History of Chenango and Madison Counties

James H. Smith

D. Mason & Co. - Syracuse, NY - 1880

INTRODUCTION


    In the preparation of the history of the two counties treated of in this volume the author has endeavored to confine himself to a concise and truthful statement of facts, leaving deductions and moralisms, except where such were necessary to a proper elucidation of the subject, to the individual reader; and in gleaning these facts he has laid under contribution every available source of information in the effort to arrive at correct data. This, however, has not always been possible, for much is given that rests for its authority entirely upon verbal statements, which, even among the best informed, are subject to the lapses of memory. When conflicting statements have been observed, as was to be expected there would be in so broad a field of inquiry, an honest effort has been made to reconcile them and make them conform to the probable fact; for while each individual expects the record of a fact to conform to his remembrance, it is notorious that all do not retain precisely the same recollection of it. To this end also records have been consulted where such existed and were accessible, both to supplement and establish a verbal fact, and as an original source of information. These, however, were often fragmentary, sometimes entirely wanting, and while their incompleteness was perplexing, their frequent indefiniteness was even more so, so that it was often necessary to supplement them by verbal information.

    The materials for such a work were widely scattered. They laid in the imperfect town, county, church, school, society and private records, and in the vague and faded memories of individuals. Much time, labor, diligent research and patient inquiry have been required to gather these materials and collate them into systematic order. Every town has been visited, and its records and well-informed citizens consulted. In addition to these, the files of local and other papers have been scrutinized, and the works of numerous authors laid under contribution; but as the latter have generally been referred to in the text, especially when quoted, we do not deem it necessary to enumerate them here.

    Much more might have been given, enough to swell the volume to twice its present size, by the multiplication of details which some would regard with interest and others as unimportant; much indeed was prepared and still more gathered, but it was found necessary to eliminate it to bring it within the scope of this work. In discarding matter we have aimed to retain that which seemed most important --- most worthy of preservation.

    An earlier preparation of the work would have lessened the labor and produced more satisfactory results; would have given access to the personal experience and relations of the very first settlers, with whom have died facts and incidents which are now beyond recall. But few of the first generation of those who settled and subdued this wilderness are now left with us, and fewer still of that sacred remnant retain their faculties sufficiently to relate coherently and positively the interesting incidents of that early period; but we still have their "oft told tales" from the lips of their immediate descendants, and have thus been able to collect and chronicle, with a close approach to accuracy, the facts of early history. It must, therefore, be obvious that the time for the publication of this work had fully come, and that a longer delay would only have added to the obscurity of the facts and the difficulty of their acquisition.

    Happily the very full and scholarly "Relations" of the faithful Jesuits and other French missionaries give us a minute and definite account of the manners and customs of the American Indians, the supposed aboriginal occupants of this country, with whom they mingled as early as the fore part of the last half of the seventeenth century, though they are chiefly concerned with the relation of their efforts to christianize them, and to engraft upon their rude natures some of the arts and usages of civilization in their time. Numerous evidences of this intercourse have been disclosed by means of the plow and other agencies in both counties, but more especially in Madison county, which, in part, was the home of two numerous and powerful tribes of the Six Nations, the Oneidas and Tuscaroras. These consist of gaudy trinkets and other articles of use and adornment, which possessed an intensely magnified value in the eyes of the untutored savage, and were the means by which these zealous missionaries sought to ingratiate themselves with the natives and prepare the way for the successful accomplishment of their ulterior object.

    Though these counties are not as rich in historical incidents fraught with tragic interest as the counties which bordered on the confines of civilization during the French and Indian wars, the sanguinary struggle of the Revolution, and the more recent but memorable war with the mother country, which etched in lines of blood the history of their eventful scenes, they have a pacific history to which many will recur with interest-yes, with reverence; and it is a most interesting fact that savants, deeply learned in antiquarian lore, refer to their borders an event which furnishes one of the earliest recorded evidences of European and aboriginal intercourse on this continent, so that in all probability their history reaches back to a period when civilization first gleamed upon the unenlightened mind of the Indian.

    The author takes this opportunity to tender his grateful acknowledgments to the many who, in various ways, have so kindly aided him in this laborious work, and to testify to the uniform courtesy which was extended to him, and the cordiality with which his labors were seconded by the hosts from whom it became his duty to solicit information. A few noted exceptions-and but a few-might be stated, but he prefers to conceal these with the mantle of that charity which the exceptional few so wantonly violated.


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