A. D. (Amos Delos) Gridley.

History of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) online

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house now owned by Marshall W. Barker, to the house
of Seth K. Blair. Two acres of land were assigned to
each family on this street for a building-site. In the
course of a year, eight additional acres were set apart
to each family adjoining the two acre lots first named.
Having built their first rude huts, suitable for temporary
use, the settlers commenced clearing a portion of their
lands, and providing for raising their first crops of vege-
tables and Indian corn. While these crops were grow-
ing, they took time to select a name for their infant
village, and finally fixed upon that of Clinton, in honor
of George Clinton, then Governor of the State. It is
worthy of mention, also, that Governor Clinton was at
this time a joint-owner with General Washington of
several tracts of land in this county, and of a few within
the limits of this town. Upon this fact in our history
Judge Jones observes : " Lot No. 14, in the fifth grand
division of Coxe's borough, of 316 acres, and composing
the farm of the late Nathaniel Griffin (now John Bar-
ker's) of this town, was held by a deed directly from
President Washington and Governor Clinton. This deed
was witnessed by Tobias Lear and De Witt Clinton.
Within five years past, one thousand acres of the Mount
Vernon estate have been sold at $25.00 per acre. Wash-
ington could have hardly anticipated that these cheap,
wild lands in the vicinity of the Oneidas would, within
half a century, readily sell for twice or three times as
much per acre as his beloved Mount Vernon." 1

Our first settlers easily foresaw that if corn were to
be grown for eating, some provision must be made for
grinding it. But as yet there was no grist-mill in the

i Annals, p. 168. .


settlement. One had been built the year before at
Whitestown, by Judge White and Amos Wetmore
(and which is still known as Wetmore's mill), and it
was here that our pioneers carried their first sacks of
grain. The first fe-\v trips were tedious enough ; for the
road was only a narrow Indian trail, through woods and
swamps : and, in the lack of horses, the corn had to be
carried on the backs of men. Wearisome, indeed, it
must have been, but they were stimulated by the still
greater pluck of their Whitestown neighbors, who for two
years before had carried their grain on foot and on horse-
back to a mill at Palatine, a distance of about forty
miles ! During the summer of 1787, the Clinton settlers
joined their forces and opened a road-way to Whites-
town, and as soon as it was finished, Samuel Hubbard
drove an ox-team to the mill and brought back six bushels
of Indian meal.

But our people were not content with this privilege
six miles away ; and accordingly, before winter set in,
Captain Cassety built a small grist-mill on the east side
of the Oriskany Creek, near the site of the present bridge
on College Street. To signalize the opening of the new
mill for business, Samuel Hubbard, Ludim Blodgett, and
Salmon Butler each shelled a peck of new corn, and
sportively cast lots to determine which should carry
the joint grist to mill. The lot fell upon Mr. Hubbard,
who slung it upon his back and marched off with it to
Captain Cassety's. This being the first grist to pass
through the hopper, custom decreed that it should be
ground free of toll. It is worthy of note that this was
the first mill built west of German Flats, except the
Wetmore mill. This erection was followed the same
year or the next by that of a saw-mill a few rods above,
on the same dam.


These early settlers, though not all of them professedly
pious men, respected the institutions of religion, and
desired to establish and maintain them in their new
home. Accordingly, on Sunday the 8th of April, 1787,
the inhabitants assembled for public religious worship.
The services were held in an unfinished house of Cap-
tain Moses Foot, a building belonging to no recog-
nized order of ecclesiastical architecture, it being simply
an enclosure of logs, " without floor, chinking, or roof."
This building stood upon the ground now occupied by the
hardware store of A. N. Owston. The exercises were
opened with prayer by Mr. Foot. Barnabas Pond, Bron-
son Foot, and Ludim Blodgett conducted the singing, and
Mr. Caleb Merrill, living near what is now Middle Set-
tlement, read a printed sermon. Religious meetings of
this kind, and others less formal, continued to be held,
with only occasional interruptions, until a church was
regularly organized, and a minister installed over it.

The first summer and autumn witnessed many changes
in the new settlement, and much progress. It saw in-
roads made upon the forests, and it saw fields of corn
and pumpkins ripening under the propitious sun. It
beheld new settlers arriving each month from New Eng-
land, and casting in their lot with those who had pre-
ceded them. The fathers tell us how pleasant it was to
see new lights gleaming at night from new windows
along the hillsides. They tell us how warmly the new-
comers were welcomed, their families being treated with
the best fare which could be set before them, and be-
stowed at night in the cabins of their friends ; and how
in the early morning all parties joined in felling trees,
cutting them into suitable lengths, stripping the bark,
piling the logs, covering the roofs, and escorting their


guests into their new habitations before the going down
of the sun. Nor do they fail to tell also of evenings spent
in merry house-warmings, in making inquiries about old
friends in New England, and in forming plans and
projects for the future. Well does Judge Williams here
observe : " What in March was a wilderness, gloomy,
sad, and cheerless, in October began to seem like home ;
and even with the child and the delicate woman, the
longing for New England's rocky hills and happy villages
had grown faint and almost vanished before the attrac-
tions of this fertile land, and the mutual kindness and
hospitality of these dwellers in the wilderness. I hazard
nothing in saying that this place has known no days
more delightful than its earliest." 1

During the summer of 1788, about twenty new fami-
lies were added to the original settlement, contributing
much to the improvement of its society and to its financial
prosperity. Among these we find the following names :
Rev. Samuel Kirkland, George Langford, Timothy Tut-
tle, Benjamin Pollard, Zadoch Loomis, Theodore Man-
ross, Andrew Blanchard, Silas Austen, Joshua Morse,
Elias Dewey, Joseph Gleason.

When the lands now covered by this town were first
selected by Captain Foot and his party, it was supposed
that they had never been surveyed, and were not em-
braced within the limits of any patent. They considered
themselves " squatters," presuming that when the land
came into market they could claim it by preemption
right. What, then, was their surprise, on exploring and
clearing up the forests, to find lines of marked trees ; and
on further inquiry to learn that they had settled upon
Coxe's patent, " a tract of land granted by the colony of

Hist. Address, p. 8.


New York, May 30, 1770, to Daniel Coxe, William Coxe,
Rebecca Coxe, and John Tabor Kempe and Grace his
wife." Their settlement was found to be located on
" the two thousand and sixteen acres tract," by which
descriptive name it was long known to the older inhabit-
ants and surveyors. This plot was bounded on the north
by the farm now owned by Henry Gleason, on the
east by David Pickett's, on the south by Seth K. Blair's,
and on the west by the Oriskany Creek. On further
search, it was found that this tract had already been
divided into twenty lots of nearly equal size, and that the
proprietors had offered it as a gift to any colony of twenty
families who would take it up and occupy it as a perma-
nent settlement. At once our settlers hoped that they
might enjoy the benefit of this generous offer ; but the
patentees, learning that their lands had already been oc-
cupied in ignorance of their proposal, refused to make
the gift, and required the squatters to buy the land at the
rate of ten shillings an acre. Accordingly, in the summer
of 1788, Captain Foot was sent to Philadelphia to pur-
chase the whole tract on the best possible terms ; and
eventually, the several lots were parceled out at cost
among the different settlers. The triangular piece of
land which afterwards became the site of the village was
c ailed " the handkerchief lot," from its resemblance on the
map to a half-handkerchief, and this was bought by Cap-
tain Foot.

While the affairs of the young community were pro-
gressing thus happily, an incident occurred which filled
all hearts with sadness. In the spring of 1788, Miss
Merab Tuttle, daughter of Col. Timothy Tuttle, and
about seventeen years of age, started, one afternoon, with
Miss Anna Foot, daughter of Moses Foot, to make a


call at Mr. William Cook's, who lived in a log-house just
beyond the west bank of the Oriskany. In girlish sport-
iveness, they stopped on their way at Cassety's mill, and
whitened their locks with mill-dust, in imitation of the
French hair-powder then in fashion. On their return,
they found the stream, swollen by the spring freshet, had
risen above its usual height, and was dashing furiously
down its channel. No bridge then spanned the creek at
this place, nor indeed at any point from its source to its
termination. The settlers had felled two trees across the
stream just below the site of the present bridge, and it
was on this narrow and slippery footing that the young
ladies must cross. They hesitated, at first, and shrank
back with fear, but Miss Foot, the more courageous of
the two, led the way, and was followed by her companion.
When about half-way across the creek, Miss Foot was
startled by an exclamation of fright from her friend, and
on looking back saw her reel and fall into the water and
soon disappear. Miss Foot's loud cries for help quickly
drew several persons to the spot. Mr. Cook, who was
first on the ground, sprang into the creek, and nearly
caught hold of the drowning girl's garments, when a
sudden sway of the current bore her from his reach and
his sight, under a pile of drift-wood. The news of this
sad event soon spread through the little community, and
all joined in the search for the lost child. Hooks made
by the blacksmith and fastened to poles were used to drag
the stream. The night was spent in fruitless search. In
the morning the body was found on the shore of the
creek about half a mile below, near the site of the pres-
ent Clinton Factory. At the funeral, no clergyman be-
ing present, prayer was offered by Captain Foot, and a
sermon was read by Nehemiah Jones, the text being


taken from 1 Samuel xx. 3 : " There is but a step be-
tween me and death."

No piece of land having yet been selected for a public
burial-place, her grave was first dug upon the Village
Green ; but this being thought too wet, she was finally
interred on her father's farm, in a field which afterward
became the south part of the present " burying-ground."
Her grave was dug by Barnabas Pond, and it is said on
his own authority that he dug every grave in that burial-
place until there had been over one hundred interments.
There does not appear to be any record of the first desig-
nation of this land for a public cemetery. Rev. Dr.
Norton informed me, near the close of his life, that in the
spring of 1796, Mr. Bartholomew Pond, who then owned
what is now called the Royce farm, made a donation to
" the Society of Clinton," of one acre of land "to be used
as a burying-yard," which was accepted, and is the south-
east portion of the present old cemetery.

The second death in this little community was that of
Thomas Fancher, Jr., who was killed by the falling of a
tree, in 1791 ; the third was that of Mrs. Mercy Steb-
bins, in 1792, who was the wife of Judah Stebbins, Jr.,
and the mother of the late James D. Stebbins.

These early inhabitants were married and given in
marriage, like their -fathers before them. For we read
that in the second year of the town, Elias Dewey was
wedded to Anna Foot, and Andrew Blanchard to Mary
Cook. This Mr. Dewey built his house on the land now
occupied by the residence of Hon. O. S. Williams. This
year was signalized also by a public wedding, at which
Roger Leverett was married to Miss Elizabeth Cheese-
borough. The ceremony took place in a log-house which
stood upon a knoll on the road to Utica, just east of Slo-


cum's bridge. Among the invited guests was Jason Par-
ker, of Utica, afterwards widely known as a stage pro-
prietor and mail contractor. We find record, also, of the
marriage of William Stebbins and Lydia Branch, Novem-
ber 25, 1790. In this case, the bans were solemnized by
Rev. Samson Occum, the Indian minister.

The year 1789 witnessed the arrival of many new set-
tlers, among whom was Jesse Curtiss, whose long and
useful life terminated within the memory of the present
generation. In addition to Mr. Curtiss, we find the
names of Timothy Pond, Eli Bristol, Joel Bristol, Jonah
Sanford, Samuel Curtiss, John Curtiss, Ebenezer Butler,
Theodore Gridley, Bartholomew Pond, Rufus Millard,
William Marsh, and William Carpenter.

There is a tradition of a horse being owned here at an
early day, by Captain Foot, and of his being soon stolen
by the Indians. But, this half-mythical beast aside, all
sorts of team-work in the settlement had hitherto been
done by oxen. During the third summer, a few horses
began to appear, two of whom were owned respectively
by William Carpenter and Nathan Marsh. It is doubt-
ful whether history would have preserved the record of
these animals had it not been for their singular display
of bottom and speed on the road to Albany ; for it is
credibly reported that their owners having set out on
horseback for that city on a certain day, " Jesse Curtiss
and Bartholomew Pond started on foot at the same time,
and arrived at Albany some hours before them ! "

The summer of 1789 witnessed a great scarcity of food
in this region. Wheat flour — then a rare luxury —
was exhausted. Corn-meal and the last year's supply
of potatoes were gone, and the new crop was still grow-
ing in the, field. Early in the spring, the stock of pota-


toes was so small that the eyes were cut out for planting,
and the remainder preserved for the table. Animal food
was equally scarce; for, to slaughter the few cattle which
the inhabitants possessed would have entailed a loss such
as they could have borne only in the last extremity.
Money for buying food was also out of the question. All
sorts of expedients were resorted to. Some persons
scoured the woods for game, and for ground nuts and
leeks ; the ' t Oriskany and adjoining streams were plied
with fishing-rods, and the hunter who chanced to come
upon a bear and her whelps, rejoiced as one who had
found great spoil. But men engaged in tilling farms could
ill afford to leave their fields for hunting and fishing ;
and at best these resources were uncertain, and could last
only a short time. All persons were put on short .allow-
ance ; strong men denied themselves needful food, so that
the weak and helpless might not suffer. When things
had come to this pass, and famine stared them in the
face, a small company of men started for Fort Plain,
Montgomery County, to see whether supplies could not
be obtained on some terms in that region. For it must
be remembered that the settlements in the Mohawk
Valley had hardly recovered from the depredations of
hostile Indians during the Revolutionary War. Then,
too, the whole annual produce of the country was quickly
consumed by the emigrants pouring in from the East ;
and, in the absence of railroads and canals, it was diffi-
cult to transport hither grain and cattle from the older

As illustrating the straits into which the people were
sometimes thrown, it may be mentioned here, that a few
years before, the scarcity of animal food became so great
in the adjoining settlement of Whitestown, that the in-


habitants caught pigeons in the spring, and salted them
down in barrels. This food answered in place of some-
thing better ; and those who ate it were accustomed
afterwards to tell their well-fed children that " though
not so palatable as some delicacies which might be
named, yet it tasted nearly as well as the salt that was
put upon it, besides carrying the idea of being actual'
meat victuals to boot." 1

But to return to our story. The party sent to Fort
Plain found there a farmer and miller by the name, of
Isaac Paris, who listened favorably to their appeal.
With a promptness and generosity wholly unexpected, he
loaded a small flat-boat with flour and meal, and sent it
up the Mohawk to the mouth of the Oriskany. Here
it was met by a party of our settlers, who transhipped
the precious cargo into a log canoe of their own make,
and by means of paddles, ropes and setting-poles, worked
it up the creek as far as the present Clinton Factory.
From thence it was transported in carts to the village.
The news of its arrival spread rejoicing through all hearts ;
the very woods echoed with songs and shouts of gladness.

This cargo of breadstuffs was not wholly a gift from
Mr. Paris. The settlers had no silver and gold to offer
him, but their forests abounded in ginseng, and this he
was willing to accept in payment, the same to be deliv-
ered the following autumn. This plant, which cultivation
has nearly extirpated from our farm-lands, once grew here
in abundance. The roots, gathered in bundles and dried,
were shipped from our seaports to Europe, where they
were long esteemed an antidote to the plague.

The name of Paris was held in high regard, and when,
in the year 1792, a new town, including Clinton, was set

i Tracy, p. 36.


off from Whitestown, the inhabitants called it Paris, in
grateful honor of their benefactor.

Notwithstanding this temporary scarcity of food, the
settlement continued to grow. In this' year (1789)
Colonel Timothy Tuttle built the first frame house,
which still stands, and is the building lately used by Mr.
Edward Alexander as an office at his coal-yard, on the
Manchester road. The second frame building was put
up this year, by Ebenezer Butler, Jr. ; it stood on the
site of Mr. Asa Olmstead's present residence, and was
kept as a store. The third was built in the fall by Jesse
Curtiss. . The circumstances attending the sawing of his
lumber are worthy of mention, as illustrating the energy
of the man and the spirit of the times. I give the ac-
count substantially in the words of Judge Williams:
His logs had been hauled to the mill ready for sawing,
when (it was in the latter part of October) the snow
fell to the depth of nearly two feet, upon a bed of mud
well nigh impassable. The weather soon became cold
and inclement, and exceedingly unfavorable to all kinds
of business. Mr. Curtiss, however, bent on putting up
a house before Christmas, plodded his way to Captain
Foot's saw-mill, where, for three days and two nights,
without cessation, and without help, he continued to
drive the mill and work off the lumber necessary for his
house. On finishing his task, " his hands had become
glazed as by fire, by the constant use of the frosty iron
bars of the mill ; " yet he made little account of it, for he
was soon enabled to accomplish his purpose of erecting
and enclosing a house before the final setting in of winter.
This building is now a shed in the rear of his youngest
son's barn, and every timber in it seems to cry out, —
" To what base uses we may return, Horatio ! "


Frame barns were also put up this year, — one by
Judah Stebbins on the farm now owned by John Elliott,
and another on the Kellogg property east of the village.

Immigration continued steadily to increase the popula-
tion and resources of the town, so that before the year
1793 most of the land within two miles from the centre
of the village, and some beyond that distance, had been
parceled off into farms, and sold to actual settlers.
Among the new-comers of 1792 was Thomas Hart, a
man of great natural force, and some of whose descend-
ants afterwards became distinguished in other parts of
the State. Nor should we omit to mention, as one evi-
dence of the prosperity of our settlement, that children
were born unto it. The first was Clinton Foot, son of
Luther Foot, who died before reaching manhood. The
second born was Fanny Kellogg, daughter of Amos Kel-
logg, and afterwards the wife of Orrin Gridley. The
third was Julius Pond, born July 26, 1789, and the
fourth was James D. Stebbins, born September 11th of
the same year, and whose death has but recently trans-

We have now reached a period of great interest in our
narrative. The years next to come include the history
of the formation of the Congregational church in this
town, the installation of its first pastor, the Rev. Dr.
Norton, and the building of its first house of worship ;
they take us to the founding of Hamilton Oneida Acad-
emy, and Hamilton College ; they introduce us to Sam-
uel Kirkland, Azel Backus, and other men of like mind,
who were engaged here in laying the foundations of
things to come. But these topics, so inviting, must be
postponed to future chapters.


Before proceeding with the regular course of this
history, I propose to turn aside briefly and gather up a
few miscellaneous facts which could not well be woven
into the previous narrative.

The Oneida, Stockbridge, and Brothertown Indians
were familiar visitors in this region, whether on hunting
and fishing excursions, or in pursuing that easy-going,
vagabond life which became them. Mrs. Amos Kellogg
used to relate that she was often waked from sleep at
night by the tramping and whooping of large bands of
Indians returning from the chase or other expeditions.
Whether they meant it as a sort of calathumpian exer-
cise, to discipline the nerves of their white neighbors ; or
whether, being intoxicated, they little knew or cared how
much disturbance they made, she could not tell ; but she
was very sure that such demoniacal bowlings did not
promote sound sleep in her cabin. She also related that
often when alone in her house, engaged in domestic
duties, perhaps with a child in the cradle, Indians would
open her door without knocking, and steal in softly with
moccasined feet, unperceived, and, tapping her on the
shoulder, say with deep, guttural voice, " Indian want
'tater ; Indian hungry ; me want 'tater." Trembling with
fear, yet feigning unconcern, she uniformly gave them
what they desired, and they soon left her without moles-
tation. Sometimes it would be a squaw, with sad face and
mournful voice, drawing her blanket about her shoulders,


and whining, " Me hungry ; senape (her husband) gone,
pappoose dead ; me hungry ! "

Mrs. Eli Lucas remembers that roving bands of In-
dians, both Oneidas and Stockbridges, used to come to
her father's house just at evening, and beg permission
to stay over night. Leave being granted, if none were
intoxicated, they stretched themselves on the kitchen
floor, with their feet to the fire of huge logs, and so, after
crooning awhile to one another, they fell asleep. At
daybreak,, they rose and silently left the house, seldom
purloining anything from their host.

Rev. Dr. Lothrop, in his Memoir of Rev. Samuel
Kirkland, relates that Mr. Kirkland's house in Clinton
" was the constant resort of Indians from all the Six
Nations in their wanderings to and fro, and particularly
of those on the territory of the Oneidas, and in his im-
mediate neighborhood. They were continually coming
to him for assistance or advice in things temporal and
spiritual ; and when they came they expected to be en-
tertained. Fond of nocturnal conferences, they com-
monly arranged it so as to pass the night at or near his
house, and supper and breakfast had to be provided for
them. It was no unusual thing for him to .furnish
seventy, eighty, and sometimes one hundred meals to
Indians in the course of a single week." It is also said
that when any of the Indians came to Mr. Kirkland's
house drunk, he locked them up in his corn-house until
they became sober.

Several of the Stockbridge tribe were quite conspicuous
in these parts for a season, of whom I cannot speak

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amos Delos) GridleyHistory of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 17)