Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

. (page 100 of 192)
Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 100 of 192)
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selor. He commenced the practice of the law at Water-
ville, in this county, and after a few years removed to the
flourishing village of Hamilton, Madison Co., where he
remained until raised to the bench. It was here that he

developed those traits of mind and character which gave
him such deserved eminence in his profession. The char-
acteristics which led to his success were strength, vigor,
industry, and indefatigable perseverance. He possessed
great acuteness and discrimination, but those traits did not,
as is frequently the case, degenerate into mere ingenuity,
for in him they were regulated by a broad base of common
sense. His temperament was ardent, intense, and vehement
in an eminent degree, and he was capable of sustaining
labor in the preparation of causes beyond that of most men
by reason of robust health. No case of importance came
into his hands which he did not investigate, both as to the
law and the facts, to its utmost depths ; consequently, he
came to trial and argument fully prepared, and was seldom
if ever taken by surprise. His persistence was not less
marked ; for where irresolute or even common minds would
consider themselves vanquished, he had that marked recu-
perative power that enabled him by his elocution, his ardent,
impetuous, and passionate manner, to take the judge and
jurors by storm.

His client's case was his case, and such was his prestige
in the palmiest days of his career that it became a proverb
" that the litigant who secured Mr. Gridley had more than
half won his cause."

Having by his practice in Madison County laid the
foundation for the ample fortune which he eventually
acquired, and having held for several years the office of
district attorney, in July, 1838, he accepted the appoint-
ment of circuit judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, made
vacant by the resignation of Judge Denio, and the next
year he removed with his family to this city, where he
afterwards resided. Under the constitution of 1846, Judge
Gridley was elected one of thirty-two judges comprising
the Supreme Court of the State. The terms of those first
elected were fixed by lot, and he was then assigned to serve
six years, at the expiration of which he ceased to hold any
public office. It was during the last mentioned term of
service that he was attacked by the disease which saddened
all the remainder of his life, and finally brought it to a

By the laws of the State he was obliged to serve the last
year but one as one of the judges of the Court of Appeals,
and he entered upon that duty at the commencement of the
year 1852. At the close of his career as judge he entered
upon the practice of his profession, which finally, on account
of continued ill health, he was obliged to leave. His quick-
ness of perception, his thorough knowledge of the law, and
great experience, rendered it a pleasure to address him upon
legal questions. Judge Gridley was entirely independent
of all popular or extraneous influences in the decision of
questions and cases.

An instance exemplifying this occurred during the Pat-
riot war. He found, upon opening the court of Oyer and
Terminer at Watertown, a large number of persons in jail
awaiting trial on indictments for violation of our neutrality
law. The district attorney was not prepared with his wit-
nesses, and showed good cause for retaining the prisoners
until the ensuing term. But the community had become
greatly excited against the prosecution and in favor of the
alleged offenders, and the most inflammatory appeals were



made to the judge on the injustice of retaining them in
prison. An attempt at rescue by force was apprehended.

Judge Gridley was not to be moved. In a calm and
dignified address he explained the law, the duties of the
officers of justice, and declared the determination of the
court at all hazards to hold the prisoners until a fair and
proper trial could be had. This resolute conduct had the
effect to allay the storm.

But Judge Gridley's name ultimately became honorably
associated with the Patriot war in a much more conspicuous
manner, and so as to fix upon him for a time the eyes of
both Europe and America.

presiding judge addressed himself solely to the discharge
of the duty which the law devolved upon the court, — the
ascertainment of the legal guilt or innocence of the pris-
oner. His firm and impartial demeanor, and his able
discharge of his arduous and delicate duties on this occa-
sion, merited and received the highest encomiums in this
country and abroad.

It will strikingly illustrate how completely he had ab-
stracted his mind on this occasion from all extraneous con-
siderations to state that as soon as the jury had retired the
judge calmly took up the calender, and called a civil cause
for trial.

Photo, by WilliamB.

He was the judge who presided at the trial of Alexander
McLeod, upon the issue of which was supposed to depend
the question of a war with England, which apparently
would be averted should it result in a conviction only by a
collision between the State and National governments. On
account of public feeling on the frontier, in Niagara County,
where McLeod was indicted for murder, the Supreme Court
sent the cause to Oneida County for trial. The progress of
the trial was watched with the utmost attention at home
and abroad. Ignoring entirely on the one hand the excite-
ment of a certain class of the people who were clamoring
for the blood of McLeod, and on the other the grave polit-
ical questions to which a conviction would give rise, the

Judge Gridley's acquaintance with books was extensive,
especially for one so exclusively devoted to a single pursuit,
and his relish for literary criticism and historical and scien-
tific researches was marked.

In the year 1826 he married Miss Susan, eldest daugh-
ter' of Colonel John Williams, of Waterville, Oneida
Co., an estimable lady, who has been the ornament and
solace of his domestic life. She was born June 3, 1804,
and survives in 1878.

Their children are, Catherine, died at the age of sixteen ;
Charlotte, wife of Montgomery H. Throop ; Cornelia, wife
of Enos T. Throop, of New York ; Caroline ; and Mary,
wife of Stephen Sicard, of Utioa, New York.








The original Town of Rome — The Village of Rome — Rome City.

The region around the site of Fort Stanwix abounds in
rich and varied historic lore, and at this day much that
could have been gathered years ago is forgotten, and the
task of compiling a truthful history of the locality is
one attended with many disappointments and an immense
amount of labor. Through the efforts of various local
writers, however, and especially those of D. E. Wager,
Esq., of Rome, many chapters have been published in the
columns of the local press, which are worthy of preserva-
tion, and from these we have culled largely,-using also all
records which were attainable, and receiving much informa-
tion from the descendants of various families which located
here at an early day. This chapter will treat more partic-
ularly of the local history of the town, village, and city of
Rome ; and in the general history of the county, in another
part of this volume, wiU be found accurate accounts of the
movements of the various English, French, American, and
Indian forces which contested for supremacy where now is
a flourishing city, and up and down the beautiftd

" Vale where the Mohawk gently glides
Op its clear winding way to the sea."

On the 10th of April, 1792, the town of Steuben was
created from a portion of Whitestown, and included in its
limits what is now Rome. The first town-meeting for
Steuben was held at the house of Seth Ranney, " near
Fort Stanwix," on the first Tuesday in April, 1793, and
Roswell Fellows was chosen supervisor, and Jedediah
Phelps town clerk. Mr. Fellows held the office until the


was formed from a part of Steuben, by an act passed March
4, 1796. The town of Floyd was also formed from Steu-
ben at the same time. The Jirst town-meeting in Rome
was held at the dwelling-house of Ebenezer Claflin on the
^rst Tuesday in April, 1796, agreeable to the act by which

the town was created. At this meeting it was " Voted,
That Daniel Haws build a good and sufficient pound for
the Town of Rome, near the dwelling of Benjamin Gilbert;"
also, " Voted, Matthew Brown build a good and sufficient
pound for the Town of Rome, near his dwelling-house ;"
" Voted, That hogs he a free commoner, if they have good
and sufficient yokes on, the year ensuing ;" " Voted, That
every man take care of his own Rams."

At an extra town-meeting, held Nov. 30, 1801, it was,
" On motion. Voted, That ten dollars be allowed and be paid
to any person or persons who shall kill any panther, wolf,
or wildcat within the town of Rome (in case the person is
not entitled to a bounty from a neighbouring town), as well
as for any of those noxtious animals which may be discov-
ered within the limits of Rome and pursued into a neigh-
boring town and there killed ; which circumstance of the
killing shall be proven to the satisfaction of one or more
Justices of the Peace of this town."

" On motion. Voted, That a bounty of one cent be allowed
and paid for each chipping or red squirrel, and two cents
for each gray and black squirrel, killed within the town of
Rome between this and the first of April next, to be proven
before any Justice of the Peace."

At the annual town-meeting for 1802 it was " Voted,
that a bounty of one cent be allowed and paid for each
blackbird and bluejay, & six cents for each crow, killed in
the town of Rome the ensuing year, to be proven before
any Justice of the Peace in said town." Also, " Voted,
That the sum of fifty dollars be raised in the town of Rome
for the encouragement of the destruction of wUd, noxious
animals, such as wolves, panthers, wildcats, crows, jays,
blackbirds, &c." It was voted to raise $100 for the same
purpose in 1S03. In 1804 no bounty was paid on wolves,
but the bounties remained the same for birds and squirrels.
Each assessor in the town was this year directed to " procure
one pound oinux vomica for the purpose of killing wolves."
A leni^thy " Rec't for Poisoning Wolves" was inserted in
the fore part of the volume of town records, and it would
seem that the inhabitants of Rome at that day were greatly




troubled by these animals. They were extremely method-
ical in the manner of ridding the neighborhood of the
pests, the " Receipt" mentioned being carefully written out
and plain directions given for the use of the poison, of
which n-ux vomica was the principal ingredient.

The following officers were elected at the first town-
meeting (April, 1796), viz. : Supervisor, George Hunting-
ton ; Town Clerk, Ebenezer Wright, Jr. ; Assessors, Chester
Gould, Gershom Waldo, Daniel W. Knight ; Overseers of
the Poor, Thomas Wright, William Walsworth ; Commis-
sioners of Highways, Bill Smith, Elijah Wells, Caleb Reyn-
' olds ; Constables, Samuel Reynolds, David Waldo ; Fence-
Viewers, Asa Tyler, Matthew Brown, John Williams ; Col-
lector, Samuel Reynolds ; Poundmasters, Nathan Thomp-
son, Matthew Brown ; Commissioners of Schools, Chester
Gould, Sheldon Logan, Abijah Putnam.

The following is a list of the supervisors of the town
from 1797 to 1869, inclusive: 1797, Abijah Putnam;
1798 to 1801, Thomas Gilbert; 1802, Clark Putnam;
1803, Henry Huntington; 1804, George Huntington;
1805, Clark Putnam ; 1806-7, Thomas Gilbert ; 1808,
Samuel Dill; 1809, Henry Huntington ; 1810-11, Samuel
Dill; 1812-13, Bill Smith; 1814, George Huntington;
1815-16, Wheeler Barnes; 1817, George Huntington;
1818-20, Samuel Beardsley ; 1821-22, Rufos Barnes;
1823-26, Jay Hatheway ; 1827-28, George Brown;
1829-30, Henry A. Foster; 1831-32, Numa Leonard;
1833-34, Henry A.Foster; 1835-36, Jesse Armstrong ;
1837-38, Harold H. Pope; 1839-40, James Merrill;
1841-42, Adam Van Patten ; 1843^4, Enoch B. Arm-
strong ; 1845-46, Giles Hawley ; 1847, John Niles ;
1848-49, Alfred Ethridge; 1850, Allen Briggs ; 1851,
Benjamin N. Huntington; 1852-53, Stephen Van Dresar;
1854, Bradford C. Dean ; 1855-58, Giles Hawley ; 1859-
60, Alfred Ethridge; 1861-68, Giles Hawley; 1869,
Enoch B. Armstrong.

The surface of the town (now city) of Rome is for the
most part level, and before it was drained by the con-
struction of the Erie Canal and private sewers was marshy
in many places, the swamp southward from Fort Stanwix
being impassable during nearly the entire year. Unless in
a very wet season, it can now be cultivated over its whole
area, and many fine gardens are found where originally the
life of man or beast was endangered by an attempt to cross.
In the northern or eastern portions of the town the surface
is higher and gently rolling, with quite abrupt bluffs along
the Mohawk and smaller streams.

The various streams which water the territory included
in Rome are the Mohawk, which enters from the town of
Western on the north, flows southward to the city proper,
and thence eastwardly (forming the boundary between
Floyd and the southeast part of Rome) in a winding course
between the towns of Marcy and Deerfield on the north,
and Whitestown and the city of Utica on the south, into
Herkimer County ; Wood Creek, which flows southerly to
the city, thence westerly, receiving Canada Creek at the
northeast corner of the town of Verona, forming the bound-
ary between Verona and Rome for a number of miles, and
on to Oneida Lake ; Canada Creek, which flows southward
across the town from Lee, and enters Wood Creek as men-

tioned ; Fish Creek, also coming from the north, and form-
ing the boundary for some distance between Rome and
Vienna, thence across a corner of Vienna to its junction
with Wood Creek near the outlet of the latter into Oneida
Lake. There are also numerous smaller streams, tributary
to both the Mohawk and Wood Creek.

Rome includes on the west a portion of town number two
of Scriba's Patent ; in the northeast a part of Fonda's Patent ;
in the southeast a large portion of the Oriskany Patent ; in
the southwest a small part of Coxe's Patent, the Smith
tract, and a portion of the Perache tract.

The Erie Canal crosses from west to east, following the
valleys of Wood Greek and the Mohawk River ; and the
Black River Canal is constructed from Rome northward
along the upper Mohawk. Railway facilities are afforded
by the New York Central and Hudson River Railway,
which follows the route of the Erie Canal from Rome east-
ward, and westward bears southward into the town of Ve-
rona; the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensbnrg Railway,
running northwest from Rome, and entering the town of
Annsville at its south line, near Fish Creek ; and the Rome
and Clinton Division of the Delaware, Lackawanna and
Western Railway, which leads from Rome southwardly to
Clinton, connecting at that place with the Utica, Clinton
and Binghamton Division of the same road.


On a map of the " Siege of Fort Stanwix," in another
part of this volume, will be noticed, west of the fort, the
representation of a tree, which was termed the " scalping-
tree." This name was probably given from the following
circumstance, as related by one of the officers then in the
fort : " Three little girls went out to pick berries. While
thus engaged, about one hundred rods from the fort, the
reports of four guns were heard in quick succession, and a
party of soldiers hastening to the spot, met one of the girls
returning towards the fort with her basket in her hand,
having two balls in her shoulder and the blood streaming
down her person. The other two girls were found shot and
scalped, one of them dead, and the other died soon after
being taken into the fort. The savages who fired the shots
fled into the woods and escaped. One of the girls who was
killed was a young lady twenty years old, named Caty Steers,
and the daughter of a man living at that time in the neigh-
borhood of the fort."

J. R. Simms, of Fort Plain, New York, had interviews
in 1846-47 with an old Revolutionary pensioner named
John Roof, who had held a colonel's commission during
that war. His father lived near the site of Fort Stanwix
prior to the Revolution, and there he was born, August 28,
1762, being beyond a doubt the first white child born in
Oneida County. He was christened on an occasion when
Sir William Johnson was at the fort, accompanied by a
party of military men from below. General Herkimer, then
a captain, was one of the number, and stood as godfather
to the boy. It is presumed that the ceremony was per-
formed by an Episcopal clergyman.

Colonel Roof mentioned to Mr. Simms the names of
several persons who were living at Fort Stanwix in 1777,
and said they settled there about 1760. From his pro-



nunoiation it was difSeult to give the exact orthography,
but as near as could be given they were named (beside his
father) William Kline, Thomas Mears or Mayers, a Mr.
Broothock or Brodock, and a Mr. Steers. They were all
located in the same neighborhood, cultivated some land,
assisted boatmen over the " carrying-place," traded for furs
with the Indians, and lived comfortably. Roof was keep-
ing a public-house near the fort at the beginning of the
war, and was the only one licensed to do so in the western
part of what was then Albany County. He was a captain
of militia under General Herkimer at the battle of Oriskany,
and had been on terms of friendship with him for years.

Colonel John Roof stated that he was at the Herkimer
mansion after the battle of Oriskany, and saw the general's
leg amputated, and helped a young man, about his own
age, named Nicholas Dygert, to bury it. The stump bled
profusely after the operation, and the general grew con-
stantly weaker. He spoke to young Roof, saying, " I
guess you boys will have to take up that leg and bury it
with me, for I am going to follow it."

Colonel Roof further stated that the noted Oneida chief
Skanandoa, who acted as colonel among the Indians, sent
a young man to notify the Roof family of the approach of
the enemy in 1777, when they were yet some miles distant.
The settlers at first all took refuge in the fort, but had
finally to abandon their possessions ; and the Roof family,
acting on the advice of Colonel Gansevoort, dropped down
the valley to the General Herkimer house, and occupied a
part of it until the next season, when they removed to
Canajoharie, and occupied a stone house which stood at the
foot of " Academy Hill." There Mr. Roof, Sr., resumed
his occupation of tavern-keeping, and so prominent a citizen
did he become in that locality that for nearly half a century
the settlement was known as Rooftown, or Roof's Village.

When Captain Roof became obliged to abandon his pos-
sessions at Fort Stanwix, he left them in charge of one
Conrad, who was afterwards killed in the fort. The build-
ings were finally destroyed, in pursuance of Colonel Ganse-
voort's orders, so that the enemy should not make use of
them, and the colonel gave him (Roof) a certificate that
the property destroyed was worth £800. After the war the
family made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain from the
government some compensation for their loss. The im-
poverished condition of the counti-y at that time rendered
it necessary to ignore many just claims, and the Roof
family was but one of a large number who suffered in this

The following article we find in the columns of the Utioa
Observer for Aug. 24, 1878. It is presumably from the
pen of D. E. Wager, Esq., who has contributed largely to
the history of this region :


" The First White Children born in Oneida Comity.

" Rome, August 22, 1878.
" To THE Editor of the Utica Odserter :

" There is no desire to open tlie discussion as to wlio was the first
white child or children born within the present limits of wha,t is now
Oneida County, for that question has been pretty effectually settled
in favor of the John Roof family. It will be remembered that in
that discussion the fact was established beyond contradiction that
John Eoof (originally Johannis Reuff) settled at Fort Stanwix in

1760. That was two years after the fort was built. Here Mr. Reuff
resided from that time until driven out, with several other families,
by the siege of Fort Stanwix in 1777. The Reuff family then located
at Canajoharie. Mr. Philip Roof, an intelligent gentleman of seventy
years, a grandson of Johannis Reuff, and now a resident of New York
City, in a recent letter to the writer hereof, furnishes interesting facts
concerning the births and names of the first white children in what is
now Oneida County. He writes that while on his summer visit to
the old home at Canajoharie, he found in possession of a great-grand-
daughter of Mr. Reuff an old deed, bearing date May 2, 1778, from
George Schimling to said Johannis Reuff, conveying 659 acres of
land. This deed covered the old homestead of Colonel John Roof
(son of Johannis), and also the same land on which the village of
Canajoharie now stands. The date of this deed shows the purchase
was made in the spring of the next year, after the destruction of Mr,
Reuff's property at Fort Stanwix, and when he and his family were
driven away from this fort. Mr. Roof writes that on the back of
this deed is a record, in the handwriting of Johannis Reuff, of the
names, places, and times of the birth of his children. The writing,
by reason of age, has become quite indistinct to the naked eye, but
by the aid of a magnifying- glass it can be deciphered. It is sup-
posed that this record was made on the back of the deed in conse-
quence of the loss of the family Bible, which contained the original
record at the time the Reuff family were driven from Fort Stanwix.
The list, us copied from the back of that deed, reads as follows ;

"'Fort Slamm'x.
" 'My first son, John Roof, was born 28th of August, 1762,
"'My first daughter, Susannah, was born 9th August, 1766.
"'My second daughter, Barbara, was born 30th October, 1771.
" ' My second son, Adam, was born 16th May, 1773.
"'My third daughter, Mary (or Maria), was born 5th April, 1777.

" ' Canajoharie.
"'My third son, Daniel, was born 8th March, 1779.
" ' My fourth son, Martyn, was born 19th April, 1783.
" ' My fifth son, Andrew, was born 1st of July, 1785.'

" From the foregoing, positive evidence is furnished that Jive of the
Roof family were born at Fort Stanwix during the seventeen years
that family were residing here, before the siege of Fort Stanwix ; one
of them but a few months before the siege commenced. Mr. Philip
Roof, who furnishes the facts, is a grandson of Martyn above

" The object of this communication (to-day is the 101st anniversary
of the raising of the siege of Fort Stanwix) is to put in print, and
thus preserve in a better and more reliable form, a record of the
names of the first white children bom within the present bounds of
this county. It is not unlikely that within a few years all original
data in proof of such interesting facts will be lost, or be beyond the
reach of antiquarian searchers. It may not be amiss to suggest to
the Oneida County Historical Society the preservation of this record
among its archives. It is proper to mention again in this connec-
tion that at the time the Reuff family resided at Fort Stanwix there
were four other families residing here, viz., Bartholomew Brodock,

William Klein, Thomas Mayers, and Steers. TJnto one or more

of those families children were born at Fort Stanwix, before the
Revolutionary war. The daughter of Mr. Steers was the one who
was shot and scalped while outside of the fort blackberrying a few
days before the siege commenced. Descendants of that Brodock
family are yet residents of Rome."

Another Revolutionary pensioner, named Samuel Pettit,
of Mayfield, N. Y., with whom Mr. Simms had an inter-
view in July, 1847, stated that he was a soldier under
Captain Sacket, stationed at Fort Stanwix at the time it
was burned (May 13, 1781). The pickets inclosing the
fort were not burned, but the fortress was consumed, ex-
cept its bomb-proof, which was saved by throwing dirt
upon it. Mr. Pettit, with others, was playing ball at a
little distance from the fort, when the alarm of fire was
given. One of the barracks occupied by Lieutenant
Daniel Dennison was on fire, and he (D.) offered any man

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 100 of 192)