Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 104 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 104 of 192)
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one of which Colonel William Colbraith (afterwards first
sheriff of Oneida County) then resided ; a log house near
the site of the United States Arsenal, in which Jedediah
Phelps then lived ; a log house near the late residence of
Numa Leonard (now owned by Charles B. Saulpaugh), and
another one near the present residence of H. K. White."
There was also a frame house — and the only one — near the
site of G. N. Bissell's present residence, and another log
house near the present site of St. Peter's Catholic Church,
into which three families of new-comers removed a week
after Mr. Wright's arrival. In the houses near the fort
were then living the Ranncy family. Bill Smith, and a
Dutchman named Dumont. A man named Armstrong
lived at the junction of Wood and Canada Creeks, and these



were the only houses and white persons in what now con-
stitutes tlie city of Rome.


On the 4th of June, 1785, a survey of the Oriskany
Patent into allotments began, as described in the history of
land titles in another part of this volume. Previous to
surveying tlie allotments a certain parcel was surveyed off
to be sold at auction to pay the expense of the survey.
This lot has ever since been known as the " Expense Lot."
As originally set off it contained 697 acres ; its boundaries
are about as follows, viz. r " Commencing on the south side
of the Mohawk, and not far from Mr. Parry's brickyard ;
thence running southwesterly towards the Poor-House, about
2-1:0 rods ; then northwesterly about a mile, towards Canal
Village ; then northeast about 150 rods, towards St. Joseph's
Church, passing south of that building, and ci-ossing the
track of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad
at Henry Street, and up that street to near the track of the
Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad, where Expense
Street extended would cross it ; thence north up that street
to a point about halfway between Court and Embargo
Streets ; thence easterly, crossing the blocks diagonally, and
passing near the house of Mr. Charles Keith, on the corner
of Court and Washington Streets, and so on diagonally
across West Park to James Street ; and thence nearly down
Park Alley, and crossing the Black River Canal near the
bathing-house of H. W. Barnes, and so on to the Mohawk;
then following that stream down to the starting point."

On the 29th of November, 1785, the agents who sur-
veyed the " Expense Lot" and divided the patent into allot-
ments, published a notice that on the 9th of January, 178G,
they would meet at Butlersburg, at the inn of Myndert W.
Quackenbush, " for the purpose of attending to the balloting
for, and drawing by lot," the several parcels surveyed. At
that meeting there were present the commissioners, the
agents. Judge Visseher, and Jelles Fonda. None of the
owners of the patent appeared, and the drawings took place
then and there. The James De Lancey one-fifth was set off
to the State, one of the parcels thus disposed of being a
tract of 960 acres in the northwest corner of the patent,
including among other lands the Rome cemetery, and most
of the farm formerly owned by Asa C. Huntington, and
later by Dr. H. H. Pope ; also another parcel (460 acres)
east of Factoiy Village. No others in this immediate
vicinity were set off to the State. The portion of the city
cast of Wasliington Street and next north of the " Expense
Lot" was set off to William Livingston and Alida Hoff-
man, and contained 460 acres, including the old burying-
ground, the blocks where stand the Presbyterian Church,
the court-house, St. Peter's Church, the East Park, and on
across the river so as to take in Factory Village. The por-
tion west of Washington Street and north and west of the
"Expense Lot," including West Rome, was set off to those
claiming under George Clarke ; the portion of the " Rome
Swamp," south of the " Expense Lot," and between that
line and the county house, was set off to those claimin"
under Thomas Wenham.

March 17, 1786, the " Expense Lot" was put up at auc-
tion, and bid off by Dominick Lynch, then a merchant of

New York City, for £2250. This was his first purchase in
this vicinity, and the germ of the Lynch estate in Rome.
" By reason of the inland water communication this route
was then the great thoroughfare between the East and West ;
and as here was the point for the transhipment of freights,
the ' carrying-place' was well known all through the country,
and was probably looked to as destined to become a point
of still greater importance. In this region leading and
prominent men in the country owned lands ; they seemed
to consider it an important place. Besides William Liv-
ingston, above named, who was Governor of New Jersey,
Baron Steuben owned some 16,000 acres in Steuben town-
ship ; Colonel Willett a large tract near the same locality ;
General Floyd in Western ; Governor Clinton and President
(then General) Washington owned large tracts in what are
now the towns of Whitestown, Westmoreland, Paris, and
New Hartford ; so that it will be seen that some of the
great men of the nation were land-holders in this vicinity."
From the price paid for the " Expense Lot' it seems
that Mr. Lynch considered it valuable, although the south-
ern portion of it was so swampy as to be entirely ineligible
for building lots. In I'act it is not now known whether
he ever entertained an idea of converting that part of it
into building lots. In July, 1786, he purchased of Wil-
liam Livingston and Alida Hoffman the 460 acres set off
to them, thus arranging his property here in better shape,
and in 1787 he purchased of the " Commissioners of For-
feitures" the 460 acres east of Factory Village, which had
been set off to the State. Before 1800 he purchased other
contiguous parcels, thus becoming the owner of about 2000
acres, nearly or quite in a compact body.

It has been mentioned that when Ebenezer Wright came
to Rome, in 1789, there was but one frame house on the
site of what is now the city. In 1793, John Barnard kept
fl tavern on or near the site of the old Baptist Church.*
In the spring of the same year there came to the place a
young unmarried man, who became the first merchant in
Rome, and a prominent man among the settlers. This was
George Huntington, the father of Edward Huntington,
Esq., now of Rome. He brought a stock of merchandise
with him, and set up business in the same house kept by
Barnard as a tavern. The next year, 1794, he built a
dwellin"' on the site of the residence in later years of Dr.
Cobb. °

In 1795 a grist-mill was erected on Wood Creek, not far
from the site of the United States Arsenal. This mill was
an important institution for that day, and the next year a
boat-load of corn to be ground into meal came from Ontario
County, via Seneca River, Oneida River, Oneida Lake, and
Wood Creek, and when the meal was ready the bateau re-
turned with its load by the same route. This was at that
time the nearest mill of the kind to the inhabitants of
Ontario County.

It is not positively known at what time Dominick Lynch
laid out the plat of his village, but it was as early as 1796.
He n-ave it the name of Lynchville. The blocks in the
village were 600 by 400 feet, with 18 lots in each block.

» The builJing in wliioh this tavern wa,s liept was tlio first two-story
edifice in Rome, and was erected by Seth Ranney.— Junes' Aiinah.



The numbering of the blocks began on the south side of
Dominiok Street, at what is now the Black River Canal,
and included from one upwards the space between that
point and Wood Creek on the west, where they crossed to
the opposite side of the street and numbered back (Fort
Stanwix block being No. 12), then crossed over Liberty
Street and numbered back again to Wood Creek, and so
back and forth. On the first map of the place the only
streets shown were Dominiok and James. About the year
1800 another map was made, showing Dominiok, Wash-
ington, James, Liberty, Madison, Court, Embargo, Jay,
Thomas, and Bloomfleld Streets. None of these, except
the first four, were opened to any extent until 1850.

It is stated by some that the name Rome was suggested
for the place by Mr. Lynch, as he was a Roman Catholic ;
but the fact that in his plats of the village he named it
after himself, Lynohville, would seem to assert difi'erently.
At this day it is impossible to ascertain why or at what time
the name Rome was adopted, but tradition furnishes the
following plausible solution of the problem : It is stated
that prior to 1800 a number of the then leading citizens of
the place were together, and the subject of a name for the
embryo village was broached. George Huntington, who
had become at the time an extentive lot-owner in the
vicinity, spoke of the many classical names given to places
in the State, but remarked that none had been named after
the " Eternal City,'' and he therefore suggested Rome,
which was adopted, partly from the suggestion and partly
from the fact that the town (formed in 1796) bore the
same name.

Of the streets of Rome, Dominiok was named for Mr.
Lynch, the original proprietor ; James was named after his
eldest son ; and Washington took its name from the great
chieftain then living, whose deeds were fresh in the minds
of the people.

Mr. Lynch adopted the plan of giving durable or per-
petual leases of his lots, rather than absolute titles, and for
many years the system was a source of trouble to the
citizens. An annual rent was reserved, payable in money
or grain, and in case of non-payment the property was to
revert to the owner.

The first conveyances (durable leases) given by Mr. Lynch
were in 1796 ; on the 30th of July of that year twenty-
eight lots were leased to the following persons, viz., Matthew
Brown, Jr., Michael McGrath, Sheldon Logan (what is now
the " Empire Block"), Joshua Hatheway (" Elm Row"),
and John Barnard, the latter leasing twenty-two lots on
Dominiok Street. Three years later, in 1799, the site of
" Merrill's Block" and other premises were leased to George
Huntington perpetually, at an annual rent of twelve bushels
of wheat, payable May 1 of each year. It is possible there
were also other leases in Lynohville where the rent was to
be paid in grain.

In the southern, or swampy portion of Mr. Lynch 's
purchase, he laid out sixty lots of four and one-half acres
each, which became known as " Pepper-corn lots." Parties
leasing lots in Lynohville usually had one of these lots
thrown in as a " bonus." They were at that time con-
sidered as of little or no value, and the rent reserved on
each one was a pepper-corn, payable on the first day of

May in each year, if lawfully demanded, for the term of
the then next ten tJwnsand years, and after that twenty
cents annually for each lot !

John Barnard, already mentioned, was one of the most
enterprising of Rome's early citizens, and a favorite with
Mr. Lynch. He built many of the first edifices, and entered
into the work of founding and building up a city with a zeal
deserving of better results. He finally became involved
to such an extent that he was forced to make an assign-
ment, and accordingly, in 1799, he conveyed seventy-two
acres* of " Pepper-corn lots" to one Caleb Putnam, a tanner.
This tract included the land on which now stand the Arm-
strong and Beecham blocks, sooth of the Erie Canal and
west of James Street, and south from that, taking in the
Railroad Hotel and depot buildings. Mr. Putnam's house
stood near the canal of the Western Inland Look Navi-
gation Company, a short distance east of James Street.
His tannery was in the rear, and nearer the canal. The
barn occupied a portion of the space, and the balance of
the triangle formed by James Street, the railroad, and
the canal was occupied by vats and a bark-mill, and
covered with tan-bark. This tannery was the first one
put in operation in this part of the country, and did quite
an extensive business. In 1819, while Mr. Putnam was
inspecting some timber in the woods, he fUl upon a log,
and a projecting knot penetrated his abdomen, inflicting
wounds from the effects of which he died. He was buried
by the Masonic fraternity. After his death the tannery
was carried on for a time by Horace N. Carr, but finally
went to decay.

In all the early leases from Mr. Lynch the land they
cover is described as being in " Lynchville," town of Rome,
and county of Herkimer, the lots being numbered on a
map made by William Weston. In the subsequent con-
veyances, for a number of years, they are described in the
same way, the name Rome not being used except in speak-
ing of the town. William Weston was the same individual
who constructed the canal of the Western Inland Lock
Navigation Company, and was an English engineer of con-
siderable repute. He made the map of Lynchville for its
proprietor, and subsequently returned to England, from
whence he had been called to construct the above-mentioned

This canal, which was two miles in length, was opened
for use in 1797, and extended from the Mohawk, near
" McCutcheon place," to Wood Creek, at the United States
Arsenal, having a capacity for Durham boats of forty
tons burden. Bateaux drawing two feet of water, and
carrying from three to fifteen tons, could pass, although
with considerable difliculty, in dry seasons. It was esti-
mated that in 1812 the number of boats passing through
this canal was 300, with 1500 tons of merchandise.
General Philip Schuyler was president and a director of
the company, and Dominiok Lynch and Colonel Marinus
Willett were also directors. Peter Colt, who lived at the
time near " McCutcheon place," superintended the con-
struction of the work ; he was continuous superintendent,
and George Huntington collector, from 1797 until the com-
pletion of this section of the Erie Canal in 1820.

* Also given as twenty lots, which would equal ninety acres.



An anecdote of Peter Colt, at the time of the oonstrue-
tion of the old canal, was extensively circulated in the
papers of that day, and has been preserved by Judge Jones
in his " Annals of Oneida County." The laborers on that
canal were, as they are usually in such enterprises of the
present day, sons of Erin, and not always inclined to be
perseveringly industrious. Mr. Colt, while passing among
a group of these laborers, noticed one of them who was
very probably not attending sti-ictly to his duty, and admin-
istered a severe kick upon the fellow's posterior. He in-
stantly dropped his barrow, rubbed the part attacked with
his left hand, while with his right he respectfully raised
his hat, and, rolling his quid to one side, said, " Faith and
be Jasus, if yer honor kicks so while ye're a Cuult, what'll
ye do when ye get to be a horse ?"

After Mr. Weston had completed his engineering work
here and returned to England, the question of building
locks in Wood Creek came up before the board of direc-
tors of the Inland Canal. There were at the time no
engineers in America, and the manner of proceeding with
the work was the subject of serious discussion. It was not
considered necessary to go to the expense of sending again
for Mr. Weston, and Greorge Huntington, of Rome, sug-
gested to the board that " there ought to be gumption
enough in Ainerica to engineer the project of locks," and
said if the company would let him take a spirit level owned
by it, he would agree to find a man capable of doing the
engineering. The request was complied with, and the
level taken to Benjamin Wright (father of B. H. Wright,
of Rome). Mr. Wright was an excellent surveyor, but
had no experience in that kind of engineering. He took
the instrument to pieces, and examined it to become famil-
iar with its construction, put it together again, tried ex-
periments and tested them, and found he was correct, and
with knowledge thus obtained engineered the work for the
construction of the locks, of which four were built. This
is said to have been the first engineering done, by an

As before stated, Oneida County was formed in 1798,
and of course it was evident that a jail and court-house
must soon be built at some point within the new county.
By a deed of conveyance bearing date May 21, 1800, Mr.
Dominick Lynch generously donated the supervisors of
Oneida County the two parks and the now occu-
pied by the court-house, jail, and academy building. The
deed recites the object of conveyance of the premises to be
for the use of the court-house and jail, and " in order to
promote the settlement and embellishment of ]>ynchville;"
all that part, the deed says, east side of James Street " to
be laid out and appropriated for the purpose of building
and erecting and to the use of the court-house and jail ;"
and all that part on the west side of James Street " to be
laid out and appropriated for the purpose of building and
erecting a church and school-house thereon, which church
and school-house shall bo established and built according to
the direction and appointment of a majority of the free-
holders, being inhabitants of the town of Rome for the
time being, for the use, benefit, and advantage of all the
inhabitants of the town of Rome aforesaid." It was further
provided in the deed, that all the premises " were forever to

remain a public square," and that no building should be
permitted to be erected within fifty feet of the boundary
line. The court-house and jail have been erected on the
east side, and a school- house on the west side, of James
Street, but no church has been erected on the premises thus
deeded. There was at one time considerable commotion in
Rome, by reason of a project to erect a church on the
premises on the west side ; the scheme was frustrated. In
February, 1802, the State Legislature authorized Oneida
County to raise by tax |539 to complete the jail just
erected in this county; the law does not say at what point
that jail is located, but the court records show that in 1801
the jail at Whitestown was reported ready for occupancy,
and that was probably the jail that had the benefit of the
$539 appropriated. On the 6th of April, 1803, the Legis-
lature passed a law authorizing the supervisors of Oneida
County to go on "and complete the doors to the jail lately
erected at Rome," and provided for payment of same ; so
it would seem that this first jail in Rome must have been
erected about 1802.

The Legislature by an act passed April 6, 1806, author-
ized Oneida County to raise by tax |4000 to build two
conrt-houses, one to be located near the jail at Rome, the
other near tho jail at Whitestown. In 1808 a further ap-
propriation of $3100 to complete said court-houses was
authorized. The above dates will show about the time of
the erection of those buildings.

In 1804 a dam was constructed across the Mohawk by
Mr. Lynch, some distance above the dam of the Inland
Canal, and from it he dug a large race-way, extending
across the land in a bend of the river, so that the waters
taken out at the dam returned through the race to the
stream at the other side of the " bow," where the " old Red
Mill" was the same year erected. This was below Factory
Village. About 1810-12, Mr. Lynch erected a woolen-
factory on the site now occupied by the soap-factory of
Brodock & Co. This was burned about 1817. Previous
to 1820, Mr. Lynch built a cotton-factory farther down the
race-way, which was burned in 1849. A saw-mill, built on
the same ground in 1863, and a wrench-factory in 1865,
were both burned. Early in the present century a distillery
stood near the woolen-factory.

Duminick Street in Rome originally extended from the
Mohawk on the east to Wood Creek on the west, having a
sli"-htly different direction from the one it follows at present,
and so continued until 1836, when it was changed. The
building occupied by Dominick Lynch when here, and pre-
vious to 1810 by his son James, stood on the spot after-
wards occupied by the dwelling of Virgil Draper, and at
present by that of H. K. White. It was a large, square,
frame building, and occupied the space which had been the
southeast corner of Fort Stanwix, that corner having been
leveled down in order to build the house. The Lynch
mansion was burned about 1824-25. The hand fire-engine
then owned by the village was brought out and efforts were
made to extinguish the fire, but, after much hard work and
when the engine had been crowded beyond its capacity, it
suddenly hurst, and the building was doomed. Mr. Draper
afterwards purchased the promises and erected a portion of
the dwelling now standing.




The next house, the present Presbyterian parsonage, was
partly built previous to 1800, and occupied for a tavern.
It is the oldest building now standing in Rome. In 1799
it was kept by Cicero Gould. Mr. Olmstead, father-in-law
of Wheeler Barnes, afterwards purchased it, and Mr. Barnes,
while residing there, had his law-office in a small frame
building which stood near the street, in the southeast corner
of the yard. There Judge Denio, William Curtis Noyes,
N. B. Judd, M.C., of Chicago, and at one time Minister
to Prussia under President Lincoln, pursued their law-

Farther west a small frame store was erected about 1 793
by George Huntington, and was subsequently used as a
part of his dwelling. Mr. Huntington built an addition to
his residence in 1812, which has more recently been owned
by Mrs. Merrill.

The " Merrill Block," on the corner of James and Dom-
inick Streets, was erected about 1844, on the site previously
occupied by Levi Green's store, a large frame building,
which was afterwards removed to the bank of the Black
River Canal, and used as a vinegar-factory.

The old " town well" was dug previous to 1800, at the
intersection of James and Dominick Streets. It had a curb
around it, a pump in it, and a trough, where cattle and
horses were watered.

On the site at present occupied by the " American
Block," northwest corner of Dominick and James, a three-
story frame hotel was erected previous to 1800, and in the
year mentioned a man named Logan kept it. Previous to
1820 this hotel was kept by one Lee, and afterwards by

James Thompson, Forman, Coleman, Freedom

Tibbitts, Benjamin Starr, Brainard, Rowe, and

others. , Daniel Whedon was its landlord in 1822-23.
The hotel extended west to a ten-feet alley, west of which
was the Dr. Stephen White lot. The doctor kept tavern
in a small one and a half story building in 1810. As
early as 1797 he was keeping tavern at the lower landing
on the Mohawk, subsequently removing to the village. The
hotel on Dominick Street was transformed into stores about
1843. One of the two public halls possessed by Rome at
that time was in the upper story of this hotel. It was the
place whore were held political and other meetings, revivals,
various exhibitions of wax figures, etc., and was one of the
important places of the village.

On the site at a later day occupied by Walker & Fox
there stood about 1800 a small frame dwelling, once owned
and occupied by Samuel Starr, who died quite early in the
present century, his family subsequently nearly all removing
to St. Louis, Mo., where a son-in-law, Henry S. Geyer,
was elected to the position of United States Senator in

' On the old " Bill Smith lot" was erected, about 1793, a
small frame dwelling, which was occupied before 1800 as a
tavern. It was so low that an ordinary-sized person found it
necessary to stoop in order to enter the doorway. About
1810, Smith used it for a store, and various parties occupied
it for different purposes afterwards. About 1822, Dr. Brown
purchased the lot, raised the store a stoi'y higher, and called
it the " Checkered Building." This was one of the most
important establishments in the village at the time. It was

swept away in the "great fire" of 1846, in which it origi-

A few feet east of the old " Rome Bank," on Dominick
Street, was the residence of Nathaniel Mudge, one of
Rome's earlifest settlers, and the father of Alva, Nathaniel,
Jr., and S. W. Mudge. Alva Mudge was born in this
house, a small frame building, in 1804.

The building known as the old " Bank of Rome" was
erected for a residence about 1821, by Benjamin Wright ;
it was the third brick building erected in the place, and
the only one at the time on the north side of Dominick
Sti'cet. In 1 832 the Bank of Rome was incorporated, and
the house purchased for the residence of the cashier. A

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 104 of 192)