The History of Otsego, NY 
Richfield Settlement, Part II

By Holice and Debbie

The first consideration paid by mattes was "one barley-corn" for 1000 acres. This patent was divided into ten lots of 100 acres each. It is upon lots No. 6, 7, 8, and 9 that the present village stands, with part of lot No. 1 of Schuyler’s patent, and a narrow strip of Young’s patent, which lies mainly in Herkimer County. In 1771, Mattes deeded to Deobold Zimmerman, for five shillings sterling, 133 acres 1 rood and 12 perches of land, being all of lot No. 8, and one-third of lot No. 6. In the same year, Mattes, for the consideration of 80 pounds sterling, deeded to Frans Freba lots No. 7 and 9, and two-thirds of lot No. 6, in all 266 acres 3 roods and 28 perches of land. Franz Freba, in 1791, purchased from the heirs of Zimmerman the one-third of lot No. 6, and lot No. 8, for 80 pounds sterling. In this deed the land is described as being in the district and county of Cooper. Thus we see that in 1791, Franz Freba owned lots No. 6, 7, 8, 9. In 1802, F. Freba sold to Nathan Dow, for $1,200 (silver), 40 acres in lot No. 8, 50 acres in No. 7, and 30 acres in lot No. 6. In 1802, 8 acres in lot No. 8, for $80. In 1810, Nathan Dow bought of Walter Waterman, who had purchased from Franz Freba, 60 acres; part of this in Young’s patent, and a small part of lot No. 6. In 1817, Nathan Dow bought of George Freba, (son of Franz), for $2,500 (silver), 70 acres 2 roods and 17 perches, part of which is in lot No. 4. In this deed the property is described as being in the town of Richfield. Otsego County. Thus, in 1817, we find that Nathan Dow owned 257 acres of the original sale of Mattes to Freba, for which he paid $4.480. The original cost to Freba for 400 acres being about $800, or, in other words, the property had increased in value from $2 to $19.50 per acre in forty-six years. Without reference to the papers filed in the office of the secretary of state in Albany, it is impossible to get the exact boundaries of these lots, but from some fixed points mentioned in the deeds, we know that the larger portion of the present village stands upon lot No. 6 of Mattes’ patent.

In connection with this matter, I shall take this opportunity to allude to one fact relating to the sulpher spring. Nathan Dow at a very early day looked forward to the time when the spring would become a great public benefit, and he often and positively stated, both in is family and to his personal friends, that when the spring passed from his possession he should so dispose of it that it should ever remain free and open to all. Why this arrangement failed to be consummated I am unable to state; nor do I wish to discuss the question of the policy of making it a free spring, but merely to say that he retained at least one old-fashioned idea that seems at the present day to be almost entirely lost, namely, that it was the duty of every man to contribute something for the public good.

This idea led him to present to this town a cemetery for the benefit of the general public, and building sites—at least two—for churches. So he desired to present the sulpher spring to the people. In bringing my letter to a close, I can only regret that the information conveyed is so meager; but, taken in connection with facts procured from other sources, I trust it may assist you in your forthcoming history of Richfield Springs and surroundings.

Very truly yours,

L.. D. Gould M. D.

In the year 1783, John Tunnicliff, Jr., came to this country from England, and located at Albany as a goldsmith, his former employment. He remained there but a few months when he purchased a farm about one mile south of Little Lakes, in the town of Warren, which he continued to occupy until his death in1814. His family consisted of seven sons and five daughters. Joseph Tunnicliff, of Warren, is now the only surviving son. His son, William Tunnicliff, erected a store near his father’s residence, where he conducted a successful trade for many years, and died in 1836, leaving an ample fortune to his six children, some of whom are now residents of this village.

At the time of the surrender of General Burgoyne to General Gates, at Saratoga, in 1777, all the camp furniture, together with the immense quantities of military stores of the British, fell into the hands of the victorious Americans. After the close of the war many of these articles were sold, and John Tunnicliff, Jr., purchased a large copper camp-kettle, which is now in the possession of Mr. Horatio Tunnicliff, who owns and occupies the estate of his grandfather near Little Lakes.

As previously intimated, William Tunnicliff became the first permanent resident of this place in 1791, and erected a dwelling on the site now occupied by the residence of Mr. John Dana. Many of his descendants are now residents o his village. He also built a public-house on the hill, where now stands the residence of Mr. Vedder Cole; and it was kept by Israel Rawson. Cyrus Robinson kept the first store, which stood near the creek, and James S. Palmer taught the first school at Richfield Springs. The first school-house in the town of Richfield was made of logs, and stood near the present residence of Mr. William Hopkinson.

In the orchard of Mr. Hopkinson is an ancient apple-tree, that is called "The Indian Tree." It was known to the earliest settlers previous to the Revolution. In either a spontaneous growth, or was set there by the Indians more than a century ago. It has never failed to bear fruit annually, which is said to keep sound and good for one year and more. A few rods to the north of this tree in the adjoining field is an oblong mound, supposed to be the grave of some celebrated Indian chief, as the Oneidas were wont to visit it annually and encamp around it, threatening vengeance on any one that should dare to molest its hidden treasure, and it remains undisturbed to this day.

The great Indian trail from the Mohawk valley to the Canadarago led close by this mound and apple-tree. About the time that William Tunnicliff settled at Richfield Springs Obadiah Beardsley emigrated from Rensselaer County, and located first on the western side of the lake near Herkimer Creek, thence to the western part of the town of Richfield, about one mile northwest from Monticello.

Mr. Beardsley was the first magistrate in this town. He was the father of the late Samuel Beardsley, a distinguished lawyer of Utica, and also of Hon. Levi Beardsley, of New York, author of "Beardsley’s Reminiscences."

Their sister, widow of the late Judge Hyde, is at present the only survivor of her father’s family, and now resides with her son-in-law, Hon. A. R. Elwood, of Richfield Springs.

Obadiah Beardsley died in 1841, and was buried at Richfield Springs. Four young and vigorous maples, planted by his own hands, now shade his grave in the village cemetery. The first village settlement in the town of Richfield was made at Brighton, about the commencement of he present century. In the year 18080, the Great Western turnpike was extended westward from Cherry Valley to Brighton; and between this place and Albany, a distance of sixty-eight miles, there were in 1810 seventy-two public-houses, or inn, and these were nightly filled by emigrants on their way west, and also by the farmers of this region; as Albany was the chief market for their wheat and other farm produce. Brighton was at one time a flourishing village, with four stores, one grocery, and two public-houses. The first post-office in town was established at this place in 1817, Jonathan Morgan postmaster. It remained at Brighton sixteen years, when it was removed to Monticello, or Richfield, where it still remains. Jonathan Morgan emigrated from Colchester, Connecticut, in 1816. He was a soldier of the Revolution. He received the appointment of justice of the peace in 1818, and held he office ten years. He had three sons and three daughters. His son, Nelson Morgan, was elected justice of the peace in 1846, and still holds the office. When the turnpike was being opened through the forest, where the village of Richfield Springs now stands, a man by the name of House was killed by the caving of the bank directly opposite the residence of Mr. F. Bronner, on Main Street. The site of the village at this time was covered by a dense growth of gigantic pines and hemlocks. "So thickly set were the trees," says an old settler, "that it was almost impossible to pass between them in some places."

Prominent pioneers near the lake were the Derthicks, consisting of the father, John Derthick, and mother, five sons and three daughters, who emigrated from the town of Colchester, Connecticut, in the spring of 1793, arriving in Richfield in June. The entire household goods of the family were transported in an ox-cart, drawn by a pair of oxen and a single horse. The party arrived in the afternoon, and encamped on a slight eminence, the site of the house now owned and occupied by John Derthick, Jr., a grandson. On the following morning it was determined to begin a clearing on this spot, and to erect a log house, which was accordingly done and the family moved in on the fourth day from the time of arrival. The house was occupied until1808, when the present frame house was built, and the family resided in it until 1811, when the father died, and the family dispersed, leaving john Derthick, afterwards known to many of our first inhabitants as Colonel Derthick, who resided on the farm until the spring of 1860, when he died at the age of seventy-six, leaving one son and two daughters. The farm is till in possession of the family. An incident, showing the great depreciation in value of the federal paper money of the Revolution, some three or four thousand dollars of which was brought from Connecticut by the family, is, that seven hundred dollars of it was given for a pair of common flat or smoothing irons.

Conrad House, with his family, resided during the Revolution about one and a half miles east of the springs, on the "great western trail" from Albany. This trail did not pass over the ground now occupied by Richfield Springs, but kept straight through from the two little lakes to a place afterwards known as Federal Corners, near the Canadarago, thence deflecting from the southern trail across the lowlands at the head of the lake to Fish Creek, which it crossed, leaving the present site of the village on the North. Mr. House’s cabinstood at the junction of this trail with the turnpike afterwards built. During the Revolution, when the hostile bands of Indians were scouting the country south of the Mohawk, a party visited the cabin of House, who with his wife escaped to the woods, leaving in the hands of the savages a daughter of thirteen, who was carried off, and nothing was heard of her for several years, when she made her appearance, having escaped from the Indians bringing with her a daughter, the fruit of a distasteful marriage with the Indian who had captured her. She hd named the child Mary "Manion." Mary had inherited the more prominent features of the Indian, straight black hair, black eyes and high cheek-bones. She was well-known to the first settlers, and continued to make this section her home until 1812, when she disappeared. In the summer of 1795, Freedom Chamberlin and wife, two sons and one daughter, removed from the town of Colchester, Connecticut, to Richfield, and for a time lived in a log house, which stood near the Lake house, but a short distance south of the house of John Derthick. This log house and its surrounding convenience was originally built and occupied for a time by a Frenchman who had taken an Indian wife, and was one of several of his countrymen who had adopted the same course. They were supposed to have passed from the Canadas through the great intervening forest, as a spot most suited to their desires, abounding with all the most valuable fur-bearing animals, which included the otter, the beaver, the stone-marten, and other previously mentioned. It was a spot but little frequented at the time by the whites, and or the hardy forester only three days’ journey to the city of Albany by the great Indian trail, where was found a good market for their peltries, and where could be obtained every article necessary to a life in the wilderness. Mr. Cooper, in his "Pioneers," mentions this settlement as a number of Frenchmen, who had married Indian women, and occupied a section of territory a little to the west of the Otsego Lake. They had disappeared, however, a short time before the arrival of the permanent settlers mentioned. Mr. Chamberlin and his family continued to reside in this log house till the frame house now owned by the family of Hon. Alfred Chamberlin, a grandson (lately deceased), was erected, when the family took possession, and the cabin of the Frenchmen was allowed to go to decay. Among the numbers who came to this country from the valley of the Connecticut was an Indian, far past the meridian of life, named or was called Captain John, and his son known as Sam Brushell, but whose real name was the "Panther," lured to this then far off region by rumors of a beautiful country of lakes, hills, and numerous streams teeming with fish and game of all descriptions. Their wigwam was located on the Tunnicliff lands, near the head of the lake known as "Old Fields," and now owned by Harvey Layton.

Indian John was an old "scalper" and friend of the British during the Revolution. His time during his residence here was almost incessantly occupied in hunting and fishing, and the sharp click of his rifle could be heard almost daily, echoing through the mountain forests in this immediate vicinity.

His wigwam was well stored with a great variety of furs, and the game on which he principally subsisted. He was finally drowned in the Canadarago, by the upsetting of his bark canoe, near the island. His body was recovered, however, and buried in the little hill nearly in front of the Lake House, but afterwards removed by students of Dr. J. L. Palmer; which fact becoming suspected by the Indians living in Oneida, a large delegation made their appearance at the lake, and after a solemn smoke, prepared to open the grave of Captain John. At this moment Mr. Chamberlin appeared on the ground and forbade any interference with the grave, as it was located on his land. He well knew that had the Indians become certain that the body had been removed, their threats towards Dr. Palmer would certainly have been carried out. It was much wondered at, at the time, that the Indians were induced to respect the authority of Mr. Chamberlin, and leave the ground undisturbed.

Captain John was an old man when he died, and always deported himself in a quiet and orderly manner for one who early days had been associated with the most fiendish acts of savage barbarity. Immediately after his death, his son, "The Panther," returned to the alley of the Connecticut, where he remained but a few years, when he returned to the grave of his father, and built a wigwam on the Chamberlin farm, in the thicket of hemlocks and tall pines noticed as we pass from the springs to the Lake House, on the east side, and near the toad where it first enters the wood. He made frequent visits to the Connecticut, and on one of his returns brought with him a small fish, dried and entire, which he exhibited to his friends, holding it on the palm of his hand, and repeating, with a expression of good humor upon his countenance, the familiar homily "as flat as a flounder." The fish was a flounder, a salt-water fish, never seen in this section, and he tool this way to illustrate the comparison "as flat as a flounder,’ and at the same time to allude to his original home near the sea.

The spot where the Panther’scabin stood it still pointed out, and is now in the same condition in which he left it. A large stone used by him as a sort of anvil, on which to beat out the black-ash splints used in making baskets and ornaments, still stands where he placed it. The Panther ws a trusty Indian, and his neighbors did not hesitate to let their children accompany him to his cabin, where they would be treated o a dish of capital chowder, and safely returned to their homes, the happy possessors of nice bow and arrows.

He took the liberty to cut any timber he wanted, no matter where it stood, or whose land it wa on, regarding it as his right, as a native of the forest, to appropriate its products to his own use. He had an idea that his property, no matter where he left it, was safe from intruders, and it is certain no one ever meddled the second time with his personal effects, if he found out. At one time he followed a party of two, who had taken his canoe to the island, and immediately proceeded to manifest his indignation by beating them unmercifully with the paddle, and left them on the island to get off the best way they could. On another occasion Mr. Olcott Chamberlin, son of Freedom Chamberlin, took the Indian’s boat to fish by torch-light. The torch is placed in the bow of the boat and elevated four or five feet above the water, and sustained by an iron jack or light-iron, which is filled with pieces of pitch-pine, and the fisherman stands near and facing the light, which is so strong as to reveal the smallest objects in the water at the bottom to the depth of four or five feet. Mr. Chamberlin had arranged his tackle and was sailing quietly along a short distance from land, when he ws ordered by a gruff voice from the bank of the lake, "Come, ashore my boat." A command not immediately heeded by the fisherman. A moment after, the pine sticks were scattered in a blazing shower about his head by a bullet from the rifle of the Indian, the report of which echoed far away over the waters of the lake. This argument was sufficient. Mr. Chamberlin immediately returned to the shore with the Indians boat.

The Panther went on one of his accustomed visits to the Connecticut about the year 1846, since which time nothing is known of him. He was no doubt a Mohegan, one of the family of Uncas, and in proof of this he showed the figure of a turtle tattooed upon his breast. It is well known that this region witnessed its share of the fierce encounters between the early settlers and hostile bands of savages at the time of the Revolution, as it was in direct line from the Mohawk to the Upper Susquehanna.

One of these border fights was located by the earliest settlers on the northeast shore of Lake Canadarago. It was related that a small party of whites were journeying up the east side of the lake, and on nearing the "Indian burying-ground,"near the Lake House, suddenly became aware that a party of hostile Indians occupied the landing at that place. The whites had succeeded in reaching the little brook which enters the lake at the landing, when they were fired upon from the opposite back on the north. They immediately sought cover behind the little tongue of highland that borders the creek on the south, and the day was spent in exchanging occasional shots with the savages across the bed of the stream. At nightfall the firing ceased, and the whites were only aware of the retreat of the Indians when their campfire was discovered directly across the lake, and had incautiously built a camp-fire, so that it was immediately discovered. At an early house, the whites hurried down to the lake, on the back track to the usual crossing-place on the Oaks’ creek near where the road now crosses it, and concealed themselves in the bushes bordering the stream, rightly conjecturing that the Indians would pass down the west side of the lake, cross the creek, and attempt to surprise them in the rear. They had waited but a short time in their ambush when the Indians made their appearance on the opposite side of the stream, and attempted to cross, but were met by a volley which killed two outright and wounded several others, when the Indians fled, carrying their wounded with them. The whites secured their guns and other arms, and buried the bodies of the two savages by caving a portion of the steep bank upon them, when they proceeded on their journey to Fort Plain, on the Mohawk River.

An account of this fight was related by Thomas Van Horn,one of the party. He was known as "Long Tom Van Horn," who held a captain’s commission during the Revolution, and participated in the battle of Oriskany. Immediately after the close of the war he settled near the headwaters of the Otsquago Creek, in the town of Stark, Herkimer Co., now Van Hornville. In 1813 he removed to a farm on the hill, about one mile east of Canadarago Lake, the farm recently owned by Mr. Philip Van Horn, where he died March 1, 1844, aged ninety-eight years.

Portions of the ridges and banks near the lake bear unmistakable evidence of their occupancy b y the Indians to the present day. When the road leading from the springs and intersecting the old road, just below the Lake House, was built, the skeletons of two Indians were found while grading for the bridge neat the lake House. The bodies were inclosed in hemlock-bark, and with them were found two iron tomahawks; and when the path or gravel-walk leading from the Lake House to the shore of the lake was graded an entire skeleton was found, with a great variety of Indian beads and other ornaments. In a cultivated field near the head of the lake there was recently found a large quantity of flint arrow-heads—about one fourth bushel—in a perfect state, concealed just below the surface of the ground. Also a stone pestle, once used by the Indians, to pulverize their corn. These are now in the possession of Mr. J. F. Getman, of his village.

On what is known as "Oak Ridge," on the west shore of the lake, one-half mile from the head, are several places where innumerable pieces of flint scale are scattered around, and flint arrow-heads entire, and others in process of forming, but broken by an unlucky blow of the manufacturer, are often picked up by the careful observer. And considerable quantities of mussel-shells, far above high-water mark, seem to indicate the location of a wigwam and the probable use for food of these shell-fish, with which the lake abounds.

The high ground on the east side of Oaks Creek, near the bridge that now crosses it, was once an Indian "burying-ground." When the road at this point was graded, about 1810, a number of Indian skeletons were unearthed, and over their faces flat stones were found pierced with holes corresponding with the position of he eyes; and over these holes was placed a transparent substance resembling mica, through which the dead were supposed to see their way through the mythical hunting-grounds of the spirit world.

The first wedding in this town,--that of Ebenezer Russell, and Miss More, in 1795,--is thus described by the late Levi Beardsley in his "Reminiscences": " the marriage was at my father’s in the log house. I do not remember how the parties wre dressed, but no doubt in their best gear. Judge Cooper, of Cooperstown (father of the celebrated novelist, J. Fenimore Cooper), was sent for, being the nearest magistrate, and came eighteen miles, principally through the wood, to perform the ceremony.

"The neighbors were invited. The old pine table was in the middle of the room, on which I recollect was placed a large wooden bowl filled with fried cakes (nut cakes or doughnuts, as the country people call them).There might have been something else to constitute the marriage feast, but I do not recollect anything except a black junk-bottle filled with rum, some maple sugar, and water. The judge was in his long riding –boots, covered with mud up to his knees. His horse was fed, that he might be off when the ceremony was over. The parties presented themselves, and were soon made man and wife, as his ‘honor’ officially announced. He then gave the bride a good hearty kiss, or rather smack, remarking that he always claimed that as his fee; took a drink of rum, drank health, prosperity, and long life to those married, ate a cake or two, declined staying even for supper, said he must be on his way home, and should go to the foot of the lake that night, refused any other fee for his services, mounted his horse, and was off; and thus was the first marriage celebrated. The few other guests who were in attendance remained and partook of as good meal as the house could afford."

The first death was that of Mrs. Russell mentioned above.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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