Gurney S Strong.

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kettle hung to different poles, each end of the pole
being placed in the crotch of a post set in the ground,
and a fire built under the kettles between a few stones


which were laid up on each side to condense the heat,
and no improvement has been made on that mode
since that time. The salt manufactured at that time
was of a greyish color. This color was produced by
boiling the bitterns in and mixing them with the pure
salt. The art of separating the impurities of the salt
was discovered by a Mr. Dexter, a blacksmith, two or
three years after that date.

John Danforth, a brother of General Asa Danf orth,
lived in Salina in 1792, and was engaged in the man-
ufacture of salt. He was one of the few fortunate
enough to own a kettle large enough to make salt in.
He sold the salt for fifty cents per bushel at the works.

Pharis Gould, father of Pharis Gould of this
county, lived in Salina in 1792. He was also a salt

A surveyor by the name of Josiah Olcott was a
resident of Salina at that time. He was engaged in
laying of and surveying the roads in and about the
country, and in laying out the streets of the village
then in embryo. When not engaged in surveying he
was employed as an adviser and middle-man about
the salt works.

There was also a man by the name of Sturge, with
his family, then living at Salina. Mr. Loomis was
also a resident there at that time. James Peat and
several others came that year.

These early settlers were all attracted there by,


186 cheney's reminiscences

and had something to do with, the manufacture of
salt. They lived very highly on game and fish, of
which there was a very great supply.

The Onondaga lake and creek were filled with as
fine salmon and other varieties of fish as were ever
eaten by any people. The inhabitants were supplied
with fish and game by the Indians in great abundance.

There were no clearings in or around the village
except here and there a place where nature had refused
to do its work of rearing lofty trees, and had left a
small prairie-like spot of green. These places the
emigrants took to cultivate and settle upon. There
was such an open space near the salt spring, a little
south of the pump house. There were also several
such open spots on each side of Onondaga creek that
were occujried by the Onondaga Indians ; they having
built small brush and bark huts, which they used
while fishing and hunting, but not as permanent resi-
dences. Their permanent place of abode was where
the present Indian castle and village now stand.

There were a great many Indians belonging to this
tribe living at that time. They were continually rov-
ing in all directions, seeking game and watching their

At that time there was not a very good feeling ex-
isting between our people and the inhabitants of
Canada and the frontier.

The Indians had a perfect knowledge of all that


transpired on the frontier. This knowledge they com-
municated from tribe to tribe by means of runners.
They had a perfect and systematic arrangement of
this human telegraph, by means of which they com-
municated with each other from Albany to Buffalo
with the greatest precision and despatch.

The head chief, Kiactdote, was one of the most
cautious and observing men that ever ruled this tribe.
He had perfect command of them, and exerted a great
influence over them. To illustrate his power, I must
relate an incident which took place in 1793.

At Green Point, on one of the small prairies, a
Mr. Lamb had settled with his family. He had a
daughter fourteen years old, who was left in his rude
house alone while he attended to his agricultural pur-
suits. Mr. Lamb heard a noise in the house, and
going there he saw a young Indian kissing his daugh-
ter and taking other improper liberties with her. He
was so enraged that he picked up a junk bottle be-
longing to the Indian and struck the savage on the
head, killing him on the spot. He then fled to the
settlement at Salina for safety.

The Indians in the vicinity declared they must
have the life of Mr. Lamb, according to their custom
of "life for life." The people called the chiefs together
and with Webster as interpreter, related the circum-
stances as they transpired. Upon receiving this in-
formation, a council of the tribe was called at Salina.


(It was the last council ever held there.) When the
council had assembled, Kiactdote stepped into the ring
formed by the Indians, threw off his blanket, gave
three whoops, making a motion with both hands at
the same time. The meaning of this performance
was : ' ' Pay attention to what I say. " He then related
the whole circumstances to the nation, and said that
it was the first time an Indian had ever been known to
insult a white squaw. 'Although they had many, many
prisoners of white blood, no Indian had ever been
found so low as to degrade himself and tribe by insult-
ing a white squaw until this occurrence. He declared
that killing was justifiable, and that Mr. Lamb must
not be punished. His decision was acquiesced in and
adopted by the tribe, with the proviso that Mr. Lamb
should pay to the relatives of the Indian killed a three
year old heifer, which was to cement peace and good
will between the posterity of both parties forever. The
Indian was buried on the spot where he was killed.

At that time the whites used to require the children
to drive their cows one mile from the settlement and
watch over them during the day, for fear of being
surprised by the enemy from Canada.

In 1793, the ill will between the inhabitants of New
York and Canada had risen to such a point that it was
deemed necessary for the security and protection of
the inhabitants in and around Salina, to erect a Block
House. The State caused an immediate survey to be


made, and the location for the Block Honse deter-
mined upon. A spot of ground directly in front of
the Salina Pump House, near where the canal now
runs, was selected as the proposed site. The building
was finished before 1795. It was twenty feet in height,
with port holes arranged in each story to fire from, in
case of necessity. The B]ock House was used as a
defence against the occasional incursions of guerrilla
parties from Canada, which the inhabitants feared
more than the Indians.

Among the persons present when the Block House
site was selected were Baron Steuben, Moses DeWitt
of Pompey, Isaac Van Vleck, William Gilchrist, Gen-
eral Asa Danforth, Mr. Olcott of Pompey, and Aaron

Baron Steuben and Moses DeWitt took supper and
lodged at Mrs. O'Blennis' father's house. The Baron
was a large, corpulent man, pleasing in his address
and manners.

The Rev. Mr. Sickles, an itinerant minister, used
to stop at Mr. Van Vleck's on his way through the
country to and from the frontier.

Mr. VanVleck's house was a common stopping place
for most all travelers through the country. He did
not keep a tavern, but he afforded rest to the weary
and food to the hungry.

At that time the inhabitants of Salina did not have
any wells. The water they used for drinking and

190 cheney's reminiscences

cooking was brought from a fresh water spring under
the hill near what was then the marsh.

The lake at that time was five or six feet higher
than at the present day, and covered the flats at cer-
tain seasons of the year.

In 179-2, Mr. Gould built what was called a mud
house. It was similar to a stick chimney, narrow
strips of boards being laid flat-ways about half an
inch apart, and the open spaces filled with mud. The
roof was made with split logs running lengthwise from
the peak to the eaves.

The first frame house was built by General Dan-
forth and Mr. Van Vleck in 1793. The lumber, or
most of it, was brought from Little Falls and Tioga
Point in batteaux. The nails came from Albany.

That year Thomas Orman, Simon Phares and Wil-
liam Gilchrist came to Salina. Mr. Orman brought
the first cauldron kettle for the manufacture of salt.
Aaron Bellows came that year and established a cooper
shop for the manufacture of salt barrels. Mr. Van
Vleck went to Albany that year and brought a large
copper mill and placed it in Mr. Bellows' cooper shop,
which all the families used to grind their corn with.
This was an improvement upon the scalloped stump
and sweep.

There were no grist or saw mills in this section of
the country at that time. There was a small saw mill
at Jamesville, but it was not accessible from Salina


as there were no roads for the passage of teams. Ben-
jamin Carpenter kept the first store at Salina. He
kept a large variety store and traded in furs, salt, etc.,
with the Indians and settlers. He commenced busi-
ness in 1795.

In 1794, Patrick Riley, Mr. Thompson and several
others came to Salina to live. The village at that
time had increased to thirty-three persons, and of this
number thirty were sick; only three being able to
attend to their sick neighbors, which they did with
the assistance of the Indians.

In 1794, Elisha Alvord, then a young man, in com-
pany with several others came to Salma to reside.
Mr. Alvord was elected the Supervisor of the town of
Salina at its first town election. He was the father
of Thomas and Cornelius Alvord, now residents of

In 1794, Judge Richard Sanger, Mr. Andrews of
New Hartford, Thomas Hart of Clinton, Oneida
county, Mr. Butler of Pompey, Mr. Keeler of Onon-
daga, Asa Danforth of Onondaga Hollow and Elisha
Alvord of Salina, formed a company called the " Fed-
eral Company," for the purpose of manufacturing
salt. They put up some of the first six kettle blocks.
The company failed in 1801 by inexperience in the
business. They had wood merely by cutting it, and
sold salt readily at high prices.

Dioclesian Alvord came here in 179(3, and hired


part of the " Federal Works " with four kettles. He
added two more, and with his six kettles he could
manufacture eighteen to twenty bushels of salt per
day, which he readily sold for fifty cents per bushel.
The pump house was then out in the water, and Mr.
Alvord had to take a skiff to reach it. The water was
pumped by hand and conveyed in troughs to the res-
ervoir made of hollow logs.

The first law suit tried in Salina was the suit of
Dr. Barber against John Lamb. The suit was in re-
gard to alleged overcharges on the part of the Doctor,
and was tried before 'Squire Kinne of Manlius, who
came there to accommodate the parties. Dr. Barber
was one of the first physicians in the village of Salina,
and son-in-law of John Danforth of that place.

In 1792, there were about six log and two mud
houses in Salina. Three of these houses stood on
Salina street, and two or three stood on the spot where
Widow Miller now lives. These were built together,
or adjoining each other, with separate entrances.

Village lots were not in market in IT!) 2, and when
a person wanted to build he took such a location as
suited him, and put up his house. When the lots
came into market the person building got a pre-emp-
tion title for forty dollars.

In 1795, Judge Stevens, the first Salt Superintend-
ent, William Gilchrist and Isaac Van Vleck of Salina,
conceived the idea of levying duties on salt. It was


thought that the " duties" were not so much for the
profit of the State as for the advancement of the per-
sonal interests of different parties in Salina. The
idea originated by these men has been a source of
very great profit to the State, the State having re-
ceived, prior to 1843, in duties upon salt, over
$3,000,000. The first duties on salt were four pence
per bushel. Upon the opening of the canal, the duty
was raised to one shilling per bushel. The duty is
now one cent.

In 1801, Judge Stevens had collected a considerable
amount of moneys for duties, and was on the point of
proceeding to Albany to make a deposit, when he was
prevented by sickness and died.

In 1795, the State purchased of the Onondagas the
salt lake now called Onondaga lake, with a strip of
land one mile in width extending entirely round it,
with the exclusive right to all the salt springs for $500,
and the annual payment of one hundred bushels of
salt. The State has from time to time sold to differ-
ent individuals all of the land thus purchased, with
the exception of 549 acres, for which, prior to 1843,
they had received in the aggregate $58,428.25.

The early inhabitants of Salina were a tough,
hardy race of men, and withal they were intelligent,
energetic and enterprising. They were governed solely
by the common law until 1809, when the first town
election was held in the town of Salina.


The village increased gradually, and the salt ket-
tles kept pace with the increase of the inhabitants,
until now "Salt Point" and "Salt Pointers" and
"salt kettles " are known all over the habitable globe.

In 1824, the village of Saliua was about one-third
as large as at the present day, and its inhabitants
were known as a most intelligent, enterprising set of
men. It grew rapidly during that year.

The first tax levied upon the inhabitants after the
incorporation of the village of Syracuse, was in the
fall of 1825. It amounted to $250, a striking contrast
to the sum now levied upon the city of Syracuse for
municipal purposes. Henry W. Durnford was the
collector, and John Durnford was his bondsman.

In the year 1802, Judge Oliver R. Strong came
from Berkshire, Mass., to the county of Onondaga,
and located at Onondaga Hill. He was among the
first of the settlers who acted in an official capacity,
having been appointed a Deputy Sheriff in 1803, by
Elijah Rust. This office he held for several years.
In 1808, he was appointed County Treasurer by the
Board of Supervisors, and served in that capacity for
the extraordinary term of twenty-two years. He has
been one of the Judges of the county, and President of
the Onondaga County Bank for a long period. In all
the relations of life, he has borne a reputation for
integrity second to no man in the community.

In 1803, Judge Strong, in connection with Cornelius


Longstreet, acted as clerk of the election. At that
time the elections continued for three days, and the
polls were held half a day in a place. The town of
Onondaga at that time embraced a large extent of
territory, and it was no light duty to act in the
capacity of an inspector or clerk of the elections. The
responsibility, too, was much greater than at the
present time, as the ballot boxes had to be strictly
guarded over nights.

In 1802, the village of Onondaga Hill consisted of
four framed buildings — two of them erected that
year — seven or eight log dwellings or huts and two
log taverns. One of- these taverns was kept by
Daniel Earll, the grandfather of Jonas Earll, former
Canal Commissioner. His house stood on the site of
the office subsequently occupied by Nehemiah H.
Earll, and which still remains on the original lot.
The other public house stood about where the store of
Mr. Eastman now stands, and was kept by William
Lard. Mr. Lard was a man of energy and enterprise,
and many of his descendants still reside in the county.
One of the log huts was used as a blacksmith's shop.
A store was kept by Walter Morgan, but did not
have much business.

Medad Curtis was the only lawyer in the place.
He was a man of ability, and was intelligent and
trustworthy; and he enjoyed the unbounded confi-
dence of his neighbors. His practice was lucrative.

196 Cheney's reminiscences

Two physicians, Dr. Thayer and Dr. Colton, were
in practice in 1802. They did a large and profitable
business, as the inhabitants, like those of all newly -
settled countries, were subject to diseases of a bilious
character. Few persons were proof against these in-
sidious diseases.

At the time referred to, this county was settling
with great rapidity. Many of the settlers were Rev-
olutionary soldiers, who received their land for ser-
vices rendered their country in the stirring and event-
ful contest with Great Britain, and came here to enjoy
the blessings of peace and independence which had
been acquired by their courage and patriotism.

In 1794, Onondaga county was set off from Her-
kimer by act of the Legislature. It included the whole
of Oswego and parts of Cayuga and Cortland counties.
The territory was divided into eight townships. Soon
afterwards a company of gentlemen, consisting of
Judge Stevens, Elisha Lewis, Comfort Tyler, John
Ellis, Parley Howlett, sr., Asa Danforth, Thaddeus
M. Wood, Elijah Rust, William Lard, Medad Curtis,
and George Hall, conceived the idea of making a large
village at or near the centre of the county. After a
full view of the merits of the different localities, they
selected Onondaga Hill, by reason of its high and
airy location. The valleys were avoided, because they
were regarded as very unhealthy. This company
purchased parts of farm lots 104 and 111), and em-


ployed Judge Geddes to lay them out into village
lots, with a suitable site in the centre for a court house
and jail. The plan was faithfully carried out, and
these buildings, erected soon afterwards, were placed
on the spot thus indicated. The site was very
capacious, consisting of fifteen acres, with a gentle
declivity towards the north, bounded on every side by
public streets.

A few years only elapsed before it became appar-
ent that this attempt at a speculation must fail. The
" Hollow" improved faster than the " Hill," and tne
Erie canal eventually killed both. But it is not the
only instance illustrating the want of foresight in the
shrewdest men. Comfort Tyler, Thaddeus M. Wood,
General Danforth and their associates in this enter-
prise, were men far more sagacious than the
generality of our pioneer citizens ; but they were not
aware of the fact that the marts of commerce, trade
and wealth, are always found in valleys and not on
mountain elevations.

The people of Onondaga Valley have been their
own worst enemies. They not only made no efforts to
secure the location of the court house, but actually
prevented the laying out of the Erie canal through
their village, by placing obstacles in the way of Judge
Forman, who was sincerely desirous of running that
great artery of trade and prosperity through the
place. Had the leading property holders exhibited

198 chexey's reminiscences

the spirit of true liberality, the canal would have
"been carried up to that point from Lodi, and down on
the west side of the valley. Thus does selfishness
generally defeat its own aims and purposes. Had the
canal taken this direction, Onondaga Valley would
have occupied the position now maintained by the
city of Syracuse.

The first court held in this county was in the corn
house of Comfort Tyler, nearly opposite the late
residence of General T. M. Wood (now the residence
of Morris Pratt), at Onondaga Valley. After this
they were held for some time in the parlor of Mr.
Tyler's public house, and subsequently in other
public places in different parts of the town, to suit
the convenience of the litigants.

At that time there was no jail in the county, and
the authorities were compelled to take the prisoners
to the Herkimer county jail for confinement.

In the year 1804, the county of Oneida had com-
pleted a jail in the town of Whitesboro, to which the
criminals of this county were transferred, the Legis-
lature having previously passed an act granting this
county the right to use the nearest jail. The Whites-
boro jail was used until 1810; that year our jail was

In 1801, the Board of Supervisors, then composed
of the wisest men in their respective towns, began to
take measures to build a court house and jail for this


county. Three commissioners, Elisha Lewis, Medad
Curtis and T. M. Wood, were selected to superintend
this erection, and by a vote, it was determined to
locate them on Onondaga Hill. The commissioners
did not seem to have much system about building.
The buildings were erected by piecemeal and by
different persons. The commissioners commenced by
contracting with William Bostwick of Auburn to
put up the frame and enclose the house. This was
done in 1802, and closed Mr. Bostwick's contract.
Previous to raising the house, the people of the Hill
collected together and made a "bee," for the purpose
of cutting away the trees to make room for the new
building. The square was at that time covered with
a heavy growth of timber. In order to have the use
of the court house, a temporary floor and seats were
put into it, and the courts held there till the com-
mencement of 1804. The county then began to feel
able to finish the court house and jailor's dwelling.
The commissioners contracted with Abel House to do
the carpenter work inside, leaving out the cells ; and
with a Mr. Saxton from New Hartford to do the
mason work; and E. Webster to furnish the brick
for chimneys. The court room and dwelling were
completed during that season. After a year or two,
preparations were commenced for building the cells
of the jail. A contract was made with Roswell and
Sylvanus Tousley of Manlius to do the iron work for

200 cheney's reminiscences

a stipulated price of two shillings per pound. I am
not informed who did the wood work, but the cells
were not finished till the year 1810.

This jail was a wood building, fifty feet square,
two stories high, with a square roof pitching four
ways to the eaves. It was not painted. This finish-
ing touch was done by a subscription some years
afterwards, by the people of Onondaga Hill. The
first story was appropriated for the jail and the
dwelling of the janitor, a hall separating them from
each other. The cells were constructed of heavy oak
plank, fastened together with wrought spike. The
doors were made of the like material, with a "dia-
mond " in the centre to pass through the food and
give light to the prisoners. In the rear of the cells
were grated windows. The court room was reached
by a stairway leading from this hall. The Judge's
bench was directly in front of the entrance to the
court room, and was constructed in a circular form.
The whole cost of the building was $10,000, a large
sum apparently for such a structure ; but when it is
considered that the work was done mostly on credit,
there will be no occasion for surprise. Besides, the
system of keeping public accounts at that day was
very imperfect. Many of the bills contracted in the
erection of the building were not paid until several
years afterwards.

This court house and jail were used for the pur-


poses designated until the year 1829. The first jailor
was James Beebe, a Revolutionary soldier, and father
of Mrs. Victory Birdseye of Pompey. His successor
was Mason Butts, father of Horace Butts, who was
jailor after the removal of the county buildings to
Syracuse. John H. Johnson also acted as jailor there
for several years.

Syracuse having in 1825-26 grown to be the
largest town in the county, the propriety of removing
the county buildings to that place began to be
agitated. The people on the Hill strongly resisted
the measure, and in the first mentioned year succeeded
in getting a bill through the Legislature, providing
for their retention at that place; but through the
influence of the Syracuse Company, Governor
Clinton was induced to veto it, and it was thus
defeated. But the project did not sleep. In 1827-28,
a law was enacted authorizing the Supervisors of the
county to erect a court house and jail within the
corporate limits of the village of Syracuse. In
obedience to the recpairements of this act, the Super-
visors, in the summer of 1828, met in the village of
Syracuse, at the public house kept by James Mann
(now the Syrarcuse House) to take into consideration
the selection of a site for the proposed buildings, and
also to make the necessary preparation for erecting
the same. At that meeting there was a great deal of
discussion upon the cp^iestion, and a wide difference of


opinion existed aniong the members relative to the
site of the buildings. On taking a vote, it resulted in
placing it midway between Syracuse and Salina, in
consideration of the village of Salina presenting to
the county a full and unincumbered title to the
property, consisting of not less than three acres,
and $1,000.

As an inducement to locate it in the centre of the

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Online LibraryGurney S StrongEarly landmarks of Syracuse → online text (page 11 of 22)