Champion, Jefferson, NY

Early Settlers

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Settlement was commenced in this town by Noahiah Hubbard, in 17887, the details of which we give in the following letter, which was written to Dr. Hough in 1853: "Champion, June, 1853:

"Dr. F. B. Hough,--Dear Sir: As you requested some months since, I now transmit to you a few of my recollections of the early settlement of the county….I am past the age when most men write at all, being now in my eighty-ninth year, and past events may well be supposed to be becoming dimmed by reason of age, and more like a dream than a reality; yet, I have been, and am, wonderfully blessed, both as respects health and the possession of present memory, --some of the choicest gifts of a kind Providence. All the companions of my early youth ad of my more mature years have passed away, and I am left alone to tell the tale. Yet not alone as it respects friends. Others have risen up around to take the place, in some measure, of those that are gone. Of the friends of my early manhood’s years I often feel to exclaim, ‘Where are they?’ and echo answers, ‘Where are they?’ Gone to that ‘bourne from whence no traveler returns.’ The original land-holders, even, of all this region of country are passed away, and have left no trace or name save in the title-deeds. I have not very many records of those early days; so full of life and bustle were they that little time was left to record their stirring events; yet some I have, and when I give you dates all they are from memoranda made at the time. "I first came to this town, Champion, in the year 1797, with Lewis Storrs, a large land-holder, when he came on for the first time to view his purchase. I was then residing in Stueben, in what is now Oneida county, but them, or shortly before, Herkimer. Mr. Storrs then hired

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several pack men, whose business it was to carry the necessary provisions for the expedition on their backs. This was late in the autumn. We traveled on foot by what is called the French road, to the High Falls on the Black river. This road had been cut for the accommodation of the French refugees who had made a settlement at High Falls, and had there a log city. Many of these French belonged to the nobility of France, who were obliged to abandon their country during the revolution, in 1793, but who were afterwards permitted to return when the star of the empire rose upon the Bonapartes. Their settlement was made from what was called the French Tract, on the north and eat sides of the Black river, and extending a great distance. From the High Falls we descended the river in a boat to the rapids called the Long Falls, now known as Carthage. Here we landed, and in two days explored the township, then an unbroken wilderness. On our way down, Silas Stow, then a young man and afterwards known as Judge Stow, of Lawville, joined us. On the third day we re-embarked and proceeded up the river, and it was two days’ hard rowing to get back again to the High Falls. As I believe I before mentioned, it was late in November, and the night we were obliged to be out we encountered a severe snow-storm. To

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protect ourselves from it in some measure, we made a shanty by setting up some crotches and laying on poles, and covering them with hemlock boughs. We also scattered branches upon the ground upon which to lie, and, by making a rousing fire in front of out shelter, we contrived to be very comfortable. By this time, our provisions were nearly exhausted, and we had before us the prospect of a hungry day. But in ascending the river we fortunately killed a duck and a partridge; these being stripped of their feathers in the evening, I cooked them for our breakfast, the next morning. I prepared them as nicely as I could with our scanty means; salt we had none. I had a little pork left, this I cut in small bits and inserted into the flesh of the fowls, where it served a double purpose of salt and butter for basting. To cook them I set up a couple of crotched sticks, laid another across, and from it, by strips of bark, suspended my fowls before the fire, where they cooked most beautifully, and were all in good time partaken of by the company with a rare relish. Indeed, Messrs. Storrs and Stow declared they had never eaten so good. Hunger and a limited supply gave a keenness of relish not often experienced.

"In due time we arrived safe and well in Steuben, from whence we had started, where I passed the winter. Mr. Storrs offered me very liberal inducements to come on here and commence a settlement; so liberal that I determined to accept them, though I may say in passing, and then dismiss the subject forever, that he failed to fulfill his liberal offers. But, in consideration of these offers, I left my home in Steuben, June 1, 1798, and started for this place, accompanied by Salmon Ward and David Starr, with fifteen head of cattle. We traveled again upon the French road, as far as it availed us. The township had been surveyed by Benjamin and Moses Wright the year before, and this year Mr. Storrs had engaged Benjamin Wright to survey Hounsfield, and on his way there he was to mark a road to this place and to precede me. I met the surveyors agreeably to appointments at a Mr. Hoadley’s and from there we came on what is called Turin Four-Corners. There was only one log house there then. From there we went west about thirty or forty rods to Zaccheus Higby’s. There we laid down our maps and consulted them, and came to the conclusion to take from thence a north course.This led us on to the top of the hill, now known as the tug hill.

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"We were entirely ignorant of the face of the country, and of the most eligible route to pursue, and therefore took the on which seemed the most direct, not knowing the obstacles to be encountered. We had before come down by water, and on this route there was not even a marked tree. It was the duty of the surveyors to precede us, mark a road, and chain it. Mr. Wright started in advance of us for that purpose. It was a beautiful, clear morning, and we followed on, progressing finely until the middle of the afternoon, when we came to a great gulf, and an abundance of marked trees. We went over the gulf, but could not find no more marked trees. We then made a fire, and took out the stoppings from out bells, and suffered our cattle to feed around the fire while we set ourselves to search for marked trees, over the gulfs and up and down, but could find no place to cross, or marks by which to determine what course the surveyors had taken. In this predicament we prepared to construct a shelter for the night, of hemlock boughs, etc.

"The next morning the sun came up clear and bright, and I called a council. I told the men how much damage it would be to me to return, how great a loss not to proceed, and asked them if they were willing to come on. David Starr replied that he would go to h—l if I would. Though no way desirous o going to the latter place, even in good company, I determined to come on, if such a thing were possible without a compass or guide. We then set ourselves to work and felled trees, with which we made an inclosure, into which we drove our cattle, and then shoved them down the precipice one after another. They went up slantingly on the other side, and much better than we got them down, so that finally they were all safely over, after much toil and trouble. I then agreed to pilot the company down; took off the ox-bell, and carried it in my hand, loading the way, and steering a north course by the sun and watch. We had to cross a number of gulfs and one windfall, which was the worst of all. We continued to travel upon the

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summit of the hill, where we found much fine table-land. The cattle would travel as fast as I could lead the way. One man drove-them and another followed, axe in hand, to mark the trees and leave traces behind us, so that if we could not advance we could retrace our steps."We descended the hill before reaching Deer river. The latter e struck, and crossed above the falls, not far from where the village of Copenhagen now stands; and coming on; we succeeded in finding the town-line, which was identified by marked trees, not far from where the toll-gate now is, on the champion and Copenhagen plank-road. We then changed our course, following the line of the Black river, at Long Falls, where we arrive before night. There we found W. and men. They had not arrived more than an hour before us. When seeing us, Mr. W. exclaimed, ‘How in the name of God have you got here?’ I replied, ‘You scoundrel! You ought to be burnt for leaving us so." It was the most rascally piece of business, their leaving us as they did. But I suppose the truth was they thought it was impossible for us ever to get through with our cattle. But this does not excuse them for not having marked the road, twas for that they were sent, and if others could not follow they were not answerable; but their duty was plain before them."My boat, which I had dispatched from the High Falls, soon after arrived, with my provisions, yokes, chains, cooking utensils, etc., etc.The next day we left one to watch our effects, while the others were searching for a desirable location. In a few days I selected the farm upon which I now live, principally for the reason that it was

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the centre of the township, rather than for any peculiar advantage it possessed over other portions of the town. Yet the soil has proved good, sufficiently luxuriant with proper cultivation. This is what I sought, a good agricultural location, rather than one possessing hydraulic privileges. Not one tree had been cut here for the purpose of making a settlement nor was there a white man settled in what is now the county of Jefferson when I came here. I was the first white settler in the county.

"I remained here through the summer and until October, engaged in making a clearing. When we returned to Steuben, where my family was to spend the winter. During the summer some families ha come to Lowville, and Mr. Storrs had caused a road to be marked from there to the Long Falls, and by that we returned, driving our cattle home again. These had become fat by running in the woods during the summer, and I sold them for beef. I would mention here, though rather out of place, that I found a living spring of pure water a few rods from where the public-house in this place now stands, which had its influence in deciding my location. Near it I built my first house

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and there I kept a 'bachelor's hall' being myself 'chief cook.' My first habitation was a cabin, erected in a few hours' time with the aid of my men.  It was a rude structure, but served our purposes.  We set some posts, and then, having felled great trees, stripped them of the bark, and with this covered the roof, and three sides of our dwelling, the front was left open, so it may truly be said we kept open house. The covering was kept firmly in its place ty withes of bark. After the completion of our house the next most necessary thing was an oven in which to bake our bread, for bread we must have, it being the staff of life. This was soon made with two logs for a foundation and a flat stone thereon, the superstructure was roon reared with smaller stones, cemented together by a mortar of muck from the side of the spring, and crowned by a flat stone. This answered my purpose as well as one of more elaborate construction. For a door we split out a plank of basswood, and for a kneading-trough we again had recourse of the basswood, from whence we cut a log of the required length and dimensions, split it, and from one half sug out, with an axe and an instrument called a howell - which we had brought for such purposes, - - in a short time, a trough which answered our purposes very well.  I brought some yeast with me to make my first batch of bread; after that I used leaven, kept and prepared after directions given me by my wife before leaving home. We had cows, plenty of milk, etc. We sometimes washed dishes, we could not remember what we last ate upon them, but oftener turned them the bottom side up to remain until wanted again.  Some even pretended to say that when our table needed scouring we sprinkled salt upon it and put it out for the old cow to operate upon.

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"Early in the spring, 1799, I sent on two men to make sugar before I came on myself.  They commenced making sugar, and one day went out hunting, leaving our sugar boiling.  The consequence was the house took fire and burned down with all of the little it contained. During the winter the Indians had stolen all cooking utensils I had left, and the potatoes which I had raised and burned the autumn before.  Thus my riches were taking to themselves wings and flying away. I came on soon after. This spring Esquire Mix and family came on, John and Thomas Ward, Ephraim Chamberlain, Samuel and David Starr, Jetham Mitchell, Salmond Ward, Bela Hubbard, David Miller, and Boutin, a Frenchman, came to Carthage.  The above were all young, unmarried men, saving Mix. We continued our labors through the summer of 1799, but not with the spirit when we should have done had not a rumor reached us of the failure of Mr. Storrs, and the probability that we should lose not only all our labor but the money which I had advanced for my land. But I will not enter into particulars here, let it suffice that I could not afford to lose all I had done and paid, and consequently entered into a compromise with him to save the money of what was justly mine, and not only what I had actually paid for, but what I was to have had for leading the way in this first settlement of the new country, and subjecting myself again to the discomforts and inconveniences. Consequently, in view of making this my permanent home, I moved my family here in the autumn of 1799."We had a very unfavorable time to come. There had been a snow-storm in which about six inches of snow had fallen. We wre obliged to travel on horseback, and the horses; feet balled badly; we had sloughs to go through, and, altogether, it was very

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uncomfortable traveling in that manner with children. We arrived at Mr. Hoadley’s the first night, and our ox-teams and goods the next day. From there we came to the High Falls, where I had a boat awaiting su which I had caused to be built for my own use. Here we embarked with all our goods and chattels of all kinds, loading the boat to its utmost capacity, so that when all were in it was only about four inches out of water.We spent one night at the Lowville landing, where a family were living. During the evening there came a number of men, wet, cold, and hungry. Among them was one named Smith. He went to pull off the boots of one of his companions, which were very wet and clinging close. He pulled with all his might,--the other bracing himself against him as firmly as possible. All at once, and with unexpected suddenness, the boot came off and poor Smith was sent, with his bare feet, into a bed of live coals. There was both music and dancing for one while. We arrived at the Long Falls about noon the second day from our embarkation. The weather had by this time become warm and pleasant. Our oxen arrived soon after by land. We unloaded our boat, put our wagon together, loaded it with some of our effects, set off, and before night reached our ‘wilderness home.’ My wife said, in view of the difficulties in getting here, that if she had anything as good as a cave to live in she would not return in one year at the least. She, of choice, walked from the Falls here, a distance of four miles through the forest. We arrived on the 17th of November, 1799. The weather continued pleasant until the 27th, when it commenced snowing; the river soon froze over; the snow, of which a great quantity fell, and continuing to fall, lasted all winter, and we were entirely cut off from all intercourse with the world. I kept fifteen head of cattle, through the winter by browsing them, and they wintered well. Isolated though we were, yet I never passed a more comfortable winter. We had a plenty of provisions; my wheat—I had raised a very fine crop from seed sown in the autumn of 1798; and my pork, etc., was fatted in Oneida county and brought her by boat. And, take it all together, I perhaps settled this country easy as anyone ever settled a new country as completely isolated as this was at that time, and easier than I settled in Steuben, eighteen miles from Utica. t that time we had to go to Utica or Whitesborough for provisions, and it always took one day to go out and another to return, incredible as it may seem. In the spring of 1800 people began to flock into the country by the hundreds, and as my log house afforded the only accommodation for wayfaring men, we were obliged to keep them whether we would or no. Sometimes and that very often, my floors were strewn with human beings as thick as they could lie, some so hear the huge fire-place as pot to unscorched; one man, in particular, it was said by his companions that his head baked by too close a proximity to the oven. This rush continued two or three years, and was full of incidents and interest, but at this distance of time I can not recall these incidents with sufficient accuracy to detail them here.

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"The town settled rapidly with an intelligent and energetic class of people. The society was good; it might be called good anywhere. Perhaps there was never a more intelligent and interesting people congregated together in an obscure little inland town, than in this with a few years from its first settlement. I cannot state the order of time in which they came, but the names of a few of them I will record, that in future time, when this place shall have sunk into insignificance, as it too probably will, before the greater lights around it, it may be known that we were once honored by having in our midst such men as Egbert ten Eyck, afterwards first judge of the court, who was then a young lawyer, and married here one of our beautiful maidens; Olney Pearce and wife; Hubbel and wife; Judge Moss Kent, brother of the late chancellor; Henry R. Storrs, who opened an office here, and afterwards became one of the most distinguished lawyers of the State; Dr. Bandy, Frenchman; Drs. Durkee and Parley, and many others, too numerous to mention as well as many ladies of grace and beauty, whom it would be invidious now to particularize. Common schools were soon established. Religious meetings were held on the Sabbath after old Deacon Carter came into town; and in a very few years, I think s early as 1805, the Rev, Nathaniel Dutton came. He was sent out by some missionary society at the east to form churches in this western world, and coming to this place, was invited to remain, which he did, and continued here until the close of his valuable life, in September, 1852, and for the greater part of that time was the pastor of the congregational church, which flourished under his ministrations, and enjoyed many powerful revivals of religion.

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"A house was built at a very early day on the hill west of the village, which combined the double purpose of a church and school-house. It was an expensive house for the times and community. In a few years it was burned to the ground. The next school-house was also a large one, located across the gulf, on the road to the Great Bend. This was also used as a meeting-house. A part of it is still standing, and is now converted into a dwelling-house. Some years later it was determined to erect a church, but the details of this and other movements I presume you will obtain more fully from other sources. "Yours, etc., "NOADIAH HUBBARD." (Jefferson County History, by L. E. Everts, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B.Young

Html by Debbie

December 26, 1999

[Jefferson County ALHN][NY ALHN]

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