The Permanent Settlement
by Captain Franklin Ellis425
It is supposed that the first white man in town came to this locality in the summer of 1756. This was James Hitchcock, a captain in the British army, whose command was then stationed at Hartford, Conn. He was the victim of a disease which had baffled the skill of his physicians, and which rendered his life miserable. The Indians visiting his camp representing that he might be cured by bathing in a warm spring in the wilderness, he followed them hither, and experienced much benefit from the waters. Others visited the town soon after and the permanent settlement followed in the course of a few years. John Wadhams was the first to settle in the northeastern part, and was one of the first in the town. He was led into this locality in the summer of 1762, while hunting his cattle, which had strayed from his new home in Berkshire, Mass. He was so well pleased with the appearance of the new country that he made it his home in 1764, settling on what is now the Elijah Bagg place. This land was afterwards granted to Ephraim Keyes, from whom Wadhams purchased it, and remained identified with the town many years. It is said that when the Massachusetts boundary was adjusted, Wadhams found his house a few rods across the line in that State. Vowing that he would not live outside of New York, he summoned his neighbors to his aid and moved his house into the Empire State. A little southwest settled Jarvis Mudge, an active business man, who put up a mill near the Springs, and made other substantial improvements. Lieutenant Mudge was one of the most prominent Whigs, and took a conspicuous part in the early affairs of King's district. His children joined the Shakers.
One of the most prominent early settlers in the southern part of the town was Matthew Adgate, a man of large mind and the delegate of the district in the Provincial Congress in 1776. The mountain in that locality was formerly known by his name. One of his daughters married Major Lord, of Canaan. One of Adgate's contemporaries was Elisha Gilbert. At the beginning of the Revolutionary struggle, Gilbert raised a company, went to war, and came home bearing the rank of major. His home was in what is now known as Lebanon Centre, where he had mills and a large farm. The family was for many years one of the most prominent in the town. Not far from him was the home of Elijah Bostwick, also the commander of a company in the Revolution. He reared five sons, William, Levi, Elijah, Ichabod, and Daniel. John C. Bostwick, a son of Elijah, Jr., yet resides in New Lebanon. Farther down the creek, on what is now known as the John H. Adams place, lived John Darling, the owner of mill property and real estate, which gave him a prominent place among his townsmen. Bogardus Hatch settled in the same neighborhood after the war, in which he served. He reared six sons, who were remarkable for their tallness as well as for their good qualities as citizens. Jacob Cole had also settled here at an early day, but abandoned his land and moved farther east to what was known as "West Hill," where he died in 1849, aged one hundred and six years. Jonathan Murdock and Abner Doubleday, who were with Mad Anthony Wayne at the storming of Stony Point, also settled in this locality. The latter was the grandfather of General Abner Doubleday, of Fort Sumter fame. Others here at an early day were Jonathan Owen, Daniel Green, Ichabod Rowley, Celah Abbott, Flavel Booge, Jonathan Mott, Amos Broad, David Horton, Joseph Bailey, John Smith, Eleazer Wells, Peleg Spencer, Freeborn Mattison, Captain Hunter, Spencer Carr, Abram Seward, Samuel Hand, Jr., Abel Wright, and Nathan Farrington. It is said that the first Shaker meeting in town was held at the house of the last named, and that Farrington joined that society.
In the western part of the town settlement was first made by a man named Van Deusen, who had followed up the Kinderhook to that point. Gale Bigelow and others of that name also came early and made substantial improvements. Gile Lowden and Norman Sackett followed, and descendants of both families yet reside in the same locality. Samuel and Joseph Salls, Joshua Fellows, Andrew Snyder, Samuel Wheeler, Moses Cowles, and Samuel Moffatt were among the other pioneers.
Among other prominent early settlers in New Britain were John Wadsworth, Nehemiah Gale, John Budlong, Roger S. Sherman, J. Spier, Wm. S. Herrick, Stephen Saxton, and the Davis and Haight families. Eastward and north towards New Lebanon settled George Cornwell, Zalmon Skinner, Aaron and Uriah Betts, Wm. Gay, who built the first frame house in town, near the Shaker mill, Thomas Avery, Thomas Bowman, Peter Plum, and several members of the Patterson family.
At New Lebanon, Moses King was one of the first prominent settlers. A son John became one of the leading citizens of the county, and represented this district in Congress. His homestead is at present known as the Henry A. Tilden place.
The Tilden family came to this locality about 1785. A son of John Tilden, Elam, married a daughter of Major Samuel Jones, a prominent early settler at this point. Elam Tilden succeeded to his father-in-law's business, and became noted as one of the most sagacious and enterprising men in the county. His sons were Moses Y., Samuel J., the distinguished ex-governor, and Henry A., who is yet a leading citizen of the town.
In the Springs neighborhood, Gideon King had a large tract of land at an early day, some time about 1790, which passed into the hands of Samuel Hand, a man of peculiar habits. The descendants of Hand have become a large and respectable family. Eleazer Grant was also a man of considerable prominence. A son of his became distinguished in national politics, and represented a district in the western part of the State in Congress.
John Bull became a permanent settler at the Springs in 1806. He was a native of the State of Connecticut, and was commissioned a lieutenant in Colonel Henry Knox's Regiment of Artillery in 1776. In 1777 he was appointed "director of the laboratory of the northern department" of the American forces and superintended the putting up of the ammunition used in the engagements which resulted in the surrender of Burgoyne. One of his sons, also named John, after a few years of seafaring life settled at the Springs in 1798. In 1821 he was appointed a justice of the peace, and during his ten years' service married nearly 500 couples, many of whom had come from Massachusetts. In 1834 he became a judge, and served three terms. One of his sons, Hampton C., was born in 1814, and yet lives in town, one of its most widely-known citizens.
John Gillet, who served as a lieutenant in Captain Gilbert's company, was also one of the early settlers, removing to Vermont about 1800. Among his sons were Freeman, Nathan, and Jeremiah. A grandson, Ransom H., became noted as the biographer of Silas Wright, and as a distinguished congressman from the St. Lawrence district. In the later years of his life he returned to New Lebanon, where he died a few years ago. Dr. Moses Younglove, Rev. Silas Churchill, Samuel Johnson, and Joseph Meacham, eminent early settlers, are elsewhere noted. Others of early prominence were Caleb Hull, whose son, Henry Hull, is yet living, one of the most aged men of the county, Noah Wheaton, R. Treat, Aaron Kibbie, Merchant Ives, and David Darrow.
The town settled very rapidly, first on the hilly lands and then on the flats, gradually abandoning the former until but few remained where they first settled. The population fifty years ago was greater than at present. In 1875 there were eleven hundred and eighty-four males and twelve hundred and seventy-one females in town.