The History of Otsego, NY

By Holice and Debbie



Organization — Geographical — Topographical — First Settlers and Their Locations — Initial Events — The First Town Meeting — Officers Elected — Supervisors and Town Clerks from 1798 to 1876 — Agricultural and General statistics — Area — Equalized and Assessed Valuation — Populations.

Worcester was formed from Cherry Valley, March 3, 1797, and embraced, in addition to its present territory, the towns of Maryland, Decatur, and Westford. Those towns were set off in 1808. It is the southeast corner town in the county and bounded as follows: on the north by Westford and Decatur, on the east by Schoharie county, on the south by Delaware county, and on the west by Maryland. The surface is a hilly upland, and the soil consists chiefly of a sandy loam. The soil is fertile, particularly along the valley of the Schenevus creek and Charlotte river, where are found some of the finest farming lands in the county.

The first settlements in this town were made soon after the Revolution, in about the year 1788. Prominent among the pioneers was Silas Crippen, of honored memory. He was an active and influential man, and did much to advance the interests of his town and county. He was supervisor eight years, also justice of the peace, judge of the court, and was a member of assembly in 1816. He owned and conducted successfully a large farm, and built the first grist-mill in the town in 1790, and the first saw-mill about the same time. The farm formerly owned by him is now occupied by Ethan A. Hanor. At the time of his settlement this locality was a dense uninviting wilderness; there were no roads, not even a foot path or marked trees; and he cut his way through to the settlement. Mr. Crippen was accompanied to his forest home by his wife and two sons;--Samuel and Asa.

Phillip, a son, was the first white child born in the town. The other children were Daniel, Sally, Betsey, Silas, Mary, Silas, Charles. James M., a son of Asa, resides in this town; Phillip has two sons and one daughter who are residents of the town, Harrison and Schuyler, and Sarah, widow of James B. Cooley. Betsey, widow of J. P. Russ, resides in the village of Worcester, at the advanced age of eighty-two years; a son, Hamilton Russ, and a daughter, the wife D. T. Gott, are residents of East Worcester. Mary married Leonard Caryl. The children of John are Charles H., a successful merchant at Worcester; Sabrina, wife of N. wood, of Westford; Mary A., wife of A. K. Briggs; Jane, wife of Timothy Castelar, and John, financial agent of Cornell University, residing at Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Schuyler Crippen was a prominent man and served in many official capacities within the gift of his fellow-citizens. He studied law with John D. Hammond, of Cherry Valley, and finally settled in Cooperstown, where he died in March, 1872, aged seventy-seven years. He was one of the first circuit judges after the organization of the Sixth district, was member of assembly in 1831, and district attorney in 1837. He has two children, a son and daughter, residing in Albany, N. Y.

Among other pioneers who were contemporaries with Mr. Crippen were Henry Stever, Solomon Hartwell, Uriah Bigelow, Nathaniel Todd, Charles Wilder, and Joseph Tainter.

The first merchant in Worcester was Anson Kinney in 1798. The pioneer grist-mill was erected by Silas Crippen, on the site now occupied by the mill of Benjamin Dey. It was a rudely-constructed affair, but its completion was the occasion of much rejoicing among the early settlers, who previously had carried their "grists" to Sharon. Uriah Bigelow was the first physician in the town, an excellent practitioner, and prominent man.

The settlement was not wholly without religious instruction, as missionaries occasionally preached as time and circumstances would permit, and as early as 1792 the Congregational church was organized. The settlement at Worcester was now in a prosperous condition, and the reports of a fertile soil, delightful location, and healthy climate had reached the east, and soon after the tide of immigration set in, and the dawn of 1800 finds Worcester one of the most prosperous localities in the county.

James Marsh was a pioneer on lands now owned by Schuyler Crippen, and Leonard, a brother of James, on premises now owned by Leonard Caryl.

John Waterman settled on and cleared the farm now occupied by a granddaughter, widow Fuller. Henry Stever, Deacon John Rand, Elias Clark, and Moses Essex were pioneers in this locality.

The first settler north of the village, on the Decatur road, was Luther Flint, who located on premises now owned by Sanford Wharton.

John More early located on lands now owned by Mr. Fitzwater, and here built one of the first carding machines in the town.

Deacon Phineas Flint was an early settler on the farm north of More, now owned by Horatio Flint, and occupied by Lester G. Flint. Thos. Flint, brother of Luther and Phineas, was also a pioneer in this vicinity, on premises now occupied by Edward Prindle.

On the premises now owned by E. Vaughn, Joseph Flint, familiarly known as "Deacon," was an early settler. He was quite an active pioneer, and added to his stock of worldly goods by the manufacture and sale of what was then facetiously called "white-oak cheese." Many an amusing story is related of Deacon Flint and his cheese, and "the boys" took especial delight in annoying him. One day he drove to Leonard Caryl’s store with a load of these gems, and while inside negotiating for their sale mischievous youngsters slyly removed the linch pin from his wagon. The deacon finally came out, mounted his wagon, and after getting comfortably seated started his team, when, much to his astonishment, the fore wheels went with the team, the "hind wheels" refused to follow, and the cheeses rolled around on the ground. Mr. Caryl had two clerks in his employ, Josiah Pickering and Ten Eyck Lamour. They sold one of the cheeses to a Mr. Bryant, who lived on south hill, and slyly slipped a package of salts in his pocket. The next day he returned, and angrily asked, "Why did you put those salts in my pocket?’

"We;" answered Lamour, "you bought one of those cheeses, and I know you would want a doctor before morning, and there being none in your neighborhood, I thought I would give you some physic, it being the next best thing I could do for you."

Russell Pierce, familiarly known as "Tutty" the fiddler, was a pioneer in the Deacon Flint neighborhood. Other early settlers were Mr. Robertson, Asa Butler, the Shedlands, John Keley, Samuel Hartwell.

Samuel Russ was an early settler on lands now owned by two grandsons, Samuel and Alonzo.

John P. Russ was a prominent pioneer on lands now owned by E. Ridge. His widow resides in the village of Worcester with her son, Hamilton Russ.

Among other settlers are mentioned the names of Jonathon Jennings, Mr. Lamour, Andrew Little, Captain John Pratt, William Simpson, Amos Belding, J. H. Herrington, J. Eddy, J. P. Hollenbeck, Green White, Mr. Briggs, Thos. Tallman, Seth Dickinson, John Alford, David and Adolphus Scott, Hazard Smith.

A prominent pioneer at East Worcester was John Champion. He was born near Lyme, Conn., in 1766, and at twelve years of age, entered the American army of the Revolution as a teamster, he being too young to carry a musket as a soldier. He served as teamster until the close of the war. He had two older brothers in the army at the same time. They were taken prisoner by the British, and one of them starved to death in the old jersey prison-ship, of Revolutionary fame. The other barely escaped with his life. At the close of the war, John champion married Miss Elizabeth Kellam, of his native place, and the next week after being married, and at an age of twenty-two 1788, emigrated with his young wife to what the Yankees called "York State," and settled in what was at that time the town of Worcester, and subsequently the town of Decatur, Otsego Co., N. Y.

He settled on what is called Elliot Hill, and bought the farm afterwards owned by the Elliots. After paying for his land, and clearing a large part of it, he found out that he had been swindled, and that he had purchased his land of a man who had no title to it, and in consequence he lost his farm, and got nothing for his improvements. It was while living here, for a period of nearly ten years, that he suffered all the privations and hardships of a pioneer life.

The country was one dense wilderness from Schoharie to Otsego on the Susquehanna, except a few scattered settlements at intervals along the Susquehanna, and at Cherry Valley. There was no mills at Sharon, and the next was at Central Bridge, in Schoharie county, about twenty miles distant. He was known to have gone several times to Central Bridge to mill with half a bucket of corn on his back, and on foot, starting before daylight in the morning, and returning the next night. Part of the way there was no road, but he was guided by marked trees through the woods, and was often followed by packs of howling wolves on either side the path. Many of the settlers were obliged to travel the same route with grists, in order to save their families from perishing in the wilderness. Deer, bear, and other wild game were plenty, and hunters occasionally supplied them with meat from the forest.

After losing his farm, he moved to what is known as McCarthy’s Corners, in Decatur, where he purchased another tract of land of about 150 acres, and cleared a potashery, and went to boiling potash, at which business he succeeded in paying for his land a second time—about $100. Potash at that time fetched a big price, and he did well at the business. Albany was the market place, and the potash was hauled by ox-teams, on roads cut through the woods over the hills, until they reached the valley of the Cobleskill creek, from which place to Albany the roads were better, and thus worked their way through. It took generally about a week to ten days to make the trip, and upon such occasions the settlers would all combine, and have those who went with a load of potash, bring back a load of groceries and other goods sufficient to supply their wants during the intervals of going. There were other asheries located in other localities, so that they could co-operate with each other in the marketing of their potash.

Among the early settlers of the eastern part of Decatur, who were contemporaries with Mr. champion from 1790 to 1800, were Peter Elliot, Daniel Elliot, Andrew Elliot, William Seward, Jonathon Perry, Jacob Stonematch, Philip Stonematch, James Works, Richard Taylor, Joseph Bristol, Jesse Ferris, Gardner Boorn, Nathan Boorn, Samuel Thompson, Sr., Gilbert Smith, James Stone, William Ripson, Charles Bartholomew, Ephraim Berry, Jesse Oaks, James Clark, Thomas Shaw, John G. Seeley, and other.

About the year 1795 or 1796, William Ripson, with the aid of the settlers near by, built a log grist mill at what is called "Ferris’ Falls," near the head-waters of the north branch, of the Schenevus creek, which was the first grist-mill in Worcester, as it was then called, subsequently Decatur.

Their township elections were held mostly at what is now Westford Village, and were held in the winter season. It was no small talk to go through the snow and woods to the elections, and to do other township business.

Samuel Thompson, Sr., was appointed a justice of the peace for the Hill district, and held the office until the town was divided.

The following will illustrate one of the difficulties under which they labored in attending elections; The morning of a dy on which an important town meeting ws held, which caused a general attendance, was dark and threatening; thick, murky clouds hung upon the hilltops; everything appeared hushed to silence, except an occasional moan among the trees, which betokened an approaching storm. They heeded not the weather, but hastened on to the town election. During the day the storm came on in all its fury, and by night-fall the snow was nearly waist deep, and then came the tug for home. Some thought best to stay all night, while others, more courageous, started for their homes, among whom were John champion, Jonathon Perry, Gardner Boorn, and Samuel Thompson, Esq. They wallowed through the snow as far as Decatur Hollow, where they rested a while, being very tired. Night had now arrived, and as the snow was falling thick and fast, it was a serious question whether they should attempt to go over the mountain to their houses or not. Finally courage prevailed, and they started through the snow, and in single file threaded their way like a "forlorn hope," first one going on ahead to break the road, and then another. Before they had gone half way up the hill they became nearly exhausted, and felt it almost impossible to reach their homes, but, after a little rest, with renewed courage they would start on again, well knowing that if they remained there, the "storm king" would soon chill their blood and that they would fall frozen victims on the mountain side to the fierce and chilling blast. These thoughts, and the remembrance of loved one at home, would stimulate their courage, and with renewed efforts they would again rush on, until at length Mr. Perry gave out entirely and said he could go no further, and implored them to let him lie down and sleep a while until he got rested, and then he would go on. They very well knew it would be his last sleep if they permitted him to do so, and they used their best efforts to keep him awake and to urge him on, until it was by main force they lifted and carried him on, until they themselves got so weak they could not carry him any further. One would take hold of his coat collar and hold of each others’ hands, and thus they toiled and dragged their exhausted companion through the snow and over the drifts of Decatur Hill, until at length themselves, nearly exhausted, reached the house of Gardner Boorn, a little over the top of the mountain, arriving there some time after midnight, having occupied about six hours in going less than two miles. Here, after getting warm and partaking of refreshments, they stayed until morning, thanking God for their safe deliverance from the fury of the storm and from a death bed in the snow.

A few years after this, Mr. Perry moved to the south-western part of the State, and settled somewhere near the Pennsylvania line; and after having been gone some thirty years, business again called him to Worcester, and the writer of this was present and heard him and Mr. Champion relate to each other the incidents of that fearful night in the snow, while tears ran down their furrowed cheeks as they related to each other certain particulars which took place on that occasion, and said he should ever and always feel grateful to these men for saving his life.

It appears that in those early times land swindlers were as plenty as now, and some of the settlers had trouble by purchasing their lands of swindlers, and as a consequence were compelled to leave their improvements or make new contracts with the rightful owners. Some of these lands ere embraced in what is called the "Colden Patent;" and for fear of being ejected from their improvements, the settlers got together and agreed to send an agent with a sort of petition to Mr. Colden to ascertain on what conditions they could retain their lands, and the following is a fue simile of the style of petition send:

Worcester, May 9, 1866

Mr. Colden,--Sir: We whose names air here under Wrighten air settlers on your Land, and have severally agreed to send Mr. John Champion to see and know the condition that we can have it on, for we mean to do all we can for you, and want that you should consider our circumstances and be as favorable to us as possibel, and send in "Written" by the barer, so that we may know what to depend on the No. of lots that we want is at the end of our names, so we remain yours, etc. (The names here are mostly torn off from the paper.)

About the year 1805 or 1806, John Champion sold his claim at McCarthy’s Corners , and moved to what is called "Calcutta Street," near East Worcester. The country around was all a heavy forest. He just cleared away a spot large enough for his purpose, and built a log house, which stood about forty or fifty feet south of where the woolen-factory now stands.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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