Stockbridge, lying upon the east border of the county north of the center, is bounded north by Lenox and Oneida County, east by Oneida County, south by Madison and Eaton, and eastE7 by Smithfield and Lenox.
This town was named for the Stockbridge Indians, and was formed from Vernon and Augusta, Oneida County, and Smithfield and Lenox, of this county, May 20, 1836, which makes it the youngest in the sisterhood of towns. It has an area of 18,721 acres. It embraces a large part of the "Six Mile Tract" granted to the Stockbridge Indians in 1784, and a portion of the Peter Smith Tract. Previous to the forming of this town, the bounds of Madison County did not extend westE8 of Oneida Creek
This surface of this town is broken by two high ranges of hills, extending from 500 to 800 feet above the valley of the Oneida Creek. The chief branch of this creek has its source in Smithfield, and enters the valley in the southeast corner of the town. Its course is marked by the wildest scenery. Before entering the valley it pours down a series of cascades, low falls and rapids, which for beauty are not surpassed by anything in this part of the country. Numerous visitors are attracted to this romantic spot, which is about one and one half miles south or southwest from Munnsville.
Another branch of the Oneida rises to the southward in among the convolutions of the northern hills of Eaton. These form a fair stream, upon which are many mill sites.
Oneida Valley, deep, and narrow at its head, gently widens as the lofty ranges recede, and at the northern extremity of the town begins to spread out, and merges into the open level country of Lenox. From the low valley the forest capped hights, broken by rugged ledges and rocks white with lime deposits, appear magnificent. The valley, nestling far down at the foot of the hills, seems to rest in perfect quietness and seclusion. In the grand convulsion of nature, which ages ago rent these mountains asunder, there was formed a refuge, a haven of peace for the races who first sought it for seclusion.
The soil of this region is a clayey and gravelly loam. Near the falls hydraulic limestone is quarried, while there are other considerable limestone quarries among the hills. Gypsum is found near Cook's Corners. East of Munnsville, on the hill road leading from the depot, limestone rock abounds. Where the road winds around the high point,1 it forms a wild and picturesque scene, - rocks overhanging the base of the cliff hundreds of feet wide, wide fissures, rough indentation, citing the mind to a period when great commotions of nature agitated this region. Caves, which have never been explored to any great extent on account of noxious gases, are found in this range. Upon the top of this ridge, near the roadside runs a small stream which falls down among the rocks. Its bed, which shows the stream to have been once much larger than it is now, is full of large flat rocks of different kinds. In variety there are plainly defined tracks, evidently made when they were in a state of clayey consistence, - tracks of the feet of many animals walking across, and of person stepping about and standing upon them. There are the plain and quite deeply indented footsteps of a woman, and the foot of a man - we judge from the appearance - and those of a child about eight years of age. The woman's shoes were of a marked fashion - narrow round toe, broad across the ball, shapely and small instep and heel, of a size perhaps number four. A slipper we have seen, worn one hundred years ago, is of similar shape. The larger boot, or shoe track shows a similar fashion, nothing near so comely in shape, however of middling size for a man. There are several impressions, two or three inches deep, as if made by the unshod feet of horses, some of them, however, very large. There are the tracks of the parted hooves of cattle, and some easily distinguishable tracks of deer. The rocks in which these are imbedded are dark brown, and are of fine grain. Of course, the impressions were made when this was soft, and the petrifying process could not have been slow, or the action of rain and other causes would have effaced the indentations. We are led to conjecture that these now broad rocks were argillo-calcareous deposits, with an infiltration of siliceous earth, which by some change in the small stream, were recently left bare when those footprints were made; or even those very persons by removing some obstructions might have slightly changed the channel of the water, leaving these deposits exposed to the air, and which, as they dried, became hardened.
Stockbridge is an old Indian town, older than is generally supposed. There are evidences that the whole range of high hill east of Oneida Creek was once thickly peopled with a race of men, many of whom were large in stature. Their burial grounds have been discovered in several places from the south line of town to the north, on this range. On the farms of Taylor Gregg and Ichabod Francis, many graves have been found upon which large trees were standing, when the country was new. Indian relics were so abundant, and graves were so numerous that it is believed that there must have been a great battle fought here in the ages past. Beads could be picked up here and there in considerable quantities; hatchets, axes,2 and many other curious relics are scattered about, having been covered with the accumulating soil of ages, and which the husbandman's plow brings to the surface. Curiosity seekers have carried off many of these relics, but there is, however, now and then and instance where they are allowed to remain. More than a mile on the road northeast from Munnsville Depot, in the woods, there is an Indian's skull, lying partly exposed among the rubbish of the woods. Several individuals are now living who noticed this same skull thirty years ago. It being in an out-of-the-way place, it has remained undisturbed till the present time.
Some of the skeletons found in these burial grounds are of extraordinary size. One gentleman remarked that he took one of the large jaw bones and found it sufficiently ample to cover his own lower jaw. Another person stated that he took one of the skull from which the base had decayed, and found he could place it with ease over the outside of his own head.
In 1869, before the "Cardiff Giant,"3 humbug had been exposed, and while the public were holding "a court of inquiry," individuals having important facts in the possession gave them publicly. Among others, Mr. A. Somers, of Vernon, Oneida County, published the following:
"There are rumors that the Indians have a tradition that there has lived in this country a race of tall men unlike themselves; but said traditional rumor might or might not have been true. Good evidence, however, exists that this tradition is entitled to some credence. About twenty-five years ago, Mr. John Dunlap (since deceases,) father of Edward Dunlap, of Oneida, informed me that when ground was being prepared for the barn on which said Edward Dunlap's farm, which he now owns, in the northeast part of the town of Stockbridge, discovery was made of deposit of human bones of extraordinary length and size. One of the leg bones was compared with his own by resting it on the ground beside his foot, and said leg bone extended four inches above his knee. Mr. J. Dunlap was a man not over medium height, but allowing the framework of the body of which said leg bone was a part, to be in proportion to it, it would equal or more than equal the height of the Cardiff Giant. The narrator of the above did not speak so much of extraordinary size as length. He spoke of one skull being examined in which was an ounce leaden ball. From evidences that said deposit of human bones were the remains of men killed in battle, many human bones having been unearthed by the plow from time to time on various parts of the farm, and quite frequently in years past war implements not found or known among the Indians, when the country was settled by Europeans, have been plowed up. Some of those war implements are much like those used by civilized nations a hundred or two hundred years ago, and some were of a much ruder pattern.
L. H. Warren, Esq., of Augusta, Oneida County, writes upon the same subject under date of Dec. 17, 1869:
"We add another bit of the same class of information, also indicating that a gigantic race, long since extinct, preceded here in Central New York. Twenty and more years ago there was a strip of old forest included in the farm of the late William Smith, Esq., of Stockbridge, along the east side of which was a singular formed ridge, being long north and south, only a few rods wide, and oval. On the centre of this ridge for some distance, in nearly a straight line, numerous graves were formed at an early day, each being distinctly indicated by a little mound, some of them with forest standing over the center, and many others a tree intruding more or less upon one side. On opening these mounds, those parts of the human anatomy which are said to endure the longest - skull, jaw, teeth, and the leg and thigh bones - were found well preserved; some times a skeleton would be exhumes nearly entire. The rings of the trees over the graves counted from three to four hundred, indicating at last as many years since the remains were deposited there. The Oneida and Stockbridge Indians, so long in possession of the same soil, knew nothing of the people who gave these relics sepulture. The place was visited from time to time by mercenary as well as curious people, and the mounds dug open and plundered of other contents than mortal remains, for the mere sake of plunder, which consisted of small brass kettles, iron hatchets, and various metal ornaments. The bodies were found to have been buried in sitting posture, as seems to have been the custom with the Indian tribes before the advent of white men among them; and the most of the bones exhumed whole and perfect were found very large as compared with corresponding bones of our day. Some skulls were said to be larger than the living head of the present white race. The indications are that there were really Indian grave and the people to whom they belonged lived and flourished more than four hundred years ago - before the discovery of America by Columbus. This statement can undoubtedly be verified by many individuals still living in Stockbridge, and the evidences are that some time in the past, a people more formidable than we are as a race, existed in our section at least of the American domain.
"How lived, how loved, how died they?"
"How lived, how loved, how died they?"
There is evidence in the writings of the ancient travelers, and of the Jesuits, to prove that those remains of unusually gigantic proportions, were of a race who existed in Central New York full three hundred years ago, and who were called the Neuter Nation. Charlevoix, a French writer, says, that in the year 1642, "a people larger, stronger and better formed than other savages, and who lived south of the Huron country, were visited by the Jesuits, who preached to them the Kingdom of God. They were called the Neuter Nation, because they took no part in the wars which desolated the country, but in the end, they could not themselves escape entire destruction. To avoid the fury of the Iroquois, they finally joined them against the Hurons, but gained nothing by the union. The Iroquois, like lions that have tasted blood cannot be satisfied, destroyed indiscriminately all that came in their way, and at this day there remains no trace of the Neuter Nation." The same author tells us that the Neuter Nation was destroyed about the year 1643. La Fiteu another French writer, in his "Maeurs des Sauvages," published at Paris in 1724, writes concerning the quarrel between the Senecas and the Neuter Nation, which he had from the authority of Father Garnier, a Jesuit Missionary.
Mr. Schoolcraft assumes that the Senecas warred upon and conquered the Neuter Nation, and came in possession of their territory, twenty-four years before the advent of La Salle,4 upon the Niagara River.
Father L'Allemant, a Jesuit Missionary in 1645, wrote that: -- "According to the estimate of these illustrious fathers, [Jean De Brebeuf and Joseph Marie Chaumonot,] who have been there, the Neuter Nation comprises about 12,000 souls which enable them to furnish 4,000 warriors, not withstanding war, pestilence and famine have prevailed among them for three years in an extraordinary manner.
After all, I think that those who have heretofore ascribed such an extent and population to this Nation, all who lived south and southwest of our Hurons, and who are truly great in numbers, and, being at first only partially known, have all been comprised under the same name.
They named by the French, Neuter Nation, and not without reason, for their country being the ordinary passage by land, between some of the Iroquois nations and the Hurons, who are sworn enemies, they remain at peace with both; so that in times past the Hurons and Iroquois meeting in the same wigwam or village of that nation, were both in safety while they remained. Recently, their enmity against each other is so great, that there is no safety for either party in any place, particularly for the Hurons, for whom the Neuter Nation entertain the least good will.
There is every reason for believing that not long since, the Hurons, Iroquois and Neuter Nation, formed one people, and originally came from the same family, but have in the lapse of time, become separated from each other, more or less in distance, interests and affection, so that some are now enemies, others neutral, and others still live in intimate friendship and intercourse. The food and clothing of the Neuter Nation seem little different from our Hurons. They have Indian corn, beans and gourd in equal abundance." The writer also speaks of their fruit; chestnuts and crab-apples such as Hurons have, only somewhat larger. They differ from the Hurons in being larger, stronger and better formed. "They also entertain a great affection for the dead, and have a greater number of fools or jugglers."
Father L'Allemant also speaks of the contest between them and the other nations, and thus adds; -- "The war did not terminate but by the total destruction of the Neuter Nation."
From what is derived from these statements it is probable that this nation was once in possession of the soil occupied by the Iroquois till a late period;5 that they dwelt in great numbers in this immediate vicinity, and that in their wigwams the fierce Huron and the relentless Iroquois met on neutral ground. The evidence is strong that one of the great battles which obliterated the race from the face of the earth, transpired upon the very ground where the white man to-day, in wonder pauses to pick up a splintered arrow, a broken pipe or a quaint ornament, and with strange sensations of awe, discovers those fragmentary parts of massive human beings once clothed with flesh and blood, and endowed with life and intelligence.
We have lately come in possession of a tradition which was current among the Oneidas when the first white settlers came. It is related as follows: -- Many generations ago the Indians dwelt near Canada and having a difficulty with the Canada Indians fled to this region with the hope that this secure treat would not be discovered by the persecutors. For a time they lived on the East Hill, but fearing the smoke of their wigwams would betray them should their enemies come up the Mohawk Valley, they subsequently removed their families to Stockbridge Hill. Upon East Hill they left a few men to watch the eastern country, who made a huge pile of brush, which in case of the enemy's approach, they were to set on fire to warn the warriors out.
In time, their wary antagonists, by some curious art or instinct peculiar to themselves, tracked these Indians to their hiding place; the great brush heap was fired, and the warriors rushed to the rescue of the few left on guard. On East Hill a fierce battle ensued in which all were destroyed. Even the women and children, who had rushed to the spot, fell victims to the fury of the Hurons. Here their bodies found interment, and probably the very grave we look upon with so much unsatisfied curiosity to-day, are the sepulchers of the unfortunate Indians of whom this tradition tells us.
In 1812 and '13 the Tuscaroras removed here and located mostly in Oneida Valley and vicinity. The Oneidas, who were their immediate predecessors upon the soil, had then mostly congregated at Oneida Castle, when they offered the Tuscaroras a home. These Tuscaroras it is believed planted the large orchard in the southwest corner of Vernon, adjoining Stockbridge, which was a very old orchard when the first white inhabitants came to Oneida County.
From documents preserved in the State archives we get now and then a faint glimpse of this region and it inhabitants. Although dim are the views we gain thereby, yet these have their charm.
We learn from the missionaries sought to educate the Tuscaroras, at the Lebanon School for Indians, in Massachusetts, and were not generally successful on account of the homesickness of the Indian youths, who pined for their native air. To obviate this difficulty a school was established at the Tuscarora village and Edward Johnson was sent on as school-master. We have only one of his letters to tell us how he fared among the natives. It is dated from Tuscarora Castle, April 10, 1782, and is written to Sir William Johnson, asking for pecuniary assistance, and describing his trials and dangers. He speaks of two classes among the Indians, one for, and the other against religion, the latter always striving to injure him, and sometimes showing a disposition to take his life. He remarks of having a class of eighteen scholars at Oneida, besides his school at Tuscarora. At this school, was David Fowler, a Montauk Indian, and Samson Occum, a Mohegian both, afterwards, celebrated as preachers among their race, here and elsewhere.
There is a tradition among the Indians which refers undoubtedly to Edward Johnson. It is averred that one day a company of Pagans come down upon the quiet Indian settlement where the white missionary lived, and captured him, hurried him into a canoe on Oneida Creek, and pushed off, telling him that he did not know how to worship God, and they would now take him to there council and teach him the true way. Presently they were discovered by the Christians, who followed in pursuit along the river bank. A trial of speed ensued, in which the men on foot outstripped the canoes, and succeeded in getting into the river and heading off the boat. A struggle followed, in which the white man was rescued, though not without his life being greatly endangered.
The Tuscaroras become quite numerous in the Oneida Valley, and also had settlements on the Susquehanna and at Canaserga. In 1736, their numbers were estimated by the French to be two hundred and fifty warriors, or one thousand and two hundred and fifty souls. In 1763, Sir William Johnson estimated them at one hundred and forty warriors and two hundred and fifty souls. During the Revolution a considerable number of them with the Oneidas joined with the colonists in the contest. After the war the Senecas granted them lands within the present limits of Niagara County to which they removed, leaving the Oneida Valley and the hill sides for the Stockbridges who had purchased a six mile tract of the Oneidas.
Their removal from here occurred in 1784, the Stockbridges coming on the same year. Soon, all this tract was again peopled with red men, although the Stockbridges were not, at first, so numerous as their predecessors, number the first year only four hundred and fifty souls. Rev. John Sergeant came with them, and as a first step toward planting the right institutions, formed a church. He built a meeting house which was located at what is now Cook's Corners, and which is yet standing. From its unassuming exterior one may readily judge it to be what it is, a house of antique origin.
Here Rev. Mr. Sergeant taught the natives to perpetuate the name of God, and induced them to further take interest in such arts as benefited white men.
About 1794, they built a grist mill and saw mill, nearly on the site of the present grist mill at Cook's Corners.
The Stockbridge Indians increased in numbers, and by the time the first white settlers came to this region, their cabins dotted the whole of the valley of the Oneida. The productive sheltered valley was, however, tempting to white settlers, and many came in and rented farms of the Indians. By 1812 these renters began to increase in considerable numbers, particularly in the hill sections, as the Indians were loth to part with the valley lands. West Hill, along Oneida Turnpike, was quite thickly settled before the Stockbridges made their first sale.
In 1818, the State purchased of this nation a tract comprising 4,500 acres, for which together with some other lands, they received $5,380, and an annuity of $282.49. West Hill was included in this sale. In 1822, in 1823, in 1825, in 1826, in 1829 and in 1830, treaties were held in which the Stockbridge Indians sold to the State other portions of their reservation, usually receiving a part of the sum due at the time of the treaty, the remainder to be paid subsequently under conditions agreed upon. The tracts purchased at these different sales are variously named in documents as, West Hill Tract, East Hill Tract, Mile Strip, Oneida Creek Tract, New Guinea Tract, &c. As late as 1842 and 1847 agreements were executed between the Commissioners of the Land Office and the Stockbridge Indians of Wisconsin, relative certain lots in Stockbridge.
After the State had obtained possession of these tracts they were purchased by white settlers, many of whom had previously rented. We have the names of some of the purchasers on those tracts; how many were early settlers we are unable to tell. They were: --- Oliver Robbins, Nathaniel Hurd, Michah Higley, John J. Knox, Northeast part of Stockbridge; Herman Grover, Jonathan West, Moses Wheeler, Thaddeus Muzzy, Joel Smith, Wm. H. Smith, Nathan Marvin, Erastus Brewer, Fancis Greene and David Manchester, East Hill Tract; Justus Durkee, Philo Chapel, Thomas Hart, Chapin Kelly, George Gregg, Thomas Reilly, Joseph Tucker, Michael Carr, John Murray, James Moon, Cornelius Patrick, James Newkirk, Lyman G. Sloan, Sylvester Pettibone and Herman Knox, West Hill Tract; James Burleson, Harvey White, Varnum Jaquay and David Powers, Mile Tract, New Stockbridge; also on the purchase of 1813, Abijah Reed and Myron Guthrie. On the purchase of 1825, Asa McDoel, Alonzo Paige, John E. Waterman, William Paige, Mary Paige, William T. Gregg, Cyrus Gregg, John Carter and William Wright. On the New Guinea Tract, Nathan Pendleton and John Baldwin.
John Hadcock was one of the earliest white settlers of the valley. His father, Daniel Hadcock, removed from the Vernon in 1811 and located on the farm now owned by the son. When quite young John Hadcock obtained a permit from the government to trade with the Indians, and set up a small store on the east limits of his farm. This was probably the first store in Stockbridge. He, however, spent but a short time in this vocation. He interested himself in Indian affairs, learned their customs and acquired a knowledge of their language. In the settlement of some difficulties in reference to the claims of the members of the Sergeant family on the "orchard" lands, John Hadcock rendered efficient service, for which he was for a period constituted Indian agent. He married a daughter of Angel De Ferriere, and settled on the farm he still owns, one of the best of Oneida Valley.
The Hadcocks were of English ancestry, established in America before the Revolution. Three brothers, one of whom was Daniel Hadcock the pioneer, were in the battle at the taking of Burgoyne, having volunteered just previous to the battle for the patriotic purpose of fighting and taking that General. One of the three brothers was wounded unto death. When peace was restored, Daniel Hadcock, with Michael Kern and Hiram Moyer, who had been sent to Chittenango on some official business, picked out farms in the vicinity of Oak Hill in that town. Hadcock lived there in 1794, and afterwards moved to Vernon from which place he came to Stockbridge, as above stated.
In the north part of the town, the Peterboro and Oneida Turnpike invited white settlers, to whom the Indians leased their lands. Farms were laid out in one hundred acres each, which were only sixty rods wide on the turnpike. This gave the street a compact settlement, and had tendency to induce emigration. When the farms were all occupied on West Hill in School District No. 19, (lying jointly in Stockbridge and Smithfield,) there were seventeen houses more than there are now, and there were upwards of ninety scholars to draw public money, while at the present there are not more than thirty, all told.
When settlers first came, the Turnpike had several gates and numerous taverns. Before 1818, however, the gates were removed and the turnpike was thrown open as a public highway. One of the earliest settlers on this street was Joel Baker, who came from Augusta, and for a while lived with the Indians, then took a farm just in the edge of Smithfield.
The first settlement in the town, however, was what became the Smith purchase, and was made in 1791. Those who settled here were Oliver Stewart, Calvin Barney, John and Alfred Edson, William, Elijah and Joseph Devine, William Sloan, Benjamin House, Amos Bridge, James Tafft, Aaron, Matthew and Jarius Rankin, Jonathan Snow, Isaac Chadwick, Talcott Devine, Watrous Graves and Daniel Thurston. The first marriage was that of John Devine and Polly Edson, in 1793. The first death was that of widow Anna Hall, in 1795. The first school was taught by Edward Foster, in 1797.
Among other early settlers of the town were John Gasten, Waterman Simonds and Austin Carver. These were of the old substantial citizens, who, with others have been named, were deeply interested in public prosperity.
David Wood was an early settler on West Hill. James Cook was an early setter in Knoxville; also Anson Stone, William Powers, Philander Powers, William Bridge, Chauncey Beach and Isaac Richmond came early. Dr. Aaron Rankin was the first physician of Stockbridge. He was greatly respected for his skill in his possession, and honored for his good and noble qualities as a man. On his death, James Ranking succeeded him, and worthily filled his place.
Thaddeus Camp and Lebbeus Camp were early settlers; also William Sloan, at Knoxville, Benjamin House further north, James Tafft on West Hill, J. Snow on the "Strip"; also a Mr. Chadwick on Thurston on the hill north of the "Strip." The above statements are from widow Mary Freeman, who, with her husband, Phillip Freeman, removed from Goshen to Stockbridge sixty-one years ago. She is now eighty-six years of age, and has remarkably well preserved powers of body and mind. She has sound teeth, good hearing and eyesight, and frequently walks to Knoxville to church, a distance of two miles.
John Gregg came from Augusta in 1812, and leased one of the Indian lots on West Hill. His son, Absolom Gregg, subsequently settled on the Mary Doxtater farm, at the foot of the hill on the west side of Oneida Valley. This farm was famous for having on it "Council Spring," where the Indians used to meet in open and secret conclave. David Gregg, a son of Absolom, lives on the farm, and near his barn the old spring can yet be seen. Absolom Gregg died here July 3, 1871, aged seventy-two years. He was a man extensively known in business circles all through this region. He was for several years an active Director in the Oneida Valley National Bank.
Taylor Gregg, also from Augusta, a cousin of the above, settled on the hill east of Munnsville. The old Indian council ground was situated on his farm, and from here Council Rock was removed in 1846. The sons of Taylor Gregg have been prominent citizens of Stockbridge.
The Greggs were originally a noted family who came to America in 1719, when more than one hundred families from the north of Ireland emigrated and settled in the town of Londonderry, New Hampshire. This company introduced the foot spinning wheel, the manufacture of linen and the culture of potatoes. From these Greggs originated all Greggs of this country, some of them coming from Londonderry to Stockbridge. Major Samuel Gregg, of Revolutionary War fame, was grandfather of John Gregg, the above named early settler of Stockbridge.
The family have preserved their "Coat-of-Arms," which is handed down from generation to generation. Its origin dates back to a period coeval with Robert Bruce, their forefathers being Scotch. The name was then spelled Gragg.
Abner Warren, son of John Warren, came from Augusta, Oneida Co., to Stockbridge West Hill in 1816, then a youth of 17 years. Under an arrangement effected by the father, the farm now owned by Abner Warren was leased of the Indians, he paying for the "betterments" made by the former occupant, and in addition $60 on the 100 acres for a three year lease. Afterwards he leased the same land at $30 per year, till the State purchased the tract upon which it is situated, of the Indians, when he purchased it of the State. The "betterments" consisted of four acres cleared land, which was all the clearing made when the family of John Warren came upon the place. By degrees the father and son cleared and developed one of the handsomest farms in Stockbridge. The old log house, occupied by the family for many years, stood a few rods north of Abner Warren's present residence, which the latter built in 1831, having previously come into the possession of the farm. In this house John Warren and his wife died many years ago, he, at an advanced age. Abner Warren, now 73 years of age, has lived in the same home since he was 17. His beautiful location, from which he has a splendid view of the Oneida Creek valley far to the north, and of an immense country reaching into Oneida and Lewis counties, has always pleased him. In 1825, fifty acres were added to the original homestead, which now consists of 135 acres.
Abner Warren married Miss Polly Percival, a daughter of Roswell Percival who came from Vermont, and was a later settler of Stockbridge. We remark here that the Percivals of Stockbridge, are of the same family of the late poet of that name.
Abner Warren has long been a prominent citizen of Stockbridge, esteemed for his candor and practical judgment as well as for his abilities in matters of public interest. Rev. O.H. Warren, of the M.E. Conference, now (1872) pastor of Baldwinsville Church and L.N. Warren, one of the useful and influential citizens of Stockbridge are his sons. (Note q.)
David Dunham, one of the first itinerant ministers of the new settlement, came with his father from one of the eastern States, to Westmoreland, and from there to this town to live. In that day, Methodist ministers traversed large circuits, and that which was in Mr. Dunham's care was a four weeks' circuit. David Dunham died about 1852, aged 77 years. His daughter, Mary, wife of William Nelson, of Bennett's Corners, has in her possession the bible he carried on his journeys for 30 years. It was printed in the old style type, and is remarkably well preserved.
Thomas Rockwell settled on East Hill in 1813. He bought the "betterments" of a previous settler, and purchased the land of the State for seven dollars per acre. His was one of the earliest settled farms of this section. On this farm was situated the Council Rock, this being what was known as "Primes Hill." Fifty acres of this farm which included the Council ground, was obtained by a subsequent settler and Mr. Rockwell lost it. Thomas Rockwell resided on his farm till his death at the age of 63 years. Two sons, substantial citizens and farmers, are yet living in this vicinity - Hiram and T. B. Rockwell. The name of Rockwell, occurs frequently in town and county official matters.
One of the first purchasers who settled and cleared upon the Indian lands in the east part of the town was Stephen Hart, whose father was one of the early settlers of Augusta. Stephen was, in some respects, one of the most remarkable men of his day. Nature had endowed him most bountifully with the rougher elements essential to pioneer life - vast physical strength, sound health, great endurance, an unconquerable love for hunting, and wonderful skill as a marksman. Our informant knew him well forty years ago, describes him as having been five feet six inches in height, deep chested, singularly sound in body and limb, and muscles as hard as iron. His weight was over 200 pounds. We give an illusion of his superiority with a rifle: -- On one occasion he presented himself at a "turkey shoot" in a neighboring town, and joined in the sport. The turkeys were tied to a stool thirty rods distant from the shooters. When he arrived, fifty shots had been fired and not a feather ruffled. The dozen men who had been trying their skill ceased their efforts. Hart took the position prescribed in the rules, raised his rifle to his face, and holding it at arm's length, fired. The turkey swung from the stool, dead. Another was put up, and at his next shot, met the same fate. Then another, and another was put up, and as summarily dispatched, till six good fat turkeys were piled up at his feet, the trophies of just so many shots in succession. The peals of laughter, and the loud calls on the owner by the crowd to "bring on your turkeys!" totally failed to produce them. He flatly refused to allow him a single shot more.
When the forests were cleared away, and population began to thicken around him, he said it was "getting to thickly settled and game too scarce." He sold his farm, and with his family went to Michigan, into a section beyond the abodes of white men, and there built himself a new home. Fifteen years later, when that spot was too populous, he sold and like the true frontiersman, fled from civilization to the wilds of northern Iowa, where he thought immigration would not reach in his day. In ten years, however, he was again hemmed in "with the hum, the busy shock of men," but he had become an old man. Though paid the compliment of being elected the first Judge of his county, he refused to serve, and after his retirement, he at last met with an accident resulting in the amputation of an arm, from which he never recovered. He died in this last named western home in 1866.
COOK'S CORNERS is a station on the Midland. It contains a church, a plaster mill, a grist mill, cheese factory, and fifteen or twenty houses. The church as an old Indian meeting house built by Mr. Sergeant, now belonging to the Baptist society. The plaster works and grist mill are owned by A.B. Smith, Esq. The first grist mill and saw mills of the town were built by the Stockbridge Indians about 1794, nearly on the site of the present grist mill. There was once a tavern here built by Cook from whom the place was named.
The first frame house in this place was built by Jacob Konkerpot, an Indian. Before he finished his house, he cut his limb with a broad ax, and died from loss of blood. A white family purchased the house, finished it and moved in. It stood on the very pleasant location of the residence of Ephraim K. Gregg.
This village lies near the Midland railroad and has a depot here. It was named from Asa Munn, who came from August about 1815. Assisted by W.H. Chandler of Augusta, Mr. Munn built up the mercantile business in this section. The store he built is that in which Frost & Lillibridge now trade. He built the dwelling connected with the store also. Eventually the whole premises passed into the hands of Mr. Chandler. It is now rented by Mr. Sumner, by whom the store is rented to Frost & Lillibridge.
Three Parmalee brothers, Sheldon, Horace and Solomon built the grist mill. Horace also kept a tavern at Stockbridge. While the grist mill was being built, a Mr. Doolittle, resident of this place, fell from the top of the building and was instantly killed.
Barney Cook built the tavern at Munnsville about 1825. It has been enlarged, improved, and fitted up in a style to meet the requirements of the present period. Where the grocery store is now, Oscar Bird used to keep a tavern about 1835.
Robert Turner first started a small woolen factory where the present cheese factory is. This was burned down, when he again built on the site of the present factory. Mr. Turner was again unfortunate in losing his mill by fire. Blakeman & Whedon built on the same site the present Munnsville woolen factory. A large amount of goods were made here for a time. During the war, Broadhead made army goods in this mill. It has since run irregularly, and at present is not in operation. Several dwelling houses, and a boarding house belong to the premises, and when in operation, about forty hands were employed.
Half a mile west of the village Asa Munn built a distillery about 1825.
Stringer, Barr & Co.'s Agricultural Works are located in this village. Their buildings were first made for a scythe factory, by Asa Runnels, about 40 years ago. It was afterwards fun by Daniel Holmes, (now of Fort Atkinson, Wis.,) who made axes and other edge tools till about 1850. Holmes, Stringer & Co., (S. Van Brocklyn, now of Rome, was one of this company,) after that period went into the manufacture of agricultural implements. About 1858 Van Brocklyn went out of the firm, and in 1863 Holmes removed. The firm continued under the co-partnership of William Stringer & R. S. Barr. It is now operated under the firm name of Stringer, Barr & Co. The company run a saw mill, machine shop, foundry, and a mill for planning and matching. Every variety of first quality agricultural implements are made here, besides a great variety of castings, &c.
The Stockbridge Academy was founded by Asa Munn and Thaddeus Muzzy, the school commencing in 1829. It was taught by Rev. D. M. Smith in 1832. The school was attended with flattering success for a time. It was located on the west side of the village, on the rise above the meeting house. The building was taken down a few years after the decline of the school.
This village, known also as Stockbridge, is a pleasant little village, lying mostly on the west side of the Oneida Valley. It was named for Herman Knox, who came to this valley about 1822 and built up the mercantile business at this point. Herman Knox was from Augusta, where himself and brother, John J. Knox, had engaged in the mercantile business, the latter being the founder of Knoxboro of Augusta.
Herman Knox bought much land for sale in the Oneida Valley and built up the village. He first put up a small store and then encouraged enterprise by selling out village lots, giving his purchasers most generous opportunities, often to his own disadvantage and loss. He built a grist mill on the site of the present one; built the first store, which is still standing, and being converted into a dwelling house, is now the residence of Mrs. Lyman G. Sloan. He also built a saw mill and a distillery. During Mr. Knox's stay of about a dozen years, the village grew to nearly its present size.
David Wood came into Knoxville about 1825, and purchased part of Mr. Knox's store. The latter, after a time, sold out his interest in the store to Mr. Wood, and built another, which is the present store of Amideus Hinman. Mr. Wood subsequently bought that, and finally purchased all of the Knox property here, and Mr. Knox moved to one of the Western States.
Herman Knox was regarded with great respect and affection by the inhabitants. He had a generous and noble heart. He was the life of business in this part of the valley; but his generosity exceeded his desire to accumulate.
The tavern of Knoxville was built by Horace Parmalee, about 1830. There have three churches built at Knoxville, the Universalist, Congregational and Methodist.
The Midland depot is a short distance east of the village.
Five Chimneys is a tavern on the Peterboro Oneida Turnpike in the northern part of Stockbridge. It stands at the foot of the West Hill. It was originated by Charles (?) Leland who came from Wooster County, Mass. to this place in 1826. He was enamored with the beauty of this valley and believed that if enterprise could be brought to bear at this point, a village could easily be built up. He commenced by building his famous tavern with it five stacks of great brick chimneys, that year. He also built a small store and bought a stock of goods. He, however, soon failed and then went to Oneida Castle, where he again went into business, and again failed. He next moved into one of the Western States where he again built a tavern, and was successful, and where he died. "Five Chimneys" is now an old weather beaten house, rather dilapidated and wearing an air of grandeur in decay.
The Church at Cooks Corners was built in 1796 by Rev. John Sergeant, for an Indian meeting house. When the Stockbridges moved away it was used by various religious societies. Subsequently the Baptist society obtained the house, and for several years it has been used for their place of worship. Rev. Mr. Bainbridge was an early minister of this society.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Knoxville was organized as a class about 1830. The church was built in 1832, Herman Knox being prime mover in the enterprise, donating largely for the purpose. Meetings were held by circuit preachers for some years. Henry Halstead was first pastor. There were nine or ten classes on this charge for many years. The church edifice has been enlarged once since it was built. It will seat an audience of about five hundred, and is neatly finished and furnished.
The Presbyterian Church of Munnsville was organized in 1829 at the home of David Goodrich. The society was soon quite numerous. Rev. D. Smith was pastor in 1832. Meetings were first held in the Academy. The meeting house was built about 1833.
The Universalist Church of Stockbridge was built about 1834. First meetings of this denomination were held by Rev. Mr. Wooley during two or three years previous to the building of the church. Rev. D. S. Morey was first regular pastor, who organized the society. Pastors who have served in this church are Revs. John Potter, Mr. Cargill, Robert Queal, Hughes and Manley. Rev. A. H. Marshall, of Madison, is the present pastor.
There was a Congregational Church built at Stockbridge about 1834, which was a fine, well finished building for its day. It stood on the lot next west of the tavern.