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on the lake, sweeping away more men of the Vera Cruz
settlement, which has found its way into some publications,
is entirely a mistake.

Unquestionably these disasters were a terrible blow to
Mr. Scriba's embryo metropolis. We cannot learn that
any more vessels were ever built there. The store, how-
ever, was kept up, and a grist-mill erected, and it is said
that one year, not long afterwards, more goods were .sold
there than at Oswego or Utica. In fact, for some time,
most of the settlers on the Seriba patent were on or near
the old Rotterdam and Vera Cruz road, and they had to
go to one of those places to trade ; they generally chose
the latter, as the more convenient.

In 1799 the collection districts of Oswego and Niagara
were formed by act of Congress. Tlic former embraced



the shores and waters of the St. Lawrence, and of Lake
Ontario, within the United States, from the forty-fifth
parallel to the Genesee river. It does not appear, however,
that any oflicers were appointed, or any attempt made to
collect duties, until four years later.

In the same year the gigantic town of Mexico was re-
duced by the formation of Camden, Oneida county ; and in
1800, Champion, Rcdficld, Turin, Lowvillc, and Water-
town were taken ofl". This brought it down so that, in
addition to the whole eastern point of Oswego County
(with Redfield forming a notch-out), it only included the
southern third of Jefferson county, — giving it an area in
all of about twelve hundred square miles. In the last-
named year (1800) one more of the present towns —
Schroeppel — was settled, Abram Paddock being its earliest
pioneer.

Having now reached the close of the eighteenth century,
we will begin the nineteenth with a new chapter. At this
time the settlements were still confined to the new (and
flourishing) town of Redfield, those in Constantia, those
extending through Mexico to Vera Cruz, a few residents
at Oswego, two or three at Union Village, and a few more
scattered along on both sides of the Oswego river. Sandy
Creek, Boylston, Orwell, Richland, Albion, Williamstown,
Amboy, Parish, West Monroe, Palermo, and Hannibal, all
greeted the new century untouched by the pioneer's axe.



CHAPTER XII.

1801 TO 1812.

An Importnnt Era — Early Hardships — Price of Land — The Bachelor
Piiinecr— The Indispensable O.t-Sled— Poverty of the Settlers— An
Imaginary Sketch — A Miscellaneous Load — A Schooliua'am in
the Woods — An Unfortunate Boy — A Day-Dream and its Interpre-
tation—Arriving at Deslination— The House-Raising- Clearing
Land— The Logging-Bee— Browse— Deer-hunting— Snow-Shoes—
"Yards" of Deer — Rails and Fences — Multitudinous Salmon —
Si.\ty-three in Seventeen Minutes— Making of Sugar— The Well—
The '■ Sweep"— Slaughtered Sheep- The Schoolma'am Spinning—
The Olil Lady Weaving— Young Jonathan's Home — The Indepen-
dent Citi7,en^Sehool-house and Meeting-house — Sugar-Party and
Quilting-Bee — Spelling-School, Singing-School, and Husking-Bee
—A Twelve-Miles' Walk to a Dance- First Settlement in the va-
rious Towns— Formation of New Towns — Ancient Relics on Trout
Brook — Increase of Commerce — The First Custom-house — An At-
tempted Raid- The Raiders Routed— First American Sliip-of-
War — Townscnd, Bronson & Co. — Durham Boats — Roads — Onu-
diaga^Difficulties with Great Britain— Feelings of Parties-
Hostile Measures.

The years to which this chapter is devott^d form the
most important era in the development of the county,
though few remarkable events transpired in it. Then was
the time when in every township the axe of the woodman
was heard, either beginning the work of improvement or
greatly enlarging on the few efforts already made. Every
year saw numerous immigrants locating in different parts
of the county. The story of one is the story of hundreds.
A few pages may, therefore, profitably be devoted to a gen-
eral view of the way in which this county, like other new
rouioiis coV( ii'd with timber, W;is settled.



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUNTY, NEW YORK.



The old know how it was themselves. The middle-aged
have heard the story so often told by their predecessors,
and have seen the events so often repeated in the newer
portions of the county, that they are very well acquainted
with them ; but a county history is designed to fix the
fleeting circumstances of pioneer life for the instruction of
those who are yet to come, ere they fade forever from the
memory of the living. There will soon be no spot which
will witness a renewal of such hardships as were endured
by the early settlers of New York. The labor of subduing
the prairie is trifling indeed compared with that undergone
by the pioneer who confronted the beeches and the maples,
the oaks and the hemlocks, the stumps and the roots, the
rocks and the hills, of Oswego, of Jefferson, of Lewis, and
of hundreds more of just such counties on the eastern side
of the Alleghanies.

The price of land varied from two dollars an acre up-
ward. As late as 1806 the instructions to the agent of
town 6 (Amboy) directed that a hundred families should
each receive a farm in the centre of the town for two dol-
lars and a half per acre. Purchasers of lots along the
" State road" were charged three dollars an acre for fifty
acres each, and four dollars for all over that amount. All
buyers were required to live on the land, or have some one
else do so.

The young bachelor, intent on making a home for him-
self, and mayhap for the girl he left behind him, often
plunged into the depths of the far-famed Soiiba's Patent or
the Military tract, with no aid but the axe he bore on his
shoulder, a scanty supply of provisions on his back, and
possibly a few dollars in money, though this was by no
means certain. Selecting his location, he obtained a con-
tract, and handed over perhaps his last dollar as an advance
payment. Very likely he dispensed even with a log house
the first summer, putting up a mere hut of poles, shingled
with bark.

Then late and early his axe rang among the monarchs
of the forest. When a few acres had been cut down he
probably made a logging-bee, one of the great events of
pioneer life, and got his ground cleared ready for a crop of
winter wheat. If he had no money to buy seed or neces-
sary provisions, he earned them by working for his more
fortunate neighbors. Having sown his piece of winter
wheat, he proceeded, before snow came, to put up the
" body" of a log house, — that is, the logs, without roof nor
floor, door nor window, — and then returned to the place
whence he came, married his girl, and brought her out in
the spring to his well-ventilated palace in the forest.

Often a married man came alone, in advance, in the same
way, went through the same routine, and brought his wife
and family the ensuing season. When the family came,
whether the first season or the second, whether in winter
or spring, the chances were that they and their scanty
household goods were packed on an ox-sled, and that the
music of " Whoa ! haw ! gee. Buck !" resounded in their
ears throughout the whole length of their journey. Once
in a while a solitary horse was ridden into the forest, but
its possession was a decided mark of aristocracy. Oxen
could be driven along the diabolical roads, where horses
would have broken their legs in an hour. The former



could be used in clearing land, where similar dangers
waited ; and if worst came to worst, they could be changed
into beef, to help eke out the failing supply of bread. But
their prime recommendation was their cheapness. For
cheapness was absolutely essential to the pioneer.

Mention has been frequently made of the scantiness of
their means, and it would not be far out of the way to say
plumply that all the pioneers of Oswego County — all the
pioneers of central and western New York-^were poor.
The exceptions were few indeed. Their descendants now
look back with pride to the humble log house, the ox-team,
the home-made furniture, which were the beginning of
subsequent competence ; and the greater the hardships en-
dured the greater the pride of the sons in the courage and
energy which overcame them.

Not only was the ox preferable to the horse, but the sled
was more convenient than the wagon. The former would
twist around among the trees and logs where the latter
would soon have been ruined ; besides, it was for cheaper.
Sometimes a cart, consisting of little more than two big
wheels, an axletree, and a tongue, would be brought into
use ; but for moving into the country the sled was the gen-
eral favorite, it being not only cheap and hard to break,
but capable of holding all that the ordinary emigrant family
would have to bring. Advantage was usually taken of the
snow of late winter or early spring ; but even when the
ground was half bare, the sled was the thing for moving.

Perhaps the usual process of settling a new country in
the old times can be best pictured to the mind of the reader
by an imaginative sketch, condensing and uniting the nu-
merous accounts of the pioneers.

Here comes an ox-battery attacking the forest fortress of
Oswego County. The patient, broad-horned toilers move
steadily forward along the narrow road, undisturbed by the
numberless stumps, trees, and logs against which they rub
as they make their tedious way. Behind comes the sled,
where a middle-aged matron in linsey-woolsey gown sits on
top of two feather-beds, while around her are stowed a bag
of flour, four splint-bottom chairs, three tow-headed chil-
dren, a side of pork, two iron pots, three bags of potatoes,
and a brindle cat. The new-comers evidently belong to the
more opulent class of pioneers, and will be looked up to
with i-espect by all their less fortunate neighbors. Very
likely the tall, dark, gaunt, keen-eyed, iron-jawed New Eng-
lander in sheep's-gray clothing, who with long ox-goad in
hand tramps by the side of his team, has as much as six
dollars and a half in his pocket, and will be a justice of the
peace inside of three years.

Behind the load trudges a bright, red-cheeked girl of
eighteen, occasionally clinging on in order to pass a bad
mud-hole, but capable of traveling as fai- as the oxen can,
at least. Poor as the family may seem to the city gentle-
man or old-world observer, she has had a fair English edu-
cation, has taught school the previous summer in her native
town, has quilts of her own making on that all-embracing
ox-sled, and plenty of ideas in the brain behind that inde-
pendent-looking face. Still farther back comes the boy
next younger, doomed to be the custodian of the old red
cow, the producer of the only luxuries the fomily enjoy,
the hope and solace of many a clamorous child. He looks



HISTORY OF OSWEOO COUNTY, NHW YOllK.



mad. He is vexed to the utmost point of boyish disgust
because he is not, liice liis big brother, wandering througli
the woods with rifle on shoulder, instead of fogging at the
heels of poor, despised old Betsi>y. Oh, if lie wore only
twenty instead of fifteen ! wouldn't he have a gun ? and
wouldn't he kill a bear? To kill a bear is to his mind the
chief object in moving into a new country, and he knows
he could do it if he only had a gun.

And he, the envied big brother of twenty, has sonicwliat
similar ideas as he strides with elastic step amid the trees
away off on the right flank of the main army, the flint-lock
rifle with which his fiither had faced the red-coats at Ben-
nington carelessly resting on his shoulder, his powder-horn
and bullet-pouch by his side, his inevitable sheep's-gray suit
scratched by the thickets through which he has plunged,
and his eager face aglow partly with the excitement of the
liunter, and partly with the hopes of the pioneer. Of
course it isn't for him— a man — to think much about such
trivial things as deer and bear ; he has come to the wilder-
ness to help his parents make a home and then to make
one for himself; to acquire a two-hundred-acre farm, to
turn it into first-class meadow and grain land, to raise the
largest crops in the county, to build a fine house and barns
of incalculable size, — in short, to get rich.

Still, if a deer should show itself — or, still better, if a
bear should obstruct his path — if he should boldly confront
the monster (as of course he would), and if, just as it was
rising with horrid front to attack him, he should with well-
aimed bullet lay it bleeding at his feet — what a fine thing
it would be to write back to Mary Ann about. Full of
these mingled thoughts the youth strays farther and farther
into the forest, and his mind becomes more and more ab-
stracted from its surroundings. Suddenly a great noise is
heard, a big buck with branching horns springs from his
lair and comes bounding directly across the front of the
startled young Jonathan. That worthy stands with open
eyes and mouth, forgetting his rifle, his Mary Ann, and
everything else, in his surprise and astonishment. Just as
the tail of the fleeing animal flutters for the last time among
the beeches, Jonathan recovers himself and fires an una-
vailing shot after the retreating flag.

Great Heavens! Why didn't he shoot before? Oh, if
another would only come wouldn't he fix him ? But no
other comes, and, after reloading his rifle, Jonathan makes
his way slowly and sadly back to the fiimily ox-sled. There
the young cow-captain, who has heard the shot, soon digs
the story out of him, and great is the contempt of that
would-be hunter at the recital. Oh, if he had only been
there with a gun ! Catch him standing still while a deer
ran by within twenty steps ! Bah !

Enlivened by adventures like this, the cavalcade (if a
yoke of oxen, a sled, and a cow can be so called) makes its
tedious way towards the promised land. Passing by the
scattered settlements on the bank of Oneida lake, and reach-
ing Rotterdam, it turns up the " old Mexico road" and
works its way over the high ridge whence the streams run
in opposite directions into the two lakes, Oneida and Onta-
rio. Then it turns aside into Parish, or Palermo, or Albion,
or New Haven, or Richland, or the farther part of Mexico,
following a road more execrable even than before.
5



If a log of moderate size lies in the way, the oxen step
carefully over it, and the sled goes bouncing up and down,
the children clinging to the side-boards with little shrieks
of mingled alarm and pleasure, and the old cat elevating lier
tiiil in angry protest against tliese violent pnx;eedings. If
a larger one is encountered, a.s it fre(|uently is, which can't
be driven around, axes are brought out and old Epliraim
and young Jonathan sever it in two places, roll the middle
section out of the way, and lead forward their forces in
triumph.

Arriving at length at the selected locality, if no house
has been erected in advance the family easily finds shelter
with an earlier settler, perhaps a mile or two distant. All
are ho.spitable, not only for hospitality's sake, but because
every new-comer is a positive advantage to the country.
The fii-st thing is the erection of a log house. Our two
grown-up heroes go to work preparing the logs, while young
Timothy is kept busy all day taking care of the cattle, run-
ning of errands, and helping the women folks, till he wishes
twenty times a day that he were back on the stony hill-
sides of Vermont.

As our friends belong to the best society, they cut their
logs eighteen feet long, intending to have their house nearly
sixteen feet square on the inside, — something quite palatial.
The logs being ready, the enginecr-in-chief prepares his
machinery for raising the house. It consists of a gallon
of whisky. The '" neighbore" for several miles around are
invited to the raising, and respond with unanimous alacrity.
Four fini.shed architects are selected to carry up the corners.
These shape the notches and saddles by means of which the
logs are fitted together, their less expert brethren lift the
material up to the builders, who rise with their work till
they arc six or eight feet above the ground. Rough poles
furnish the rafters.

Our high-toned friends cannot think of getting along, as
some do, without a floor, and so a few ash-logs are split up
into "puncheons," and laid on the lowest tier of logs, and
even an upper tier is laid so as to furnish a chamber, which,
divided by blankets, furnishes sleeping- rooms for the young
people. Apertures for a door and window are cut out, and
then, after an ample if homely supper, and an annihilating
attack on the remnants of the badly-defeated whisky, the
neighbors depart to their homes, pouring out their good
wishes for the new residents with equal profu.seness and
sincerity, and the younger men deeply smitten by the grace
and beauty of the fair-haired young schoolma'am.

A few days more suflice to put on the ash " shakes," two
and a half to three feet long, which do duty as shingles, to
build the fire-place of stone and the chimney of poles, and
to put in the board-door and glass-window which mark the
residence of a gentleman of substance. The women folks
begin keeping house, and the men turn their attention to
the clearing of land. There being two of them, ambitious
and active, they are determined to have a crop this very
season. Working early and late, they cut down the trees
on three or four acres, trim off' and pile the bru.sh, and burn
it as soon as the spring sun has made it combustible. The
trees are left where they fall. Between them, in the soft
woodland soil, the late corn is planted, and a tolerable crop
is harvested. But only "right smart" men c;in do thi.s,



58



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUNTY, NEW YORK.



late



crop,



fhich



rly frost



and even then they
would destroy.

Meanwhile more land is cleared to be sown to wheat.
About this job there is to be no half-way work. The brush
is trimmed and burned, the trees are felled in the right
direction, and the logs cut of the proper length. When
the August sun is hottest, another supply of whisky is laid
in, and again the neighbors are invited, — this time to a
"logging-bee."

But the muse who waits on a common county historian
can hardly be expected to describe with sufficient accuracy
and vividness that remarkable scene. Dante and Virgil
both descended into hell, but neither of them ever saw a
" logging-bee ;" if they had, they could have added some
extra touches to their Plutonian pictures. How the work
begins at a moderate pace at first ; how the logs, already
blackened by the fire which has consumed the brush, are
dragged together by ox-teams and rolled into heaps with
handspikes ; how clouds of black dust rise from the ground
and envelop everybody and everything in one funereal pall ;
how the speed increases as time progresses ; how Ephraim
and Jonathan, and young Timothy and old Jeremiah, and
William and Henry, and James and Thomas, and Buck and
Bright, and Broad and Blaze, all catch the spirit of
rivalry, and spring to their work like soldiers to the charge;
how, regardless of danger, men bound among the whirling
logs to lelieve some dead-lock with their handspikes ; how
jest and laugh and shout and cheer go up from the heroes
of the day as they sec their labors progressing to a success-
ful close ; and how, when all is done, and the great heaps
are ready for the torch, they retire to their homes covered
with soot half an inch thick, more or less, but triumphant
in another victory over the wilderness, — all this forms a
vivid picture in the mind of an old pioneer, but can hardly
be appreciated by a modern city gentleman. But without
the tremendous labors of the forest and the " logging-field"
the dry-goods box would have yielded no profit to the
smiling merchant, and the palatial residence would never
have adorned the elegant avenue.

The next day our friends Ephraim and Jonathan and
Timothy apply the torch to the log-piles, and for several
days have plenty of work watching the fires, dragging to-
gether the brands that remain, and burning them again
until all are destroyed. A harrow prepares the virgin soil
sufiiciently to receive the proper allowanceof winter wheat,
which is soon sown by the skillful hands of the head of the
family, and then the harrow again comes into play, cover-
ing the grain with enough earth to secure its germination.

As winter approaches, the family mansion is " chinked"
all around with pieces of wood between the logs, and fur-
ther secured against cold by a liberal coating of clay. Ere



long the snow comes down in an avalanche, and lies one,
two, or three feet deep throughout the forest. No hay lies
piled in stacks or stored in barns ; and how are Buck and
Bright and Betsey to be kept through the winter ? Browse.
Each morning Ephraim or Jonathan goes to the forest,
chops down a few trees, and gives the cattle a chance to
feed on the succulent twigs. It is hardly equal to first-
class hay, but cattle can live on it throughout the winter.
Half a ton of hay, procured with great labor from a distant



settlement, keeps the poor beasts in memory of old times,
and prevents them from despairing of the future. A rude
log shed slightly shields them from the fury of the frequent
storms.

Now, at last, young Jonathan has a chance to display
his skill with the rifle. Deer roam thick through the
woods, and it is not difiicult for even a mediocre marksman
to supply a family with abundance of venison. Even our
boyish friend, Timothy, has the inexpressible delight to
discover a fat doe peering in wonder from the edge of the
clearing at the strange-looking cabin, to seize the rifle, to
steal quietly to a convenient stump, and, after carefully
sighting, to bring the unfortunate intruder dying to the
earth. That one shot adds four inches and a half to the
boy's height.

As the snow becomes deeper the snow-shoe is brought
into requisition. The light ashen or hickory frame, twenty-
eight to thirty-two inches long, and from fourteen to six-
teen wide, braced with bars and plaited with leather thongs,
is strapped to either foot, and away goes the youthful
hunter over snow four feet deep, at the rate of three miles
or more an hour, scarcely sinking above the top. As the
deer had no snow-shoes, the hunter had an immense
advantage.

As food becomes scarcer the deer gather in groups (or
" yards," as they are called), twelve, fifteen, or twenty to-
gether, and dig down through the snow with their feet, to
obtain a little scanty nourishment from the shrubbery
below. When the hunters find one of these " yards" they
can save their powder ; they begin with club and knife, and
slaughter at will. (Mr. Jeremiah Matthewson, of Pulaski,
says he has known of three men killing eighteen deer in
that way in one day.) If the poor wretches attempt to
escape, they instantly sink deep into the snow, and are easily
overtaken and dispatched by those woodland Mercuries,
whose heels are made light by snow-shoes instead of wings.
A ftincy sportsman would call this mere butchery, but a
man whose pork-barrel is getting low cannot be particular
as to the way he supplies his family with meat.

But not much time can be spared for the exciting joys
of the hunter. Our friends have come into the wilderness
not to play but to work. A large part of the winter is
spent in cutting down the great oak- and ash-trees and split-
ting them into rails. It may be possible to get along a few
years with brush-fences, but Ephraim and Jonathan are
resolute Yankees, who look on the brush-fence as a mark of
shiftlessness hardly to be tolerated even for the first year.

Meanwhile the female head of the household and her
blithe daughter are busy within, being especially necessi-
tated to devote a large part of their time to the repair of
clothing. Every article must be made to last as long as is
humanly possible, for the prospect of obtaining more is poor
indeed. How earnestly the matron longs for the time when
they shall have sheep, and geese, and all the adjuncts of
civilizatiou I

Spring brings new labors and new pleasures. The rails
must be laid into the old-fashioned "worm-fence," eight
rails high, "staked and ridered," which is now following
the log house into the limbo of oblivion. Spring crops
must be sowed, — more srround must be cleared. Hand-



HISTORY' OF OSWKC.O COUNTY, NKW VOIIK.



some Ilaiinah retreats to a little older eettlemeiit, and ob-
tains eniployniont in teaching school through the summer
at a dollar a week and " board around."

Timothy is happy, for every little while he gets a chance
to fish for salmon. It makes no difference whether they



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