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fact that was not made any more pleasant by hearing the
howls of a pack of wolves resounding through the forest.
He hurried on, hoping to strike some clearing, but none
was to be seen. The howls of the wolves came nearer and
nearer. They had evidently scented their prey, and soon
their shaggy forms were seen among the trees. It is sel-
dom that the ordinary gray wolf will attack a man in the
daytime ; but these were not only spurred on by hunger
but were led by a large black wolf, a member of the fiercest
species of the lupine genus. With open jaws and flaming
eyes, he came boldly on within a few paces of the weary
traveler. Stevens fired his rifle, and the monster fell dead in
his tracks. The gray wolves halted, and though the scent of
blood made them howl more fiercely than ever, yet the loss
of their leader materially diminished their courage. Stevens
faced them, and after a few moments they retired some
distance, though not out of sight, and seated themselves on
their haunches in a group, as if holding a council of war.

Mr. Stevens reloaded his rifle, and then, being, like all
good frontiersmen, provided with flint and tinder-box, he
proceeded to kindle a fire, to which he dragged the body of
his slain enemy. The wolves howled and raged and daahed
to and fro among the trees like so many demons. Satisfied
that they were afraid of him, the traveler flung a burning
brand among them, when they immediately dispersed. Feel-
ing safe by the side of his blazing fire, and determined to
gain something by his adventure, Mr. Stevens coolly pro-
ceeded to skin his prey. By the time he had finislied it
was dark. Gathering more fuel, he kept up a big fire all
night, and remained awake by the side of it. All night
long his cowardly enemies howled in the distance, but just
before morning they finally retreated.

Having made a breakfast from the contents of his haver-
sack, Mr. Stevens strapped his wolf-skin on his back, shoul-
dered his rifle, and, laying his course by the appearance of
light in the east, endeavored to make his way back to Fort
Brewerton. But the sun did not shine, and he soon found
himself wandering aimlessly through the forest. All day
he tramped wearily on, and at night was as hopelessly lost
as ever. Again he built a fire ; but this time he did not
attempt to keep awake. If the wolves wanted to seize him
by his own fireside they could do so. Utterly exhausted,
he flung himself down on the damp ground and slept
soundly and .safely till morning.



Again the dispirited traveler set fortb on his journey,
still carrying his black wolf-skin. About ten o'clock his eyes
were gladdened with the view of a clearing. Hurrying
forward, he saw what, doubtless, had often made his heart
swell with bitterness before, but which now appeared like
the very star of hope itself, — the banner of St. George float-
ing over the ramparts of Fort Ontario. There the wan-
derer was hospitably welcomed, and there he remained
through the rest of the day and the succeeding night.
Two more days were occupied in returning home, for the
traveler felt no inclination to go " across lots," but consci-
entiously followed all the windings of the Oswego and the

All the while he stuck to his black wolf-skin, and in due
time received from the proper authorities a bounty of forty
dollars for destroying that foe of the sheepfold.

On the 26th day of February, 1796, the town of Mexico
was reorganized by law. There were then but a very few
settlers in what wa.s left of the old town, the eastern bound-
ary of which, it will be remembered, was a line running
north from the mouth of Chittenango creek, in Madison
county. Two or three families at Fulton, one or two at
Port Brewerton, and perhaps a few along Scriba's new road,
comprised the whole number. There were some, however,
around Rotterdam, who were a long distance from the
principal settlements in Steuben, the town to which they
then belonged. A large portion of that town was therefore
annexed to Mexico, which was made to run as far east as
Scriba's patent, and also included nearly all of the present
counties of Lewis and Jeiferson this side of Black river.
The first town-meeting was directed to be held at the
house of John Meyer, in the survey-township of Rotter-
dam (Constantia). There is no record, however, to show
that any was held. Mr. Meyer was the agent of Scriba,
and was naturally the most important man in town.

That year the British flag ceased to arouse the anger of
Americans as it waved over the dilapidated fortress at the
mouth of the Oswego. Ever' since the Revolution nego-
tiations had been going on between the United States and
Great Britain on the subject, but for a long time without
success. Knowing but too well the weakness of America,
Washington resisted with patriotic firmness the clamors of
the more reckless classes for the redress of our injuries by
war. At length, after years of fruitless diplomacy, John
Jay was sent as minister to England, and succeeded in
negotiating a treaty by which all diflicultics were settled, and
the frontier forts were agreed to be given up by the British
on or before the 1st day of June, 1796.

The stipulations on the part of the United States were
such that the bitterest feeling against the treaty was aroused
on the part of the friends of revolutionary France, who
were rapidly showing their opposition to the conservative
policy of Washington, Adams, and Jay. In the south,
especially. Jay was denounced with unbounded fury.
Washington, however, sustained him, the senate confirmed
the treaty, and New York sanctioned the course of her
honored son by electing him her governor for two successive
terms of three years each.

Still, Virginia managed to make trouble by refusing to
pay debts due to British subjects, and difficulties ensued on

account of which Forts Ontario and Niagara were not sur-
rendered till July. In fact, the western forts were not
yielded until two years later. So quickly do historic facts
become involved in uncertainty, that Clark's " Onondaga,"
issued thirty years ago, stated that Fort Ontario was one of
tlie posts which were not surrendered until 1798, and some
other writers have adopted the same view. To fix the date
beyond question, we publish a copy, furnished by B. B.
Burt, Esq., of a letter written to George Seriba by the
officer who received the surrender. It was originally pub-
lished in Greenleaf's New York Journal and Patriotic
Advertiser, on the 2d of August, 1796, and reads as fol-
lows :

"Fort Ontario, July 15, 1796.

" Dear Sir, — I have the pleasure of informing you that
the American flag, under a federal salute, was for the first
time displayed from the citadel of this fort at the hour of
ten this morning. A Captain Clark and Colonel Fother-
gill were his majesty's officers, left with a detachment of
thirty men for the protection of the works. From these
gentlemen the greatest politeness and civility was displayed
to us in adjusting the transfer. The buildings and gardens
were left in the neatest order ; the latter, being considerably
extensive and in high culture, will be no small addition to
the comfort of the American officers who succeed this sum-

" I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, etc.,
"P. Elmer."

A small detachment of American troops, under a lieu-
tenant, now occupied Fort Ontario, and the eyes of their
passing countrymen were greeted by the joyful sight of the
star-spangled banner, their ears saluted by the beloved if
not melodious strains of Yankee Doodle.

How tenaciously the English held their grip as long as
they possibly could, is shown by the fact that only a very
short time before the final surrender, Joshua Stow, on his
way with several boats to survey the "Western Reserve"
in Ohio, was refused permission to pass by the red-coated
autocrat of Oswego. In vain he pleaded that he had sup-
plies and surveying tools on board, and that the whole work
in Ohio would be disarranged if he was detained. It was
" no go." Stow apparently acquiesced, and started back up
the river. A few miles up he stopped, and waited for night.
When it came and was at its darkest he ran down again,
glided quietly past the sleepy sentinels, gained the lake, and
proceeded on his way. Arriving at Niagara, he found that
post already in the hands of the Americans.

The same year that England surrendered her hold on
the position at the mouth of one of the principal rivers of
Oswego County, a distinguished British subject acquired
an interest at the mouth of the other principal stream. On
the 16th of November, 1796, a tract of three miles square
at the mouth of Salmon river, on the north side, was con-
veyed to a Mrs. Colden, in trust for Thomas Douglas, Earl
of Selkirk, a Scotch nobleman, who doubtless had an idea
of making a great commercial emporium at the mouth of
Salmon river.

Either John Love and Ziba Phillips established them-
selves as traders at Oswego immediately after the British
left, or else, which is quite probable, they had been there



before. The same year Neil McMullin, a merchant of
Kingston, New York, moved to Oswego with his family,
bringing with him a house framed at that place. He
found Love and Phillips there, but the latter left not long

Captain Edward O'Connor, one of the gallant band who
had followed Colonel Blillett in the weary march through
the snow, at the time of the futile attempt to surprise Fort
Ontario, located himself at Oswego the same year as Mr.
McMullin. He, with his family, however, went to " Salt
Point" to stay during the winter, and such was the custom
with several of the new-comers for two or three years.

Considerable business at once began to flow through the
embryo city as soon as the restraint of a foreign power was
withdrawn, for there was absolutely no other way to reach
the west, with heavy freight, save by this route. Although
the fort was on the east side of the river, all the new-
comers located on the other shore.

In what year the first settlement was made in the present
town of Mexico is not certain. It may have been in 1795,
when Scriba's great road from Rotterdam to Vera Cruz was
first opened, and it was certainly as early as 1796. In that
year the city of Vera Cruz, at the mouth of Salmon creek,
just below the present hamlet of Texas, wa.s laid out and
mapped by Benjamin Wright, and that gentlemen then re-
sided there as the agent of Mr. Scriba. A store was built
there that year, and although Scriba was a very adventurous
person, it is reasonable to presume that he did not build a
store unless there was somebody lived in the vicinity besides
his agent. In November, 179G, Mr. Wright wrote to
Scriba from Vera Cruz that the new store at that point was
almost ready to hold goods. The original letter is in the
possession of Mr. Cross, at Pulaski. The fact that there
was a handsome settlement in township 20, now Mexico,
early in 1798, is strong proof that it^was begun as soon as
1796. perhaps in 1795.

Redfield was another of the earliest settled towns in the
county, but the exact date is uncertain. It was occupied
certainly as early as 1799, probably in 1796, and possibly
in 1795.

Mr. Scriba's city of Rotterdam progressed very slowly.
A letter written by his agent, Meyer, in the fall of 1796
(which is now in the possession of the Scriba family), reads
as if they were just finiishirig the saw-mill which was
built in 1793 ; probably he referred to repairs, on account
of the destruction of the dam by high water. The grist-
mill was still in contemplation.

Few men ever set themselves more earnestly to develop
a new country than did George Scriba. His money must
have flowed like water. True, he undoubtedly expected to
get it back again in due time, but nevertheless liberality,
enterprise, and public spirit in the early stages of a county's
development may fairly be called virtues, and it is to be
regretted that Mr. Scriba carried them so far to excess as to
work the most serious injury to himself

In 1797 an act was passed directing the surveyor-general
of the State to lay out a hundred acres at the mouth of
the Oswego, on the west side, in a village to be forever
thereafter called by the name of O.swego. The tract was
laid out as directed, by Benjamin Wright, the lots were

sold by the proper officials, and thus far on the road to
"forever" the place has been called by the name of Oswego.

So few and so widely scattered were the people of the
great town of Mexico, that they neglected to hold a town-
meeting this year at the time prescribed by law, — April 1 ,
1797, — and perhaps had done so the year before. Town
officers were accordingly appointed by the justices of Herk-
imer county, and as these were the first of which we have
any knowledge in tlie present county of Oswego, we insert
their names here : John Meyer, of Rotterdam, supervisor ;
Oliver Stevens, of Fort Brewerton, town clerk ; Amos
Matthews, Solomon Waring, and Luke Mason, of Rotter-
dam, assessors ; Amos Matthews and Solomon Waring,
overseers of the poor ; Solomon Waring, collector ; and
Elijah Carter, constable.

Meyer was also a justice of the peace at that time, for on
the 8th of June he signed a certificate that Abram Van
Valkenburgh had acknowledged the proper bond to keep
an orderly hotel. Mr. Meyer was undoubtedly the first
justice of the peace in the present county of Oswego ; for
if there had been one on the Oswego river, Van Valken-
burgh would not have gone from the falls to Constantia to
get his certificate.

Meanwhile a few new settlers had located on the river-
shore. John Van Burcn made his home on the east side,
below the falls, in 1796, and John Waterhouse in 1797.
At this time the .settlement at the falls, on both sides, was
known indiscriminately as " Oswego Falls." There were
others came whose names are unknown, and in 1796 there
was business enough, so that it is said that Daniel Masters
and one Goodell built a saw-mill on the east side.

In the summer of 1797, Asa Rice, his family, and two
or three friends, having made their toilsome way from Con-
necticut to the embryo village of Oswego, passed along the
lake-shore to lot No. 2, in the present town of Oswego,
where Mr. Rice had purchased a farm. They proceeded to
erect a shanty of .small logs, the completion of which was
celebrated with a bottle of wine, carefully brought from the
land of steady habits. The location was duly christened
" Union Village," which name it has retained to the pres-
ent day. His friends did not remain through the winter,
and Mr. Rice was thus the earliest permanent settler in the
town. His .son, — Arvin Rice, — then a boy of eleven, still
survives, and is undoubtedly the earliest living resident of
the county.

On the first day of January, 1798, the first post-office
was established in the county, Rotterdam being its name
and location, and the much-ofiice-holding John Meyer being
the first postmaster.

On the 15th of March foUowii^g, the county of Oneida
was formed from Herkimer. It embraced the present
county of that name, all of Lewis and Jefferson counties,
and all that part of Oswego County west of the Oswego
river. So far as Oswego County was concerned, this or-
ganization — the part being in Oneida county, and the
west part in Onondaga — continued during the whole period
of pioneer settlement down to 1816. The town of Mexico
was not for some time touched by the hand of change,
retaining its old magnificent proportions.

It is extremely difficult to a.^certain with :iny certainty


the date of events occurring so long ago, except when writ-
ten documents can he found. Events themselves will live
in tradition for unnumbered years, but dates are hardly
recollected even through the first generation, still less
through succeeding ones. In that same year — 1798 — we
come to a document which gives quite a good idea of the
state of affairs in all that part of Oswego County west of
Oswego river at that time. This is the assessment-roll of
the town of Mexico for that year, now in possession of Mr.
Cross, of Pulaski. We have copied the names of the
assessed parties belonging in Oswego County. Their resi-
dences are given on the roll according to the number of
their survey-township, but for convenience' sake are desig-
nated here, in most cases, by the corresponding modern
town. We may add, in explanation of some of the descrip-
tions, that Salmon river was then called Salmon creek, and
Salmon creek was then termed Little Salmon creek. The
list was as follows :

At the mouth of Little Salmon creek, Benjamin Gil-
bert, Benjamiu Winch, Archibald Fairfield, and Benjamin
Wright, agent for Scriba. He was assessed on a store, barn,
blacksmith-shop, saw-mill, and log house.

Mexico, Isaac Burlingham, Miles, Simon King,

Jonathan Parkhurst, Elias Rose, Nathaniel Rood, Stephen
Spinner, Hezekiah Stanley, Chipman Wheadon.

Constantia, John Meyer, Amos Matthews, John Bern-
hardt, Daniel Banvard, Henry Fall, Solomon Waring.

Orwell, Moses CoflBn.

Fort Brewerton, Oliver Stevens.

Volney (township 17), Ebenezer Wells.

" Locations on the Oswego,'' Stephen Lush, Daniel Phoe-
nix (in Schroeppel), Philip Roe, L'Hommedieu, John

Waters, Ebenezer Wright, Benjamin Walker, Lawrence
Van Valkenburgh. Two or three of those named in the last
paragraph were probably only owners, not residents. Such
was the case also with William Constable, assessed on part
of the Boylston tract; with Franklin and Robinson, as-
sessed on part of Constantia ; with Jacob Mark, assessed on
part of Scriba ; and Mr. L'Hommedieu on part of township

George Scriba was at that time the owner, and assessed
on but nine out of his original twenty-four townships, of
which eight were in the present county of Oswego (and
from these are to be excepted the lands of the before-men-
tioned resident owners), viz., No. 6 (Amboy), No. 11
(Constantia — the greater portion), No. 12 (West Monroe),
No. 16 (parts of Schroeppel and Volney), No. 17 (parts of
Volney and Scriba), No. 19 (New Haven), No. 20 (Mex-
ico), No. 23 (ParLsh), — making a total of one hundred and
sixty-two thousand four hundred and seventy-seven acres,
assessed at two dollars per acre.

But by far the most populous township at that time in
the old town of Mexico was " No. 12," now known as the
south part of Redfield. The assessed owners of property
there were Samuel Brooks, Phineas Corey, Nathan Cook,
Ebenezer Chamberlain, Joseph Clark, Taylor Chapman,
Roger Cooke, James Drake, John Edwards, Nathaniel Eels,
Titus Meacham, Amos Kent, Joseph Overton, Joel Over-
ton, Silas Phelps, John Prine, Nathan Sage. Eli Strong,
Jedediah Smith, Obadiah Smith, George Seymour, Jo.seph

Strickland, Samuel Smith, Josiah Trj'on, Benjamin Thrall,
Jonathan Worth, Joseph Wickham, Thomas Wells, Luke
Winchel, Charles Webster, Daniel Wilcox, and Jonathan
Waldo, — making thirty-two assessed residents in that town-
ship alone, to about twenty-six in all the rest of Oswego
County, east of the river.

Making allowance for men who had no assessable prop-
erty, and for those living on the west side of the Oswego,
there were probably about eighty or ninety adult males in
the county in the early part of 1798, representing a popu-
lation of near five hundred souis.

We say in the early part of 1798, for those who came
later would not be assessed. The first settlement in the
present town of Scriba was made in this year by Henry
Everts, who located in the southwest part of the town, near
the river. New Haven was also first occupied by perma-
nent residents in 1798, its pioneers being Mr. Rood and
Mr. Doolittle.

We have copied at length the list of assessed men, be-
cause they show more clearly than aught else could the ad -
vance and direction of settlement in the county up to 1798.
Henceforth, however, names of individual settlers, uncon-
nected with any especial incident, will generally be left to
the township histories.

Benjamin Wright, of Vera Cruz, Mr. Scriba's surveyor
and agent, was appointed a justice of the peace in 1798,
being probably the second one in the county.

Mr. Scriba pushed forward his settlements in Rotterdam
and at Vera Cruz and along the road between with all pos-
sible speed. The latter-named place was destined to be the
great commercial emporium of central New York. It must
have been in the latter part of 1798 or forepart of 1799
that one Captain Geerman started a ship-yard and built a
small schooner. No mention of the vessel is made in the
assessment-roll of 1798, and the oldest residents say it was
in 1799 that the accident happened to it which, with its
consequences, cast a gloom over all the scanty settlements
around. It will be adverted to in the town history of
Mexico, but at the time it occurred it was a matter of very
wide general interest, and even yet the story of the remark-
able disasters of the Vera Cruz pioneers claims the mournful
attention of every sympathetic reader. It has therefore
been thought proper to insert an account of them here,
principally drawn from a statement furnished many years
ago to the Mexico Lidepeiulent by Mr. Goodwin, of that
village, after careful consultation with several old residents,
now deceased.

At that time the country around Kingston, Canada,
which had been settled at a much earlier period, was the
ordinary resource for getting provisions, or grinding those
raised here. Men sometimes took two or three bushels of
grain across the lake in an open boat, got it ground, and
returned by the same precarious conveyance. Either to
relieve a scarcity of provisions before harvest, or to get
grinding done after it. Captain Geerman, in the summer of
1799, accompanied by a young man named Welcome Spen-
cer, started in his new schooner for Canada. In a few days
the people began to look for their return, but in vain.
Days and weeks passed on, and still they came not. Anx-
iety spread rapidly among the settlers, bound together as



they were by the ties of common dangers and hardships.
The only hope was that the wanderers had been driven on
some coast or island by the wind, whence they might be

Misled, perhaps, by their desires, a report spread among
the people that lights had been seen on Stony island, a
short distance this side of Sackett's Harbor, and it was
hoped that the wanderers might have been cast ashore
there. A meeting of the settlers for some distance around
was held at Vera Cruz, and it was determined that a party
should go in search of the missing ones.

Bold volunteers were readily found, and a crow was
made up, con.sisting of the father of young Spencer, Chip-
man Wheadon, Green Clark, Nathaniel Rood, and a Mr.
Doolittle, all of whom resided either at Vera Cruz or a
short distance back. They rowed across the lake in an
open boat, and made a thorough search of Stony island
and the neighboring isles, but found no trace of the lost
mariners. On their return they, too, encountered a heavy
gale. It came from the west, and drove their frail craft
swiftly towards the mouth of Salmon river. A man who
chanced to be on the beach, in that then uninhabited lo-
cality, saw the boat swiftly approaching the shore, bearing
all its inmates to their fate. When within a short distance
the boat was upset, and all five of the men were flung into
the boiling surf Strange as it may seem, not one of them
reached the shore alive, and it does not appear that even a
single body was ever found, except that of Green Clark,
which was washed on shore near Sandy creek. Chipman
Wheadon, a very active man, clung to the boat for some
time, but was finally washed off by the waves, and met the
fate which had befallen all his comrades.

Seven strong men were thus lost to the infant settle-
ment, for Geerman and the younger Spencer were never
heard of more. There was a vague rumor that some of the
contents of the schooner were found near Sackett's Harbor,
from which it was inferred that it was capsized near there,
but nothing was certainly known, save that it never reached

It is not correct to say, as the gazetteers have generally
done, that only one survivor (Benjamin Winch) was left
in the " settlement," even confining that expression to the
little hamlet of Vera Cruz, for Benjamin Wright and Arch-
ibald Fairchild at least remained. Kvcn then there were
others not far distant. The story of a subsequent disaster

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