Copyright
Crisfield. cn Johnson.

... History of Oswego County, New York online

. (page 35 of 120)
Online LibraryCrisfield. cn Johnson... History of Oswego County, New York → online text (page 35 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of Hastings, and Charles McKinney, of Redfield, 1867 ;
John A. Place, of Oswego, James D. Lasher, of Fulton,
and Alvin R. Richardson, of Mexico, 1868; Benjamin
Doolittle, of Oswego, James D. Lasher, of Fulton, and
Nathan B. Smith, of Pulaski, 1869 ; De Witt C. Little-
john, of Oswego, Abraham Howe, of Fulton, and John
Parker, of Orwell, 1870 ; De Witt C. Littlejohn, of Os-
wego, Abraham Howe, of Fulton, and Chauncey S. Sage,
of Williamstown, 1871; Daniel G. Fort, of Oswego, Thos.
W. Green, of Coughdenoy, and Chauncey S. Sage, of Wil-
liamstown, 1872; Daniel G. Fort, of Oswego, Willard
Johnson, of Fulton, and Justin L. Bulkley, of Sandy
Creek, 1873 ; George B. Sloan, of Oswego, Willard John-
son, of Fulton, and Justin L. Bulkley, of Sandy Creek,
1874 ; Alanson S. Page, of Oswego, Willard Johnson, of
Fulton, and Henry J. Daggett, of New Haven, 1875 ;
George B. Sloan, of Oswego, Thos. W. Green, of Hastings,
and John Preston, of Pulaski, 1876 ; George B. Sloan, of
Oswego (elected speaker), George M. Case, of Fulton, and
De Witt C. Peck, of Mexico, 1877.

Siq^erinteiidents and Commissiuners of Schools. — By a
law passed in the spring of 1843, each board of supervisors
was authorized to appoint one or two county superintend-
ents of schools. Dr. Otis W. Randall, of Granby, was
appointed fur the western district of Oswego, and D. P.
Tallmage, of Pulaski, fur the eastern. In 1845 the districts
were consolidated, and Randall was re-appointed. Resigned,



and Baker, of Orwoll, appointed. Law repealed in

1847.

By a law passed in the spring of 1856 the office of com-
missioner of common schools was created. The first incum-
bents were to be appointed by the supervisors, and to hold
till December 31, 1857, when commissioners were to be
elected by the people for terms of three years. That part
of Oswego County outside the city was divided into two
districts, the first comprising Oswego town, Hannibal,
Granby, Scriba, Volney, Schroeppel, Palermo, New Haven,
and Hastings ; the second comprising the rest of the
county.

Rev. Theodore M. Bishop, of Fulton, was appointed the
first commissioner of the first district. He resigned the
last of 1856, and John A. Place, of Fulton, was appointed,
holding during 1857. Hiram W. Loomis, of Palermo, was
elected in the fall of 1857, entering on the office January
1, 1858.

James W. Fenton, of Pulaski, was appointed the first
commissioner of the second district. George F. Woodbury,
of Orwell, was elected in the autumn of 1857, entering on
the office January 1, 1858.

In the autumn of 1858 the supervisors re-organized the
county into three districts: Oswego town, Hannibal, Gran-
by, Scriba, Volney, and New Haven, comprising the first
district ; Schroeppel, Palermo. Hastings, West Monroe,
Constantia, Amboy, and Parish, the second ; and tlie rest
of the county the third. This threw Mr. Loomis into the
second district, of which he continued to act as commis-
sioner, Mr. Woodbury remaining in charge of the third.
John A. Place was appointed commissioner of the first dis-
trict, holding under the appointment till January 1, 1860.
In the fall of 1859 he was elected to serve out the remain-
der of the term, which was held to expire with the others,
Decembers], 1860, and was then re-elected. Since then
the districts have remained the same, and the commissioners
have succeeded each other with more regularity than before.
They have been as follows, with times of entering on office :

First District. — John A. Place, of Fulton, January 1,
1861. James W. Parkhurst, of Scriba, January 1, 1864.
After serving a short time, Mr. Parkhurst resigned, and
went into the army. Lemuel P. Storms, of Fulton, elected,
and served remainder of term. David D. Metcalf, of Han-
nibal, January 1, 1867 ; re-elected. Isaac W. Marsh, of
Granby, January 1, 1873. Robert Simpson, Jr., of Han-
nibal, January 1, 1876.

Second District. — Elias A. Fish, of Schroeppel, January
1, 1861. Resigned, after serving about a year, and went
into the army. Willis G. Chaffee, of Palermo, served re-
mainder of term. Newton W. Nutting, of Parish, Janu-
ary 1, 1864. Amos J. Richardson, of Palermo, January
1 , 1867. Byron G. Clapp, of Schroeppel, January 1, 1870.
William B. Howard, of Schroeppel, January 1, 1873.
Fowler H. Bony, of Amboy, January 1, 1876.

Third District. — George F. Woodbury, re-elected, enter-
ing on second term, January 1, 1861. William S. Goodell,
of Mexico, January 1, 1864. Orville A. Fobes, of Pulaski,
January 1, 1867. George F. Woodbury, of Orwell, Janu-
ary 1, 1870. John W. Ladd, of Mexico, January 1, 1873.
Ro-elocted.



OSWEGO CITY.



The early history of the military post at Oswego was so
closely interwoven with that of the northern frontier that
it has been given at full length in the general history of the
county. The history of modern Oswego begins with the
surrender of Fort Ontario by the British, which occurred
on the 14th day of July, 1796. John Love and Ziba
Phillips were either here when the British left or came im-
mediately afterwards. Little is known of them, except that
they were engaged in the Indian trade. Phillips left in a
short time, but an individual named John Love was here
six years later. He was evidently an obscure person, how-
ever, as no mention is made of him by the early settlers,
except in a single instance.

"~In this year (1796) that part of the present city east of
Oswego river was in the town of Mexico, Herkimer county,
while the portion west of the river was in the town of Lysan-
der, Onondaga county. The main parts of the city on both
sides of the river were in the State reservation, intended to
be a mile square, which had been provided for by law while
the place was still in the hands of the British. The outer
portion on the west side was in the survey-township of Han-
nibal, of the Military tract (the political town of Hannibal
was not yet in existence), while the similar portion on the
east side was in the two survey-townships of Fredericks-
burg and Oswego, of Scriba's patent. The distinction be-
tween survey-townships and political towns must be con-
stantly kept in mind by any one who wishes to have a clear
idea of the changes of those early days.

That same season Neil McMullin, a merchant, of Kings-
ton, New York, determined to take up his abode at Oswego,
where he had previously been on business. Anxious to
provide for his family comfortably, he had the frame of a
small house constructed at Kingston, and brought it through,
with his family, over the long, tedious route by way of the
Mohawk river. Wood creek, Oneida lake, and Oswego river,
so often traversed by English soldiers and Dutch fur-traders.
On their arrival the house was erected on the west side,
near the river-bank, in the centre of the ground afterwards
occupied by Seneca street. This was the first framed house
in the place, and McMuUin's was the first family here, after
the military occupation ceased, of which there is any
account, though Phillips or Love may possibly have had
one. Mr. McMullin opened a trade with the Indians,
which was the only mercantile business possible here at
that time.

That same season came Captain Edward O'Connor, an
Irishman of good education and pleasiiii; ijiuiincrs, who had
fought for freedom during the Ilrvnliirhm, :iiiil had fol
lowed the leadership of "Willett in tlic desprrate attempt to
surju-isc Oswego in the winter of 17S3 (desciibed in the
13(j



general history). He and his family occupied a log house
at first, but, being fearful of the terrible winters which pre-
vailed here, removed them to the little settlement at Salt
Point, now Syracuse, to remain during the cold weather.
His daughter, afterwards Mrs. Alvin Bronson, was born
there in the early part of 1797. It is probable the captain
taught school at Salt Point that winter, as he certainly did
in subsequent years. If Mr. MoMullin's femily remained
at Oswego, which is not certain, they must have been sub-
stantially alone.

At the session of the legislature in 1797 an act was
passed directing the surveyor-general to lay out a hundred
acres on the west side of the Oswego river at its mouth, so
as to form a public square or market-place at the most
convenient point. Lots for public buildings were to be
reserved on the square. House lots to be sixty-six feet
front by two hundred feet deep. The principal streets
were to be a hundred feet wide, and cross-streets sixty, and
a map of the survey was to be deposited in t he surveyor-
general's ofiice. The lots were directed to be sold at auction,
but the governor was authorized to reserve for public pur-
poses any that he saw fit. It was further enacted that the
town so laid out should be " called forever thereafter by the
name of Oswego."

The locality was spoken of in the law as being in the
town of Lysander and county of Onondaga. That part of
the present city on the east side of the river, it will be re-
membered by the reader of the general history, was then
in the town of Mexico and county of Herkimer.

The now village was laid out, in accordance with the
law, during the summer of 1797, under the direction of
Surveyor-General Simeon De Witt, by Benjamin Wright,
the surveyor of Scriba's patent. The plat ran from the river
west nearly to the line of Military lot No. 6, now known as
the Van Buren tract, and from the lake southward to the
neighborhood of Oneida street. The streets running north and
south were named — as now — "First," "Second," "Third,"
" Fourth," etc., but those running east and west received
entirely different appellations from those they now bear.
Surveyor-General De Witt was as classical in regard to
Oswego's streets as he or the land-commissioners had been
respecting the townships of the Military tract, and the
constellations of the heavens were utilized as freely as the
heroes of Greece and Rome had been. Only nine streets
were named at the time in question, but the number of
appellations taken from the celestial sphere was afterwards
increased to fifteen. To promote the clearness of subse-
quent history we will give the wliole number here.

The northernmost street laid out in 1797 was Aquila, a
very short one, which was nearly an eastward extension of



nrSTORY OF OSWKGO COUNTY, NEW YORK.



Bronson street, runnin;;; through to the river, but is now
closed up. As extended to the east side it is now called
Mercer street. On the east side, also, still north of Aquila,
were afterwards laid Auriga street, now De Witt, and Orion
street, now Mereer. Soutli of Aquila street the ancient
and modern names are as follows: Lyra street, now Van
Buren ; Aries street, now Schuyler ; Taurus street, now
Seneca ; Gemini street, now Cayuga ; Cancer street, now
Bridge ; Leo street, now Oneida ; Virgo street, now Mo-
hawk ; Libra street, now Utiea f Scorpio street, now Albany ;
Sagittarius street, now Erie ; Capricornus street, now Ni-
agara ; Aiiuarius street, now Ohio. Certtiinly it was not
Simeon De Witt's fault that Oswego did not become a celes-
tial city.

The two blocks now occupied by the public S((uare were re-
served, in 1797, for that purpose, together with the next one
to the east. The three blocks north of these, — Nos. 8, 9, and
10, — bounded by Third and Sixth streets, and by Taurus
and Aries (now Seneca and Schuyler streets), were reserved
for public buildings, while the ground between Third and
Sixth streets, northward from Aries (Schuyler) to the lake,
— being blocks one to six inclusive, — was set apart for a
cemetery.

The street-lines of the embryo city were marked by
blazed trees, for — except where McMullin and O'Connor had
made little clearings to set their houses — the ground on the
west side as far up as Ohio street was covered with woods.
It was mostly second growth, however, as the original
forest had all been cleared off (except a few scattering trees)
during the early period before 175G, when large garrisons
were stationed on the west side of the river. There was
a similar clearing on the east side, but more recent, it
having been made afber the establishment of Fort Ontario,
in 1755. On that side, too, a large tract in the vicinity of
the fort Iiad been entirely cleared, and had been used as
garden and grass-ground from the advent of " Duncan of
Lundie" in 1760. There were numerous oaks, maples, etc.,
on both sides, but the principal growth was of chests
nuts.

If any new settlers came to Oswego in 1797, their
names have escaped record. There were five or six more
families came between that year and 1802, but the precise
time of their respective arrivals is unknown. It is pre-
sumed, however, that two or three of them came in 1797
or the spring of 1798, for long ago the oldest inhabitants
used to assert that in 1798 Miss Artemisia Waterhouse, of
Fulton (afterwards Mi-s. Ichabod Brockett, of Salina),
taught the first school in Oswego. It is needless to say
that it was in a private house, and it could hardly have
numbered over a dozen children. It is not pretended that
there were but five families in the " district," and probably
one of these was that of Asa Rice, who had settled three
miles west of Oswego in 1797.

In 1798 Oneida county was formed from Herkimer, and
the east part of Oswego became a portion of the former
county.

The next year the collection district of Oswego was

formed by Congress, embracing all the shores and waters

of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, from the forty -fifth

parallel to the Genesee river, and the president was author-

10



izcd to establish a cu.stom-hou.se and appoint a collector.
For several years, however, it w;is not supposed that the
duties would repay the expense of collecting tliem, and tlio
whole frontier was left, unguarded. Absolute " free-trade"'
prevailed. A few furs, however, and a little grain for tlic
use of the pioneers, was alt that Wiis imported from Canada.
There was plenty of lumber on this side then.

The principal business of the little port was cau.sed by
the pa.s.sage of emigrants, military stoi-es, salt, and Indian
goods to the west, and the bringing back of furs from the
same locality. Westward-bound stores were brought from
Rome through the Oneida lake and Oswego river; and
often they were sent west in open sail-boats.

Peter Sharpe and ^Villiam Vaughan came at a very early
date, probably about 1798 or 1799. Sharpe kept a small
tavern for the accommodation of travelers and. boatmen,
and stored goods detained on their pa&sage. Sharpe and
Vaughan soon became the owners of a little schooner of
about fifty tons' burden ; from the indefinite accounts
handed down we should infer that it was not built here,
but purchased from the Canadians. This was used in the
modest commerce before mentioned.

In the spring of 1800, Archibald Fairfield, who had been
a resident of Scriba's city of Vera Cruz, at the mouth of
Salmon creek, discouraged by the loss of the only Vera
Cruz vessel the year before, and by the general depressing
appearance in that ambitious locality, moved to Oswego
with his family, built lum a hou.se, and went to keeping
tavern. In tho.se days almost every man kept tavern who
had two rooms in his house, and some landlords got along
with one.

At Fairfield's tavern, in the summer of 1800, stopped
Daniel Burt, of Orange county. New York, the grandfather
of B. B, Burt and E. P. Burt, of this city, having made a
canoe voyage from Kingston, Canada, where he had been
on business. Pleased with the appearance of Oswego, he
determined to make his abode in the vicinity, and on his
way home purchased of one of the Van Rensselaer family,
at Albany, military lot No. 7, now forming the upper part
of the city of Oswego, on the west side.

There was another arrival, in 1800, of the utmost im-
portance, — " a bald-headed stranger from No-Man's-L md."
This was Rankin P. McMullin, the first white child born
in modern Oswego. He, too, liked the country, and con-
cluded to stay.

Whatever education was received by the few children of
that period came from Captain O'Connor, who sometimes
taught school here and sometimes at Salt Point. The lat-
ter place contained the nearest post-office, and was the me-
tropolis to which the inhabitjints of Oswego (which was
the jumping-ofi" place of central New York) made their way
to catch the first glimpses of a doubtful civilization. There
was no road between the two places piLSsable by a wagon or
even by a sled, — in fact, there was no road to Oswego at
all. In summer every one traveled by boats ; in winter
there was no communication between the infant city and
the outer world, save when some adventurous Oswegonian
j made his way on snow-shoes to Salt Point, learned the news
I from Europe, Asia, and America, obtained the letters ad-
: dressed to his neighbors, loaded himself with a demijohn of



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUNTY, NEW YORK.



whisky, if that article had become scant in Oswego, and
returned the same way he went.

But in summer business was even then quite lively.
Archibald Fairfield soon procured two schooners of about
a hundred tons each, presumably by purchase in Canada,
bringing the Oswego fleet up to the number of three.
With these he engaged in forwarding goods and stores to
the Niagara, whence they were taken up the lakes. Cap-
tain Easmussen and Captain Ford, both masters of vessels
on the lake, came about this time, but the exact year is
unknown.

In May, 1802, we come to the first definite information
regarding the progress of Oswego since its foundation. Al-
though informed by McMullin that he would starve there,
Daniel Burt had not given up the idea of settling at Os-
wego. His sons, Calvin Bradner Burt and Joel Burt, went
to Ovid, Seneca county, in the fall of 1801, and the next
year, in company with a young lawyer named Baird, they
made their way down Cayuga lake and Seneca and Oswego
rivers in a skiff to Oswego, and took up their quarters at
Peter Sharpe's tavern. At that time, as stated by Mr.
Bradner Burt in his reminiscences, published long after-
wards, there were but six families living in Oswego, — those
of Peter Sharpe, Archibald Fairfield, John Love, Edward
O'Connor, Augustus Ford, and Captain Easmussen. Wil-
liam Vanghan was still utimarried, and McMullin's family
was perhaps temporarily absent. There were also a few
unmarried lake-sailors and river-boatmen who made their
headquarters here. There were no stores, but at least two
taverns.

Young lawyer Baird thought there was not much of an
opening here for legal talent, and left. Joel Burt also went
back to Orange county for the season. After a short ab-
sence Bradner Burt returned in September, and began the
erection of the first saw-mill in Oswego. It was on the site
of the " old red mill," and nearly on that of the present
. Exchange mills. When the timbers were ready young
Burt sent out to Rice's and up to Oswego Falls to invite
help, and all responded with great willingness. But when
every man within reachable distance was mustered, there
were but twelve, and it was only by the most strenuous ex-
ertions and the use of tackles that they were able to get
the timbers into place. After the mill was finished Mr.
Burt again returned to Orange county.

That same year Matthew McNair, a native of Paisley,
Scotland, made his way to Oswego and began a residence
there which terminated only with his death in extreme old
age. He has stated that but two of the few residences he
found here in 1802 were frames. Besides these there was
a warehouse built here that same season by Benajah Bying-
ton, of Salt Point.

Early in the spring of 1803 young Bradner Burt made
his way to Rome, and thence on foot to Oswego, stopping
in Mexico to dance all night in a house where the young
men had to bow low to escape the joists which supported
the chamber floor. When he arrived at Fort Ontario he
found the whole garrison out under arms. It consisted of
a sergeant and two men. Proceeding to the river-bank, he
called for a boat to take him across. One was immediately
sent, and while it was crossing the whole iiopukitiun of the



city, men, women, and children, turned out and came down
to the west bank of the river to welcome him. If he had
been the long-lost brother of every one of them, with straw-
berry-marks all over him, he could not have been more
warmly greeted. Eager hands were stretched out to him
from every side the moment he touched the shore, and
happiness beamed on every countenance.

And why this excess of joy over the return of a com-
parative stranger, not related to any of the citizens ? Sim-
ply because he was the first arrival of the season. For four
months, more or less, Oswego had been snow-bound and
ice-tied, its people shut out from the sight of all faces but
their own, which were but few in number (even including
the gallant garrison of Fort Ontario), and the first arrival of
a man, proving as it did that spring had really opened, was
a subject of more excitement than was the first arrival of
a steamer in the palmiest days of steamboating.

Meanwhile his father, Daniel Burt, through his acquaint-
ance with the Orange county governor, George Clinton, had
obtained a lease from the State of a hundred acres of land,
extending from the river eastward, so as to include all the
cleared ground around the fort. The lease was for ten
years, at ten dol'ars per year. He moved to Oswego in the
summer of 1803 with his sons Joel, George W., and
Daniel, Jr. His son William soon after moved to Scriba.
Daniel Burt, Sr., leaving his own land unimproved for the
present, built a log house on his leased ground directly
opposite Taurus street, and in the centre of what is now
East Seneca street. This was the first building, not con-
nected with the fort, on the east side of the river. Having
received a charter from the legislature, Mr. Burt estab-
lished the first regular ferry in Oswego, on the present line
of Seneca street.

By this time it had been discovered at Washington that
a port called Oswego, on Lake Ontario, was doing con-
siderable business, and the president determined to estab-
lish a custom-house there, as authorized by act of Congress.
It was doubtless on the recommendation of Governor Clin-
ton that Joel Burt was selected as the collector of the new
port. His commission was dated August 1, 1803. He
was certainly the first United States civil ofiicer at Oswego,
and so far as we can learn he was the first civil officer of
any kind. There is neither record nor tradition of even a
constable previous to that time.

Perhaps it was supposed that the now collector would be
sufficient to guard the entrance to Oswego ; at all events
the sergeant, with his army of two men, was withdrawn
this year, and Fort Ontario, so long the object of intense
solicitude to rival nations, was left to fall into ignoble
decay.

Mr. McNair, whose arrival the year before has been
mentioned, purchased the old schooner " Jane," of Sharpe &
Vaughan, and went into the forwarding business. Fairfield
still continued his transactions in that line. Numerous
boats came down the river. Burt's saw-mill gave, promise
of frame houses instead of log, and Oswego began to look
up. Still there was not a house north of Cancer (now
Bridge) street.

In 180-t the progress was suflicient so that it was de-
termined to have a land communication with the outer



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUxVTY, NEW YORK.



139



world. C. B. Burt was chosen path-master, and uiiJor his
direction a road was cut through as far as the falls.

This good example was quickly followed. That same
season a man named King came from the settlement in
Cato, ill the present county of Cayuga, and on the part of
himself and three neighbors offered to open a road from that
settlement to Oswego for forty dollars, being ten dollars for
each man engaged. The "solid men" of Oswego de-
termined to have the road. Forty dollars in cash was a
big sum here in those primitive times, but after much
financiering the required sum was subscribed by responsible
parties, and King began the work. It was no slight task,
the ten dollare per man Wiis well earned ; but in time the
road was completed, and when the midsummer sun was
shining most brightly King and his companions, seated on
an ox-.sled, rode triumphantly into Oswego, amid the cheers
and congratulations of the people. It was very cheap road-
making, but it should be remembered that " opening a road"
in those days meant merely cutting out the underbrush,
logs, and small trees from a space perhaps a rod wide,
making a track barely passable for an ox-sled or cart.

Captain O'Connor taught school in 1802, the first in the



Online LibraryCrisfield. cn Johnson... History of Oswego County, New York → online text (page 35 of 120)