George Washington Cowles.

Landmarks of Wayne County, New York online

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The improvement was welcomed in general rejoicing in the several vil-
lages of Wayne county and elsewhere. An act of Legislature passed April
2, 1853. authorized the consolidation of several companies then existing,
as follows: Albany and Schenectady, Syracuse and Utica direct, Sche-
nectady and Troy, Utica and Schenectady, Mohawk Valley, Syracuse
and Utica, Rochester and Syracuse, Rochester, Lockport and Niagara
Falls, Buffalo and Rochester, and Buffalo and Lockport. This consoli-
dated company took the name of the New York Central Railroad
Company, which in later years absorbed various other lines and added
"Hudson River" to its title. The consolidation described went into
effect on the 17th of May, 1853. The combined capital of the company
was $23,085,600. This road was laid with a double track in 1849 and
with two additional tracks during the seventies. It was the first railroad
in the world having four tracks and is in other respects one of the
most extensive and best managed railroad in the United States.



The Sodus Point and Southern Railroad was projected during the
fall of 1851, by a company bearing- that title, and was to run directly
through Wayne county in a general northern and southern direction,
from Newark to Sodus Bay. A general survey was made, the right of
way was secured without much difficulty and the work of construction
was begun. The company became embarrassed for funds and work was
suspended in L854, leaving a long line of grading, which was afterwards
utilized and is now a part of the road.

The Lake Ontario Shore Railroad, as it was originally termed,
traverses the northern tier of towns of Wayne county and has been of
great utility. Its termini are Oswego and Lewiston. The company
for its construction was organized in Oswego March 17, L868, and
Gerrit Smith was elected president; Oliver P. Scoville, vice-president;
and Abraham P. Grant, treasurer. De Witt Parshail, of Lyons, was a
member of the first board of directors. Work was begun at Red Creek
August 23, 1871, amid the firing of cannon and the cheers of a mul-
titude of people. The road was finished in L876. It finally passed
under control of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad Com-
pany, and with the other lines operated by that company, was absorbed
by the great New York Central and Hudson River system.

The New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad was completed
from New York to Buffalo and opened on January 1, 1884; but about
two years later it was leased by the New York Central. It never espe-
cially affected Wayne county, running as it docs, nearly parallel with
the Central.

Tine Mormon IIii.i — From an Old Print.

Most readers of this work, it may be presumed, arc familiar with the
general history of Mormonism; but from the fact that its originator


lived within the limits of what is now Wayne county, and that his early
operations were conducted in or near Palmyra village, it seems proper
that it shall receive brief mention in these pages, for future reference,
if for no other reason. It will also preserve for reference by future
generations, facts regarding the beginning of what became a stupend-
ous religious movement, which might otherwise be lost. For this pur-
pose we can do no better than condense from the writing of the late O.
Turner in his history of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase (1851):

"Joseph Smith, the father of the prophet, Joseph Smith, jr., was
from the Merrimack River, N. H. He first settled in or near Palmyra
village, but as early as 1819 was the occupant of some new land on
'Stafford street,' in the town of Manchester near the line of Palmyra.
'Mormon Hill' is near the plank road about half way between the vil-
lages of Palmyra and Manchester. The elder Smith had been a Uni-
versalist, and subsequently a Methodist; was a good deal of asmatterer
in scriptural knowledge; but the seed of revelation was sown on weak
ground; he was a great babbler, credulous, not especially industrious,
a money-digger, prone to the marvellous ; and withal a little given to
difficulties with neighbors and petty law suits. Not a very propitious
account of the father of a prophet — the founder of a state ; but there
was ' a woman in the case. ' Mrs. Smith was a woman of strong,
uncultivated intellect; artful and cunning; imbued with an illy-regu-
lated religious enthusiasm. The incipient hints, the first givings-out
that a prophet was to spring from her humble household, came from
her; and when matters were maturing for denouement, she gave out
that such and such ones — always fixing upon those who had both
money and credulity — were to be the instruments in some great work
of revelation. The old man was rather her faithful co-worker, or ex-
ecutive exponent. Their son, Alva, was originally intended or desig-
nated by fireside consultations and solemn and mysterious outdoor
hints, as the forthcoming prophet. The mother and father said he was
the chosen one; but Alva, however spiritual he might have been, had
a carnal appetite; eat too many green turnips, sickened and died.
Thus the world lost a prophet and Mormonism a leader; the designs
impiously and wickedly attributed to providence, defeated; and all in
consequence of a surfeit of raw turnips. Who will talk of the cackling
geese of Rome, or any other small and innocent causes of mighty
events, after this? The mantle of the prophet which Mr. and Mrs.
Joseph Smith and one Oliver Cowdery had wove of themselves —
every thread of it — -fell upon the next eldest son, Joseph Smith, jr.


"A most unpromising recipient of such a trust was this same Joseph
Smith, jr., afterwards, 'Joe Smith.' He was lounging, idle (not to
say vicious) ; and possessed of less than ordinary intellect. The author's
own recollections of him are distinct ones. He used to come into the
village of Palmyra with little jags of wood from his backwoods home;
sometimes patronizing a village grocery too freely; sometimes find an
odd job to do about the store of Seymour Scovell; and once a week he
would stroll into the office of the old Palmyra Register for his father's
paper. How impious, in us young 'dare-devils' to once and awhile
blacken the face of the then meddling, inquisitive lounger — but after-
wards prophet, with the old-fashioned ink balls when he used to put
himself in the way of the old-fashioned Ramage press! The editor of
the Cultivator at Albany — esteemed as he may justly consider himself
for his subsequent enterprise and usefulness, may think of it with con-
trition and repentance, that he once helped to thus disfigure the face
of a prophet, and remotely the founder of a state.

" But Joseph had a little ambition; and some very laudable aspira-
tions; the mother's intellect occasionally shone out in him feebly,
especially when he used to help us solve some portentous question of
moral or political ethics in our juvenile debating club, which we moved
down to the old red school-house on Durfee street, to get rid of the an-
noyance of critics that used to drop in on us in the village; and subse-
quently, after catching a spark of Methodism in the camp meeting,
away down in the woods on the Vienna road, he was a very passable
exhorter in evening meetings.

" Legends of hidden treasure had long designated Mormon Hill as the
depository. Old Joseph had dug there, and young Joseph had not only
heard his father and mother relate the marvellous tales of buried
wealth, but had accompanied his father in the midnight delvings and
incantations of the spirits that guarded it.

"If a buried revelation was to be exhumed, how natural it was that
the Smith family, with their credulity, and their assumed presentiment
that a prophet was to come from their household, should be connected
with it; and that Mormon Hill was the place where it would be found.

"It is believed by those who are best acquainted with the Smith
family, and most conversant with the old Gold 15ible movement, that
there is no foundation for the statement that their original manuscript
was written by a Mr. Spaulding, of Ohio. A supplement to the Gold
Bible, 'The 'Book of Commandments,' in all probability was written by


Rio-don, and lie may have been aided by Spatilding's manuscripts; but
the book itself is, without doubt, a production of the Smith family,
aided by Oliver Cowdery, who was a school teacher on Stafford street,
an intimate of the Smith family, and identified with the whole matter.
The production, as all will conclude who have read it, or even given it
a cursory review, is not that of an educated man or woman. The
bungling attempt to counterfeit the style of the Scriptures ; the inter-
mixture of modern phraseology; the ignorance of chronology and
geography; its utter crudeness and baldness, as a whole, stamp its
character, and clearly exhibit its vulgar origin. It is a strange medley
of scripture, romance and bad composition.

" The primitive designs of Mrs. Smith, her husband, Joe and Cow-
dery, was money making; blended with which, perhaps, was a desire
for notoriety, to be obtained by a cheat and a fraud. The idea of being
the founders of a new sect was an after-thought, in which they were
aided by others.

"The projectors of the humbug, being destitute of means for carry-
ing out their plans, a victim was selected to obviate that difficulty.
Martin Harris was a farmer of Palmyra, the owner of a good farm,
and an honest, worthy citizen ; but especially given to religious enthu-
siasm, new creeds, the more extravagant the better; a monomaniac, in
fact. Joseph Smith, upon whom the mantle of prophecy had fallen
after the sad fate of Alvah, began to make demonstrations. He in-
formed Harris of the great discovery, and that it had been revealed to
him that he (Harris) was_a chosen instrument to aid in a great work of
surprising the world with a new revelation. They had hit upon the
right man. He mortgaged his fine farm to pay for printing the book,
assumed a grave, mysterious, and unearthly deportment, and made
here and there among his acquaintances solemn enunciations of the
great event that was transpiring. His version of the discovery, as
communicated to him by the prophet Joseph himself, is well remem-
bered by several respectable citizens of Palmyra, to whom he made
earty disclosures. It was in substance as follows:

"The prophet Joseph, was directed by an angel where to find, by ex-
cavation, at the place afterwards called Mormon Hill, the gold plates;
and was compelled by the angel, much against his will, to be the in-
terpreter of the sacred record they contained, and publish it to the
world. That the plates contained a record of the ancient inhabitants
of this country, 'engraved by Mormon the son of Nephi.' That on the


top of the box containing the plates, 'a pair of large spectacles were
found, the stones or glass set in which were opaque to all but the
prophet;' that 'these belonged to Mormon, the engraver of the plates,
and without them the plates could not be read.' Harris assumed that
himself and Cowdery were the chosen amanuenses, and that the prophet
Joseph, curtained from the world and them, with his spectacles, read
from the gold plates what they committed to paper. Harris exhibited
to an informant of the author the manuscript of the title page. On it
were drawn rudely and bunglingly, concentric circles, between, above
and below which were clear characters, with little resemblance to let-
ters. Apparently a miserable imitation of hieroglyphics the writer may
have somewhere seen. To guard against profane curiosity, the prophet
had given out that no one but himself, not even his chosen co-opera-
tors, must be permitted to see them, on pain of instant death. Harris
had never seen the plates, but the glowing accounts of their massive
richness excited other than spriritual hopes, and he upon one occasion
got a village silversmith to help him estimate their value; taking as a
basis, the prophet's account of their dimensions. It was a blending of
the spiritual and utilitarian, that threw a shadow of doubt on Martin's
sincerity. This, and some anticipations he indulged in, as to the profits
that would arise from the sale of the Gold Bible, made it then, as it is
now, a mooted question, whether he was altogether a dupe.

" The wife of Harris was a rank infidel and heretic, touching the
whole thing; and decidedly opposed to her husband's participation in
it. With sacrilegious hands she seized over a hundred of the manu-
script pages of the New Revelation and burned or secreted them. It
was agreed by the Smith family, Cowdery and Harris, not to transcribe
these again, but to let so much of the New Revelation drop out, as the
' evil spirit would get up a story that the second translation did not agree
with the first.' A very ingenious method, surely, of guarding against
the possibility that Mrs. Harris had preserved the manuscript with
which they might be confronted should they attempt an imitation of
their own miserable patchwork. The prophet did not get his lesson
well upon the start, or the household of imposters were in the fault.
After he had told his story, in his absence, the rest of the family made
a new version of it to one of their neighbors They showed him such
a pebble as may any day be picked up on the shore of Lake ( )ntario —
the common hornblende — carefully wrapped in cotton and kept in a
mysterious box. They said it was by looking at this stone, in a hat,


the light excluded, that Joseph discovered the plates. This it will be
observed, differs materially from Joseph's story of the angel. It was
the stone the Smiths had used in money digging and in some pretended
discoveries of stolen property.

" Long before the Gold Bible demonstration, the Smith family had
with some sinister object in view, whispered another fraud in the ears
of the credulous. They pretended that in digging for money, at Mor-
mon Hill, they came across 'a chest, three feet by two in size, covered
with a dark-colored stone. In the center of the stone was a white spot
about the size of a sixpence. Enlarging, the spot increased to the size
of a 24-pound shot, and then exploded with a terrible noise. The chest
vanished and all was utter darkness.'

" It may be safely presumed that in no other instance have prophets
and the chosen and designated of angels been quite as calculating and
worldly as were those of Stafford street, Mormon Hill and Palmyra.
The only business contract — veritable instrument in writing, that was
ever executed by spiritual agents, has been preserved, and should be
among the archives of the new State of Utah. It is signed by the
Prophet Joseph himself and witnessed by Oliver Cowdery, and secures
to Martin Harris one-half of the proceeds of the sale of the Gold Bible
until he was fully reimbursed in the sum of $2,500, the cost of printing.

" The after-thought that has been alluded to: the enlarging of orig-
inal intentions — was at the suggestion of Sidney Rigdon, of Ohio, who
made his appearance and blended himself with the poorly-devised
scheme of imposture about the time the book was issued from the
press. He unworthily bore the title of a Baptist elder, but had by
some previous freak, if the author is rightly informed, forfeited his
standing with that respectable denomination. Designing, ambitious,
and dishonest, under the semblance of sanctity and assumed spiritual-
ity, he was just the man for the uses of the Smith household and their
half-dupe and half-designing abettors; and they were just the fit in-
struments he desired. He became at once the Hamlet, or more appro-
priately perhaps, the maw-worm of the play.

" Under the auspices of Rigdon a new sect, the Mormons, was pro-
jected, prophecies fell thick and fast from the lips of Joseph; old Mrs.
Smith assumed all the airs of a mother of a prophet; that particular
family of Smiths were singled out and became exalted above all their
legion of namesakes. The bald, clumsy cheat found here and there an
enthusiast, a monomaniac, or a knave, in and around its primitive


locality, to help it upon its start; and soon, like another scheme of im-
posture (that had a little dignity and plausibility in it), it had its hegira
or flight to Kirtland; then to Nauvoo; then to a short resting' place in
Missouri, and then on over the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City.
Banks, printing offices, temples, cities, and finally a State have arisen
under its auspices. Converts have multiplied to tens of thousands;
while its illegal and disgusting practice of polygamy called down upon
it the detestation of all civilized people and the wrath and interference
of the general government."

It is a somewhat remarkable coincidence that another pseudo-religious
movement, the consecmences of which were ultimately scarcely less mo-
mentous than those of Mormonism, should have had its rise in Wayne
county. Reference is made to the very beginning of what is now
known throughout the world by the general name of spiritualism. Like
Mormonism, this other new doctrine had its origin in deception. It
began in the little hamlet of Hydeville in the town of Arcadia, where
Tohn Fox and his family settled. Mr. Fox bore a good reputation and
carried on his trade of blacksmithing. On the night of March 31,
1849, the two daughters of Mr. Fox, Margaret and Catharine, and their
cousin, Elizabeth Fish, claimed to have heard a mysterious rapping
which greatly frightened them. A simple system of brief communi-
cation was devised, probably by the girls and their mother, the latter
being possibly deceived by her daughters, and the sounds were attrib-
uted to spirits from another world, Among the communications said
to have been received through the rappings, was one to the effect that
a man named John Bell had killed a peddler and buried the body in his
cellar. This created much excitement, the news spread, and digging
was begun to find the remains of the murdered man. The little place
was visited by hundreds of people from the near by villages. The
diggers struck a vein of flowing water, which prevented further inves-
tigation in that line. As the mysterious rappings continued, thousands
of people visited the Fox home, some of whom believed in the super-
natural origin of the sounds, while others ridiculed the whole thing.
It was not long before a financial return became a part of the plans of
the daughters, and to reach a larger audience they removed to Roches-
ter and appeared in public, their operations becoming widely known as
the " Rochester Rappings. " The alleged intercourse with disembod-
ied spirits led to the evolution of so-called " mediums" who professed
to be especially adapted for the reception of the news from the other


world. From the simple rappings of the Fox 'sisters, was developed
by others still more bold in their deceptions, the appearance of ap-
paritions, the sound of voices, and various other demonstrations. The
mania spread in its later varied phases until ultimately it reached over
the civilized world. Late in the life of the Fox sisters they claimed to
explain the mystery of the Tappings, stating that they were produced
by certain movements of some of their joint bones, which could be
moved without detection.


End of the Reign of Peace — The First Gun — Military Enthusiasm — Wayne Coun-
ty — The President's First Proclamation — The First Company Recruited in Wajne
Count}' — Sketches of the Various other Wayne County Organizations.

The long reign of prosperous peace in America was rudely and ruth-
lessly closed when citizens of one of the Southern, States fired the first
hostile gun upon Fort Sumter in 1861. Almost before the echoes of
that cannonade had died away, a tide of patriotic enthusiasm and indig-
nation swept over the entire North, and the call to arms found an echo
in every loyal heart, while thousands, young and old, rich and poor,
native and alien, sprang forward to offer their services and their lives
at the altar of their country.

The history of the civil war has been written and rewritten, and al-
most every intelligent citizen has become familiar with the story of the
great contest. Were this not true, it would be manifestly impossible
to follow in detail the various campaigns in which Wayne county sol-
diers honorably shared, or to trace in detail the career of those brave
officers and privates who fell on the battlefield. Such records are for
the general historian who has ample space at his command. The mus-
ter rolls of the State, too, that have been deposited in every county
clerk's office, are accessible to all and enable the reader to see at a glance
the noble part performed by the soldiers in the great struggle for the
maintenance of the Union. As a rule the several calls of the president
for volunteers were freely met, and though a draft was held in the
county on two occasions, it did not reach all of the towns, and its re-
quirements were promptly complied with.


Prior to the actual outbreak of the Rebellion, the president issued a
proclamation calling forth "the militia of this State (as well as of the
other Northern States), to the aggregate number of 75,000, in order to
suppress combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed."
Following this and the first gun of the great conflict, the principal vil-
lages of this county became at once centers of military activity and en-

( )n Monday, April 15, 1861, the State Legislature passed a bill ap-
propriating $3,000,000 and providing for the enrollment of 30,000 men
to be subject to call in aid of the general government. The volunteers
under this call were to enlist in the State service for two years and be
subject at any time to transfer into the Federal service. This measure
caused intense excitement throughout the State, and the villages of
Wayne county were ablaze with enthusiasm.

The following brief sketches of the complete organizations that left
Wayne county for the Southern battlefields will give a general glimpse
of their service.

Recruiting began here promptly after the first call for volunteers was
issued, and before the close of May, 1861, Company I, which joined the
17th Regiment, was chiefly raised in Newark and its immediate vicinity.
Andrew Wilson was captain and Isaac M. Lusk, first lieutenant. In
this early regiment were a considerable number of recruits outside of
Company I. The latter company joined the regiment in New York
city and was there mustered in for two years, under command of Col-
onel Lansing. The first engagement in which the 17th took part was
at Hanover Court House. A part of the command shared in the Seven
Days battle, and later the regiment was in the Second battle of Bull
Run, where Company I suffered the loss of Captain Wilson. In the
battle of Antietam this regiment was actively engaged and again en
December 13, 1861, at Fredericksburg. The regiment was mustered
out June 2, 1863.

Company B of the 27th Regiment was chiefly recruited in Lyons in
1861. The regiment was organized at Elmira in May of that year, un-
der command of Col. W. H. Slocum, of Syracuse, who subsequently
attained the highest military honors. The Lyons company was com-
manded by Capt. Alexander D. Adams, and left Lyons May 10. There
were also many other volunteers from Wayne county in this regiment,
outside of Company B. The 27th was mustered into the United States
service May 2'.t, 1861, and proceeded to Washington. The principal


engagements in which it took part were at Bull Run (where Colonel
Slocuni was wounded), Fairfax, West Point, Mechanicsville, Gaines's
Mills (where the Lyons company lost one killed and twenty-three
wounded), Manassas, Crampton Gap (in 18G2), and Fredericksburg in
L863. The regiment was conspicuous for brave and gallant conduct
before the enemy.

The 33d Regiment, recruited chiefly in Rochester in 1861, contained
one company (B) from Wayne county, most of whom were from Pal-
myra. This organization became considerably depleted, and in Sep-
tember, 1861, received 240 recruits. The regiment was commanded by
Col. Robert F. Taylor, of Rochester, and left Elmira for Washington
July 8, 1861. It was under fire at Yorktown in April, 1861, for fifty-
four hours, and soon afterwards fought at Williamsburg. In the fight
at Mechanicsville in May, 1862, the regiment participated, and in its
movements reached a point within six miles of Richmond. Other en-