From “The History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York”

by James H. Smith    (D. Mason & Co. - Syracuse, New York 1880)



DE RUYTER was formed from Cazenovia March 15, 1798, and was named at the suggestion of John Lincklaen from Admiral De Ruyter of the Dutch navy. German, Chenango County, which then embraced the present towns of Lincklaen, Otselic and Pitcher, were set off on the formation of Madison County, March 21, 1806, and Georgetown, April 7, 1815. At the latter date a portion of Cazenovia was annexed. It lies in the southwest corner of the county, and is bounded on the north by Cazenovia, on the south by Lincklaen, on the east by Georgetown, and on the west by Fabius, in Onondaga county, and Cuyler, in Cortland county. As at present bounded it lies wholly within the Gore.


Its surface is a hilly upland, broken by the valley of the Tioughnioga, the summits of the hills attaining an altitude of 400 to 500 feet above the valleys. It is abundantly watered by the Tioughnioga and its numerous tributaries, which flow in a general westerly direction.


De Ruyter Reservoir constructed in 1863, at a cost of $158,378.20, is a feeder to the Erie canal, its supply being 3,891 cubic feet per minute.


The northwest portion is underlaid by the rocks of the Hamilton group, while in the more elevated portions of the east and south those of the Genesee slate and Ithaca group come to the surface. Stone of good quality and several tons in amount was obtained from a quarry, not now worked, on the farm of Samuel R. Stillman, a mile east of De Ruyter, and was used for building the abutments of the railroad bridge. Another quarry is opened on the farm of Benjamin I. Burdick, a mile south-east of the village, but the stone is rough and inferior, being seamy, and splitting from the action of frost and water which soaks into its seams.


The soil upon the hills is a good quality of sandy and gravelly loam, and from its abundant springs and streams is admirably adapted to grass; in the valleys it is a rich alluvium, suited to the culture of grain, but, like all the southern towns, it is subject to untimely frosts*. The farmers are almost exclusively engaged in dairying. There are five creameries and cheese factories in the town, which receive in the aggregate the milk from about 1,900 cows. These are the Case factory, situated a mile and a half north of the village, owned by Milton L. Case, who purchased it of De Grand Benjamin, by whom it was converted in 1869-70 from a gristmill, for which purpose it was abandoned on the construction of the reservoir which destroyed the water-power, about 1862; the Reservoir factory, four miles north of the village, built in 1865 or '6 by a stock company, by whom it is still owned; the Sheds Corners factory, built about the close of the war by A. B. White, whose children still own it; the Quaker Basin factory, owned by the Stillman Bros., and converted in 1869, by (???) Mack, of Georgetown, from a Quaker meetinghouse; and the Crumb Hill factory, built about 1875, by L. D. Nichols, who still owns it.

*The year 1816, which is denominated the cold season, is said to have been characterized by frost in every month, entailing great suffering and creating serious apprehensions.


The extension of the Cazenovia & Canastota Railroad, (now the Utica, Ithaca & Elmira Railroad,) extends through the northern part of the town, and the Auburn branch of the Midland Railroad crosses the town south of the center.


The population of the town in 1875 was 1,609; of who 1,549 were native, 60 foreign, all white, 807 males and 802 females. Its area was 19,153 acres; of which 14,027 acres were improved, 4,717 woodland, and 409 otherwise unimproved. The cash value of farms was $753,660; of farm buildings, other than dwellings, $111,755; of stock, $111,970; of tools and implements, $32,597. The amount of gross sales from farms in 1874 was $83,921.


There are nine common and one union free school districts in the town. During the year ending Sept. 30, 1879, there were thirteen licensed teachers employed at one time during twenty-eight weeks or more. The number of children of school age residing in the districts at that date was 521. During that year there were seven male and sixteen female teachers employed; the number of children residing in the districts who attended school was 420; in other districts, 60; of whom five were under five or over twenty-one years of age; the average daily attendance during the year was 240.039; the number of volumes in district libraries was 850, the value of which was $462; the number of school houses was ten, nine frame and one stone, which, with the sites, embracing 3 acres and 66 rods, valued at $1,275, were valued at $8,805; the assessed value of taxable property in the districts was $538,170. The number of children between eight and fourteen years of age residing in the districts at that date was 113, of whom 89 attended district school fourteen weeks of that year.


Receipts and disbursements for school purposes:


Amount on hand Oct. 1, 1878

$ 43.53

Amount apportioned to districts


Proceeds of Gospel and school lands


Raised by tax


From teachers' board


From other sources


Total receipts


Paid for teachers' wages


Paid for libraries


Paid for school apparatus


Paid for school-houses, sites, fences, out-houses, repairs, furniture, etc.


Paid for incidental expenses


Amount remaining on hand Sept. 30, 1879


Total disbursements






The settlement of the town was commenced in 1793, by Elijah and Elias Benjamin, and Eli Colegrove. The Benjamins were brothers and came from South East, Duchess County, their native place. They located in the northwest corner of the town, Elijah on 150 acres now owned and occupied by Benjamin Merchant. Elias removed soon after to the farm now owned by Philander Burton, a mile north of the village. Both had families that they brought in with a horse team. Elijah's family consisted of his wife, Elizabeth Paddock, and three sons, Elias P., David and Elijah E. Five other children were born here, Frederick, a daughter who died in infancy, Charles, Loretta and Aaron. In 1808 Elijah sold his improvements to Benjamin Merchant and removed to Cuyler, thence to Truxton, where he died in 1819, and his wife in 1822. Elias P. Benjamin married Martha, daughter of Joseph Rich, of DeRuyter, and settled on his father-in-law's farm and operated the mills erected by the latter. Both died in De Ruyter village, Elias P., Nov. 27, 1866, aged 83, and his wife, Nov. 22, 1866, aged 74. David Benjamin married Sarah, daughter of Joseph Rich. He also settled on the Rich farm, where resided till his removal with his family, about 1820, to Ohio, where he and his wife died, the latter only a year or two ago. Elijah E. Benjamin married Catharine, daughter of Charles Vincent, of Truxton (now Cuyler) and settled on his father's homestead in the latter town, where he resided till 1858, when he resigned the farm to his son, Horace, and removed to De Ruyter village, where he now (1879) resides, in his 92d year. He married in 1816, and had thirteen children, eleven boys and two girls, of whom seven are living, but only one, Horace, in De Ruyter. His wife died April 19, 1869. Frederick Benjamin was born in DeRuyter in 1794*, and was the first child born in the town. He married Ellen, daughter of Abel Fairchild, of Lincklaen, who died some four years after their marriage. He afterwards married Sarah Thomas, of Cazenovia, who is now living in Belvidere, Ill., to which place he removed about 1836, and died there. Charles Benjamin married Amanda Waters, of Fabius, and settled in De Ruyter, where he worked at his trade of shoemaker, and died in the village, where three of his children; Hiram, Mrs. Martin Spear and Mrs. Joseph Connell, now reside. Loretta Benjamin married I. C. Burdick, of De Ruyter, and settled in Cuyler. He afterwards removed to DeRuyter village and died there.

* French's State Gazetteer erroneously assigns his birth to the year 1798.


Elias Benjamin, the pioneer, was a shoemaker and carried on his trade for several years on the Burton farm. He afterwards removed to Lincklaen, and subsequently to Truxton, where he died. He had only two children, twins, who died in infancy. His wife died in Lincklaen.


Eli Colegrove came from Rhode Island and settled in the northwest corner of the town, contiguous to Elijah Benjamin. His farm has since been cut up in several smaller ones. A portion of it is owned by Benjamin Merchant. He afterwards removed to a farm a little north of his original settlement and died there.


In 1795 the settlements were augmented by Joseph Messenger, Samuel Thompson and William and Thompson Burdick.


Joseph Messenger settled about a mile north of the village on the west fork of the road, and built there a double log house, in which, the following year, he opened the first tavern in town. He dispensed for several years a generous hospitality to the many pioneer settlers and prospecting parties who thronged this locality and the adjoining Military Tract.


Samuel Thompson settled in the north part of the town on the farm now occupied by Thomas Doan, and there he and his wife resided till their death, the former at the advanced age of ninety years. He was an angular man, possessing marked characteristics, an expert marksman and a noted hunter. From his resemblance to "Natty Bumpo," a character in Cooper's novel, The Pioneers, a sort of compromise between savage and civilized life, he acquired the sobriquet of "Leather Stocking." Among his children were Langdon, Hiram, who was killed on that farm by the fall of a tree, Jefferson, who was demented, Harriet, who married Epaphras Leet, Laura, a maiden lady, and Mrs. Pulford, a widow lady, the latter two of whom are living in De Ruyter village.


The Burdicks were brothers and came from Hopkinton, R. I. They settled just south of the reservoir, raised large families, many of whom settled in the town, and bore excellent reputations as honest and upright citizens. Russell Walker, grandfather of Henry S. Walker, the hardware merchant in De Ruyter, settled early in the same locality.


Daniel Page, Gideon Foster and Eleazer Gage came in a little later. Page and Gage were from Duchess county. Page settled in De Ruyter village, and built the first public house in the corporation. It was a log building and was soon after* replaced by a frame one, which now forms the east part of the long building, now occupied as a saloon and meat market, located on the south-west corner, next to the store recently erected by M. R. Merchant**. Mr. Page was a surveyor, and removed from the town at an early day. A hotel was kept in that building at intervals, till 1863.

* Not earlier than 1805; for Mr. George Hull, of De Ruyter village, who was born June 22, 1786, and removed to Cuyler, two miles west of De Ruyter village in the fall of 1805, says there was not then a frame building on the site of the village.

** Statement of Mr. George Hull. Mr. Elijah E. Benjamin, who was born in 1788, says the building in which Page kept tavern is the one standing next north of the Taber House, and now occupied in part by Burdick Stillman as a drug store, and in part by Lyman Spear as a harness shop. Both Mr. Hull and Mr. Benjamin are remarkably well preserved, and we are indebted to both for many facts connected with the early history.


The death of Gideon Foster, which occurred in the spring of 1796, from an aggravated form of hernia induced by over-exertion, was the first in the town. He was buried on the farm of Elijah Benjamin, where many of the early settlers lie.


Eleazer Gage came in with his sons, Justus, Jeremiah, Ira and Ebenezer, all of whom were married when they came, and located about a mile north of the village. Justus settled where Charles Weeks now lives and died there Dec. 8, 1830, aged 67, and Mary, his wife, Feb. 15. 1849, aged 81. Captain Jeremiah settled where Newel Reeve now lives, two miles north of the village, and kept tavern there for several years. He removed to the village a few years previous to his death, which occurred there March 4, 1844, aged 71. Ebenezer settled where Horace Wells now lives, and died there. Ira* taught the first school in the winter of 1799, in a log building which stood on the farm now occupied by Isaac Higley, and which had formerly been used as a dwelling. Elijah E. Benjamin attended that school and went a distance of two miles through the almost unbroken wilderness to do so. He is believed to be the only survivor of that early school. Ira removed at an early day to Ohio and died there. The Gages were once a very numerous and respectable family in this locality. Edwin L. Gage, a grandson of Justus, is the only one of that name left here. Ira Gage Barnes, of Syracuse, was an adopted son of Captain Jeremiah Gage, and afterwards became a prominent and successful business man in De Ruyter.

* French and other authors erroneously credit Eli Gage with being the first school teacher.


Matthew Wells and Jonathan Shed joined the settlements in 1800, and Darius Benjamin and Samuel Bowen soon after.


Matthew Wells was born in Hopkinton, R. I., Nov. 7, 1765, and married Dec. 18, 1788, Elizabeth Coon, who was also born in Hopkinton, April 22, 1768. They removed shortly before 1800 to Grafton, Rensselaer county, and thence to De Ruyter, settling three miles north of the village, near the saw-mill of Dennis Coon, which is located on a part of the farm. He died there March 28, 1852, aged 86, and his wife, June 9, 1842, aged 74.


Jonathan Shed came from Brimfield, Mass., and settled in the north-east part of the town, at the corners which bear his name. Darius Benjamin, brother of the pioneers Elijah and Elias, also came from North East, and settled within the village corporation, near the Sabbatarian cemetery. His farm has been cut up into village lots.


Levi Wood, a native of Munson, Mass., came from Brimfield in that State in 1803, and brought his family in the following year. He located on lot 135. Sylvester Crumb came from Rhode Island about this year and settled on what is still known as Crumb Hill, four miles east of the village, where he died a great many years ago.


Joseph Rich came from Woodstock, Conn., about 1807, and bought the Elias Benjamin farm, now the Burton farm, where he and his wife died. Their two daughters, Sarah and Martha, who were their only children, came with them and married sons of Elijah Benjamin. He built on the north and main branch of Tioughnioga River, which flows through his farm, about a mile north of the village, the first saw and gristmill in the town, the former in 1807 and the latter in 1809. These mills were continued in operation till the reservoir in the northwest corner of the town was constructed to supply the Erie canal, when, the privilege being thus destroyed, they were abandoned. The gristmill was converted into a cheese factory by DeGrand Benjamin, Mr. Rich's grandson, for which purpose it is still used. The sawmill was torn down and the frame used in the construction of an addition to the gristmill. The original gristmill was replaced by the present structure in 1836.


Jonathan Bentley, a native of Richmond, R. I., came in 1808, from Easton, Washington county, where he married Judith Coon, a native of Westerly, R. I., and where he resided only during his young manhood. His two sons, Hampton S. and Zadock T., accompanied him in his settlement here. He located on fifty acres in the north part of the town, which are now owned in part by J. H. Crumb, and resided there till his death, Dec. 19, 1841.


About this year (1808) Benjamin Merchant came from Woodstock, Conn., and purchased Elijah Benjamin's farm, on which he resided till his death from the epidemic, which prevailed a few years after. His son Bradley succeeded him on the farm and died there. Benjamin Merchant, the present occupant is a son of Bradley's. The widow of Augustus Gardner is the only one of his children living. M. R. Benjamin and Rollin, in De Ruyter, and Warren in Lisle, are grandchildren of Benjamin's and sons of Bradley's.


About this time also a large number of friends came in from the Hudson River country, mostly from Saratoga, Westchester and Duchess counties, and settled in this locality and the adjoining towns of Cuyler and Truxton. Among these were Job Webb and Benjamin Stratton, from Hudson, Abram Sutton, father of Allen Sutton, of De Ruyter, a very prominent man, carrying on with his sons a great many years the tanning business, John Shepard, from Saratoga, James Hunt, father of William, now living in Pompey Hollow, Elihu, who went west, and others who were heads of families, also from Saratoga county, Nathaniel Wright, from Saratoga county, John Pierce, from New York, Reuben Burnard, from Columbia county, who settled on Crumb Hill; and later John Gifford, a preacher, from Troy, who settled two miles south of Crumb Hlll, Ephraim Arnold, a tanner, from Duchess county, who settled in Quaker Basin, Beman Hoag, in the same locality, Capt. Francis Bunker, captain of a whaling vessel from Hudson, who, with his family of boys, settled about a mile north of the village, David. Wood and John Hewitt, from Saratoga county, Richard North from Columbia county, who settled in the village and afterwards removed to the south hill, Joseph, Thomas and Benjamin Mitchell, the latter of whom was a clothier, brothers, from Duchess county, Dr. Ephraim Otis, from Saratoga county, an eminent physician, who settled a mile south of the village, Stephen Bogardus, from Ghent, Columbia county, Benjamin Wybert, from Saratoga county, Enos and Amos Peasley, brothers, Elijah Cornell, (father of Hon. Ezra Cornell, founder of Cornell University, and grandfather of Hon. Alonzo B. Cornell, Governor of New York,) Joseph and Benjamin Tripp and David Ring, from Columbia County, James Derbyshire, from Saratoga county, Joseph Underwood, from Duchess county, formerly from New England, and many others, all of whom settled in DeRuyter.


About 1806 or '07 Friends meetings were begun in a log house which stood near the north edge of the village; and in 1816 the Friends built a meeting house, in Quaker Basin, two miles east of the village, which still stands, and in which meetings are still regularly held, though there are now only twelve to fifteen of a once numerous flock.


In 1827 a division occurred in the society of Friends, and about 1830 a church was built by the Orthodox* Friends, which they used but a few years, many of the members moving to the west. Their house is now used as a cheese factory, having been removed from its original location a little east of the Hicksite house.

*This is a term used to distinguish those who reject, from those who accept the doctrines of Elias Hicks, of Long Island; the chief points of difference between the two organizations being the adoption by the Orthodox Friends, as a requirement, the belief similar in its main points, to that of other Evangelical denominations, while the Hicksite Friends, as those who agree with Mr. Hicks are denominated, mostly adopt the sentiments of the Unitarians or Universalists.


Elder Joseph Coley, a Baptist minister, and a prominent man, was an early settler about a mile north of the village, east of the Edwin Gage farm. He largely interested himself in the sale of lands to the Friends, in the interest of John Lincklaen. He afterwards removed to the locality of New Woodstock, where he died Sept. 25, 1856, aged 91, and Mary Willis, his wife, Sept. 30, 1845, aged 77.


Zenas Rider, who was born Dec. 1, 1785, came from North East, Duchess county, about 1808 or '9, and settled on a farm just north of the village, which is now owned by Joseph H. Crumb, of DeRuyter, and occupied by Oscar Smith, where he resided till his death, Aug. 17, 1858.


Many other early and prominent settlers might justly claim our attention had we the space to devote to them. Among these are David Main, a distinguished school teacher in this town at an early day, who settled at the head of the reservoir, and raised a large family, his son David having been a teacher, surveyor, justice, and Member of Assembly in 1849; James Nye, a carpenter, who came from Athens about the close of the war of 1812, who was a Member of Assembly, and whose son James W. Nye has become distinguished by his eloquence as a lawyer and legislator; Eleazer H. Sears, whose sons Stephen G., George S., and Francis, acquired a local prominence, though all have passed away; the Paddocks, Aaron, Belden, Isaac and Nathan, young men who came here with their mother from Duchess county, married and became influential citizens; Jonathan, Luke and Pardon Coon, brothers, who cleared up fine farms in the north part of the town, and raised large and respectable families; Pliny Sabins, who built the first farm house at Sheds Corners.


Officers of the town of De Ruyter for the year 1880-'81:


Supervisor    Joseph H. Crumb.

Town Clerk    George F. Annas.

Justices   Daniel Q. Mitchell, James P. Russell, Austin A. White, George S. Mason.

Assessors    D. Foster Gardner, David Rigby, Silas S. Clark.

Commissioner of Highways    Joel B. Phillips.

Overseer of Poor    Martin T. Spear.

Constables    Edward B. Parsons, I. Howard Stone, Thomas Sumner, George Doane, H. Miner Weaver.

Collector    Edward B. Parsons.

Inspectors of Election District No. 1    Isaac Higley, Jonathan H. Babcock, H. Dellivan Lewis.

Town Board, Supervisor, Town Clerk and Justices.

Sealer of Weights and Measures    H. Jerome Crandall.

Game Constable    Oscar Smith.

Excise Commissioners    Holly M. Maxson, Edwin N. Coon, Thomas E. Johnson.



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