George Washington Cowles.

Landmarks of Wayne County, New York online

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Both parties to the conflict had been preparing during the winter to
gain the mastery of Lake Ontario. Sir James Yeo appeared on the
lake; left Kingston harbor when the ice went out, in command of a
large squadron and about 3,000 men. Proceeding to Oswego he cap-
tured that post on the 5th of May. They abandoned their purpose of
penetrating up the Oswego River and withdrew on the 7th, carrying away
several prisoners. In June General Brown marched from Sackett's
Harbor and on the 1st of July was near the site of burned Buffalo.
Opposite him on the Canadian side was the principal military force un-
der command of Lieutenant-General Drummond. Brown was under
orders to invade Canada. His force consisted of two brigades of infan-
try, one of them commanded by Gen. Winfield Scott, and some artil-
lery. This force crossed the river early in the morning of July 3, ap-
peared before the fort, and at 6 o'clock the little garrison surrendered.
At the same time General Riall, a brave British officer in command
under Drummond, was marching towards Fort Erie, when he heard of
its investment and capture. He resolved to attack the invaders, and
was soon joined by reinforcements from York. General Scott was sent
with his brigade to meet this force, accompanied by Towson's artillery.
Scott moved on the morning of July 4, pushed on toward Chippewa,


and drove in an advanced detachment of British. There he was joined
by Brown's whole force, and on the morning of the 5th the two con-
tending armies were only two miles apart. A fiercely-fought and san-
guinary battle followed in which 604 British and 355 Americans were
killed and wounded. It was a crushing defeat for the enemy in that
section. Prompt advantage was taken of this situation and the mem-
orable and successful battle of Lundy's Lane w r as fought and won on
the 24th, in which General Scott gained undying fame; the immediate
fruits of the victory, however, were not important. From the 7th to
the 14th of August the British besieged Fort Erie, but the Americans
successfully resisted the operations. The British force continued to
invest the works, and on September 17 the Americans made a brillliant
sortie from the fort and captured the advanced works of the enemy,
who were driven back to Chippewa with a loss of 1,000 in killed,
wounded and prisoners. These several victories, with the triumph of
the American arms at Plattsburg, caused great joy throughout the

In October, General Izard came to the Niagara frontier with 5,000
troops and took command, his rank being higher than General Brown's.
The entire force now numbered about 8,000 men. Before they could
attack Drummond, he withdrew to Fort George. Early in November
General Izard caused Fort Erie to be blown up and he then crossed the
river and went into winter quarters at Buffalo and Black Rock. Dur-
ing most of this campaign Commodore Chauncey had been blockaded
at Sackett's Harbor. He suffered from sickness, but after his partial
recovery went out on a cruise and blockaded Kingston Harbor. Dur-
ing the occurrence of these events in Northern New York, important
operations of the war were conducted in other parts of the country, the
course of which need not be followed here; they are found described
on the pages of general history in numerous works. The bloody battle
of New Orleans, fought on the 8th of January, L815, was the last en-
gagement of the war, and a treaty of peace had been signed between
the two countries on the 24th of December, L814, which was ratified by
the British government on the 28th of December, and by the United
States on the 17th of February, 1815.

At the time of the breaking out of the war, Sod us Point had not
ceased to be regarded as a place of great importance. Its exceptionally
tine harbor and its situation on the line of east and west lake naviga-
tion, seemed to assure it a future of consequence as a lake port. Its


retention in the hands of the Americans was hence considered impera-
tive. Some military stores were placed there early in the struggle and
in 1813 a military force was established to guard the locality and
particularly to protect the property of the government. A company of
which Enoch Morse was captain, Noble Granger, lieutenant, and Mil-
ton Granger, orderly sergeant, was posted at the Point, which had been
threatened by the fleet of British vessels. On the 12th of June, the
fleet having retired, the local militia started for their homes. On the
same day, the British fleet returned in force of some ninety vessels,
and threatened a landing. To avert the impending invasion, a horse-
man rode rapidly away towards South Sodus, shouting to the inhab-
itants to turn out to meet the foe. A logging bee was in progress at
South Sodus, and those engaged hurriedly left for the Point, some of
the men not waiting to go to their homes. From Sodus village, too,
where about forty men had just returned from a "raising," they all
huried off to the threatened locality. The following carefully prepared
account of the ensuing events was prepared in 1877 for the Everts &
Ensign history of the county, and is worthy of transcription:

The space of cleared land was limited to a small area, and a dense growth of trees
and brush came across the public square. This was almost impassable, save by one
road north to the present lighthouse, thence west along the lake bank, bearing south
and intersecting the present road. A foot path from near the site of the Methodist
Church led off southwest. Part of the stores had been taken from the warehouse and
lay concealed in a ravine between what is now West and Ontario streets. During
the early evening. Elder Seba Norton was the leader, but Col. Elias Hill, of Lyons,
arriving, he took command. The night was dark and a slight rain was falling, when
it was agreed to form in the skirt of the bushes and advance upon a reconnoissance.
If the enemy was met a volley was to be fired, and then "each for himself." On the
high ground a little south of the present (1877) Johnson house, they heard the enem}-
advancing and displaying a few lights. Amasa Johnson shot down one light and
drew the British random fire. A volley from the militia and then followed a British
retreat of marvellous celerity. The enemy re-embarked, having captured two men,
a Mr. Britton and Harry Skinner, whom they set on shore the next day. Nathaniel
Merrill and Major Farr each thought the other the enemy. The major got entangled
in fallen timber and brush and could not extricate himself until daylight. George
Palmer passed Elder Norton, who had been at Monmouth and Saratoga, and the
veteran refused to run. Chester Eldridge from the bushes shouted, "I am killed; I
am killed." Examination showed that a bullet had cut a gash in his throat which
bled profusely. One Knight was wounded, and a Mr. Terry was so badly injured as
to die from the effects of a shot. Next day the enemy threw a few cannon shot,
landed a small force, and took away the contents of the storehouse. The British
evidently feared the presence of a heavy force, and dared not venture from the land-
ing. Mr. Warner was mortally wounded by the British soldiers. All the buildings


save one were burned. The tavern of. Nathaniel Merrill, the store of Mr. Wickham,
with its contents, his dwelling, the Fitzhugh house, the bouse of William Edus, a
warehouse, and perhaps others, were destroyed. The building saved was a part of
the Mansion House, then recently erected by Barakins & Hoylarts. In this house
Mr. Warner was placed and there he died. It is said that the British placed a pitcher
of water near him, and that the officers twice extinguished a lire kindled by the men
to destroy the building. Following is a list of those at the Sodus skirmish: Elder
Seba Norton, George Palmer, Byram Green, Timothy Axtell, Freeman Axtell,
Knight, Terry, and Warner, Lyman Dunning, Elias Hull, Alanson M. Knapp,
Amasa Johnson, Nathaniel Morrill, Major Farr, Isaac Lemmon, Robert Carpthers,
John Hawley, Joseph Ellis, Alanson Corey, Galusha Harrington, Chester Eldridge,
Ammi Ellsworth, Isaac Davis, Payne, Pollock, Benjamin Blanchard, Robert A. Pad-
dock, Britton, Jenks Pullen, Daniel Norton, John Holcomb, Thomas Johnson, Lyman
Seymour, Harry Skinner, Daniel Arms, and Alexander Knapp.

Among other citizens of Sodus, who took part in the general service
were George Palmer, Daniel Norton, Alexander Morrow, Dr. Gibbs,
Byram Green, and others.

This is not the record of a great battle, but it must be remembered
that there were not probably 2,000 persons in the county at that time,
which would indicate about 200 heads of families. It is well known
that most of these took part in the war in some capacity and for longer
or shorter periods. At any rate, Wayne is one of the few counties of
interior and Western New York that was hallowed by the blood of the
enemy in the last war with the mother country. 1

One of the companies of the early militia was in existence at Lyons
as early as 1808, having been recruited in the vicinity. It was com-
manded in the year named by Capt. William Paton, Lieut. Peter Per-
rine, Ensign James Beard, and Orderly Sergeant William Duncan.
When the war began a large share of this company entered the service
and went to the Niagara frontier. At that time the officers were :
Captain, Elias Hull; lieutenant, David Perrine; ensign, William C.
Guest. The following account of the part taken by this company in
the action at Sodus Point is taken from the files of the Lyons Republi-
can :

At an early day Sodus Point was regarded as destined to become a place of com-
mercial importance. Here was safe and commodious anchorage for vessels, and here
was an outlet for the produce of a large section of country. Long lines of wagons

1 In these humble annals, let it be recordedasan actof justice, withheld by partial
historians of the war, that citizen soldiers who had faltered under inefficient leaders,
won laurels, vindicated this branch of national defense, when better leaders and bet-
ter auspices prevailed. — Turner s Plielps and Cor ham' s Purchase, p. jjg.


were often to be seen passing northward through Lyons, from Phelps, Geneva, and
other places, loaded with flour, pork and potatoes — in those (Hays the principal articles
of export. The declaration of war, in 1812, was received with serious alarm by the
people living- along our northern borders. This was increased by tidings of the sur-
render of Detroit and our northern army under General Hull, and we were illy pre-
pared to meet the incursions of our hostile neighbors. There was a small fleet on
Lake Ontario, but it was altogether inadequate to protect the coast. Volunteers
were therefore called to defend our county. Age and youth vied with each other in
filling the ranks, and soon a very formidable army appeared at Sodus Point. These
were organized and placed under command of General Swift. Hastily gathered
under strong excitement, hardship soon cooled their ardor and and a desire to return
home prevailed. The general gave orders for a dismissal. Preliminaries were soon
settled and the men freed from the restraint and the monotony of camp life.

A large quantity of government property lay concealed in the woods some distance
from the Point. The company under Capt. Elias Hull was detailed to guard these
stores. The captain had been some time in service without opportunity of dis-
tinguishing himself, and conceived the time had arrived. He therefore ordered a
night march down to the Point, and gave command to his men, if they met the foe,
to give him one volley, and then fall back in good order behind the barrels and await
the enemy's advance. Captain Hull was cautious as he was ambitious. Arrived in
one of the small hollows near the Point, he halted, drew the command up in line,
and sent two men, Pease and Gibbs, forward to reconnoitre. They had just reached
the top of the hill when they met two platoons of British regulars marching up the
opposite side. The scouts fired and gave the alarm. Captain Hull shouted, "Fire,"
and a wild, harmless volley whistled through the trees ; then, "Retreat," and the cap-
tain rapidly led the way to the rear, and took shelter under a large hemlock log,
where he passed the night. The British moved quickly to the top of the hill, re-
turned the fire, and, advancing on the double-quick, caught sight of the long line of
barrels, Avhich assumed the apparent character of a battery. They halted, then beat
a hasty retreat, and burnt the mills on their return to the bay. The command to
halt not being given several of the company were seen in Lyons early next morning
and "lived to fight another day."

At a town meeting held in 1814 in Sodus, the following- resolutions
were adopted. They indicate the general feeling of all this region
along the frontier :

Resolved, That we deem it inexpedient to send delegates to the convention to be
held at Canandaigua the 15th of September. This town being most exposed to the
enemy, it is deemed best to provide ourselves for the defense of the frontier.

Resolved, That we make immediate preparation for defense.

Resolved, That William M. Loomis, AVilliam Wickham, John Fellows, Thomas
Wafer, and Ashur Doolittle be a committee for the town of Sodus.

Resolved, That a notice signed by a majority of the Committee of Safety, giving
notice of the approach of the enemy, be sufficient to justify said office.

Resolved, That said committee offer a subscription to the good people of Sodus
for funds to defend said town, and that such subscription be demanded only in case
of the enemy obtaining command of Lake Ontario.


This was patriotic action and shows that the people appreciated their
exposed situation and were prepared to defend their homes.

A descent of the British upon Pultneyville wasa part of the campaign
by the British in June, 1814. Commodore Yeo was then cruising along
the lake coast with his squadron, and landed a considerable force at
this point. Gen. John Swift was in command of the small force of
militia at that time, and sent out a flag of truce to the commander of
the fleet. Under this a stipulation was made by which the invaders
were allowed to take all the public property in the place, and requiring
that private property and the persons of inhabitants should be respected.
The government stores had been largely removed previous to this time.
The British boats landed and a quantity of flour from the storehouse
was taken on board, the militia remaining meanwhile stationed some
distance to the rear. It was the understanding of the militia that the
British would confine their operations to the warehouse and its yard ;
and when two or three of them came outside they were fired upon by
the militia and a British officer was wounded. A signal to the fleet
caused it to open fire upon the place, while the soldiers who had landed
proceeded to the tavern and captured Richard White and Russell Cole,
and thence to the storehouse and took Prescott Fairbanks. Cole escaped
before he could be put in a boat ; the others were taken to Montreal.
Fairbanks was soon afterward released and White was exchanged later.
It is believed that the fleet was thereupon called to other points, fort-
unately for Pulteneyville, and the party who had landed hurried to
their boats and rowed away. Two of the British were killed and two
wounded in the little skirmish.

There are no accessible records showing in full the names or numbers
of those Wayne settlers who shared in the war of 1812; but we may
safely assume that nearly all able-bodied men did so. Micajah Harding,
of the town of Marion, who raised a company of sharpshooters and
went to the front, left a statement that the draft took nearly all the
men in that town; that there were more soldiers than families. Asa
Swift, who attained the military position of brevet-general, and who
was the first male child born in the town of Palmyra, was in the battle
of Queenston, and led a party against Fort George. He was wounded
there, taken prisoner, and died shortly afterwards. He was buried on
the 12th of July, 1 s 1 4. William Rogers, of Williamson, served through
the war, was made a major, and afterwards kept a tavern until IS Id.
Col. Ambrose Salisbury, who settled at East Palmyra after the war,


was conspicuous in that conflict. He volunteered when the first call
was made for volunteers ; but his services were not then needed. Again
a few months later he marched to the Niagara frontier as orderly
sergeant of Capt. Selma Stanley's company in the 31st Regiment. At
the expiration of his term of six months, he returned home; and in
June, 1813, went out again as substitute for his uncle, in a company
from Geneva. In later years he held the post of ensign in the militia
and gradually rose to colonel in 1834. Gilbert Howell, of Lyons, was
in the army and was at one period an aid to General Swift. Daniel
Patterson, of Wolcott, was drafted and served at New York harbor.
Ephraim Green, of Macedon, was a captain in the service. Turner
says : " Most of the immediate recruits for frontier defences were drawn
from the local militia of Western New York ; men who left the plow in
the furrow, the new fallow unfenced, their recently cultivated fields
ripe for the scythe and the sickle, the axe and the maul, the rude mill,
manufactory or workshop, to go out and contend with a powerful foe."
The same writer testifies that "never at any period, in any exigency,
did men more cheerfulty or promptly take up arms, and from citizens
become soldiers, than did most of the able-bodied men of all this region,
on the breakiug out of the war of 1812."

The effects of the war on the inhabitants of Wayne county were
momentous. In the first place, it almost stopped immigration. People
who dwelt in the better protected Eastern States and portions of this
State, were not disposed to jeopardize their lives and property on the
frontier. A few adventurous families, who had already made arrange-
ments to remove westward, persisted in their purpose and on some
occasions met refugees, both soldiers and civilians, fleeing from the
frontier. While many of the settlers had left their homes on account
of sickness, privation and hardship prior to the breaking out of the
war, the number was augmented by the event, though many who left,
returned after the close of the conflict.

The high prices that prevailed for whatever could be sold by the
the settlers during the war and the active markets created through its
influence, were some compensation for the hardships and anxieties of
the people. None of the settlements had increased and in many locali-
ties the opposite was true, while improvement in all material respects
almost ceased. All of Western New York was left in a deplorable con-
dition by the war; and many sections showed its devastating effects
much more than Wayne county. But after the establishment of peace


the country responded quickly to better conditions, and the year L815
was devoted to recovery from the paralyzing- effects of the conflict.
Those who had fled from their homes and those who had entered the
service, returned ; the high prices of the necessaries of life dropped
rapidly, and all the avocations of peace were taken up with renewed

Improvement in public roads and bridges; building of churches and
schools; clearing the lands and the tillage of those already cleared;
establishment of mills and places for trade progressed with encouraging
speed, only to receive a severe check by the memorable cold season of
1 S 1 6-17. The summer of 1810 has probably never been equaled for cold,
severe frosts occurring as late as June and destroying crops every
where. Fields had the appearance in many places of having been burned
over, so complete was the destruction of all vegetation. The hopes and
dependence of the settlers were dissipated. The wheat harvest was
light and protracted till later than usual, and many families actually
suffered for food. The price of wheat rose to from $2 to $3 per
bushel, and the lightness of the crop kept up the price even after the
harvest. Some settlers paid the Indians on the Genesee River $2 a
bushel for corn that they had kept over from 1815. In some of the
newer settlements wheat and corn were shelled out while "in the milk"
and boiled and eaten instead of bread, while others subsisted largely on
milk and the roots and herbs of forest and field.

The following season was an especially fruitful one and the condition
of the people would have changed suddenly from destitution to com-
parative luxury, had there been ready markets for surplus produce.
As it was the relief was wide-spread and gratefully appreciated. Such
was the condition of the people in Wayne county and adjacent territory,
when the first whisperings began to be heard of the possibility of there
being constructed a great water way from Lake Erie to the sea, which
should pass through the very heart of this great fertile region, and
enable the farmers and manufacturers and the merchants to place their
products and their wares upon immense boats to be easily wafted to
the best markets of the country. The history of that great enterprise
is left for another chapter.



Further Improvement in Means of Transportation — Discussion of the "Grand
Canal" — Investigation and Surveys — Progress and Completion of the Great Work —
Its Effect Upon Wayne County — Other Public Improvements — The First Railroad —
The Railroads of Wayne County — Brief History of Mormonism — Inception of Spir-

The reader of the foregoing" chapters cannot have failed to perceive
the supreme importance to the inhabitants of Wayne county of better
means of transportation and communication between their homes and
the eastern markets, and the consequent deep interest manifested by
them in the preliminary discussions, surveys, etc., which finally cul-
minated in the construction of the Erie Canal. Not that they were
for several years convinced of the practicability of the future accom-
plishment of the great work, for they were not. It is the destiny of
all daring innovations and new and important projects, to call out the
sneers and ridicule and opposition of the pessimists; and the Erie Canal
was no exception to this universal experience. Outside of a few prac-
tical engineers and men who had gained a knowledge of the feasibility
and existence of similar waterways in other countries, the masses of
the people were unbelievers and scoffers, and even the well-informed
long doubted the success of the various measures necessary to the
completion of the project.

The inhabitants of Wayne county, as well as those in other districts
along the line of the proposed canal, continued their efforts in opening
and improving highways, and clung persistently to the settled belief
that over them, or by way of Lake Ontario, the transportation of their
surplus products and their incoming merchandise must continue in-
definitely. In this connection a legislative act of April 15, 1816, named
commissioners to lay out a road from "the bridge at the Canandaigua
outlet to Great Sodus Bay, where vessels that navigate Lake Ontario
can conveniently come." Another act of the same month and year,
designated commissioners to open a road "from the bridge crossing
the Genesee River opposite the village of Rochester on the most direct
• 9


and eligible route to the Four Corners, on the Ridge road, in the town
of Murray " (then in Genesee county). Prior to the enactment of
these laws, and on March 31, 1815, the Legislature had incorporated
the Montezuma Turnpike and Bridge Company, which was authorized
to build a road from Throopville to the village of Montezuma, and
" from the west side of the marsh lying along the border of the Sen-
eca River opposite said village of Montezuma to the village of Pal-
myra." This company was afterwards authorized to extend their road
eastward to Camillus in Onondaga county.

On the Uth of March, 1817, the Oswego Falls and Sodus Bay Turn-
pike Company was incorporated, its purpose being to construct a road
from "the west side of the Oswego River, near the termination of the
road from Utica, " to Port Glasgow, "on the eastern shore of Sodus

Again, in April, 181!) (in which month and year the village of Pal-
myra was incorporated), the Sodus Bay Bridge Company was incor-
porated, to build a bridge " over Great Sodus Bay at or near the route