This town is bounded north by Fenner and Smithfield, east by Eaton, south by Georgetown, and west by Cazenovia. It is one of the central towns of the County. Its surface is broken by successive ridges bearing in a northeasterly and southwesterly direction, which form the continuation of the watershed, dividing the waters flowing north and south. At a number of points, the opposite flowing streams have their source within a few rods of each other. At the "Tog Hill House," (a former hotel on the turnpike,) the water falling from the eaves of the roof take opposite directions,--from one side mingling with the northward bound streams form the other with those flowing southward.
The principal stream of this town, is the Chittenango Creek, which has two considerable branches. The largest of these rises in Fenner, and enters this town in the north part, courses southerly, then westerly, and in the northwest quarter unites with the other branch from the south, where the two form the main Chittenango, then a stream of much volume and power, flowing to the north through Cazenovia. The south branch has its source a short distance southeast of Erieville, and is fed by numerous rivulets from springs in the hillsides. This, and a tributary from the east, supplies Erieville Reservoir, which was constructed in 1857, at a cost of $10,884.73, covers an area of 340 acres, and lies at a considerable elevation above the Erie Canal of which it is a feeder, and is distant from the canal about 18 miles. The Eaton Reservoir, which supplies the Chenango Canal, lies partly in this town on the southeast border.
The soil of Nelson is generally of a gravelly loam, well adapted for grazing. The sections denominated in years past, the "cold hills of Nelson," are now productive dairy farms. Factories for making butter and cheese, are to be seen at frequent intervals. Published agricultural statistics, place this town high in the scale for its dairy and other exports.
Two State roads were laid out through this town, at an early day; one passing through the south part of the town, entering it from Eaton, across the land afterwards flowed by the Eaton Reservoir, passing over the hills through Erieville to Woodstock, thence to Union and Pompey Hill in Cazenovia; the other, coming from Morrisville, passing directly west through the town near the center. The Skaneateles Turnpike, afterwards constructed, took the general course of the former. The Cherry Valley turnpike, built about 1806, took a more northwesterly course than the State road from Morrisville, passing through Nelson Flats to Cazenovia. The Syracuse and Chenango Valley Railroad, now being constructed, crossed the town of Nelson, entering in the northwest quarter and passing out near the center of the south line.
Nelson was Township No. I, of the Chenango Twenty Towns, and according to its first survey, contained 27,187 acres. It was purchased by Col. John Lincklaen, and added to his Road Township Purchase in 1793; and when Cazenovia was organized in 1795, this Township was included in it. By an act of the Legislature, passed March 13, 1807; it was detached or formed from Cazenovia, the inhabitants naming it "Nelson," in honor of Lord Nelson the British Admiral. The first town meeting was held in a barn belonging to Rufus Wever, located where the State Road intersected with the road from Nelson Flats to Erieville. The barn was of sufficient capacity to hold the assemblage of voters, it being fifty-two feet long, by about forty wide; and if not the first, was one of the first frame barns of the town. It is still a good barn. The first Supervisor was John Rice; the first Justice of the Peace, Jedediah Jackson. But three men who were old enough to take part in the town meeting, are now living in the town; these are Benj. Wadsworth, David Case and David Card.
In 1793, Jedediah Jackson and Joseph Yaw came from Vermont, to locate land in Township No. I, for a company who proposed to emigrate from that State. The situation of the land pleased these commissioners, and the northeast quarter of the township was purchased. Accordingly, in 1794, twenty families came on from Pownell, Vt., and settled that quarter, and also other parts of the township. The names of these pioneers, together with others who came during the same and following year, are as follows:--Jedediah Jackson, Oliver Alger, Ebenezer Lyon, Levi Neal, Daniel Adams, Thomas Swift, Esquire Howard, Luther Doolittle, Joseph Carey, John Everton and his three sons, Rufus Wever, David Nichols, Noel Johnson, Nicholas Jencks, Jeremiah Sayles, Capt. Mallory and his seven sons, Seth Curtis, Daniel Madison, Joseph Yaw, Amos Rathbone, Eliphalet Jackson, James Green, Sylvanus Sayles, Daniel Cooledge, Isaac Cooledge, Roger Brooks, Robert Brown, Solomon Brown, Thomas Tuttle, Jesse Tuttle, Isaiah Booth, Jesse Clark.
When the company of pioneers were near the end of their journey, they encamped for the night in the woods just outside the Nelson line. The families of Jedediah Jackson and Rufus Wever were camped together. Early next morning two young ladies of the party, one a daughter of Mr. Jackson, the other of Mr. Wever, each resolved to be the first to enter the new town. These active young women had a lively foot race till they came to a stream bridged only by a log. Neither paused for ceremony, for on the other side of the "rolling flood" before them, lay the soil of the new township, which each with flying feet was striving to be the first to reach. Miss Jackson succeeded in getting upon the log first by just one step; but Miss Wever, agile as any wild denizen of those primitive woods, sprang also upon the log, pushed her rival off, and with swift steps gained the opposite shore. Her gay laugh rang out loud and clear as she looked back upon Miss Jackson at the other end of the log, whose face was a picture of mingled mirth and chagrin. This little incident served to enliven the camp, and with cheerful hearts the company went on and took possession of the unbroken forest of Nelson. Miss Wever afterwards became the wife of Nathan Smith, and Miss Jackson, the wife of David Fay. Rufus Wever Jr., now living, was an infant one year old when his father came on with this company of settlers.
Rufus Wever's first purchase in the State of New York, was a large farm where Utica now stands, which he bought of the patron of Albany, Stephen Van Rensselaer, without previously seeing it. On going to it to take possession, he found that an old man had "squatted" upon it. Not wishing to drive him off, he went back to Van Rensselaer and offered to give up his claim if he could have his money back. This was done, and thus Mr. Wever let a splendid bargain pass from his hands. So, with his money, he came on with his former neighbors to Nelson. He had a large family,1 who settled around him. His large farm is now owned by his son Rufus, and the first frame house he built-probably the oldest frame house now standing in Nelson-is still the home of this son.
Jedediah Jackson located on the hill, a short distance west of the Flats; here he built the first tavern, which was also the first frame house of the town. It was a large fine building for those days. When the turnpike, which passed his house, was changed in its course, he converted it into a frame house, where he spent the remainder of his years.
Joseph Yaw located west of the center. He was a captain of Militia, a Justice of the Peace, a man of position and highly respected.
Roger Brooks was probably the first cabinet maker of the town. Many articles of his handicraft, rare specimens of mechanism, are still doing service in the homes of the old families. He was a substantial citizen, whom all respected and loved; hence was a valued member of the new settlement.
Daniel Adams, who settled north of the Flats, was a prominent citizen and useful man in all stations he was called to fill.
Asahel Jackson was another of the prominent and useful men of Nelson in the early days, both in town and country.
Joseph, Chauncey, and David Case, brothers, came from the town of Simsbury, Hartford County, Conn., at or near the beginning of the present century. They located in the then unbroken wilderness, in the west part of the town, where they gradually developed large farms, Joseph and Chauncey occupying the homesteads of their own founding till their deaths. Joseph died in 1855, aged 89 years; Chauncey in 1860, aged 86 years. David Case still (1872,) resides on the farm he first purchased, in his 94th year. These three men were present at the meeting to organize the town of Nelson; they were highly respected; valued, and useful citizens. Lester and J. Milton Case, sons of Joseph Case, reside in Cazenovia. The former was a member of the Legislature in 1858, and also a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1867 and '68. Luna, daughter of Joseph Case, married Mr. Geo. Garrett, and resided in Wisconsin till her death, which occurred recently.
William Knox and David Hamilton, brothers-in-law, came early, and took up adjoining farms in the east part of the town. They were from Blandford, Mass. Quite a little colony came from the same place soon after-probably about 1805-among whom were the Simons, Blairs, Stimsons, and John Knox, a brother of William. John Knox, on his arrival, took the farm first located by his brother. Mr. C.D. Knox is on the farm originally taken up by his father, and S.W. Hamilton, son of David, also succeeds to the paternal homestead.
William Knox moved from Blandford in the winter, with one horse and an ox team, and was fourteen days on the journey. Mrs. Knox, during the journey, knit a pair of cotton stockings in the long evenings where they stopped for the night, which are still in existence. When they arrived in Township No. I, they were obliged to proceed the rest of the way to their location by marked trees. The young wife-they had been but a short time married-was very homesick; she could not readily become reconciled to their forest home. Every surrounding was uncongenial; the snow-laden forest was all around their log cabin, the woods so dense that many trees could be counted, looking from the broad fire-place upward through the ample chimney top; the comforts of life were few, and as to society, there was scarcely any availably near, in the depths of winter. She often related how her heart was cheered one night by the sound of sleigh bells; a riding party from Cazenovia had lost their way in the woods, and drove past their door. An angel's visit could not have been more opportune than was the jingling of those bells in the quiet night time to the homesick woman.
On one of the head branches of the Chittenango, some distance north of Erieville, the first grist mill was built by a Mr. Annas. Oliver Pool afterwards became the owner of this mill, and moved it a short distance to lengthen the dyke. Subsequently he built a new mill upon the same stream near by.
One of the first taverns of the town was kept by Luther Doolittle in the northeast quarter, about 1800. It was not a very pretentious institution, being a log structure, with barn, &c, attached. There is nothing now on the site. Another inn was built by Eldad Richardson, on "Eagle Hill," not long after 1800. For years, the tall Lombardy poplars, which stood so conspicuously against the sky upon that lofty height, in front of the hostelry, seemed literally to beckon the way-worn traveler, bound west, onward, and up the sharp acclivity, inviting him to refreshments and rest beneath their shadow. To those who had once traversed the Skaneateles Turnpike over Eagle Hill, these trees, seen afar, were an assurance of wayside comforts at hand. We ought to add, however, that Richardson's first tavern here was a log building, with limited conveniences; the bar-room, dining-room and parlor being one and the same.
The first store in town was kept by Eliphalet Jackson, in a small log house at Nelson Flats, on the west side of the swamp, and a little way on the ascending ground-near Lot No. 20. The second store was kept by Jacob Tuckerman, sen., in a log building in Erieville. A Mr. Mallory built the first frame tavern building where the present one stands, and Tuckerman succeeded him as landlord. Eri Richardson, (one of the five brothers,) succeeded Tuckerman, and as a token of the esteem in which he was held by the citizens, his name was in part given to the little ville, which was at that time growing in importance. Thereafter, Erieville 2 became one of the well and widely known points on the Skaneateles Turnpike. The present hotel was built by Thomas Medbury about 1820.
Previous to 1815, James Tinsler built a saw mill on the lot now owned by Mr. Wightman, on the turnpike, nearly half way from Erieville to Woodstock. About 1816, he also built a tavern at the same point. He had previously had a tavern and grocery building here, which stood upon the same site and was kept by a Mr. Powers. These men, however, were not the first here; a man by the name of Green kept this inn and grocery a number of years before them. Tinsler moved into his new tavern and became his own landlord.
In 1796, five brothers-Eldad, Eri, Lemuel, Asa and Benjamin Richardson-came in from New Hampshire, and settled in and near where Erieville now is. About the same date, or a little later, John Hamilton, sen., and his six sons, Moses Smith, Ezra and Isaac Lovejoy, Erastus Grover, Asa Carey, Haven White, Richard Wilbur and Enos Chapin came in and settled in different localities in this town. Many of these were from Massachusetts. Joshua, Robert and Garner Wells, came about 1798, and settled on the hill above "Pool's Mills." William and Joseph Sims, brothers of Horatio, also settled in this town and Cazenovia. Jeremiah Clark located north of Erieville. He built the first saw mill about 1800; it stood where now is the outlet of the Erieville Reservoir. Israel Patterson and Oliver Stone located in the south part of the town; Richard Karley in the northeast quarter; Abner Camp in the southeast corner. Camp's location being so near the Eaton line, and "Camp's Pond" being within the town of Eaton, a sketch of him is given in that town. The Hopkins also in the southeast part, are mentioned in the Eaton chapter. David Wellington settled on Lot 137, near the Eaton Brook Reservoir, in 1797. Thomas Ackley and Benjamin Hatch, from Plainfield, Otsego County, settled in the same locality. Aaron Lindsley, Moses and Solomon Clark, Jesse, Abner and Seth Bump, came previous to 1800, the three Bump brothers settling in the most northern part of the town. Calvin Farnam came in from the Mohawk country at an early date. Luke Jennings, from Long Island, settled on the farm now owned by John Clark, opposite the Nelson Richardson place. Isaiah and Ezra Booth, came from Conway, Conn., in April, 1800; Ezra located on the north half of the lot now owned by his grandson, Levi Booth, on the State Road in the neighborhood of the Welsh meeting house.
Judge Ebenezer Lyon and his wife Chloe, came from Wallingford, Vt., and located on Lots No. 78 and 79, in Nelson, in 1794. He was one of the first Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Madison Co., his term of office being in the years 1806, '07, '08, and '09. He was also Supervisor for fifteen years. Judge Lyon lived the remainder of his life on the farm he first took up. His son, Elephas Lyon, lived there after him. The original frame house he built is still standing. In his neighborhood there are three of those old mansions standing which were built when the country was new. These belong to the families of Lyon, Burton and Card.
Jeremiah Blair was one of the early settlers in this town and his descendants still reside here. Matthew Blair settled in the Knox neighborhood. The Blairs were from Blandford, Mass.
Jesse Carpenter from Wooster, Mass., settled in Erieville, in 1808. Elijah and William, his sons, settled here also, the latter subsequently moved to Ohio, while Elijah remained in Erieville. From Jesse, the Carpenters of Nelson have descended.3
It has been stated that the first death of a white person in Nelson was that of Mrs. Bishop, which occurred in 1800. This may be a mistake, as a stone in the Lyon Cemetery bears the name of "Anna, wife of Daniel Constine, who died May 15, 1795."
David Wellington came into this town about 1797, from Cheshire, N.H., with a pack of clothing, constituting all his earthly goods, upon his back. He selected his Lot-No. 137, now occupied by Isaac Blair,--in the section now bordering on the West Eaton Reservoir, making his purchase of John Lincklaen. Here he cleared one acre of land, got in the area to wheat, built him a log house, and then returned to Cheshire and brought on his wife. Both were poor but they had a large fund of common sense, were endowed with physical health, strength and activity, and were skilled farmers of that day. Their log house was shingled with elm bark, the floor was split logs, leveled off with the ax; the door was the only part of the house made of sawed lumber, which was hung on wooden hinges, and its leather latch-string was pulled in every night. Joshua Wells, also of Cheshire, came on to Nelson with an ox sled, in the first winter of Wellington's house keeping, and stopped at Wellington's house for a time; and here was born the first white child in Nelson-Palmer, eldest son of Joshua Wells, in 1798. Also during the same year was born Mr. Wellington's oldest child, Lucy, who in process of time, became the wife of Silas Hopkins. David Wellington was the first Justice of the Peace in Nelson, which position he held for about twenty years. He was a man of good judgment, capable of seeing the right and the wrong of an issue, clearly.
Job Wood, Samuel Salisbury and Benjamin Wadsworth came in from Bennington, Vermont, in 1802. Wadsworth and one of the other men alternately managed the team, which consisted of eight yoke of oxen and one horse. To this unusual team was attached a vehicle, quite as unusual; two pair of ox-cart wheels, heavy axles, a long reach, and an enormous hay-rack, constituted it! It was loaded with hay, cornstalks, corn, &c, on which this long array of cattle were to subsist on their journey; also, underneath the mass of forage was stowed away provisions, axes, log-chains, various tools, &c., for use in the new country. Mr. Wadsworth was a lad but 16 years of age when he arrived in Nelson. He is still living, at the great age of 86, and is fond of indulging in the comparison of the traveling speed of today with seventy years ago; it took him seventeen days and a half to reach here with his oxen and cart; a journey which can now be performed "between sun and sun."
Eber Sweet, from Schoharie County, was an early settler near the "Temple." Richard Salisbury and Alonzo Morse, two pioneers, married daughters of Mr. Sweet; he also had sons who located near him, all of whom are now dead.
Simeon Hascall came to Nelson from Granville, Hartford Co., Conn., in 1799. He reared a large family, which became scattered, though some of his descendants are located in different parts of the county. There is an anecdote related of his two daughters, which was confirmed by Mrs. Sally White, one of the two, who often related it, to her children during her life time:--When settlements were sparse and Nelson nearly all woods, these young ladies went some distance through the forest to a "quilting," starting for home in the evening. There was no moon; the woods soon became so dark that neither they nor their horse upon which they both rode could keep the path, and consequently they became bewildered. They therefore decided that the wiser course would be to climb a tree and remain for the night. Tying their horse to a sapling, they ascended a tree near by and clasped in each other's arms, clinging in the same embrace to some of the lateral limbs, they spent all those long, anxious hours to daybreak. Their horse in the meantime got loose and found his own way home. After his departure, the girls distinctly heard the movements of some animal at the foot of their tree, which, after snuffling about awhile went away, evidently not very hungry. Morning at length relieved their vigils, and they found their home easily; but from that day till their death they vividly remembered that old fashioned quilting, and the old time forests without roads.
Sally Hascall married Mr. Amos White, an early settler of Nelson, from Spencer, Worcester County, Mass. They were married June 24, 1804, when she was at the age of 18. Jonas and Cyrenus White, of Eaton, are their sons. These pioneers removed from here to Alleghany County, N.Y., and were long ago laid to rest.
Mr. Abijah Hyatt was first a settler in Nelson, where he reared a family of eleven children, who have nearly all located themselves in Madison County. His sons settled in Fenner as farmers, and were prominent in society. Mr. Hyatt was a leading man in the M. E. Church of Nelson Flats, and was beloved and respected. Francis A., son of Aaron Hyatt, is his grandson.
Dea. Palmer Baldwin was an early resident in Nelson Flats. He took a conspicuous part in the busy scenes of active life, was distinguished for his strict integrity, straightforward, honorable dealing, and general usefulness. He enjoyed through his lifetime the confidence and esteem of the community. Mrs. Baldwin was also extensively known, respected and beloved, and her influence in the society in which she moved, was of a tendency to elevate and purify.
Francis Norton came from Connecticut to Cazenovia in 1800, and about 1810 or '12, removed to the south part of Nelson, settling on the farm which is now owned by Daniel Moore. His large family are settled in this and adjacent towns. One of its members, Davis Norton, was well known for many years as Deputy Sheriff; he also held other offices. Francis Norton, jr., has been for several terms a Justice of the Peace. Joseph Norton, another member of this family, is a lawyer of ability and influence. In the family burial ground; upon the old Norton farm, for many years could be seen the quaint headstones so generally in use fifty years and more ago.
Nelson early became most exemplary in her zeal to promote the cause of religion, which is, no doubt, the foundation of all that sobriety and conservatism which has ever characterized this people. As early as the year 1800, many of these children of puritanical New England, felt the want of a leader to institute an organized band of the followers of Christ, to resist the insidious approaches of sin and folly, which was making its way into the new settlement. In the absence of religious services, the Sabbath was fast degenerating into a day of visiting, amusement and recreation.
In the northeast "Quarter," which was earliest settled, this religious movement first began, and such men as Aaron Lindsley, Deacon Moses Smith, Josiah Booth, Luther Doolittle, Jedediah Jackson, Thomas Tuttle, and others, of this, then quite numerous settlement, set about the good work, and obtaining the services of Elder Calvin Keys, a reformation preacher of some note, from Massachusetts, they organized a society. Meetings were held for a season in their primitive log tenements, but in a short time their congregations became too large to be contained in these humble temples of worship. Then the forest, God's own beautiful temple, became the place of rendezvous, whose heavenly arches and deep "sounding aisles" rang with the full chorus of male and female voices in their songs of praise.
Our ancestors had a most novel mode of conducting their singing, which arose from the emergencies of the time, there being a scarcity of hymn books--perhaps not more than one to the congregation. After the reading of the hymn, the chorister, or person who pitched the tune, "lined" the verses, i.e. read the two first lines, when they were sung by the congregation, then read the next two lines, and these were sung, and so on to the end of the hymn. In this manner the lengthy hymns were made lengthier still, and the cadences of their voices, though untrained in the operatic school, rose and fell harmoniously, and vibrated with the melody of the heart, attuned in harmony with the overflowing music of the voices of the grand and free nature all about them. Shall we say that such praise was less acceptable to God than the more studied musical eloquence of today?
These seasons of religious refreshment created the greatest harmony and good will among them.
Their congregations were made up from the inhabitants, at a distance of six or seven miles around, and were collected in a manner evincing their zeal. The farmer who owned the best team, (oxen, of course,) of each street or neighborhood, attached them to his cart or sled, as the season might be, and commencing with his own neighborhood, took in all who wished-and these were usually all who could be spared from home-to go. As they journeyed on toward the place of meeting, every habitation on the road was hailed, for additions to their numbers. Should these increase beyond the capacity of conveyance, the men and boys gaily gave their places in the ox-cart for the accommodation of woman and children, and, moving forward, a sturdy group of men and lads, they soon outdistanced the lumbering movements of the patient oxen.
In this manner, from a wide section were assembled congregations, which for size would handsomely grace the churches of our largest villages.
Did the weather prohibit a meeting within the verdant carpeted and green roofed temple of the forest, then the spacious and commodious barns, which the settlers in their prosperity were beginning to erect, were dedicated, as it were, to the service of God. The first frame barn said to have been built in the town of Nelson, was situated on Cooledge street, now "Tog Hill," in which a series of meetings were held.
So earnestly did these people hunger and thirst for the "bread of life," that, in the absence of a minister to dispense religious services to them, some worthy member of the society was appointed to conduct them, and read a printed sermon which was sent them for that purpose, Mr. Daniel Butler, a most exemplary and worthy Christian, was often required to perform this duty. His name stands most familiar, among others who equally performed their duties here, owing to his lamentable death from an accident which occurred immediately after one of these ministrations, and which caused a shadow of deep sorrow and gloom to pervade the community. The circumstances were as follows:--On this Sabbath the services had been held in Mr. Butler's barn and from his lips the sermon had been read to an attentive audience. Earnestly and devotedly were the concluding services performed by him, who, though in a subdued frame of mind, yet little knew how short was the span of his usefulness,--how near he was to the verge of the river over which he must soon pass. Quietly withdrew the serious congregation, while Mr. Butler remained to perform a few temporal labors of the closing day. Mr. Butler, though laboring spiritually for the flock of Christ on the Sabbath, yet labored for his temporal needs, and cared for all of God's creatures under his protection. For this purpose, immediately after the congregation had dispersed, he ascended the scaffold of his barn, and threw down the hay with which to feed his herd for the night. By some fatal misstep in his attempt to jump from the scaffold, he was precipitated upon the tines of his pitchfork, which entered his body. He was removed to his dwelling in the most excruciating agony, and after two days' suffering, death kindly released him.
Death in any form, was, if possible, something more terrible to the whole community in that day than now, owing to the warm social family interest the pioneers felt for each other; but when the dread messenger came in an aggravated form, the whole people felt the shock. Therefore was Mr. Butler's loss deplored by everybody, and never was his last ministrations or his untimely death erased from the affectionate remembrance of his friends. This is said to have been the second death by accident which had occurred in the early settlement of the town.
The southern part of the town, in the district of Erieville, was only second in date in its church organizations, and, if possible, seemed to outdo her sister settlements in her religious growth. The first temple built and set apart for religious services, was erected there by the Baptist Society. This was the beginning of a permanent society, which should make its impress upon the rising destiny of Erieville. Had we space to record its progress, or to devote to the other religious organizations which have sprung up and become permanently incorporated into the history of Erieville, the record would prove this as a preeminently religious community.
Notwithstanding the even tenor of life which their religious character was marking out for them, they did not omit the social amenities of life. Their neighborly "logging bees" came off regularly, when the men of the neighborhood turned out en masse, and took turns in helping each other to log up their clearings, and the women all visited his wife, making it a holiday. After the log piles were all completed, and tea had been served, how gaily flew the short hours spent together among those who had been old friends in the land of their nativity, and were now bound together by the ties which held them to their native country and those of a common interest in the land of their adoption. How interestedly conversed the men of the number, quality and condition of their stock, the extent of their land clearings, the profit of their crops, (exceedingly small, it would seem to us,) their prospects for improvements in lands and in buildings, and finally for society organizations and government. All these unfoldings of the plans of each to the other, stimulated each one to a healthy spirit of emulation and final success.
While this was transpiring among the men, the women are chatting of their manufacture of linen and wool, while their clever hostess has perhaps taken them up the ladder into her low-roofed chamber, to display to them her stores for the coming winter.
These consist of maple sugar and dried pumpkin, the only luxuries they could eke from their forest home at that early day. The former is stored in a section of a white maple tree, which had originally been hollow, and had been nicely scooped out in the form of a cask. The latter are dried in great rings, and are bundled together and hung up. At one end of this one-roomed chamber, stands the lumbering loom, which is looked upon as a specimen of good workmanship, having been constructed by the lady's clever husband; and from a large chest she now proceeds to draw forth the trophies of her handiwork from that identical loom. My readers are no doubt familiar with the style of the linen and woolen fabrics woven by our grandmothers, which were also of the kind she now has produced. But there is in the till of this chest, which came with her from the far-off "down east," something which more than all else attracts the attention of all. The treasured mementoes of the dear old home are there; the little trinkets, the locks of hair, a few choice books, lead their thoughts and conversation into a different channel, and then tender reminiscences are discussed, mingled with desires that their children might have some of the advantages which it had been their privilege to enjoy in a land of learning and progress. The subject of schools is earnestly discussed by these mothers, and the advent of a teacher from the East is an event hailed with no small pleasure.
The dangers and anxieties incident to the life were not few, and not the least formidable of these dangers arose from the daring encroachments of wild beasts. Encounters with these savage animals were quite common, and there were instances where their ferocity proved too much for the agility and strength of the hunters. A circumstance of this kind took place in the northern part of the town, in August, 1802, which produced much excitement in this and the adjacent towns.
The tracks of a very large bear had been seen in the vicinity of the house of Jesse and Abner Bump, in the northeast quarter. Abner Bump was a bachelor residing with his brother Jesse's family. It was on Saturday afternoon, the farm work for the week being done, and there was leisure for hunting, they, therefore, resolved to follow up the trail of the animal, whose tracks they had seen quite fresh in the morning, and the fact that their flocks and corn fields were in danger of depredations from this bold desperado made it necessary to arrest its progress. Accordingly they started in pursuit, following the track in the direction of the Chittenango (Chittenning as it was called) Creek, and near the town line adjoining Fenner they overtook Mistress Bruin while following a tributary of the Creek. She was a splendid animal, in a condition of flesh which betokened her familiarity with the farmers' flocks and crops-of magnificent proportions, and moved along with perfect ease and fearlessness after beholding her pursuers. The hunters lost no time to avail themselves of this opportunity for attack. Jesse at once fired and wounded the bear, which so exasperated her that she turned, and exhibited signs of fighting. No time was not to be lost, as they were very near the enraged animal, and both men were conscious that their success or safety, depended upon the surety of Abner's shot. Instantly, Abner, though in a bad position to make a fatal shot, raised his piece and aimed directly at her side, hoping thereby to cripple her, and thus keep her at bay till his brother could reload. Unfortunately, the gun missed fire, and the infuriated beast was upon him in a moment, hurling her massive body against him with such force that he was precipitated upon his face in the bed of the shallow stream, which was close by. Simultaneously the bear sprang upon him, and with her huge tusks commenced the fearful work of tearing him in pieces. All this had been acted in a very short space of time, and so quickly, that Jesse, instead of finishing reloading, had only time to grasp a club and make a leap upon the bear the next instant after she sprang upon her victim. His blows with the club fell heavily upon the unflinching animal's head and nose, while fiercely tugging at Abner's bleeding scalp, but the weapon was rotten and broke, and fell from his grasp. The sight of his brother's bared skull nerved him to greater energy, and as the monster's fury had so increased on tasting human blood, that she seemed oblivious to the assailant's attacks, he was enabled to thrust one hand suddenly between her jaws, as she opened them in her fiendish repast, and instantly closed his fingers with a vice-like grasp around her tongue, and drew it savagely forth from her mouth, while with the other hand he caught a stone from the creek, with which, heavy and well-directed blows were dealt on the nose of the now cowering brute. A few ineffectual struggles and endeavors to get free, and the bear, overcome by pain and the extreme heat of the sultry day, fell back exhausted and motionless. Releasing his hold, Jesse turned to his brother, who lay insensible, his head in a fearfully mangled condition. As soon as the bear had recovered herself sufficiently, she crawled a few rods away and lay down a short time in the stream. Anxious for his brother's life, Jesse Bump made no attempt to arrest the animal's retreat, which she soon effected. His lusty shouts for assistance were soon answered by the arrival of some of the settlers, but by this time he found himself scarcely able to walk, and upon examination his leg was found to have been broken by a crushing wrench of the vicious beast's jaws. At what time this occurred during the exciting battle he could never tell. However, there was no disputing the fact, as the proofs were there in the marks of the teeth upon the limb. His wrist was also badly mangled. He was placed upon horseback and carried to his family.
Abner was aroused to consciousness by stimulants, but before the means for removing one in so dangerous a condition could be got together, it was night, while the distance to any habitation was considerable, and the way through the forest very rough; it was, therefore, decided to remain with Abner upon the ground, and make him as comfortable as possible through the night. The use of stimulants prevented relapses during the ensuing hours, and very early Sabbath morning, the news having spread like wildfire, the woods were thronging with people who had come from miles around, the anxious neighbors hastening to render all the assistance in their power, and the suffering, disfigured victim was carried home on a "litter." The services of Dr. Jonas Fay, of Cazenovia, was immediately procured, who removed the mud and debris from beneath the scalp, and sewed together the mangled remains. He then set Jesse's broken limb, and in due time both hunters recovered from their injuries.
The destiny of Mistress Bruin was decided a few days after this encounter. She met her fate from a bullet, shot from a gun in the hands of an Indian hunter, a few miles down the creek. She was considered a mammoth prize, and a fair trophy of the hunter's superior prowess.
The first fatal accident which occurred in this town, happened as follows: --- A new road was laid out in the northeast quarter, and a large number of men were at work cutting a heavy swath of timber through the forest where it was to go. At one point, three large threes had been cut, but had not yet fallen, being lodged one against the other, and all sustained by the spreading branches of a small tree. These trees had to be brought down in some manner, and the only way to do it seemed to be to cut the small one. All saw it to be hazardous, but there were brave daring men in those days; if any hesitated to encounter the danger, two of them did not; these were, Randall Grover and Ezra Booth. They voluntarily marched to the tree with their axes. Grover struck just one blow, when down came the heavy mass of trees crashing to the ground! Booth barely escaped; but Grover, probably bewildered, sprang two or three steps lengthwise with the trees, instead of to one side, and the massive body of one tree crushed one side of him into a flattened, shapeless mass! Booth, cried out, "Grover is a dead man!" The men all rushed to the spot and saw that the man was indeed dead. The horror that thrilled Booth at that moment was vivid in his memory, when, at the advanced age of eighty-three, and more than a half century afterwards, he related the event to the author. It was but a short time after this relation by the aged pioneer that he passed away --- on June 3, 1866.
Another death by accident, somewhat similar to the preceding, it falls upon us to record. It happened at an early period in the history of the town, yet it is said to be the third fatality of the kind:--Wheadon Dutcher had taken a ten acre job of clearing, of Isaac Mason. It was in the spring of the year, and he had just entered upon the work of falling the timber. He went out early as usual, one morning to his work, which was within hearing distance from the house. Mr. Mason observed that after the first tree had fallen, he did not hear the sound of Dutcher's ax, which was unusual, and fearing something might be the matter, hastened over to the spot. To his great dismay he found him dead! Dutcher had cut a basswood, which had lodged in a small tree; it was seen that he had commenced cutting the small one, and the basswood had loosened from its lodgment, merely from the vibration produced by a few blows of the ax and came down, a limb striking him on the head, and crushing his skull fearfully; also, in the shock his ax was somehow hurled against his thigh, laying open a deep gash. It was a singular circumstance that in and about this ghastly wound of the ax, there was not a drop of blood till the body was moved, when it began to flow, and continued till every vein seemed to be drained. No signs of animation appeared at any time. The circumstances of this death created great sensation among the people; especially the copious flowing of blood after death, was held to be then (and perhaps is still,) an unaccountable phenomenon.
On one portion of the range of hills, where the three Wells brothers settled, one of them, Garner Wells, stocked his farm with mules, which gave that particular hill quite a notoriety, it being the only place in the country around, where any considerable number of those animals were kept. The place then received the name of "Jackass Hill;" but afterwards, when the mules were no more to be seen grazing on the hillsides, and the rough but comical jokes, as well as the long leathern mule whip of their master had ceased to crack, this insignificant cognomen was dropped. There is a story related of this locality, as follows: "Elder Tadham, "Six Principle" Baptist, had preached at Leeville (West Eaton) and was on his way to fill an appointment at Woodstock. At this point he met with the singular accident of having his horse frightened by the sudden braying of a mule. His horse ran, his wagon broke, and the old man was thrown out and considerably bruised. Being from the eastern States, he had never before seen that species of domestic animal. As soon as he could, he rose to his feet, wiped the mud from his eyes, and after looking at the long eared beast with astonishment a full minute, he exclaimed, "I don't wonder Jesus Christ was despised, if he rode into Jerusalem on such a looking animal as that!"
In this neighborhood forty years ago, an aged couple by the name of Childs, long residents on the town line dividing Georgetown and Nelson, died, and were buried in a small enclosure in their neighborhood used as a grave yard by the early settlers. As that section became more populated and developed, other and more eligible places of burial were selected, and this one fell into disuse. Two or three years since (this ground being included in a farm, and the graves nearly obliterated,) the descendants of the aged people, living in another part of the country, had their remains disinterred for removal. On being brought to view both bodies were found to be in perfect form, with the exception of a slightly shrunken appearance; even the features were recognizable, though they were changed to that peculiar condition known as adipocere, sometimes called petrifaction. Those employed to do the work had only provided themselves with a common box as a receptacle for the remains, expecting to find only a few bones, after forty years' interment. The box proved far too short for the length of the whole person; no conveniences to supply the want were at hand, time was pressing, and the limbs were therefore broken off and packed in above the heads and trunks! The location of this old time burial place is upon the farm now owned by Mrs. A. Holmes. It is supposed that spring water, impregnated with lime and some mineral, which makes out about the place and saturates the soil, furnished the preserving qualities which acted upon these human remains.
About 1807, a tremendous snow storm occurred, in the month of April. The snow fell four feet on the level, and lay perfectly still; an adamantine crust formed upon it, on which early morning teams were safely driven. However, a succeeding hot sun melted it away in a few days. No storm of equal magnitude had occurred at that season of the year since the country was settled, and it was remembered, and is still, by survivors of that day, as the "Great April Snow." 4
In 1813, the fearful epidemic which swept through many localities prevailed in this section, and many of the early settlers were removed by it from this scene of action. In some instances almost entire families were taken away. Dr. Heffron, the pioneer physician, rode night and day, and through his untiring energy and skillful treatment it is believed very many were saved.
A Reminiscence. -- Mrs. Tirzah Holmes, of DeRuyter, a daughter of John Chase, one of the pioneers of Nelson, remembers well that her parents started from Hoosick, Rensselaer Co., the day after the "great eclipse" in 1806. When they arrived in Nelson at the point now Erieville, Richardson kept tavern and Tuckerman kept a store. The first school she attended here was about a mile northwest of Erieville, which was held in a barn on the farm of Job Wood. The barn is still in existence. Abner Badger was teacher. Polly Pool taught the next summer in the house of John Chase.
This place was named from Eri Richardson, 5 one of its long ago store-keepers. From the first this has been a place of considerable trade. The first store was kept by Tuckerman. Smith Dunham was the second merchant here. The first considerable enterprise was started by Alpheus Morse and Nathaniel Hodskin. They built a furnace and potash manufactory, and kept store. After a time, John Elmer, of DeRuyter, succeeded them in the manufactory of potash, who continued the old works. The furnace was in existence but a short time.
Among the merchants of the past were those above named, also John Elmer, and George Parmalee. The latter had a very good business for some years. Amasa Jackson built and traded on the southeast corner. He was a substantial and successful merchant. Norton & Anderson were of the later merchants who traded on the northeast corner and had a large business. Maynard & Co. are the present firm in the same place. Mr. Burgess has also been a substantial merchant in this place. Within a few years and since the railroad has been opened through here, trade has increased.
The first hotel (the upper,) was built by Eri Richardson. About 1830 it belonged to Thomas Medbury, who built it anew. Afterwards it went again into the hands of the Richardsons and for many years was well-known as Richardson's tavern. It is now kept by H. Griffin.
The lower hotel, the "Eldorado House," was built and kept by George Saulsbury. He sold to Andrew Hull, who kept here for a few years. It has passed through several hands and is now owned by Stephen Reed.
Erieville has a good steam saw-mill which was built by Palmer Freeborn; it is doing a large business. One of the best cheese factories in the town is located here, owned and operated by Peter Duffy.
There are three churches in the village, --- Baptist, Methodist and Universalist.
Nelson Flats is a post village in the northern part of the town. The Cherry Valley Turnpike passes through this place, and in its early days it was distinguished for its good hotels. Several merchants have pursued their calling in this place. There are two churches here. This section is distinguished for its noble farms, good and substantial farm buildings, and fine family mansions of the old style.
In the northeast part of the town are a large number of Welsh who have a church of their own.
Among the prominent and useful men of the early days, none were more active than Asahel Jackson and Jedediah Jackson. David Wellington stood high in the confidence of his towns people, who placed responsible trusts in his care. He was the first Justice of the Peace, and held this position for many years. Judge Lyon was prominent and influential from the first. The Knox's have held positions of influence from the beginning of their settlement here to the present time. In the south part of the town the Richardsons and Nortons, wielded considerable influence. Most of those mentioned have zealously cultivated and developed the agricultural resources of the town. To the number thus animated with a desire to promote the well being of society and the interests of their town, may be added the names of the Cases, Cards, Burtons, Wevers and Smiths.
We are wanting the necessary information to give more fully sketches of individuals who have thus largely interested themselves in the public welfare. We would, however, before dismissing the subject, add to the above list the name of Dr. Heffron, the pioneer physician. In his profession he was widely known and was remarkably successful. His success in the great epidemic of 1813, established him here permanently in the confidence of the people. He spent many years of a long life in this town, and on his death was greatly regretted. Dr. L.P. Greenwood of Erieville, long known as a man eminent in his profession was once a student with Dr. Heffron. We add the subjoined sketch of another of Nelson's prominent citizens.
"Died, in Erieville, on the 9th day of August, Alfred Medbury, Est., aged 66 years.
The subject of this notice was born in New Berlin, N.Y., in the year 1806. He moved into Madison Co., in the year 1818.
In the year 1835 he was elected Justice of the Peace in the town of Nelson, which office he held uninterruptedly, with the exception of a single year, until his death. He held the office of Associate Justice two terms, and was one of the present incumbents. In the year 1844, he was elected to the Assembly. During the Rebellion he served the term in the capacity of War Committeeman.
Personally he was a man of social nature, and remarkably unassuming. He adhered with firmness to his own opinions when established, and regarded the opinions of others with respect and courtesy. During the thirty-seven years he held the office of Justice of the Peace, his associations with, and business transactions for the people, were of such a character as to win for himself the highest respect and confidence. In all his judicial decisions it was the right that controlled him, rather than party or favoritism, and however dissatisfied any might be with the result of cases left for his adjudication, none ever ventured the assertion that he acted otherwise than conscientiously, leaving the results to care for themselves. In his legal transactions of all kinds, settlement of estates, transfer of real estate, writing of wills, agreements and the multitudinous documents of like character which he was called upon to prepare, it was his personal peculiarity, to make such explanations as would prevent one person, by any trickery or legal quibble, from obtaining advantage of another, without his knowledge. His apparent carelessness, and what some have called blundering style, has many times cleared away the mist, and exposed a legal trap set for the unsuspecting and ignorant. The value of such a public servant can hardly be estimated, and his loss will be felt not only by his family and friends, but by the entire community."
The Baptist Church of Erieville, was organized in 1810, at the house of Nicholas Brown. Meetings were held during the first summer in the school house near Wellington's Tavern. The meeting house was built in 1821, at a cost of $2,000, an expensive house for that period. It is a fine building, representing old style architecture.
The Universalist Church of Erieville, was built in 1842, Benjamin Wadsworth, Geo. D. Richardson, Reuel Richardson, George Wells and Nathaniel Davis, building committee and proprietors. The society organized, consisted of about sixty members. The first minister was Rev. Charles Shipman.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Erieville. The first class of this society, was formed by Rev. Benjamin Paddock, about 1830, in a school house, nearly two miles west of Erieville. Meetings were held by this society in school houses and dwellings several years. When the school house was built on Main street, meetings were held regularly there. About 1850, the society was reorganized, when the meeting house was built. Moses L. Kern was pastor in charge at that time. John Crawford was the first settled pastor. This society belongs to the Nelson Flats' charge.
There have been several different societies in town, whish have now no existence. Among them may be named the old Presbyterian Church, which built the meeting house now belonging to the Welsh.
The old Baptist Church of Nelson also built a meeting house, which is located in the east part of the town, south of the turnpike. It is now used for meetings, of various denominations.