HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF PAWLING
HISTORY OF DUTCHESS COUNTY, NEW YORK
By James H. Smith
The town of Pawling lies in the southeastern part of the County. It is bounded on the north by Dover, on the south by Putnam county, on the east by Connecticut, and on the west by Beekman. A range of mountainous hills flank the eastern and western borders, between which is a broad and beautiful valley. The principal streams are Swamp and Croton rivers, which have their source in this valley. The bodies of water are Whaley, Oblong, and Little Ponds, and Green Mountain Lake. The latter lies near the village of Pawling, and derives its name from a mountain crowned by a growth of evergreens. Whaley and Little Ponds, in the western part of the town, form the source of the Fishkill. The former is the largest of these ponds, and contains some natural curiosities, in the shape of floating islands, densely covered with verdure.
On the 20th of May, 1769, an act was passed dividing Beekmans Precinct into two precincts, the one to be called Beekmans and the other Pawlings Precinct. (Beekmans Precinct was formed Dec. 16, 1737, and embraced the towns of Beekman, Pawling, Doverexcept the OblongUnion Vale and a portion of LaGrange.) The latter included the present towns of Pawling and Dover. Nearly twenty years thereafter, or on the 7th of March, 1788, Pawling was formed as a town, embracing within its limits the present town of Dover, which was taken off and erected into a separate township in 1807. The town derived its name from the Paulding family. In a history of a member of this familyJames K. PAULDINGits is stated that the original family name was Pawling, to which rendition, so far as is known, custom has always conformed.
The pioneer settler of this town was probably Nathan BIRDSALL, who was located on Quaker Hill in the autumn of 1728. He was a native of Long. Island, born of Quaker parents about the year 1700. He received the education of a common school, to which he afterward added surveying.
At the age of about twenty-six he married Jane LANGDON, a young Quakeress, and two years later, their eldest son, John, being then an infant, they collected a few articles of the plainest furniture and some rude implements of agriculture, bade adieu to Long Island, and started in the direction of Quaker Hill. After a tedious journey of some days they arrived in the vicinity of Danbury, Conn., and found that they could proceed no further with a wagon, there being no road byt a bridle path. Here, at night, one of their horses made its escape, and was not found until the next spring. Procuring another, and transferring a portion of their luggage to the backs of the horses, they pursued their lonely way, and after a tedious journey arrived safely on the scene of their future labors. Mr. BIRDSALL purchased his land of the Nine Partners Company, on which, previous to the removal of his family, he had erected a log house and barn, on land since owned by Albro HAINES, Mr. BIRDSALL died at the advanced age of nearly ninety. His wife survived him some years, and died, at the same place and at about the same age. Their remains rest in the old burial ground near Haviland Hollow. His four sons were John, James, Nathan, and Benjamin. James married a daughter of David AKIN, the grandfather and great-grandfather of the AKINS now living here. He died about the year 1815, at an advanced age. Nathan, probably the first white child born on Quaker Hill, was a farmer and lived for many years on the place since owned by Abram HOAG in Dover. Benjamin, or Colonel Ben., as he was called, though an orthodox Quaker, abandoned his creed to join the army, received a Colonels commission and served acceptably during the war. He died in Chenango County in 1828, aged eighty-eight. John died at Unadilla, in the year 1815, aged eighty-eight. Some of his descendants are yet living here. (Nathaniel PEARCE is a grandson of John BIRDSALL.) The BIRDSALL name is extinct in Pawling.
The next settler on Quaker Hill was Benjamin Ferris, for many years a preacher in the denomination of Friends.
Between the years 1730 and 1740, there was a considerable tide of emigration to Quaker Hill. Among those who came at that period were John HOAG, Jedediah WING, David AKIN, Moses Bowdy, Jesse IRISH, and Nehemiah MERRITT. They were mostly Quakers.
Among the Friends of this period was Paul OSBORN, Sr., who was born, if report is correct, in Essex County, Mass.,in what year is unknownand who located on the farm since owned by William OSBORN. He is mentioned as being a contemporary of David and Benjamin FERRIS, with whom he occasionally traveled on their missionary tours. He accumulated here a considerable property, the bilk of which he, being childless, left to his nephew, Isaac OSBORN, with the proviso that he should always keep a house of entertainment for the benefit of the traveling ministry, and whenever he failed to do so the estate was to revert to the Friends Society of Philadelphia. He died about the year 1780, and it is said of his descendants that they have scrupulously obeyed the letter and the spirit of his will, both to the Society of Friends and to others. (Isaac OSBORN died June 10, 1839, aged ninety-five years six months.)
David AKIN, who came to Quaker Hill with the influx of settlers between 1730 and 1740, and settled south of the BIRDSALL place, was a descendant of John AKIN, who emigrated from Scotland to Rhode Island in 1680. At about the same time Alice AKIN and his wife Elizabeth whose first son was born in 1739, emigrated to Quaker Hill. Whether he was brother to David AKIN or not is not known, but it is assumed that from these two originated the different families of that name in the town.
Another of the early pioneers, and a man of considerable prominence in his time, was Benjamin SHERMAN, who was born in New Bedford, Mass., somewhere about the year 1735. He received the limited education which the schools of those days afforded, and at an early age followed the nautical instincts of the New Bedford youth and went to sea, where, on a whaling voyage, he with a boats crew, lost the ship and for five days suffered all the hardships of the cast-away. On the fifth day he and one or two of his comrades were picked up by a shipthe only survivors of a crew of eight or ten. This closed his nautical career, and in the spring of 1764 he found his way to Quaker Hill, where he began his landsmans life as a journeyman carpenter. In that year was built the present church edifice of the Quakers, on which he worked during the season, and was soon promoted to the position of boss carpenter, the former overseer having given dissatisfaction to the Friends. In the fall of that year he returned to his wife in New Bedford, with whom in the spring of 1765 he came back and purchased a farm at the foot of Quaker Hill, since owned by John KIRBY, and now in the possession of Archibald DODGE. Here were born most of his children, nine sons and two daughters. Their names were Jethro, Darius, Benjamin, Abiel, Ezra, William, Shadrach, Michael, Uriel, Sylvia, and Deborah. Mr SHERMAN established himself in the business of wagon making as well as in farming, to which occupation his sons were early introduced, and for many years the Sherman wagon enjoyed an enviable popularity throughout this section of the State.
Settlements were undoubtedly made on Quaker Hill and on the West Mountain, and the land there was probably in quite an advanced state of cultivation, prior to the settlement of the valley through which runs the Harlem Railroad. It is said that about 1740 there was no house on the post-road, running from Albany to New York, between Mrs. George P. TABORs and the Alfred WING place, then known as the HARRINGTON place. In about that year there was a considerable emigration into the valley of Pawling from the east, mainly from Rhode Island.
Continued in Part Two
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