Town of Nelson History

 The land that constitutes the present town of Nelson was acquired through  
a patent from the state by Alexander Webster and was later purchased by  
John Lincklaen. 
 From Lincklaen, Joseph Yaw and Jedediah Jackson purchased a section of  
the northern part of the township on behalf of a Vermont company of  
speculators. Throughout the next two years (1794-95), 26 families,  
primarily from the Pownal, Vermont, area, settled on the purchase. Jackson  
opened Nelsons first tavern (on the site of the present day Nelson inn)  
and served as the first justice of the peace. 
 The town was formed from Cazenovia, which borders Nelson on the west, on  
13 March 1807 and was named in honor of the English naval hero, Admiral  
Horatio Viscount Nelson (1758-1805). 
 As in other parts of the county, namely Georgetown, sheep raising was one  
of the first agricultural "industries" in the township. Early in Nelson's  
history, farmers had a difficult time keeping their flocks from being  
ravaged by wolves. James H. Smith wrote that in 1809 the town levied a 75  
cent tax on every man keeping a dog. 
     At the same time a bounty of twenty dollars in addition to the  
     state bounty [not specified by Smith] was voted for every wolf  
     killed in the town. Thus it wound seem that generous, if not  
     ample, provision was made for the propagation and protection of  
     the flocks of the early settlers. The tax on dogs was repealed  
     in 1810. 
 At one time the village of Nelson was called Nelson Flats. Still earlier,  
Smith wrote, it was "designated by the expressive if not euphonious name  
of Skunk Hollow from the fact that the first skunk in the [locality] was  
caught here." Smith continues: 
     [As] it was long supposed that there was not a skunk west of 
     the Hudson River this [skunk] was regarded as a curiosity, was 
     boxed and sent to Cazenovia [then the county seat], no doubt to 
     the great delectation of the cultural inhabitants of that lovely 
 One can only wonder just how delectable the Cazenovian's cultured noses  
found the skunk to be. 
 Erieville, situated in the south central part of the town, received its  
name from Eri Richardson. John E. Smith described Richardson as "a  
prominent citizen and long a prosperous merchant. He was a member of the  
legislature in 1822 and was connected with the state military whence he  
received his title ot major". 
 In the 1840s America experienced a surge of new immigrants coming from  
Europe to escape religious and political persecution (and execution). As  
with the 26 Vermont families before them, many Welsh immigrants likewise  
settled in the town of Nelson. One of their lasting contributions to the  
area was the Welsh Congregational Church. Built in the 1870s to replace  
an earlier structure that outlived its usefulness, the church was the  
focal point of community life, both secular and sacred. Here they  
preserved old Welsh customs and, in their services, their language. 
 Like many other Madison county towns, Nelson was involved with dairy  
farming. Two offshoots of dairying in Nelson were Moore's Empire Milk Pan  
Company Ltd. and the Nelson Cheese Factory. 
 From 1876 on into at least the mid-1880s, Erieville was the home of the  
Empire Milk Pan Company Ltd., which manufactured a milk pan and cooler  
patented by Franklin W. Moore. The company was dissolved when Moore moved  
to Syracuse. 
 Allison Gage built the Nelson Cheese Factory building in 1870 although he  
operated a pattern works there himself. Patterns for manufacturing either  
machinery parts or clothing were made there. By 1876 the building had been  
converted to a cheese factory under the proprietorship of William Richards.  
Richards sold the building to Edgar Beebe in 1890; Beebe resumed the  
pattern works 
 When Duane Histed bought the building he resumed cheesemaking. Thus it  
continued through the twentieth century. An unidentified newspaper clipping  
of 28 December 1950 tells us that soon after Charles Braverman of Utica  
bought the factory had its greatest [period of] activity. In the early 1940S  
     it was a thriving cheese manufacturing plant working twenty-four  
     hours a day seven days a week. Fifty men, including truck drivers, 
     carpenters, and repair men, were employed in the day and night  
	Eight to ten barge tankers carried 3200 cans of milk a day to  
     the plant to be made into American cheese. About 500 tO 600  
     cheeses, 40 pounds each were made at the plant every day, most of  
     it being shipped [to Britain through] Lend Lease. [The Nelson  
     Cheese Factory] had the greatest volume of any plant in the  
     country making that type of cheese. 
 By 1950, however, the factory, still under Braveman's ownership, was  
operated part-time when, in December of that year, it burned. 
 Today, Nelson maintains strong ties to her agricultural past, yet in some  
ways, she has lapsed into a quiet, rural repose. In fact, one town  
settlement has completely disappeared. Yet like many other rural towns,  
Nelson remains as a buffer to the hurlyburly of urban life. 

Date: Sunday, January 03, 1999 09:24 PM

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