Our first settlers called our location the Rapids, our next name was Barnesville. At this time the creek was forded here at the rapids, this being the most shallow place after leaving the Lake. Many of the older residents can recall the building of our three bridges. At the building of the first bridge, we were officially called Brideport.
We are very fortunate in having Dr. Bates of Cornell University as one of our personal friends. He has always studied the lives and habits of the American Indian. Much of our information concerning Indian lore has come from Dr. Bates. In one of Dr. Bates' many lectures he tells us of the several Indian tribes that settled around our little community.
About three miles south of our village a monument marks the place of the stockade fort as built in 1756. This place is known as the historical Turtle Tree sight. The location of this fort is on the farm now owned by the Abraham Bitz family-- the farm borders the bank of Chittenango Creek making an ideal location for Indian tribes to settle. This stockade was built by Sir William Johnson for the protection of the Tuscarora Indians, one of the six nations of the Iroquois who were in alliance with the British against the French in Canada.
This was the landing place in 1780 of Sir John Johnson with 800 British Tories and Indians from Canada on his raid against the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys. Their boats and cannons were partially destroyed by Capt. Walter B. Vroman with about 50 men from Fort Stanwix. The American command was captured by the British and several were returned to death at the sight of the Turtle Tree on the day of October 26, 1780. Portions of the above section have been copied from the monument that has been erected to commemorate this bit of history.
William Beachman, also an authority on Indian methods of living, tells in his history, of a stone wall which crosses our creek located three-quarters of a mile south of our village. This was built by the Indians, to form a pool in which to store their fish for future use. We are also told about the ridge of land that crosses our entire State, this being called Smith Ridge. Many articles formerly used by the Indians have been found by people now living near the Ridge. Arrowheads, an old Indian Grist Mill known as the mortar and pestle were found. Many evidences of an Indian burying ground have been found on the LEON DAMON Farm near the shore of Oneida Lake.
From stories handed down from one generation to another we find that MR. RECTOR owned a farm about a half mile north of our village. This farm is known as the OSTROWSKI Farm. MR. RECTOR has told of the times when the Indians came to his farm from the hills, south of us, to catch their supply of fish for food for the winter months. These fish were caught and cured immediately for winter supply. These Indians would sleep in the barns on the farm and would store large quantities of fish in his buildings until they were ready to return to the hills. It appears that our people and the Indians must have been friendly in those days.
The many, many industries played a very important part in the growth of this community. It is really unbelievable that so many industries have existed in this quiet unassuming samll country town. Probably one of the first business operations to exist was the sawmill which was built onthe west side of the creek in Onondaga County, logs were brought here by the farmer to be sawed into lumber of which many of the houses in Bridgeport were built. Most of the huge timbers were huewed with a broad axe by hand. Many of these timbers are still in evidence and will be for many years to come. In the winter the logs were drawn and poled in the mill yard, also into the dike and were drawn into the mill shed by water power where they were sawed into lumber. One man operated this mill alone from early in the morning until late in the evening, his wages being only $1 per day. MR. HENRY MYERS was the sawyer in the days of our remembrance----about 1880.
Now we move up the creek a little further and we find the old broom factory. The broom corn was raised here and then manufactured into brooms to be sold to merchants in the neighboring communities. This factory was owned and operated by JOHN FOX. Many childrens's pennies came from the sale of old abandoned broom handles which they collected and sold to MR. FOX for one cent each.
Just east of this carding mill and what is now the VANDERMILL property, was a factory where wood pegs were made. These pegs were used by shoe makers to attach the soles and heels to boots and shoes. They were a samll square wooden peg, sharpened on each side, measuring from one half inch to one inch in length. The shoemakers pierced the leather with an awl, then drove the peg into the opening with a bell faced hammer. We are told that this factory at times employed about sex men. Another used of their pegs was in building our homes and barns at that time. These pegs were used to fasten the beams together that formed the buildings. Holes were drilled in the timber with a hand machine. As the carpenter sat astride the timber, he operated a machine with a crank on each side of it. THese cranks were shaped like the handle of our present day bit-stalk. When one crank handle went up the other went down thus making a drilled hole in which the peg made a very tight fit. This was a very good example of precision work that was greatly in evidence in many ways in the early days. We have also found evidence of another used of these wooden pegs. They were used in the Syracuse Public Schools to help teach the children how to count. There were still used in the schools as late at 1890.
Just north of this house lived CHRISTOPHER POPENSACK who manufactured cigars and scrap tobacco to be sold in our stores in Bridgeport and surrounding villages. All the used cigar boxes were saved and dismantled, rebuilt again and repacked with tobacco. This evaded the Government law of reusing cigar boxes.
In these early days, an occupation probably long forgotten by some of the elderly people was that of the pathmaker. JACKARIAH SICKLES was our pathmaker in the olden days. One man with a shovel, horse and lumber wagon made our roads at that time. Mounted on the wagon was a plank with an abandonedd saw mill saw, bolted to the edge of the plank, in such a position that it would smooth the roads and help fill the ruts. Road taxes were paid by drawing an occasional load of gravel which was used to fill the ruts and quick-sand holes. We can remember seeing the children as they walked behind the scraper in their bare feet, to feel the smooth warm earth.
Now we come to one of the most important industries in any typical community, the balcksmith shop. Our small town could boast of three. The Swatsfiger shop was located on the village green near the creek, and the old red backsmith shop owned and operated by MR. MOORE, and the third was located on what is now the JAMES ALLEY property. The shop operated so many years by MR. MOORE was located just south or the R. O. COOK property, now owned and occupied by the KENNETH JARDINE FAMILY. MR. MOORE reparied our wagons and shood our horese. In setting wagon tired, he used a large round flat mill stone, wood piled around the tire, then he poured some oil on the pile of wood and set fire to the wood. This would heat the tire red hot, thus making the tire expand, the tire was put on the wheel to cool and fit snugly to the wheel. Just a little personal note added here about MR. MOORE, who people considered a bit eccentric at times. Just before his death, BILL made a concrete vault with two parts, divided by a concrete center strip. This box was about two and a half inches thick. A solid concrete slab formed the top of the vault. MR. and MRS. MOORE were buried in this concrete vault at the time of their death.
Now comes the relating of a sad part of our old time community history. It seems that a rumor was started that the dam was to be destroyed. This could prove disastrous to our people. It meant so much to the citizens of this town. A dentist from Syracuse, DR. SILAS HUBBEL, saw an opportunity to make a large sum of money. He purchased the property on the east side of the creek which included the foour mill and the dam. This property was sold to DR. HUBBEL by the SNYDER BROS., at the time of their retirement. DR. HUBBEL, after acquiring this property, employed OLIVER SHETLER, who at that time was our Justice of the Peace, to circulate a petition among the farmers; this petition stating the damage the dam was doing to their property. This scheme was carried out very successfully.
With the disposal of the dam, the flour mill and real estate were sold to HENRY J. FOX. At this time MR. FOX installed a large "Olds" gas engine to take the place of the lost water power. "UNCLE HENRY" carried on the business for quite some time, but found that the power system was not adequate. He then decided to equip the mill with electric power. In 1935 he employed the Niagara Power Co. to run a power line to the mill. Uring the installation of the line and wiring, on August 29, 1935 at 10pm, the mill caught fire and burned to the ground, our mill had vanished forever from our community. But as the old saying goes, "Never a great loss, but some small gain." This gain has porven anything but small, for from it grew the BRIDGEPORT FIRE CO., a valuable asset to our community in many ways.
Another of our stage coach drivers was JOHN MCVICKER, and I'm sure anyone that was a passenger on a trip will certainly never forget it. On this memorable ride, a very cold day in the winter with very high snow drifts at almost every turn in the road, the stove that MR. MCVICKER had built for the comfort of his passendgers tipped over causing quite a mad scramble. If you can picture in your mind a winter sled with a home made shelter built over it and a small wood stove in one corner of the sled, then you can readily imagine the concern of each and every passenger on the stag that particular day. Luckily nothing came from this eventful ride and the stage coach arrived on time with a tale for each passenger of his own experience on this trip.
The Bridgeport and Syracuse Express and passenger line was owned and operated by JOHN BITZ about 1877. This line operated under the ownership of MR. BITZ for many years. He would leave Bridgeport about 8 a.m. each week day, stopping at Spencers Grocery for mail, then again at the Collamer Post Office and then continure on to Syracuse Post Office. His terminal for freight and for his team was at the Bell barn on Willow St. The passengers would assemble at the old Onondaga Hotel, on the corner of North Salina and Willow St. The usual frieght order for Browns' store was three loaves of bread. The stage would leave Syracuse at 3 p.m. and if the road were good, it would arrive in Bridgeport, the end of the line, anywhere from 5 to 8 pm.
Our first improved road through Bridgeport was what we now call Route 31. This first road was called a water bound road; crushed stone was the foundation and this was capped with fine crushed stone. A great quantity of water was required for the binding of the fine crushed stone to the foundation of the road. This was supplied by iron pipes running from the lake and the creeks at various locations along the way. This road was built about 1910. Our present imporved Route 31, was built about 1925. Probably one of the greatest accomplishments of the day and age was the building of the "SWAMP ROAD" now known as Route 298. The building of this road provides a story for the settlers of our community, that will be handed down from generation to generation. The mention of the "Swamp Road" brings to mind the story of the lost train. The contractor, who was building the road used a small narrow gauge ailroad system, which was used to draw fill for the road bed. One morning when the workmen reported for work the train and track and all equipment had completely disappeared in the swamp bed under the very road we all drive on at the present time.
A tremendous amount of fill was required and with the quicksand and swamp condition, many obstactles had to be overcome. Logs were brought from across the Lake in canal boats, these logs being used as piles on which the road was finally completed
For many years our boat factory was owned and operated by LOREN DAMON. MR. DAMON, one of our earlier settlers, built literally hundreds of boats in his time, before the business was taken over by his sons upon his retirement. The DAMON boats were 16 and 18 foot boats and were framed from New York State Oak. There has never been a drowning caused or occurring from a DAMON boat.
We will now undertake the history of the stores of Bridgeport. The JOHN A. TERPENNY store was located on the south side of the road near the creek. After MR. TERPENNY'S retirement MR. LEWIS CONKLIN carried on the business for some time. The building is now occupied by the Bridgeport Inn. We go up the street a little futher on the north side, and we would have found a store owned and occupied by RANT MALONE. At the present time this location is occupied by a former Bridgeport boy, HAROLD FERSTLER. The store itself was built by RICHARD A. BROWN, our Town Supervisor, and now Assemblyman. There was also a store operated by ALBERT DUNHAM, located on the corner of Main St. and North Road, at this time MR. DUNHAM was also our Town Supervisor. People of this later generation will probably know this location better as the Bridgeport Cash Store, which in later years was operated by LULU VanALSTYNE. This building is now vacant after several other enterprises have taken place there.
Across from the DUNHAM store was the PUTT BRIGGS establishment. MR. BRIGGS was the Postmaster at the time and ran a small candy store and lunch room. Our new Methodist Church is located on the corner at the present time and the building in which MR. BRIGGS operated his business was moved a few years ago and remodeled into an apartment house. The father of PUTT BRIGGS was AUSTIN BRIGGS, one of our very first settlers having moved here in 1812.
We cannot overlook the furniture store which also housed the funeral parlor, or undertaker's rooms. Our enterprising citizen, BILL JONES, was the owner of this busy establishment. He always carried quite a stock of furniture but the main activity around this business place was the back room in which "BILL" manufactured his own caskets and rough boxes. This store was on the South St. near the center of the village.
In 1867 the BROWNS bought the North Estate which was comprised of the family home on Main St., built in 1817, now occupied by MRS. DAVID H. BROWN SR. This is said to be the oldest home in the village except for the home of the JAY NICHOLS family. The transaction for this property included a wagon and cutter factory whcih was operated by D. H. Brown at this time. Later on Mr. BROWN took on a partner in his factory, one MR. H. A. MOYER, who sold and installed water pumps in our village. The partnership continued for quite some time and then MR. MOYER moved to Cicero and continued the manufacture of the MOYER CARRIAGE. He later moved his factory and equpment to SYRACUSE where he became nationally known as the "Father of the MOYER CARRIAGE". He achieved great fame and quite a large fortune was built from a product much in demand in these early days. He soon expanded from the carriage to the Franklin Automobile.
The Baptist Church was our first church and was located on east Main St. Built 1845 and well attended until the Methodist Church was built in 1869. This church burned on Janurary 7, 1945, during a bad blizzard and snow storm, which greatly hampered the many fire companies that were called in to be of assistance. Our new Methodist Church was built in 1949. The new Catholic Church was built in 1951 and the Parish House in 1954.
There was a Methodist Episcopal Church Society in this village as early as 1835. A series of revival meetings were held at North Manlius in that year, conducted by a Methodist "Circuit Rider". As a result of that revival, church societies sprang up in Bridgeport, Cicero Center and Collamer. The first meetings here were held in the homes of the members. At that time the Baptist Church was already established here and had built a church on the south side of Main St. At first a regularly appointed pastor occupied the pulpit at frequent intervals. When the membership dwindled and infrequent services were conducted, the Baptist Church closed. The Methodists received permission from the local officials to use the church. They did this for several yeas. Then one Sunday morning, the congregation found a Baptist minister in the pulpit, and the Methodists were informed that they could no longer use the building. This inspired them to erect a church of their own . This they did in 1869 from timbers hewn from local forests, and lumber sawed at Bridgeport Mill, but it was known as "East Settlement" in those days. SOme of the pastors prior to 1869 were the Rev. ANSON O. TULLER (first), MOSES LYON, ALLEN TILTON, BROWNING NICHOLS, JOSEPH SMEDLEY, HIRAM NICHOLS, and LOREN ADKINS. The society became too samll to support a pastor. It revived, and in 866 the committee told the conference, "If you send a good preacher, we will support him but if you send a poor preacher, he will speak to bare walls". Rev. SILAS BALL was appointed, and the whole community rallied to the support of the church.
In 1868, the church elected the following trustees: JEFFERESON HALL, ONEY SAYLES, SR., ASA AMES, DANIEL MARVIN, JAMES PROSSER, BARNARD B. AUCHMOODY, and RICHARD BROWN, SR.. In 1869 the dedication service was preached by Rev. B. I. IVES. The house, bell, lot and furnishings cost $2,575.81. In 1880 the church had 80 members with about 100 in the Sunday School.
Then on January 7th, 1945 the 1869 church was completely destroyed by fire.
For many years our meat was sold by the grocers in the form of salt pork. On Saturday afternoon and evening many of the working men and farmers would come to town to do the week's trading. We have been old that at this time the merchants would sell two to three barrels of salt pork and several barrels of flour. The first meat market was operated by the SERViCE BROTHERS, CLARK and RALPH. The cattle and sheep were brought in from the country and slaughtered. At the time of this market, the best market for pork and lamb was at Oneida. The SERVICE BROTHERS sold their business and then ALVIN STERNBERG (1848-1927) and his sons, WILLIE (1873-1950) and SEYMOUR (1876-1951) were our meat men.
There have been several stores in the history of Bridgeport, among them the KNEESKERN Store. In later years RICHARD BROWN, our local Supervisor, built a general store and later sold this to HAROLD FERSTLER. Me must not forget our Novelty and Gift Shop on the four conrners operated by MARY JARDINE, then we have the Mid-Lake Trading Post which was a boon to all fishermen for obtaining all things pertaining to fishing. This has now also been expanded and houses the Western Auto STore presently owned and operated by LYLE and DONALD SATTLER. Then there is Dean's Bait Shop, also a busy place for fishermen, and just what the name implies.
Some of the older residents will remember "EM" and "ZADA" (1877-1944) KNEESKERN's store (Emerson Kneeskern and Elzada Roberts). They were solid citizens of the day and rendered real service to Bridgeport. One thing for which "Em" was noted was his enjoyment of a joke on himself or on a friend. In those days the church and parsonage were lighted with a battery Delco eletric system. The KNEESKERN store sold "Solvo" gas, a product of Solvay Process and the BROWN store across the street sold Mobil. ALternate purchases were made at the two store. On muddy spring day an official of the church took a 5-gallon can to the Kneeskern pump and called loudly for service. The voice from inside the store (Em's voice) said, "If you want gas, pump it." This the customer did but when he had filled the can he called out, "I've got the gas, let's see you get the money." He started with a dash up the street with the heavy can but his rubber got stuck in the mud and he went off without it. "Em" rushed out, picked up the rubber and called after the fleeing figure, "When you come back and pay for the gas you'll get your rubber but not until you do." A week passed and the ground got wetter and muddier so the swindler went back and paid for the gas and retrieved his rubber. Everybody knew about the encounter and it was the subject of many a joke about the pot-bellied stoves all over town. You didn't get your best jokes from radio or TV in those days, the townspeople manufactured their own.
A dearth of information regarding the pioneer educational programs for the Bridgeport area makes the early history rather sketchy. However, "Madison County History of 1899," aptly phrases the beginnings. "A large part of the pioneers were from the New England States and were fully imbued with the belief in the great practical value of early education. The history of the towns of this county shows that in every community the establishment of schools and churches was one of the first measures adopted by early settlers. Log school houses were built in every neighborhood where there were children sufficient in numbers to make it desirable."
"French's New York Gazetteer of 1860," indicates Bridgeport as a post village with one church and thirty-five houses. Public education had been established in the Town of Sullivan, since the 1860 census of the Gazetteer indicates twenty-sex school districts with 2,051 students enrolled, Public School money (State Aid) for the Town of Sullivan in 1816 amounted to $109.00. Sullivan had 19 districts in 1896. Attendance was greater in Sullivan Township after the compulsory education law in 1874. The eight commissioner districts of Madison County, which included Sullivan Township, employed 157 teachers and had a registration of 4,949 pupils and the value of school buildings and sites amounted to $129,992.00. "Childs 1868-69 Madison County Directory" lists Bridgeport as being a post office with a populus of about 500. This same directory lists MRS. A. J. LOWER, lot 60 of the Oneida Reservation, as the local teacher.
MRS. MARION DAMON, a life resident, has recollections of information that an early school building was located on the Shackleton Point Road about a quarter-mile east of the present elementary school. MRS. DAMON's memorabilia revealed a letter from MR. WILLIAM LINCOLN, Town of Sullivan Supervisor, that a special meeting on November 15, 1873, that local district No. 6 had been granted permission to relocate their school. Mr. MARION J. DAMON was the trustee of the district. The assumption is that the re-located school is the building behind the United Methodist Church and presently housing the Bridgeport Grange was established as district No. 9.
Mr. and Mrs. KENNETH JARDINE recall Mr. RALPH O. COOK relating that he arrived in Bridgeport around 1876 at the age of sixteen to teach in the local school. Mr. COOK taught here for many years and also served as a school trustee in later years.
The report cards of ADA HAMILTON, later Mrs. JOHN GROESBECK, indicate on or about December 1881, the local school changed fromt eh Bridgeport Public School to the Bridgeport Union School. Subject matter for the school, according to the report cards of the era, included Arithmetic, Spelling, Grammar, Geography, History and Reading. The Bridgeport Union School consisted of grades one thru eight and most students terminated their formal education at grade eight. Students wishing to continue on to high school went to Syracuse, East Syracuse, Minoa, Canastota, and Chittenango to board.
The year 1915 found the Bridgeport School contracting with Minoa High School, a relationship which continued through to 1949, when the Chittenango Centralization began. The first three students from the Bridgeport area to graduate from Minoa High School were GRACE NICHOLS, LILLIAN SAYLES LEAMAN and STUART HERMAN, in 1919.
Shackelton Point, on the south shore of Oneida Lake, has always been one of the most beautiful spots in this area. The Indians realized this and picked it for their gathering spot and, as legend has it, a place to bury their dead. It was part of the Oneida Indian Reservation. They congregated here each spring to catch and smoke the salmon, which were common in the lake at that time. THERESA DEYO HALSEY, still a resident in the area, tells of playing around the Indian cooking spots while her grandmother used the same spots to boil water for her washing. She picked up beads and arrows left by the Indians. Many relics have been found on the Point and a collection was made by GUY MOORE during the time he lived there. This collection is now on display in the Insurance Office of his nephew, Glen Roberts.
In the 1800's the white man discovered the beauty of the spot and came by horse and buggy as well as by Lake Steamer for picnics. One of the original owners of the Point was a family by the name of Shackelton; thereby it got its name. Their home was on the Point, facing the lake. While Mr. SHACKELTON was away training to become a "Horse Doctor", his wife became ill and the place was taken over by a JONES family. During this period there were several barns erected on the property which were used for raising horses; one as an Ice House which supplied the people with ice during the summer months.
(there is more on this subject, with names, that extends into the 1900's if interested)
The Post Office in Bridgeport, N. Y., was established on January 7, 1828, when President John Quincy Adams appointed LEVERET H. BARNES as Postmaster. It is believed that this first office was on the North Road where the little red house now stands across from the church.
Following is a list of the Postmasters who have served Bridgeport. It is interesting to note how they changed with the political party in power, until after the establishment of the Civil Service Competitive Examinations late in the 19th Century.
Postmasters Date Appointed Leveret H. Barnes January 7, 1828 Dexter Drury Acting- no appointment Joel G. Downer December 26, 1835 Spencer Marsh Jr. November 28, 1845 Benjamin T. Adams January 9, 1850 Spence Marsh Jr. April 22, 1853 Harrison Higley July 20, 1859 Charles Fay July 10, 1861 Dexter Drury December 2, 1861 Austin P. Briggs April 22, 1865 George Rector March 28, 1870 Austin P. Briggs May 13, 1879 Albert B. Dunham July 13, 1885 Ralph O. Cook June 18, 1889 Lucius E. Conklin November 17, 1893 Richard C. Brown February 3, 1898 Mrs. Ella A. Brown June 24, 1915 Mrs. Margaret A. Fox December 1944 Mrs. Helen C. Coleman September 15, 1953
(more on how the post office/service evolved after the 1900's if interested)
Rutherford and Nellie Billington Flora A. Bitz Randall and Eva Bitz David H. Brown, Sr. Richard C. Brown Earl W. Coleman Glen and Leah Collar Ceylon N. Damon Clarence and Jennie Damon Loren and Mary Damon Marion and Peralie Damon William and Lillian Ebb Fred and Bertha Gifford Lewis Herman Robert L. Herman Stuart Herman Emerson and Elzada Kneeskern Erwin Kneeskern Raymond and Luzemma Kneeskern Wolford and Alice Ladd Bertha Ladd Minor and Verda LaGrange Lillian Leaman Gertrude "Grandma" Moore Guy and Gertrude Moore Ethel Moth Robert and Myrtle Moth Frank and Lucy Palmer Uretta Petrie Bessie H. Sayles Helen Sayles Hilda Sayles Steven D. Shannon Jessie Shearer Daniel S. Snyder, Sr. Frank C. and Mary Brown Snyder LeGrand Spawn George and Lulu Steward, Sr. George and Jessie Torrance George Torrance, Jr. Frank and Florence Tuttle Rosalind Tuttle Daniel and Edith van Alstine Irving and Mable Wichie Walter and Jennie Wright
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