George Washington Cowles.

Landmarks of Wayne County, New York online

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come to the Genesee country will be to land at New York; they will
with much ease reach Albany by water, and from thence they can
either hire wagons or take navigation by the canals (the canal of the
Inland Lock Navigation Company), or the Mohawk river, to Geneva.
Unless the water be in good order, I should certainly prefer the land
journey. A wagon, with two oxen and two horses will go twenty miles
per day with a load of ">(> ewt."

It is unnecessary to continue these extracts further, and we need
only add that the writer of that earl}- da}-, now almost a century ago,
could as a rule find no terms too complimentry in describing the region
of which Wayne county now forms a part. It was, indeed, a settlers'
paradise, and to-day will compare favorably with any other section of
the country.



Beginning of Settlement in the Territory of Wayne County — Early Map of Western
New York — Map of the "Genesee Lands" — Localities First Settled in Wayne County
—Beginning at East Palmyra — Importance of Ganargwa Creek — First Improvement
at Sodus Bay — Improvement of Highways — Settlements in Various Localities — The
Threatened Canadian Invasion — Final Establishment of Peaceful Conditions —
Estimate of Williamson's Policy.

From the foregoing pages the reader should have gained a general
knowledge of the progress of settlement in the Genesee country down
to near the beginning of the present century (aside from that portion
now embraced in Wayne county), and the bright prospects offered by
this favored region to further immigration. We may, therefore, now
turn our attention to the story of the first settlements in what is Wayne
county, which carries us back to a few years earlier date than the
period under consideration in the final pages of the preceding chapter.

It is not surprising that the pioneers of our county settled where they
did — on or near the banks of the Ganargwa. It was a picturesque
stream, winding its devious way through the thick forest; its waters
teemed with fish ; there were available mill sites along its course ; the
land along its valley was fertile and easily tillable ; and, moreover, its
generally sluggish stream was a highway on which the pioneer could
bring to his wilderness home his household goods far more easily than
by any other method.

It must be remenbered that the first road opened (1796) westward
from Whitestown, near Utica, came on to Geneva, and that the Cayuga
bridge was built in 1800, making that route the one selected for nine-
tenths of the westward travel. This highway left the territory of
Wayne county in a measure isolated and added to the importance of
the water way that was followed by many of the pioneers of thiscountv
— up the Hudson or to Albany from New England points; thence to
Schenectady by land; up the Mohawk to the site of Rome; a short
portage to Wood Creek; down Oneida Lake to the Oswego River;
thence to the Seneca River, up the Clyde, and from the "Forks"


(Lyons) along- the Ganargwa (Mud) Creek and the outlet. It was a
toilsome journey, but was generally preferable to the overland route,
especially in summer or autumn, for several years after settlement
began. The accompanying map shows the earl)' lines of travel across
the State, and other interesting" facts.

It was only a very short time after the beginning of improvements
at Canandaigua and Geneva, noticed in the preceding chapter, when
preparations were made to open up the rich lands along the Ganargwa.
What is called "The New State Road" on the map of 1809 was built
during the first decade of the century, and passed directly across Wayne
county. A glance at the accompanying map of the Phelps and Gorham
purchase will show that in the part which finally became Wayne county,
in township 12, range 1, William Bacon and others were purchasers;
township 13, range 1, was sold to Elijah Austin or George Joy, his
assignee; township 12, range 2, was purchased by John Swift and
John Jenkins; and township 12, range 3, by Warner, Comstock and

It was in township 12, range 2, that settlement in Wayne county
began. John Swift and Col. John Jenkins, who bought it, began its
survey into farm lots in March, 1789. Jenkins was a practical surveyor
and built a cabin on the bank of Ganargwa Creek, about two miles
below the site of Palmyra village. His assistants were Alpheus Harris,

who was a nephew, Solomon Earle, Baker, and Daniel Ransom.

A tragedy was at hand. One morning while the party were asleep in
their cabin, beside a fire, a party of four Tuscarora Indians crept up,
fired their guns through spaces between the logs, killed Baker and
severely wounded Earle ; the other two escaped unhurt, encountered
the murderers, secured two of their rifles and a tomahawk and drove
them away. In the morning after burying Baker, they took Earle and
started for Geneva to give an alarm. The Indians were pursued, two
of them captured and executed at what is now Elmira. They were
killed with the tomahawk. The trial was by a sort of lynch court, but
the whole proceeding and the bloody method of execution seem to have
been justified.

During the summer of 1789, John Swift moved into the township,
and built a log house and storehouse at "Swift's Landing," as it was
called for a time, a little north of the lower end of Main street, Pal-
myra. He was not long alone, for before the close of the year 1789,
Webb Harwood, from Adams, Mass., came in with his wife and built a


cabin on high ground near the site of the first lock west of Palmyra.

He was accompanied by Noah Porter, Jonathan Warner and Bennet
Bates, all single men. Mr. Turner collected the following" names of
settlers who came in during 1790, 1791, and 1792, giving them in the
order of their arrival as nearly as possible: Lemuel Spear, David Jack-
ways, James Galloway, Jonathan Millet, the Mattisons, Gideon Durfee
the elder, and his sons, Gideon, Edward, Job, Pardon, Stephen, and
Lemuel; Isaac Springer, William, James and Thomas Rogers, John
Russell, Nathan Harris, David Wilcox, Joel Foster, Abraham Foster,Elias
Reeves, Luther Sanford ; and in addition to these there came to what is now
Macedon, but then in Palmyra, Messrs. Reid, Delano, Packard Barney,
Broan, Adam Kingman, Hill, Lapham, Benjamin and Philip Woods.

What became East Palmyra was settled in 1791 by a company which
took the name of the Long Island Company, through their agents, Joel
Foster, Elias Reeves, and Luke Foster. The company sailed from
Long Island in April, 1792. The located on or near Ganargwa 1 Creek.
The details of this settlement, and all others in this town will be found
in the later history of the town of Palmyra.

Soon after Mr. Williamson had perfected his title to the "Gore" 2 his

1 Mud Creek until recently, The old name was blended with the recollection of
stagnant waters, bogs, chills and fevers. When its whole aspect had been changed
by the hand of improvement, and it became even picturesque and beautiful in its
meanderings through cultivated fields, and a rural scenery seldom equaled, the
dwellers in its valley were enabled, with the help of Lewis Morgan, esq., of
Rochester, to come at its ancient Seneca name, which they adopted. — Turner' s
1' helps and Cor ham' s Purchase, foot note, p. 263.

2 Before the State had acknowledged the correctness of the new pre-emption line,
patents had been issued covering nearly the whole of "The Gore." Mr. Williamson
having purchased through the agency of Johnstone, all the patents, had so fortified
the claim of his principals, that he had ventured upon exercising ownership; though
title was yet an open question. In March, 1795, while a bill was pending in the
Legislature, providing for running a third line, by the surveyor-general, and if the
one run by Mr. Ellicott should prove correct, to give the associates other lands in
lieu of those that had been patented upon the gore; Philip Schuyler introduced
amendments, which prevailed, making it discretionary with the surveyor-general,
allowing him to waive the running of a new line, if he satisfied himself that Mr. Elli-
cott's line was correct; and leave it to the commissioners of the land office to ar-
range matters between the holders of the patents and the associates, or, Mr. Will-
iamson, holding, as he did, by purchase, most of the patents, t<> perfect the title to
"The (lore," nearly 84,000 acres. As an equivalent for what he had paid in the pur-
chase of patents, the commissioners of the land office conveyed to him about the
same quantity of land embraced in the patents, off from the military tract, in what is
now Wolcott arid Galen. — Turner's Phelps and Gor ham's Purchase, p. 261-62.


attention was drawn to the conditions surrounding" the region at the
junction of Ganargwa Creek and the Canandaigua outlet. He saw the
natural beauty and desirability of the locality and determined to im-
prove it. The two streams at this point reminded him of the Rhone
and the Saone, which, with a certain similarity in the landscape, led
him to give the place the name of Lyons. In May, 17^9, a small
colony, made up of the families of Nicholas Stansell, William Stansell,
and a brother-in-law, John Featherly, had reached that point by the
water route already described and built log huts half a mile south of
the site of Lyons' village. William Stansell had been here as one of
Sullivan's expedition. The Stansells and Featherly were the pioneers
of that region. Joining with the pioneers of Phelps they opened a
road to that neighborhood and in the direction of the mill at Waterloo
(now in Seneca county). A little corn and potatoes was raised by
them in 1789, which were the first crops raised in the county. They
suffered severe hardships for a time, and a son of one of the first Stan-
sell families told Mr. Turner that they once got out of corn and bought
some of the Onondaga Indians ; for days they were without provisions,
only such as could be obtained from the forest, the streams, and their
cows. Mr. Williamson made Charles Cameron his agent at Lyons and
began operations there in the summer of 1794 The first framed house
in that region was built for Mr. Cameron, with a barn. Nearly 1,000
acres of land was reserved and afterwards sold to Judge Tower. Be-
fore the close of 1790, Henry Tower, then agent for Mr. Williamson,
built what was long known as Tower's mills at "Alloway, " as the place
was then called.

Meanwhile Williamson had also selected Sodus Bay as a point for
establishing what he hoped would prove a great commercial center.
His hopes were based largely upon the belief that the waterway already
described, with Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River would be
the future paths of transportation for all this region. In the spring of
1794 he had roads cut out from Palmyra to Phelpstown. His presence
at Sodus Bay with a corps of surveyors, road makers, and other aids,
convinced the settlers that they were to witness the planting of a vil-
lage that would some day be a city. Williamson preceded the improve-
ments by a written announcement of his plans. These contemplated
the survey of "a town between Salmon Creek and Great Sodus Bay,
and a spacious street, with a large square in the center, between the
falls of Salmon Creek and the anchorage in the bay, and mills are to be


built at the falls on Salmon Creek." To this somewhat inspiring-
declaration he added: "As the harbor of Great Sodus is acknowledged
to be the finest on Lake Ontario, this town, in the convenience of the
mills and extensive fisheries, will command advantages unknown to
the country, independent of the navigation of the Great Lake and the
.St. Lawrence." There is a vein of similar enthusiasm running through
all of Williamson's operations, and it must be said that many of the
plans of himself and the association were more or less visionary. This
is not to be wondered at, when we consider the wholly undeveloped
condition of the country, and the primitive modes of travel and trans-

The new town was to be surveyed by Joseph Colt. The in-lots con-
tained a quarter of an acre, and the out-lots ten acres. The in-lots
were offered for one hundred dollars, and the out-lots for four dollars
per acre ; the farming lands in that region at one dollar and fifty cents
an acre. Thomas Little and a Mr. Moffat were made the local agents.
A hotel was built at a cost of over $5, (Kin, and opened by Moses and
Jabez Sill. Mills were built at the falls on Salmon Creek, a pleasure
boat placed on the bay, and other minor improvements made. In
making roads, surveys, and erecting buildings, etc., more than $20,-
ooo were expended in the first two years. It was a characteristic of
Mr. Williamson to be liberal in the use of money and sanguine of the
results; but as we have before intimated, there was much to justify his
enthusiasm regarding this particular locality.

While Williamson and others named were thus actively engaged in
promoting the early settlements of Wayne county, this energetic agent
was no less industrious in other parts of the purchase. He was con-
spicuous in the measures adopted for opening the old road from Fort
Schuyler to Geneva, and in 1 7 i » 8 joined with Ellicott in making the
"Niagara road, " from the Genesee River westward (the new "State
road" on the map of 1809). He was also active in the building of the
roads from Lyons to Palmyra; from "Hopeton to Townsend's;" from
"Seneca Falls to Lyons mills;" and other early highways. He was
elected to the Legislature from Ontario county in 1796, and in that
body for three years devoted his great energy to the advancement of
the interests of Western New York. 1

1 About the time of the projection of the State road west from Rome, Mr. William-
son was riding upon Long Island, in company with De Witt Clinton, who, remark-
ing upon the smoothness of the road, said to Mr. W. : "If you had such roadstoyour


It was fortunate for the rapid settlement of this region that Mr.
Williamson was backed by men with ample means. They could, and
did, sell their lands with little or no cash payments, and advanced
large sums for improvements, as we have noted. So liberal had been
the expenditures that as late as 1800 the entire enterprise seemed a
doubtful one as to ultimate profits. Mr. Williamson's first engagement
with the London Associates was for seven years, though he remained
considerably longer. Those who came with him from vScotland, were
Charles Cameron, who has been mentioned, as assisting Mr. William-
son in many of his early undertakings. He was the local agent at
Lyons and probably shipped from there the first produce sent to an
eastern market from the Genesee country. He was afterwards a mer-
chant at Canandaigua; John Johnstone, also an employee of William-
son; Henry Tower, an agent in the building of the mills at "Allo-
way" — Lyons, and afterwards purchased them and lived there man3 T
years; Hugh McCarthy, settled in Sparta. Besides these there were
James Tower and Andrew Smith. When Sir William Pulteney and
Governor Hornby made a division of their lands, John Johnstone be-
came agent for the Hornby estate, and thus continued until 180G. Mr.
Williamson died in London in 1808.

Besides the settlements at the three points named — Palmyra, Lyons,
and Sodus — the pioneers who came into the county prior to the year
1800 located chiefly along the Ganargwa. Even in this favorite locality
there was as late as 1819, according to Mr. Turner, a space of several
miles where farm improvements were insignificant and log houses pre-
dominated. Some of the earliest settlers along the creek, besides the
.Long Island colony, were Thomas Goldsmith, Philip Lusk, Jacob Lusk,
Isaac Lusk, John Tibbits, Oliver Sanford, Luther Sanford, Oliver
Clark, James Parshall, Thomas Cornell, James Galloway, Humphrey
Sherman, Reuben Starks. John Spoor settled early where " Lockpitt "
was founded, and was succeeded there by Nicholas Stansell. The
Lusks settled where Newark has grown up. Other settlers in old Pal-
myra were: Thaddeus Taft, Joshua Bridge, Weaver Osborne, Cyrus
Foster, Jeremiah Smith, Caleb McCumber, Israel Parshall, Joseph

country I would make you a visit." "It can be done with proper exertions." Mr.
Clinton promised him his co-operation, and afterwards assisted in procuring the in-
corporation of the Seneca Turnpike Company, in which the State road was merged.
Mr. Clinton's first visit to this region was in 1810. — Foot Note, Tin-tier' s Phelps
and Gorham s Purchase, p. 2-J2.


Shoemaker, Oliver Booth, Ahaz Aldrieh, Samuel Millet, John Sher-
man, Silas Hart, Thomas Glover, Joseph Tinkum, James Galloway
and William Starks. What is now the town of Walworth was first set-
tled in 1799, by the families of Andrew, John, Samuel and Daniel Mil-
ler: a younger brother of these named Alexander, also came in at that
time, and two years later, in 1801, Stephen and Daniel Douglass moved
into the town.

In what is now the town of Williamson, and near the village of the
same name, were located a little prior to 1794 the families of Timothy
Smith and Henry Lovell ; the latter was one of the first Board of As-
sessors of the town.

Maeedon was settled in 1789 and 1790 by Webb Harwood, Ebenezer
Reed, Israel Delano, Darius Comstock and Paul Reed. Settlement in
Huron began in 1796, when Col. Peregrine Fitzhugh and William
Helms came in.

Other towns as at present constituted were first settled a little later;
but it is not our purpose to continue details of pioneer arrivals at this
point in the narrative, as they will all be described in the subsequent
town histories. An early road was opened along the' lake shore, fol-
lowing generelly the Indian trail, from Pultneyville to Irondequoit;
this preceded the Ridge road. Many of the settlers in the northern
part of the count}" located along this road.

The condition of the pioneers of Wayne county was not in all respects
a happy one, notwithstanding that they were greatly favored in others.
During the first five or six years there was ever present the harassing
fear of Indian attacks, to which we have alluded in a preceding chap-
ter. This was not wholly dissipated until the successful conclusion of
the Pickering treaty in the fall of 1794 at Canandaigua. This, with
Wayne's victory in the W r est, brought substantial peace. A brief refer-
ence, however, should be made to an attempted invasion of the Genesee
country from Canada, which was projected even while the arrange-
ments for the Pickering conference were in progress. Governor Sim-
coe was in power at that time in Canada, and evinced a contemptible
jealous)' and hatred of the people who were so rapidly coming into
Western New York. It is said that he threatened to send Mr. William-
son to England in irons if he ever ventured into Canada. In August,
I 79 I, Simcoe sent a representative to Williamson with a protest against
his work in establishing the settlement at Sodus Bay, pending the com-
plete execution of the treaty terminating the Revolutionary War.


Williamson was absent at Bath and the messenger left his errand with
Mr. Moffat, with notice that he would return in ten days for a reply.
Williamson arranged to go at once to Sodus and meet Simcoe's messen-
ger. It developed that Mr. Williamson had known the messenger in
England and their interview was friendly; at the same time the mes-
senger was directed to inform Governor Simcoe that no attention would
be paid to his message and that Mr. Williamson would proceed, as he
had before, with his work at settlement; that if interfered with, the
invaders would be met with forcible resistance. It should be explained
that after the declaration of peace following the Revolution, Great
Britain complained that those parts of the treaty which required that
those States in which British subjects were prevented by law from re-
covering debts due to them prior to the Revolution, had been repealed
(as by the treaty they ought to have been), and also that British prop-
erty had been confiscated since the period limited in the treaty for such
confiscations, and no compensation had been allowed to those who had
suffered thereby. On the other hand, the Americans complained that
after the cessation of hostilities, negroes and other property were carried
away by the British soldiers, contrary to stipulations in the preliminary
peace treaty. The British retained possession of posts on our borders
until the settlement of all these matters in 1796.

All the settlements in the Genesee country soon learned of the threat-
ened invasion; and at the same time it was noticed that the conduct of
the Indians seemed to favor such a movement. Harmar and St. Clair
had been defeated in the West, and Wayne's success was yet problem-
atical. It was well known that the British were aiding and abetting
the Indians against Wayne, and many of the Senecas had armed and
gone to join the forces in the West. Should Wayne be defeated, as all
the settlers thought extremely probable, what would be more likely
than that the Senecas and their allies would return flushed with victory
to lay waste the new country? With these things in view, it is not sur-
prising that the landing of the messenger from Simcoe and his little
party created widespread dismay.

Immediately after the departure of Simcoe's messenger, Mr. William-
son and his coadjutors took immediate steps to prepare for possible
trouble and to assure the settlers of protection. He sent a post rider
to both Albany and Philadelphia, with messages explaining the whole
situation. In one of the letters he said:


It is pretty well ascertained that for some time past, quantities of military stores
and ammunition have been forwarded to Oswego. This makes me think it not im-
probable that Lieutenant Sheafe (he was Simcoe's messenger) will take a forcible
possession of Sodus on his return. I shall, however, without relaxing, go on with
my business there, until drove off by a superior force. It is needless for me to trouble
you with any com meDts on this unparalleled piece of insolence, and gross insult to
the government of the United States. l

While Mr. Williamson was thus exerting- himself to support his posi-
tion in his settlement and to provide for adequate protection by the
government, affairs were reaching a climax in another direction.
" Mad Anthony Wayne " was on the war-path and four days after Sim-
coe had sent his message to Mr. Williamson, met the Indians in the
West and crushed them. The importance of this victory, both to the
settlers in the (ienesee country and to the country at large, was great
It gave security and hope to the harassed settlers and permanently
ended the long succession of Indian treaties that had been more or less
fruitless. The Senecas returned to their homes humbled and subdued,

1 It is worth while to gain a new knowledge of Simcoe's operations during the
year in question (1794), as detailed in another letter from Mr. Williamson to Sir
William Pulteney, in which he wrote as follows: " I shall make no further comment
on this business, than to observe, that anything short of actual hostilities, it com-
pletes the unequalled insolent conduct of Mr. Simcoe toward this government. Mr.
vSimcoe's personal treatment of myself and you, I treat with the scorn it deserves, but
I beg leave to give you a sketch of his political conduct. On his first arrival in this
country, by deep-laid schemes he has prevented every possibility of an accommoda-
tion between the country and the hostile Indians, and this summer, by his intrigues,
he has drawn several tribes of friendly Indians from the territory of the United States
to the British side of the lines, and left nothing undone to induce the Six Nations,
our neighbors, to take up the hatchet the moment he gives the word. You must be
acquainted with his marching a body of armed troops, and erecting a fort at the rap-
ids of the Miami seventy miles within the territory of the United States, but this
being an extensive wilderness, seemed of less importance. Not content with this,
he has now interfered with our settlements, in a manner so unlike the dignity of a
great nation that it must astonish you. If it is the intention of the British ministry,
by low and underhanded schemes, to keep alive a harassing war against helpless
women and children, or by murders on the frontier, to add to the list of the murders
already committed by the influence of their servants here, and to treat this govern-

Online LibraryGeorge Washington CowlesLandmarks of Wayne County, New York → online text (page 5 of 107)