Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 102 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 102 of 192)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and New York.

"In giving a stretch to the mind into futurity, I saw those fertile
regions bounded west by the Mississippi, north by the great lakes,
east by the Allegheny Mountains, and south by the placid Ohio, over-
spread with millions of freemen J blessed with various- climates, enjoy-
ing every variety of soil, and commanding the boldest inland navi-
gation on this globe J clouded with sails, directing their course toward
canals, alive with boats passing and repassing, giving and receiving
reciprocal benefits from this wonderful country, prolific in such great

"In taking this bold flight in imagination, it was impossible to re-
press a settled conviction that a great effort will be made to realize
all my dreams.

"Near the west end of the lake are two small islands, on one of
which resides a respectable Frenchman, who came from France a few
years since, and has voluntarily sequestered himself from the world
and taken up his solitary abode upon this island, with no society but
his dogs, guns, and library, yet he appeared happy and content.

" This lake is extremely turbulent and dangerous, a small breeze
producing a short, bobbing sea, in consequence of its shoal waters.

" The bateauxmen commonly hug the north shore as safest, as well
as more direct from point to point. On that side these points project
less into the lake than on the south shore. The wind soon rose to a brisk
side gale, which occasioned such a dangerous agitation as obliged us
to make a. harbor at Twelve-Mile Point, near which we noticed two
large bears walking along the shore in majestic confidence.

"We trolled with our lines and caught some bass. The day con-
cluded with heavy rains and a violent squall. In spite of our tents
we were much wet and half suffocated with smoke.




"September 14. — Early this morDing we embarked and proceeded
across the lake, rowing, with a light breeze in our favor. We pnssod
the Seven-Mile Islands (already mentioned) after stopping to break-
fast on the north shore ; soon after which the shores suddenly narrowed,
and we found ourselves opposite Fort Brewerton, at the entrance of
the Onondaga River, which is a very shallow stream.

" We landed at the old fort, where we found two families and a hand-
some improvement. After refreshing ourselves under the first Chris-
tian roof which had sheltered us in five days, we commenced descend-
ing the Onondaga River with an easy current. The river is generally
about 300 feet wide. It is nineteen and three-quarters of a mile to
Three-River Point. In its length there arc three or four pretty long
rapids; but these obstructions can easily he removed, and a boat-
channel formed.

"We observed in many places on this river small piles of stones,
which, we were told, are thrown up by salmon, where they cast their
spawn to protect them from other fish. These waters abound in cat-
fish, salmon, bass, eel, and corporals, all very fine and fat. They are
caught in eel-weira, formed by the Indians thus : two walls of loose
stones are thrown up, obliquely descending ocross the river to a point,
whore they are taken, at a small opening, in liaskets or eel-pots.
Salmon are caught at the Oswego Falls in the night, by spoariug them
as they vault up the falls, by the aid of torchlights."

On the 30th of September, 1799, Rome was visited by
President Dwight, of Yale College, and in his " Book of
Travels" he thus describes the place as it then appeared :

"The village of Rome is a very unpromising copy of tho great
exemplar from which it has derived its name. The land on which it
is built is poor, and surrounded by alders or half-starved trees. The
houses are about twenty in number, and decent in their appearance;
the whole aspect is uninviting. The proprietor of the ground, a gen-
tleman of New York, believing, as jiropricfors usually do, that his
lands will soon be very valuable, has taken efiectual care to prevent
them becoming so by distributing them into small house-lots, de-
manding excessive rents, and adopting other unwise measures. The
canal, through which, when the outlets are open, runs a sprightly
stream, adds not a little cheerfulness to the village. Nor is this the
only benefit derived from it by the inhabitants. The base of their
settlement is composed almost wholly of small round stones. The
canal being dug to a depth considerably lower than their cellars,
heretofore wet and troublesome, has efi'ectually drained them. The
water also, in the upper part of the wells, which was of a bad quality,
has by the same means been drawn off; and the remainder, flowing
from a deeper source, has become materially sweeter and better. We
examined the locks of the canal, and were not a little surprised to sco
the bricks composing the locks already beginning to moulder away,
although the work had been finished little more than two years. I
have seen no good bricks in this region. In fire-places they soon burn
out; whenever they are exposed to the weather they speedily dis-

The bricks in the canal-locks were very large, but did
not answer the purpose, and were soon after replaced by
stone. The contractor for the building of the Rome court-
house in 1806 used these bricks in its construction. When
that building was destroyed by fire in 1844 they were again
used in the walls of the house on the corner of George and
Court Streets, since the property of F. H. Thomas.

It is not possible at this day to determine the exact loca-
tion of the houses of the persons who located near Fort
Stanwix in 1760, but it is probable they were very near
the fort, and on the opposite side of Dominick Street, in
Rome. In a letter written to Colonel Gansevoort, in Sep-
tember, 1778, by Major Cochran, then in temporary com-
mand, he mentions the number of murders committed by
prowling Indians, and states that a man going out in the
field' near the fort to catch a horse was tomahawked and
scalped by Indians, " the latter being fired upon in return
by the sentinel who was in the Brudoch house."

After the destruction of Fort Stanwix, in 1781, tho gar-
rison was removed, and the settlers, being loft without
protection, and finding it unsafe to remain, also left the
vicinity, and as far as can be learned there was not, in 1783,
a single white settler in what is now the city of Rome.

In May, 1784, Jedediah Phelps, in company with James
Dean, located on Wood Creek, not far from where tlio
United States Arsenal was afterwards built, erected a log
house and a shop, the latter used by Mr. Phelps as a place
for carrying on his trade, — that of a silversmith and brass-
founder, la the spring of 1785 their place was inundated
by high water in Wood Creek, and Messrs. Dean and
Phelps were obliged to live for three weeks in the garret of
their log house, and cook their meals at the forge of the
shop ; the latter they reached in a canoe, to which they
descended from the garret of the house by means of a lad-
der. This year (1785) Mr. Dean settled in what is now
the town of Westmoreland, and Mr. Phelps came to the
fort. He built a house and a shop, and carried on liis
business for two years. The precise location of his old
house and shop cannot now be ascertained. In 1797 he
removed to a part of the Oneida Reservation, then recently
purchased from the Indians. As early as 1806 he owned
a large tract of land near Verona Village, and on one occa-
sion, when he and his son John were hunting wolves, they
discovered iron ore at the roots of an upturned tree. This
ore- bed was for a long time the source of supply for the
Taberg furnace, and Mr. Phelps and his son, as discoverers,
obtained a royalty on the ore, making a handsome fortune
from the sale. In 1816, Mr. Phelps sold a half-interest in
the ores on the farms in Verona to John W. Bloomfield,
the first supervisor of the town of Camden. In 1819, Mr.
Phelps removed to Barre, Genesee County (now Albion,
Orleans County), and died near that place in 1849, aged
nearly ninety-six years. When he first came to Fort Stan-
wix there wa-s one white man, — a Frenchman, living there
with the Indians, — not an actual settler, so that Mr. Phelps
was, so far as can be ascertained, the first white person
who located in town subsequent to the Revolution.

A few other settlers came in 1785-86, and Judge Jones,
in his " Annals of Oneida County," says that when his
father came to the county, in January, 1787, " there were
three log houses at old Fort Schuyler, seven at Whites-
boro', three at Oriskany, five at Fort Stanwix, and three
in Westmoreland."

About 1795-96, when much alarm was felt in this re-
gion regarding the hostile attitude of the Western Indians,
a block-house was built in Fort Stanwix, octagonal in
shape, and during the administration of President John
Adams a company of regulars was stationed in it, com-
manded by one Captain Cherry. This block-house stood
very nearly in the centre of the fort.

The first settlements in Rome, outside of the vicinity of
Fort Stanwix, were at Ridge Mills, the Wright Settlement,
and " Penny Street," in the northern and eastern portions
of its teriitory.


Early in 1789, Ebenezer Wright, Sr., came to Fort
Stanwix with his family of six children. Mr. Wright had



served in the American array as a lieutenant during the
Revolution. During the year 1789 the family remained at
the fort, cultivating small pieces of ground and raising
corn, potatoes, etc., for use the following winter. In the
mean time Mr. Wright and his sons began a clearing on a
tract of 196 acres at the " Wright Settlement,"* and the
same year built a log house on their farm, which was un-
doubtedly the first one erected and occupied by a permanent
settler (Phelps and others staying but a year or two on their
places) after the Revolution. A house built subsequently,
about 1796, by Mr. Wright, Sr., was long kept as a tavern,
and in it was organized, in September, 1800, "The First
Religious Society in Rome." The Wright family was
among the most prominent of Rome's early settlers, and
the " settlement" took its name from them as the pioneers
of the locality.

A few years previous to the commencement of the present
century the town of Stamford, in the southwest part of
yermont, sent a number of families to colonize the then
western. wilderness of New York. Among them were the
Clark, Hinman, Matteson, Smith, and Selden families.
Clark and Hinmanf settled about 1796, near where the
asylum now stands in Utica, — the Clarks on one side and
the Hinmans on the other of the road to Whitesboro' ;
Silas Matteson, father of the late Simon Matteson, and
grandfather of Hon. 0. B. Matteson, located about the
same year on what is now the County Poor Farm, in Rome;
Esquire SmiEh settled the same year on the farm now owned
by Grcorge Hammill ; Thomas Selden, Jr. (grandfather of
N. Hyde Leffingwell, of Rome), came to this locality in
1795, and settled on half of a 100-acre parcel which John
Lansing, Jr., had leased to Jasper French. He purchased
Mr. French's "betterments," including a log house west of
the highway, nearly opposite the present frame residence on
the 50 acres. He took an assignment of the lease from
Mr. French, covering the 50 acres, made all necessary
arrangements, and returned to Vermont for his family,
bringing them and his aged parents back with him in the
winter of 1795-96. The roads were extremely bad, and a
portion of the way lay through trackless snows. Mr. Sel-
den, Sr. (also named Thomas), walked all the way, driving
the cows and a yoke of oxen, and otherwise assisting. He
was sixty-three years of age at the time. The females and
children rode in the sleigh, driven by Thomas Selden, Jr.
The elder Selden was a veteran of the Revolution, and
had been a confidential scout for General Washington.

Thomas Selden, Jr., cleared up his lands, built a frame
house about 1800, and, in company with Roswell Edgerton
(a relative by marriage) and John Ely, carried on an ex-
tensive business as contractors, in getting out timber, erect-
ing buildings, etc. Among the buildings said to have been
erected by them were the grist-mill of Colonel Samuel
Wardwell, at the Ridge, the Lynch (red) grist-mill, and the
cotton- and woolen-factories in Factory Village (Rome).
They also had the contract for cutting the first road through
the Rome swamp to the site of the Poor-House, and when
the Erie Canal was constructed they had a contract at or

* This neighborhood was originally called "New Fairfield."
f Mr. Ilinman, the father of the late John E. Hinman, was sheriff
of Oneida County in 1S21 and 1822, and again from 1828 to 18.32.

near Stony Creek, between that place and New London.
They were somewhat crippled in resources by this latter
contract, and their farms were only saved by their sons
stepping in and helping them through.

Thomas Selden, Jr., served in the war of 1812, and was
at Sacket's Harbor in the company of which Bill Watson,
late of Watson's Hollow, in Rome, was lieutenant.

Mr. Ely, one of the firm of contractors, is supposed to
have settled very early near the fort. He afterwards re-
moved to a farm north of the Butts neighborhood, and later
farther north.

Roswell Edgerton came to Rome from the same locality
the Seldens emigrated from. His homestead was on the
road leading from the Westernville road (near the present
Williams Cheese-Factory) across to Delta, in the town of

Charles Lefiingwell, the father of N. H. Leffingwell,
came to Rome in 1802, and the father of Israel Denio in
1795. These families, in common with all others that
season, sufiered much during the " cold summer" (1816)
from the loss of their crops, and the consequent dearth of
edibles the following year. Wheat was scarce at three
dollars per bushel, corn brought one dollar and a half per
bushel, and other articles were worth fully double former

In 1790, John Lansing, Jr., owner of large tracts of
land in the northern part of Oneida County, leased to the
following five persons 100 acres each, all the leases bearing
date in June of that year, and the territory comprised in-
cluding the Selden neighborhood :

To John Wright, son of Thomas Wright, one of Rome's
earliest settlers, what is known as the " Gates place," 50
acres, and that on the opposite side of the highway, known
as the " Waters place," also 50 acres ; to Moses Wright,
brother of John, 100 acres next north of the latter, lying
on both sides of the highway ; to Asa Knapp, the next 100
acres north ; to Elijah Weeks, 100 acres north of Knapp,
mostly on the west side of the present highway, and run-
ning down to the Mohawk ; to Jasper French, a surveyor,
100 acres, mostly on the east side of the highway. The
rent for these lots was 18 bushels of wheat for each 100
acres, payable in Albany. The lot leased to Jasper French
was the same on which Thomas Selden, Jr., located in

In 1790 leases had been granted in the neighborhood of
the Wright Settlement to Seth Ranney, David I. Andrus,
Nathaniel Gilbert, Rozel (or Roswell) Fellows, Ebenezer
Wright, Jr., Willett Ranney, Jr., Benjamin Gilbert, John
Wright, Moses Wright, Asa Knapp, Jasper French, Elijah
Weeks, Elijah Root, Chester Gould, and Elisha Walsworth.

When Ebenezer Wright, Sr., came to Fort Stanwix,
from Connecticut, in 1789, he was probably accompanied
by his brother, Thomas Wright, Willet Ranney, Sr., and
Bill Smith, all of whom located in the vicinity of the fort
at first. David I. Andrus and Nathaniel Gilbert came
either the same year or the next. In 1791 lands were
leased in the Wright settlement to Dyer McCumber and
Abner Pitcher. Other early settlers, all previous to 1800,
were Colonel D. W. Knight, about 1790 ; Jesse Childs,
about 1792; Joseph Otis, 1793; William West, 1793;

fnoroc Bt HovirAaniiHinci.flOMC.N.V,

L. Zenana Leffingwell



The founder of the Leffingwell family in Oneida County
was Charles, who was the son of Phineas, and was born in
Norwich, Conn., March 6, 1780. In his youth he was an
apprentice to the carpenter and joiner trade, which business
he followed during his life. Arriving at the age of man-
hood, the prospect of obtaining work in his native State
not being encouraging, he decided to remove west. He
located in Oneida County, March, 1802.

He was married, Feb. 28, 1-808, to Electa, daughter
of Thomas Selden, she being born in Stanford, Vt., July
29, 1787, and came to this county with her parents in
1795. Their family consisted of five children, none of
whom are living at the present time except the subject of
this memoir. This aged couple lived together over sixty-
two years. The latter part of their life was made pleasant
and happy by the care and attention of their dutiful son.
The honored head of the family, after arriving at a ripe
old age, was called to his last resting-place July 11, 1870.
His companion in life survived him only a little while,
closing her eyes in peaceftJ repose March 6, 1871.

N. Hyde Leffingwell was bom in the town of Western,
Feb. 4, 1809. His father being in reduced circomstanoes,
he only received a common-school education. In 1823 his
father removed his family to the village of Rome, and
young Hyde became a clerk in a general store kept by
Brown & HoUister. He remained with that firm till
1827, when they dissolved. He then became a clerk in the

office of the collector of oanal-toU, under Bela B. Hyde,
who was a cousin of his father, and who also issued the
first clearance and shipping bill on the Erie Canal. In
1835 he entered into partnership with Mr. Hyde in the
storage business, which continued thirteen years, when Mr.
Hyde retired. The business was continued by Mr. Leffing-
well till 1851, when, on account of ill health, he gave up
all active business.

He was united in marriage, Feb. 11, 1840, to L. Zenana,
daughter of John and Harriet Humaston, she being bom
Feb. 10, 1819, in the town of Vienna, Oneida County.
They had three children, two of whom are now living: Z.
Elizabeth, born Oct. 12, 1846 ; Charles M., Sept. 3, 1851.

The life of man is not only made of prosperities, but is
forced to bear with many adversities, and none is so hard to
overcome as the loss of a loving wife. Mrs. Leffingwell
died April 5, 1867, not only mourned by husband and
children, but by a large circle of sympathizing inends.

Politically he has always belonged to the Democratic
party, has held a large number of town offices, being one
of its present supervisors. He is also a director in the Fort
Stanwix National, and trustee of the Rome Savings Bank.

What can be more pleasant for a man who has arrived at
an advanced age, than to look back on the many pleasures
and sorrows of life, and to think he has always been held
in reverence and respect by friends and neighbors, and that
his memory will be preserved for years to come?



PKOTOS By Nitvry lBRHIH£lfO .ffOME, N Y,


Residence of D. M.CROWELL, RoME,ONODACo.N.r

IJTH. By L. H rvcms tCo,, Phiia,P>i.




PbotoB. by Hovey & Brainerd.



was born in Middletown, Middlesex Co., Conn., March 29,
1798, being the eldest son of Elijah and Elizabeth Crowell.
In the spring of the following year his father removed to
Steuben, Oneida Co., N. Y., where the subject of this sketch
passed his early life working on his father's farm and teaching

His father was a member of the militia of Oneida County,
and that body of men being called into active service for
the protection of Sacket's Harbor during the war of 1812,
young Daniel, though but sixteen years of age, took his
father's place in the ranks, and marched with the rest of his
comrades to protect that point from British invasion. On
the death of his grandfather his parents, in 1817, removed
back to the old homestead in Connecticut, taking their family
with them. They both lived to be over ninety years of age,
ending their days in that State. Dec. 6, 1821, he was
married to Ruth, daughter of Samuel and Sarah Crowell,
she being a native of Middletown, Middlesex Co., Conn.,
having been born April 2, 1797.

Not seeing much of a chance to prosper in his native
land, Mr. Crowell decided to move west, and in the spring
of the year following his marriage he loaded his household
goods on an ox-cart, and in company with his wife they bid
good-bye to old Connecticut, and started for Oneida County,
which then was the western wilds of New York State.
Traveling an average of twenty-five miles per day, their
journey of two hundred miles was soon accomplished. They
located in the town of Steuben, and their worldly goods at
that time consisted of two yoke of cattle, an ox-cart, a brass
kettle, bedstead, three chairs, and a three-legged table, which
were borrowed ; also a cow.

But the Lord had blessed them with good constitutions,
energy, and a disposition to accumulate ; and, with His aid,
and their own individual exertions, they started on the rocky
and rugged road which leads to success. Mr. Crowell con-
tinued to be a resident of Steuben till 1840, when owing to
ill health he removed in that year back to Connecticut, where
he remained until 1845, when he again returned, taking up
his residence in the town of Steuben until 1849, when he
located in Rome, on the farm where he now resides, which
he purchased of General Jessie and Colonel E. B. Armstrong.

Six children came to bless his fireside and make home
pleasant, one of whom, John G., lived to manhood, but he
died in 1854 from the effects of an accidental injury ; his
wife soon followed him, leaving an only son, Edgar W.

Thus left an orphan, Edgar was the pride and the comfort
of this cliildless couple ; in him all their love was centred,
and in his success in life they hoped to see their name live
and be handed down to posterity. His grandfather wishing
him to receive a college education, sent him to Hamilton
College; while there he contracted the scarlet fever, and died
very suddenly in his twenty-first year.

Politically he belongs to the Democratic party, casting his
first vote for President of the United States for James
Madison for his second term of office. Though he has been
solicited a number of times to serve his county and town in
various public offices, has always refused ; but during the
time of his second residence in Connecticut he was elected
to represent his native county in the State Legislature of that
State, in 1843.

He is at present a member of the First Baptist Church
of Rome, and has been a deacon in churches of that denom-
ination for over forty years. He has always given largely of
his means for the support of religion. His wife was also a
member of the same church. Dec. 6, 1871, there gathered
at his family mansion friends from far and near to celebrate
the fiftieth anniversary of his marriage, and the following
lines are appropriate to the occasion :

For fifty years we've journeyed on

Together on life's way;
Our locks, once fair to look upon,

Are mingled now with gray.

We've shared each other's toil and cares j

A Father's love hath blessed j
And ere another fifty years

We hope with Him to rest.

The last lines of the above verse have partially become a
fact. Mrs. Crowell, the loving companion and helpmate of
her husband for over fifty years, passed away from life March
16, 1878, leaving sweet memories only to cheer his saddened
heart, for as a wife she had been a treasure on earth. Mr.
Crowell, though over fourscore years of age, enjoys good
health, and is highly respected by those who know him ; and
looking back over the pleasures and perplexities of a life
which is now drawing to a close, he is to-day the only living
representative of his family. Two generations have passed
away before him, and still he is left, and still we hope he
will be left to add year after year to his so far worthy and
useful life.



Edward Simmons, 1793 ; Calvin Hurd, about 1794 ; John
Simons and Jonathan Brainard, 1794 ; Daniel W. Lamb,
John and Daniel Ashby, about 1795; Rufus Barnes, father
of the distinguished divine. Rev. Albert Barnes, 1795;
Israel Denio, father of the late Judge Denio and of Israel
and C. D. Denio, of Rome, about 1797 ; Cornelius Van
Wormer, Zaccheus Abel, Abiather Seekill, Peter Lamp-
man, "Pigeon" Palmer, Luke Usher, and Benjamin Taylor,

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 102 of 192)