The History of Otsego, NY
By Holice and Debbie
|Soon after the advent
of Mr. Mayall came John Sleeper, a Quaker preacher, who emigrated with
his family from Mount Holly, N. J., in 1774, and settled on a tract of
land embracing two hundred acres, which were donated to him by the
proprietors of the patent, in consideration of which he was to build a
grist- and saw-mill. This settlement was made with a view of founding a
Quaker colony in the locality, which, however, was stopped by the way of
the Revolution. Mr. Sleeper being considered neutral, his home was often
the halting-place of both Indians and colonists on their way from cherry
Valley to Unadilla. In June, 1778, five months before the massacre,
Captain McKean,--who at the time was in command of a body of rangers at
cherry Valley,--while on a scouting expedition to Unadilla, arrived at
he house of Mr. Sleeper, who informed him that "Brant had that day
been at his house with fifty men, and would return there that
night." McKean looked around the house with the eye of a soldier;
observing that it was built strong and of logs, he remarked, "Your
house, friend Sleeper, shall be my fort to-night; I have with me five
good marksmen, and I am not myself deficient in that qualification of a
soldier." Sleeper remonstrated, saying, "he wished to remain
neutral; that he would be involved with difficulty, and in the end would
lose his property, probably his life.’ McKean finally withdrew, and
took possession of a vacant house a mile or two distant. It was on this
or another scout, a short time afterwards, that McKean wrote a letter to
Brant, and fastening it in a stick, placed the stick in an Indian path.
He blamed himself for his predatory warfare, and challenged him to meet
him, either in single combat or with an equal number of men, adding that
if he would come to Cherry Valley and have a fair fight they would
change him from a -----into a -----. He received this challenge,
as appears by a letter written soon after to Percifer Carr, a Tory,
living in Edmeston.
The day after the massacre of cherry Valley, Mr. Sleeper started for New Jersey, and upon arriving at Cherry Valley was urged by his friends to remain overnight. But he refused, and continued his journey to Bowman’s creek, several miles distant, and thereby saved his life. The day following this butchery a party of savages passed through Laurens and robbed the family of Mr. Sleeper and burned their buildings. Brant came soon after and, finding Mrs. Sleeper still there, exclaimed, "My God! Mrs. Sleeper, are you alive?" She replied, "Yes, but they have taken all of our property." Brant charged the destruction of the property upon the Seneca, saying "that they would kill their best friends." And offered to pay for the loss, but Mrs. Sleeper being of the Quaker faith refused, as she believed that he had come wrongfully by it. The family soon after returned to New Jersey, suffering terribly on the way.
At the close of the Revolution in1784, and when peace again reigned throughout Tryon county, Mr. Sleeper and family retraced their steps and settled on their old location, and rebuilt the mills which had been destroyed by the Indians and Tories.
The old mill mentioned above as having been burned by the Indians and Tories was a rude structure, located on the east end of Main Street, in the village of Laurens. It was built of logs, and on the lower stone was attached to the upright haft, the upper stone being fast. When a man came to the mill he poured his grain into the hopper, took out the "toll," raised the gate, and the mill began to grind. Mr. Sleeper would say, "when your grist is ground shut down the gate." Every man attended to his own grist. Mr. Sleeper died in 1794, and Mrs. Sleeper in 1811. They reared a family of seven sons and five daughters. One son, Joseph h. sleeper, settled on a portion of the original purchase. He died in 1830. A son, Hudson Sleeper, resides on the old homestead.
In the year 1794, Mr. Sleeper sold his grist- and saw-mils and 1000 acres of land to Griffin Crafts, of honored memory.
Mr. Crafts came from Cherry Valley. He was a man that manifested much interest in all matters concerning the public good, and did much to advance the general welfare of the county and the community wherein he resided. He opened the first tavern, and was the first supervisor of the town, in 1811. In 1815 he disposed of his mills, farms, distillery, etc., to his son, General Erastus Crafts, who was also a prominent man. He received his title from being in the old State militia. He was a soldier by nature, and so far excelled in military matters that he attracted the attention of General Harrison, who offered him the position afterwards held by General Scott. He was member of assembly in 1810, ’13, and ’14, the second supervisor of the town, and officiated in the latter capacity at various times for thirteen years.
He married a sister of judge W. W. Campbell, of Cherry Valley, and their family consisted of four children, viz.: Julia, a daughter, married a son of David H. Little, of Cherry Valley, and is now deceased; a son, William, was killed in battle during the late Rebellion; a daughter, Caroline, married her deceased sister’s husband, and resides in Rochester, N. Y.; a son, Laurens, resides in Toledo, O. General Crafts died April 9, 1851, aged seventy-one, and was buried at Cherry Valley.
Richard Smith, a bachelor, is said to have been the third settler in the town. He came from Philadelphia, and purchased about 5000 acres of land, the most of which he subsequently dispose of in small lots. H erected the first frame house in the town.
Among the pioneers were Erastus and Ezra Dean, who settled in about the year 1805, and opened the first store. The former was a prominent man and was the first town clerk, in 1811. A son, Delos W. Dean, occupies the old homestead.
Chauncey Strong, from Greene County, settled in about the year 1811, and was a furniture-maker.
Samuel Allen came from New Jersey in about the year 1793, and settled south of the village. The old homestead was subsequently owned by a son, Samuel, and a grandson, Albert, both of whom reside in the village.
In the south part of the town a prominent early settler was Nijah Griffith, who came from New Jersey. He took an active interest in the affairs of the town, was supervisor five years, and also served a number of years as justice of the peace.
In the locality known as Butts’ Corners, Jacob Butts, an honored pioneer from Windham Co., Conn., settled in about the year 1790. He penetrated the wilderness alone, and, after building a log home, returned to Connecticut, packed up his household goods, and with his wife, a wagon, yoke of oxen, and a single horse, started for their forest house. It required no small amount o courage in that early day to undertake a journey of several hundred miles, over almost impassable roads and through a forest which at night resounded with the howls of wild animals; but Mr. B. and his companion were ready to face the hardships of pioneer life, and after a weary journey of twelve days arrived at their log cabin, and there erected the standard of "home."
"Our forest life was rough and rude,
They reared a family of eight children,--five sons and three daughters. Two sons reside in the town, Harvey and Galen, who, with their children, occupy the old homestead.
Amos Preston was also an early settler in this vicinity. He came from Connecticut in 1789.
J. Whitcomb was a pioneer who located soon after Mr. Butts. A son, David, now at the advanced age of seventy-five years, is living in Morris.
Coincident with the settlement of the above was that of Nathan Newell, also from Connecticut. A son, Nathan, resides in the town of Middlefield.
A large land-holder and active pioneer was Solomon Harrison, who emigrated from the "land of stead habits" and settled on Otego Creek, about two miles above Laurens, and subsequently moved to a location west of Laurens, where he had purchased one thousand acres of land from the Otego patent. He erected a grist- and saw-mill, and sold a portion of his land to settlers, and the locality became known as Harrison’s Mills, now called Brewster’s Mills. A son, Wm. Harrison, lives on a farm between Butts’ Corners and Laurens. A portion of the old homestead is in possession of a granddaughter, Mrs. John Ward, who resides in the village of Morris.
An old settler at butts’ Corners was a Revolutionary soldier, named Potter. In 1810, Ezekiel Benedict, also a soldier of the Revolution, located in this vicinity. In about 1800, Amos Mathewson, from the "Green Mountain State," "took up" land adjoining Jacob Butts on the south.
Among the first preachers of the Society of Friends who raised their voices in the wilderness of Laurens was Calvin Straight, who settled north of the village about the year 1800. Two sons, William and Samuel, are farmers in the vicinity of Butts’ Corners.
Where Aaron Eldred now resides, his father, Solomon Eldred, was an early respected settler from Vermont.
In the locality known as West Laurens, Daniel Weatherby, from Rhode Island, was a pioneer. He had four sons, Samuel, Henry, William, and Daniel; some of their descendants are residents of the town. Daniel Dunbar, the father of Delos W. Dunbar, came from Massachusetts in about 1800, and located between Laurens and Butts’ Corners. Silas Gilbert settled in about the year 1800, and purchased land of Jacob Butts. James I. Thorn located 1800, north of butts’ Corners.
Rufus Tucker, wife and children, came from Connecticut in 1792, and settled in West Laurens, on the Otego patent. Their family consisted of six sons and three daughters. Rufus, Jr., succeeded to the possession of the farm. Six children are now living, viz.: Ezra, resides in this town, Eric in the village of Morris, Leroy is a merchant in the village of Laurens, Mrs. Eveline Perkins resides in the town of Morris, and Mrs. Maryette Hyatt and Mrs. M. Lull in West Laurens
An early settler above Laurens, on the Mount Vision rod, was Dr. Ezer Winsor, who came from Rhode Island in1794. He had a family of nine children. Amos, a prominent citizen of the county, who was sheriff in 1842, resides in the town, on a farm adjoining the old homestead, and Morris in Grand Rapids, Mich. Dr. Winsor died in 1834, at the age of sixty-six years.
Harvey Kenyon, and Harvey Keyes and son, Omer and Josiah are old resident of Mount Vision.
Benjamin Tiffany was a worthy pioneer in the vicinity of Gilbert’s Lake, having settled in 1794. One son, Mr. Thomas tiffany, is the sole surviving member of the family, and resides at Mount Vision.
Another honored pioneer of Laurens who settled in about the year 1793 was David Eldred, who located about two miles west of Mount Vision. He, together with six sons, subsequently moved to New Lisbon, and in 1837 to Michigan, and settled on Climax Prairie, to which a nephew who was with them gave the name. One daughter, Mrs. Thomas tiffany, is the only member of the family left in the vicinity.
Gilbert’s lake derived its name from Benjamin Gilbert, a Revolutionary soldier from Connecticut, who settled in its vicinity soon after the war. Two great-grandsons, Loyd and Morris, live on the estate.
As honored pioneer in the village of Laurens was Dr. Allen Harrington, who came from North Brookfield, Worcester Co., Mass., in about the year 1800. He was a successful practitioner, and his ride extended over a large territory. A son, Orlando, resides in Oswego Co., N. Y., and a son, Samuel H., is a practicing attorney in the village of Laurens. Mr. Harrington has in his possession an interesting relic, being the original parchment deed, with a map of the Otego patent, in which is conveyed 2000 acres of land by Thomas Wharton to John smith, dated February 3, 1770, lots 25 and 50 embracing 1000 acres each. On this map the Otadawa and Onconta and Otego creeks are shown, and Oneonta is spelled Onabrienton creek.
A worthy pioneer is Cyrus Hudson, who came into New Berlin, Chenango county, from Rhode Island, in 1816, and in 1819 to Laurens, and settled two miles below the village, where he bought a tannery and five acres of land. He conducted this business until 1832, when he sold out and moved above the village, where he still resides, at the advanced age of eighty-two years, with a daughter, Mrs. Caroline Curtis. Two sons, Stephen T. and Horace, are hardware merchants in the village; Henry resides in New Lisbon, Cyril in Oneonta, and one daughter lives in Chenango county, and one in Monroe.
A prominent and public-spirited man, and one who has ever manifested a lively interest in the public welfare, is Hon. William C. Fields. He came from Delaware County to Laurens in 1826, and has been largely engaged in the woolen and cotton manufacture, owning the cotton manufactory, which was erected in 1847. He was also many years engaged in the mercantile business. He has occupied many official positions within the gift of his fellow-citizens. He represented his town in the board of supervisors two years, was county clerk three years, justice of the peace seventeen years, and was a member of the Fortieth Congress.
As active pioneer was John Philips, who located a short distance above the village of Laurens, and operated the factory in connection with Hon. William C. Fields. He was prominently identified with the progress of the town, and was highly respected by his fellow-citizens. He died in 1877.
Hon. Levi S. Chatfield, now a prominent lawyer of New York city, came to this village in 1827, and studied law in the office of Hon, Samuel L. Bowne. He was admitted to the bar, and practiced law in this county until elected to the office of attorney-general of the State. He was also a member of the constitutional convention, a member of the assembly, and speaker of the assembly. He resides in Jersey City, and practices in New York.
Moses Powell, a Quaker, emigrated from Greene County in about the year 1800, and purchased the Mayall farm, upon which he resided until his death. He was killed at a raising. A son, Isaac Powell, came in with him and located below the village, on the east side of Otego creek. A son of Isaac, Mr. Erastus D. Powell, resides in the village.
John Sleeper, Paul Hoag, and his sons Isaac, Andrew, and Abraham, Thomas Haight, Moses Hoag, Samuel Allen, Jeremiah Gardner, with their families, were members of the Quaker society.
Other early settlers were Daniel Weller, Benj. Shepherd, Rowland Carr, Michael, William and Thaddeus Birdsell, Mrs. H. Hunt, Peter Scramling, Nathan Birdsell, John Smith, Chester Lamb, L. B. Packard, and Moses Bundy.
The following is a copy of the instrument which released 200 acres of land in this locality:
This indenture made the Second day of June, A. D., 1772, betweenThomas Wharton, of the city of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pennsylvania, merchant, or the one part, and John Smith of the city and county of Burlington, N. J., Esquire, of the other part.
Whereas, King George the Third, by his letters patent under the great seal of the province of New Jersey, bearing date the 3d day of February, 1778, did Grant, Ratify, and Confer unto Charles Read and 63 others, that certain tract or parcel of land, situate, lying, and being in the county of Albany, on the south side of the Mohawk River, in the Province of New York, bounded as follows, to wit:
Beginning at three Butternut trees growing from one stump or root, the northermost marked wiht the letter G.C.C.Y. and Figure 1768, standing 1 chains and 2 rods from the north side of a brook that falls into Kounderrah River.
Thomas Wharton Release for 2000 acres of the land at Otego, in the county.
John Smith of Albany.
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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