By Holice and Debbie
Butternuts Firsts, Part 1
Among the first of the honored pioneers who sought a home in the western wilds was Abijah Gilbert, of honored memory. He emigrated from Warwickshire, England, to this country in about the year 1787, and soon joined an expedition to this locality under General Morris, who had accepted the agency of the Morris patent, and was to receive for his compensation the first choice of 1000 acres of land, leaving the second choice to Mr. Gilbert, who, in consequence of his superior knowledge of soils, notwithstanding, his disadvantage of choice, secured much the better tract of land, purchasing 1000 acres for $1000.
Joseph Cox, also from Warwickshire, England, who had accompanied Mr. Gilbert to New Jersey, after remaining there one year joined him in the new settlement, and Mr. Gilbert, assisted by Mr. Cox, cleared a small piece of land and built a log house near the present residence of J. R. Blackman, Esq., in the village of Gilbertsville. He subsequently erected a comfortable block house on what is now known as the Lee Hulbert farm.
Having secured a home in the western wilderness, in the year of 1796 Mr. Gilbert returned to England, and emigrated with his family to this country. They came by way of Springfield in a large wagon, stopping the first night at the spring on Deacon Jackson's farm, near Morris. The men stood around, keeping at bay the wolves, which treated the party to a most vociferous and discordant concert, at intervals, all the night long.
The wolves and other animals were not the only denizens of the forest in those days. The entire region was originally a part of the hunting ground of the Oneida Indians, who were here in large numbers when the first settlers came. Small bands of them returned for many years, camping in the winter on the high ground back of the farm-house of Austin Turney, Esq.
Mr. Gilbert raised the first field of grain, which was watch with the greatest interest by the pioneers, as they were dependent on it for seed in the coming year. After passing an active life he died in 1811, leaving a family of six children, viz., Elizabeth married Lewis Lee Morris; Lucy married Samuel Cotton; Mary became the second wife of Samuel Cotton; Harriet Catherine married John Bryant; John T. married Lydia Smith; Joseph T. married his first wife Hannah Thorp, and reared a family of fifteen children, ten of whom are living, and his second wife was Caroline Chapman, by whom he had three children, two of whom are living. Samuel C., Catherine W., Chester, George Y., John H., James L., and Edward reside in and near the village. Abijah is a resident of St. Augustine, Fla., and has represented that commonwealth in the United States senate. He married Anna W. Gilbert, of New York, and has two children,-Maria L. and Joshua W. Charles T. resides in New York city. Joseph T., Jr., married Lucy Allis, of Oxford, N. Y., and resides in Milwaukee; they have two children,--Joseph t. and Samuel C.,--both of whom are at Harvard college. Elizabeth married Nelson C. Chapman and died In St. Louis in 1876; they had three children, viz., Florence married Henry Alcock, of Staffordshire, England, and Joseph G. and Charles reside in St. Louis. Hannah married Dr. James W. Cox, and resides in Albany; they have four children, Caroline, James W., Frederick, and Edward. Samuel C. married Elizabeth A., daughter of Benajah Davis, of the village of Morris, and their family consists of three daughters, viz., Elizabeth A. became the wife of Judge J. D. Colt, of Pittsfield, Mass. Catherine W. married Francis M. Rotch, of Morris, and a son, Francis, likes in Boston; she subsequently married Thos. Riggs, of Baltimore, Md. Martha D.married Chas. A. Butler, of Utica N. Y. Catherine W. married for her first husband Jabex S. Fitch, and for her second, Elisha W. Chester, of New York, two granddaughters reside here. Geo. Y. married Mary S. Fitch, of Marshall, Mich.; their family consists of two children, viz, Fitch Gilbert lives in Eau Claire, Wis.; Marion became the wife of James Murray, of London, England. John H. married Elizabeth Lathrop, and has five daughters, viz, Helen L. married Rev. James Ecob, of Augusta, Me., and Frances, Carolina, Catherine, and J. Henry reside with their parents. James L. Gilbert married Jane Blackman, and has two sons, viz., J. B. Gilbert, M. D., and Robert W., both residents of New York City. Edward resides on the homestead. Chas. T. married Charlotte Disoosway, and resides in New York; they have two children,--Anita and Frances. Benjamin C. married Anna Taylor, of Albany, and resides there.
Joseph Cox, mentioned above, a worthy pioneer, purchased lands of Mr. Gilbert above the village, and his marriage with Elizabeth Nichols was the first in the new settlement. This family consisted of six sons and one daughter. Two sons, Richard and Isaac, reside in the town, the former above the village, and the latter at Mt. Upton.
John Marsh was also an early settler at Gilbertsville. He came with Abijah Gilbert upon the latter's return from England in 1796.
William and Richard Musson, from England, were pioneers. The former opened the first store in town. About one mile below the village; the latter settled in the southeast part of the town on the hill. He was a deacon in the Baptist church, and took an active interest in organizing the society. He reared a large family of sons and daughters, who are esteemed in the community. Some of the descendants of William Musson are also residents of the town. Upon the death of William Musson, he was succeeded by Samuel Cotton and James T. Gilbert, under the firm-name of Cotton & Gilbert, who removed to the village in 1810, and continued he business until 1821. About this time Abijah and Samuel C. Gilbert commenced the mercantile business. In about the year 1812, Nathaniel B. Bennett built and opened a store, located above the village near the grist mill. He also operated a woolen-factory at the same place.
A pioneer tavern above the village was kept by John Marsh. Across the brook from the tavern Willard Coye owned and operated a tannery. He was a prominent man, and was member of assembly in 1820.
The Luce brothers, Toney P. and Lovel B., were merchants in the village from 1825 to 8145. William C. Bentley was in trade a few years. Gilbert & Halbert were in business from 1845 to 1849.
The first tavern in the village was kept by John T. Gilbert, a portion of which is still standing, and used for a tavern.
The first buildings in the village were a blacksmith-shop and dwelling owned by John Eddy, and a school-house.
Levi and Thomas Halbert were pioneers who came from Chesterfield, Mass., in about the year 1790, and settled on lands about two miles west of what is now the village of Gilbertsville. After clearing and improving the land the brothers seperated, Levi purchasing a farm nearer the village. Levi married Deborah Smith and had a family of ten children, only one of whom, E. S. Halbert, resides in the town. Mr. Halbert is a leading citizen, and has been supervisor of the town six terms; has held the office of justice of the peace over twenty years; was a member of assembly from Cortland county in 1832 and 1833, and was sheriff of Chenango county.
Asa, Asel, and Emmett, sons of Thomas Halbert, are residents of the town, and the former occupies the old homestead.
The first school in the town was taught by Levi Halbert.
Mr. Enos Smith, a pioneer from Massachusetts, came with his wife and family in 1790, and located immediately south of the Halbert brothers, and died a few years afterwards. Captain Daniel Smith, a son, settled about one mile west of the village, and married Roxa, daughter of Timothy Donaldson, and in about 1810 changed his location to what is not the town of Morris, one mile below the village, and opened a public-house, which he kept for a number of years. Of his descendants, the only one living in the county is a daughter, Mrs. Peck, of Noblesville, New Lisbon.
Soldiers of the Revolution were Timothy and Calvin Donaldson, who located here in about the year 1790. Chester, a son of Calvin, resides on a portion of the old homestead. Timothy Donaldson was secretary of the meeting in 1797, at which the Presbyterian church at Gilbertsville was organized. He was in the battle of Bunker Hill, and during the conflict his gun was disabled by the enemy's bullet, and a part of it shot away. They both served gallantly during the arduous struggle for independence, and Calvin crossed the Delaware with Washington, and participated in the capture of the Hessian troops at Trenton. Lothario, a brother of Calvin and Timothy, a surgeon in the Revolutionary war, came into this town in about 1796, but soon returned to Roxbury, Mass. Still another brother, Atlamont, was a pioneer in Butternuts, who subsequently removed to Michigan, where he died.
Nathaniel Donaldson was a pioneer who also came from Massachusetts, in about the year 1792, and settled about one mile west of the village, across Butternut creek. He married Miss Candace Sykes, of Springfield, and their family consisted of ten children. Lewis, aged now seventy-six, lives on a portion of the old homestead with his son, Nathaniel S. Dwight resides in Cleveland, and another son, Nathaniel S., in Milwaukee. (The History of Otsego, NY, Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)
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Transcribed by Holice B. Young
Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young
December 23, 1999