Gazetteer of Towns


    SMITHFIELD was formed from Cazenovia, March 13, 1807. Fenner was taken off in 1823, and part of Stockbridge in 1836. It is an interior town, lying north of the center of the County. Its surface is a hilly and rolling upland. The principal streams are the Cowaselon and Oneida Creeks. The soil is a sandy and gravelly loam. Limestone and Gypsum are found in the northeastern part. Near Siloam is a sulphur spring.

    Peterboro, (p. v.) named for Hon. Peter Smith, is situated on Oneida Creek, near center of town. It contains four churches, (only two of which are regularly occupied,) and Academy, a hotel, a flouring mill, a carriage shop, a planning mill, a cheese box factory and several other mechanic shops. The cheese box factory turns out about 20,000 boxes annually. About 220,000 pounds of cheese are made annually at Peterboro cheese factory and its two branches. The population of the village is about 350.

    Siloam, (p. v.) in the eastern part of the town, contains a church a church, a grist mill, a saw mill, a cheese factory, and about fifteen houses, and the usual number of mechanic shops.

    As early as 1794, Peter Smith, as he then signed his name, (later in life "P. Smith," and after leaving Peterboro, in 1819, "Peter Smith of Peterboro,") then a resident of Fort Schuyler, (now Utica,) obtained from the Oneida tribe of Indians, a lease, giving him the possessory right to the large tract of land, some four and a half miles in width, and extending from the east line of Augusta, westwardly, to the east line of the County Onondaga, since known as "New Petersburg," and containing about 50,000 acres. He soon caused a survey to be made, and divided the whole tract into four allotments. The first allotment was nearly all in Augusta, Oneida County. The town of Smithfield, as originally bounded, included within its limits a few lots at the west end of the first allotment, and the whole of the second and third allotments, excepting the west tier of the lots in the third; which west tier of lots, and the whole of the fourth allotment, were in Cazenovia. The Mile Strip Tract, lying north of New Petersburg, was purchased of the State by Enoch Leonard, of Albany, in August 1797. It was one mile in width, and extended from the Cowaselon Creek on the east, westwardly, to or beyond the Chittenango Creek. All that part of this tract lying east of lots 28 and 29 was also included in old Smithfield. The north line of the Mile Strip was made the north line of Smithfield, as it is also the south line of Sullivan, Lenox, then constituting a part of the older town of Sullivan. The south line of New Petersburg became the south line of Smithfield. While the survey of the New Petersburg tract was in progress, a desperate onset was made upon the surveying party by a party of hostile Indians. Joseph Annin, surveyor, lost his compass and chain, and was seriously wounded in the head by a tomahawk. The assailants were from the Pagan party of the Oneidas, who from the first were opposed to leasing the tract, and now sought to defeat by force, what they had failed to prevent by argument. The Christian party, faithful to their engagements, sought to prevent this hostile demonstration, and mustering a considerable force, posted themselves at the foot of a long hill, near the site of the old house, known as the house with five chimneys, hoping to intercept the hostile band and prevent the consummation of their sinister design. But the Pagans, by a flank movement, eluding the vigilance of the Christians, reached the objective point by some unfrequented route, and for the time being, interrupted the survey. This affray occurred on the farm now owned by Elias Sager, in Peterboro. Soon after, the State, by treaty, acquired from the Oneidas their interest in the tract, and in October 1797, Judge Smith obtained from the State a deed for a fee of all the land in New Petersburg which had not been previously leased by him to the others, amounting to 22,299 acres, for which he covenanted to pay the State $3.53 per acre, this being the average price for which the residue of the Oneida Reservation was sold at the Surveyor General's sale in August of that year. By this arrangement he acquired a title, and such allowances were made by the State for his lease, as reduced the price of the land conveyed to him to about $2 an acre. Sales were made to settlers at from $5 to $6 per acre, prices gradually tending upwards as the settlement of the town progressed, until they reached to three or four times such cost, before the farm lands were all taken up.

    The first grist mill in the village of Siloam, stood upon this site of the ones now in operation, and was built in 1810, by Jeremiah Ellenwood and Elijah Manley, and the first saw mill, half mile below, was built by Ellinwood and David Coe, a year or two later, or, possibly, the same year. John Gregg was supposed to have been the first settler in Siloam. Besides Gregg, very few, if any, white families were there the previous to the year 1806. In the year 1803, or a year or two before, the "Oneida Turnpike," running from Vernon to Cazenovia, was constructed, and running through the town, rendered more accessible to persons seeking for homes, and, during the next ten years, nearly all the farming lands in the town were taken up and settled upon.

    The pioneer settlers, Jasper Alesworth, Joel Trumbull, Oliver Trumbull, son of Joel, and Seth Griffin, the father-in-law of Oliver came in 1795. The Trumbulls and Griffin had families, and all of them located on lot No. 33, 2nd allotment, New Petersburg, being the first lot south of No. 26, on which is Peterboro. Alesworth was unmarried, and came as the hired man to Judge Smith, and in that capacity felled the trees on the village plat, then an untouched wilderness, which had never before been made to echo with the sounds of the axeman's blows, and hourly crashing of the falling trees. How long he continued in Judge Smith's employ is not known, but an early day in the history of the town, he married the daughter of John Taft, Esq., another early settler, who lived on lot 31, and whose death was one of the earliest in the history of the town. Mr. Alesworth became a permanent resident of the town, and was an enterprising and successful farmer. Two only of the large family he reared remain in the town.

    Ithamar Bump settled on lot 41, N. P., in 1797, where he continued to reside until removed by death, August 14, 1815. Soon after his first settlement in town, he was joined by his father, Ichabod Bump, and, in the course of a few years, Moses, Nathan, David, Jonathan, Gideon, and Jacob, brothers of Ithamar, and a sister named Hannah, the wife of Ebenezer Bronson, all became residents of the town. In their physical characteristics this was a peerless family. The brothers were all large well developed men, averaging six feet in height, with great muscular power, and as wrestlers and for personal prowess, (qualities highly prized in those days,) were a terror to the athletes of the County. Some of them were enterprising and successful farmers, among whom, Ithamar especially, was an industrious, upright and esteemed citizen. His descendents to the third generation still live in town, and include some prominent business men. The old patriarch, Ichabod, died December 22, 1823, in his 90th year.

    Captain Joseph Black came in, about the year 1798. Where he first located is not certainly known, but in the fall of 1802 he was on lot 59 N. P., 2nd allotment, and, in 1803 or 1804, he became a prominent contractor, for the construction of a large section of the old "Oneida Turnpike," which was made under his immediate supervision. He was proverbially upright and reliable, insomuch that to this day the question is sometimes asked by those who knew him and still remember him, whether this generation produces any specimens of such unswerving integrity. His memory is precious, and though dead he speaketh. Between the years 1798 and 1805, many valuable men came in and settled as farmers in different parts of the town, but chiefly on the two southern tiers of lots in the town, and on the Mile Strip tract. On the Mile Strip tract, and contiguous thereto, were Jacob and Samuel Walker, Allen Bill, David Shipman, Solomon Merrill, Sr., and sons, Robert Streeter, Gideon Wright, Jabez Lyon, Shadrach Hardy, David Tuttle, Ezra Chaffee, Mrs. Moody and her sons David and Samuel, Mrs. Matteson and her sons John, Abraham, Eli and Nathan, Barzillia and Amos Northrup, Sylvanus Mathewson and sons Winchester and Stephen, Stephen Risley, Moses Howe, Salmon Howard and Francis Dodge. On the two southern tiers of lots were Edward Bliss, Wright Brigham, John Lucus, Rodman Spencer and sons, David Blodget, Alpheus Thompson, John Ford, Rueben Rich, Andress Loveland, &c. Most of these, with many more not named in the list, settled permanently, became prosperous farmers, and valuable men and citizens; and were equally worthy of more than this passing notice, as were those referred to above at greater length. But necessity, much to his regret, compels the writer of this sketch to omit from the narrative much which he would gladly include.

    James Livingston, a brother-in-law of Judge Smith, was the first merchant in Peterboro, in 1801. The house in which he kept his store, stood at the east end of the public green, and was the first framed house in the village, built in 1800.

    Elijah Pratt was the first physician, in 1801 or 1802, as he was also the first male school teacher; Tabitha Havens being the first school teacher in town, having a school of five or six scholars, at Peterboro, in 1801. Rev. Joshua Johnson (Presbyterian) was the first resident preacher, in 1806. Nehemiah Huntington was the first lawyer, in 1807. Captain Daniel Petrie was the first postmaster, in 1807; John Downer and Peter Weber, the first blacksmiths, in 1802; Rueben Long built the first grist mill and first saw mill, in 1802; John Dourance was the second physician, in 1806, and Rivera Nash the third, in 1807.

    The earliest marriages referred to by old settlers, were those of John Matteson to Hadassah Bliss, and Elijah Trumbull to Abigail Carey, both of which are believed to have occurred in 1803. Emmon Downer, Esq., now a resident, was born in Peterboro in September 1805. No reliable account of earlier birth has been given, and he is believed to be the oldest native resident still living in town.

    Twelve years after the settlement of its territory commenced, the town of Smithfield was organized by an act of the Legislature, passed March 12, 1807. Its boundaries have been described. Its first town meeting was held in the western part of the town, at a schoolhouse, near David Cook's. The meeting was an excited one. Strong sectional feeling and a spirit of rivalry existed between the eastern part and western portions of the town. Two tickets were nominated. The candidate of the east-enders for supervisorship was Peter Smith, and the candidate of the west-enders for the same office, was David Cook. The meeting occurred during or immediately after a great snow storm of April 1807, and the snow was full four feet deep, rendering the roads nearly impassable. Many voters living at the east end of town were from six to eight miles from the place of the meeting, yet such was the interest felt for the success of their ticket, that they turned out almost to a man, and overcoming all obstacles, reached the place in numbers sufficient to achieve victory, and Peter Smith was elected first supervisor of the town. Tradition informs us that they carried with them a large keg of rum. How far this stimulated the east-enders to successful effort, or whether through its potent influence, any of the voters in the western section were won over to the support of the successful candidate, no historian informs us. In June of this year, Peter Smith was appointed first Judge of the County Court, and the office of the supervisor became vacant; and at a special town meeting, held July 18th, Roswell Glass was elected to fill the vacancy.

    Many men of mark have early in life enjoyed the protection and nurturing care of Smithfield. Besides the living, who are still her own, and whose praises she would not permanently pronounce, many have gone out from her to other theaters of action, who have been an honor to the town, and to whose record she may with pride refer. Of the scores whose names are worthy of honorable mention, we have neither time nor space for reference more than three or four, by name. As distinguished Jurists, the names of Green C. Bronson and Henry A. Foster are mentioned, and the names of William Evans and James S. T. Stranahan are added, as specimens of her sons, who have achieved success as businessmen. In early life they were all residents of Peterboro, all self-made men, to whom our rising youth may be referred as models for their imitation.

    A few years since, William Evans, of Boston, moved by his strong and enduring attachment for his native town, and a deep solicitude for its poor, donated the sum of $15,000, the annual income of which is to be used for the poor of the town. By mutual written agreement between Mr. Evans and the Trustees of the Academy, (which has very appropriately been named the "Evans Academy,") this fund is placed in the hands of the said Trustees, the annual income of which is at their disposal, except that the said Trustees are required and bound by the donor, to set apart each year, and hand over to a committee of three ladies of the town, (to be chosen by the town, or by said Trustees,) from the income of said fund, the sum of $300, to be used by them at their own discretion for the benefit of the poor of the town, as they shall deem best to promote the objects of the donor; the said ladies not being at all accountable to the donor or Trustees are prohibited from exacting any pay from the students from the poor families of the town, for their tuition at the Academy.

    "The Evans Academy," thus sustained, chiefly, by the income of the Evans fund, to which is added its current receipts, is managed and its affairs directed, by a local board of 12 trustees. The officers of this Board for the year 1868 are Col. Charles D. Miller, President; Hon. Caleb Calkins, Treasurer, and Rev. William F. Bridge, Secretary. Its teachers are Rev William F. Bridge, A. M., Principal, and Miss Susan Marvin, Assistant. It has a small philosophical apparatus, and a library of about 300 volumes. Its whole number of students, who for the past year, including all who have attended in the several terms, is about 100. Provision is made for thorough course of study in all branches usually taught in Academic schools.

    "The Baptist Church of Christ in Peterboro," was organized January 31st, 1810, with twenty-nine members, and for a long period was prosperous, and its membership became numerous; but for many years past, it has been diminishing in numbers, until its membership has become small, its stated meetings have been discontinued, and its house, though in good repair, is unoccupied.

    "The Presbyterian Church of Smithfield," was organized January 29th, 1811, with nineteen members. It was prosperous, and in a few years became a strong and influential church, numbering when at its zenith, 219 members; and for nine consecutive years averaging over 200; but reverses came in various forms, and the days of its prosperity were numbered; it rapidly declined for many years, and a few months since, this church was formally disbanded. The society still exists and the Trustees continue to exercise control over temporalities of the corporation. The edifice is still strong, though dilapidated.

    The Free Church of Peterboro and the Methodist Episcopal Church are new organizations when compared with the Baptist and Presbyterian. Rev. Mr. Bridge, Unitarian, supplies the pulpit of the Free church, and Rev. Mr. Owen, that of the Methodist.

    The census of 1865 gives the town a population of 1,366, and an area of 15,005 acres. There are eleven school districts, employing eleven teachers. The whole number of pupils in all the schools is 333, and the average attendance 151. The amount expended for school purposes for 1867 is $2,238.51.


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