Daniel E Wager.

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Glass ii_ ;

Book ,V 3



WHITESBORO'S GOLDEN AGE.



4^



BY D. E. WAGER,




[The following series of papers were prepared for, and most of
them read before the Oneida Historical Society in 1881 and 1882.
The first paper was read December 7, 1S81.]

In 1705 the colonial authorities of Xew York, with the approval
of the sovereign of Great Britain, granted to five persons some
30,000 acres of land, now known as the " Oriskany patent." The
boundaries of that patent commence at the junction of Oriskany
creek with Mohawk river, (where the present village of Oriskany
is), and extend up the creek four miles, for a distance of two miles
on each side of that stream; also, for a distance of two miles on
each side of Mohawk river and up that stream far enough to
include the present city of Koine. That was the first patent
granted of lands in what is now Oneida county.

The second grant of lands in this county, by the same
authorities, was made in 1734, and known as " Cosby's manor,"

The Village of Whitesborough was incorporated under that name by an Act of
the Legislature passed March :?t;, 1813. The official name of its Post Office is still
Whitestown. Whitesboro has long been the popular name of both. By an Act of the
Legislature passed June 14, iSSi, the corporate name of the village was changed to
Whitesboro. For the above engraving of its seal (representing the wrestling match
between the pioneer settler and an Oneida chief,) we ai-e indebted to the courtesy of
Mrs. B. W. Wliitcher, the authoress of "A Few Stray Leaves in the History of
Whitesboro," published May 31, 1884.






66 WHITESBORO'S GOLDEN AGE.

the western boundary of which was at the point where Sauquoit
creek empties into the Mohawk river, at or near what is now the
village of Whitesboro.

A glance at the map of Oneida county will show, that between
the above two tracts of land, is a strip about two miles wide and
six miles in length, and on both sides of Sauquoit creek and
Mohawk river. There are about 6,000 acres of land in that strip
of territory, and in 1736, the above authorities granted that parcel
to Frederick Morris and twelve others, under the name of the
" Sadachqueda patent ; " it has been sometimes called and known
as the " Morris tract." At the breaking out of the Revolutionary
war, Hugh Wallace was the owner of that patent. He had been
from 1769 .to 1775 a member of the New York Legislative Council,
and by reason of his adherence to the crown, the New York
Legislature in October, 1779, passed an act confiscating his
property, forfeiting it to the State, and ordering the Sadequada
patent to be sold. In January, 1784, that tract was so sold, and
John Taylor, Zephaniah Piatt, Hugh White and others became the
purchasers.

By an arrangement between the owners, they were to meet on
the patent in the summer of 1784, survey it out, make a partition
and divide the lands among themselves.

In pursuance of this plan, and for the further purpose of becom-
ing a permanent settler in the then remote wilderness, Hugh
White, in May, 1784, left his old home in Middletown, Connecticut,
accompanied by three sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law, and
proceeded by water to Albany, where they were joined by another
son who had gone overland with two yokes of oxen. From
Albany the party went by land to Schenectady, and there a
batteau was purchased, and while the family and their goods
went up the Mohawk by boat, the oxen were driven along the
road and Indian trail, and kept even pace by land.

Not far from May 20th, 1784, the party reached a place on the
south side of Mohawk river, a few miles east of what is now Utica,
known as " Shoemaker's." The charred remains of burned build-
ings and the desolated and deserted, but once cultivated fields,
told a sad, but eloquent tale of the ravages which the war of the
Revolution had made. With a commendable foresight the party
stopped there long enough to plant one of the unoccupied fields,
to corn. They then resumed their journey and reached their place
of destination on Sauquoit creek, and at what is now the village of
Whitesboro, on the 5th day of Juue, 1784. A temporary bark



HUGH WHITE, THE PIONEER. 67

shanty was erected for that summer's use, and until .a more sub-
stantial structure could be built. Soon after a log house was
erected about quarter to half of a mile westerly of Sauquoit creek,
on a rise of ground which formed the west bank of the valley of
that stream, and about half a dozen rods southerly of what is now
Main street in that village. It was at that house that Lafayette
stopped and shared the hospitalities of Hugh White in the fall of
that year, during his attendance at the treaty with the Indians
held at Fort Stanwix. In the partition of that patent Mr. White
acquired title to about 1,500 acres, and his possessions embraced
the site of Whitesboro and extended southerly to the south
bounds of the tract.

During the season of 1784, Mr. White and his sons cleared off
about four acres of land by chopping down the trees, but not by
piling and burning them as now, but by rolling the logs off the
embankment east of his house, and upon the low lands between it
and Sauquoit creek. That clearing included the present " village
green," the sites which were subsequently those of the court house
and jail, and adjacent lands. In due tims the male members of
that family hoed and harvested the field of corn, which they had
planted at " Shoemaker's " the May before, and that crop did
good service for the next winter's supply of food and fodder.

In January, 1785, Hugh White returned to Connecticut for the
rest of his family, and at once brought them to his new settlement
on the banks of the Sauquoit. The family then consisted in all of
fifteen persons, viz. : five sons, (two of them married,) three
daughters, two daughters-in-law, and three grand children. Those
were the pioneer settlers subsequent to the revolution, and then
the only white settlement in the State west of what is now the
village of Herkimer, formerly " Fort Dayton."

Old Montgomery County.

At that period of time, that settlement was in Montgomery
county, which county then included all of the State west of the
county of Albany. That county was divided into " districts,"
not into towns as now. The "German Flatts district" then
included part of what is now Herkimer county, and thence to the
northern, southern, and western boundaries of the State.

On the 7th of March, 1788, Montgomery county was organized
into towns, and all that part of the State west of a north and south
line drawn aci'oss the State, passing through Genesee street in Utica,
was formed into the "Town of Whites Town." The territory



68 WHITESBOEO'S GOLDEN AGE.

embraced *in this town included about half the State, with a
population, perhaps, of less than 200. The first town meeting was
held at the tavern of D. C. White, in Whitesboro, son of Hugh
White, April 6, 1789. The first general election held in the town
in 1791, commenced at Cayuga bridge, then adjourned to Manlius,
thence to Fort Stanwix, and closed up at Whitesboro.

Old Herkimer County.

In February, 1791, Herkimer was carved out of Montgomery
county, and extended west to Ontario county, which had
been taken off in 1789. By this act of 1791 it was provided
that the courts of common pleas and of general sessions for
Herkimer county, "should be held at the church in the town
of Herkimer." The church thus alluded to then occupied the
present site of the Dutch Reformed church in that village, on the
corner diagonally across the street from the present court house.
But two terms in each year were provided for by said act, and
those terms to commence on Tuesday and end the Saturday
following. The judges and justices of these courts and the
supervisors of the several towns in Herkimer county were
authorized to select the site, and the latter to raise money to
erect a court house and jail. The site selected is the present one
in Herkimer village, and the jail was placed in the story under-
neath the court house. Henry Staring, a plain Dutch farmer, but
of much native ability and good strong sense, and who had
rendered valuable service, and endured great suffering for his
country, was appointed first judge. Jedediah Sanger, of New
Hartford, Hugh White and Amos Wetmore, of Yfhitesboro, were
made side judges. William Colbrath, of Fort Stanwix, was
appointed sheriff, and Jonas Piatt, of Whitesboro, county clerk.
Work was soon commenced on the court house and jail, and an
act was passed in January, 1793, authorizing the supervisors to
raise £1,000 to defray the expenses ' already incurred in the
erection of those buildings; by the same act the courts above
mentioned w r erc authorized to alternate " between the court house
in the town of Herkimer, and such place in the town of Whites-
town as said courts should order to be entered in their minutes ; "
and the sheriff was ordered to remove all the Herkimer county
prisoners to the jail in that county from Montgomery county, on
or before March, 1793. In pursuance of above act the January
term of the court was held in 1794 in an unfinished "meeting



HERKIMER COUNTY COURTS. 69

house," iri what is now New Hartford, at which Judge Stalling
presided. That was the first court of record held within the
limits of Oneida county, and was the same court where Sheriff
Colbrath passed up to the judge a jug of gin as the court was
about to adjourn for the day, in consequence of the absence of
fire and the intense cold in the building. As that story has been
so often told and so many times published, it need not be repeated
here. In March, 1 79r> 7 a law was passed authorizing the super-
visors of Herkimer county to raise $720 to complete the court
house and jail, and iri March, 1797, they were further empowered
to raise all funds necessary for that purpose.

While Jonas Piatt was county clerk of Herkimer county, he
kept the county cleric's office at Whitesboro, but when Oneida
county was taken off in 1798, the Herkimer county clerk's office
was ordered to be located at Herkimer. In 1804, that clerk's
office was destroyed by fire, and with it, about all of the valuable
books, records and papers.

Not long since I examined the clerk's office at Herkimer to
gather material for this sketch; but that fire of 1804 had made
sad havoc with the early records. In a dry goods box, promis-
cuously stowed away, were "declarations," "Afan*," and other
pleadings and legal proceedings, with the names of E. Clark, T.
R. Gold, Jonas Piatt and J. Kirkland, early members of the bar
in this locality when it was. part of Herkimer county, endorsed on
such papers, but so bedimmed by time and damaged by fire as to
make it extremely difficult to gather much information therefrom.
I was able, however, to ascertain from scraps and fragments of
scorched and half burned court calendars, minutes of the courts
and other legal documents, that prior to 1794, the Herkimer courts
were held in what is now the village of Herkimer ; and that from
and after the January term of the Common Pleas in 1794 (which
term was held at New Hartford) until Oneida county was taken
off in 1798, the county courts of Herkimer alternated between
Herkimer village and "the school house near Hugh White's in
Whitestown." That school house stood on the north-easterly side
of what is now Main street in Whitesboro, and was the site
subsequently occupied by the Academy, and now by the residence
of Hon. C. M. Dennison.

In January, 1795, at a term of the Common Pl?as held at the
court house in Herkimer, a vote was taken by the judges and
justices present, as to the place in Whitestown the next June term
should be held, and the votes, as entered on the minutes of the



70

court, stood eleven for " the school house near Hugh White's," and
two votes for " the meeting house near Jedediah Sanger." Those
two votes were James Dean and James Steele. I did not find any-
other vote entered in detail upon the minutes, as to where the
courts should be held. The June term of 1795, and the September
and October terms of 1796 and 1797 and the January term of 1798
were held at said school house. The fact that the county clerk's
office of Herkimer county, for the first seven years after that
county was organized, was kept at Whitesboro, and was so kept
for eighteen years alter Oneida county was formed, and that the
county courts were held there half the time, had much to do in
attracting thither, at that early period, leading lawyers and
prominent citizens and in giving to that village a start and
prominence in the early history of the county.

Oneida County.

In March, 1798, Oneida county was formed, and its boundaries
then extended to the north and south bounds of the State, and
as far west as Onondaga county. By that act courts were
directed to be held "at the school house near Fort Stanwix,"
which school house then stood in the southeast corner of the
west park in Rome. A court house when built, was ordered
by said act organizing the county, to be located within one mile
of the fort. Jedediah Sanger was appointed first judge, Hugh
White and three others, side judges. William Colbrath, who had
been the first sheriff of Herkimer county, was made the first
sheriff of Oneida, and Jonas Piatt, who had been first county clerk
of Herkimer county, was made the first county clerk of Oneida.
Dominick Lynch, a large land-holder in Rome, donated to the
county, May 21, 1800, for the purposes of court house and jail, the
present site occupied by those edifices. In March, 1801, an act
was passed providing for the keeping of Oneida county prisoners
in the Herkimer county jail, but to be removed therefrom to
Oneida county, as soon as the sheriff of the latter county should
deem the jail directed to be built in Oneida county sufficiently
finished for the safe keeping of prisoners. In April, 1801, Thomas
Jenkins and H. L. Hosmer, of Hudson, and John Thompson, of
Stillwater, and Derick Lane of Troy, were appointed commissioners
to locate the court house and jail in Oneida County, and they
selected the site which Mr. Lynch had deeded to the county. The
Whitesboro people then made an effort to make that locality ;i
half shire town of the county; for at that time Utica was quite an



THE COUNTY BUILDINGS. 71

insignificant place and the leading men of the county were located
at Whitesboro. In September, 1801, Hugh White deeded to the
county over an acre of ground in Whitesboro to belong to the
county, so long as it was used for purposes of court house and jail, but
to revert to him or his heirs, when not so used. At a term of the
Common Pleas held at the school house in Rome, in December, 1801,
Sheriff Brodhead reported that the jail at Whitesboro was
sufficiently completed for the safe-keeping of prisoners, and the
court ordered the Oneida couuty prisoners in jail at Herkimer to
be removed to the jail at Whitesboro in January, 1802. In
February, 1802, the supervisors of Oneida County were authorized
to raise the further sum of $539 to complete the jail (without
mentioning which jail), and in February, 1803, they were further
empowered to raise $500 to complete the jail at Whitesboro, and
in April of the same year courts were authorized to be held
alternately at Rome and Whitesboro, and the commissioners who
had been authorized to erect the Rome jail were empowered by
that act to go on and " cause the doors of the jail lately built at
Rome to be made and completed." In April, 1806, the legislature
authorized the supervisors of Oneida County to raise $4,000 to
erect two court houses, the one near the jail at Rome and the
other near the jail at Whitesboro, and those two court houses, both
made of brick, were soon after built on the sites which had been
donated to the county. The Rome court house was burned in
1847, but the Whitesboro building yet stands, probably the oldest
one in the State yet standing, erected for a court house.

In delving among the session laws of the last century, to find
laws relative to the holding of courts, I found the following law,
passed in February, 1788, the same session Whitestown was
formed, which may be curious and of interest at the present day,
as showing how carefully the bench was then guarded, right after
the Revolution, lest some wealthy and influential outsider should
sit thereon, and by his presence overawe judges and perhaps
thwart or prevent justice. The act reads : " No person, little or
great, shall sit upon the bench with the judges during their
session, upon pain of fine and imprisonment; and said judges are
charged that they do not suffer any person to sit with them on the
bench in their session contrary to the intent of this act."

This preliminary sketch relative to the patents, to the organiza-
tion of counties and towns, to the designation of county seats,
and the erection of court houses and jails, and the holding of
courts, seemed to be necessary for a better understanding of



72 WHITESBORO'S GOLDEN AGE.

some of the causes which gave to Whitesboro its start and
importance in the early history of the county, and contributed to
make it the abode of so many influential persons, so many
learned and able lawyers, and so many prominent politicians and
citizens. I have named the pioneer settler. He was a person of
resolute will, great force of character, full of energy and enterprise,
and with a clear and discerning mind. The fact that Hugh White,
at the age of fifty-one years, with a large family, should break
away from early associations and pleasant surroundings, and
become a pioneer in such a remote wilderness as this part of the
State then was, indicates pretty clearly the character of the man,
and that he was a person of far-reaching sagacity to be able to
discern what this section was destined to become. He at once set
to work to improve and build up the neighborhood, to cause it to
be the place for holding courts, and in various ways to make it
attractive, so as to induce its settlement by the best class of
citizens from his own State, as well as from other localities. The
lawyers who early locateel in Whitesboro, were college bred and
learned in the law, and the other citizens were generally persons of
mark, and of more than ordinary prominence and ability. The
ladies, too, who composed the families of those early settlers, were
as a rule, educated and refined, and, of course, gave grace, culture
and dignity to the circle in which they moved. In many respects
the villages of Whitesboro and Canandaigua seem much alike.
Both were small places. While Whitesboro had her Whites, Gold,
Sill, Piatt, Storrs and Breese, Canandaigua had her Grangers,
Wadsworth, Spencer, Porter, Sibley, Phelps and Gregg, men of
distinction and large influence in the State.

In March, 1790, Congress passed a law for taking a census of
the inhabitants of the United States. Under that law the first
enumeration of the people was made after the revolution, and
from it, it appeared that there were in what is now Rome, in that
year, some three or four families, and in what is now Utica, about
fifteen families and one hundred persons. Whitesboro had
twenty families and some one hundred and thirty inhabitants.
Of this number sixty-one were males over sixteen years of age,
twenty-five males under sixteen, and forty-four females. That
census showed there were six hundred and eighty-nine families
in the town of Whitestown and a total population of one
thousand eight hundred and ninety-one.

These papers are entitled " Whitesboro's Golden Age," and
to show that Whitesboro had a golden age, and is justly entitled



HUGH WHITE AND FAMILY. 73

to that name, and to all that may be said in praise of her prom-
inent and worthy citizens, it will be essential to give a brief
account of some of the persons who resided there, and who con-
tributed to give it prominence and celebrity.

Hugh White axd Family.
i

Hugh White and family occupy so large a place in the history
of this State, that a full sketch of the various members would fill
quite a volume. Even the merest outline will be quite too
lengthy for a paper of this kind. Hugh White was one of the
selectmen of Middletown from 1779 to 1783; he was commissary
in the army during a portion of the Revolutionary war, and he was
a man of means and of position, or he would not have been
associated with such men as joined him in the purchase of
Sadaqueda patent. At the time of his location in Whitesboro,
this part of the State was a wilderness, the woods peopled
with hostile Indians, the nearest white settlement twenty miles
distant, and the nearest mill forty miles, (at Fort Plain). Mr.
White, like Sir William Johnson and Rev. Samuel Kirkland and
Judge James Dean, had the prudence and sagacity to conciliate
and make friends with the Indians. The Oneidas adopted him
into their tribe and he was a general favorite with all. He w T as
one of the judges of the Herkimer Common Pleas when that
county was organized in 1791, and held that office until Oneida
county was formed seven years later, when he was appoiuted
judge of that court for the latter county and held the office until
1804 — fourteen years judge. During his life he placed his sons in
comfortable circumstances about him by giving each a farm,
locating them in relation to his own residence according to the
priority of their ages — the eldest being the nearest, the youngest
the farthest removed.

Judge White was the first settler after the Revolution, who
dared to overleap the German settlements lower down on the
Mohawk, and brave the dangers and the hardships of the western
wilds. He lived to see the territory in which he settled,
named after him as a town, and the vast wilderness, then in-
habited only by savages, turned into cultivated fields and prosperous
villages and become the abode of 300,000 persons, the forests and
the red men replaced by seminaries of learning and temples of
worship, the place where he settled and passed the remaining
twenty-eight years of his life, become the leading village west of
Albany, and the center of as refined and cultured a society, and



74

the home of as influential and intelligent a class of men as any
in the state or nation. He died on the 17th of April, 1812, at
the age of 79 years. His funeral was attended by his numerous
descendants and connections, and by an unusual concourse of the
most aged and respectable inhabitants of the county. The
remains of this pioneer settler repose in a commanding position
in the Whitesboro cemetery, and so long as history shall retain a
memorial of the first settlement Of this country, the name of Hugh
White will be remembered with veneration and respect.

Mr. White had ten children, eight of whom grew to man or
womanhood. Daniel C. White, the eldest of his sens, came (with
his wife and a son then two years old) with his father in 1784 to
settle on the Sadaqueda patent. He kept tavern directly across
the road from his father's residence, on the brow of the hill, or rise
of ground, east of and near the site now occupied by the residence
of Mr. Babbitt, formerly of William Robbing. It was there his
daughter, Esther White, was bom in 1785; the first white child
born in the State after the Revolution, west of the German Flats.
She became in 1810 the wife of Henry R. Storrs. It was at that
tavern the first town meeting was held in town, in April, 1789.
Daniel C, died in 1800, and his widow kept the tavern after his
death. Fortune C. White was another child of Daniel C. White.
He was born at Whitesboro three years after the removal of his
father there, and graduated at Hamilton College, which conferred
on him in 182G, the honorary degree of master of arts. He read
law with his brother-in-law, Henry R. Storrs, and the two
subsequently became partners. In 1828, Mr. White was member
of assembly from this county, and again in 1837. From 1840 to
1845, he was first judge of the Oneida Common Pleas, and was
brigadier general of the New York State Militia. Except a
residence of a few years at Yonkers, he was a resident all of his
life, of the place where he was born. He died at Whitesboro in
1866, at the same age his grandfather, Judge Hugh White, was at
his death.

Joseph White was another son of Judge Hugh White. He and
his wife and his daughter Susan, then three months old, accom-
panied the pioneer settler to Whitesboro, in May, 1784. He was
a farmer and settled on the flats, between his father's residence and
Sauquoit creek, and died in 1827 at the age of sixty-six years.
The daughter Susan, above mentioned, was the one taken to the


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