prominent in educational matters. He was also an able physician, greatly respected, and "did a world of business." His family name is no longer represented in Lebanon.
Silas Seymour was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1777. In 1802, then a young man of great energy and enterprise, he removed to Lebanon and located in the northwest quarter on the west border of Campbell Settlement, taking up a farm of about two hundred acres. He became a useful and influential citizen, always interested in the prosperity of his town. The welfare of common schools largely engaged his attention. He remained on his homestead his life through, reared a family of ten children, who are all living except one, and died at an advanced age. His life was characterized by industry, economy, sobriety and temperance, which secured him their agreeable fruits---competence and a happy old age. Silas Seymour and his sons were frequently chosen to public offices, from the least to the greatest in the system of town government.
Daniel Clark, from Colchester, Connecticut, came to Lebanon in 1803, and located a large farm in the southeast quarter, about two miles from Earlville. He took up a large piece of wild land, cleared it, and brought into cultivation a fine farm. He was a worthy and useful citizen, and reared his family to positions of usefulness. At an honored old age, he died on the farm where he had so long lived, and was buried with many an other fellow-pioneer, in Earlville Cemetery. The Clark homestead is owned by his grandson, F. B. Clark. Squire David Clark, of Earlville, is a son of Daniel Clark.
Curtis Hoppin was born at Guilford, Connecticut, July 12, 1785; his parents removed to Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and died leaving him an orphan at an early age. It was said of Curtis Hoppin at the time of his death:
"He inherited a robust constitution and an empty purse; commenced life with two sheep, one copy of Morse's School Geography, one suit of linsey woolsey, and an energetic, self-reliant disposition. He, during winter evenings and early mornings soon acquired an education which rendered him competent for a teacher, an avocation which he followed for a few years in Massachusetts and during the winter for several years in Lebanon. In the spring of 1810, he started on foot for what was thought the far West, in search of cheap lands, and bought on what is known by old settlers as Hoppin's Hill, and later in the season moved his family to his new home, at the same time driving with him his flock of 230 merino sheep, (the first flock of merinos ever brought to the country,) which under his judicious care, increased in a few years to 4,000, making him the largest wool grower in Madison County. He served as an officer of the New York Militia which was called to Sackett's Harbor in the year 1814, and served his town as Supervisor, and in other capacities, and his county as Member of Assembly in the year 1827, with fidelity to the interests entrusted to his care, and with honor to himself. He was an earnest advocate of what he believed for the good of society. He introduced many improvements in agriculture which were satisfactorily tested upon his large and productive farm, and which became the manes of lifting, by his example, many of his brother farmers from out the ruts of obsolete and unprofitable customs in which they had been plodding for years, owing to a want of knowledge of and communication with the world and its improvements."
Curtis Hoppin died at his residence in Lebanon, November 8, 1868, in the 84th year of his age. From his obituary we learn that "he was an efficient working member of the Congregational Church for many years, served as one of its deacons, was a sincere Christian, a useful and respected citizen, a careful businessman, a kind and venerated father and an affectionate husband."
F. B. Hoppin and B. E. Hoppin, his sons, (the last named now living in Lebanon,) have been members of Assembly, the former elected in the year 1851, and the latter in 1867.
Henry Palmer came from Windham, Conn., at the age of 24 years, in 1817, and purchased a large farm on Lot No. 6, on the north line of the town. Upon this his father's family, consisting of parents, five sons, including himself and one daughter, settled in 1818. The family came all the way form Windham to Lebanon, in Madison County, with an ox team, in the month of February. Calvin Palmer, (his father's name,) and his wife, and some of the children died here. Henry and Ephraim still live on the homestead farm, which is one of the best in Lebanon. Gurdon Palmer, another of the brothers, resides near Morrisville. Henry Palmer, before leaving his native country, Windham, was a manufacturer of paper, and came to the new country on account of ill health. He engaged in school teaching soon after arriving in Madison County, in which occupation he continued many years, regaining his health, which was continued to a hale and active old age. He has been Justice of the Peace for some years, and filled many other town offices. He was elected Member of Assembly from the 2nd District in 1843.
Amos Crocker was another early settler of Lebanon. He settled the farm now owned by Mrs. Ladd, on the Chenango River road. He removed to Hamilton afterwards and became a merchant.
Deacon Abram Webster came very early. It is said that Mr. Webster brought in the first wagon that was ever in this town. Noah Webster, of Spelling Book and Dictionary fame, was Abram's brother; his coming here on a visit when the country was very new, created no little curiosity in the minds of some, and a great deal of respect and veneration in the minds of those (and they were not a few) who took pride and pleasure in fostering education.
Richard Taylor, form Lebanon, Conn., was one of the pioneers of this town. He located where his son Henry Taylor now lives. He reared the first nursery of this section of country, from which the old orchards of Lebanon, and many of those of adjoining towns, were planted. Richard Taylor spent many years of an active life here, and died a few years since at an extremely advanced age. He was respected for his neighborly qualities, kind heart, and native good sense.5
All through Lebanon, one fact is noticed; families who were established, many of them, more than sixty years ago, are yet represented by their descendants, a great many on the original patriarchal homestead. Those substantial people, whose history is so interwoven with the history of the farms they have brought out of the wilderness, and with the annals of the town, whose interests have been identified with the concerns of society about them, deserve more than a passing notice. There is sufficient learned to show that they labored with a will to hew down the wilderness, build them homes, and to improve society.
When the rough corners of pioneer life had become rounded, there arose a desire for religious instruction. People who all their lives before coming here had habitually obeyed the summons of the Sabbath bell, began to feel yearnings for spiritual sustenance. Accordingly a church was formed of the Presbyterian order, and early in this century this society built a house for worship about one mile north of the "Centre." This building was afterwards moved to the "Hollow," and has since taken down.
In 1806 Elder Matthias Cazier came in from Salem, Conn., and settled upon land which had been taken up by Capt. Stevens, near the northwest part of the town. Elder Cazier was a regular graduate of the Congregational school, and had been the pioneer pastor of Castleton, Vermont, for which he received a grant in that State of 160 acres of land. Rather enjoying the freedom of the pioneer, and still more desiring the religious freedom which a new country gave its ministers, he took up the same labors in Lebanon. He preached here about twenty-one years, receiving no compensation, as was usually the case with ministers of this section at the day. He usually held religious services at his own house or at the school houses. Elder Cazier held to the liberty of expounding his own views in his sermons, without reference to the opinions of others, and hence was denominated an original character. He closed his labors in 1827, and died soon after.
Simultaneous with the desire for religious improvement, there developed a strong tendency in favor of education. The first school, as has been related, was taught by widow Nancy Campbell. Several were taught in different parts, in the houses of pioneers, before school houses were built. Elder Matthias Cazier taught in his house in the winter of 1806-7. Soon, however, in various localities amid the settlements, were log school houses, largely patronized by the increasing population. At one time, the school in Campbell's Settlement and that at Webster's Corners, adjoining, had each one hundred pupils per day. At a later period, schools and school houses demanded a great deal of attention. Among those earnestly engaged in the cause, the talented and influential John W. Bulkley was conspicuous. The first frame school house of the town was built in Smith's Valley, the neighborhood I which Mr. Bulkley spent his last days. There is a bit of history connected with it: Justus B. Smith sold to this district a half acre of land, on which to build their school house, for the sum of sixty dollars, and gave to the district. The bell was famous, for there was no other in the country round; consequently this was called Bell District. The day is not forgotten when its clear tones could be heard of mornings far and near, bringing in companies of merry children from the remotest area to which it belonged. One day, however, it failed to wake the echoes of the woodland; the schoolhouse had caught fire and burned to the ground, and the old bell was melted in the fervid heat.
Members of that school in the days long ago, who are yet living, speak of John W. Bulkley, who, when aged and broken, and infirmities physical and mental had dimmed the eye and palsied the hand of this once great man, used frequently to visit the school to note the progress of the pupils; his love for children made many a sunny spot in his life. They remember him leaning his trembling weight upon his staff, tears streaming down his furrowed cheeks as he rises to address the school, and they will give the closing of his impromptu speech, verbatim, as follows:--- "I am an old man; the place that knows me now will soon know me no longer. You are children; you have a lifetime before you; even your small hands can do something which will prove a blessing, and for which you shall be remembered. I say to you children, each, plant a tree; and the birds of the heavens will come down and build nests in its branches; and you, and your children, and your children's children will come and rest in the shade thereof. I say children, plant a tree." The thoughtless are subdued and tears are on the cheeks of the listeners as the aged man leaves the school room. It is not so much his words which affect them as the impressive voice and manner, the same which once distinguished him as the eloquent member of the House of Representatives.
When John W. Bulkley was dead, and his voice was no more heard among them, they cherished his familiar utterances, and in a few years the yard around that schoolhouse was planted full of trees.
Lebanon in the past has not been ambitious in the matter of villages. Earlville lies mostly east of the Chenango River, which is the boundary line between Hamilton and Lebanon at this place. The southeast corner of the town is the center of the highway at the gristmill, it being the point where four towns and tow counties corner. These towns are: Smyrna and Sherburne, of Chenango, and Hamilton and Lebanon, of Madison County. At Earlville, within the town of Lebanon, is situated the Midland Railroad depot, the grist mill and a few houses. The Syracuse and Chenango Valley Railroad has its terminus at the Midland here. The admirable situation and the railroad facilities will cause the village to extend in this direction, and a few years hence marked changes will be witnessed in the Lebanon side of Earlville.
Thomas Kershaw was one of the early businessmen of this place, living on the Lebanon side. He was an Englishman, who brought into the States the first carding machine. This, it is said, he smuggled across the ocean, as the English Government was determined, at that day, that their manufacturing secrets should not benefit America. On the river above the present gristmill he built his carding works, and afterwards built a gristmill and sawmill near. He had a family of seven sons and one daughter. He and his sons carried on a large and lively trade in all these branches of business. The gristmill was subsequently purchased by William Felt, and by him was rebuilt on the present location.
LEBANON VILLAGE is situated west of the center about two miles. Dr. Constant Merrick, Jonathan Thayer, Dane BullardE4, Orsamus Gilbert and Ephraim Gray were the original owners of the land and settlers of the village. Jonathan Thayer was the first postmaster and the first merchant. He also had a potashery. Israel Thayer was a hatter, and pursued the trade in Lebanon. The Thayers, as a family, were especially adapted to the mercantile business, and were the first who successfully established trade in Lebanon. Sylvester Thayer, son of Jonathan, was prominent as a merchant in Eaton, as well as in Lebanon. He built the present store in Lebanon village about 1833. Orsamus Gilbert kept the first tavern as early as 1805, and continued in the business for many years. The present tavern was built by Horace A. Campbell, for a store, in 1831. About 1834 it was converted into a tavern. When Orrin Thayer, the last of his family, (the elder Thayer having died,) removed west, the trade in Lebanon passed into other hands. Hoppin & Lamb were mercantile firms here some years, and later Avery & Lamb. The present merchant I the Lamb store is L. B. Pike, Esq.
Lebanon village, nestled in a basin formed at the foot of extensive hills, andE5 was called the "Hollow." Its industries are a tannery, sawmill, cheese factory, hotel, s tore and post office; there is a blacksmith, wagon maker and general mechanic, boot and shoe maker, tailor, dressmaker, milliner, and artisans, such as are usual in villages; the Congregational Church, the Union School, and twenty-five houses. The Syracuse and Chenango Valley Railroad, which passes directly through the place, has here a good depot.
The greatest of Madison County's recent enterprises, is her cheese factories, which began to multiply about 1866. They are in every dairying district, some towns having as many as fifteen factories and creameries. The manufacture of butter and cheese by a scientific process, produces results sufficiently satisfactory to perpetuate these institutions. One of the best the county affords is at Lebanon village, which, during the present season, (1872,) manufactures 18,000 lbs. of milk per day into butter and cheese, while from six to eight tons of dairy product, per week, have been shipped from this factory during the season.
From the first settlement of Lebanon, individuals improved the facilities afforded for mills. Besides the gristmills of the Wheelers in the east part of the town, and that of Mr. Kershaw, at Earlville, there was a mill built about a mile southwest of the center at a very early day, which was rebuilt of stone about 1837, by J. Paddleford. This is a good working mill yet, owned (1869) by C. Nichols. It is better known, however, as the old Paddleford Mill.
One of the first, if not the first cotton factory of Madison County was built on the Chenango River, at Middleport, by a company, in 1814. Sheetings and printed goods were made here. Not having machinery for making the first quality of cloth, they changed to woolen manufactures, in which they were more successful. This was then one of the first woolen factories of the county. Pettis & Osgood once ran this mill, whether with wool or with cotton we are not informed. In their hands, however, considerable business was done, eight and ten families being employed. When this factory was discontinued, it was for a time used as a store house, and later was converted into a sawmill.
Middleport, Smith's Valley and Randallsville are pretty much one and the same---Middleport being the old factory location, on the east side of the river, the latter being the location of the present Randallsville post office. Many years ago, when the country was new, Clark and Dorrance, from Hamilton, in company with Joshua Smith, kept a store in the basement of the storehouse now owned by A. Z. Kingsley.
What changes are wrought by the lapse of years! Aged people tell us of days when their cabins in the wilderness had no glass windows, and their doors were hung on wooden hinges and had wooden latches. There was the fireplace furniture, andirons, pot-hooks and trammels, the crane, the long-handled frying pan and the baking board. When the tin baker was introduced it was regarded as a decided improvement. The shelves of the rude kitchen were adorned with pewter platters and pewter spoons. The birch splint broom stood in the corner. The pioneer's meals were hasty pudding and milk, or pudding and maple molasses; bean porridge, pumpkin johnny-cake, baked in wrappiogs of cabbage leaves, in the ashes hot with coals, cakes baked on a board before the fire; "shack fed" pork, fish and wild game, and potatoes baked in the ashes. As prosperity rewarded their labors, pumpkin pies,doughnuts, and bread, both wheat and Indian, baked in brick ovens, graced the farmer's board. Dress was altogether of home manufacture, and for colors the old black sheep and the blue dye-tub were kept; witch hazel and butternut bark gave variety. Sheep's gray, fine pressed blue, the fine check linen, and linen white, were ruling styles of dress. The utensils used by the farmers were the old unhandy plow with wooden mold board, the brushy limb of a tree for a drag, and the willow wicker-work hand fan for winnowing grain in the wind.
Small value was set upon farms, or a high value upon official positions, as the following story shows:--- Previous to 1821, a property qualification was required to enable a man to vote. The election of 1815 was likely to be closely contested, and Wm. S. Smith was on the ticket for Member of Congress from the 5th District of this State. Voters were not plenty in Lebanon, for but few had yet obtained deeds of their land. Justus B. Smith called on a certain citizen in his neighborhood and learned the he would vote for William S., if he only possessed the required freehold. A deed was duly made out by Justus B., signed and placed in the man's hands, and William S. Smith received one more vote, which, possibly, might have cast the die, for he became the fortunate possessor of the seat in Congress.
Many middle aged men and women may recognize the following description of a spelling school of forty years ago. Human nature, the same in all circumstances, ages and climes, had about the same expression then as it has now. The story is related as follows:---
It was a clear cold winter night, and there was to be a spelling school in ---- District. The boys and girls came over the crisp snow crust in little companies, the small boys brought their sleds and improved every down hill for a ride. A big load came from the adjoining settlement. The familiar old school room was lighted with great motherly halves of tallow candles, pinned all about on the ceiling with jack knives. The dignified master seated in the one splint bottom chair of the room, rapped three times on the cross-legged table beside him, with his rule. Instantly the buzzing of voices began to die away; it was soon all quiet, the floor cleared, and the seats encircling the room were full. Presently, "James McComb!" (we don't give his true name, as the reader would know him as well as we, and that is our secret,) called the teacher, "take the right side!" Jim, greatly embarrassed, came forward, his thick locks of light hair falling half over his face, his pants tucked in the tops of thick cowhide boots, and with an ungainly movement took his seat. A feminine voice tittered, and Jim heard it. Being seated, he raised his head erect and with a large hand pushed back his hair, revealing a finely formed forehead and a bright eye, which glanced keenly around. He was master of the situation now, for Jim was a capital speller.
"Mary Cummings, take the left side!" commanded the master, Mary didn't titter this time. With a little toss of her head and a sparkle in her black eyes Mary went gracefully across the room. "Girls are never green; how provoking!" was Jim's mental remark.
The two "captains" now proceeded to "choose sides." Jim had the first chance, and deciding to be generous, he called out "Rob Allard!" one of the poorest spellers in school. Mary's turn came; she was embarrassed, but her keen tact enabled her to make a wise choice. Betsey Lee, a well known scholar, and mistress of "Webster," from among the guests, was chosen. They went on choosing sides, Mary getting the best and Jim the poorest, till all were drawn. Then commenced the battle, mild at first, the little children gong down on easy words, the master now giving a page here and a line there among little and big words, till all worth mentioning in Webster's "Elementary" had been "put out." Jim smiled when Mary stumbled on through her rendering of u-n un, i-n unin, t-e-l tel unintel, l-i li unintelli, g-i gi unintelligi, b-i-l bil unintelligibil, i unintelligibili, t-y ty unintelligibility; and she looked grave when she saw how promptly he went through with h-a-u-t ho, b-o-y boy, ho-boy, and many other words of equally difficult orthography. During the contest, one by one had fallen out of the ranks, Mary with the rest. Good looking Rob Allard was one of the first, and as he slid in behind the standing file till he came to Olive Leonard and began to whisper to her, it came near costing Jim his laurels as he was spelling the word Isaiah, for Olive was the very girl Jim was going to ask to go home with. The word Deborah fell to the lot of John Allen. A whole row of boys and girls who were "spelled down," looked knowingly at Deborah Barton, whose fair face blushed as pink as the ribbons in her hair. John forgot what he was about and finished the word with r-y ry. They were all down now but Betsey Lee and Jim. The two had a pitched battle. The master looked at the candles burning low; he brought out the hardest words Webster had produced, which he pronounced badly. Mary was anxious Betsey should win, and undertook to prompt, in which she misled her friend, and she too was spelled down, leaving Jim conqueror of the field, which fully compensated for the fact -that Olive Leonard went from the spelling school leaning on Rob Allard's arm.
Those famous spelling schools of which the above is but a sample, performed their part of the work in educating the men of the past generation. The hero of the above sketch subsequently attained to an honored position in business and political circles.
There has been among Lebanon's citizens, from the first, many men of public spirit, who have encouraged progress and invited improvements. To essay to enumerate these would result in failure, owing to imperfect data; but some names occur so often in statements made of progress, that we feel impressed to name them in this connection: The Thayers, progressive and prominent men for a long time; Moses Wylie, a popular teacher, a useful and efficient town officer, who, it is believed, possessed, at one time, greater influence in Lebanon than any other man; Squire John Sheldon, frequently serving in official positions, discharging all duties with marked ability, useful and influential; and William Felt, wealthy and popular, --- all of whom are now deceased. Some, now living, in their days of vigorous prime, served in official public places faithfully and advanced the interests of this town. Among these we see Squire David Clark, of Earlville, often public officer, who was Supervisor, Justice of the Peace, &c., for the town, Member of Assembly in 1860, for the Second District; and Squire Henry Palmer, a frequent town officer, and also Member of Assembly. Younger men have now stepped into the ranks, whose clear practical brains are engineering the car of progress, and they are doing their work well.
Probably not a town in the county presents a smaller percentage of pauperism on the poor records, than this, or a less percentage on the criminal records. True independence and thrift characterizes the homes of this agricultural town.
During the last thirty years, here as in some other towns, population has fallen off. This is owing chiefly to its being an inland town. Many men of ambition and public spirit have been attracted from their homes to engage their talents and skill in business marts on the great thoroughfares. To the want of facilities for transporting the products of the soil and manufactures, may be attributed the great hindrance to enterprise heretofore, and not to any degeneracy in the soil, want of natural manufacturing facilities, or of energy of the inhabitants.
JOHN W. BULKLEY was one of the early distinguished men of Madison County. His native place was Colchester, Conn. he came into this country about 1797, as a Surveyor, and in that capacity was an expert. He was emphatically a practical man, and sought to correct many errors that had found place in the mind of the plodding settler. He desired the elevation of the people and labored for the education of the masses.
He was a man who immediately gave confidence in his abilities, and soon after his settlement here he was made Justice of the Peace. In 1801, he was one of the members of the Convention for revising the Constitution of his State, being, with Stephen Hoxie, delegate from Chenango County. In 1808, John W. Bulkley was elected Member of Assembly from Madison County, and was returned to that office by his constituents, four consecutive terms. In Legislature his influence was remarkable. It was stated by Judge Knowles, of Chittenango, that there was a time when it was impossible to get a bill through legislature if Squire Bulkley opposed it.
John W. Bulkley was fond of agricultural pursuits. On his farm (known as the "Frank Farm" from being in the care of Jerry Frank, a colored man he brought with him from the south,) he tested many an agricultural theory. Here he originated the famous "Strawberry apple." From a tree he grew from the seed on his Earlville farm, and transplanted to this, he produced, by grafting, the above named apple. It was called the "Bulkley apple," and then the "Chenango Strawberry."
When Mr. Bulkley closed his last term in the Legislature, he carried a bundle of scions from this tree, to Albany, and distributed them among his numerous friends. These being carried home and used by the members from nearly every county, the Strawberry apple became prevalent and popular, simultaneously, in all sections of New York State.
John W. Bulkley was a man of scholarly attainments. He possessed a fine address, and his manner commanded attention and respect. He was personally attractive; every movement evinced a sound physical and a marked mental organization.
The Baptist Church of Lebanon was formed June 26, 1816, at a council convened at the barn of Z. Benedict, there being then no other building of sufficient capacity to hold so large a meeting. The society formed then consisted of twenty-seven members. Elder Thomas Jeril was ordained on that day, and became their first pastor. About 1819, the house of worship was built about a mile north of the Center.
The Congregational Church of Lebanon. The society was formed in 1802, by Rev. Ezra Woodworth. The first Deacons were Abram Webster and John C. Wagoner. The meeting house was built at the Center in 1802, and was removed to the village in 1839.
There is a Universalist Church, also built at an early day, which stands near the Center. Meetings are occasionally held there.