The first white settler of this town was, Captain Isaac Lindsay, about
the year 1790, and directly after, his brothers James, William and Elijah
Lindsay. They bought their land for two shillings per acre; it was lot
No. 80. Nicholas Lamberson settled in this town in 1793, William
Reed, Seldon Leonard, Mordecai Ellis, a family named White and David Hinsdale
and others previous to 1806.
Squire Munro settled on lot No. 81, now in the town of Elbridge, in 1799. His sons John, David, Nathan and Philip A. Munro were then young men, and have since been known throughout the county for their enterprise, industry, intelligence and wealth. Thomas Corey who was killed by a fall from a wagon, was an early settler in this town, as well as Isaac Brown, Nathaniel Richman, Jacob Chandler, John Hess, John Paddock and two of the name McCracken. David Munro, settled at Camillus, where he now resides, in 1808. At this time the heavy labor was principally performed by the settlers, by what was usually termed "bees"' to which a general invitation was extended to all the able bodied men of the town; shopping bees, logging bees, husking bees, &c., was customary, and usually ended in a frolic.
The first frame house was erected by Isaac Lindsay, on lot No. 80, in 1795. There were but two frame houses, at the village of Camillus, in 1808. David Munro erected a substantial frame house in 1810. The White family had erected a frame house at Amboy, about the same time, and Capt. Kimberly also; none east, had been entered at this time till you came to Judge Geddes, and none west to Elbridge. A log school house was erected first, in 1808; previously there had been no schools in town, and but little attention paid to education. This was succeeded by a frame school house in 1813. When the country was first cleared, crops of all kinds were abundant; there were no roads passable for loaded teams, and no means of transporting the surplus produce to market, consequently there was a great waste of grain; much of it was thrown to swine and other stock. As settlers arrived the demand was more active, and in 1802, there was a great scarcity of the necessaries of life. Wheat could scarcely be bought at any price, and twenty shillings per bushel was the lowest price it could be obtained for at all, and corn from ten to twelve shillings a bushel. The first surplus raised for market was in 1805, when it was carried to Albany, on sleighs. Thousands of bushels of wheat have been since, annually transported to Albany from this town, by sleighs and wagons, previous to the building of the Erie Canal.
The north branch of the Seneca Turnpike was incorporated in 1806. And in 1807 and 1808, Squire Munro and his sons built so much of this road as passed through the township of Camillus, about eleven miles, and the stock is still owned by them or their survivors, which they received as a compensation for their work.
A Post Office was first established at Camillus in 1811, and David Munro appointed Post Master. James R. Lawrence, P. M., 1824. Grove Lawrence and Robert Dickey, succeeded. Bellisle, Windfall and Wellington, are Post Offices in this town.
The first Presbyterian Society and Church was formed at Camillus, in 1817, and their house of worship erected in 1822. their clergymen have been Rev. Messrs. Spicer, Chadwick, Taylor, Stockton, Harrington, Ward, Robinson and Williams. Methodist Society organized in 1831. A Presbyterian Society was organized at Amboy, 1846, and erected a house of worship the same year - Messrs. Lathrop and Sherwood, ministers. A Baptist Society was organized at Bellisle in 1834, under Elder Daniel D. Chittenden.
Post Office established at Bellisle in 1830, George Kimberly, P.M. Isaac Lindsey kept the first tavern in town, in 1793, Thomas Corey in 1801. John Tomlinson opened a store first in town, in 1808, at Camillus village. Munro & Benedict in 1810. Gould and Hess, Hoar & Webber, William A. Cook, John C. Ellis, &c. James R. Lawrence opened the first law office in town, in 1815. Grove Lawrence another, in 1821. Other lawyers have been, Samuel Hammond, Daniel Pratt, D. D. Hillis, &c. Dr. Isaac Magoon established himself as a physician at Camillus in 1808; succeeded by Dr. Richards.
The first gristmill erected in town was at Camillus village, in 1806, by Squire Munro, William Wheeler and Samuel Powers, and a saw mill at the same time. A saw mill was first erected at Amboy, by Joseph White, in 1805, and a fulling mill in 1801.
There is at present at Camillus village, a large grist mill, owned by Phares Gould & Son, with three run of stones, and a saw mill. In 1848, the new "Novelty Mills," by Weston & Dill, were completed, and are driven by steam. There is also a large steam saw mill in operation, a wooden factory, turning machine, lath mills, &c. There are about seven hundred and fifty inhabitants in Camillus village.
The soil of the town of Camillus, is thought by the occupants, to be inferior to none in the county, and judging from the general appearance, the magnitude and multiplicity of crops, their estimation is not overrated. In the hills south of the turnpike, are inexhaustible beds of plaster, which is quarried and sold in great quantities, and is unsurpassed in quality. The first plaster discovered in the United States, was in this town, by William Lindsay, in 1792. His attention was accidentally arrested by a portion of the white semi-transparent rock projecting from the side of the hill, a little south of Camillus village, on lot number ninety. A large block of it was taken to his house and examined by sundry persons, who at the time, were unable to determine what it was. It was at length ascertained that it was plaster, and equal to that brought from Nova Scotia. DeWitt Clinton, Samuel Young and other distinguished individuals visited the spot, in 1809. Josiah Buck bought the land at once, and the fame of the new plaster beds spread abroad far and wide. Specimens of it were sent to Europe to be tested or compared with the plaster of Paris, and it was found to be equal to that. In 1808, a company of one hundred and fifty shareholders, (shares fifty dollars each), was formed, for working the same. Judge Forman took two hundred shares, and others, ten, five, three, two and one, each, till the whole one thousand shares, were taken up. Judge Forman was chosen president of the company, and Josiah Buck was the principal manager. By 1812, the beds had been thoroughly opened and explored, and large quantities in the stone, were carried eastward, and to the southern tier of counties. Since which, the trade has been flourishing, and lucrative. Some of the finest specimens of the foliated transparent selenite variety, have been obtained at these beds, which from its transparency, is often termed alabaster.
In the recent excavations, made for the enlargement of the Jordan level of the Erie Canal, were thrown out large bodies of cemented gravel, or conglomerate rock, about two feet thick; underneath this, lies a bed of gravel uncemented. From this it appears that a change in the formation of the materials, which at present compose the earth, in this section, is fast going on and that are long, what are now termed gravel beds, will soon become solid rock, near the surface of the earth.
There are excellent quarries of gray limestone in this town, and a stratum of sandstone intermixed, as noticed in the town of Elbridge. Calcareous Tufa abounds in the hills, which makes excellent lime, and is called "basswood limestone." It is considered the most obstinate material to grade of any thing known. It being too porous to hold blasts of powder, and yet so firm as not to be easily broken. There are numerous calcareous deposits all along the foot of the hills, in the Nine Mile Creek valley. When the Erie Canal was excavated through the farm of David Hinsdale, in this town, innumerable sea-clam and other marine shells, and bones of fish were found, firmly embedded in the hardpan or tenacious clay, about two feet below the surface. Upon exposure to the air, they all crumbled to dust.
Recently, efforts have been made in this town, to explore what has long been considered by some, to be a bed of coal; a shaft has been sunk to the depth of about twelve feet, on a hill about two miles south of Camillus village. Detached pieces of Anthracite coal are said to have been found. The proprietor, Col. Bull, is at present (1848) making preparations for a through exploration for this desirable mineral, with much assurance of success.
COL. JOHN DILL, was a native of Shawangunk,
Ulster County NY. He was a son of Robert and Hannah Dill, whose ancestors
came from Holland. John Dill was born the 27th of November 17577.
His early advantages for school education were not liberal; he however
acquired a good English education, was an excellent arithmetician, learned
much from observation and from the society of distinguished men of those
times, with whom his familiar were familiar. At an early age he became
a practical surveyor, and was noted for his accuracy and dispatch.
On the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, he entered what was then
termed, the five months service, as a volunteer Orderly Sergeant in the
company of Capt. John Graham. Col. Paulding's regiment, under Gen. Alexander
McDougall, and was in one of the battles in the vicinity of New York.
In October, 17777, he was stationed at Fort Montgomery, in that portion
called Fort Clinton. A small creek separates the two. At this
time it was taken by the British. The battle continued until late
at night, which enabled those at Fort Clinton to escape. He with
others, swam the creek, passing under the wall of Fort Montgomery.
He afterwards went up the North River with the Americans, in pursuit of
the British fleet and army, to Esopus, now Kingston, the capital
of Ulster County, which the British burned. After the surrender of
General Burgoyne, he returned with the army to the vicinity of New-York.
After his first term of service expired, he enlisted a second time (1777)
in a corps of artificers. He was of an ingenious turn of mind, could
turn his hand to almost any bind of mechanical labor, and became very useful
in this branch of the service. His commanding officer was Capt. James Young.
Afterwards, the company was commanded by Capt. James Shepherd. The following
is a copy of his discharge from this company:
" The bearer, John Dill, having served three years as an artificer in Captain Shepherd's company, and the time
being fully expired that he did engage for, he is now discharged the service, and has leave to return to
Fishkill, Dec. 14, 1780.
Col. and Com. of Artificers.
At the time of his discharge, Col. Christopher Ming, who had command of the Quarter Master's department in that division of the army, took a fancy to him, and invited him to take a place in his staff, which offer he accepted in 1780. After a short term of service under Col, Ming, he became acquainted with. Quarter Master General, Timothy Pickering; 'and through his influence, received a commission in his department. In this situation he remained to the close of the war, being generally on duty in the vicinity of New-York, West Point, and other places on the North River. After the war, he was retained in the service by Gen. Pickering, at Newburgh, assisting in the arrangement of the papers of the Quartermaster General's Department, which were finally boxed up and deposited in Philadelphia. These papers consisted of bills settled and unsettled, certificates and evidences of debt. Those certificates &c.; were many of them given for stock, grain, forage, &c., which had in many instances been forcibly taken from the owners, for the subsistence of the army. The claims were to be adjusted, and Gen. Pickering was charged for this duty. The associates of Major Dill at this time, were, Henry Demblar, Peter Anspaw and Peter Tenbroeck, the latter of whom subsequently settled at Onondaga Hollow. These claims were generally satisfactorily arranged by General Pickering and his assistants. After the new Constitution was adopted, Dr. Cochran, a distinguished surgeon of the army, was appointed loan officer, with powers to settle these liquidated debts, and to his office Major Dill was transferred. Many of the claims had been transferred to the hands of speculators, who bad bought them up, in many instances for little or nothing. These claims were made at length a funded debt, and Dr. Cochran and Major Dill finally settled them to the satisfaction of all parties.
After the close of these affaire, be moved to New-York,, opened a broker's office, and continued there little more than a year; after which, in company with his old associates, Henry Demblar and Peter Anspaw, he set up a store of goods at Middletown Point, New-Jersey, where they carried on an extensive business till 1808, when he again returned to his native country. Here he received the appointment of Brigade Major and Inspector for the counties of Ulster and Orange, which office was then both highly honorable and lucrative. In 1812 he was chosen one of the Electors of Ulster County, for President and Vice-President. He came to Onondaga in 1818, spent some time with his old associate, Peter Tenbroeck; after which he joined his brother , Judge Samuel Dill, then residing at Auburn, Cayuga County, where he was for. sometime engaged in making sale of military lands of which he was the owner. In 1828, the brothers removed to the town Camillus, there he lived very much respected and beloved. He was never married. In personal appearance, he was little above middling stature, straight, well proportioned, possessing a keen blue eye and round countenance. He always had the air of a military man, always walked erect, with a firm martial step. In his dealings with is fellow men, he was never arrogant, but upright and generous to a fault. To conclude, he was a perfect specimen of a gentlemen of the old school. He died at Camillus, 21st September, 1846, in the 88th year of his age, highly esteemed for his many virtues, beloved for the amiability of his temper, and mourned as a kind neighbor and estimable friend. This feeble tribute is due to`his memory as a patriot of the Revolution.
Statistics of the town of Camillus, taken from the census of 1845:--
Number of inhabitants, 2,967; subject to military duty, 329; voters, 679; aliens, 75; children attending common schools, 806; acres of improved land, 15,847; grist mills, 8 ; saw mills, 8; fulling mills, 1; carding machines, 1; woolen factory, 1; ashery, 1; tanneries, 2; churches--Methodist, 1; Presbyterian, 2; common schools, 11;· taverns, 7; stores 5; groceries, 6; farmers, 505; merchants, 11; manufactories, 6; mechanics, 135; clergymen, 6; physicians, 6; lawyers, 8.