The town of Eaton is situated near the center of the County. It is bounded north by Smithfield and Stockbridge, east by Madison, south by Lebanon, and west by Nelson.
The explorers of this town found it to be a goodly land, lying fairly to the sun, rich in its soil, and in every way a desirable location. The rolling upland rises higher to the northward, where the water-shed, the upheaval of some long ago convulsion, passes across in an easterly and westerly direction. Along the length of this elevation, at many points Madison County, arise fountains closely approximating each other, whose waters diverging eventually lose themselves, the one through the southern channels in the Chesapeake Bay, the other mingling with the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In one locality, from opposite eaves of buildings, the showers descending find northern and southern courses to the ocean; and at another point where two springs arise, a person standing between might, cast in each a divided cup of water, the atoms of which would reach the Atlantic, a distance of at least ten geographical degrees apart. The valley of the Chenango river, which passes through the center of the town, is one of the most beautiful of the country, very fertile, and some of the finest farms are here spread out. That the wealth of the hillsides has come down, by washing, in process of time, to enrich the valley, is evident; and though the farms of these slopes are impoverished thereby, their thrifty and enterprising owners, do not suffer them to so remain. By good husbandry the uplands are steadily increasing in productiveness.
The Chenango Canal traverses the east border of the town. The Eaton Reservoir lies on the west border and covers an area of 284 acres of land. Its elevation above the Canal is 60 feet. From the reservoir flows Eaton brook, (or "Alder brook" as the people chose to call it,) through a deep and narrow valley, with considerable fall, affording numerous valuable mill sites along its entire route, a distance of about five miles to its junction with the Chenango at Eaton village. Hatch's Lake is a charming natural body of water, situated near the southwest corner of the town, It was once the headwaters of one branch of the Otselic, its outlet being at the west end, near the house of Harrison Hatch; but on the construction of the Chenango Canal in 1836, that outlet was closed, and its waters directed through Bradley Brook Reservoir to the canal. The lake covers and area of 136 acres. Having no inlet it is sustained by springs in its bed, some of which are doubtless impregnated with strong mineral properties. As an evidence of this, in the winter of 1843 and '44, the water assumed a reddish hue, cause probably by a greater flow than usual of coloring matter from the springs. The report went out, at that time that "Hatch's lake had turned to blood!" Occurring so soon after the period of time arrived at by the "Miller theory," for the final consummation of all things, it created no little excitement among the superstitiously inclined, and thousands went to see it. A short distance east of the lake, on the south border of the town, is Bradley Brook Reservoir, constructed also in 1835 and '36, covering an area of 134 acres. Both of these bodies of water are well stored with fish and are favorite points of resort in the fishing season.
From the northwest corner of the town, flows the Chenango, which, before reaching the valley bed, affords several mill sites. Leland's Ponds and Woodman's Lake, lie in picturesque locations at the divergence of the Oriskany and Chenango valleys, and are the headwaters of one of the Chenango branches. They have been converted into feeders for the canal. Leland's Ponds, which are respectively the "upper" and the "middle" lakes, cover together an area of 176 acres, the upper being 40 feet deep, the other 50 feet. Woodman's Lake, being the lower or most southern of the three, covers 148 acres. When the country was sparsely settled and dams for mills had not yet obstructed the river, an ocean fish called "alewives," used to come up to these ponds in schools, and furnished much enjoyment in fishing as well as good eating.
Leland's Ponds and Woodman's Lake anciently belonged to the fisheries of the Oneidas, when their home and village was but a short distance away. According to the tradition given by David Cusick, the Tuscarora historian, which reaches back more than 300 years, when the "Holder of the Heavens" planted the different families of the Six Nations, he led the Oneidas to the head of a creek, which was a branch of the Susquehanna, having its head in a lake which he called "Col. Allen's Lake." This creek was called "Kaw-na-taw-ta-ruh, i. e., Pine Woods." This family was directed to take up their residence near that creek, and they were named "Ne-haw-ve-tah-go, i. e., Big Tree," (Oneidas).
The inference is readily drawn, that the vicinity of Pine Woods and the lakes, was the home assigned them in the tradition, temporary though it may have been; for the wonderful charmed stone in resting upon the heights of Stockbridge, bade them build their village within the circle of its influence. And yet this place was all their home. Their trail to the Susquehanna passed these lakes, and there were many nooks and well-trodden paths around their shores, which were as familiar to the Indian as the sight of his own cabin. At a late period, one of the most notorious of their fast decaying race, Abram Antone, made this place his rendezvous. He sometimes dwelt here for months in succession, living in a wigwam he built near by, and for years he spent most of his time around these lakes, quietly or moodily fishing, or stealthily pursuing game among the tangled foliage, sloping back from their wooded shores.
From its elevation and the peculiar situation of hills and valleys, Eaton furnishes more basins to retain supplies of water for the canal than any other town along its route; and we may further add, that Madison County furnishes, with but one exception, (Skaneateles Lake,) the entire supply from the south for the long level of the Erie Canal.
The soil upon the hills is a clayey and gravelly loam, best adapted to pasturage; and in the valleys a gravelly loam and alluvium. Occasionally beds of blue clay are found. In the south part of the town are many quarries of slate stone, which are largely made use of for road purposes. By being merely thrown upon the traveled path, or with but little preparation beyond leveling, the action of rains and the friction of vehicles, soon converts this stone into a smooth, hard, dry roadbed. Limestone boulders are found upon and near the surface in many places. Thirty years ago and more these were collected and burned into lime. Mineral springs also are found in this vicinity. One sulphur springs situated in the meadow south of the Pierceville factory, on the premises of the company; and another, of considerable strength, bubbles up from its bed in a diminutive swamp, on the premises of Amos Hammond, in Pierceville, not far distant from the other. When this section was a forest, herds of deer resorted to these springs, having a fondness for sulphur water, equal, it was said, to their fondness for saltwater; hence the earliest settlers called this resort "the deer lick."
Township No. 2, of "Chenango Twenty Towns," was originally set off in the town of Hamilton, from which it was taken in 1807, and named in honor of Gen. Wm. Eaton, commander of the United States forces at Tripoli.
This township was included in the purchase of the English Company acting for Sir Wm. Pultney. Charles Williamson was the principal agent in New York. William Smith was constituted agent in the purchase of this, together with several other towns, hence it is recorded that the Government grant for township No. 2, was patented April 16th, 1794, William S. Smith, patentee. It is said the Company paid about thirty cents per acre. The survey gave the town 28,245 acres.
Subsequently William S. Smith resigned his agency in favor of Robert Troup. In the arrangement thus effected, there was reserved for Smith the tier of lots west of the center, and having also considerable possessions in like manner set off to him in the adjoining town, Lebanon, he established his brother, Justus B. Smith, at Smith's Valley, as agent; hence in the name of the latter, transfers of these lands were made.
The autumn of 1792 brought to the town of Eaton the advance skirmishers of civilization. John and James Salisbury, from Vermont, in company with Bates and Stowell, the pioneers of Lebanon, became the pioneers of this town, in the matter of making the first clearing and opening the way for the pioneer settler. They located on lot No. 94. Their energy, perseverance and endurance, in pushing their way through the wilderness, in subsisting on simple fare, and in accomplishing the gratifying results of opening a fine clearing to the light of the sun before the winter set in, is described in the story of the Lebanon pioneers, in the history of that town. The Salisbury brothers, however, went away for the winter and did not return to their farm.
In 1793, Joshua Leland, and John H. and Benjamin Morris, entered town and commenced settlement. Mr. Leland and John H. Morris had been here the year before and selected their location, and this year Mr. Leland removed his family from Sherburne, Mass., his native place. He built his house on Lot No. 94, near where Thaxter Dunbar's residence now stands. Mrs. Leland was the first white woman who crossed the Chenango, and was for several months the only white woman of this region. Her husband frequently boasted of having the fairest woman in town. As there were many comers and goers of people, Mr. Leland opened his house for the public accommodation; hence, his was, in fact, the first tavern kept in town. His house served a most useful purpose, particularly as a stopping-place for the incoming families in the early spring of the next year.
In 1795, Benjamin Morse, Daniel Alby, Simeon Gillett and Levi Bonney, came in and settled in various localities. Benjamin Morse settled on the old Morse farm, Lot No. 91, on the north side of the road leading to Hamilton. It was a very pleasant location, a rich valley farm, and was near to the Hamilton settlement. The first birth in town was that of Sawen Morse, son of Benjamin and Deborah Morse, which occurred the first year of their residence here --- 1795. Mr. Morse and Joshua Leland purchased the southeast quarter, and Benjamin Morris and Calvin Sanger the northeast quarter of the town. This year Mr. Leland moved to his location at the small lakes. Daniel Alby settled on land east of the Eaton hill in the neighborhood of Mr. Morse. His son, Silas Alby, now (1871,) owns the farm. Simeon Gillett located on Lot No. 93, on the flat east of the river. Mr. Gillett died in the year 1796, his being the first death which occurred in town. His loss was deeply felt, as the new settlers were strongly attached to each other. His family remained here. One son, Squire Simeon Gillett, jr., lived here many years. Levi Bonney located on the farm east of Eaton depot, and resided there till he died, in 1855, aged eighty years. His son owns the homestead yet.
Col. Leland (as he was always called,) built the first gristmill of the town in1795. It was situated at the foot of the upper lake, or between "Leland's Lakes," as they were designated at that day. He also built a sawmill at the same place. To increase the waterpower of these mills it became necessary to raise the dam. This caused an overflow of many additional acres of the adjacent low, swampy land, on which the waster was so shallow as to produce an impure atmosphere, seriously affecting the health of the people now rapidly settling in. It was finally deemed a wiser plan to forego the benefit of the mills, than suffer disease and death to devastate the vicinity. The neighbors therefore purchased the mills, removed them, and drained the pond basin, this affecting a remedy for the evil and recovering much valuable land. The Colonel commenced tavern keeping immediately on his removal to the lakes. After the discontinuance of the mills, he built a potash manufactory on the north shore of the middle lake, from which he received a considerable income for those days, it being an article which brought cash in market. He followed the business till his death, in 1810, which occurred by accident while on a journey to Albany with a load of salts. His remains were brought home and buried in a small burial ground on his own farm, where others also have been interred, and where a few white slabs may be seen at this day, in a quiet, lovely nook, by the charming lakes.
Joshua Leland was an original character, well calculated to win his way and establish himself successfully in the new country. Mrs. Leland was an excellent woman, possessing great energy and ambition, full of good humor, and not wanting in tact. She was beloved by everybody --- by the Indians as well as by her white neighbors, --- and was in all respects adapted to pioneer life. She reared a large family of children. In the naming of their sons, the Colonel illustrated a humorous and peculiar vein in his composition; he resolved that the vowels should constitute the initial letters of their names, consequently six sons were honored as follows: --- Amasa, Ezra, Isaac, Orrison, Uriah and Yale. Having the seventh son, he was christened Joshua, after himself. There were three daughters, whose names were Phebe, Sylvia and Juliette. For years, several of this family lived in town. Numbers of them have died, and at present but one of the once large household is living here --- Ezra, who is the oldest surviving pioneer of the town of Eaton, he being five years of age when his father came into town. His home is a mile and a half east of Morrisville. (Note e.)
In the year 1796, Joseph Morse, Samuel Sinclair, Lewis Wilson, Humphrey Palmer, and Dea. McCrellis came in. Joseph Morse located at the foot of the hill on the right of the road leading from Eaton to Hamilton, on the farm known as the "Burchard farm," at present (1871,) owned by Charles Payne. Here he built one of the first frame houses of the neighborhood, a part of which is yet standing on its original site. Its first clapboards were rived from logs, and its timbers were all hewn even to the rafters. Near this house ran the Indian trail from the Susquehanna to Stockbridge and the Indians were frequent guests of the Morse family. Here he lived until 1802, when he removed to the present location of the family homestead in Eaton village.
Samuel Sinclair purchased the farm that Col. Leland first took up, on Lot No. 94. Here Sinclair kept tavern, as his predecessor had done. As a landlord, Sinclair had his own way of dealing with a certain class of customers who were then quite frequent. These were wont to drive under Sinclair's open shed and feed their horses upon their own hay and grain, which they had brought along, and sit by his cozy fires to eat the lunch they carried in their own wallets. As a consequence, Mr. Sinclair did not keep his shed in good repair. One day a traveler of this class complained of the uncomfortable shed and of the poor fire, and had the impudence to do this when he had not expended one penny for the benefit of the house. Sinclair very coolly responded by saying, "Sir, you furnished your own feed for your horse, and your own dinner; the next time you come this way I advise you to bring your own fires and horse shed!" Sinclair lived in this town many years, and was widely known and popular as a landlord in this and other towns. Lewis Wilson located in the vicinity of Eaton village. The marriage of Lewis Wilson and Dorcas Gillett, which took place in 1796, was the first marriage in town. Humphrey Palmer located at the Center, making the first inroads upon the wilderness in that section. His son, John Palmer, who came with his father, remained on the homestead to the close of his life in 1867. He was aged 90 years.
In 1797 came Rawson Harmon, Rufus Eldred, Cyrus Finney, Thomas Morris, Dr. James Pratt, Loren Pearse, Caleb Dunbar, Isaac Sage, William Hopkins, Seth Snow, Elijah Hayden, Daniel Hatch, David Gaston, and Constandt, Robert and Cyrus Avery. Hezekiah Morse, Joseph French, Abiathar Gates and a Mr. Peterson, also came early. Rawson Harmon, Rufus Eldred and Cyrus Finney settled near Eaton village. Thomas Morris (brother of J. Hall Morris and Benjamin Morris,) located in Morrisville. He purchased the present village site, and being a man of enterprise and the possessor of wealth, soon had the forest cleared away and a fine wheat field growing about him. He invited settlement, and in due time a village grew up, which, in honor of him as its founder, was named "Morrisville."
Dr. James Pratt was the first physician of the town. Also, in the winter of 1797 and '98, he taught the first school kept in the town of Eaton --- the first month at the house of Joseph Morse, on the Hamilton road; the second at the house of Joshua Leland, at the lakes; and the third at the house of Thomas Morris, at "Morris Flats," as the place was then called. The scholars boarded at the places where school was kept. Dr. Pratt was prominent as a physician and was an influential citizen. Dr. Jonathan Pratt, an early physician of Madison, and Dr. Daniel Pratt, of Perryville, were his brothers; the latter was a student with him at Eaton.
Benjamin Coman located on the road laid out from Eaton village to Morrisville. Samuel, Windsor and Ziba Coman, his brothers, came and settled near him at a little later date. Windsor Coman was for some years a Justice of the Peace, in which capacity he was highly popular, being eminently a peace maker. He was also a Supervisor several years, and was a member of the Legislature for 1814 and '15. It has been remarked that "Squire Coman had no enemies." 1
John and Matthew Pratt located at "Pratt's Hollow." Further mention is made of these men elsewhere. Loren Pearse and Caleb Dunbar located at the northeast of Eaton village. These men spent the remainder of their years in town, living to a good old age; they were substantial farmers and good citizens. Thaxter Dunbar is a son of Caleb Dunbar. Mr. Pearse left a large family. Alvin Pearse (or "Pierce") lives on the homestead.
William Hopkins settled in the west part of the town, on the old State road (the earliest laid out through this section,) near the old burying ground. He cleared away the wilderness, and with the aid of his sons, converted the land into an excellent farm, upon which he resided until his death at an extremely advanced age. Several of his large family are yet living. Anthony, Isaac, Palmer and Harlow Hopkins, his sons, residents of West Eaton and vicinity, are men of business and of good standing in that section. We also name Daniel Hopkins, a cousin of William, in this connection, although he was a settler of Nelson, his farm being just over the town line west of the reservoir. His sons, Benjamin, Alonzo and Lucius are well known and respected citizens of this town. Harvey Hopkins, another son, went to Louisiana. On the breaking out of the war of the rebellion, being loyal to the old flag, though a slaveholder, he was obliged to leave the rebellious States. He returned there after the close of the war and is since deceased. One of the daughters of Daniel Hopkins, Mrs. William Parker, remains a resident of Pierceville. Harvey Hopkins of Morrisville, lawyer and inventor,2 is a grandson of Daniel and son of Benjamin.
Seth Snow came from Bridgewater, Mass. He cleared a portion of the farm now owned by William Hamilton, west of Eaton village, where he built a double log house, and when the turnpike was laid through, kept tavern for a time. Simeon and Eleazer Snow, his brothers, soon afterwards came in and commenced clearings on several different farms. The Elijah Morse place and Richard Waters were lands bought by Simeon Snow.
Elijah Hayden settled near the village. He was a Major in the war of the revolution. He is well remembered by the oldest citizens as an active, genial man, always ready with a joke or story of the war "that tried men's souls." Daniel Hatch located about a mile southeast from Eaton village on Hamilton road, where he removed the shadows of the forest from the soil, built himself a home and lived many years in the enjoyment of the fruits of his labors, dying at last respected and regretted. David Gaston settled in Morrisville, where he lent his influence and a helping hand toward promoting the interests of that locality. He was an early County Judge and a Justice of the Peace, in which positions he maintained peace and good order within his jurisdiction, to an eminent degree, through example and wise counseling, as well as in dispensing justice officially under the statutes. He was emphatically a man of great and good influence. The Averys located between Eaton village and Morrisville; they were prominent, influential men. They removed from here to other localities. Oren S. Avery of Perryville was one of this family.
Thus far, we have noted the locations and given brief notices of those named, who came in 1797 and soon after, as far as could be ascertained. We add further:
Benjamin, Nathan, Elisha and Dr. Slater were settlers at an early day in this town. The Slaters trace their pedigree to the Mayflower, their ancestor being one of the memorable company landed from that famed vessel upon Plymouth Rock. Now, the descendants are widely scattered. David Bennett located near Hatch's Lake, on the north side, where he lived to an advanced age. His large farm is now owned by Jeremiah Wadsworth. His son, Daniel, resides in West Eaton. Olney, another son, is a Baptist minister in Wisconsin. Abiel Payne settled early in this town, near the reservoir. His son, Stillman, resides on the original farm, his farmhouse standing on the spot where his father erected his primitive log tenement. Truman, another son, resides in West Eaton.
Before the eighteenth century had closed its record, many settlers had forced their way in all directions throughout the town. The State road had led the pioneers through the south part of Nelson, and in different places along that road through Eaton, they had erected their cabins. In the vicinity of West Eaton had settled Perry Burdick and Thomas Fry. Father on, Dr. Abner Camp, Captain Whiton, Nathan Kind and Samuel Lewis had located. The road from Madison through to Nelson Flats passed the home of the pioneer in other sections. It saw the opening of the forest at Morrisville, where Thomas Morris had located, and where the spirit of improvement and progress was fast transforming the wilderness into thrifty fields of grain; where, aided by this man's wealth and enterprise, in time should rise the village bearing the name of its founder. It is, however, certain that the first enterprises of the town sprung up in the vicinity of the Leland Lakes. The settlement, which had congregated here in this pretty vale, protected by the overshadowing Eaton hills, and the lovely lakes, with the spreading valley before them, assumed some of the qualities of an auspiciously located village. The Indian trail from the Susquehanna to Stockbridge, brought frequent parties of Indians; the traveling accommodations and attractions of Leland's inn, the business of the mills before they were removed, the lively Indian trade in Yankee notions at Gregg's store, located here, (the first store in town,) all certainly promised more than was realized; for, on the removal of the mills to a more suitable and healthy location, other enterprises failed, and so perished even the hope of a village at this point.
It was the fixed opinion of some of the settlers, after the town was set off, that the center of the town should be the central business locality. This point was, indeed, generally regarded for a time as the place to build a village. A tavern was kept here a short time by Alfred Cornell, and a school-house, one of the earliest, was built, in which elections and other public meetings were sometimes held; but the place had no natural business facilities. On the opening of the two turnpikes, one through Morrisville, the other through Eaton village, business was drawn elsewhere. Travel, a considerable source of income to new countries, followed these newly-opened thoroughfares and enriched the villages along their routes, while all out-of-the-way settlements lost caste as well as trade, and diminished; and so, before the project of building up the center had fairly taken form or shape, it was of necessity yielded.
In 1800, Joseph Morse, finding an excellent mill site on Eaton Brook, as it came swiftly down its deep vale from the westward, saw that there was a fine chance open for the exercise of his enterprising nature, and he resolved to improve it. He employed Mr. Theodore Burr, who was widely known in those days as a bridge builder and a millwright of the first order, to build his mill for twelve hundred dollars. There was then great difficulty in obtaining millstones; so a large boulder was dug from the earth, and was being wrought into shape, when it was discovered to possess a flaw, which rendered it unfit for use. It was consequently abandoned, and another and more perfect stone was found, which, after being fashioned quite artistically into the desired shape, went into the mill and did good service for many years. The rejected stone may be seen in a stone wall, on the farm of Geo. Cramphin, south of Eaton village, an object of interest to those who would not forget the inconveniences to which the early settlers were subjected. Subsequently this mill was furnished with the millstones brought by Col. John Lincklaen from Germany, form whom Mr. Morse obtained them. Members of the Morse family still own this mill, or one situated on the same site. In 1802, Mr. Morse removed to the present locality of the Morse homestead in Eaton Village, near his mill site, and there increased the capacity of his water power for both sawmill and gristmill, and also built up other works. He purchased considerable land in the vicinity of his mills, which embraced much of the present village. At this time settlements were increasing rapidly in the country round about. But West Eaton was yet a forest, with the new State road passing through.
Dr. Abner Camp located on the new road just mentioned, to the westward of William Hopkins, just over the town line. His farm is now owned by Lucius Hopkins. His place was called "Camp's Hill." Dr. Camp was so widely known through all this region, that the lake in his vicinity, (Hatch's Lake,) was first and for a long time known by the name of "Camp's Pond." This beautiful sheet of water in the southwest corner of Eaton was a favorite resort of the Indians until a late day. The earliest settlers in that vicinity relate many incidents descriptive of their manners and customs.
At one period, as many as forty families of aborigines dwelt in the neighborhood of the lake and swamp. A friendly feeling was readily established between themselves and the white people, in whose houses they made themselves at home, entering any and all times unannounced; for if the latch-string hung out, the unrestrained barbarian drew it, and unbidden silently walked in; or, if he so desired, would move the door slightly ajar and peer in upon the occupants, or would perhaps appear suddenly at the window.
Dr. Camp was annoyed by their freedom, and one occasion severely reprimanded and forbade them these liberties on his premises. Regardless of his wishes, they still continued to annoy him, when he declared he should raise a company and drive them from the locality. To this they responded by threats of a similar nature, saying they could raise forty men. In a few days Dr. Camp discovered several of their number painted savagely, and decking themselves in a battle toilet. He immediately gathered a few of his neighbors, who, with their muskets, crept near the Indians' place of concealment. When well situated with his men, Dr. Camp fired his piece at a tree, at the foot of which sat an old Indian, who, amidst the falling bark and splinters scattered by the ball, sprang up in affright to hear the shout of command from the Doctor, "Come on, boys! We've got them!" and in double quick time the party of warlike Indians disappeared in the forest. For a few days thereafter they were unusually quiet, and finally laid by their hostile appearance altogether and became more civil neighbors. Dr. Camp used to frequently rehearse, with great enjoyment, this adventure, in which he frightened a band of Indians with his company of there men.
It is related that oftentimes at evening, in fair weather, their village of wigwams presented the appearance of rustic simplicity and comparative content, as the women were seen bustling about, broiling fish or game over a large campfire, the men, who had hunted or fished all day, reclining at their ease, the children playing peaceably. As each morsel of food was cooked, it was given first to one then to another till all were satisfied. Nature's demands appeased, these hardy children of the woods stretched themselves upon the earth, each wrapped in his own blanket, and slept a sleep far sweeter than if in palace chambers. Harmony and contentment, however, did not always fall to their lot, for under the influence of the white man's "fire water," they had frequent and fierce quarrels. This curse, brought with civilization, was fast doing for them a terrible work of debasement and destruction.
Mr. Oliver Wescott, who has lived near the lake since early in the century, relates many incidents concerning the Indians and their wild habits, which go to show that they were numerous and quite at home here at one time.
Peter Hatch settled in 18-[sic], at the southwest corner of the lake now and for so long bearing his name. He built the house in which his widow now resides, with her son, Harrison Hatch. Joseph and Hezekiah Morse, and Rufus Eldred, associated with him, built a sawmill here at the outlet of the lake. In time, Peter Hatch purchased the shares of his associates, and thus became for a period the owner of one of the best mills in the country, it being an excellent waterpower while the natural outlet was allowed to flow, and until the lake became, as we have seen, a canal feeder. The dry channel, passing near Mr. Hatch's house, is not yet obliterated by the husbandman, as has been many another old landmark bearing a time-engraved record of its own history and of the dim centuries gone by.
The following incident of the lake neighborhood, still fresh in the memory of many, is related to us: --- Many years ago, two young children of Oliver Wescott --- Elizabeth and Stephen --- were playing upon the shore of the inlet near their father's house, when they conceived the idea of taking a ride upon the lake in their mother's washtub, which stood nearby. Launching their improvised boat upon the water, the two got in, and instinctively, or by chance, seated themselves on opposite sides, which just balanced the craft. A breeze blowing, and, aided by the paddle of a little hand on either side, they were soon out upon the waters. The frantic distress of the mother may be imagined, when, missing her children, she looked and saw, far out from the shore, the speck of a washtub and two little upright heads above its rim, the wee excursionists, of course, as unconcerned as if rocking in a cradle on the floor of their mother's kitchen. The lake is more than half a mile wide at the point where the tiny voyagers embarked, and they were far towards the opposite shore, whence they were drifting fast, when discovered. Here was opportunity for a scene and a tragedy; but the discretion of the mother bade her avoid attracting the attention of the children, lest they should make some movement to lose their balance; instead, she made her way swiftly through brush and briers, around the west end of the lake, (where the stage road now runs,) and reached a point near the present residence of Mr. Mann, in time to receive her truants all unharmed! Since they were safe, she --- no doubt with all motherly tenderness, as that was her nature --- administered a timely lesson of warning against all future temptations and attractions that the water might hold forth. The boy Stephen, however, was never cured of his love for adventure upon the "deep," and at the age of fifteen went to sea. Since that time he has sailed in nearly every quarter of the globe; and now, in middle age, he is a denizen of the southern hemisphere, spending much of his time in the Sandwich Islands. His letters home tell of his marriage in Honolulu, to a Hawaiian, Lillian, the adopted daughters of King Kamahamaha III, a devoted Christian girl. She died recently. The little girl, Elizabeth, is now the wife of Mr. Henry Patridge, and resides in view of the lake, which sometimes reminds her of the perilous adventure of her early childhood.
Capt. Whiton, from Massachusetts, also settled in the neighborhood of the lake. He was a captain in the war of the revolution, and was a brother of Gen. Joseph Whiton, well spoken of in the history of that war. David Bennett, David Mentor, Nathan King and Samuel Lewis, were other setters in the same vicinity. Many members of the Bennett family are still residents of this town and Lebanon. They are responsible and substantial farmers.
Miles Standish took up the farm now owned by Adin Brown, and lived there many years. He was an energetic businessman. He invested in the new turnpike, and built and first kept the old turnpike gate, which stood opposite Alderbrook gristmill. Mr. Standish was a lineal descendant of his illustrious namesake, the Miles Standish of Mayflower and Puritan memory, one of the most distinguished of the colonists who landed upon Plymouth Rock in 1620. Seth Hitchcock was another settler who lived near Mr. Standish. Thomas Wilkie took up the lot which is now the homestead of Howard Leach. Nathan Bassett, Solomon Shaw, Nathaniel Wilmouth and John Murdock, settled on land in the vicinity and south of Pierceville. The four last named were gone years ago. Nathaniel Wilmouth died here. Murdock took up the land known as the "old Curry farm." He lived at one time in a log house very near where the Pierceville school house now stands, and in that locality made wrought nails for all the settlers round about. A few of the settlers on the north border of Lebanon considered themselves as belonging to the neighborhood, including those last named. These were Lent Bradley, a Mr. Bingham, Richard Taylor and Deacon Webster. The Deacon said that the first wagon that entered the town of Lebanon, he drove through this neighborhood, then an entire wilderness, save the small clearings around the settlers' houses. David Moreton, from New Bedford, Conn., came in the year 1802, and settled on the farm now owned by his son, Seth Moreton. From the trees of his forest-covered lot he built his log house, in which he lived till 1817, when he built his frame house, --- all that day one of the best in the vicinity --- which is still standing near Mr. Moreton's present residence.
Thus far in these annals, it will be seen that the early part of this century was marked by the inflow of a host of families, who reared and (many of them) established their children, and who have, as it were, determined the character and status of the town. In passing, the facts have enabled us to delineate the advance pioneer, the man whose ambition is to strike the first blow; who glories in wrestling with discomfort and privations; who eats his coarse fare with a keener relish because he has to battle fiercely to obtain it; who sleeps a sweeter sleep when nature presents a comfortless couch; who rises in his strength, because his strength is opposed and does not remain to enjoy nature in her tame submission, for in that case he could not enjoy; if there is no longer an object on which to spend his force, he pines, sinks into obscurity, or moves on to fresh scenes of conquest. Such was the nature of some whose names we have given, and doubtless of many whose names we have not been able to obtain, who passed along, leaving a fair opening for the permanent settler.
Many inhabitants, who came in and settled where the villages grew up, are mentioned in connection with a sketch of those villages. Many others settled in various sections as later periods, whose families are still with us. The names immediately following will be recognized by many.
David Darrow came from New London, N. Y., in 1806, and took up a lot south of West Eaton village, now owned by his son, J. J. Darrow. He removed his family here in 1808. Mr. Darrow also took up or purchased several farms around him, one of which he sold to Ephraim Leach who incorporated it in his homestead farm. The same is now a part of the farm of Marshall Tayntor. To be northward, Mr. Darrow's land extended so far as to embrace a considerable portion of West Eaton village. Much of this he divided among his children, making them --- what they are now --- quite extensive farmers.
Joseph Enos, a native of New Lebanon, N. Y., came also in 1806, and located on a farm adjoining David Darrow on the east. The old road passing from Pierceville across "half moon bridge," at he head of the factory pond, passed by the doors of Mr. Darrow and Mr. Enos. The old orchard of the Enos farm has still a few trees left to indicate its location. Mr. Enos afterwards removed to Eaton village, where he lived till 1831, when he changed his residence to Allegany County. He held town offices and was a very popular man. Among the Masons he is reputed to have been a member of great influence and thoroughly versed in Masonic knowledge. Possessing most courteous and agreeable manners, he won his way wherever he went. David Enos, a brother of Joseph, yet resides at West Eaton.
Jacob Tuckerman came about 1808, and located in the west part of the town. He subsequently removed to Eaton village. His sons settled in this town. They were independent, substantial farmers.
Backus Leach came to this town from Bridgewater, Mass., in 1812. He purchased a large farm on lot No. 97, which, by hardy energy and perseverance, he succeeded in making one of the noblest in this section. Near his dwelling stood an ancient landmark, a large elm tree, which for its size, beauty and apparent great age, attracted the attention of all passers by. In 1866, after the death of Mr. Leach, this noble tree was blown down. Mr. Leach died in 1864, at the ripe age of 82 years, while in possession of uncommonly well preserved bodily and mental activity. His son, Howard H. Leach, succeeded to the spacious home farm.
Ephraim Leach, brother to Backus, came here in 1818, and settled on a farm adjoining his brother. For this farm he paid sixteen dollars per acre in eagles and half eagles. He is still living, with his son Lewis, on a part of the same farm, at the great age of 93 years, having been born in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Mass., April 22d, 1779. He is still blessed with a remarkably good memory.
George H. Andrews came from Windsor, Conn., about 1808 and was a resident of the same neighborhood. He was well known as a journeyman shoemaker in the early days. He resided in this town till his death, which occurred in 1870, at the home of his youngest son, George Andrews in Pierceville. He reached the advanced age of 87 years.
Joseph Tayntor, we also notice here, as his sons and daughters have mostly settled in this town, and have been closely identified with this section of the country, and constitute an important and influential portion of community. Joseph Tayntor located in the town of Lebanon, just beyond the south line of Eaton, in the year 1808. He reared his family on the same farm he himself wrested from the heavy forest, and on this farm he died in 1847, at the age of 73 years. (Note f.)
A few settlers located at Eaton village soon after Mr. Morse built his mill. Nicholas Byer, a blacksmith, was one of the first. His father, who lived here also, was one of Burgoyne's Hessians in the time of the revolution. This fact was noted by the revolutionary patriots who were his neighbors. Another of these settlers, following the building of the mill, was Elisha Willis, one of the best of shoemakers.
In 1806, Eaton village had less than half a dozen houses, of logs, nevertheless it boasted of being one of the cities of the new country. The manner of its christening has been related as follows:
A stranger who had traveled hither, and was generously entertained by the hospitable people, was found to be the prince of good fellows and withal a wag. In the midst of their jollification, he took a flask of "good cheer," ascended one of the low roofed log buildings, and in the presence of a group of admiring comrades, delivered a short and witty harangue, flourished his bottle, and drank to the health of "Log City," which was ansered by the waving of hats and three rousing cheers. The spirit of the occasion lingered in the feelings and was carried home by each one present, and he in turn retailed the good joke perpetrated on the settlement, to his neighbor. The story grew in importance, was passed from mouth to mouth, till the name of Log City, one of the chief stopping places on the Skaneateles turnpike, became familiar as a household word from the eastern to the western limits of New York State; thence- forward for the next fifty years, the name became a fixture, and it required no small amount of diligence, for the present generation to let fall the cognomen and assume the more euphonious title of Eaton village.
When the town had been progressing in settlement ten years, the taxes were but $400. In 1812 or 1814, it had from $1,200 to $1,400 of surplus money above expenses. In 1871, the taxes of Eaton aggregated $21,869.
In 1802, the first tavern in "Log City" was built by Isaac Sage. It was located on the east side of the road going to Lebanon, on the corner, and opposite the present site of the Exchange Hotel. This old tavern is still standing, a relic of the past. At the time it was built it was reckoned a fine large house. In one part of this townE2, Robert and William Henry commenced keeping store in 1805, and continued for some time. Rufus Eldred kept store across the street, near the Exchange location. After a time the Henrys moved across into the store they had there built.
In 1804, the first distillery of the place was built by Rufus and Zenas Eldred, on the site where Ellis Morse, years after, ran a large distillery.
The Mrs. Maydole house, on the west corner, opposite Sage's hotel, was also very early built; it is still a good residence.
Samuel Chubbuck, who came to Eaton about 1807 or 1808, built a frame house on the present location of the lower, or eastern, hotel. There was then one log house where now stands the Baptist parsonage, another near the house of Mrs. John Whitney, (known as the "Sherman house,") and another near the pleasant residence formerly known as the "Ellis house."
The first carding machine in this part of the country was built on the creek, where the woolen mill afterwards stood, by Hezekiah Morse and Rufus Eldred, in the year 1806. They soon added clothier works, and in due time increased their business by the addition of a "spinning-jenny" and looms. In 1833, the establishment was rebuilt of stone by Alpha Morse and Clement Leach, who had purchased it. They filled it with two sets of machinery for woolen goods and did much business for several years. It has passed through the hands of several different firms since; was operated as a stocking factory during the war of the rebellion by the Lewis Brothers, and was last used as a woolen factory by Smith O'Brien. It has been damaged by fire once and rebuilt. At present it is owned by O. A. Medbury, who has converted it into a cabinet manufactory.
Mr. B. Carter built the first tannery of Eaton village, and operated it for a time, as early as 1808. It was situated contiguous to the Maydole house. Several years after, it was carried on by Milmine & Ward.
After the Skaneateles turnpike went through, there was need of better tavern accommodations; Mr. Samuel Stow, therefore, built and kept a tavern on the corner opposite the lower hotel. Samuel Chubbuck, living opposite to him, carried on a blacksmith shop. These two men had by some disagreement become violently opposed to each other. In a spirit of competition, Mr. Chubbuck was a staunch Democrat, and this was a time soon after the war of 1812; so upon one side of his attractive sign board was displayed the dying words of Commodore Lawrence, as a motto, --- "Don't give up the Ship!" --- and on the other side, "Free Trade and Sailor's Rights!" Mr. Stow immediately erected another blacksmith shop to match Chubbuck's, which stood very near where Coman's store is, and swung out his sign directly opposite to Chubbuck bearing these words: "Don't give up the Shop!" and on the reverse side, "Free Trade and Mechanic's Rights!" --- alluding to his neighbor's giving up blacksmithing for tavern keeping. Those unique signs hung out for many a year. The Chubbuck hotel is the present lower house.
The first school house in Log City was located on the g round which is now the cemetery. This building was burned. The next school was held in a house father east on the Hamilton road. The late Rev. Charles Finney, of Oberlin College and revivalist fame, was a pupil at this school, and as a leader in all school boy sport, he is well remembered. He was a nephew of Dea. Finney, with whom he lived in his boyhood. The old brick school house was built in 1808, and it stood on the site of the house of Ellis Coman. This was one of the first brick buildings erected in Madison County; it was a well built two story house and was also used as a "town house." There was not a handsomer building in any of the villages about, and it was considered by many a great mistake when it was removed. Some of the brick are in the blacksmith shop of Mr. Winchester.
Squire Rufus Eldred, who lived at Eaton village several years, was one of the men of the times of whom the town was justly proud. There is an incident related, which, while it illustrates an old time custom, gives us an insight into his character and an idea of his influence: Major Elijah Hayden, one of the early settlers, for some slight misdemeanor, was once arrested by an aspiring young officer, who put him in the stocks, the only instance in which this then legal punishment was ever inflicted in this region. Squire Eldred happening to pass by at the time discovered Maj. Hayden thus confined, and demanded of the young officer what authority he had for punishing a soldier of the revolution in that degrading manner. The officer produced perfectly legal authority for so doing, but Squire Eldred commanded his immediate release, legal or not legal. Suffice it to say that the Major was released forthwith, and this barbarous penalty was never afterwards enforced in this community.
Dr. James Pratt was succeeded in the medical profession here by Dr. Charles W. Hull, who was a prominent physician in this locality many years. Dr. Pratt, Joseph Enos, Rufus and Zenas Eldred, Dr. Charles and Andrew Hull, the Comans, the Morses (note g,) and a few others, were the leading spirits here of the first quarter century. They encouraged and assisted every enterprise and enlisted themselves in very many. Some of these men belonged to the old Masonic Lodge, No. 121, which was removed from Hamilton to Eaton in 1817. The Masons owned a superbly fitted up hall adjoining Samuel Stow's tavern; they built this at their own expense at the time of the tavern addition. The lodge continued its regular meetings here up to the period of its dissolution in 1827.
One individual, whose name is associated largely with the enterprises of Eaton village, in the half century past, was Ellis Morse, whose death transpired October 28, 1869. The "Madison Observer" thus speaks of him:
"DEATH OF ELLIS MORSE, ESQ. --- We record to-day the decease of this well-known and highly-esteemed citizen, almost the last survivor of the early settlers of this town. In 1796, when a lad of seven years, he emigrated to this town from Sherburne, Mass., with his father, the late Joseph Morse, Esq., locating on the place known as the Burchard farm, at present owned by Charles Payne, and built one of the first frame houses in this region, a part of which is yet standing at the foot of the hill, on the right of the road leading from Eaton to Hamilton. Near this house ran the Indian trail from the Susquehanna to Stockbridge, and the Indians were frequent guests. In 1802, four years before the town of Eaton was set off from Hamilton, his father removed to the present location of the family homestead at Eaton village, where he erected one of the first grist mills this side of Whitestown. Here Mr. Morse began his long and active career, laying the foundation of his after success in life; beside the hopper by day, and the firelight by night, with brief intervals of school tuition in winter season, he diligently studied the only books of the times within his reach, such as Dilworth's Spelling-Book, Daboll's Arithmetic, the Columbian Orator and the Bible. At this time the only school in the town was kept by the late Dr. James Pratt, and held successive months at different places in the town, one of which was his father's residence, the scholars boarding meantime at the place where the school was kept. During his long and active life the deceased was widely and honorably known in business circles, where his correct and methodical habits and strict integrity gave him deservedly great influence. He was early engaged with his father in buying and selling cattle, thus furnished the early settlers with money at a time when it was remarkably scarce and greatly needed. Subsequently he was largely engaged in the building of roads for the new country, one of which was the Hamilton and Skaneateles Turnpike. Mr. Morse was a person of modest and retiring disposition, yet his sterling qualities frequently placed him in important public stations. For several years he was an influential member of the Board of Supervisors, and part of the time its Chairman. It is a singular coincidence that his father, in 1817, was one of the commissioners appointed to superintend the erection of the first Court House built here; that thirty years afterwards the deceased was chosen to superintend the building of the second Court House; and that nearly twenty years subsequently his son (George E.) was also appointed to superintend the erection of the third and present Court House.
"During the past few years, Mr. Morse had, to a great extent, withdrawn from business activities, passing the evening of his days among those who knew and appreciated his blameless life and high character. It is permitted to but few men to witness the wonderful changes which have occurred in the lifetime of the deceased. The dense forest, over which the curling smoke of the Indian wigwam was to his youthful eyes a familiar scene, has given place to well-cultivated fields and a prosperous population, along whose hills and valleys the trailing smoke of the first locomotive is to-day the harbinger of far greater changes than were witnessed even in the eventful lifetime of our departed townsman."
The "Eaton Woolen Manufacturing Company" was formed about 1816. Joseph Morse, Hezekiah Morse, James Coolidge, sen., Benjamin Brown, Samuel Stow, Curtis Hoppin and Dr. James Pratt, were members of this company. They built a factory east of Eaton village, on the Chenango, in 1816 or '17. After being run by the company for a time, it was leased to Gilbert Jones for a term of years, who manufactured woolen goods. He failed when it was leased to David Rogers, and for a time manufactured cotton goods. At one time both cotton and woolen goods were made at this factory. Homer Pratt, son of Dr. James Pratt, ran the establishment a few years, but, about 1828, failed. For a time after this it was idle; then was purchased by Pettis & Hoppin. This firm added to its capacities, and built on the premises quite extensively, intending to go heavily into the manufacture of woolen goods. They had but just completed these preparations, when, by an unlucky accident, the establishment took fire, and burned to the ground. This disaster occurred in the autumn of 1845. The proprietors lost heavily, and did not rebuild. The ruins may be seen about half a mile east of the village. There was a fine boarding-house and a store kept by the company. The excellent farm house belonging to Mr. Joseph Holton was the residence of Mr. Pettis.
Earlier than the building of the factory just mentioned, was the construction of the old powder mill, which was situated father south, on the Chenango. If the curious wish to find its site, they can take the road which crosses the flat eastward from Giles Clark's; it stood on this road, on land now owned by John Graham; when built; the land was owned by Squire Simeon Gillett. The mill was the property of James McConnell, and was built by him probably as early as 1806. It was finally destroyed by an explosion and fire, after it had been in disuse some time, from some powder left in the mill, in which disaster two young men, Samuel Washburne and Eleazer Goodrich, came near losing their lives. Very near here, Squire Gillett put up the grist mill, removed from Leland's in 1802. The mill went down years ago.
About 1817, Richard Ward built a tannery on the Eaton brook, in the village. Otis Hunt purchased it and for some number of years did a good business in that line. He sold to Collins & Tillinghast, after which it passed through several hands, then was burned, then rebuilt by Ellis Morse, and is now owned by Charles Fry.
The wagon shop now owned by Charles Gilbert was built by Samuel Parker. The wagon shop now owned by Robert Gilbert was erected for a school-house, and originally stood east of the Baptist meeting house. AS a school institution, this was the enterprise of a few individuals, prominent among whom were Alpheus Morse, Lyman Gardner, Calvin Morse and John M. Rockwell. The first teachers were Miss Gorton and Miss Terry --- the latter now Mrs. Bacon. The school usually had three teachers; it was conducted on the academic plan, and is said to have been the best school ever instituted in Eaton. It continued some five or six years. When the families to which the enterprise belonged, passed beyond their school days, the school declined and was finally given up. It was removed to the present location and converted into a cabinet ware shop, and a few years since it was changed to a wagon shop. The wagon shop and smithery of Mr. Boot, was built many years ago by Rogers & Parker.
The Portable Steam Engine Works of Wood, Tabor & Morse. --- Allen and Enos D. Wood, brothers, erected buildings in Easton village, for the prosecution of their business, in 1848. All kinds of castings, as well as fine machinery for factories, were made at their foundry. For a time, the establishment was managed by the Woods. Subsequently E. D. Wood removed to Utica, where he became one of the proprietors of similar works on an extensive scale, under the firm name of "Wood & Mann." The firm at Eaton, as now organized, ahs steadily extended their facilities and increased their business, greatly to the prosperity of the village. They employ about fifty men, and manufacture three engines per week, at an average cost of about $800 each. Portable steam engines being their specialty of last years, their work has grown widely popular; their engines are now distributed thought out the Union.
Though all departments of business have contributed to the prosperity of Easton village, the mercantile has been preeminent in that respect. Old residents remember the firm of Leach & Morse as prominent for many years; as men, active in their business, and extensive in their operations. They built the "Felton block," afterwards purchased by David Felton, where he kept store for several years --- now the cabinet ware store of O. A. Medbury. The drug store, now owned by Henry Allen, was built in 1816, by Dr. Charles W. and Andrew C. Hull. This is another of the old, substantial brick buildings of this village. In 1831, the store now conducted by the Morse Brothers, was built by Ellis and Alpheus Morse; here Alpheus Morse was formerly a merchant. Not far from the last date, Coman's store was built by Sylvester Thayer, another of Eaton's old merchants. In 1836, the "Exchange Hotel" was built by Ellis and Alpheus Morse. The architect, Jacob Bishop, built many of the best houses of the village, about this time. The first landlord of the "Exchange" was Cyrus Allen. The Baptist church, on Main street, was erected in 1820' the Presbyterian, on Church street, in 1833; the Methodist, not till 1856. The Union school house, a fine looking building, with spacious lawn and shade trees in front, situated on Church street, is also of recent build. The store now occupied by H. C. Palmer, on Main street, was built my Mrs. Maydole in 1870.
Madison County Poor House, situated a short distance south of Eaton village, was built in 1828. Attached to it is a farm of 159 acres, which is well improved and furnished with good farm buildings; it is a source of considerable revenue toward the support of the poor at the institution. The accommodations here for this class of unfortunates, have been from time to time added to and improved; there are now three two-story stone buildings devoted to their use and care; --- the Poor House proper, a lunatic asylum, and a hospital. Within three years past the county authorities have greatly improved the sanitary condition of the insane asylum, have added facilities for the greater comfort of those in the hospital, and have bettered the condition of things for all other inmates. The removal of the children to the "Orphan's Home," in Peterboro, during the year 1871, has proved another beneficial measure. The first keeper or overseer of the Poor House was Ichabod Amidon, who continued several years.
About half a mile west of Eaton village is the unused building and premises of the old scythe factory which was started about 1830. It was for a time conducted by Gardner & Abbott. It was a substantial stone structure, having an excellent water power. It was a thrifty, paying concern for many years. Subsequently, it was converted into an ax factory, where the "Winchester ax" so often seen twenty and more years ago, was made by Samuel B. Winchester. Gardner Morse now owns the property.
On the eastern outskirts of Eaton village, about half a mile from the business center, is located the Eaton Depot of the Midland Railroad. It is conveniently reached by freight teams from Eaton, Pierceville and West Eaton villages, over smooth roads, and by hacks for passengers from each of these places at all t rain hours.
We append the following obituary list, the items of which have been omitted in their more appropriate places; all of them old residents of Eaton:
"Levi Bonney, whose location was the old Bonney Farm near the Depot, died in 1855, aged 80 years. Miles Standish died in 1819, aged 71 years; Caleb Dunbar in 1811, aged 51 years, and his wife in 1801; David Hatch in 1836, aged 64 years; David Moreton in 1842, aged 69 years; Samuel Chubbuck in 1835, aged 67 years; John Hubbard in 1817, aged 5` years; Capt. Joseph Gardner in 1829, aged 62 years; Dr. Hull in 1833, aged 51 years; Dea. Cyrus Finney in 1846, aged 68 years; Elisha Willis in 1835, aged 58 years; Loren Pierce in 1851, aged 77 years; Col. Rockwell was killed in 1847, aged 56 years."
Also, we add the following note of two of the Comans, not given elsewhere: Samuel Coman was father to the wife of Rev. William Dean, many years ago the noted missionary to China. The wife became an active missionary also, with her husband. Winsor Coman, another of the family, was a noble man and stood high in the esteem of his townsmen. This was a family of remarkably robust, active men.
David McCrellis settled where the brick house is situated on the road from Eaton village to Morrisville. Benjamin White located north of Log City, having a family who were conspicuous. One son, Rev. Ward White, was a noted minister in the Methodist denomination.
Abiathar Gates was the first settler and original owner of the farm on the hill, east of Morrisville, afterwards owned successively by Uriah Leland and Henry Runkle. Mr. Gates built the present dwelling house and kept it as a tavern many years, where, also, all the public meetings in that part of the town were held, previous to the settlement of Morrisville. The farm is now owned by Mr. Jones.
When Thomas Morris reached the town of Eaton in 1796, he chose for his location the heavily timbered land bordering the Chenango, and there afterwards founded the village which bore his name. He was a man of wealth, and encouraged all classes of mechanics; he thus gathered about him the elements which go far toward establishing a village. It was, however, but a small, pleasantly located hamlet, having a church, a post office, tow taverns, a store, and the usual number of mechanics, up to the period when the County Seat was located here, in 1817. The Cherry Valley Turnpike was then in its glory and the tide of travel made lively business for the inns. But there were active men in Morrisville whose influence went far towards fixing the permanent location of the County Seat here. John Farwell, Amariah Williams, Dr. Isaac Hovey, Dr. Wm. Pitt Cleveland, Judge Gaston and Bennett Bicknell, were chief in all matters that pertained to the public interest. The Williams, the Farwells and Tidds were early settlers, all of them we believe emigrants from Connecticut. The status of the village in 1816, was nearly what it had been since its rapid progress immediately after the Cherry Valley Turnpike went through; Major Bennett Bicknell kept store in the building now occupied by Wm. P. Chambers; John Farwell kept a hotel on the spot now occupied by the residence of his son Thomas; Thomas Morris lived in a small house where Otis P. Granger now resides, at the northeast corner of the road leading to Peterboro.
In 1817, the long discussed question having been settled, the County Seat was removed to Morrisville. The object sought by Madison County in removing the Court House from Cazenovia which was then a most progressive village, was a central point. As between Smithfield and Eaton, both of which sought it, the decision was made in favor of the latter. Joseph Morse, Capt. Jackson and Squire Elisha Carrington, were appointed to superintend the erection of the new Court House, and the first court was held here Oct. 7th, 1817.
Thenceforward Morrisville became the central point for all county organizations. From published sources, previous to 1830, we gather statements concerning several of these societies. The Madison County Medical Society was then an organization nearly a quarter century old.
The County Temperance Society also frequently met in this village.
The Madison Colonization Society, formed about that period, met here frequently, and from the large hearts, the contagious zeal and the wise deliberations of the best men of the county, the public mind was moulded to receive the great principles of human freedom, preparing the rising generation to decide without hesitation as to the right, when the crisis should arrive.
A County Bible Society and Sunday School Union held their periodical meetings here.
An organized Musical Society often convened in this village.
These and other societies sprung up during the period following the second decade of this century, when it seemed that Madison County had suddenly sprung into new life. Being the seat of the courts of justice, we can form but an imperfect idea of the scenes enacted at this secondary theatre, of a nature oftentimes wildly tragic, and again serio-comic, and frequently unraveling the characteristics of the farce.
The execution of Abram Antone in the year 1823 was the last of those tragic performances, a public execution, given in Morrisville.
The name of Abram Antone had become a synonym of all that was barbarous and terrible, and when the news spread abroad that he had been captured and taken to Morrisville jail, the whole population of this region breathed more freely, for he was feared as well as hated, and when it was decreed that he was to be publicly executed, the people far and near determined to witness the horrible scene. It is said that "pioneer laid down his ax, the good wife put by her spinning and packed up their rations of gingerbread and doughnuts, saddled their horses and journeyed forty and fifty miles through wilderness paths, to witness the tragic close of a mysterious, eventful life. Hunters shouldered their rifles and marched to the public execution, expecting they and their rifles would be of "service," for the tribes had threatened to rescue him at the latest hour. "Farmers left their autumn harvesting, yoked their oxen to the cart and with their numerous families proceeded to the exciting scene. * * Tawny forms, with their moccasins, wampum belts and heavy blankets, moved somberly about, many of whom shrank fearfully from them." And yet Antone went to his death like the stoical warrior that he was. He objected to the degradation of hanging and being publicly exhibited. "No good way," say he, putting his hands around his neck, then pointing to his heart signified that he chose to die a nobler death. He begged to be let loose and give the militia an opportunity to bring him down like a hunted deer. Finding his appeals unheeded, he marched upon the scaffold with a calm and dignified tread, not a muscle quivering till the final pangs of death told that the deed was done which ushered into another state of existence the soul of Abram Antone. Friday, Sept. 12th, 1823, closed the record of public executions in Madison County. The gallows which closed the career of this notorious Indian was erected in the open field, north of the arsenal, on the west side of the Peterboro road.
Lewis Wilbur was executed in the jail at Morrisville, in the year 1839, for the murder of Robert Barber, in the town of Sullivan. In the year 1853, John Hadcock was tried here for the murder of Mrs. Gregg, in Stockbridge, and on February 23, 1854, was executed in the jail yard.3
Here many a poor man has been confined on the jail limits for debt. We are given an instance of one man, who, coming into the new country with small means, soon exhausted his supply of compelled to get in debt for various necessaries at a store. The debt coming due, there was no means wherewith to cancel it. The creditor levied upon and took his household furniture and his only cow, not withstanding there was a sick wife and five little ones who had chiefly subsisted on this cow's milk; and then, the debt not being all paid, and both the law and the creditor inexorable, the poor man was hurried off to the jail at Morrisville. Kind neighbors, scarcely able to sustain themselves, looked after the wants of the suffering family. Like a true Yankee, however, this husband and father, "in durance vile," being allowed "the freedom of the limits," contrived to improve the days of this term in making baskets, the sale of which relieved some of the pressing necessities at home. This law, so rigorous, had received the condemnation of wise, reflecting men, long before it was expunged from the statute books. At last a formidable crusade was made against it; petition after petition from all parts of the State flowed in upon the Legislature --- several from this county --- but not until the year 1832, was the incubus lifted from the unfortunate poor of this commonwealth.
This village was the central point for great political meetings, and here congregated, during each exciting campaign, deputations of wide-awake political men from all parts of the county. Exciting political battles have been fought on this ground. In the remembrance of many, there has been no contest more fierce than that during the anti-Masonic excitement, in which the Masons, under the banner of the "Observer and Recorder," of Morrisville, and the anti-Masons, under that of the "Republican Monitor," of Cazenovia, waged war throughout the contest.
We are told, that in the days of a half century past, the people of this country prided themselves exceedingly on their military displays; that "general training" was a time of great interest to all. On these occasions, Morrisville was alive with plumed heads, bands and bars, stars and epaulettes. The evolutions of the drill were studiously and accurately performed, and the pomp of the parade, and the pleasure and exultation of the performers, was heightened by the presence, the smiles and admiring glances of the gentler sex. These often-congregating masses, for one purpose and another, kept Morrisville in a continuous move, keeping step with the spirit of the times.
The village was incorporated April 13, 1819. The first newspaper, the "Madison Observer," was published here in 1822, under the proprietorship of Rice & Hall, who had removed it from Cazenovia. From 1829 to 1840, there was great activity in trade, and mechanics and manufactures developed. The population of the village in 1830, was 503, in a town containing 3,544 inhabitants. There had been a small foundry built, then carried on by Sumner Whitney. About the same period, Jefferson Cross established his foundry, which has been kept in operation to the present time. Mr. Cross commenced making stoves at the opening of his business. Stoves were not in general use at that day, and he had the pleasure and honor of introducing them into very many households. In the manufacture of the stove known as the "Great Western." He realized a handsome profit, in consequence of its great demand. [We risk the remark that, for some purposes, it is a very useful stove at this day.] The machine shop which Mr. Cross built was connected with his foundry, where he made a large variety of castings. After his death, this shop was sold, and the same business was carried on in the foundry. These works have been a source of benefit to the village, and are still a substantial and paying concern. George and Dwight Cross, sons of Jefferson Cross, succeeded to the ownership of the establishment, and are the present firm. About 1820, Nathan Shephard built a small woolen factory on the Chenango at the west end of the village, which was in operation some fifteen or twenty years; in 1830, it was run by Ozias Higley. Clark Tillinghast and Perley Ayer were other manufacturers of that day. There were then, as we learn from the advertising of that period, a comb factory belonging to Jonathan Gurley, also the chair making and cabinet rooms of Curtis Coman; the saddle, harness and trunk shop of James Slocum; the millinery shop of Miss M. Bicknell, and the stores of B. Bicknell. There were others whose trade, we are to suppose, was sufficient without advertising. There were two taverns, and the names of the landlords, for a series of years, are given as John Farwell, A. Morey, P. Munger and Ward White. There was a distillery which belonged to Bicknell, Norton & Palmer; it ceased to be, many years ago. Bradley Tillinghast built the tannery somewhere about 1830. This business is still conducted by him, on an extensive plan, and by his efficient management has proved profitable. The grist mill was built by Bennett Bicknell in 1833. Stephens & Gurley built a silk factory on Union street, before 1840; the chief article of manufacture was sewing-silk; they had an extensive commerce for a time, but the establishment remained in operation but a few years; the building has been converted into a cheese factory.
The educational spirit of this village was originally and is now, decidedly cosmopolitan. In the absence of literary institutions corresponding with those planted in other villages, it was the aim here to educate the mass in the more common and useful fields of learning, and to a higher state of perfection than could result in common schools. Select schools were held season after season on the most advantageous terms for pupils, in which the common English branches were taught for $2 per quarter, and Algebra, Geometry, Natural Philosophy and Rhetoric, for $3 per quarter; and board could be had for $1.25 per week. In 1831, an Academy was built, which stood on the location of the present Union School house; it was a fine three-story building. Its first Principal was Eli Burchard, of Marshall, Oneida County; its first board of trustees, O. P. Granger, B. Coman, J. F. Chamberlain, W. T. Curtis, E. Holmes, B. Bicknell, M. Leland, A. Williams, J. Payne, C. Tillinghast, J. W. Avery, A. Cornell and J. G. Curtis.
The N. Y. State Gazetteer of 1842, gives Morrisville 130 dwelling houses and 700 inhabitants. The County buildings were "composed of a Court House, County Clerk's Office and a Jail, very pleasantly situated; an incorporated Academy, three Churches, --- the Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist; --- a printing office, silk factory, distillery, tannery, woolen factory, iron foundry, machine shop, grist mill, saw mill, five stores and two taverns."
In 1847, a new Court House was built; Ellis Morse, Samuel White and Oliver Pool, were the committee appointed to superintend its erection. This was burned in October 1865, during the session of Court. In 1866, it was rebuilt. It is a two-story wooden building, containing an excellent court room with gallery, jury rooms and library. It is pleasantly situated in a small park, fronting on Main street. In the park is a fountain, and reservoir thirty feet in diameter and seven feet deep, affording an abundant supply of water in case of fire. The Clerk's office is a small brick building, fire proof, adjacent to the Court House. The Jail, situated also contiguous to the Court House, is an old building and is soon to be superseded by a new one of brick. The cell in which the notorious Indian murderer, Antone was confined, still bears the carvings he made in the curious hieroglyphics of savage life. Immediately after his sentence, he engraved upon the wall the number of moons and the number of sleeps to the day of his doom; thus, here the firm hand of this eloquent representative of barbarism performed its last work.
In 1868, one of the three then existing hotels, the upper or most easterly one, was destroyed by fire. This was a commodious, well patronized house, and its loss has been seriously felt. A company is rebuilding it the present season (1872,) on a plan far more extensive than the former. On the public green, near the lower or western hotel, is situated another fountain; this, with that in the Court House park, supplies such an abundance of water, that, for the future, and with her efficient corps of firemen, Morrisville seems munificently provided for, in case of a repetition of the conflagrations she has experienced.
About one mile south of Morrisville, near the "Center," was the old "Tillinghast factory." This was one of the first woolen factories of Madison County, built about 1822, by Perley Ayer. It was situated in a remarkably picturesque locality. The factory pond was a narrow body of water, created by damming between two perpendicular hills, covering some fifteen acres, and was ordinarily some twenty feet in depth. The plot for the factory houses, containing about twenty acres of level land, was at the foot of the hill and was handsomely laid out. In time this became the property of Clark Tillinghast, who by the means of capital, considerably increased the business. There were several fine dwellings and a good boarding house, and there were also on the premises a saw mill and tannery. This fine property was damaged beyond redemption by tow successive floods, in the autumn of 1851, in the first of which the water broke through the dam, carried away a part of the saw mill, struck a range of dwellings, broke up and carried away two of them, and forced the others against each other, nearly destroying them. The flood now turned and advanced upon other buildings, utterly demolishing and sweeping away the dwelling house of Almon Lawrence, leaving not a trace of it save the submerged cellar; his barn shared the same fate. The cloth lying in the dye-house was swept away, and several hundred sheep pelts were carried away from the tannery. Onward traversed the wild flood toward Eaton village, tearing up dams and bridges in its course and bearing on its bosom the spoils of the devastated factory settlement! Fortunately the horrors of the scene were not aggravated by the loss of human life; but very many were stripped of the savings of their industry, and some 150 persons were thrown out of employment. Mr. Tillinghast immediately commenced repairing, when, a few weeks later, a second flood damaged the property still father, so that is was never fully repaired and put in successful operation again. After years of disuse the premises were sold to the firm of Graham & Co., who built a machine shop there in 1869.
The First National Bank of Morrisville was established in 1864, with a capital of $100,000. First Directors: Daniel Steward, L. D. Dana, F. M. Whitman, Henry Runkle, Reuben Harwood, S. T. Holmes, A. M. Holmes, B. Tillinghast, George E. Cummings, John C. Head. First officers: Daniel Stewart, President; A. M. Holmes, Vice President; L. D. Dana, Cashier. The present officers are: Daniel Stewart, President; A. M. Holmes, Vice President; L. D. Dana, Cashier; Brownell Tompkins, Teller. There has been but one change in the list of directors since the organization of the bank; that of Charles L. Kennedy in the place of George E. Cummings.
The Madison Observer of Sept. 21, 1841, published an extended notice of Mr. Bicknell's death, which occurred Sept. 15, 1841, in his 61st year, from which the subjoined extract is made. It gives a just view of his appreciation by his fellow citizens:
"Our village has been smitten with no common calamity. It has been deprived of its head and benefactor --- of one who perhaps more than any other man was identified with its growth and prosperity. Mr. Bicknell was a native of Mansfield, Comm., and removed to this place in 1808, when, where is now a flourishing village, there existed but a few scattered tenements of rude construction, and an almost unbroken primeval forest. To its subsequent growth and advancement he contributed in a great degree. We behold on every side the evidences of his activity, enterprise and liberality. He gave largely, unstintingly, and bestowed his time and services freely, to whatever tended to the promotion of the welfare of the place.
Mr. Bicknell received repeated evidences of the confidence of his fellow citizens. Much of his life has been spent in public service. In 1812 he was elected a Representative from this County in Assembly, and in 1814 he was chosen State Senator from this then great western district. He also served in the capacity of County Clerk for five years, at first by appointment, and, on the adoption of the amended constitution, by choice of the people. In 1836 he was elected Representative in Congress from this district, (the 23rd,) Madison and Onondaga.) At the close of his term, he was strongly solicited to become a candidate for re-election, but steadily declined the wishes of his friends, and retired from public life.
In his private and business relations, he enjoyed a wide and enviable reputation, not only throughout the county, but beyond its limits. It was, however, as a public man that he was generally known. He was from youth, thoroughly and essentially a democrat, and he adhered to his political faith with a constancy and tenacity of purpose, which could only have been the result of well considered and mature deliberation. His democracy pervaded all his public and private conduct. It was clear, steady and consistent. * * * * Blessed with a constitution of body capable of great endurance, and which was impaired by scarcely an interval of sickness down to the day of his death, endowed with a vigorous mind, a sound, healthy and sagacious common sense, which rarely conducted him to wrong results; and moreover carrying into all his pursuits an energy and activity which knew no repose, and an indomitable perseverance which never relaxed, he was enabled to effect more in the moderate period allotted to him in this world, than most men accomplish with the longest term of human existence. * * * His was the generous heart and open hand for the poor man, as well as for his more fortunate neighbor; a working man himself, his sympathies were with the laboring classes. He lent freely of his means to those who were just starting in life, and a willing and an active hand in every public enterprise. He was a safe guide and counselor, and it was this trait in his character which acquired for him a hold upon the confidence and regard of his fellow citizens, which cannot be appreciated but by those who witnessed it. It is in this respect that his loss is irreparable and his decease is a blow to community. Indeed there are few among us of whom it may not be asked, in regard to the death of Mr. Bicknell, 'Who hat not lost a friend?'
Let us add to the above that the private character of Mr. Bicknell was such as may be commended without reserve. It was unsullied even by the breath of suspicion. His intercourse with his fellow men in all the relations of life was marked by justice, propriety and benevolence. With a vigilant attention to his own character and rights, he blended a constant observance of the courtesies of life, and a habitual regard for the feelings of others. He has descended to the grave, not only, it is believed, with scarcely an enemy, but enjoying the unqualified love of all who had the happiness to become his friends. * * * Long, very long, if ever will it be, before the breach occasioned by his loss will be repaired. His funeral was attended by the entire population, and a large number of citizens from abroad. It was an immense concourse, and testified more eloquently than words, to the estimation in which the deceased was held."
JUDGE HOLMES. --- Epenetus Holmes was born in Amenia, Dutchess County, N.Y., December 1st, 1784, and in 1795 removed his parents to Pittstown, Rensselaer County, where his father pursued the hatter's trade. His early educational advantages were quite limited, as he never attended a day school after he was eleven years of age. During his twelfth year he had the privilege of attending an evening grammar school; the residue of his education, as well as the earlier part of his legal studies, was prosecuted evenings, after the close of a good day's work. In the office of Hon. Herman Knickerbocker he completed his studies, and was admitted to the practice of law as an attorney in the Supreme Court, in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, in the year 1809, where he remained until March, 1817, when he removed to Morrisville, Madison County. There he remained till his decease, which occurred in 1861, when in his 77th year.
Judge Holmes continued the practice of law, opening a law office in this village, on his removal here. He received repeated marks of public confidence by being called to fill official stations. Soon after his removal here, he was appointed Justice of the Peace; he was subsequently, for several years, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, and for ten years was one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, of this county. In all of these positions he discharged his duty faithfully, and to general satisfaction. As a lawyer, he won golden opinions, and great confidence was reposed in his ability and sound judgment as a counselor. He enjoyed fame worthy of emulation.
For many years Judge E. Holmes was an influential member and officer of the Congregational Church, of this village, until age and bodily infirmities compelled him to withdraw from active life. In the various social and business relations, he enjoyed the esteem of his fellow citizens, and, at the close of a long life, left behind him an irreproachable name.
JUDGE GASTON, as he was familiarly known, came to this place fro New England in the year 1800, when the country was almost an unbroken wilderness, and resided here from that time until his decease. In 1804, he opened the first store in the village, on the line of the old State Road, and afterwards, when the turnpike was constructed, at the junction of Main and Eaton streets. On the organization of this town, in 1807, he was chosen Town Clerk, which office he held for nearly twenty years; he also represented this town repeatedly in the Board of Supervisors, and for many years discharged the duties of Justice of the Peace. He was at one time a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas. His ability and great probity secured him the confidence of all.
Judge Gaston was a man of unassuming manners, and in all the relations of life, justly esteemed for his sound judgment and unbending integrity; and we believe we can truly say, that it is the willing tribute of all who have known him during his sixty year's sojourn in our community, that he was emphatically the "noblest work of God" --- an honest man. Judge David Gaston died November, 1860.
OTIS P. GRANGER came to Morrisville fifty years ago. He was a young man of talent, and soon gained an enviable place in public favor. He was the first Surrogate of Madison County from the town of Eaton; was appointed April 13, 1827, and served thirteen years. He was one of the active public-spirited men of his time. Being a man of keen perception and ready wit, he was well calculated to relish the contests of the political arena of the days long past. Judge Granger yet resides in Morrisville, enjoying a hale old age.
LAWYERS. --- Among the lawyers of Morrisville who have exerted a wide influence, and won an enviable reputation for success, A. Lawrence Foster deserves mention. He opened an office here at an early day. At first being somewhat successful, he resolved to change his location for one more propitious, when an unexpected incident roused his energy, and he decided to remain, and at all hazards, win himself a position. Political contests --- Foster was a Whig --- served to strengthen his indomitable will. He became one of the successful lawyers of this time; was generally pitted against Hubbard & Stower in important cases, A. L. Foster was elected to Congress from the 23d Congressional District in 1841. A. S. Sloan, formerly County Clerk and lawyer, studied law with Foster. Duane Brown, Esq., another successful lawyer of that day, succeeded Mr. Foster. Mr. Brown was an able and popular advocate. He continued in business here till his death. Sidney T. Holmes, son of Judge Epenetus Holmes, opened an office in Morrisville and acquired success and a wide reputation of being an able and safe counselor. He was elected County Judge in 1851, and served twelve years. He was elected to Congress from the 22nd District in 1856. He has recently removed to Bay City, Michigan, where a new field invites him to continued success. Charles L. Kennedy commenced here as a student with Duane Brown, Esq., in 1845; was admitted to the bar in 1847, and remained in company with Mr. Brown till the fall of 1849, when he went to Chittenango, having formed a co-partnership with William E. Lansing. He remained there till 1856, when Lansing was elected County Clerk, and Mr. Kennedy took charge of the office as Deputy. At the close of the term, 1858, Mr. Kennedy was elected County Clerk, and at the expiration of his term formed a co-partnership with Judge S. T. Holmes. In 1867, C. L. Kennedy was elected County Judge and Surrogate, and as an evidence of the high estimation in which his services were held, he was re-elected to that position in 1871. Nathaniel Foote, Esq., has been a practicing lawyer since 1845, in Morrisville. He was from Chenango County, of the family of Footes well known in the public annals of that county. Alexander Cramphin, attorney and counselor-at-law, who was elected County Clerk in 1868, and Lucius P. Clark, Commissioner of Pensions, have well sustained law offices, and are long established in the confidence of the citizens. Several recent firms have been added to the ranks of the profession in Morrisville, some of them already winning golden opinions from their predecessors.
Thomas Fry, Stephen Cornell, Perry Burdick, Barry Carter and David Darrow, earliest located on lands which are now occupied by West Eaton village. Thomas Fry built his dwelling on the corner where the store of Smith & Bedell is now. David Darrow's large farm took in much of the site of the present village, and his farm house was situated very near where the road runs between the large house of Alvin Wadsworth and the cheese factory. Thomas Fry built a saw mill where stands the factory of Barnes, Mitchell & Howe. He, afterwards, in company with William Hopkins, built a grist mill on the same spot. The first tavern was built by Isaac Sage, very near where Mrs. Wellington's residence is, between her house and Richardson's Hotel. Barry Carter kept tavern here after Mr. Sage. In the house built by Mr. Fry a Mr. Dunham kept the first store, he receiving his goods on commission from the house of Foreman & Co., of Cazenovia. This primitive store, which was a double house, one part used for a store, the other for the family, would scarcely bear comparison with the fine building of its successor, the Smith & Bedell store, yet it was quite serviceable for its day.
The Skaneateles turnpike induced more rapid settlement, and the adjacent country was being inhabited, but years passed while the village was very slowly growing. The people were busy clearing up their farms, looking after the needs of society, nourishing their district schools and infant churches. Otherwise all of men's physical strength was employed in reducing nature to a state wherein it would serve the wants and necessities of life. We are scarcely able to understand the discomforts they experienced and the hardships they endured. The comforts of a primitive school house with the first trial of a stove, was given by an old lady who herself has known the changes of more than three score years. The school particularized was kept west of this village in the year 1816, by a Mr. Hubbard. The district had built a new frame school house, and, as stoves were coming in fashion, they had dispensed with the fireplace in building their house. In school meeting the merits of the few patterns of stoves extant were duly discussed. A neighboring district had used what was called the "potash kettle stove," and this school meeting decided to test its merits. Accordingly a potash kettle, in which the blacksmith had constructed a door, and an outlet for pipe, was hauled to the school room, turned over a circular brick platform, and made tight around the edge with plaster, This unique stove was found sufficient capacity to receive a large amount of fuel; but it had not a good draft, and consequently three or four hours of wintry weather passed each day before its massive sides became hot, and then it increased in heat to the superlative degree, which was now as intolerable as the cold had been. Grateful indeed was the chill wintry air from the door widely thrown open, to the burning cheeks and aching heads of scholars, who, but a few hours before had vainly endeavored to mitigate the pains of their chilling feet. Thus the school suffered through that long winter, and it is indeed a matter of wonder, how, under such untoward circumstances the children of that generation were able to store away so much sound knowledge as we see exemplified in their later lives. We infer, however, that the good sense of their parents added and encouraged improvements as their means would permit; suffice it to say that this kind of stove was not used a second term.
West Eaton, or "Leeville," as it was called, from Philip Lee, one of the early inn keepers, made but little advance as a village before 1840, having then but a dozen houses, one store, a hotel, a saw mill, grist mill, carding and cloth dressing works. In the forests round about, was growing the timber, in the quarry lay the stone, and in widely separated places lay other raw material, which the future should bring together to build the manufacturing works, the churches, and the numerous fine dwellings of this thriving village. Most of those twelve houses are yet standing.
Joseph E. Darrow kept the only store, in the house now belonging to Mr. Enos, near the fountain. The wool carding and cloth dressing works were owned and operated by Abner Isbell, and were located on the site of the present woolen mill of Barnes, Mitchell & Howe. In that day of stage travel, the tavern was the most busy institution of the place. The old tavern had disappeared and a new one, the present hotel, had been built by Major Smith, as early as 1830, and was kept by Calvin Wellington. After 1840, a new impulse seemed to enter every department of business. Joseph E. Darrow built his house east of the L. Wellington store in 1842, and built this store in 1845. In 1843, the Methodist church was built. In 1845, A. Y. Smith built the first woolen factory. He commenced with two sets of woolen machinery, and a lively business was transacted for a time under the firm name of A. Y. Smith & Son. He built the present Chubbuck store, the factory boarding house and some of the dwellings. The mill was burned in 1852. By assistance rendered among the citizens, Mr. Smith rebuilt immediately, went on with the works, but finally, during the financial crisis of 1857, failed. The works were next run by Churchill & Gilmore; Dr. G. B. Mowrey became one of the firm about 1860; for a short time it was under the firm name of Mowrey & Smith; Joseph Huntoon was subsequently added to the firm, and Smith withdrew. In 1862, while Mowrey & Huntoon were proprietors, the mill was again burned. They immediately rebuilt, commencing, through the assistance of the citizens, the necessary preparations the next day after the fire. In every respect the new factory was built on a better and more extensive plan than the former. It was given the name of the "Monitor Mill." The mill continued under the firm name of Mowrey & Huntoon till the summer of 1871, when Mr. J. C. Greene entered the firm. Mr. Huntoon withdrew, and removed to Flint, Mich., becoming proprietor of a woolen mill there. The woolen mill of Mowrey, Greene & Co. run five sets of machinery, employing about ninety-five hands, and turn off 4,500 yards per week of the finest quality of doeskins and other styles of gentlemen's dress goods.
The "Eureka Mill," Barnes, Mitchell & Howe, present proprietors, was originally built on a limited scale, doing only carding and custom work for several years. In 1860, Otis Barnes was proprietor. About 1862, the co-partnership of Barnes & French was formed. In 1863, they built anew, their business having so increased as to require them to occupy both the old and the new building. French having retired from the firm, James Mitchell succeeded. The firm of Barnes & Mitchell has continued, with the addition of H. C. Howe in 1870, up to the present time. They manufacture superior woolen goods, consisting of cassimeres, plain cloths, doeskins, flannels, such as shirting and sheeting, &c. They run about three sets of machinery and employ about seventy-five hands. Both the Monitor and Eureka mills, and also the Alderbrook woolen mill, manufactured "army blue" exclusively, during the war of the Rebellion.
About 1851, Asa Walden built the west tavern which is now used for a tenement house. The upper story is converted into the Good Templars Hall, and which is also used by the Free Masons, when they convene in this village. The store now owned by Smith & Bedell, was built by J. E. Darrow & Son about 1860. Some two or three years later the store now owned by Hamilton Brothers, was built. They have enlarged the store considerably, at different times, since they commenced business. The Pennock store, where the drug store and shoe shop is, was built at a late date. The meat market was built in 1871.
The Baptist Church was built in 1853, the new Methodist Church was built in 1869, the new parsonage in 1870. Within the last ten years those good buildings and fine residences on Main street, and those around and in the vicinity of the park, have been erected. The Park was laid out in 1870, in the south part of the village; it promises to be a feature of great attraction. Within two years, five new streets have been laid out, besides those around the park, and buildings are constantly being erected upon them. The Fountain was built in 1868.
West Eaton now numbers four dry goods stores, viz: Smith & Bedell, L. Wellington, Hamilton Brothers and Dwight Chubbuck; one shoe shop, a blacksmith shop, Hakes & Isbell's Express office, N. J. Miller, artist, a millinery shop, dressmaker's shop, tailor shop, meat market, restaurant, &c., &c., besides the hotel, the two factories, the two churches, public hall, and the Union School which employs two teachers.
The substantial prosperity of the manufactories together with the public spirit of the leading citizens have been a means of progress in West Eaton. To David E. Darrow more than to any other individual is due recent marked changes and improvements. Being the owner of much land in and about the village, he is, by laying out new streets, fast bringing it into available conditions for building lots. To his enterprise is due the park and all the new streets in that vicinity. By his skillful management, and the cop-operation of those of kindred tastes and public spirit, many pretty, and some elegant houses, adorn those streets.
From the location of George Andrews' residence near the park, a fine view is had of Eaton street bordering Alderbrook pond, and of this pretty sheet of waster, and the adjacent meadows, woodland hills and ravines. From here you see a small knoll, up across from the bridge, at the head of the pond, where bushes grow around the ancient cellar of what was once a dwelling, last inhabited by an aged squaw, of whom Fanny Forester gracefully writes in one of her Alderbrook sketches --- "Under Hill Cottage." This squaw bore the unpoetic name of Hannah Konkerpot. While she tenanted the house, it caught fire and was burned. After a season Hannah disappeared from this vicinity. She was said to be about one hundred years old. Across the pond from the same view, is to be seen Under Hill Cottage. In full view of here, three persons were drowned in Alderbrook pond the 18th of May 1872; they were Conrad Betz, and his daughter Fannie aged 11 years, and Miss Imogene Tousley aged 16 years. Seldom has any affair created so great an excitement as this, in the whole community, far and near. In the West Eaton Cemetery their headstones may be seen not far from the grave of Willie Greene, son of J. C. Greene, who was drowned in the same pond one year before.
West Eaton Lodge, No. 94, I. O. of G. T., was organized in 1866. To the young people of West Eaton this society has been of incalculable benefit. It has been remarkably prosperous, averaging a membership of seventy-five. To David M. Darrow, the Lodge accredits, in a great degree, the steady prosperity of the Order in this place. From the first, to the present, he has exercised a judicious care for its concerns, and a paternal interest in the young men connected with this institution. Others, who have belonged to it at different periods, have been earnest and efficient co-workers in redeeming the land from intemperance, and in keeping the young from its baneful influence.
An old burying ground, perhaps the oldest in the town, is situated about a mile west of this village, on the hill. Here the earliest inhabitants were buried. Many are removed to the new cemetery in the village. But few stones are here to mark the spot where lie buried so many.
One of the first taverns of the Skaneateles Turnpike was built on the road where it crossed the present location of the Eaton Reservoir. It was built by Solomon Stone; was for many years kept by Mr. Dunham, and was known far and wide as the old Dunham stand. The last landlord was Mr. Emmons, about 1833. The land where it stood, together with a large piece of the farm of David Wellington, was purchased by the State for the reservoir, and when completed, the valley and tavern site were submerged. In very dry seasons the ruins of the old inn may be discovered. We sometimes wonder if the aqueous element has erased all traces of the busy life which once made vocal those ancient walls, or if the spirit of past scenes still clings to them in their submarine home.
DAVID DARROW, Esq., the pioneer, was father of the large family who are prominent in West Eaton. At the time of his death the subjoined sketch was published:
One by one the last of our pioneers are moving from off the stage of action. Of this number was David Darrow, who died at West Eaton on the morning of Nov. 5, 1870. He was born in New London, Columbia County, N. Y., in the year 1782. Through the days of his boyhood and youth he received the principles, virtually, of a thorough New England training, which prepared him for a vigorous and self-reliant manhood; just the material requisite for the pioneer. In the year 1808, having married, he removed with a rising family from New Lebanon to West Eaton. He had purposed removing hither, in 1806, and had entered the town and taken up a small farm, and returned to his family, when he was taken sick and detained for two years. Just here we have an instance of the moral integrity of the man. His doctor's bills were large, which he was unable to pay, so he gave his notes, and afterwards drew wheat to Albany of his own raising in Easton, and with the money thus acquired, went to New Lebanon and redeemed his notes, principal and interest. In his straightened circumstances and the poverty of the new country, it took him twelve years to accomplish this, but the note which passed beyond all legal claims, with him, only insured his obligation. In the course of years he added to his farm in West Eaton, by the purchase of considerable land adjoining, and which embraced a goodly portion of the site upon which the village of West Eaton is built. Here, surrounded by his sons and daughters, and descendants of the fourth generation, many of whom are performing no unimportant part in the progress and achievements of the age, he has lived the wisely-spent years of an active, honorable life. He has witnessed remarkable changes such as the rising generation shall never behold. He has seen the majestic wilderness sweeping down to the verge of the now busy streets of West Eaton, covering hill and dale, which the hardy woodman exerted his utmost energies to subdue. He has seen this forest melt away, and green fields and waving harvests take its place. He has seen the hamlet of Leeville (West Eaton,) with less than a half dozen houses, grow to be a fine manufacturing village, busy with its driving wheels, its artisan shops, its mercantile and mechanical establishments, and with its many homes and noble churches, evincing the industry, enterprise and prosperity of its people. In the early days of this town's history, David Darrow, who, for his pure principles and upright character, had won the respect of the people, was often by his fellow citizens placed in positions of public trust, and in matters of public welfare, his council and co-operation were deemed essential to the success of any enterprise. He was early chosen Justice of the Peace, and in this capacity served the interests of the people many years. The improvement and development of the resources of the new country had his attention; the welfare of schools, and the furtherance of education for the masses received his cordial support; but the interests of religion, as the basis of law and order, as the foundation which underlies the safety of society, and as the power in the world from which all blessings, temporal as well as spiritual, flow, this work claimed his chief energies. Himself and wife were two of the seven members who composed the first M. E. Society of West Eaton, organized in 1841. He gave the land for the site, and gave liberally in building the first church edifice of this village. He has stood faithfully by the church of his affection, shared its many trials, and has lived to see it a substantial body, strong in numbers and in prosperity, and to see many of the vile avenues of evil overcome by its influence. Last year, during the building of the new M. E. Church, his heart was in the good work, and he then gave largely of his means for that purpose. He lived to see its completion, and to see a great harvest of souls gathered into its sanctuary. It seems that he might, with Simeon of old, exclaim, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." David Darrow was buried on Sabbath, November 6th; a very large congregation attended the funeral at the M. E. Church, and a most impressive and instructive sermon was delivered by Rev. B. W. Hamilton, from Job, 14th chap., 10th verse.
His widow, Thankful, infirm and broken with years, still lingers on the shore of time, her serene face bearing the impress of tender and sacred memories, and bright with hopes of the better life.
As a family, the Darrows are noted for their energy, perseverance and steadfast principles. Thrifty and thorough-going, as farmers, which they have mostly been from their remotest ancestry, they have acquired independence in this world's goods, while their honesty and inflexible principles have given them a high standing and influence in the community. Religious by nature, they have shown themselves the friend of the church through all vicissitudes. Joseph and George Darrow have been conspicuous in the M. E. Church, both long time class-leaders, and J. J. Darrow, a leading Sunday School Superintendent. (Note h.)
ALDERBROOK. --- About half a mile east of West Eaton is Alderbrook, --- celebrated in the tales of "Fanny Forester," --- the home and birthplace of the accomplished authoress, Emily Chubbuck, better known as Mrs. Emily C. Judson, wife of Dr. Judson, the missionary. Her grandfather, Simeon Chubbuck, came from New Bedford, N. H., in 1813, and, with a family of ten children, located on Lot No. 77. For two years the family occupied a log tenement, and in 1815, Underhill Cottage was built. This fanciful name was not, however, given the dwelling until Fanny Forester herself applied the sobriquet. The cottage still remains as it was built, fifty-seven years ago, but Alderbrook has materially changed within the last twenty-five years.
To-day, looking over the ground occupied by a factory, with its tenement houses, boarding house, and other buildings connected with the works, it is difficult to imagine Alderbrook as it was in the days when Fanny Forester indicted from here her charming sketches. From her pen, in her "Alderbrook Tales," we extract the following picture of Underhill Cottage and its surroundings, when in the zenith of its wild beauty: ---
"Come to Alderbrook, I say, in the spring time, for the crackle of the wood fire by which I am writing might be music which would scarce please you, and sooth to say our winter cheer offers little that is inviting to a pleasure seeker. It is well to take the turf when you reach the toll-gate at the foot of the hill, for the road has a beautiful green margin to it, grateful to feet sick of the dust of a day's ride. It is not a difficult walk to the top, as I well know, having climbed it a score of times every year. As you pass along you will find the road lined with berry bushes and the shade trees, not (it is spring, you know,) white with their bride-like blossoms, and many a thick-shaded maple and graceful elm will wish you had waited till midsummer, when they might have been of service to you. Very hospitable trees are those about Alderbrook.
"You are within a quarter of a mile of the village; and now the fence on the left diverges from the roadside, making a pretty backward curve as though inviting you to follow it down the hill. A few steps farther, and you look down upon the coziest of little cottages, snuggled close in the bosom of the green slope, with its white walls and nice white lattice work, looking amid those budding vines, all folding their arms about it, like a living sleeper under the especial protection of Dame Nature. Do you feel no desire to step from the road where you stand to the tip of the chimney, which seems so temptingly near, and thence to plant your foot on the brow of the hill over the brook? It may be that you are a sober-minded individual, and never had any break-neck propensities; may be you never longed to lose your balance on the wrong side of a two-story window, or take a ride on a water wheel, or sail on a sheet of foam down Niagara, or even so much as put your fingers between the two teethed rollers of a wool carder. There are people in the world so commonplace as to have no taste for 'deeds of lofty daring.'
"There are eglantines and roses grouped together by the windows; and a clematis wreathes itself fold on fold, festoon above festoon, in wasteful luxuriance about the trellis that fences in the little old-fashioned portico.
"You wonder how any horse vehicle ever gets down there, and may think the descent rather dangerous; but it is accomplished with perfect ease. A carriage cannot turn about, however, and is obliged to pass up on the other side. The house is very low in front, and has an exceedingly timid, modest bearing, as is sometimes the case even with houses; but when you see it from the field side, it becomes quite a different affair. The view from within is of fields and woodland, with now and then a glittering roof or speck of white peering through the trees between us and the neighboring village. The back parlor windows look out upon a little garden, just below it, and beyond is a beautiful meadow, sloping back down to the brook. From this window you have a view full of wild sweetness; for nature has been prodigal of simple gifts here, and we have never been quite sure enough that art would do better for us, to venture on improvements. So the spotted lily rears its graceful stem down in the valley, and the gay phlox spreads out its crimson blossoms undisturbed. There the wild plum blushes in autumn with its worthless fruit; the wild birch looks down on the silver patches adorning its shaggy coat, quite unconscious of ugliness; and the alders, the dear friendly alders, twist their speckled limbs into any shape they choose, till they reach the height that best pleases them, and then they droop --- little brown tassels pendant from each tiny stem --- over the bright laughter below, as though ready, every dissembler of them, to take an oath that they grew where the forest used to be; and growing from the decayed roots of each you will be sure to find a raspberry, or purple currant, or gooseberry bush, or at least a wild columbine, whose scarlet robe and golden heart make it quite as welcome. We like the stumps for the sake of their pretty adornments, and so have let them stand. --- (Would you know who we and they are? come, then, at evening; you shall be most cordially welcomed; for the kindly forbearance with which you have looked upon the first simple efforts of one there beloved, has made you quite the friend.)"
From this fondly-cherished home, Emily Chubbuck went out into the world --- the toiling, heartless world --- poor, but not friendless, for the warm hears of kindred enfolded her in the affections; at one time a factory girl, for a time an apprentice at millinery, and then entering upon the labors of the district school teacher. The congeniality of this occupation lightened the tasks which otherwise would have borne heavily upon a fine and delicate nature, and it became the stepping-stone to something higher. From here to a position in the Utica Female Seminary, she progressed, where in an atmosphere of appreciation and encouragement her genius expanded, and bust into blossom, to astonish with its beauty, and to charm with its freshness and fragrance a literary public, sated with heavy love romances, and thirsting for the fresh nectar sparkling from the fountain of a pure warm heart. Her originality was marked, her genius unmistakable. And so Emily Chubbuck, of Alderbrook, became the gifted Fanny Forester, and the honored Mrs. Judson, of whom all America was proud.
To the home of Fanny Forester the poor student might well go on a pilgrimage, and there learn lessons of self-denial and of perseverance, and there gather courage to strive and win, as she did. (Note i.)
The name "Alderbrook" is now applied to the little factory villa which has grown upon a portion of Mr. Chubbuck's farm. The "tool gate" has been removed, and a convenient farm house, owned by Mrs. Tayntor, stands nearly in its place. The road, instead of rising over the hill, diverges from the old route a little way from where the toll house stood, and follows the stream at the base of the hill, passing "Underhill" on the other (the "field") side. Where an old saw mill stood on the stream, is situated the Alderbrook Woolen Mill, a stone building four stories high, erected by Morse & Brown in 1849, and which has for years belonged to Alpheus Morse, Esq. This mill, when in full operation, employs about seventy-five hands, and manufactures the finest quality doeskins and cassimeres.
Along this brook road is situated the Boarding Hall, the "Long Block" containing six tenements, and a number of tasteful dwellings belonging to the factory employees. The meadows where the "spotted lily reared it graceful head," has been entirely converted into a long deep pond necessary for the operations of the factory, but many alders till fringe the brook in the gorge below the mill, where it tinkles as gracefully as in the days of Fanny Forester. The high hills on the north are scarcely skirted by forests now; only here and there are patches of timber land, spared only through fear of future scarcity. The "hill" which rises beyond the brook is still forest capped, and adown its sides is a plentifully sprinkling of berry bushes as of yore. Underhill Cottage is there, not changed, only as the rough hands of time have defaced its beauty and spread over it an aspect of age. The roses, eglantines and myrtle, which crept over its trellised porches, have faded from earth as have Underhill's lovely inmates, one by one fallen to sleep. By the side of the old hearth-stone, one of this affectionate and gifted family, Miss. Cynthia Chubbuck, aunt to Mrs. Judson, still lingers, and her gentle hand has smoothed the pillow of those who have come to breathe their life out under the roof of home.
East of Alderbrook woolen mill is the Alderbrook grist mill, which was originally the site of a wadding factory, built by Amos Pettis in 1848. This factory was burned in 1851, and a large amount of wadding, cotton and machinery were destroyed, making it a total and heavy loss to Mr. Pettis. It was, however, soon rebuilt, and finally converted into a grist mill which is now owned by Mr. E. Hatch.
A few rods up the little stream which comes from the north and empties into the Alderbrook just here, on land now owned by Mrs. Tayntor, there once stood a furnace. In 1825, this furnace was owned by Chubbuck4 & Marcy, who manufactured the first cast iron plows of this part of the country.
In 1819, Squire Samuel Chubbuck built a tavern here at the corner of the road leading to Lebanon. For years, during the period when staging and turnpike traveling made profitable business for landlords, this tavern enjoyed prosperity with others. Luke Hitchcock was then owner of the "Company Hill," and much of the other land of the premises now belonging to the Pierceville Factory Company. He built the small house on the north side of the creek, west side of the road, where he lived many y4ears, and died. The house on the east side of the road opposite him, (now owned by Amos Hammond,) was built by Seth Whitmore as early as 1820. The stately apple trees here were brought by Mr. Whitmore on his back from the Taylor farm, in Lebanon, about the same time. They are common fruit and yet bear abundantly.
About 1825, David Rogers built a small cotton factory where the carpenter shop and planing mill of George Dunbar now stands. Sheetings and satinet warps were made by Mr. Rogers. This factory, in 1832, was one of the three cotton factories which the census gave Madison County. Mr. Rogers built two or three of the houses now embraced in the premises of the present cotton mill, and also set out the handsome row of maples which shade the streets. Mr. Rogers married the daughter of Luke Hitchcock.
At a subsequent period John Brown purchased the Chubbuck tavern, and as travel grew less and this business declined, he converted it into a dwelling, which is now owned by his son Healy Brown.
The firm of E. & A. Wood, machinists, commenced here, occupying the Rogers' factory buildings as a furnace and machine shop, in 1845. They came here to make machinery for the incoming factory firm, J. O. Pierce & Co. In 1848, the Woods removed to Eaton and established there.
In 1844, Jonathan Pierce, of Hamilton, purchased the premises belonging to Mr. Rogers, together with considerable adjacent property, which embraced the above named "Hill," of forty acres, (half of it woods then,) and the farm of Widow Sherman, on the east of the Lebanon road, whereon was a superb mill site. During 1845, he built on this site a factory for the purpose of manufacturing cotton goods. He added, that year, several dwellings and a store, and in January, 1846, commenced operations. Jonathan Pierce did about 1850, and was succeeded by his son Jonathan Osgood Pierce, who carried on a large business under the firm name of Pierce, Cady, Crocker & Co. Mr. Pierce, as the head of the firm, made extensive improvements in building and otherwise, and spared no pains to make it an attractive place. From an article written in 1856, descriptive of the pretty scene this place presented, the following is extracted: ---
"On the corner of the road leading from the turnpike south, is the mansion house of John Brown; a few rods from the corner is the newly built residence of Hamilton Cobb, the buildings and grounds being arranged in an improved style. Descending a short distance we reach the residence of J. O. Pierce, almost hidden in its bower of shrubbery and ornamental trees, Its walks, summer-house, spacious and elegantly furnished parlors are often made joyous by gay parties from the cities and large villages, who enjoy Mr. Pierce's unbounded hospitality during the summer months. On the opposite side of the road is the store of J. O. Pierce & Co., --- the roomy Boarding House, abundantly furnished, the green park of young maples, covering about two acres of ground, and beyond them, almost hidden from view, is the brown cotton factory; the hum of its wheels, the pealing of its bell, the passing to and from of hands, the arrival and departure of customers at the store, which exceeds in trade all the other country stores, altogether make up a lively scene. Behind the heavy shade trees which border the sidewalks, are the factory houses, white painted cleanly kept yards and neat picket fences. The air is fragrant with the odor of flowers and some ancient, white-blossomed locust trees. A wide land, or road, leads in among the houses, at the father end of which is a saw mill, and the planing mill of Geo. Andrews. There is a blacksmith shop and a tailor shop. At the south end of the village is a small white house, with flower adorned yard in front, which is the residence of a lady physician, Mrs. Dr. D. Chase. (Note j.) There is a neat white school house, built in a style to accommodate the citizens with meetings. It is well supplied with maps and apparatus, mathematical, astronomical, &c., for a district school, and has a roll list of 100 scholars. Altogether the place has some thirty dwellings and about 225 inhabitants."
During the financial crisis of 1857, this company failed, and from that time to this, there has been a steady decay of those valuable premises. Nevertheless, much business has been done in the mill since. In the year 1868, under the superintendence of John Dalman, there were woven sometimes as many as 16,500 yards of sheeting per week; and during the six months following the first of May of that year, this mill manufactured 460 bales, or 342,000 yards of sheeting. The census of 1855, states of this mill as follows: --- Capital invested in real estate, $15,000; ditto, in tools and machinery, $15,000; ditto, raw material, $30,000; ditto, in manufactured goods, $30,000; number of persons employed, 63. The premises have been owned by several different ones since 1857. H. M. Kent, who was superintendent from 1848 to 1857, had the agency till 1866. Charles Pierce then purchased it. He sold in 1871. The present firm is Nason & Co., of New York city.
John and Matthew Pratt from Vergennes, Vermont, came to the north east corner of the town of Eaton, and settled among the hills in a dense wilderness, the place afterwards being called Pratts' Hollow, from them. At their first coming in they had but little money, and a cutter held all their worldly effects. But they were enterprising men and went to work with a will. After getting some of the woods down and letting in the sunlight, they decided to build a grist mill. They prepared their timber, and after getting everything in readiness, sent out for their neighbors to help in the raising. No building was raided in those days without ardent spirits; and it is related, by way of giving us an insight into the custom of the times, that the Pratts endeavored to procure rum of Major Clough of Madison, for the raising, but who refused to trust them, as they had no ready money. The day arrived, and they were in great tribulation because of their inability to procure the one thing needful; everybody would be there and the reputation of their mill would be scandalized if they could not do the "honorable" at the raising. One of the Pratts confided his trouble to Col. Leland, who gave his order, and forthwith Major Clough uncorked his cask, the rum flowed, and the mill was raised with a right good will. The location of this grist mill is about a half mile of out of Pratts' Hollow. It has, through repairs and rebuilding, been a very useful institution, despite the circumstances attending its origin.
The Pratts prospered. They soon built a saw mill, then a large distillery which they operated for many years. They had several houses, and built and stocked a large store, and before 1825, built one of the first woolen mills of the county.
The firm of the Pratt Brothers transacted a heavy business with their grist mill, saw mill, woolen mill and distillery, and at one time it was supposed they were worth at least $60,000. They were energetic business men, had large families, and altogether wielded a strong influence. John Pratt was a wide awake Methodist; used frequently to exhort, being regarded as a gifted person in that direction. His name was prominently connected with the building up of the Methodist Church in Pratts' Hollow, and also that in Morrisville.
In time, the Pratt Brothers dissolved partnership; after that, their property, which had so rapidly accumulated, began to waste away. As one reverse after another pressed upon them each, they became disheartened; their families began to scatter, and to-day their homes are in various states of the Union. John and Matthew Pratt both died in Madison County; Matthew in Hamilton, at an advanced age; John died in Canastota a few years since, over ninety years of age. The Fearons purchased the Pratt property.
J. F. Chamberlain came to Pratts' Hollow about 1809. He was from Southwick, Mass. He commenced his manufacturing works with a carding machine and clothiery, which, in the course of a few years, he increased to a small woolen factory. He then built a small cotton factory where he made satinet warps. About 1825, Isaac Peet united with Chamberlain in business, and under the firm name of Chamberlain & Co., they built a larger cotton mill for the manufacture of sheetings. They also built several houses for families, a boarding house, a store, &c. Mr. J. F. Chamberlain died in 1839 at the age of sixty years. His son succeeded to the property.
The widow of Mr. Chamberlain still survives at the advanced age of ninety-two years. She resides with her daughter, Mrs. Leland, in Morrisville. Her vigor of body and mind is wonderful for her years. She relates with accuracy her experience during the early years of their settlement in Pratts' Hollow. When she came there in 1809, she was a wife, and mother of four children. She entered with spirit into all her husband's undertakings, and like the wise woman of Solomon's time, who "layeth her hands to the spindle and her hands hold the distaff," so Mrs. Chamberlain wrought some exquisite fabrics from the distaff and spindle. One of the earliest fairs of Morrisville exhibited a specimen of her handiwork, a piece of linen containing sixteen yards, a little over a yard wide, which, when bleached, weighed six pounds. It was made from long silken fibers of the best flax, hatchelled by her own hands and spun by herself on a two hand wheel. Nine run, or 180 knots of yarn, weighed a pound before weaving, which shows the fineness of the fabric.
Between 1825 and 1840, Pratts' Hollow was a flourishing manufacturing village, with the Pratts' woolen mill, the Chamberlain & Co.'s cotton mill, the two boarding houses, the two stores, tavern, and distillery. During these years several different men and firms engaged in one or the other of these manufacturing concerns, built up for themselves small fortunes and moved away. Some are enjoying their gains to-day, while others in their prodigality have suffered their savings to slip away easier than they came.
Time changes all things, and gradually its changes came to Pratts' Hollow. In 1852, the Chamberlain cotton mill was burned; the proprietors suffered a total loss, as it was not insured, and did not rebuild. The little old cotton mill has been moved upon the site of the burnt one and converted into a cheese box factory. The small old woolen factory of Chamberlain's is now a cheese factory. The Pratts' woolen mill has changed hands repeatedly and is repaired to be again in operation. H. C. Howe of the Eureka Mills, West Eaton, used this mill during the war for making army stockings.
This is yet a stirring, thrifty village, with one store, a tavern, a woolen mill, cheese factory, saw mill, grist mill, Methodist Church, and about thirty-five houses.
About 1806, a number of Protestant Irish settled on farms in and about Pratts' Hollow. These were the Tookes, Kerns, Fearons, Tackaburys, Philpots and others. Among the different members of these families, men who have been useful and influential members of society, we have the names of Michael Tooke, Francis Tooke, James Tackabury, George Philpot, Francis Kern, John Kern and George Fearon. Among the family of Tookes are two Methodist ministers. Lambert Kern of DeRuyter, of the family of Kerns, was appointed District Attorney in 1865. Edwin C. Philpot5 of one of these pioneer families, is Justice of the Peace and has been the frequent recipient of public favors. These are mostly farmers of the scientific and progressive sort. Nathaniel Tooke, living in the north-east corner of the town, ornaments the road sides along his farm by setting out fruit trees for shade, thus evincing his thrift and liberality.
The Pine Woods Tavern was built in 1834, by Richard Madison, who now lives in Binghamton, and is eighty-two years of age.
Solomon Root, who settled at the town line on the road leading from Pine Woods to Bouckville, was the first class leader of the old Methodist church in Bouckville, which originated in this neighborhood. Meetings were first held in his house. Then he built the "Chapel," near him, which stood on the town line, where meetings were afterwards held. This Chapel is still standing, having been converted into a dwelling, and is owned by Alonzo Peck.
Josiah Peck came from Rhode Island in the year 1806. He took up a large wilderness farm and built his first log house east of the present tavern across the canal. His son, Alonzo Peck, succeeded to the homestead, and made additions to it in purchases of land. When the Chenango Canal was built through his farm, he built large store houses and engaged heavily in the forwarding business, both here and at Hamilton. Peck's Basin has been known to dealers in produce and those connected with the trade, as the center of a large business since the canal first opened.
The following extracts from a diary kept by Benjamin Morse, the pioneer, are records of events, which, to an unusual degree, affected the prosperity of the inhabitants: ---
"1809. July 11, was a rainy day, which, together with rain the day before and after, made a great freshet. Generally thought there fell two feet of water all over this part of the earth. The rain began to come on Sunday by showers, and on Monday the 17th, it rained like a shower all day."
"1810. The night of July the 17th there was a great frost. The frost was so thick on the fences that it could be scraped up by the handfuls like snow balls. The grass was froze so, that when cutting it off, there would scales of ice flake up an inch long. The ice gathered on the scythe snath a quarter of an inch thick. The leaves of corn and beans, squashes, cucumbers and other things, were frozen stiff, yet but very little damage was done with us."
"1816. June the 6th it snowed most of the forenoon. The night after, the ground froze." [The following entry was made afterwards.] "The years 1816 and '17, cold, no corn. 1816 was dry and cold. 1817 was wet and cold. 1818, wet in the spring, and somewhat cold until May 20. Was then a good season for corn and other crops; very extra for hay. 1819, very warm all the season. First frost Sept. 21. Some corn fit to grind in August, that year. All crops exceedingly good, except hay -- -that middling."
The First Baptist Church of Eaton, was organized in Morrisville, in 1809. The first meeting house was built almost entirely by Deacon Arowdell Lamb, the same year. It was a small house, 20 x 30 feet. In 1826, it was moved about fifty rods east of its first location, to the grounds where the old church now stands; it was subsequently added to by building, completing its present dimensions. February 17th, 1849, it was sold at public auction for $400; and February 20, the same year, the new and present house in Morrisville, was dedicated. Mrs. Emily Judson, and Dr. Dean and wife were children of this Zion. Rev. Dr. Kendrick, Rev. Obed Warren, and other distinguished ministers have been pastors of this church.
The Presbyterian Church of Morrisville, was organized in 1817. In 1817 and '18, the house of worship was built on its present location, at a cost of $1,680.44. Rev. Silas Parsons was the first pastor. Some of the best talent of the denomination has been employed in its pulpit.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Morrisville, was incorporated February 24, 1834, at a meeting held in the court house. First Pastor, Rev. Ward White. The church edifice was built on its present location in 1835. It has since been much enlarged and improved.
The Second Baptist Church of Eaton, was formed in Eaton village in 1816. Elder Joseph Cooley was first minister. Rev. Nathaniel Kendrick was pastor from 1817 to 1833. Meetings were held in the brick school house till the meeting house was built, which was accomplished in 1819 and '20. It was repaired and improved at an expense of over $1,200, in 1856.
The Congregational Church, of Eaton Village, was formed in 1831. It rapidly increased to a large society. Rev. John Foote was first pastor. His inaugural sermon was preached June 8, 1833, being the first sermon preached in the new house of worship. The town clock and bell were put up in this church belfry in 1848.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, of Eaton Village, was formed in 1856, from the West Eaton church. The meeting house was built the same year. First Pastor, Rev. Mr. Hall. During the pastorate of Rev. B. W. Hamilton, in 1868, the house was extensively repaired.
Baptist Church of West Eaton. In 1820, a society of "Six Principle Baptists" was organized in this place, holding their meetings in the school house. Elder Shaw was first pastor. This society divided, and from a portion of the members was formed the Baptist Society of "Leeville," in 1834. This society was subsequently merged into the church at Eaton. In 1853, the Baptist Church at West Eaton was organized. First pastor, Elder Daniel Putnam. The meeting house was built the same year.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, of West Eaton, was formed in 1841, having then seven members. Rev. Mr. Tremaine was first located pastor. In 1843, the meeting house was built on the hill. In 1869, during the pastorate of Rev. B. W. Hamilton, a new edifice, costing $15,000, was erected on Main street. The old church was sold for a public hall. The Eaton village church was formed from this in 1856.
The Methodist Church, of Pratts' Hollow, was formed as a class as early as 1810. Meetings were held in school houses for many years. The society continued to prosper, although not large. In 1838, while Rev. Daniel Whedon was pastor in charge, the meeting house was built. The society has a large and excellent Sabbath school.
The Madison Observer was removed from Cazenovia to Morrisville by Rice & Hall, its publishers, in the year 1822. In 1824, it was published by Bennett Bicknell, who, in 1839, purchased the "Hamilton Recorder," when the two were consolidated, and became
The Observer and Recorder. In 1832, this passed into the hands of H. C. Bicknell and James Norton, and in 1834, the latter became sole proprietor. In 1835, it was changed to
The Madison Observer. In 1839, J. and E. Norton became its publishers, and in 1856, Edward Norton, by whom it is still published. It is the oldest newspaper in Madison County, and has lived half a century in Morrisville; it has a strong hold upon the affections of its longtime readers; the old families of the county, of whatever party or creed, cling to the "Observer" as to an old friend, whose familiar face they have met each week for fifty years.
The Independent Volunteer, was started July 28, 1864, by G. R. Waldron and J. M. Chase. In August, 1865, it was issued by G. R. Waldron. September 26, 1866, it was changed to
Waldron's Democratic Volunteer, and was moved to Hamilton, where it is now published by Waldron & Son.