The History of Otsego, NY
By Holice and Debbie
|One of the greatest
inconveniences met by the pioneers is almost every portion of the
country was the want of mills for grinding grain. In this town, however,
this want was felt but a few years, for as early as 1794 those
enterprising pioneers, Israel and Eliphas Spencer erected a mill, which
stood near the site now occupied by the mills at Maryland Station. The
erection of this mill occasioned much rejoicing, as the long and
wearisome journeys to Cherry Valley and Schoharie, in "going to
mill," were no longer necessary. This was the first substantial
improvement in the new settlement, and the pioneers, who had left the
comforts and conveniences of eastern homes, no doubt felt that with such
enterprising men the embryo settlement would not long be without those
improvements which betoken a progressive advancement, and such was the
result. The tide of immigration set in, clearings were made, taverns,
saw-mills, and other evidences of civilization soon became numerous, and
not much time elapsed ere that portion of the old town of Worcester now
embraced within the boundaries of Maryland was peopled by a sturdy and
At about the time of the erection of the Spencer Mills, Jotham Houghton built a saw-mill near Chaseville. This, however, was abandoned, as water could not be obtained at this point without doing some damage to surrounding property, and he finally erected it near the grist-mill of the Spencers.
The grist-mill was built under the supervision of Phineas Spencer, a cousin of Israel and Eliphas, who was the pioneer carpenter. He was a useful man in the vicinity, and was not only the first carpenter, but the first mason, chair, cabinet, plow, and coffin maker. It is said that during a number of years he made the coffins for the surrounding country, but would receive no remuneration for his labor. These primitive burial cases wre usually made of pine boards, and colored black by a solution of water with the ashes of straw. The first death in the town was that of a step-daughter of Phineas Spencer, the first wife of Josiah Chase. He death occurred in the summer, and the remains were borne on a boat by neighbors to the cemetery near Maryland Station, a distance of seven miles. James Wilsey, who died in 1872, aged ninety-two years, was one of the bearers. This was the customary practice, as hearses were unknown, and it was withal considering an act of respect.
In the early times the latch-string of almost every cabin was out, where the traveler might find accommodations for a night’s rest, but the first regular public-house was kept by Josiah Chase, familiarly known as "Landlord Chase." This was a log building, and occupied the site of the present residence of J. T. Thompson, Esq. It is said that the strength of "Landlord Chase’s" lungs was such that he could be distinctly heard a distance of three miles or more. In corroboration of this statement, it is said that a little son of his one day mounted a tame colt that was running loose in the pasture, and after making several circuits of the field, much to the amusement of the youngster, it redoubled its pace, and seemed about to enter the adjoining woods. The father, witnessing the scene, shouted, "Stick to him, ‘Sish! Stick to him! Stick to Him! ‘Sish!" and his voice was heard by those living three miles distant, in the present town of Worcester.
Samuel T., a grandson of Landlord chase, was a merchant in the village of Schenevus nearly a quarter of a century. He died in 1876, and his family are residents of the village.
Prominent among the pioneers who came into this locality in 1795 were Nathaniel Rose and Samuel Hotchkin. The former opened a public-house near the Maryland station. His sons were Jesse, Warren, Elon, Ithamer, Jacob and Nathan. Only one survives, Ithamer, who resides in this town. Jesse was a leading citizen, resided at Chaseville. He was supervisor as early as 1829, and officiated in that capacity five years, and was also county clerk.
The locality known as Chaseville, originally called Roseville, was first settled by Jeremiah Houghton, who built the house subsequently known as the Carpenter House, in the basement of which he opened a store as early as 1794. He soon after built as ashery, and manufactured potash, and was an active business man. He was colonel in the militia, and his house was a popular rendezvous for the general trainings, which were held on a clearing near by. He disposed of his interests at Chaseville, in 1814, to Nathaniel Carpenter, and removed to Ohio.
An honored pioneer was Amos Spencer, who, with his father, came from Columbia county in about the year 1798, and settled on the farm known as the Spencer homestead, west of Maryland station, now occupied by two grandsons, Israel and Joseph Spencer. His family consisted of the following, Uriah, and Desire, the wife of Sandford Babcock, and the only surviving member of the family. The following children of these early settlers are living: Horace, son of Simeon; Catherine, wife of E. S. Burnside; Olive B., wife of the late henry L. Marble; Amos D., Caroline, wife of Hiram Banner; and Mary, wife of John M. Talmadge,--children of Nathan. Children of Uriah are Philip D.; Israel; Martha A.; wife of Sanders Gurney; George M., John U., and Joseph.
The old house on the Spencer homestead, which was built by Deacon Amos Spencer is a very early day, and occupied by him as a tavern, is still standing, and the old sign is in the possession of the family. It is of wood, about three feet square, painted red, with white figures. On one side is a sword, and the inscription, "A. Spencer’s Inn." And the other side is ornamented with an "eagle" and the inscription, "A. Spencer, 1802." Amos Spencer was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, having entered the service at sixteen years of age.
Edward Goddard came into the town in about the year 1793, and located on lands now owned by Peter Bedeau, north of Schenevus. He was an active and influential pioneer; was the first supervisor of the town, and officiated in that capacity successively until 1816, and at various times fourteen years. His family consisted of the following, viz.: Warren, William, Samuel, Betsey, and Hannah. Warren is deceased. A daughter of his, wife of Samuel Hubbard, resides near the old homestead. William is a resident of New Jersey; a daughter, Lorancia, wife of I. Swackhammer, lives in this town, one in New Hampshire, and still another in New Jersey. Samuel resides in Oneonta, and has two children, Warren and Elvira. Betsey married Reuben Fellows; their children are Edward R. Fellows, Mary, wife of Samuel H. Dunham, and Diania, wife of Woodbury K. Cook. The children of Hannah, who married Levi Y. Boardman, are Edward, who resides in Philadelphia, Levi, deceased, and Eliza, wife of S. H. Gurney, Esq., the present postmaster at Schenevus. Mr. Gurney has discharged the duties of postmaster nearly twenty years, is a present justice of the peace, and has represented his town in the board of supervisors. Levi Y. Boardman resides in Schenevus, and was supervisor of the town as early as 1846. Levi, deceased, had also served as supervisor.
Stephen Brown was an honored pioneer who came from Albany county in 1806, and located on lands now owned by Warren Bennett. His family consisted of Stephen, David, Amos H., Lucy, Abbey, and Elmira. David died in Pennsylvania; Stephen and Amos H. resided here until their deaths. The former died in 1872, and the latter in 1875. Amos H. Brown was one of the leading men of the county. He was supervisor of Maryland several years, and was also one of the judges of the court of common pleas. He was one of the first merchants of Schenevus, in copartnership with Hon. George W. Chase. His family consisted of the following members, viz.: Carlton, Harvey W., Hamilton, Emily A., Maria, and Elizabeth. Carlton and Harvey W. are residents of the town, and both have served as supervisors; Harvey W. has also been sheriff of the county; Hamilton is deceased; Emily A. was the wife of Hon. E. E. Ferrey; both are deceased; Maria, married Julius Ferrey, of Schenevus; and Elizabeth is the wife of Chas. S. Brown, of Detroit, Michigan.
Ebenezer Houghton was an early settler. His sons were Ebenezer, Rufus, Jonas, and Joel. Edward, a son of Jonas, resides in the town.
The first house erected within the corporation of the present flourishing village of Schenevus was in 1793, by one Sisko. It was a log building, and opened as a tavern, occupying the site of the upper hotel.
Silas and Luther Follett were worthy pioneer who emigrated from the "Granite state" to this town in about 1794. Luther settled in Schenevus, where a son, Halsey, still resides. The latter has two cons and two daughters, viz., J. Henry Follett, a surgeon-dentist, residing in Schenevus; Ashley, a physician in Earleville, Madison County. One daughter is the wife of Fred E. Page, and the other of Hon. Amos Chase. Mr. Chase was supervisor in 1874-75, and is a present member of assembly for this county.
The Burnsides were also pioneers.
James Burnside was a captain in the War of the revolution, and died from fatigue in battle. He had two sons, Evert and Samuel. They owned a farm together in the town of Bethlehem, Albany Co., which they sold, and moved to Otsego County in 1800. Evert settled on the farm now owned by his grandson, W. H. Burnside, two miles east of Cooperstown Junction, where he (Evert) died in 1834. Samuel moved into Milford, near the Susquehanna, at Colliersville, and was the father of General S. S. Burnside, of Oneonta. When these brothers came there lived between the now village of Maryland and the Susquehanna River Jonathan Milks, James Morehouse, Nathan Barber, Deacos Amos Spencer, and Cyrus Brown. When Deacos a. Spencer came, in about 1794, there was but one house, that of James Morehouse. Evert Burnside had seven children,--Deborah, wife of Leonard Baker, of Milford, deceased; Nicholas, deceased, of Illinois; James E., deceased, of Iowa; Evert, Sr., now a farmer adjoining the old homestead, where his son, W. H. Burnside, lives; Margaret, wife of H. D. Spencer, deceased; Ann, wife of Jacob Dietz, of Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Amos, deceased, of Maryland. Evert S. has four sons. All live in town near the Evert Burnside homestead.
John Burnside came from New Scotland, Albany Co., in 1802 or 1803, and located on the Worden farm, now occupied and owned by Joseph Blanchard. He had three sons,--"Big" Cloud ( a hunter), Samuel, and John. Cloud lived to old age, and died in the State of Pennsylvania. A daughter, wife of Edward Houghton, lives in this town; Samuel died in 1836, on the farm now occupied by his son, J. C. Burnside; John, Jr., had a large family; Samuel had a large family; James C. and Sally, wife of J. T. Thompson, Schenevus, resides in town. Ephraim, father of De Witt Burnside, lived north of the village of Maryland; was a cousin of Evert. Cloud T, (son of Thomas), who settled near the Susquehanna soon after 1800) settled near the Worden Farm; had six sons,--Thomas, now of Otego, Otsego Co., Isaac, of the State of Pennsylvania; Claudius, now of the State of Wisconsin; and Wilson, of the State of Illinois; John and Washington, the last two, now live in town, south of Maryland village.
"The first marriage," says A. Hotchkin’s History, "was that of Amial Whitney to Sally Royston, and the next, Daniel Seaver and a daughter of Landlord Chase; but the earliest record found of a marriage is that of Samuel Hotchkin and Mary (then called Polly) Spencer, in January, 1804.
"The earliest record of school taught was by Mary or as then called Polly Spencer, near Maryland Station, and the second by Luna Chamberlain.
"The first birth is claimed to have been that of Warren Goddard, and next that of Hannah Seaver; but it is also said that Leafy Seaver was the first birth after the town was set off from Worchester, and that she received her appropriate name from the fact of her having been born in a leafy forest."
"The first death was that of John Rice, who was killed by the falling of a tree."
A prominent pioneer, and one closely identified with the interests of the locality, was David Benedict, of honored memory, who came from Danbury, Conn., and settled here in about 1803. He was a large land-owner, being the proprietor of 1000 acres of land in this vicinity. His son, Philor Benedict, was also an enterprising man, and left an honored posterity. His family consisted of the following: Clarissa,* wife of E. Boardman; D. E.*; Sarah A.., widow of Seth H. Case, who resides in Schenevus; Elvira B., wife of Nathan Clark, resides in Illinois; Emily became the wife of L. W. Kelley, both of whom are deceased; Philor is a practicing attorney in the village of Schenevus, and present district attorney of Otsego County; Ada A., wife of M. M. Clark, resides in Missouri. The name of Benedict has been honorably associated with the history of this place from the commencement of the present century, and the house known as Eastern or Benedict Tavern was kept by David Benedict in 1805, and prior thereto by his brother Obadiah, from whom it derived its name, and retains it to the present time.
The first physician on Schenevus was Joseph Carpenter, who settled in about the year 1812. Since that time, the following have practiced medicine here: Thomas Lawyer, E. E. Houghton, peter Simmons, and H. W. Boors. Drs. Houghton and Boors are resident practitioners.
The first attorney in Schenevus was E. E. Ferry, who commenced practice in about 1840, and continued in the active duties of his profession until within a few years of his death, which occurred in 1877. The next attorney was Hamilton Brown, now deceased. The present attorneys are Philor Benedict, Chas. H. Graham, Julius R. Thompson, and Geo. M. Spencer.
Schenevus was originally called Jacksonsboro, and in 1829 a post-office of that name was established here, and Joseph Carpenter appointed postmaster. The name of the office and village was changed to Schenevus some time prior to 1840, and E. E. Ferry appointed postmaster. Postmasters from that time to the present have been as follows: George W. chase, Amos H. Brown, Carlton Brown, Levi Boardman and S. h. Gurney, the present incumbent.
A pioneer merchant was Peter Johns, who cam e from Hudson, Columbia county, in 1816, and opened a store in the Benedict House.
The following glimpse of this mercantile establishment, and its clerk, Isaac Slingerland, is taken from A. Hotchkin’s History of Maryland, as related by Mr. Slingerland:
"Five wagons brought the goods from the city, and himself, a lad of about fifteen years, had charge of the goods and the store for some months afterward. Arriving at Todd’s tavern, four miles east from their destination, near night, they were told by the tavern functionary that they were on the wrong road, some twenty miles from Benedict’s tavern; that it was over South Hill, and the nearest inn was twelve miles away. Bit, mistrusting it a falsehood to detain them, they drove on and arrive at Benedict’s in the evening, putting their wagons and goods in a yard for the night. A change from city to country life soon produced homesickness, and a change of diet nothing bettered it. A standing dish at table was salt pork, fattened on ‘----‘ (beechnuts), and the landlady (four years after his mother-in-law) was unable to get it on the table in little better shape then rinds and grease.
"In the sugar season he was told that trees yielded a sap which produced sugar, and, on eating molasses made from sap, his marvelousness was further excited, and to such a degree that he inquired the process of obtaining the sap, and being informed, and furnished with tools and implements to tap the trees and vessels to catch the sap, he bounded forth in high glee, and in time returned and joyfully reported the number of trees he had tapped. But wet blankets sometimes dampen or put out the flames of joy. Philo Benedict, who had given him the molasses and so greatly elevated his spirits and his joys, when he returned from the woods where his and other trees were tapped, reported the fact the trees tapped by Isaac were all hemlocks, dead and dry. Slingerland, after his marriage, for a short time had a store in Westford; but his mother soon after purchased a portion of the Roman farm, and in 1825 erected a dwelling on the corner formed by the elk creek and Schenevus creek roads, in which Isaac kept goods for sale. ‘On this farm,’ he says, ‘I was intending to have a fine piece of corn, and when planting it Mary (his wife) came, and in a surprised manner asked how I planted it. I replied that I put in a handful of corn in each hill; where upon she, taking the hoe, placed four and five kernels in a hill and covered it."
The building in which John’s store was opened was purchased by Daniel Houghton, in 1822, and removed.
The next regular merchant who offered his wares for sale in his village was Colonel Magher, of Cherry Valley, in about the year 1830, in the building now occupied as a swelling by the family of the late E. E. Ferrey.
Ezekiel Miller and Amos H. Brown commenced mercantile business in about 1831, in the building now occupied by J. Carpenter as a dwelling on Main Street, west of the Methodist church. In 1832, Miller & Brown erected a store on the site now occupied by the post-office, where they continue their business.
Various small enterprises in those early days, such as coop- and tailor-shops, sprang into existence from time to time, but the first substantial improvement in the manufacturing line was the erection of the grist-mill, in 1827, by Eli Howe and Philor Benedict, which occupied the site of the present mills owned by Guy & Follett. John Howe soon after built a saw-mill near by. The first hardware- and tin-shop was opened in 1844 by Hotchkin & Swartout.
Schenevus gradually improved, and the completion of the Albany and Susquehanna railroad ushered in an important epoch in its history. The business of the village rapidly increased and it soon became one of the leading towns on the line of the road. June 6, 1870, it took upon itself the privileges and immunities of an incorporated town, and is the early-incorporated village within the State that is free from debt. Notably among those who labored for its incorporation was Christian H. Graham, Esq.
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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