M. M. (Moses Mears) Bagg.

The pioneers of Utica : being sketches of its inhabitants and its institutions, with the civil history of the place, from the earliest settlement to the year 1825, the era of the opening of the Erie C online

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Online LibraryM. M. (Moses Mears) BaggThe pioneers of Utica : being sketches of its inhabitants and its institutions, with the civil history of the place, from the earliest settlement to the year 1825, the era of the opening of the Erie C → online text (page 8 of 65)
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but leaving this hazardous pursuit, now that he is past middle
life and responsible for the settlement of a family of ten child-


ren, he immigrates with them to the new countiy. As for him-
self, it being too late to acquire a new profession, he spends the
remainder of his days in gardening. His house and garden
were on the lower end of Genesee street, a little below Post's.
Here he died April 5, 1813, in his sixty-second year — his wife
four days afterward. His sons were George, Levi, Stephen, Hor-
ace, Calvin and David O.

There came as assistant to Talcott Camp, a carpenter named
Hiel Hollister, who presently returned to Connecticut, in order
to bring his family. He built a house on "Whitesboro street,
adjoining the one occupied by Abijah Thomas, and afterward
by his brother, B. W. Thomas, This house he sold to the
former about the year 1803, and went back to his native State.
After the deed was signed, the parties were all day journeying
to and from Whitesljoro, whither the^^ were obliged to go in
order to have the deed acknowledged : from which we raaA^ jiidge
of the character of tlie roads of this vicinity, as well as of the
dependence of Utica upon Whitesboro at the period in question.

Samuel Hooker was another carpenter who at this time took
up his residence here. Originally from Barre, Mass., he had
settled in Albany and was engaged in his chosen calling, wdien
he was induced to come to Old Fort Schuyler to superintend
the erection by the agents of the Holland Land Co., of a large
brick hotel on Whitesboro street. His son Philip remained in
Albany, and became emijient as an architect, having been era-
ployed in the erection of St. Peter's and the Lutheran churches
as well as the State Capitol. The remainder of Mr. Hooker's
family removed with him, including his son John, who was
also a carpenter and builder. These two were the only persons
resident who were competent to project and carry on so impor-
tant a structure as the Hotel. It was probably begun in 1797,
and was finished near the close of the year 1799. A more
jmrticular account of it will be given hereafter. In June, 1803,
when a subscri]3tion had been started, looking toward the build-
ing of Trinity Church, the Messrs. Hooker presented plans
which w^ere accepted, and they were engaged to go on with the
work until the money had been expended. Besides these and
other more private undertakings, Mr. Hooker, was in 1808
acting as agent for two Fire Insurance Companies. He was an


unassuming, industrious and upright man. That he was much
respected in his own church at least, may be inferred from the
fact that for twenty-one years he was anually elected one of its
officers, two-thirds of which time a Warden. His residence
was at first on Whitesboro street near the corner of the present
Division, and afterward on the site of the store of O. O'Neil,
84 Genesee. He died October 19, 1832, at the age of eighty -six.
His wife, (Rachel Hine) outlived him three years and was
ninety-three at her death, having been totall}'- blind nearly
twenty years. In her affliction she was a remarkable example
of christian patience and resignation.

John Hooker, son of the foregoing, after following some
years his trade of carpenter and builder, went into the sale of
lumber with Mr. Seth D wight. Their yard was on the upper
part of tbe gore formed by the junction of Genesee and Hotel
streets, about where Liberty now runs. They also engaged in
an auction and commission business, and were for a time pros-
perous, but failed in the end. Mr. Hooker's residence was op-
posite Catherine, on the west side of Genesee. This house, in
1815, he moved back to Hotel street, and erected on its site
three brick stores, now standing, one of which (No. 102) he
occupied at the time of his failure.

His latter years were clouded by his reverse of fortune, and by
occasional attacks of insanity. Practical, stirring and benevolent,
he had so far the confidence of his fellow citizens as to be thrice
elected as a village trustee. Possessed of considerable inge-
nuity, lie invented several useful articles, among which is a
window spring still in common use. Once, at least, he made
his escape from the insane asylum in New York by adapting to
the door-lock a spoon or some other utensil that he turned into
a key. He died here July 31st, 1829, aged sixty. His wife
Ann, daughter of Matthew Derbyshire, of Hartwick, Otsego
county, to whom he was married in 1802, died three years be-
fore him, August 17, 1826. Their children were William, lost
at sea in 182-1 ; Rachel (Mrs. G. H. Starr, Pleasant Prairie, near
Kenosha, Wis.) ; Sophia Ann (relict of Geo. D. Foot, of the
.same place) ; Phillip J., of Camden, Nebraska.

The remaining children of Samuel Hooker were as follows :
James, a merchant here and a military man, wIk^ married a
daughter of Silas Clark, and subsequently removed with his
family to New York ; William, went early to New York, and


became a hydrographer and engraver; Samuel R, a resident of
various places, merchant here in 1815 ; Susan, widow when
she came of Caspar Hewson, of Albany, became afterwards the
second wife of Seth Dwight ; Sarah, married William Fellows,
and after his death, Killian Winne.

Seventy acres of lot No. 96 were, on the 2d of January, 1797,
bought by Eichard Kimball from Jedediah Sanger, of New
Hartford, who had himself bought of James S. Kip. This
farm, which Mr. Kimball occupied until 1804, lay chiefly on
the eastern side of Grenesee hill, but extended in part across to
the western side nearly as far as the present Aiken street, where
it bordered on the southern line of Judge Cooper's purchase.
The farm house, which since Mr. Kimball's day has been the
home of numerous successive tenants, stood nearly on the site
of the sumptuous mansion of Irvin A. Williams. At present
it stands on the street which in after years was named in allu-
sion to the early owner of the territory it traverses, though in
allusion merely, since contempt for a name so wanting in hon-
orable belongings as Kimball has changed it to Kemble. This
owner, having sold his farm, went back to Connecticut.

And now I have brought forward all the men of Old Fort
Schuyler of whom I am at all assured that they were residents.
And yet there is one, who, though his home was outside the
limits, was seen daily within them, and whose service was so
useful that he cannot in justice be omitted. This is James
Fhisky who lived next above the ford on the high bank at
the north side of the river. He brought fish into market,
served sometimes as a cooper, and still more as cartman, be-
sides acting as ferryman when the river was too much swol-
len for fording. By way of opposition, his domicil was known
as Fort Flusky.

The occurrences of years that immediately succeed reveal
additional names, which it may be, should of right, here be re
corded. Not to trust to conjecture where positive knowledge
is wanting, I pass them by for the present.

We have arrived at the spring of 1798, — a period, which, to
their successors, is an entirely arbitrary one, yet which to the in-
habitants of our settlement, was the beginning of a new epoch.


They had begun to realize the need of a more formal civil
organization, and moreover, aspired to have their place recog-
nized by a name tliat should be both more distinctive and more
easy to speak than the accidental one it had thus far borne.
As a curious illustration of the nature of fame, the originator
of the name of Utica cannot be admitted as past all doubt.
The common report goes, that the inhabitants were assembled
in the public room of Bagg's tavern, and the question was
raised of a designation for their soon-to-be-incor})orated village.
A number of names were pro})osed. Some of those present
were in favor of retaining the present one ; one individualliked
Indian names, and wished that the village should take the
patron3an.ic of the noble Oneida chief, Scenandoa ; another pre-
ferred a more national hero, and would have it called Washing-
ton ; another, who was in search of briefness, would call it Kent,
a euphonious term, and full of pleasing memories to the descend-
ant of English ancestry. This latter had strong advocates, but
was defeated by the ridicule of a citizen, of whom we now hear
for the first time, but of whom I can pick up nothing more, ex-
cept that his name was Little, and that he afterward went and
drowned himself.

Finding agreement by other means impossiljle, it was resolved
to decide the name l^y lot. Each person present deposited in a
hat, the name of his preference, written on a slip of paper, and
of these there were thirteen. The name first drawn was to be
the accepted one. And so the lot fell u])on the heathen name
of Utica, the choice of that eminent classical scholar, Erastus

In due time, came from tlie State Legislature, the act of incor-
poration, already applied for. This act, passed April 3d, 1798,
defined the boundaries of the village, and gave the citizens the
right of self-government under five freeholders, dulj^ elected as
trustees, and who were invested with tlie powci's usually granted
to small incorporated vilkiges. And yet these powers were quite
restricted, amounting to little more than protection against
nuisances on the highways, and the jirevention and extinction
of fires, fn its title the village is named by the name it had
previously borne, in the body of the act it is named only by its
new one.

And thus was Old Fort Schuyler merged into Utica !



Not the settlement of Old Fort Schuyler alone dropped at
this time the name which had previously attached to it, the ter-
ritory in which it was located received likewise a new christening
in the spring of 1798. The former county of Montgomery had
already, by successive acts of the Legislature, been curtailed of
its vast dimensions, and the counties of Chemung, Ontario,
Tioga, Otsego, Herkimer and Onondaga had been, one after
another, erected. Whitestown, at the date in question, was still
a part of Herkimer count}^, though diminished in size by the
setting off of several independent towns. But by an act, passed
March 15th, 1798, Herkimer was itself divided, and the additional
counties of Chenango and Oneida were formed. Whitestown
now fell to the belongings of Oneida, and Utica was but an in-
considerable, though incorporated village, in this still extensive
township. The inner life of the hamlet let us continue to follow.

Of the first seven years of its corporate life all records are
lost ; they were burned in the fire which, on the 7th of De-
cember 1848, consumed the council chamber and the most of
its contents. A like fate has befallen the early town records of
Whitestown. The times of adoption of a few streets of Utica,
which were copied from the latter before their destruction, are the
sole items saved. The newspapers of that date are quite bar-
ren of news merely local ; engrossed with foreign concerns,
their editors gave little heed to events that hkppened directly
around them, still less did they think to cater for those who at
this day might study their sheets to seek out the past. Thus
of village affairs our ignorance is nearly complete, and we
know scarce one of the names of those who then were in rule.
From a manuscript saved we gather that Francis A. Bloodgood
was Treasurer in 1800 and 1801, and Talcott Camp in 1802.
We know also from subsequent minutes that at the first free-
holders meeting held under the charter of 1805 the Trustees
were present. But who the Trustees were and what had been


their official acts, has perished forever. On the occasion of the
fire which burned the store of Messrs. Post and Hamlin in Feb-
ruary, 1804, a card was issued by the Trustees of the village,
in which they present " their warm thanks to the Fire Com-
pany, and to the citizens and strangers in general, for their eager
exertions in saving the property of the sufferers, and in extin-
guishing the flames." So far as we know this card is the only
evidence left us that as a corporate body the Trustees ever
existed, and the thanks accorded the firemen the only proof
that their powers had once been in exercise, as they would seem
to have been in organizing the company. For associate enter-
prise the time was much too new, and institutions, commercial,
manufacturing or benevolent, awaited a more established order
of things.

Dismissing, then, the expectation of obtaining any light from
records, written or printed, upon this infantile portion of the
civic life of Utica, we must go on as we have begun with the
narrative of the component parts of the population, and be con-
tent to infer the tenor of the public acts from the character of
the actors. To notice in full every member, of whatever de-
gree of standing and importance, would be manifestl}^ useless
and irksome, even were the data at hand to elaborate the task.
Their names and occupations must serve as the whole story of
many. Yet as the smaller the household the more potent the
influence of each of its inmates, historic interest requires that
we devote a certain space to some who, in larger communities,
would fail of a notice, and that we develop them the more in
proportion to their nearness in time to the origin of the settle-
ment Moreover, as no register, either written or printed, of
the constituent people of Utica before tlie year 1817, has ever
existed, it is not wholly idle to gather up and preserve as many
names even as can now be unearthed.

It so happens, besides, that the period of the first charter
covers the advent of many whose healthful influence was felt
throughout the entire village history, who, like some already
sketched, were men of nerve, fortitude and energy, honest in
principle and in conduct, wise and diligent in their own behalf,
yet zealous for the interests of the place of their adoption.
These, for their private worth and their public deeds, should
be held in peqjetual honor. And though of the period in


question there is little of the heroic to relate, though it may
have been "a day of small things," its actors were steadily lay-
ing the foundation of a greater future, were forming for them-
selves and their village a reputation for thrift, enterprise and
virtue which their descendants glory to inherit, and were pre-
paring to become partakers in most of those local and general
undertakings that have given prosperity to town and county.

While thus following out the career of individuals, I shall
turn aside, as occasion ma}^ present, to view the aggregate and
its surroundings as these may have presented themseKes to
foreign eyes, and are recorded in the traveller's note book.
Notices of public affairs and institutions will be interwoven with
those of the persons who were the principal participants therein.

Resuming, then, where we left it, our account of individual
citizens, I find that during the year 1798 the following, in addi-
tion to those before mentioned as men of Old Fort Schuyler,
made their home in the newly incorporated village. For aught
we know to the contrary, they may have lived here before its
incorporation ; indeed, from the nature of their callings, their
presence would seem to have been indispensable.

Jonathan Evans, a mason, lived near the present residence of
John Thorn, and at one time, though this was at a somewhat
later period, he kept the tavern which once stood on that site,
known formerly as the Globe, and afterward as Pegg's. He was
an honest man and a careful and good workman, and laid the
brick for several of the stores on Genesee street, below the canal.
In 1812 he advertises the sale of rights in an improved pump.
This was a force pump of his invention. One of these pumps
he engaged to put up at Salt Point, which, it is said, worked
well ; but, because the maker, in breach of his patent, for its
valve substituted a ball as a clapper, payment was refused and
a law suit ensued, whereby Evans was ruined. He moved then
to Westmoreland.

Another brick-layer was Enoch Cheney, and he acted as stone
mason, plasterer, and dauber of whitewash. He was thought to
be rather feeble of intellect, but this was accounted for, as he
was stunned at one time by lightning while plastering a house.

Barnard Coon was a cooper, and followed Nathan Williams
as a drummer boy to Sacketts Harbor. On his return he lived


in the fii-st house erected by Major BelHnger before he put up
his tavern. He was introduced to Governor Tompkins, when
the Governor was a guest at this tavern, as " de man dat makes .
de major's dubs and baiTels, and a tam goot democrat." After
hving manv years in the place and rearing a family, Coon moved
to Whitesboro, and there, in 1822, he died.

The painter and glazier of the time was Charles Easton, Jr.,
and he continued in the business for thirty-five years at least,
though it was conducted throughout on a limited scale. He
was a^ood natured man, quite moderate of capacity and scanted
in his education. One of his sons, who lived afterward in New
York, was, if not the founder, at least a very eai-ly and fortunate
adept in the trade in yankee notions.

A tailor named Thomas Davis is remembered by the older
inhabitants as preaching at times. He did not stay long.
Somewhere in Lewis county he was turned out of church, when
a meeting was held of indignant townsmen and the offender
replaced. He came back to Utiea in 1818 and opened anew,
opposite the Ontario Bank; in 1821 he turned auctioneer, but
the next year was again at his trade. His brother Sylvanus,
also here, soon settled near Graefenljerg.

Another tailor, named William S. Warner, left the place in
November. John Watley, barber, was gone before 1804 ; and
Jemmy Howdle, gardener, and a stalwart son- of Erin, lived here
much longer.

Turning from these, who perchance were earlier residents, to
the fresh comers of the newly named village, the first we notice
is Thomas Skinner, a student of law. He was the son of
Thompson Skinner, of Williamstown, Mass., where he was born
in the year 1778. A graduate of Williams College in the year
1797, we find him the next year prosecuting his studies, and
boarding at the house of Talcott Camp, on Whitesboro street, in
company with his prec^cptor and former fellow-townsman, (at Wil-
liamstown.) Nathan Williams. It was not long before they were
partners in practice, and were still further united by the marriage
of the latter to Mary, the sister o^ Mr. Ski nner. Far short of Mr.
Williams in force, learning or legal acumen, he sui-passed him
in fluency and grace as a speaker. He had a line imagination,
and a classical taste improved by the choicest reading. Possess-


ing skill also as a writer, he became one of tlie principal contrib-
utors to the Columbian Gazette. In 1807 he was the attorney of
the village, and somewhat later, held similar relations to the
Utica Bank. For some years he acted as treasurer of the Pres-
byterian church, and was also a village trustee. His oratorical
repute, and his skill as an advocate, secured him at one time a
nomination to Congress, but he was beaten by that much abler
man, Thomas R Gold. Unfortunately, Mr. Skinner was infirm
of resolution, became addicted to habits of intemperance, and
lost his business and his property. Aside from this infirmity,
Avhich caused his partial retirement from active life, and dark-
ened his declining years, he was a man of pure morals and ami-
able disposition, nor did he ever relinquish the studies that had
given culture and elevation to his character. To the last he
panctuall}^ attended the meetings of the trustees of the Utica
Academy, of w4hch he liad been a member thirty-five years,
and whose orator he was at the first annual exhibition. But,
in the language of a later orator of this same institution, — " by
the prime of life, though still an interesting talker, and a shrewd
observer, he was a discomfited man, and rusted away like an
unused weapon, despite the excellence of his quality."

His earlier residence was on Whitesboro street, near the Bank
of Utica. He likewise lived many years on Broadway just
above Whitesboro street, and afterward at No. 82 Broad street.
Here his excellent wife, by making her house a most desirable
home for a few aspirants of the law and others, procured for
them a livelihood which the profits of a justiceship held by her
husband scarcely afforded. This wife, who was Fanny Smith,
of Litchfield, Conn., was a lady of uncommon intelligence,
benevolence, cheerfulness, and courage. She died Dec. 3d,
1844, aged sixty-four. Mr. Skinner survived her three years
and a half, and died June 19th, 1848. They had no children.

The year 1798 is signalized as that in which was established
the first newspaper of Utica. This was the Whitesix)wn Gazette,
which its publisher, Wm. McLean, had first set up at New
Hartford in 1794. Four years later he removed it here, chang-
ing its name to the Whitestoum Gazette and Catos Patrol^ the
addition having reference to the younger Cato, who was the
defender of ancient Utica. Mr. McLean was a native of Hart-
ford, Conn., where he was born Dec. 2d, 1774, and could not


have been long f)Ut of his apj)renticcslii|i wlicn he started liis
paper. He was assiduous in his devotion to business, until the
year 1803, when he sold out to two of his apprentices, Messrs^
Seward and Williams, and moved back to New Hartford. In.
that place, and in the village of Cazenovia, he was for many
years a tavern keeper. But in 1818 he removed to Cherry Val-
ley, where he started the Cherry Valley Gazetfe, a paper that is
still puljlished, and until recently Ijy his son Charles. He acted
also as })ostmaster of that place. Mr. McLean died there March
12th. 1848, where he had " enjoyed to an unusual degree the
good will and esteem of the community."'

His first wife was Susan Williams, by Avhom he had Albert,
born in Utica, 1798, and who died about 1872, Adaline, born in
1802, who still resides here, Thos. Dana, who died in 1833, and
one daughter, who died in infancy. Mr. McLean afterwards
married Louisa Andrews and had six children, of whom five
were hving in 1871.

Under date of November 22, 1798, John C. Hoyt " begs to-
inform the public" (through the columns of the Wldtedown
Gazette^) "that he has commenced business as a toyfor, at the
shop formei'ly occupied by William S. Warner, opposite Bagg's
inn, Utica, where he hopes to give satisfaction to all who may
favor him with their commands," His shop was on the south
west corner of the Genesee and Whitesboro roads. That he
did give satisfaction is to be inferred from the fact that he stuck
faithfully to his business, nearly on the spot where he began, for
upwards of twenty years, during which he was the foremost
man thcn-ein, that he married and reared a family, acquired prop-
erty, and, what is more, acquired the respect and confidence of
his fellow townsmen. He was twice a trustee of the village,
and was likewise a trustee of the Presbyterian Church, and
was an upright and benevolent man. His native place was
Danbury, Coim. Mr. Hoyt, died in August 1820, aged forty-
four. His wife was Sarah Hicks, sister of the wife of John
House before mentioned. His children were Franklin C, Eliz-
abeth (Mi-s. Sylvanus Holmes), Sarah Ann (Mrs. E. M. Gilbert),
Adaline, (Mrs. Roundey, of Bound Brook, N. J.)

Elisha Burchard, brother of Gurdon Ijefore noticed, was another
who arrived in 1798, bringing with him a 3'oung family. He
was a farmer, and lived near what is now the corner of Court


and Schuyler, a little west of Claudius Woolcot, that portion
of Court street being then on the line of the only road to
Whitesboro. He was prominent as a fireman, and was for
some years foreman of the fire company. His four sons were
Peleg, Jedediah, Jabez and Elisha. The former, after being-
clerk for John C. Devereux and others, went into business in
Jefferson count}^ He was for many years clerk of that county,
and a man of standing and influence. Jedediah, at first a clerk
for the Messrs. Bloodgood, became subsequently the noted
revival preacher. Of the daughters, Jerusha and Eunice, the
latter is living in Jefferson county, whither the family all
removed. The mother was a somewhat eccentric woman, w^ith
many redeeming qualities. Elisha Burchard died in March, 1811.

Online LibraryM. M. (Moses Mears) BaggThe pioneers of Utica : being sketches of its inhabitants and its institutions, with the civil history of the place, from the earliest settlement to the year 1825, the era of the opening of the Erie C → online text (page 8 of 65)