AUSTERLITZ, COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Capt. Franklin Ellis92
The town was first settled by squatters from the east, who came into this part about 1750. The first effort at a general settlement was made by a company of settlers who obtained of the Massachusetts government a grant of a tract of land some six miles square, along the Green river. This tract was divided, in 1757, into two divisions, the eastern half being called the first division, and the remainder the second division. Each proprietor was entitled to one hundred acres in each division, the choice of location being made by lot. These lots were surveyed from the south line, and the remainder, after all had received their one hundred acres in each division, was to be divided equably among them. The names of those who had lots surveyed and assigned to them between 1757 and 1760 were as follows, viz.: Ezekiel Baker, Nathan Beers, Jethro Bonney, Obdiah Brainard, Benjamin Brown, James Cary, Benjamin Chittenden, Joseph Chittenden, Rev. Jesse Clark, Nathaniel Culver, Hosea Curtis, Nathanial Darrow, Ensign John Dean, Samuel Doty, Jedeiah Graves, Cornelius Hamblin, Elisha Hatch, Abner Hawley, Job Hawley, John Hawley, Samuel Hutchinson, Samuel Hutchinson, Jr., Abner Johnson, widow Mary Johnson, Ephraim Kidder, Stephen Kinne, Amos Lawrence, Joseph Lawrence, Judah M. Lawrence, Peter Lockwood, James Mead, Noadiah Moore, Benjamin Palmer, Isaac Palmer, Elijah Powell, Joseph Powell, Martin Powell, Seth Powell, Truman Powell, Truman Powell, Jr., Peter Powers, Azariah Pratt, David Pratt, Joseph Prindle, Benjamin Richmond, Edward Richmond, Lemuel Roberts, James Sexton, Micah Skinner, Thomas Skinner, Thomas Skinner, Jr., Abner Spencer, Ahimaaz Spencer, Benjamin Spencer, David Spencer, Ithamar Spencer, Israel Spencer, James Spencer, Jeremiah Spencer, Joel Spencer, John Spencer, Nehemiah Spencer, Phineas Spencer, Simeon Spencer, Joseph Taylor, Ebenezer Tyler, Ezra Tyler, Zebulon Walbridge, Ebenezer Warner, Reuben Whitmore, John Williams.
The first meeting of the proprietors was held at "Spencers' Town," May 31, 1757. The record of this meeting reads further , as follows, viz."
"Then past the following Votes, Viz.:
"1stly. Mr. John Williams, Moderator.
"2dly. Seth Powell, Proprietors' Clerk, and Sworn to the faithful Discharge of Said office.
"3dly. Voted that one hundred acres be laid out to Each Setling Lot, and So in Proportion.
"4thly. Voted that Sd. Hundred Acre Lots Be Laid out to Each original Grantee's Right, and Not to Be Divided.
"5thly. Voted that Ensign John Dean, James Sexturn, Truman Powell, Joel Spencer, and Ephraim Kidder Be the Committee for Laying out the Setling Lots.
"6thly. Voted that it shall be Left to the Committee to Lay out the Land and Size it in quantity and quality to the Non-Possessors of the place as they shall see fit.
"7thly. Voted that meetings of Said Propriety shall Be Called for the future By five or more of the proprietors applying under their hands to the Clerk, Setting forth the Time, place, and ocation of said meeting, the Said Clerk Notifying Said meeting according to Law."
The proprietors soon after decided to lay out two highways through the township, one crossing it from north to south, and the other running east and west, each highway to be eight rods wide. The one running north and south was laid out as wide as that, and the other road, beginning near the northwest corner, crossed the town diagonally to the line of "Nobletown," about where the Hillsdale line now runs. The part of this, west of the first road, was but four rods wide, while the remainder was eight rods wide. Subsequently they were all reduced to four rods each. These roads were surveyed and laid out Nov. 2, 3, and 5, 1757, by Samuel Doty, surveyor, and Ahimaaz Spencer and Edward Richmond, commissioners of highways.
The first officers other than those already mentioned were elected Oct. 19, 1758, as follows: "Nehemiah Spencer, Collector; Thomas Skinner, Treasurer; and Seth Powell, a Sesser." Amos Lawrence was subsequently chosen collector, Joseph Prindle and Samuel Hutchinson, Jr., clerks, and Joseph Prindle surveyor.
Within the limits of this grant there was a tract containing one and three-fourths miles belonging to the Indians,--probably to the Mohicans, which the proprietors decided to purchase in the fall of 1760, and appointed Joel Spencer, John Dean, and John Hawley to confer with the Indians and negotiate the purchase.
About 1765, owing to the conflicting claims of the colonies of New York and Massachusetts, both of which claimed jurisdiction over the lands lying between the Connecticut and the Hudson rivers, trouble arose regarding the possession of the lands. At meetings held by the proprietors action was taken to defend their title, the proprietors sharing equitably in the incidental expenses. Ensign John Dean was chosen as an agent to represent them, and urge their claims to the land "at New York or elsewhere." The troubles, however, continued until finally a meeting was held, May 27, 1767, and the following votes were passed: "Voted, that a memorial be forthwith sent to Boston by the Committee with Noble town and tockonock, Requesting the protection of the Government of the Massachusetts Bay. Voted, to join with nobletown in sending a man to see mr. Ingorsal as an attorney."
In the following month William Kellogg, of Nobletown, was appointed an agent to represent them at Boston, and to carry, or send by some other agent, a petition to lay before the king of Great Britain, praying for relief. The money to pay the expenses was procured by Ensign John Dean, who went to Nine Partners, Dutchess Co., to borrow it.
Again, just before the breaking out of the Revolution, Nathaniel Culver and James Savage were sent to England to secure a royal grant to the settlers to confirm their titles to the lands, but, owing to the growing disaffection existing between the colonies and the royal government, they were unsuccessful in their mission.
The troubles were finally settled, and the titles to the lands confirmed to their possessors by the act of March 22, 1791.
It is not possible to give anything of a full history of these first settlers. Their names were preserve for the benefit of posterity, but the incidents of their pioneer life, the scenes and circumstances of their first years here, and all their interesting experiences form but a vague memory in the busy minds of the present generation. We append the few details of the first settlers we have been able to gather.
Judah Monis Lawrence is supposed to have been the first settler in the town. He came from Connecticut in 1754. His location was a little south of Spencertown, on the place now occupied by William G. Palmer. He was a prominent man in the town; of judicial mind and of great probity of character. He was appointed justice of the peace at an early day; served several years in that capacity, and was appointed associate judge of the court of common pleas in 1812. He had three sons, George, Jakah, and Uel, all of whom were prominent citizens and held many town offices. George died in Spencertown at an advanced age; Jakah removed to the west many years ago; and Uel, who was a man of very lovable character, died at Spencertown three or four years since, aged about ninety years. He merited, as he received, the admiration, respect, and confidence of his fellow-men. The brothers were bachelors.
Samuel Pratt settled on the hill west of the present residence of Lucien S. Griswold. He was somewhat greedy for land, and cut a brush fence around some six hundred acres. After a time he found he could not manage so large a tract, and reduced the size of his farm. It is related of him that he once went visiting a neighbor, some miles to the south, and while he and his family were on their homeward way they were overtaken by the darkness of night, which prevented their being able to see the "blazes" on the trees, which were their only guide through the yet unbroken forest. They were therefore compelled to lie down upon the leaves, with such shelter as they could improvise, and wait till the morning light enabled them to find their way home.
Abner Hawley settled in the valley a little northeast of Pratt's, and built the first grist-mill and saw-mill in the town. They were located on Punsit creek, south of the present mill of Wm. G. Palmer. This house stood near the residence of C. Lasher. About 1773 he sold a small portion of his land, including a water-privilege, to John Griswold, a young man from New England, and by trade a woolen manufacturer. He at once erected a carding-machine and fulling-mill, and commenced the manufacture of fine cloths. He increased his business as opportunity afforded, and became prominent in the manufacture of broadcloths, supplying the markets in this and adjoining counties almost exclusively, and rapidly accumulated wealth. About 1795 he erected a fine and commodious mansion, the work on some of the rooms costing $1000 each. The house is still standing, being now occupied by his grandson, Lucien S. Griswold. One of John's sons, Francis Griswold, also resides there. On this place is an apple-tree, now filled with growing fruit, that was in bearing over one hundred years ago. It is said that every time a member of the family has died, a limb of this tree has previously broken off. It is true in some instances, at least, and furnishes a theme for the consideration of the curious, speculative, and superstitious. John Griswold married Eunice Calkins, who survived him several years, and died at the great age of one hundred years and twenty-five days.
Turner Calkins was a native of Lyme, Conn., and in 1772 he bought and settled on the place now occupied by Mrs. Gildersleeve, in the southeast part of Austerlitz. He was twice married; the last time to Phoebe Cadman, and had twenty-one children, eight by the first and thirteen by the second wife. One of these children, Absalom Calkins, is still living in Alford, Mass., at the age of ninety-one years.
Reuben Whitmore was an early settler near the "dug-way," in the vicinity of W. Vincent's place.
Most of the Spencers lived in the Spencertown neighborhood, and the town, and afterwards the village, bore their name. There were several families of Powells, whose farms were in the north centre of the town, in the section known as "Macedonia." The Dean family settled in the Punsit creek valley, a mile northwest of Spencertown. Horatio L. Smith now lives on the place.
Roselle Lee was an early settler on the present Harvey Vincent place.
Jonathan Chamberlin, from Hebron, Conn., was the first settler on the farm now occupied by Samuel C. Ingersoll, whose wife was his (Chamberlin's) granddaughter.
Jacob Ford first settled the farm now occupied by Alanson Osborn, on the mountain in the east part of the town. He was a prominent man in his day; was appointed justice of the peace in 1786 and in 1801; was associate judge of the court of common pleas in 1795, and was made first judge in the following year. None of his descendants, bearing his name, are now living in this vicinity.
Edward Cadman, who settled in this town near Mount Pleasant several years before the breaking out of the Revolution, was a son of Christopher Cadman, who had then recently emigrated from England to Connecticut. His children were nine in number. Lydia married Benoni Ford, and removed to western New York; Rebecca married Isaac Clark, of Spencertown; Phoebe married Turner Calkins, of Green River; Hannah married -----Ackley, and went west; Edward and Joseph died in their country's service during the Revolution; George and Christopher removed to the western part of this State, and John married Phoebe De Wolf and remained on the homestead. He was the father of William J. Cadman, of Mount Pleasant, now eighty-three years old, and the grandfather of ex-county judge John Cadman, of Chatham. Mrs. Louisa Howes, Mrs. Phoebe Harmon, and Mrs. Maria Hubbard of Troy, are also his grandchildren.
Jabez Hamlin came from Sharon, Conn., about one hundred years ago, and settled on a partially-cleared farm on the lower ridge of the Harvey mountain. He was succeeded on the place by his son Jabez, who was a Methodist clergyman, and whose son Hon. E. S. Hamlin, is the present proprietor. He has spent most of his life in the State of Ohio, and has served as a representative in Congress from that State. Coming back to the home of his fathers, he removed the building-site to a commanding position, from which a very fine and extensive view is afforded of the valley, that occupies the western part of the northern half of Berkshire county. On favorable occasions the little village of Lanesboro, several miles away, is plainly seen, and the southern extremity of the Green mountains forms a magnificent background for the lovely view spread before the beholder's vision. A romantic little glen, through which a purling rivulet winds its way over a rocky bed, adds no little to the attractions of the place. Cornelius Hamblin, one of the original proprietors of the Spencertown grant, is believed to have been a brother of Jabez Hamlin, the first settler.
Storey Gott, a soldier of the Revolution and a prominent member and officer of the Spencertown Presbyterian church, settled near the centre of the town. It is now occupied by Harvey W. Gott, one of his descendants.
Eliada Cole was the first blacksmith in town, and had a shop at Austerlitz village. He was one of the earliest settlers.
A family named Blinn were early inhabitants in the north part of the town, on Indian Creek. From the large numbers of shingles made there, the locality came to be known as "Shingletown." A family by the name of Woodruffs, were early settlers in "Macedonia," and in the same neighborhood, a little farther southwest, John Morse took up a farm.