TOWN OF SMITHFIELD

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

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

 

 

SMITHFIELD was organized March 13, 1807, being set off from Cazenovia. It derives its name from Peter Smith, who at the time of the organization was owner of all the land contained in the town, except a few farms which he had sold to settlers and a strip one mile wide across the northern end. It contains at present 15,629 acres, of which 12,783 acres are improved. The town is bounded on the north by Lenox and Stockbridge, on the east by Stock-bridge, on the south by Eaton and Nelson, on the west by Fenner. Before 1823 it was the largest town in the county, but is now the smallest. In that year the territory constituting the town of Fenner, except a small corner, was all taken off from Smithfield. An effort to make this division was commenced in 1816, but was opposed strenuously. At the town meeting held March 4, 1823, the division was opposed by 236 votes against 226 in favor*. Nevertheless the division was made and a special meeting was held the 17th of May, to fill vacancies in offices caused by the set-off. In 1836 the territory forming about one-third of Stockbridge was set off without opposition.

* This record in the clerk's book is probably an error; the number should doubtless be transposed.

 

The surface is mostly rolling, but a cedar swamp extends through the town north and south, in places nearly two miles wide, a large part of which is still unimproved. Much of this swamp is underlaid by a stiff marl upon which is a spongy muck varying from four to ten feet in depth. The hills are sandy and gravelly. The prevailing timber is maple. Most of the surface is drained by streams flowing northward, chiefly of which are the Chittenango and Cowassalon creeks, but the Chenango river in the south receives the drainage of a part of the town. The highest point in the town is over 1,000 feet above the level of the Erie Canal at Canastota.

 

Agricultural products of Smithfield in 1874:

 

Pasturage, 5,562 acres; hay 5,772 tons from 3,976 acres; barley, 6,110 bushels from 261 acres; wheat, 6,151 bushels from 332 acres; oats, 47,192 bushels from 1,464 acres; corn, 15,238 bushels from 422 acres; buckwheat, 815 bushels from 51 acres; beans, 323 bushels from 22 acres; potatoes, 16,200 bushels from 140 acres; apples, 19,578 bushels from 11,764 trees; cider, 355 barrels; maple sugar, 2,105 pounds; maple syrup, 220 gallons; hops, 116,693 pounds from 192 acres; dairy goods from 1,377 cows  home made cheese, 4,945 pounds, home made butter, 53,175 pounds factory cheese, 65,800 pounds; wool, 2,617 pounds from 507 sheep; pork, 8,028 pounds from 3,008 swine,

 

The total valuation of farms was $1,064,068; the total valuation of buildings, $169,040; the total valuation of stock, $162,751; the total valuation of tools, $37,980; the total cost of artificial fertilizers, $834; total sales were $285,667.

 

The town contains five cheese factories, located as follows, and all in operation at present, making both cheese and butter; one at Peterboro, one at Siloam, one at Frederick Putnam's farm, one near the southeast corner of the town, one at Mile Strip, all of which, except two, are operated by J. B. Wadsworth; the Mile Strip factory is conducted by the owner, Rolland J. Hollenbeck. The Peterboro factory was the first built in Madison county*, and the second in the State. It was commenced early in the spring of 1861, under the direction of Mr. Williams, of Rome, the father of cheese factories. The proprietor, Harry Blodgett, now of Cazenovia, continued to operate it two years and leased it to Stillman Fletcher; it has since passed through the hands of Thomas Tooke, Avery and Wadsworth, and is now the property of W. I. Davis, who makes it a profitable establishment.

* It is stated in the history of Eaton, that the first factory was built in that village. A more careful examination of dates settles a disputed question and shows that the Peterboro antedates all others by several months.

 

The town is traversed by the Oneida turnpike running from Vernon to Cazenovia, and in the opposite direction (north and south) by the Stone Road, from Morrisville to Canastota, both of which together with the several dirt roads in the town, are in a very fair condition during most of the year. No railroad or canal touches Smithfield at any point. A stage runs daily between Peterboro and Canastota, nine miles, and carries the mail.

 

 

SCHOOLS

 

The town is divided into ten common school districts, the largest of which is the one containing the village of Peterboro, District No. 1, and its school was the first one established. The town's first apportionment of public school money from the county treasury was less than $125. The first levy of town tax for support of schools was ordered to be equal to the amount received from the treasury, and this ratio was continued many years, after which the levy was made double that amount so long as the town continued to control the schools directly. After the passage of the common school law of 1812, we find the town meeting (1813) by resolution voting that "this town comply with the act of Legislature for the establishment of Common Schools." The first school commissioners were: Asa Dana, Thomas Dibble, Benjamin Wilbur, and they received $1 for every day's service. The same year  1813  Enos Cushing, Wright Bingham, Nehemiah Huntington, Harmonias Vanvleck, Jonathan Shearman and Nehemiah Bacheler were Inspectors of Common Schools. Their report states that the text books in use were:

 

Webster's spelling book, American preceptor, Columbian reader, English reader, Daboll's, Pike's and Root's arithmetics, Murray's grammar, Dwight's, Willet's, Parish's and Morse's geographies, Walker's dictionary. Besides the district tax and the annual apportionment of public money, which latter, in 1880, amounted to $872.53, the common schools of Smithfield derive annually an income of $74 from the Common School Fund, an endowment of $1,049.54, the gift of Gerrit Smith*. The whole number of children in the schools in 1879 was 576, and the aggregate attendance 125,509 days.

* Mr. Smith made this donation in his early life to form the nucleus of a Town Poor Farm, but the difficulties arose relative to using this poor fund in  connection with the county "poor moneys," hence the project was abandoned and in 1845 the money denominated the Common School Fund of the town of Smithfield.

 

 

EARLY SETTLERS

 

Peter Smith, born near Tappan, Rockland County, N. Y., in 1767, was the founder of Smithfield. In youth he went to live in New York City, and while there formed an intimate friendship with a fellow clerk and the two entered into a partnership to carry on the fur trade. The other partner was John Jacob Astor. He remained in the city to superintend sales and Mr. Smith went into the interior of the State to deal with the Indians. After ten years the partnership was dissolved, and Mr. Smith gave his attention to securing some of the best lands in the middle counties. In 1794, he succeeded in leasing from the Oneida Indians, for a term of 999 years, (they being debarred from selling their lands,) a tract comprising over 50,000 acres, and which embraced nearly all of Smithfield and Fenner, that part of Cazenovia lying north of the Gore, a part of Stockbridge, and a large portion of Augusta, in Oneida county. This tract he secured by treaty with the christianized part of the tribe, through negotiations with their Chief, Skenandoah, a warm friend of his. The Pagan members of the tribe revolted against a bargain by which they gave up their lands for a mere trifle, (less than a $100 it is supposed,) and gave him not a little trouble in his surveying. The next year this land came into possession of the State by treaty of purchase, and Mr. Smith was given an opportunity to secure title to his tract by payment of $350. After some hesitation he finally, in 1798, accepted the proposal and was allowed $1.50 per acre for the expense of surveying and his other expenditures. In 1799 he commenced the sale of farms at auction; most of the parcels offered were 50-acre tracts, none larger than 200 acres, and the price per acre varied from $6 to $15. Mortgages were taken in payment and these were turned over to the State in payment for the original purchase. The title to this land, known as the New Petersburgh Tract, having been confirmed, settlement upon the tract became rapid and for twenty-five years Mr. Smith's land office was thronged with purchasers.

 

Mr. Smith did not enter immediately as a resident on his possessions, but sent thither in 1795 Jasper Aylesworth, a native of Rhode Island, (born Aug. 7, 1773, died in August, 1847.) Mr. Aylesworth walked all the way from Utica and carried most of the distance a heavy iron kettle on his back. Arriving on the site of Peterboro, he commenced clearing the two acres that now forms the public square, or "green." This he planted to corn and then cleared the ground now occupied by the Gerrit Smith mansion. Mr. Aylesworth was a hard working, muscular, iron nerved man, of good principles, but poorly educated. In the spring of 1767 he married Polly, daughter of John Taft, who had recently entered the town as a settler. There were at the time only two other marriageable girls in Smithfield, and this was the first marriage within its borders. Their first child was born March 14, 1798, and she was christened Safety. She was the first white child born in Smithfield and she lived in Peterboro village during all her life, dying in 1872. When their second child, Hiram, was born, June 5, 1800, there had been no birth in any other family in the settlement. The subsequent children of the first settler were: Oran, born April 25, 1802; Loren, born April 12, 1804; Henry, born June 14, 1805; John, born June 19, 1807; Adeline, born Sept. 30, 1809; George, born July 3, 1812; Eliphalet, born April 20, 1814; Van Ranssville, born Oct. 17, 1816; Sophronia, born Aug. 8, 1818. Only Hiram, Sophronia and Eliphalet are living in 1880, the first two in the Western States, Eliphalet, in Peterboro, the sole representative of the family. Oliver Trumbull came from the east in 1798 and bought 50 acres a half mile south from the Aylesworth clearing and his posterity have held an honorable position in the growth of this and other towns. In 1797-'99 came the family of Bump, first Ithamar, and afterwards his father, Ichabod, and his brothers, Moses, Nathan, David, Jonathan, Gideon, Jacob, and a sister, Hannah, wife of Ebenezer Bronson, mother of Hon. Greene C. Bronson. Several of these remained in the town and by their thrifty lives added much to the town's general prosperity; most of them have eventually gone farther west. The only branches of the family at present in Smithfield are two grandsons and a granddaughter of Ichabod, Ira and Jeremiah Bump and Mrs. Bush.

 

About 1800 came a large number of families of moderate means and industrious habits, many of whom purchased farms in the southern part of the town. We find prominent among them Solomon Merrill, David Shipman, Samuel and Jacob Walker, Jabez Lyon, Robert Streeter, Shadrach Hardy, Gideon Wright, Ezra Chaffee, David Tuttle, Mrs. Moody, with her sons Samuel and David, Mrs. Mattison, with her sons John, Abraham, Eli and Nathan, the Northrups, the Mathewsons, Francis Dodge, Salmon Howard, Stephen Risley, Moses Howe, John Forte, Reuben Rich, David Blodgett, Daniel Petrie, (the first Sheriff elected in the county,) Capt. Joseph Black. Peter Smith himself came from Utica with his family, in 1806, and soon after commenced the erection of the family mansion*. Besides his large land transactions, he entered at once into manufacturing and trade, and was soon proprietor of nearly all the industries of the region. The year after his arrival he was elected supervisor, and in June of the same year was elected Associate Judge of County Court, and held the position till 1821. His education was not liberal, but he possessed the faculty of making himself felt in all circles, and as manager of large financial schemes had no superior in his sphere. From first to last he handled 500,000 acres of land in Madison, Oneida, Clinton, Essex, St. Lawrence and Franklin counties. In his dealings he was close, in gifts moderate, yet public spirited and often tender. His nature was emotional, so much so that he could with difficulty control himself under the slightest excitement. While in his speech he frequently indulged in profane expressions, the records of his daily thought reveals him as excessively, almost fanatically, under the domination of conscience. His diary is an amusing mixture of business entries and penitent reflections, from which it would appear that his busy life was far from a happy one. Judge Smith, in 1819, transferred all his property in Madison county to his son Gerrit and removed to Schenectady in 1825. This step was probably occasioned by financial embarrassment brought upon him by the recklessness of his oldest son, Skenandoah, who involved his father deeply, and was possibly suggested also by the death of his wife and a second marriage, which was not congenial. After he removed to Schenectady he re-commenced the business of accumulating land, and during the remainder of life devoted much time to religious duties, the distribution of pious tracts and frequent exhortation in his conversation with men of the world. In his business tours through the northern counties he carried large stores of tracts and attracted attention to his object by ringing a small bell as he entered a village or town, and by exhibiting in large letters on his wagon religious mottoes and warnings to "repent." In these trips he acted as agent for the American Tract Society, and founded auxiliary branches of the society. He died in Schenectady, April 13, 1837.

* It was a very plain, barn-like structure, three stories high, with no cornice whatever. It remained as built until 1854, when Gerrit Smith remodeled it,  taking care to leave as much as possible of the original design and workmanship.

 

His body was removed to Peterboro some years subsequently and buried in the family plot of the public cemetery, where a plain marble slab lying on a pedestal tells the dates of birth and death. He was a man of small stature, nervous features and piercing eye. He judged human nature accurately and was seldom imposed upon. He owned a few slaves during his residence in Peterboro.

 

TOWN OFFICERS, ETC.  The first town meeting was held April 7, 1807, "in the school-house near David Cook's," in that part of the town now included in Fenner. The polls were open three days, and the number of votes cast was over 200. A good many votes were "challenged" on the property test. Daniel Petrie was elected town clerk and Peter Smith, supervisor, after a very warm contest. Large quantities of whiskey were furnished on this occasion and in subsequent years, yet when (in 1846,) the question of license was brought before the town it was opposed by 158 votes to 51 in favor.

 

Among the legislation of the town we find many curious measures passed, and much of the phraseology is quaint indeed. Thus in 1813, on the proposition to set off a part of the county for the formation of a new county between Onondaga and Madison, the vote was almost unanimous on this resolution:

 

Resolved, That we do highly disapprobate measures taken to half-shire this county.

 

In 1830 it was

 

Resolved, That fences shall be 4 1/2 feet high and well proportioned.

 

In 1845 the sum of $5 was raised to reimburse Jacob Spencer, poormaster, who had been so unfortunate as to take a counterfeit note in payment of interest on the Poor fund.

 

At the first State election held in the town the total vote for Governor was 203, of which Daniel D. Tompkins received 89 and Morgan Lewis 114.

 

The town officers for 1880 are:

Supervisor   R. J. Hollenbeck.

Clerk   W. E. Coe.

Justices   George W. Coe, T. F. Petrie, Chester Austin.

Assessors   John G. Sanders, Coman Rich, Joseph Rice.

Collector   Orvil Clark.

Highway Commissioner   E. E. Johnston.

Overseer of Poor   Carlos B. Palmer.

Constables   Orvil Clark, L. B. Faulkner.

 

Supervisors from 1807 to 1880: 1807, Peter Smith, Roswell Glass; 1808-10, Asa Dana; 1811-13, Elisha Carrington; 1814-19, Nehemiah Huntington; 1820, Daniel M. Gilbert; 1821-4, Nehemiah Huntington; 1825, Elisha Carrington; 1826-9, Nehemiah Huntington; 1830-4, Daniel Dickey; 1835, John M. Messinger; 1836-8, Czar Dikeman; 1839, Daniel Dickey; 1840-2, John G. Curtis; 1843, Stafford Green; 1844, George W. Ellinwood; 1845, Silas W. Tyler; 1846-7, James Barnett; 1848-9, Alexander McGregor; 1850, Amzi G. Hungerford; 1851-3, Caleb Calkins; 1854, Isaac Bartlett; 1855-6, Chas. D. Miller; 1857-8, Joseph E. Morgan; 1859-60, Abi A. Phipps; 1861-2, James Riley Stone; 1863, Alex. McGregor; 1864-6, Abi A. Phipps; 1867-9, Edward Bliss; 1870, W. J. Wilbur; 1871, Gerrit S. Miller; 1872-4, R. J. Hollenbeck; 1875-7, James G. Messinger; 1878-9, Alex. O. Johnston; 1880, R. J. Hollenbeck.

 

 

POPULATION

 

The population of the town in 1870 was 1,227, distributed as follows: Native born, 1,171; foreign born, 56; white, 1,147; colored, 80; male, 608; female, 619.

 

The population in 1880 was 1,219, a decrease of 8 in ten years, distributed as follows: Native born, 1,178; foreign born, 41; white, 1,152; colored, 67; male, 642; female, 577. There were living in the town in 1880 forty-five persons older than 70 years, and one older than 90 years  Dolly Inman, who was born in 1783.

 

 

PETERBORO

 

Peterboro is the Rome of Smithfield. It is an unincorporated village of somewhat over 200 inhabitants, located at the intersection of the Oneida turnpike and the Morrisville stone road. Its business at present (1880) comprises the following stores and shops:

 

W. E. Coe, drugs and groceries; W. C. Ives, general merchandise; Thomas O. Taylor, hardware and tin; Lucius P. Faulkner, meat market; Hiram Hadden, shoe shop and shoe store; P. H. Rich, shoe shop; C. H. Ostrander, harness shop; H. McWilliams, tailor; J. N. Woodbury, dry-goods, groceries, etc.; Joseph Carlon, blacksmith shop; David DeVan, wagon shop; Robert Torrey, blacksmith shop; H. B. Bush, veterinary surgeon; W. S. Martindale, proprietor of the Peterboro Hotel, the only hotel in the town of Smithfield; Jeremiah Bump & (???) Nevil, grist-mill and saw-mill; Coe, Campbell & Bump, cheese factory, (leased from D. I. Davis). Jas. Livingston, whose sister Elizabeth was Mrs. Peter Smith, opened the first store, 1801, in his tavern, mentioned farther along, and continued to trade in general supplies several years. In 1801, also, Daniel Petrie came from Herkimer county, and opened a store. Other merchants have been: William Solon and Myron Taylor, Elisha Carrington, Royal and Dorman Cooper, Asa Raymond, Chas. H. Cook, Peter Skenandoah Smith, Samuel Forman, Dunham & Clink, Harry Curtis, J. G. Curtis, Eliphalet Aylesworth, Ives & Woodbury, Dr. N. C. Powers, Andrew S. Douglass, Dr. A. C. Baum, Dr. Watson, Jas. R. Barnett, Charles Cutler, John A. Campbell, Wm. T. Marcey, (???) Hyde, W. C. Ives, Chas. N. Snow. A co-operative store was in operation about 1840, the stockholders of which were some twenty farmers.

 

 

POSTMASTERS

 

The postmasters of Peterboro have been: Daniel Petrie, Nehemiah Huntington, Joseph S. Palmer, John M. Messinger, N. C. Powers, Harvey Williams, Oliver Williams, A. C. Stone, Thos. Petrie, Andrew Douglass, Emmet Coe.

 

 

MANUFACTURES

 

At present there is no manufacturing of any sort carried on in Peterboro or in the town of Smithfield, except at the cheese factories, but early in the history of the village many of the industries flourished. The most important of the works established here was the glass factory. No one now living in the town can recollect the date of its starting, and no records of its existence are to be found. The day book of an early merchant for the year 1809 contains entries of "whiskey for the glass blowers," and there are reasons for believing that the factory was erected about 1808, by Peter Skenandoah Smith, with money furnished by his father, Judge Smith. How long the builder continued as proprietor is not known, but in 1811 it was operated by Smith & Solon, and afterwards a company owned it, the principal members of which were Peter S. Smith, Wm. Solon, Daniel Petrie, O. S. Wilcoxen. The fuel used was wood gathered from the neighboring hills, and a part of the sand used was obtained from the beach of Oneida Lake. As wood became scarce close by the village another factory was built, two miles distant, and both were kept in operation for the manufacture of window glass, which found a market in Albany and New York. The largest of the works contained twelve pots, and both together employed over 100 hands. In 1819 the firm of Backus & Fenn, (W. H. Backus, son of the President of Hamilton College, and Dr. Fenn,) obtained possession of the property, and continued the business on a smaller scale until 1829 or 1830, when the furnaces were blown out and never relighted. The business was never profitable, owing to inconvenience of location, and a large amount of capital was consumed in sustaining it. The buildings are still in existence and well preserved, being used for farm barns. The business called to Peterboro a large number of skilled artisans, and during the years of its continuance, (from 1820 to 1830,) the population was larger than it has been at any time since.

 

The earliest manufactory was of course a distillery. The first was started in 1802 by a company composed of Daniel Petrie, Oliver S. Wilcoxen, John Downer, Peter Webber, Elisha Carrington. The building stood about 100 rods south from the Smith residence. This distillery was discontinued before 1813. Another was built in 1814 by Elisha Carrington, and operated by one Salisbury. It ceased operations about 1830.

 

A tannery was built in 1810 in the eastern part of the village by Benj. Wilber, who employed some 15 hands until about 1830, when it was discontinued. The bark mill belonging to it stood near the eastern end of the bridge and was removed quite recently.

 

Abner Hall & Son in 1836 built a tannery on the site of the present gardens of the Downer residence, and kept it in operation until a short time before the War of the Rebellion. Gerrit Smith bought it and tore it down to get rid of the stench.

 

About 1801 or 1802 a small grist and saw-mill was built by Wm. Sayles near the site of Greene Smith's bird house. It was owned by Peter Smith and continued in operation until a few years before Gerrit Smith built the present mill, in 1850, which Mr. Raymond operated for a number of years for the builder. Another grist-mill was built a few years after the first one.

 

Samuel Stranahan in 1807 purchased the privilege of building a dam across the stream near the site of Mr. G. S. Miller's residence and built there a fulling mill the same year. He sold the mill and water privilege in 1816 to Perry G. Palmer and Wolcott Skidmore, who operated it in company two years, and then Mr. Palmer bought the entire business and continued alone five years. In 1825, finding the work unprofitable, he took down the building and erected a short distance below it a shingle mill and saw-mill, which he operated 22 years and then traded it for a farm near the village, on which he still resides. A carding-mill and a "clothier's works," Mr. Skidmore's, were among the early industrial establishments of the village and in connection with the distilleries were cooper shops, one on the Haddon place, the other at the distillery and owned by Eliphalet Vibbard. A short distance north from the village, George Peck had a small machine shop and wood working shop, and there, in 1836, he invented the machine for cutting barrel staves, an invention which has revolutionized the cooper's work.

 

 

PHYSICIANS

 

Dr. Elijah Pratt settled in Peterboro, in 1801, and was the only physician in the town for a number of years. He also taught a private school. In 1813 he was sheriff of the county and in that capacity executed the Indian murderess, Mary Antoine. He moved west in 1814. Dr. Phineas Lucas was the next physician. He came in 1804 from Connecticut and died in 1806, at the age of 32. Dr. John Dorrance, also from the east, succeeded him and remained until his death in 1855. Dr. R. Nash took up his residence in Peterboro in 1807. Drs. Stevens, Messenger, Mason, Watson, Joel, Norton and Powers (late of Syracuse) have practiced here at various times. The physicians at present in practice are Drs. M. S. Jones and F. E. Dewey.

 

 

LAWYERS

 

No lawyers reside in the town at present. In times past there have been a number of able and noted lawyers in Peterboro, among them Nehemiah Huntington, Greene C. Bronson, A. C. Stone, Harmonias Vanvleck, Wm. Stone, Gerrit Smith.

 

 

HOTELS

 

The old Livingston House, built in 1801, by James Livingston, stood on the ground now forming the eastern end of the "green" immediately in front of its present location. It fronted toward the west and had large barns and sheds in the rear. This house was kept as a tavern until after 1850, and passed through many hands; finally it became the property of the present owner, Eliphalet Aylesworth who moved it to its present position. In this house about one-fourth of the town meetings have been held and in it the condemned Indian girl, Mary Antoine, was confined the night before her execution in 1813 by hanging, the only woman ever executed in Madison county.

 

In 1830, through the aid offered by Gerrit Smith, David Ambler erected a hotel on the corner of the Smith grounds, west from the land office, which was conducted as a temperance house for about two years, but without profit. It was the first temperance hotel in the State and Mr. Smith felt so warm an interest in the success of the experiment that he bought it a few years later to save it from being continued as a dram shop and subsidized it at different times, but to his dismay and sorrow the people shunned it and only by selling liquor either publicly or under cover could it be made profitable. Between 1855 and 1860, Mr. Smith bought it once more and removing the building, together with two stores adjoining, added the ground to his lawn. About the same time Mr. Smith built a neat hotel fronting on the "green" at the west end and gave it free of rent to any one who would keep a good hotel and pledge not to sell liquor. The same experience was repeated in this case and the house was closed before Mr. Smith's death. The property was sold to Mr. Jeremiah Bump, who has built on the site a beautiful private residence.

 

The present hotel, kept by W. S. Martindale, has been in existence but a few years; it has license for the sale of beer and wine, the first license granted in the town since 1846.

 

 

SCHOOLS

 

Before the establishment of the common school system Peterboro had been the seat of a number of select schools, the earliest of which was the one taught by Miss Tabitha Havens about 1800. Of the six or seven pupils of that school not one remains. Miss Havens was subsequently married to James Tucker and moved into the western part of the county. In very early times Miss Ambler kept a small school, and afterwards a Miss Webster, cousin to Noah Webster. In 1822 a Mr. Johnson had a select school in the Aylesworth residence. In 1815 Elizabeth Kelly had a school for small children in the Robbins house. The first district school-house was erected about 1807; it was a small frame building and stood on the lot occupied by the Hoffman residence. In 1836 it was found necessary to build a larger house and the site of the present school was selected. During the administration of Mr. Roberts*, the house was burned and the building in use was soon afterwards erected. The first house was removed to Mr. Palmer's farm and stood until 1878, when it was taken down.

* Mr. Roberts during his life burnt three school-houses through carelessness.

 

Peterboro Academy was built in 1853 by subscriptions amounting to some $2,500. The building now occupied as the Orphans' Home was erected, and under the charter bearing date of Jan. 23, 1853, the following board of trustees were elected: James Johnson, Gerrit Smith, Caleb Calkins, James Barnett, Samuel Wells, W. C. Powers, Nehemiah Huntington, Albert E. Coe, R. Northrup, A. C. Stone, Joseph Sims. The number of students the first year, commencing in November, 1853, was 42, and the expenses for the year amounted to $319. The value of the property, including lot (which was presented by Gerrit Smith), library of 200 volumes, apparatus, etc., was estimated above $4,500. The principals from the first year to the present time have been: Professors Port, Calkins (L. G.), Washburne, Copeland, Powell, Clemenson, Avery, Dayton, Griffith, Flagg, Bridge, Parr, Place, Wells, Southworth. The average term of service has thus been less than two years.

 

In 1864 the Academy received an endowment of over $15,000 (mentioned elsewhere,) the income from which, less a reserve of $300 given to the poor, yields for the support of the school about $800. The balance of the annual expenses is paid by a tuition charge of $4.50 or $5 a term to all students who are able to pay. The trustees for 1880 are: W. C. Ives, President; Edward Bliss, Secretary and Treasurer; Joseph Bliss, Hon. Caleb Calkins, Hon. Gerrit S. Miller, James G. Messenger, Alden Record, John Dorrance, Conrad Ingalls, Jeremiah Bump, Greene Smith**.  The principal for 1880-1 is Wm. Ingalls, A. B., a graduate of Cornell University. At the time of receiving the endowment the trustees had the Academy named Evans Academy, in honor of its benefactor.

** Died July 23, 1880, at his residence in Peterboro, of consumption.

 

In 1871 Gerrit Smith bought the stock in the Academy at 29 per cent and transferred the lot and building to the Home, at that time organizing, and bought the unused Presbyterian church building (the lot already belonged to him by lapse of title,) and by the expenditure of $7,000 upon it converted it into a convenient school building, with a town hall above. This property he deeded to the trustees of the Academy, and is to revert to his estate whenever perverted to any other use.

 

 

CHURCHES

 

The Baptist Church of Smithfield was organized Feb. 14, 1807, by a council composed of Elder John Peck, Brothers Joseph Cooley, Abel Ainsworth, Solomon Merrick, Anthony Howe, and Robert Nickerson, of Cazenovia; Deacon Ephraim Munger, O. Bronson and Moses Clark, of Smithfield; Elder Ora Butler, Nehemiah Jones, Samuel Wittemore and William Grant, of Westmoreland. Jacob Cropsey, Joseph Black, Samuel Barnum, Joseph Ives, John Demott, Mary Barnum, Rachel Black, Phebe Demott and Rhoda Burnett were the original members. Samuel Barnum and Joseph Black were chosen deacons in 1809, and the Society was for two years under the leadership of Joseph Cropsey, as lay pastor. Services were held in the schoolhouse. In 1810 Elder Roswell Beckwith became pastor, and three years later he was associated on a circuit with Elder Moore, they preaching alternately in Peterboro. In November 1816, Dyer D. Ransom was ordained and appointed to preach at a salary of $60 a year. During the anti-masonic controversy the Society suffered almost to the point of dissolution and was very greatly weakened. By the interposition of sister Baptist societies in the county the breach was repaired and the church grew rapidly again. When Peter Smith disposed of his property in 1819 he presented to the Society a lot adjoining the old cemetery and a building was erected thereon the next year at a cost of $1,500. In 1832 the membership was nearly 250, over 100 having been admitted during that year under the pastorate of Elder Ford. About 1840 the Society commenced to decline, owing to various causes, and continued to weaken until 1866, when service was finally discontinued. The last pastor was Elder Woods. The property still remains in the Society's ownership, and the trustees last elected hold their office through failure to elect their successors; they are Benjamin Bailey, L. W. Jones and W. C. Ives. About twenty Baptists reside in the vicinity of Peterboro, and there is a probability that the church organization may some day be resuscitated.

 

The Presbyterian Church of Smithfield was organized in 1806 and was under the spiritual guidance of Rev. Joshua Johnson, a teacher in the public school. He remained in charge of the church a number of years. The membership was over twenty at first and in the best days of the church reached 200. Services were held in the schoolhouse until about 1812, when the little session house (still in existence as a residence,) was built. Peter Smith gave the Society a lot and other assistance in 1819, and the fine church edifice, now used as an academy, was erected. The church began to decline about 1840, and in 1870 it was dissolved, during the pastorate of Rev. Pindar Fields.

 

The Church of Peterboro was instituted in 1843 through the promulgation of Mr. Smith's idea that the true church should be free from ecclesiastical ruling and from the requirement of uniform acceptance of creed and tradition. His views were extensively circulated in printed pamphlets and had the effect of estranging many from the denominational organizations. In 1847 he erected a small chapel, which cost about $1,000. He placed it at the disposal of clergymen of all sects, and no organized society whatever was at first thought of and no regular pastorate. Preachers were to be paid as their necessities required and their work warranted, and not by pre-arranged stipulation for a salary. The first stated pastor was Hiram P. Crozier, who remained two years and was then requested to resign on account of his teachings, which, being purely atheistic, did not in the opinion of the church, tend to influence the community for good or to advance truth. The stated pastors succeeding him were, in order of time: Samuel Wells, Timothy Stowe, Francis Hawley, (father of Gov. Hawley, of Connecticut, and an accepted elder in the Baptist denomination, who held all the doctrines of the church, but disagreed with the church practices,) and C. A. Hammond, now of Syracuse. Among the clergymen who have officiated occasionally are found the names of the late Rev. Samuel J. May, Rev. S. R. Calthrop, Rev. O. B. Frothingham. In the meetings the utmost freedom of speech was encouraged, and whoever felt constrained to utter an opinion on any question was welcome to speak. The expenses of the services were defrayed by collections, and all deficiencies were made up by donations from Mr. Smith. Since 1874 the rector of the Canastota Episcopal Church has held services in the chapel occasionally Sabbath afternoons, but others are welcome to use the house.

 

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Peterboro was organized in 1854, through the efforts of Avery H. Forte, the first class-leader. The membership was small and scattered. Services were held at various places in the village until 1858, when a small frame church was erected at a cost of $2,200. The first pastor of the society was Rev. A. L. York; the present pastor is Rev. T. W. Tooke. The membership at present is nearly one hundred; for a considerable time previous to 1879 it had but a single male member, the original class-leader, who still holds that office. The trustees are John Campbell and Henry Berry; the stewards are A. H. Forte, Philemon Tucker, John Campbell; district steward, John Campbell. The Sabbath school was organized the first year of the church's existence and has an average attendance of 65 scholars. The superintendent in 1879-'80 was Prof. L. N. Southworth. One of the teachers, Mrs. Forte, has held her position since 1854. Hon. Gerrit Smith acted as superintendent the last year of his life.

 

 

SOCIETIES

 

Post Daniel Torrey, No. 144, G. A. R. was instituted Feb. 22, 1880, with twenty comrades mustered. Officers were elected as follows: P. C., James N. Green; S. V. C., Wm. E. Matteson; J. V. C., John A. Campbell; Adjt., H. Niles Harrington; Q. M., C. V. Palmer; Surgeon, David DeVan; Chap., R. E. Torrey; O. D., S. L. Johnson; O. G., Albert Robbins; S. M., Henry Rickard; Q. M. S., Neal Eastman.

 

Peterboro Lodge No. 246, I. O. G. T., was instituted in May, 1880, with a membership of fifty. Meetings are held Wednesday evenings. The officers are: W. C. T., Elisha Johnson; W. V. T., Mrs. A. C. Hadden; P. W. C. T., S. Downer; Chap., R. E. Torrey; Finan. Sec., N. Ostrander; Rec. Sec., N. S. Jones; O. G., T. Taylor; I. G., Mrs. N. S. Jones, Treas., Mrs. Shafer; R. S., Mrs. Petrie; L. S., Mrs. Ives; Ass't Sec., Minnie Dorrance; Marshal, Charles Osborn; Deputy Marshal, Loneda Downer.

 

A lodge of Free Masons was instituted in Peterboro before 1813. The charter members were Samuel Stranahan, Daniel Petrie, John Downer, Wm. Downer, John Hall, Wm. P. Barrett, Mason Cole, Fred Myers, B. Wilber, Silas Sayles, John and Eli Mason. The first Master was Daniel Petrie, the last was Mason Cole. The charter was surrendered in 1826.

 

The Home for Destitute Children of Madison Co., though a county institution and superintended by the board of supervisors, is a product of Mr. Smith's philanthropy. He donated the lot and building and added ten acres of good land which is worked by the boys of the Home. It was incorporated in the spring of 1871, and fifteen children were brought to it from the County Poor House. Under its charter a board of officers is chosen annually and the accounts are all audited by the supervisors, who also appoint annually a visiting committee. The first managers were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Blakeman, who were in 1876 succeeded by Mr. and Mrs. Philemon Tucker. The number of children received, dismissed (to permanent homes, returned to parents or sent out on trial,) and the number deserting, we give as follows:

 

 

1871

‘72

‘73

‘74

‘75

‘76

‘77

‘78

‘79

Total

No. Received

23

19

9

18

18

27

35

33

34

216

No. Dismissed

10

7

4

11

25

16

34

30

20

157

No. Deserting

0

3

0

2

0

1

0

3

8

17

 

There are at present in the home 49 children, only 12 of whom are girls, only one of whom is an orphan. The highest number ever in the home at one time has been 52. The institution has a library of 230 volumes, suitable for the children, the accumulation of generosity, and instruction is given daily. At one time a number of children were taken to board in the Home, but this practice has now ceased. The value of the property is $13,000. A legacy of $130 has been received from Miss Roberts and another of $1,357.87 from Lucy Miller. The annual cost of maintenance is about $3,000.

 

 

NEWSPAPERS

 

The Madison Freeholder was established in 1808 by Judge Smith who employed Jonathan Bunce to edit it. This was a small six column sheet of four pages. The earliest copy known to exist at present bears date of November, 1811. The name was in 1811 changed to The Freeholder, and in 1813 to the Madison County Herald, which title it retained until about 1819, when publication was discontinued. Mr. Bunce sustained a job printing office for some time, but was finally burned out. The Washingtonian movement brought into existence in Peterboro the Madison County Temperance Union, edited by William B. Downer, a monthly, which became the Maine Law Journal after a few months. It received feeble support and was discontinued in 1852. In 1854 the Christian and Citizen was established by Messrs. Walker and Pruyn* and continued about three years, advocating abolition, temperance and political reform. Like its predecessors it proved unprofitable and succumbed.

* Abram Pruyn, a noted anti-slavery advocate, a minister and very fluent orator. He carried on a discussion of slavery with Parson Brownlow in the prints and afterwards met that noted man in debate at Philadelphia. He died in Wayne county.

 

 

CEMETERIES

 

The old Peterboro cemetery adjoining the Baptist church property, was laid out about 1805, but no association was formed for its control. A part of it has been leveled. The new cemetery, containing about two acres of ground, was laid out before 1850, the land having been given to the public by Mr. Smith.

 

 

SILOAM

Siloam is a small hamlet on the Oneida turnpike, two and one-half miles east from Peterboro. A grist-mill and a small bottling works for putting up beer are the only branches of business in operation. The Cowasselon Creek flows through the place and affords a strong power. As early as 1804 a tavern was erected by Joseph Black for the accommodation of his men employed in building the turnpike. In 1808 Sam Ellinwood and Mr. Black's son John built a better house and kept it many years as a tavern. Jeremiah Ellinwood and Elijah Manly built a grist-mill in 1810. The same year Ellinwood and David Coe built a sawmill. Black and Alexander Ostrander built a store, and about the same time a post-office was established which was continued until after 1856. The tide of travel along the road created a demand for liquor, and a distillery was very early established by Samuel Ellinwood, also a brewery. The building of the Chenango canal increased this demand and from 1824 until about 1830 three distilleries and two breweries were kept busy.

 

The Baptist Society of Ellinwood Hollow (the name of the place at that time,) was organized in 1820 with a membership of 45. A church building was erected the next year. Dyer D. Ransom, of the Peterboro church, was the first pastor, and he was succeeded by Elder P. P. Beman, who held the position ten years, and at the time of his resignation the membership was over 100. The name Siloam was given to the place by Elder Beman, who fitted up the sulphur springs and advertised the place as a place of healing. It was visited by large numbers of invalids at one time and had a fame throughout all Central New York.

 

 

MILE STRIP

 

Mile Strip is a four corners a half mile from the northern line of Smithfield on the Stone road, containing a small blacksmith shop and a postal station.

 

In 1813 Oran Soper, an ingenious young mechanic, made in a small shop here the first steel hay forks ever made in the State. His invention made him famous, and he increased his facilities, continuing for a number of years the manufacture of forks and other farm implements.

 

The Mile Strip* Methodist Episcopal Society was organized as a "class" in the spring of 1830 by Rev. Isaac Puffer. Meetings had been for several weeks held by a local preacher, George R. Butler, and 63 persons had been converted. The society has been continued ever since, holding its services in the school-house, and since 1865 has been attached to the Peterboro charge. The pastor, Rev. T. W. Tooke preaches Sabbath afternoons.

* A strip of land one mile wide between Lenox and the New Petersburg tract, extending from the Chittenango creek to the Oneida creek (12 miles) was by accident omitted from the original survey, and was afterward allotted and sold by the State under the name "Mile Strip Tract."

 

 

PROMINENT CITIZENS

 

GERRIT SMITH, second son of Peter and Elizabeth Smith, was born in Utica, N. Y., March 6, 1797, and came to Peterboro in advance of his parents in 1806. In childhood he worked in the little carding mill near his father's house, but was quite early sent away to Clinton Academy, and on completing the college preparatory course of study, entered Hamilton college and was graduated therefrom in August, 1818. During the year after graduation (Jan. 15, 1819,) he was united in marriage with Miss Wealtha A. Backus, whose father, Dr. Azel Backus, first president of Hamilton College, had died in 1816. Mr. Smith established a pretty little home in Peterboro, and was intending soon to commence the study of law for a profession, but was diverted from this purpose first by the sudden death of his wife, which occurred Aug. 15, 1819, and a few months later by the transfer of all his father's property and business to his hands, which determined his course in life, kept him from the study of law and from the pursuit of literature, for which he had shown an ardent desire. He married for his second wife, Jan. 3, 1822, Miss Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, daughter of Wm. Fitzhugh, of Livingston Co., N. Y., formerly of Maryland*.

* Seven children were born to them, only one of whom remains  Mary, wife of Col. Charles D. Miller, of Geneva, N. Y., whose son, Hon. Gerrit S. Miller, resides in Peterboro, a successful and enterprising farmer and business man, highly esteemed in the county. Greene Smith (born in 1842, died July 23, 1880,) inherited the family homestead and resided in the mansion until his death.

 

Gerrit Smith's life was so full of events and so intimately related to important movements in the history of the nation during a half century that a complete summary of it is impossible in these pages.

 

Three leading ideas governed his career; liberty, independence and integrity. He was brought up a Presbyterian and accepted the doctrines of Calvinism at first without question. His first questioning of the faith arose from the indifference of the Christian church to the two evils of great magnitude that seemed to him of paramount importance; slavery and intemperance. At an early age he showed aversion to the prevailing habit of drunkenness, and declared himself an advocate of suppression of liquor selling through legal enactment, a position that he retained to the end of his life. Opposition to secret societies he manifested while in college, and during the anti-masonic conflict (1826-'7,) he took strong ground against the order, and never receded from his active opposition during his life. It was on this issue that he entered into politics as anti-masonic candidate for State Senator in 1831. Politics as a profession he abhorred and tolerated political parties only as a means for the accomplishment of some good moral end. Yet he was the founder of two parties and was four times nominated for the Presidency of the United States, twice for the Governorship of New York, and once for Member of Congress from Oswego and Madison counties. The Liberty Party was organized under his leadership at Arcade, Wyoming County, in 1840, and continued in existence until the war. Mr. Smith was its nominee for President in 1848 and 1851. The Industrial Congress nominated him also in 1848 and the Land Reform party in 1856. The Anti-Slavery convention in Syracuse in 1840 nominated him for Governor, and again in 1858. Of all these nominations he accepted only the last, and he entered into the canvass of the State with vigor. After having spent three months in constant labor for the success of the ticket and upwards of $5,500, he received the mere handful of 5,446 votes.

 

His election to Congress in 1852 was by 8,049 votes to 6,206 for the Democratic and 5,020 for the Whig candidate. The nomination had been accepted only from a sense of duty and he entered Congress against his inclination. After the first session, which continued ten months, in which he made himself illustrious by his bold eloquence, especially in opposition to the Nebraska bill, he resigned on account of poor health and the demands of his business. The Anti-Dram-shop party was organized at Peterboro, in 1842, through his influence and still exists as the National Prohibition party. While he spoke unreservedly against the churches because of their insincerity and formalism as well as their reluctance to forward the cause of moral reform, yet he was the most devout in his life, and might have been called excessively religious.

 

The amount of his gifts to charity and education, in large part for the uplifting of the colored race, amounted to about $200,000. Though opposed to bloodshed, he heartily supported the Government during the civil war, and after its close, counseled moderation in the treatment of the southern people. After the emancipation proclamation he joined the Republican Party. His interest in Republican success continued till his death.

 

His intellect was powerful but his intellectual training was narrow. He read very little except current news and opinions. This made him one of the most original of thinkers, but failed to endow him with broad judgment. His will was iron, and no discouragement could unnerve him, but this very persistence in pursuing an idea against all opposition kept him ever in the minority and defeated himself. He was too staunch and self-willed for statesmanship, too conscientious for politics, too sympathetic for any place of eminence, but in the truest sense a philanthropist.

 

He died Dec. 28, 1874, in New York City; whither he had gone to spend the Christmas holidays and was buried in Peterboro the 31st. His wife survived him only three months.

 

Peterboro has had many able and noted citizens aside from Mr. Smith. Among them were Judge Bronson; Hon. H. S. Foster, who rose from a boyhood of poverty  a shoemaker by trade  to occupy a position of prominence at the bar and a seat in Congress; William Evans, a lad thrown on the town to support, who went early in life to Boston, engaged in contracting and real estate speculation, and returned to Peterboro one autumn day to celebrate the 47th anniversary of his birth by presenting to the town $10,000 in payment of two days' board and lodging at the public expense while he was in charge of the poormaster as a vagrant; and Asahel C. Stone, one of the most prominent lawyers of his time in the State. Of the men who have borne a conspicuous part in Peterboro's history, very few remain at this day; some of them have been mentioned in the foregoing pages, others we briefly mention here.

 

Hon. Caleb Calkins was born in Aurora, Erie Co., N. Y., Feb. 28, 1814, the son of a farmer. He received a solid education at the Springfield Academy, which he attended during a number of winters, and under private instruction. In 1835 he entered Hamilton College and remained there two years. A somewhat exciting occurrence* caused him to retire from his class, and he entered Union College, where he studied one term and then retired to teach for the winter. In the spring of '38 he received a letter from Gerrit Smith requesting him to become his confidential secretary. The position was accepted and he has remained in the service of Mr. Smith and his administrators ever since. He was more familiar with the affairs of the large estate than Mr. Smith himself. Three times he has held the office of Justice of the Peace, and in 1866 was elected to the Assembly by the Republicans. He is a man of literary taste and rare business ability, a perfect gentleman and an independent thinker.

* Mr. Calkins circulated among the students a petition praying the State Legislature to pass a resolution against the law permitting fugitive slaves to be recaptured within nine years after their escape. The president of the college was at the time seeking a favor of the Legislature, and this petition thwarted his hopes of success. He required the signers to retract their action. Mr. Calkins alone refused to do this, and received an honorable dismission.

 

Perry G. Palmer is the oldest living resident of Peterboro. He was born in Stephentown, Rensselaer County, Sept. 9, 1791. His early connections with the manufacturing interests of the village have been mentioned. He subsequently entered into woolen manufacturing in the town of Lenox, and by the high tariff was ruined. Retiring to Peterboro he managed by hard work to pay his creditors and to secure a small farm on which he is spending his last days. He held the office of Justice, and for twelve years was Commissioner of State Loans and Commissioner of Deeds.

 

General Thomas F. Petrie was born in Herkimer County, June 1, 1809, son of Peter Petrie, and came to Peterboro with his father in 1811, where he has resided ever since, except six years. He has taken an active part in politics on the Democratic side and is an officer in the State militia, having held all ranks from Captain to Brigadier-General, which he holds at present as supernumerary. He is the nearest living relative of General Herkimer. His memory of past occurrences is acute and as accurate as a record.

 

A person long identified with the interests of Peterboro was Elizabeth H. Kelty, who was born in Morrisania, Westchester County, Jan. 20, 1791, and came to Peterboro in 1811, from Oneida County. She was at first employed as a teacher of a private and afterwards of the public school, and about 1828 or 1829 entered the family of Gerrit Smith as general housekeeper. Being a woman of literary taste and generous nature, she became his valuable adviser and critic of his writings, and the almoner of his generosity. She was personally known to every family in Smithfield. For twelve years she was appointed to distribute among the worthy poor of the town the $300 set apart annually from the income of the Evans fund for that purpose. Many of Mr. Smith's benevolent enterprises and benefactions were suggested by "Aunt Betty."  She died Feb. 12, 1880.

 

 

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