Arad Thomas.

Pioneer history of Orleans county, New York. Containing some account of the civil divisions of western New York, with brief biographical notices of early settlers, and of the hardships and privations online

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Online LibraryArad ThomasPioneer history of Orleans county, New York. Containing some account of the civil divisions of western New York, with brief biographical notices of early settlers, and of the hardships and privations → online text (page 2 of 32)
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explored, and the extent of the continent was un-

New York was afterwards chartered by the same
authority, covering a portion of territory previously
granted to Massachusetts. After the close of the
Revolutionary war, Massachusetts urged her claim.
The difficulty was finallj^ compromised between Mass-
achusetts and New York, by commissioners mutual-
ly agreed upon, Dec. 16, 1786, by giving to New York
the sovreignty of all the disputed territory lying with-
in her chartered limits ; and giving the property in
the soil to Massachusetts, or the right to buy the soil
from the Indians, who were then in possession.

All of the State of New York lying west of a line
running from Sodus Bay through Seneca Lake, to
the north line of Pennsylvania, estimated to contain
6,000,000 of acres, was sold subject to the title the
Indians then liad to it, by Massachusetts, to Phelps
and Gorham, in the year 1786, for $1,000,000, to be
paid for in a kind of scrip, or stock, which had been


issued by Massachusetts, called "Consolidated Secu-
rities," wliicli at the time of the sale was worth about
50 per cent.

In July, 1788, Phelps and Gorliam made a treaty
with the Six IN'ations of Indians, by which they pur-
chased from them a tract estimat(^d at 2,250,000 acres ;
bounded east by the Pre-emption Line ; which was
the eastern boundary of their purchase from Massa-
chusetts, and west by a line from Lake Ontario to
Pennsylvania, twelve miles west from Genesee Piver.

From this sale to Phelps and Gorham, and other
causes, the market price of these "Consolidated Se-
curities" rose so hio-h that Phelps and Gorham were
unable to buy them to fulfill their contract with the
State ; and so were compelled to the State
of Massachusetts, all the lands lying west of the west
boundary of the tract they had purchased of the In-
dians, as above stated. To these lands so surrender-
ed, the Indian title had not then been extinguished. —
This tract was sold in the year 1791, by tlie State of
Massachusetts to Robert Morris. About the year
1793, Robert Morris sold this tract to an association
of capitalists residing in Holland, excepting and re-
serving a parcel of land twelve miles wide, to be ta-
ken off from the east side. This strip was afterwards
called "the Morris Reserve." a part of it was sold
by Morris to Bayard, Leroy and McEvers, known as
The Triangle, containing 87,000 acres, and another
portion lying west of The Triangle, and containing
100,000 acres was sold by Morris to Cragieand others
and by them to Sir William Pultney and the State of
Connecticut, ever since known as "The 100,000 Acre
Tract, " or " Connecticut Tract. ' '

The tract so purchased by the Holland Company
contains about three million six liundred thousand


acres, and is distinguislied as ''The Holland Pur-


One of the large divisions of the Phelps and Gorham
Purchase, lying west of the Genesee River, is known
as "The Triangle." By treat j between Phelps and
Gorham, and the Indians, after they had granted to
Ebenezer Allen, a piece of land of 100 acres, on which
to erect a saw mill, at what is now Rochester, an-
other tract was granted to Phelps and Gorham, for
a "Mill Yard." This was called "The Mill Yard
Tract," and was twelve miles wide east and west, by
twenty -four miles north and south, from Lake Ontario.

The agreement ■was, this " Mill Yard" should be
bounded east by the Genesee River ; south by a line
running west fi'om about where Avon now stands ;
and west twelve miles ; thence north to Lake Ontario.
It was then supposed that the course of the Genesee
River was about due north, and the west line was at
first run by Hugh Maxwell, due north from said south
west corner, accordingly.

It was afterwards ascertained, that the mouth, of
the river was more than twelve miles east from the
termination of this line, on the lake shore.

The matter was afterwards arranged by a new line
being run by Mr. Augustus Porter, nearly parallel
with Genesee River, and twelve miles west of it, for
the west bounds of the Mill Yard Tract. This left a
triangular shaped j)iece of land lying between the
lines so run by Maxwell and Porter, containing about
87,000 acres, forming the towns of Clarkson, Hamlin,
Sweden, Bergen and Lero}'. This tract has ever
since been described and known as " The Triangle."



Boundaries— Dr. Levi Ward — Levi A. Ward — Joseph Fellows — Trah-
sit Line.

EFORE the west line of the Mill Yard Tract
had been rectified "by tlie new line run "by Por-
ter, Mr. Robert Morris sold a tract Ipng next
west of "the Mill Yard," to contain 100,000 acres, to
Cragie'and others. This parcel was afterwards sold
by the pro2:)rietors to Sir William Pnltney, and the
State of Connecticut, to each, an undivided half. Af-
terwards, and about the ja^ar 1811, this tract was di-
vided between the estate of Sir AYilliani Pnltney, and
the State of Connecticut.

The 100,000 Acre Tract includes the towns of Ken-
dall, Murray and Clarendon, in Orleans County; and
Byron, and a portion of Bergen, Stafford and Leroy,
in Genesee County ; and is bounded on the north by
Lake Ontario, and on the south by a part of the Mor-
ris Reserve, known as the "Cragie Tract;" on the
east by "The Triangle;" and on the west b}^ "The
Holland Purchase." " In Jul}', 1810, the State of Con-
necticut appointed Dr. Levi Ward agent to sell farm
lots for them, and about 181C, Dr. Waixl and Levi II.
Clark purchased of Connecticut all the unsold lands ;
but by agreement sales were continued in the name of
the State. Dr. Ward and his son Levi A. \Yard,
have ever since continued to act as ao:ents for the


State of Connecticut, wliilo Mr. Joseph Fellows lias^
been a like agent for the Pultney estate.


This line which forms the eastern boundary of the
Holland Purchase, and the western boundary of
Morris Reserve, begins on tlie north bounds of Penn-
sylvania, 12 miles west of the west bounds of Phelps
and Gorliam's Purchase ; thence runs due north, to>
near the center of the town of Stafford, in Genesee
County ; thencejwest a fraction over two miles ; thence
due north, to Lake Ontario. It forms the eastern
boundary of the towns of Carlton, Gaines, and Barre.
It is called the Transit Lino, because it was run out
first by the aid of a Transit insti-ument. The dffset
of two miles is said to have been made to pnn^ent
overlapping the Connecticut Tract by the lands of
the Holland Purchase. The trees were cut through
on the Transit Line, to tli(^ width of about four rods,
at an early day, by the Land Company ; tlius afford-
ing a convenient land mark to tlit^ early settlers in
locating their lands, and serving as a guide in finding
their way through the woods. The Transit Line was.
run by Joseph EUicott, in 1 798.



■Names ot Company — Location of Tract — Surveys — Ceded by Indians —
Counties iu'CSTew-York One Hundred Tears Ago — Genesee Country —
Genesee County and its Subdivisions — Joseph Ellicott and brother
Benj., Surveyors — Agent of the Company — Laud Office — Where Lo-
cated — Practice in Locating Land^ Articles — Clemency of the Land
Company — Deeding Lots for School Houses — Land Given to Relig-
ious Societies — Anecdote of Mr. Busti — Rev. Andrew Ravrson —
Route ot Travel to Orleans County — Oak Orchard Creek and John-
son's Creek — Why so Named — Kinds of Forest Trees — Wild Ani-
mals — Salmon and other Fish — Rattlesnakes — Raccoons and Hedge-
hogs — Beaver Dams — Fruits — Effect of Clearing Land on Chmate —
The Touawanda Swamp.

HIS tract included all the land lying iu tlie
State of ISTew York, and west of tlie Transit
^^ P Line, excepting tlie Indian Reservations, and
contains about 3,600,000 acres. It was purchased of
Robert Morris by an association of Hollanders, in
1792-93. The names of the original members of this
association were Wilh(^lm AYilliiik, Jan Willink,
Nicholas Yan Stophprst, Jacob Yan Stophorst, Nich-
olas Hubbard, Pieter Yan Eeghen, Cliristian Yan
Eeghen, Isaac Ten Gate, Hendiick Yollenhoven,
Christina Coster, widow, Jan Stadnetsld, and Rutger
Jan Schimmelpennick.

The surveys of the Holland Purchase were begun
on the east, at the Transit Line, and continued west
dividing the whole territory into ranges and town-
ships ; the range lines running from north to south,
the townships from east to west. The ranges number
from the east, and the townships from the south. —


Townships are all sul^divided. into lots, and the towns
of Carlton and part of Yates, into sections and lots. — •
The county of Orleans contains the north parts of
ranges 1, 2, 3 and 4, and the east parts of townships
14, 15 and 16. It is about 20 miles square, not inclu-
ding so much as is covered by Lake Ontario, and con-
tains about 405 square miles.

About the year 1797, the Indians ceded most of
their lauds on the Holland Purchase, to the white
men ; reserving to themselves tracts of the best land
for their occupation. Most of these reservations have
been since conveyed by the Indians to white men. —
J^o reservation was irade of any land now in Orleans

One hundred years ago, the then province of New
York, contained ten cou.nties, viz : New York, "West-
chester, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Albany, Richmond,
Kings, Queens and Suffolk.

The county of Albany embraced all the territory
now included in the State of New York, lying north
of Ulster, and west of Hudson River. So much of
said territoiy, as lies west of Schoharie, was taken off
from Albany, and named Try on, in the year 1772. —
Tiyon was changed to Montgomery, in 1784.

All of said territoiy lying west of " the Preemption
Line,'" mcluding all land sold by Massachusetts to
Phelps and Gorham, in their first purchase, was ta-
ken from Montgomery in the year 1789, and named
Ontario county. Ontario county, at that time, was
an unbroken wilderness, only as it had been occupied
by the Indians, west of Genesee River. Some settle-
ments by white men had been made in the eastern
part. It was then generally known as '' the Genesee
country," named from the Genesee River, the most
considerable stream of water in the country.

Canandaigua was then the chief town in the county


and it has ever remained the county seat ot Ontario

From Ontario has since "been formed the counties of
Steuben, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Monroe, Livingston,
Wayne, Yates, Genesee, Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua
and Orleans.

Genesee county was taken from Ontario in 1802. —
The Genesee River was then its eastern boundary,
and it included so much of the State of New York, as
lies west of that river.

The original county of Genesee has been subdivided
into Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chairtauqua, Livingston,
Wyoming, Erie, Niagara and Orleans, leaving a small
portion around Batavia, which w^as the original coun-
ty seat, still known as Genesee county.

Orleans county was set off from Genesee, Nov. 11,
1824. The town of Shelby was annexed to Orleans
from Genesee county, April 5, 1825.

The county of Genesee included, in its original lim-
its, all of the State of New York, which Robert Mor-
ris purchased.

The general land office of the Holland Land Com-
pany was first located at Philadelphia.

Mr. Joseph EUicott was engaged as principal sur-
veyor for the Holland Land Company, in July, 1797.
Assisted by his brother, Benjamin, and others, he
commenced surveying the lands embraced in the Hol-
land Purchase, in 1798, by running and establishing
the Transit Line, as the eastern boundary. These
surveys were continued ten or twelve years, until the
whole tract was divided into townships, ranges, sec-
tions and lots.

In 1800, Joseph EUicott was appointed local agent
of the Holland Land Company, and for more than
twenty years thereafter, he had almost exclusive con-
trol of all the local business of the Comi)any,

The Land Office was first established on the Pur-


cliase at Piue Grove, Clarence Hollow, in Erie coun-
ty ; but upon the org-anization of Genesee county, in
1802, the office was transferred to Batavia, where it
remained until the affairs of the Company were final-
ly closed up in the year 1835.

The principal Land Office was kc^pt at Batavia, but
several other offices were established in different parts
of the Purchase, for the convenience of parties having
business with the Company.

It was usual for persons, who desired to locate on
land of the Holland Land Company, to select the par-
cel they desired to take, go to the Land Office at Ba-
tavia, and make a contract with the Company's agent
there, for the purchase. Yery seldom indeed was
payment in full made, and a deed taken, in the first
place. The common jiractice was for the purchaser
to make a small payment down, and receive from the
Company a contract in writing, known as an "Arti-
cle," by which the Compau}^ agreed to sell the parcel
of land described, the purchaser to pay the price in
instalments, within from five to ten j^ears, with inter-
est ; Mdien he was to receive a deed. On receiving his
"Article," the settler went into full possession of his
land, cleared it up, and made improvements, making-
such payments to apply on the purchase monej' as he
was able.

These land "Articles '"' were transferred by assign-
ment, and were conveyed from hand to hand, often
many times before they were returned to the Com-
pany. A settler who wished to sell out his interest in
land did so by assigning his "Article." Or, if he de-
sired to give security tor a debt, or obtain a credit in
his business, he would pledge his " Article. ' ' Trades-
men and speculators of every class were accustomed
to deal largely in these "Articles," and men who had
means to lend, often liekt numbers of these contracts,
transferred to tlwm by absolute sale, or in security


for some obligations, to be afterwards redeemed by
the owner. The Holland Land Company sold their
wild lands in Orleans county for from §2 to 80 per
acre, according to the quality and location of the
land. In the later years of the existence of the Land
Company, frequently the Company w^ould give a
deed to the settler, and take his bond and a mortgage
on the land deeded, for the balance of "purchase

The Comj)any generally dealt very leniently with
its debtors, frequently renewing their "Articles"
when they had run out without payment ; and some-
times abating interest accrued and unpaid, or throw-
ing off a part of the sum originally agreed to be paid,
when the bargain had proved a hard one for any rea-
son to the debtor.

Another measure of relief to the settlers, from their
obligations to pay for their land, was the Company
agreeing to receive cattle, and apply their value on
"Articles" for land, on w^hich payment was in ar-
rears. For some years before the Company ceased to
exist, they would send their agents to different points
on the Purchase, to receive these cattle, and indorse
their value on the "Articles" of the settlers. The
cattle were driven to a distant market. Although
this arrangement was beneficial to the people, it was
attended wdth considerable loss to the Company.

It was provided in an early School Act of the State
that sites for school houses should be secured to the
school districts by deeds in fee, or by leases from the
party owning the fee of the land.

It often occurred, before the year 1828, that there
was no deeded land in the district, or none where a
school house was desired to be located. In such ca-
ses, the Company provided by a general order, that
they would grant half an acre to such district gratis,
if the Company owned the land where the school


house should stand, then not under "Article," provi-
ded, if such site should fall on land held by some per-
son under contract, the district was then required to
procure a relinquishment of the right of such person
in the half acre, to be indorsed on liis " Article."

Another instance of the generosity of the Holland
Company, as shown in the conduct of their general
agents, is recorded of Mr. Busti, who for many years
was their head agent, residing in Philadelphia. Mr.
Turner, in his History of the Holland Purchase, in a
note says — " In the fall of 1820, Mr. Busti was visit-
ing the Land Office, in Batavia ; the Rev. Mr. R., of
the Presbyterian sect, called on Mr. Busti, and insist-
ed on a donation of land for each society of his per-
suasion, then formed on the Holland Purchase. Mr.
Busti treated the Rev. gentleman with due courtesy,
but showed no disposition to grant his request. Mr.
R., encouraged by Mr. Busti' s politeness, persevered
in his solicitations day after day, until Mr. Busti' s
patience was almost exhausted, and what finally
brought that subject to a crisis was Mr. R's. follow-
ing Mr. Busti out of the office, when he was going to
take his tea at Mr. Ellicott's, and making a fresh at-
tack on him in' the piazza. Mr. Busti was evidently
vexed, and in reply said : — "Yes, Mr. R., I will give
a tract of one hundred acres to a religious society in
every town on the Purchase, and this is Jinisy —
"But," said Mr. R., "You will give it all to the
Presbyterians, will you not ; if j'ou do not expressly
so decide, the sectarians will be claiming it, and loe
shall receive very little benefit from it. " ' 'Sectarians,
no!" — was Mr. Busti' s hasty reply, " I abhor secta-
rians, they ought not to have any of it ; and to
save contention, I will give it to the first religious sp-
oiety in every town." On which Mr. Busti hastened
to his tea, and Mr. R. to his home, (about sixteen
miles distant) to start runners during the night, or


next morning, to rally the Presbyterians in the sever-
al towns in his vicinity to aj)ply first, and thereby
save the land to themselves.

The Land Office was soon flooded with petitions for
land from Societies organized according to law, and
empowered to hold real estate, and those who were
not ; one of which was presented to Mr. Busti before
he left, directed to "General Poll Bnsti," on which
he insisted it conld not be from a religions society,
for all religions societies read their bibles, and know
that P-o-1-1 does not spell Pcml. Amidst this chaos
of applications, it was thonght to be unadvisable to
be precipitant in granting these donations, the whole
responsibility now resting on Mr. Ellicott, to comply
with this vague promise of Mr. Busti ; therefore con-
veyances of the "Gospel Land," were not executed
for some space of time, notwithstanding the clamor of
petitioners for "deeds of our land," during which
time, the matter was taken into consideration and
systematised, so far as such an operation could be.— ■
Pains were taken to ascertain the merits of each appli-
cation, and finally a tract, or tracts of land, not ex-
ceeding one hundi'ed acres in all, was granted, free of
expense, to one or more religious societies, regularly
organized according to law, in each town on the Pur-
chase, where the Company had land undisposed of ;
which embraced every town tlien organized on the
Purchase, except Bethany, Genesee county, and
Shelden, AVyoming countj^ ; the donees always being
allowed to select out of the unsold farming lands in
each town. In some towns, it was all given to one
society ; in others to two or three societies, separate-
ly ; and in a few towns to four different societies, of
different sects, twenty-five acres to each.

In performing this thankless duty, for the land was
claimed as an absolute right by most of the appli-
cants, the whole j)roceedings were so managed, un-


der Mr Ellicott's judicious directions, tliat amidst all
the clamor and contention, which from its nature such
proceedings must elicit, no complaint of partiality to
any particular sect, nor of undue weight of influence
in any individual, was ever charged against the agent
of the Company, or his associates acting under him."

It is understood the Rev. Mr. R. referred to was
Rev. Andrew Rawson, of Barre. Mr. Busti was hy
profession a Roman Catholic.

The county of Genesee was formed from Ontario
County in 1802, and the town of Batavia w^as organi-
zed at the same time, and then included the entire
county of Genesee. The town of Ridgeway was form-
ed from Batavia June 8, 1812, and then emT3raced all
the territory now included in the towns of Shelby,
Ridgeway, Yates, Carlton, Gaines and Barre.

Some of the first settlers of this territory north of
Tonawanda Swamp* came from Canada, in boats
across Lake Ontario ; others from New England and
the east, came by boats along the south shore of the
lake. Those who came in on foot, or with teams, usu-
ally crossed the Genesee River at Rochester, and then
took the Ridge Road west.

The Ridge in this locality had been used as a high-
way, ever since the county had been traversed by
white men ; and it was a favorite trail of the Indians.
Bridges had not l)een made over the streams, by
which it was intersected, and it was difficult crossing
these with teams. Sir William Johnson, going with
a large body of soldiers to Fort Niagara, went along
the Lake shore from Genesee River, and encamping
for th(^ night on the Creek in Carlton, west of Oak
Orchard, he gave it the name of Johnson's Creek,
which it has since retained.

The Oak Orchard Creek was so named from the
beautiful oak trees, which grew along its banks, as
seen b}' the first discoverers.

OF okleajS^s county. 29

In its natural state Orleans connty was thickly
covered with trees. On the dry, hard land, the pre-
vailing varieties of timber were beech, maple, white
red and black oak, white wood or tulip tree, bass-
wood, elm, hickory and hemlock. Swamps and low
wet lands were covered with black ash, tamarack,
white and yellow cedar, and soft maple ; large syca-
more, or cotton ball trees, were common on low lands
and some pine grew along tlie Oak Orchard Creek,
and in the swamps in Barre ; and a few chestnut
trees grew along tlie Ridge in Ridgewa}', and in other
places north of the Ridge. It has been estimated by
the first settlers, that from seventy-five to one liun-
dred cords of wood of 128 feet each, stood on each
acre of land on an average over the county.

The principal wild animals found here were the
bear, deer, wolf, raccoon, hedgehog, wood-chuck,
skunk, fox, black, red, striped and flying squirrel,
mink and muskrat. Bear and deer were plenty, and
hunting them furnished food and sport for the pion-
eers. For some years the wolves were so destructive
to the sheep and young cattle, it was difficult to keep
them. The bears would kill the pigs, if they strayed
into the woods. As the forests were cut down, and
settlers came in, these large animals were hunted out,
till not a bear, deer or wolf has been seen wild in Or-
leans county for several years.

Fish were plenty in the streams, coming up from
Lake Ontario in great numbers.

At the first settlement of the country, white men
and Indians caught an abundance of salmon here. — ■
These fish, in high water would run up the Oak Orch-
ard and Johnson's Creek, and out into their tributa-
ries, where they were often takc^n. Salmon were once
caught in a small stream in the west part of the town
of Gaines. It is related that at an early day, after a
high freshet, Mr. John Hood caught a number of sal-


men on the bank of this stream, south of West Gaines,
where a tree had overturned, leaving a hole through
which the water had flowed ; and where they were
left when the water subsided.

A kind of sucker fish, called red sides, used to run
up from the lake in plenty. They were taken in
April and May, in seines, by wagon loads. The sal-
mon disappeared years ago, and very few red sides
run now.

Rattlesnakes were numerous along the banks of
Oak Orchard Creek and IM^iagara and Genesee Rivers,
when the country was new. They had several dens,
to which they retired in winter, and near which they
were frequently seen in sprmg time. Lemuel Blan-
don relates that in 1820, he went with a party to fish
near the mouth of Oak Orchard. They intended to
stay all night, and built a shelter of boughs on the
lake shore, on the east side, near where the hotel now
stands ; and set fire to an old log that lay there. Af-
ter the fire began to burn, two or three rattlesnakes

Online LibraryArad ThomasPioneer history of Orleans county, New York. Containing some account of the civil divisions of western New York, with brief biographical notices of early settlers, and of the hardships and privations → online text (page 2 of 32)