The History of Otsego, NY
By Holice and Debbie
|General Jacob Morris, from whom the town derived its name, who during
the Revolution was on the staff of Major-General Charles lee, settled in
the south part of the town, near the site of the "Morris Memorial
Chapel." He was born in 1775. During the Revolution he was in the
battle of Monmouth and other engagements. At the close of the war he
engaged in business in New York, and soon after removed to his new home
in what was then considered the western wilderness. The following highly
interesting letter, giving an account of his journey from New York to
the present town of Morris, was written by him to John Rutherford, of
BUTTERNUTS CREEK, 12 MILE FROM THE UNADILLA
The friendly solicitude you discovered for the success of any present undertaking merits from me to acquaint you of my operations since I left you, how I am now situated, and of my future intentions, prospects, expectations, etc. As far as Albany and Schenectady I came on very handsomely, having had a fine short passage to the former place. I embarked all my movables, and dispatched four wagons for Schenectady, in less then two hours after my arrival, and proceeded immediately for that place, where I cam that evening. I was not, however, quite as expeditious in getting my stores up the Mohawk, owing to the laziness of the bateau-man, who were nearly four days getting from Schenectady to the carry-place for Lake Otsego (eighteen miles). Here I was at some additional expense, on account of my falling in with the commissioners for running the boundary line between us and Pennsylvania, who were going the same route, and had occasion for fifteen or twenty wagons, and the inhabitants were extravagant in their demands for team hire. It took us three days, by reason of the excessively bad roads to get over, and when there I was at much loss which way to proceed. However, as I had written to a man last winter to come over and look at this part of the country, and report to us respecting it, I concluded it was best to leave all my things in store at Staats’, the north end of the lake, and embark with the commissioners, who were going down to the Susquehanna in bateaux, and go with them as far as the residence of this man, about twenty miles below Otsego, on the above-mentioned river. When I cam there, I found the man had been to see my tract of land, and he gave me a tolerable account of it, and was of the opinion that I could transport my stores by water to my intended spot of residence, though he could not speak with certainty, having never viewed this creek. This was enough for me, as I knew full well the great difficulty of land transportation in this country at this time. I therefore immediately set about to procure a bateau and hands. The former I could not hire, and therefore applied to a man who had a great respect for rum, to barter that article with him for one of which he was possessed. We soon struck the bargain of eight gallons of rum, which I could conveniently spare, having more along with me than I believe I shall consume before winter. Thus I became master of a bateau, my own property, obtained two good hands, and sent them off for a load, with orders to stay at Cullig’s on the Susquehanna, if they should return before me. I then set out with one of the Cullig’s to look at the place myself, it being about twenty miles from his house, as the path now runs to the Butternuts, across the Otego Creek. I left Monsieur De Villiers’ house (a Frenchman, who is making a very respectable settlement at the butternuts, six miles from where I shall build), came down in the morning, and did not hesitate long to determine on this spot as the place for my future residence. My situation is at the north end of my father’s and uncle Richard’s patent, near the confluence of the Great Mill and Butternut Creeks, two as handsome runs of water were ever seen in the world. Upon the former I am preparing to build a saw-mill immediately, within one hundred yards of where I shall put my house, which will be that distance from the creek, having a fine spring near and a fine tract of land in forest. I lay out in the woods one night, and returned to De Villiers’ the next day; from thence up to one Tunnicliff’s, near Lake Conedenago, which ride satisfied me that as fine a ride will by-and-by be made to the north end of the Lake Otsego that way—about forty miles from hence—as was ever made the same distance in any back country. From thence I returned to Cullig’s the next day, and found my bateau-load of things. The heavy rains had swollen the river so much that it was not thought advisable to go down directly. This induced me to go up to Staats’, as the stupidity of the bateau-men induced him to leave behind several things I particularly requested him to bring, among which were some that were indispensably necessary for me to have directly. On my return, we judged that water ha fallen sufficiently for me to proceed. This being an enterprise of some difficulty and danger, and the cargo of too much consequence to me to hazard out of my view any longer, I thought proper to go on this expedition in person. We accordingly embarked on Thursday, the 14th inst. At Cullig’s, reaching that evening the mouth of the Unadilla (thirty-five miles). The next day we proceeded up the Unadilla eight miles, and came up the Butternut Creek about two miles that evening, being the first white men that ever attempted its navigation. After meeting with several obstructions from falling trees and logs, which are ever to be found in small rivers which have never been cleared, and often in those constantly used, we arrived in front of my building spot with a full-loaded bateau on Sunday, the 17th inst., being about twelve miles up the Butternut Creek, from where it falls into the Unadilla River. I do solemnly declare it is the handsomest navigable creek I ever lay my eyes upon. I am now in my tent, having been obliged to clear a spot to pitch it, as there were never before ten trees cut down by the hand of man within four miles o me. I have as yet only had two hands chopping for me since Friday’ indeed, one of them I was obliged to send yesterday to Otsego for flour, and the other is employed cutting down trees for a small hut I mean to erect and cover with bark for the accommodation of my work-people. I find it will cost me a very small trifle more to build a frame house than a log one. The latter will only last a few years, and is eternally out of order, sinking upon the door and window frames, and is always a dirty house. I shall therefore this year build a frame one,--24 by 14 feet,--that will by-and-by do to convert to the use f a kitchen, and next year, with my saw-mill, will build an addition. I wish you would come and see me. You would probably find me either chopping or cooking or doing work of that kind (there is no female within six miles of me). Upon reading what goes before, I find I have been a most unpardonable egotist. A brother will, I hope, excuse it.
General Morris married for his first wife a Miss Cox, of Philadelphia, and for his second wife a Miss Pringle, of Richfield. His family was as follows, Viz.: Lewis Lee, born in 1778, and came to Butternuts when about sixteen years of age. He married for his first wife a Miss Gilbert, and for his second wife, a Miss Winter. Seven children are living, viz., Lewis In Binghamton; William, in New York; John, in Friendville, Pa.; Charles Lee, in Australia; Mrs. John A. Collier, in Rochester; Mrs. John A. Davis, in New York, and James R., who resides on his father’s homestead.
John Cox, the second son, was born in Philadelphia, in 1781; was educated at Dartmouth College, subsequently studied law, and practiced in New York. He afterwards removed to this town, where he continued his practice and was judge of the county. Richard, the third son, was born in Philadelphia, in 1782, and came here with his parents. He married a Miss Upton, and settled at "Upton Park."
Mary Ann, born in 1748, married Isaac Cooper, of Cooperstown. George died in infancy. Sarah Sabina, born in 1788, married her first husband peter Kean, and for her second husband Looe Baker. She is till living in New York with a daughter, Mrs. Hamilton Fish.
Jacob Walton was born in Butternuts, in 1792. A son, Charles Morris, occupies the old homestead.
Catherine Cox, born in Butternuts, in 1794, and married John h. Prentiss, of Cooperstown. William Augustus, born in 1796, was accidentally killed in about 1818. James Elliott died in infancy.
Charles Valentine, born in 1802, entered the navy as a midshipman when fourteen years of age, and has since remained in the service. He was in command of the Washington navy-yards during the late Rebellion, and is now on the retired list, and resides in Sacket’s Harbor, N. Y.
The Morris patent embraced 30,000 acres, and was granted to Lewis and Richard Morris to indemnify them for the loss of their [property on the Hudson, which was destroyed by the British during the Evolution. Lewis was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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