George Washington Cowles.

Landmarks of Wayne County, New York online

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ment with the most unwarrantable insolence and contempt, I allow that Mr. Simcoe
is a most industrious and faithful servant the British government ever had. But if
it is their intention to cultivate a friendly intercourse with this country, it never can
take place while such is the conduct of their governor here. . . . If these trans-
actions are in consequence of orders from Great Britain, and their views are hostile,
there is nothing further to be said.

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and entertaining ideas of Wayne born in the consternation and awe
that fell upon them when they saw the warriors fall like leaves before
his onslaught.

Prior to the visit of Lieutenant Sheaffe to Mr. Williamson with Sim-
coe's message, and on the 3d of July, the War Department had been
specifically informed of the exposed condition of the settlers in the
Genesee country. The acts of the British to which we have alluded
were made the subject of a letter from General Washington to John
Jay, then minister in London, in which he wrote as follows:

( )f this irregular and high-handed proceeding of Mr, Simcoe, which is no longer
masked, I would rather hear what the ministry of Great Britain will say. . . This
may be considered as the most open and daring act of the British agents in America,
though it is not the most hostile and cruel ; for there does not remain a doubt in the
mind of any well informed person in this country, not shut against conviction, that
all the difficulties we encounter with the Indians, their hostilities, the murders of
helpless women and children, along our frontiers, result from the conduct of agents
of Great Britain in this country.

In the same letter Washington predicted that it would be impossible
to keep this country on peaceful terms with England long, unless the
various posts were surrendered to us.

Congratulations upon Wayne's victory and the resultant peace were
general, and nothing more was heard of invasions from Canada.

There were other hardships which the early settlers were forced to
endure, but they were mostly men of stability, perseverance and energy.
Buying his land on easy terms at a low price, and inspired with the
vigor of young manhood, the pioneer thought the road to independence
would not be a long nor a very hard one ; but many were grievously
disappointed. The meager crops raised on the small clearing were
needed for home consumption ; or, if there was a small surplus, it was
difficult to dispose of it. The roads to a market were often impassable
for teams ; interest accumulated, and what was worse than all else,
sickness was very prevalent in many localities, and good medical
attendance almost impossible to obtain. Fever and ague was espe-
cially afflicting and disheartening. This intermittent disease gave the
settlers their "sick days" and their "well days," * and they could work

1 Dr. Coventry, who lived near Geneva in 1792-4 said that those seasons were very

sickly in proportion to the population, in all the Genesee country. "I remember,"

said he, "when in Geneva there was but a single individual who could leave her bed.

In 1795 no rain fell in June or July; water in the lakes was lowered ; every inlet



only on the latter. These troubles, with the others we have described,
would doubtless have driven many away from their homes, had it not
been for the liberal, energetic and protective policy adopted by Mr.

This chapter may be closed with an original article, showing clearly
the policy of Mr. Williamson, and its effects on settlements, which was
printed in the Commercial Agricultural Journal, in London, England,
in August, 1799. It was as follows:

This immense undertaking' is under the direction and in the name of Captain
Williamson, formerly a British officer, but is generally supposed in America to be a
joint concern between him and Sir William Patence, of London; in England Patence
is believed to be the proprietor and Williamson his agent. The land in the Genesee
country, or that part of it which belongs to the State of Massachusetts, was sold to a
Mr. Phelps for five pence per acre; by him in 1790, to Mr. Morris, at one shilling per
acre, being estimated at a million of acres, on condition that the money was to be
returned provided Captain Williamson, who was to view the lands, should not find
them answerable to the description. He was pleased with them, and, on survey,
found the tract to contain one hundred and twenty thousand acres more than the
estimate, the whole of which was conveyed to him. This district is bounded on one
side by Lake Ontario, and on the other by the River Genesee. Williamson also
bought some other land of Mr. Morris, so that he is now proprietor of more than a
million and a half aci'es. After surveying the whole, he resolved to found at once
several large establishments rather than one capital colony. He therefore fixed on
the most eligible place for building towns, as central spots for his whole system.
These were Bath, on the Conhockton, Williamsburg, on the Genesee; Geneva, at
the foot of Lake Seneca; and Great Sodus, on Lake Ontario. The whole territory
he divided into squares of six miles. Each of these squares he forms into a district.
Sure of finding settlers and purchasers when he had established a good communica-
tion between his new tract and Philadelphia, and as the old road was by way of
New York and Albany, Williamson opened a road which has shortened the distance
three hundred miles. He has also continued his roads from Kath to Geneva, to
Canandaigua, and to Great Sodus, and several roads of communication. He has
already erected ten mills — three corn and seven sawing — has built a great many
houses, and has begun to clear land. He put himself to the heavy expense of trans-
porting eighty families from Germany to his settlements; but owing to a bad choice
made by his agent at Hamburg, they did little, and after a short time set off for
Canada. He succeeded better in the next set, who were mostly Irish. They put
the roads into condition, and gave such a difference to the whole that the lands which
he sold at one dollar an acre was soon worth three and he disposed of eight hundred
thousand acres in this way so as to pay the first purchase, the whole expense incurred,
and has made a profit of fifty pounds. The rapid increase of property is owing to
to the money first advanced, but the great advantage is Williamson's constant

became a seat of putrefaction. . . In the Autumn of 1796 along an extent of four
miles of a thinly-inhabited road, '24 deaths took place from dysentery."


residence on the settlement, which enables him to conclude any contract or to remove
any difficulty which may stand in the way; besides, his land is free from all dispute
or question of occupancy, and all his settlement is properly ascertained and marked
out. There has been a gradual rise in values, and a proviso is always inserted
in the deed of sale to those who purchase a large quantity, that a certain
number of acres shall be cleared, and a certain number of families settled, within
eighteen months. Those who buy from five hundred to one thousand acres are only
obliged to settle one family. These clauses are highly useful, as they draw an
increase of population and prevent the purchase of lands for speculation only.

Captain Williamson, however, never acts up to the rigor of his claim where any
known obstacles impede the execution. The terms of payment are to discharge half
the purchase in three years, and the remainder in six, which enables the industrious
to pay from the produce of the land. The poorer families he supplies with an ox, a
cow, or even a home. To all the settlements he establishes, he takes care - to secure
a constant supply of provisions for the settlers, or supplies them from his own store.
When five or six settlers build together, he always builds a house at his own expense,
which soon sells at an advanced price. Every year he visits each settlement, which
tends to diffuse a spirit of industry and promote the sale of lands, and he employs
every other means he can suggest to be useful to the inhabitants. He keeps stores
of medicines, encourages races and amusements, and keeps a set of beautiful stallions.
He has nearly finished his great undertaking, and proposes to take a voyage to Eng-
land to purchase the best horses, cattle, sheep, implements of agriculture, etc.
Captain Williamson has not only the merit of having formed, and that in a judicious
manner, this fine settlement, but he has the happiness to live universally respected,
honored and beloved. Bath is the chief settlement, and it is to be the chief town of
the county of the same name. At the town he is building a school, which is to be
endowed with some hundred acres of land. The salary of the master, Williamson
means to pay until the instruction of the children shall be sufficient for his support.
He has built a session house and a prison, and one good inn, which he has sold for a
good profit, and is now building another which is to contain a ball-room. He has
also constructed a bridge, which opens a free and easy communication with the other
side of the river. He keeps in his own hands some small farms in the vicinity of Bath,
which are under the care of a Scotchman, and which appear to be better plowed and
managed than most in America. In all the settlements he reserves one estate for
himself, the stock on which is remarkably good. These he disposes of occasionally
to his friends, on some handsome offers. To the settlements already mentioned he
is now adding two others, one at the mouth of the Genesee the other at Braddock,
thirty miles farther inland. Great Sodus, on the coast of this district, promises to
afford a safe and convenient place for ships, from the depth of water, and it may be
easily fortified. The climate here is much more temperate than in Pennsylvania.
The winter seldom lasts more than four months, and the cattle even in that season,
graze in the forest without inconvenience. These settlements are, however, rather
unhealthy, which Captain Williamson ascribes to nothing but the natural effects of
the climate on new settlers, and is confined to a few fits of fever with which
strangers are seized the first or second year of their arrival. The inhabitants all
agree, however, that the climate is unfavorable, and the marshes and pieces of


stagnant water are thickly spread over the country ; but these will be drained as
the population increases. On the whole, it promises to be one of the most con-
siderable settlements in America.


Circumstances of the Pioneers — Current Prices of Produce — Inconvenience of Dis-
tant Markets — Gradual Improvement of Roads — Old Stage Lines — Erection of Early
Mills— Outbreak of the War 1812— Effects of the Conflict in Wayne County— Military
Operations at Sodus Bay — Account of a Skirmish — Descent Upon Pultneyville —
General Improvements Following the Close of the War.

With the establishment of peaceful relations with the Indians and the
British, the further opening of roads, and the rapid influx of settlers
during the first ten years of the present century, came an era of com-
parative prosperity to the pioneers of Wayne county. J Hardships and
privation were, of course, still common to all. The area of cleared
land was yet small, and difficult of tillage; prices of crops were low
and markets far distant ; and sickness, which seems to prevail in all
new settlements, was still general in many localities. A partial idea
of what the community had to contend with in some respects may be
gained from the following list of prices of 1801: Wheat, seventy-five -
cents; corn, three shillings; rye, fifty cents; hay, six to twelve dol-
lars per ton ; butter and cheese, eleven to sixteen cents a pound ; salt
pork, eight to ten dollars per cwt. ; whisky, fifty to seventy-five cents
per gallon; salt, five dollars per barrel; sheep, two to four dollars per
head; milch cows, sixteen to twenty-five dollars a head ; horse, 10<> to
125 dollars per span; working oxen, fifty to eighty dollars per yoke;
laborers, wages, ten to fifteen dollars a month, with board. A home-
made suit of clothes sold for four to five dollars.

In 1805 a settler on the Purchase began building a frame house, and
wanted a small quantity of glass and nails. They were not to be easily
obtained. He started with an ox team and sled, and fifty bushels of

1 The reader will have noticed that we often use the name of Wayne county in de-
scribing events that occurred long before the county was organized. In doing so,
reference is made only to the territory afterwards embraced in the county. We
adopt this course to avoid useless repetition and explanation.


wheat, for Utica, more than a hundred miles distant, where he sold the
grain for $1.68 per bushel to Watts Sherman, the early merchant of
that place, bought the wrought nails for eighteen cents per pound, and
two boxes of glass for $7.50. The bill of goods was made out by
B. Gibson, the subsequent prominent banker of Canandaigua. Stephen
Durfee left a record that wheat in the few first years of settlement sold
often at thirty-seven and a half cents, and on one occasion at twenty-
five cents a bushel. In the fall of 1804 a hundred bushels of wheat
were taken on a wagon from this locality to Albany, with the help of
four yoke of oxen — two hundred and thirty miles. The wheat was
bought in Bloomfield for five shillings currency per bushel ; it sold in
Albany for seventeen and one-fourth shillings. This was a good profit;
but it was a long distance to haul, and over very poor roads. In fact
it was seen clearly enough that the conditions of transportation from
one point to another governed prices of crops and merchandise, and
that the great need of the new country was better roads. As the high-
ways were improved, and the quantity of grain, and particularly of
wheat, grown in the county and vicinity greatly increased, many hardy
men engaged in teaming and the roads eastward presented a bus) 7
scene. The so-called "Pennsylvania wagons" were numerous, drawn
by six horses, and carrying immense loads. This business was very
prosperous until about the time of the opening of the canal. In the
latter part of this period wheat was sometimes carried to Albany at
two shillings and sixpence per bushel. Large quantities of grain went
into the distilleries and were turned into whisky, which found a ready
sale. Small distilleries were very numerous, though few were large,
and many of them were built of logs. Their operation constituted a
large part of the business enterprise of the first quarter of the present
century, and whisky drinking was as common as water drinking. The
sale of ashes and the manufacture of crude potash was of great im-
portance to the pioneers. The ashes cost nothing but the transporta-
tion, for their production was incumbent upon the clearing of land,
and as late as 1815 their sale was a principal source of obtaining
groceries and occasionally a little money.

Stages were running regularly over the great turnpike from Utica to
Canandaigua at the beginning of the century. The long bridge at
Cayuga was finished in 1800, and many branch roads were laid out and
somewhat improved before 1815. Ganargwa Creek was made a public
highway in 1799, with many other streams of this section. In 1800 a


good road was made twelve miles westward from the Genesee River at
the site of Avon; and at the road called the "new State road" between
Lewiston and Rochester, on the accompanying map of 1809, was begun
about the same time. But the roads westward from the county were
of little importance to the settlers, as far as improving their markets
was concerned. In 1804 a road was made through Galen and Palmyra,
and onward to the Genesee River. There was only one mail between
Canandaigua and Rochester in 1812, and that was carried on horse-
back, and, as related, part of the time by a woman. As late as 1813
the ridge road between Rochester and Lewiston was almost impassable
in many places, and $5,000 were appropriated by the Legislature for
cutting out the path and bridging the streams. For a considerable
period, it was thought that land transportation from Wayne county
eastward would never, or at least not in many years, compete with the
water route. It was this belief that led to the building of Durham
boats at Palmyra and elsewhere at a very early date.

The erection of the first grist mills in the county created another
avenue for disposing of a part of the wheat crops, and at the same time
supplied one of the greatest necessities of the pioneers. A mill was
built at Lyons in 1800, and one at Palmyra still earlier. Augustus
Porter built and operated several mills in different localities in this sec-
tion, and in L812 advertised that he would pay one dollar a bushel for
wheat at any of his mills. Within a year later it was worth eleven
shillings. The multiplication of early stores for barter enabled the
farmers who were raising crops prior to he war of 1812, to exchange
them for household goods, bringing long-missed comforts to their
homes, but generally at high prices. School -houses sprang up in the
wilderness, as they always have done in the track of the American
pioneer, and simultaneously churches were organized at various points.
The Presbyterian church at Palmyra came into existence in L797, and
was followed by the Baptist in 1800. In the latter year, also, the
Presbyterian church at Lyons was organized. All of these subjects
will be further treated in the subsequent histories of the several towns
of the county. At the close of the first decade of this century the
population of Wayne had reached only 1,110. The entire population
of what is now Monroe county, east of the river; Wayne, excepting
the eastern towns, and Ontario, Yates and Livingston, was: Males,
21,835; females, L9,681; slaves, 211; total, 42,026.


A number of the pioneers brought skives into the country with them
at an early day and held them in bondage for considerable periods. In
what is now the town of Huron, Thomas Helms, who settled about the
year 1800, brought about seventy slaves from Maryland and settled at
Port Glasgow, on Big Sodus Bay. There is no doubt but he expected
to establish the institution permanently. He is reported as a brutal
character who cruelly treated the slaves, by whose labor about a hun-
dred acres around the bay were cleared up. Upon the death of Helms
the hated institution soon expired in that region, but under what con-
ditions we have not learned.

Col. Peregrine Fitzhugh, who was also from Maryland, brought his
slaves with him to Sodus Point. The colonel had been a Revolution-
ary soldier, and lived in Geneva three years before settling at the Point.
His family, including the slaves, numbered forty persons. These
slaves were freed within a few years after their' arrival, and with others,
formed a little colony on the " out-lots "at " the city."

An act of the Legislature passed April 5, 1810, provided that all per-
sons who emigrated hither from Virginia and Maryland in the preced-
ing ten years, " who held in their own right slaves, which they brought
with them from the said States, be and they are hereby authorized to
hire out said slaves to any citizen of this State for a term not exceeding
seven years." At the end of this term the slaves so hired out were to
be free.

The peaceful and hopeful conditions which we have briefly pictured
as existing in Wayne county down to about 1812, were now to be rudely
dispelled by the culmination of the persistent injustice of Great Britain
in her assertion of the right to search neutral vessels for deserters from
the royal navy, under which claim hundreds of Americans had been
taken from American vessels under the pretense that they were sus-
pected of desertion, and compelled to serve under a flag which thev
especially detested. On the 20th of June, 1812, President Madison, by
authority of Congress, declared war against the mother country.
Wayne county constituted a part of the frontier, and, as such, her in-
habitants appreciated their exposed situation and were correspondingly
agitated at their immediate prospects. Opposite Buffalo was Fort Erie
with a small garrison. At the mouth of Niagara River was Fort George,
an insignificant work, and a little above the falls was Fort Chippewa,
also a small stockade. The war began in the West and on the ocean,
but we are concerned only with the operations of Northern New York,


which did not commence till considerably later. A general order of
the War Department, issued April 21, L812, organized the detached
militia of the State into two divisions and eight brigades. Of one of
these brigades William Wadsworth, of Ontario county, was made com-
mander. The capture of two trading vessels at Ogdensburg in the
spring of L812 began hostilities in Northern New York. On a Sabbath
morning late in July, a conflict took place at Sackett's Harbor, between
five British vessels, and the Oneida, an American vessel under com-
mand of Lieut. Melancthon Woolsey, with a few guns on shore. The
British vessels were defeated in a humiliating manner and driven off.
The command of Lake Ontario now seemed more than ever important.
Gen. Henry Deaborn was made commander-in-chief of the Northern
Department. The battle at Oueenston in October followed, in which
the Americans were finally defeated, losing in one day in killed,
wounded and prisoners, about 1,100 men. But this disaster was
avenged by several memorable and successful battles on the ocean. An
unsuccessful attack was made upon Ogdensburg in September; and
early in November, Commodore Isaac Chauncey appeared on Lake On-,
tario with a little squadron of American schooners. With these he
blockaded a British squadron in Kingston harbor, disabled the Royal
George, destroyed one armed schooner, captured three merchant ves-
sels, and took several prisoners. He then returned to Sackett's Har-
bor. On the 21st of November (1812), a heavy bombardment was
made by the British upon old Fort Niagara, which led to preparations
for the invasion of Canada by General Smythe, in command at Buffalo;
but his loudly proclaimed intention ended in nothing but words.
Meanwhile there were active operations in the West. September !(>,
L813, Commodore Perry won his memorable victory on Lake Eric and
sent his immortal message to his superior, General Harrison: "We have
met the enemy and they arc ours." On the 2*2d of February, L813,
( )gdensburg was sacked and partially burned. In April, the fortified
position at York, Canada, was captured by the Americans, who, flushed
with victory, sailed in considerable force from Sackett's Harbor to
attack Fort George. This work was captured, and Forts Erie and
Chippewa were abandoned, leaving the Canadian frontier in possession
of the Americans. On the 29th of May a large force attacked the post
at Sackett's Harbor, which was abandoned by the Americans, and an
immense quantity of stores was lost. The other principal events of
L813 were ah attack by the British on Schlosser on the night of July 4,


and an unsuccessful attack by the British on the post of Black Rock,
whence they were driven back by the Americans under Gen. Peter B.
Porter. In August there was activity on Lake Champlain, and Platts-
burg was seized, plundered and partly burned by a British land and
water force. In October a large force sailed from Sackett's Harbor,
destined to Montreal, but after severe hardships and considerable fight-
ing in the freezing weather, the expedition as planned was given up and
the flotilla went into winter quarters at French Mills on the Salmon
River. Still more distressing events were to occur before the cam-
paign closed. Early in December General McClure abandoned Fort
George as untenable, and crossed over to Fort Niagara; before leaving
the Canada shore he burned the little village of Newark. Fierce re-
taliation quickly followed. The enraged British captured Fort Niagara
and massacred a part of the garrison ; sacked and burned Buffalo and
Black Rock and drove the poor inhabitants far through the winter
snows. Meanwhile the naval operations of 1813 were important and
resulted generally in success to the American cause.

The British began vigorous operations with the opening of the cam-
paign of 1814, the events of which can only be briefly alluded to here.