TOWN OF STOCKBRIDGE

 

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

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

 

Stockbridge was formed from Vernon and Augusta, in Oneida County, and Smithfield and Lenox in Madison County, May 20, 1836, and is named from the Stockbridge Indians who were the owners and occupants of most of the town at a former day. It lies upon the east border of the County, north of the center, and is bounded on the north by Lenox and Vernon, on the east by Vernon and Augusta, on the south by Eaton and Madison, and on the west by Lenox and Smithfield. Its surface is a rolling upland broken by the deep, beautiful and fertile valley of Oneida creek, which extends north and south through the central part of the town. The summits of the hills, which consist of two continuous ranges, bordering the valley of Oneida creek, are from 500 to 800 feet above the valley, which, in its course through most of the town, has a uniform width of about a mile, but expands from the north part till it merges into the spacious plain which characterizes the northern part of the town of Lenox. The hills slope gradually upward from their base and are tillable to their summits; with their alternations of forest, cultivated field and meadow land they present most magnificent landscapes. Oneida creek is the only important stream. Its main branch rises in the town of Smithfield, traverses that town diagonally from north-west to southeast, and enters this in the south west part, uniting with the direct branch south of the center of the town. Its course down the west hill to the valley and the junction with its confluent is marked by a succession of rapids and low falls, presenting a series of varied and beautiful cascades amidst highly picturesque scenery, and furnishing numerous mill sites.

 

Stockbridge has extensive deposits of limestone and gypsum, both of which are quarried. The latter exists in the east ridge in the north part of the town, in the locality of Valley Mills, and the former in both the east and west hills in the southern and central parts of the town. Limestone is quarried and burned in various parts of the town. Caves exist in the limestone rock in the east ranges of hills, but have not, so far as we can learn, been explored to their greatest depth. Noxious gases, affected by the external condition of the atmosphere, have in a measure interfered with their exploration. Indentations in the rocks which form the bed of a small stream which courses down the east hill a little northeast of Munnsville, have been supposed to represent the footprints of human beings and domestic and other animals. They are not, however, well-defined foot-prints and require a vivid imagination to give them that resemblance. That they are not foot-prints is amply proven by the fact that within a foot of these markings have been found some of the characteristic fossils of the Limestone formation, notable among which may be mentioned the Cyathophyllum, a species of coral. These marks are probably due to the action of water; and it has been intimated that by the dexterous use of a hammer they have been made to more nearly resemble what they are claimed to represent for the purpose of deceiving the over credulous.

 

The soil is a gravelly and clayey loam. Hop raising and dairying form the chief pursuits of the people. In the production of hops, Stockbridge ranks second, as compared with the other towns in the County*; while it also takes a high rank in the extent and value of its dairy products. There are five factories for the manufacture of butter and cheese in the town, which use in the aggregate the milk from about 1,300 cows**.

* About 1,700 bales of hops were shipped from Munnsville Station during the year ending July, 1880, and a corresponding quantity from the two other stations in the town, while about one-eighth of the entire product was carted to Oneida and shipped from that point.

** These are: The Munnsville creamery, which occupies the Turner woolen factory, was converted to its present use about five years ago, by Avery, Wadsworth & Co., who sold in the spring of 1880 to Jeremiah B. Wadsworth, of Morrisville, a member of that firm, who is the present proprietor, and has a large line of creameries in different towns; the Stockbridge Creamery, which was converted from a tannery in the spring of 1880 by Jonathan M. Wilson, the present proprietor; the Valley Mills cheese factory, which was built about 1867 by Adelbert Pardee, who operated it one year and sold to Clinton Adams, the present proprietor; the Star factory, located in the northeast part of the town, which was built in 1875 by a stock company, who give W. Edson its use for fitting it up; and the Clark & LaMunion Creamery, situated in the southeast corner of the town, which was built in 1865 or '66 by the present proprietors, and is leased by L. C. Baker, of Solsville.

 

The New York, Ontario & Western railroad extends through the town upon the west slope of the east range of hills, and affords a fine view of the magnificent valley.

 

There are fifteen common school districts in the town. During the year ending Sept. 30, 1879, there were seventeen licensed teachers at one time during twenty-eight weeks or more. The number of children of school age residing in the districts at that date was 719. During that year there were eleven male and twenty-one female teachers employed; the number of children residing in the districts who attended school was 565; residing in other districts, 11; the average daily attendance during the year was 321,397; the number of volumes in district libraries was 433, the value of which was $85; the number of school-houses was fourteen, all of which were frame, which, with the sites, embracing 3 acres and 158 rods, valued at $800, were valued at $4,180; the assessed value of taxable property in the districts was $1,109,235.

 

Receipts and disbursements for school purposes:

 

Amount on hand Oct. 1, 1878 $ 49.06 

  Amount apportioned to districts 1,800.75 

  Proceeds of Gospel and school lands 2.14 

  Raised by tax 1,390.94 

  From teachers' board 203.00 

  From other sources 18.51 

     Total receipts $3,464.40 

  

Paid for teachers' wages $2,875.45 

  "          school apparatus 1.00 

  "          school-houses, fences, sites, out-houses, repairs, furniture, etc 215.96 

  "          incidental expenses 323.24 

Amount remaining on hand Sept. 30, 1879. 48.75 

Total disbursements $3,464.40 

 

The population of the town in 1875 was 1,967; of whom 1,752 were native, 215 foreign, 1,963 white, 4 colored, 1,002 males and 965 females. Its area was 18,881 acres; of which 15,440 acres were improved, 2,427 woodland, and 1,014 otherwise unimproved. The cash value of farms was $1,557,680; of farm buildings other than dwellings, $169,040; of stock, $161,751; of tools and implements, $37,982. The amount of gross sales from farms in 1874 was $285,667. In this respect it ranked as fifth as compared with other towns in the County.

 

Stockbridge was successively the home of the Oneida, Tuscarora and Stockbridge Indians, and was numerously inhabited by the latter on the advent of the European settlers, and for a generation after that date*.  The tract which constituted their landed possessions was purchased by them in 1784. It was six miles square and lay partly in this town and partly in Vernon, Oneida County. It was sold to the State in small parcels at various different times, until the whole of it was finally disposed of. From their contract with the pioneer settlers and those to whom they subsequently leased portions of their land, the Stockbridges engrafted on their social economy many of the customs of their white neighbors, and before they left this region had made considerable advances in the arts of civilized life. Therefore, though most of the town was not open to permanent settlement until a comparatively late date, much progress had been made in subjugating it to the uses of civilization. Under the physical and spiritual tutelage of Rev. John Sergeant, who accompanied them in their migration from their former home in Stockbridge, Mass., to their home in New Stockbridge, as this town was then called, they were prepared for and in some measure enabled to anticipate the needs of that influx of European emigration which soon followed their advent. In 1794, within three years after the advent of the first white settlers, they had constructed a grist-mill and saw-mill on Oneida Creek about fifteen rods above the present grist-mill at Valley Mills. These proved to be valuable aids to the early settlers in this locality, and remained in operation for several years. Mr. Sergeant early established a church among them, and in 1800 erected for their use the old meetinghouse now standing at Valley Mills.

* The last of the Stockbridge Indians left here in 1824.

 

The town was rich in relics of these former occupants and of a race who probably ante-dated them. Mural remains of a supposed Indian fort existed at an early day on the west hill in the south-west part of the town, but the once well-defined lines have been leveled by the plow and no trace of it now remains. It was nearly in the form of a square and inclosed something like an acre of ground. It has furnished numerous relics of war, the chase and of domestic life. Several supposed Indian burying grounds existed in the town, and all have been rich in similar relics as well as human remains. The principal one is in the locality of the council ground, which was on the farm located by William Taylor Gregg and on which he was succeeded by his son James H. Gregg. The farm is now occupied by Mr. Wells. Another lies intermediate between this and Munnsville, on the west declivity of the east hill; a third lies on the west hill, in the south-west part of the town; and a fourth in the north part of the town. In various parts of the town human remains have been exhumed by the plow and other agencies, some of them belonging to a race of people who possessed giant-like proportions, and were unknown to either the Stockbridge or Oneida Indians.

 

In the burying ground a mile southeast of Munnsville was found a small bone image of a woman, and here, as elsewhere, iron and steel axes, gun barrels, fragments of gun locks, brass kettles, tobacco pipes, various metallic ornaments, and other relics have been exhumed. Some of these are said to have borne Spanish inscriptions. In this connection it may not be inapposite to state that many years ago a pamphlet was printed purporting to give the history of a Spanish colony which landed upon the southern coast of this continent, beyond which authentic history does not trace them. In their wanderings they are represented to have penetrated the wilderness to the present town of Stockbridge, the contour of which was faithfully described, and there became extinct. Without intimating the measure of credence to which this affirmation is entitled we may add that there are other incidents which gives color to the supposition that a Spanish colony, or rather individuals who possessed those adventurous qualities which pre-eminently distinguished the Spaniards, reached in their wanderings the vicinity of Central New York, nearly contemporaneously with the permanent European colonization of the continent, but their origin, mission and fate are equally shrouded in that misty uncertainty which obscures much of our aboriginal history.

 

SETTLEMENTS

 

All of Stockbridge, except a strip about a mile in width on the south border, was included in the Indian Reservation, and the permanent pioneer settlements were confined to the lots in this strip east of Oneida creek. The rest of the town was settled permanently at a much later date, and that portion of it embraced in the reservation was first occupied as lease land.

 

The first settlement was made in 1791, probably by Nathan Edson, who came from New Hampshire with his sons John, Barney and Calvin, young unmarried men, and daughters Nancy, Sarah, Polly and Olive, the former of whom was married to Robert Seaver, who also came in with them. Nathan Edson took up the lot next north of the southeast corner lot of the town, and located where Jesse Bridge now lives. In 1820, he removed to a small farm leased to the Indians in the north part of the town, which now forms a part of the widow Miller's farm, and there resided till his death. All his children married and settled on the lot first taken up by him. John settled in the northeast corner of the lot, and removed soon after the great eclipse, in 1806, to the locality of Batavia. Barney removed soon after John to the same locality, and subsequently to Chautauqua County. Calvin continued to reside in this locality till his death, which occurred in the south edge of Lenox. Alford, another son of Nathan's, came in about a year later and located on the same lot, where Hiram Clark now lives. He afterwards removed to the south part of the town, and subsequently leased of the Indians a farm, which is now occupied by three or four individuals, the homestead by John True, where he died. Robert Seaver removed to Alexander, Genesee County, about the same time that John went to Batavia. Sarah married William Divine, and Polly, his brother John. William kept tavern a few years on that lot. He afterwards removed to and died in the west part of the State. The latter marriage  John Divine and Polly Edson, in 1793  was the first one contracted in town. John died young of consumption three or four years after his marriage, on the farm allotted to him by his father-in-law. The Divines came in soon after the Edsons. After John's death, Polly married Daniel Thurston, who succeeded him on the same farm, but afterwards removed to and died in the south part of the town. Olive Edson married Zenas Cole, who bought Calvin Edson's farm. He afterwards removed to Cincinnati and died there. Willard Edson, of Munnsville, son of Alford, is the only one of this name living in the town. Willard Edson was born here June 4, 1802, in a log-house, which stood on the site of Hiram Clarke's residence. His sister Sarah, wife of Madison Alby, is also living in the town. Only one other of the name is living in the County; Elam, son of Calvin Edson. Hiram, Marshall, Marquis (the latter two twins) and John Thurston, are the only other grand-children of Nathan's living in this town.

 

Oliver Stewart came with his family from Washington County a little later than Edson, about 1796 or '97, and settled on the lot next west of him, where William Howard now lives, and died there. His children were Lydia, who became the second wife of Alford Edson, Charles, Samuel, Ezra J., A. Cynthia, who married Charles Doolittle, Enos, Lucretia, who married David Brewer, Hannah and Ruth, the latter two of whom died young. All the children first settled in this town, but Ezra was the only one who married who continued to reside here till his death. Charles lived here till within a short time of his death, which occurred in Wisconsin. None of the family are left here. Martha, wife of William Babcock, youngest child of Charles Stewart, occupied the old homestead till within two or three years, then removed to Constantia, Oswego County, where she now resides.  She is the only one of the family now living in this vicinity. Charles Stewart held various town offices. Ezra J. Stewart died July 8, 1866, aged 73.

 

Jonathan Snow came from the same neighborhood, and soon after Nathan Edson. He settled on the southeast corner lot of the town, which has since been cut up into several farms. He died within a few rods of where he first settled. He had only two children  Oliver and a daughter, who married her cousin, Seth Snow, both of whom lived with their father till his death, when they removed to Oswego County. The Snows prided themselves on their ancestry, and evinced a partiality for marrying cousins, only one  who became the first wife of Alford Edson  having been known to violate this rule. To this fact is ascribed their mental and physical degeneracy, nearly all having possessed some physical defect. Not one of them is left.

 

William Sloan, George Bridge and James Taft came in from Washington County in this State. Sloan settled on a farm on the south part of the Edson lot, which he bought of a man named Gillett, who purchased of Edson, but remained only a short time. The farm is now occupied by Andrew Hollenbeck. Sloan cleared up the farm and afterwards went to live with his youngest son, Lyman, in the edge of Smithfield, where he died. His son William was a man of some prominence in the town of Smithfield. He was a Justice and held several other offices in that town. Others of his children were Josephus, the eldest, Abigail, who married Amos Bridge, Olive, who married William Farrington, John, Orange, who died young, and Betsey, who was demented. None of them are living.

 

George Bridge bought of Daniel Dickey the farm of Alford Edson, from whom it was purchased by Dickey about 1796 or '97. Dickey removed from here to Smithfield and died there. Bridge continued to reside on the farm till his death. His children were Amelia, who married Almyron House, Ephraim, Amos, Jonas, Jesse, George and Williams. Ephraim went west when young. Amos and Jonas settled in the north edge of Eaton, on the farm now owned by Harry Clark. George left the town when young. Jesse succeeded his father on the homestead and afterwards removed to Bouckville, where he died Dec. 1, 1862, aged 75, and Margaret, his wife, Aug. 12, 1859, aged 69. Williams settled in Stockbridge and died here Jan. 27, 1877, aged 81, and Mary, his wife, March 31, 1871, aged 73.

 

James Taft bought a small farm of Oliver Stewart, the one now occupied by the widow of Ezra Stewart, but did not remain here long.

 

Benajah House came from Connecticut and settled where James Marshall now lives, in the south part of the town. He cleared up his farm on which he was succeeded by his son, Almyron. He returned east, and afterwards went to Ohio where he was subsequently joined by his son, Almyron. He had three daughters; Temperance, who married Joseph Crosby, who settled on a part of the farm of his father, Stephen Crosby, in the south part of the town, Amelia, who married John Lawson, who settled in Smithfield, and Sally. None of the family are left here.

 

Matthew Rankin came in from the East and settled on the south part of the Jonathan Snow lot, where Elbridge La Munion now lives, and died there. His sons, Aaron and Jarius, settled on the same lot west of Snow. Aaron was a Justice of the Peace in Augusta before the erection of Stockbridge. He afterwards went West. Jarius was a physician, and the first of his profession to permanently locate in the town. He was a shillful practitioner and highly esteemed for his social qualities. He practiced medicine at Munnsville till near his death, which resulted from consumption, Nov. 2, 1832, at the age of 50. He built the first saw-mill on the site of Stringer, Barr & Co.'s works at Munnsville, about 1824, and operated it till his death. Ezra, Patty, who married Sylvester Chadwick, and Matthew, were children of Matthew Rankin by his second wife. Ezra died young; Matthew went West.

 

These constitute what may properly be considered the pioneer settlers of Stockbridge. Many of those who leased Indian lands became permanent settlers thereon after they became salable; but these mostly came in between the latter part of the first and the fore part of the third decade of this century.

 

New Guinea was a tract of 300 acres in the south part of the Indian Reservation in Stockbridge, the use of which was given by the Stockbridges to the Monawk Valley slaves, who became a numerous colony, outnumbering their Indian benefactors, and included among other families the Welches, Fiddlers, Baldwins, Cooks and Mitops. They came in soon after 1800 and remained till the Indian lands were sold to the State when the remnant dispersed.

 

TOWN OFFICERS

 

The first town meeting was held at Munnsville, June 7, 1836, and the following named officers were elected: Henry T. Sumner, Supervisor; Hiram Whedon, Clerk; Orin Wright, Justice; Elisha A. Clark, William Page and James Cowen, Assessors; John Hadcock and Thomas Wilson, Poormasters; Jesse Bridge, Luther Hathaway and John Potter, Commissioners of Highways; Orange R. Cook, Danforth Armour and Albert G. Bartholomew, School Commissioners; William Temple, Collector; William Temple, Levi Johnson and Jonathan Carter, Constables; Aaron Rankin, Ores Ranney and Ephraim C. Brown, School Inspectors; Clark Buck, Sealer of Weights and Measures.

 

Town Officers of 1880:

Supervisor  Grove S. Hinman.

Clerk  William J. Lyndon.

Justices  John J. Coville, David J. Merrill, George Potter.

Assessors  Cornelius C. White, J. Franklin Holdridge, Philip LaMunion.

Collector  William N. Davenport.

Constables  Clay Quackenbush, John Ottoway, Daniel A. Neff, Frederick Hodges, John Mulholland

Game Constable  Thomas A. Wilson.

Inspectors of Election  George E. Woods, Conrad Griner, John S. Moores.

 

The following have been the Supervisors and Clerks from the organization of the town:

                       SUPERVISORS                 CLERKS

  1836             Henry T. Sumner                Hiram Whedon 

  1837                       -do-                           Elisha A. Clark

  1838             Asaph Pratt                        O. R. Cook

  1839             Elisha A. Clark                   Aaron Rankin

  1840             Oren Wright                        Ebenezer Porter

  1841             Samuel W. Hull                           -do-

  1842             William Smith                     Walter Simmons

  1843-1844    Ebenezer Porter                  Clark Buck

  1845-1846             -do-                            Robert J. Merrill

  1847             Grove Hinman                    James S. Coggeshall

  1848             John McPherson                         -do-

  1849             John Potter                         Hiram Whedon

  1850                      -do-                            Denison Brown

  1851             Jonathan M. Forman          Abel H. Rawson

  1852             Peter H. Smith                    John H. Brooks

  1853             William Stringer                  Alvin Strong, 2nd

  1854             Abel H. Rawson                 John W. Coe

  1855             James H. Gregg                   Samuel W. Hull

  1856             John Cleveland                   Julius Treat

  1857             Jonathan M. Wilson           Warren Strong

  1858             Alvin Strong                       Jerome B. Mathewson

  1859-1860    Jonathan M. Wilson                    -do-

  1861             Alvin Strong                       Horatio Strong

  1862             Jonathan M. Wilson                    -do-

  1863             James H. Gregg                   Giles Sturdevant

  1864             Jonathan M. Wilson                    -do-

  1865-1866    Robert S. Barr                    Chaffee C. Horton

  1867-1868             -do-                            Horatio Strong

  1869-1870    Julius Treat                                  -do-

  1871-1872    A. Watson Armour            Alva H. Owen

  1873             William H. Stringer                       -do- 

  1874-1875             -do-                            Palmer W. Hinman

  1866-1868    A. Watson Armour            Alva H. Owen

  1879             Robert S. Barr                    William J. Lyndon

  1880             Grove S. Hinman                          -do-

 

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