Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 124 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 124 of 192)
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Walker homestead with portraits of this gentleman and
wife appears in another part of this work.


The subject of this sketch was born in Taunton, Mass.,
in the year 1788. In 1798 his father emigrated to
Oneida County with his family, which consisted of five
boys and one girl, and located on what is now known as
Smith Hill, then called " Jeames Hill." He resided in


Photo, by Williams.


Deerfield until his death, which occurred in 1874, at the
good old age of eighty-six years. He was a man well
qualified to contend with the hardships and privations of
pioneer life, and his success was attributable in part to
his remarkable energy and great physical strength, in evi-
dence of which it is only necessary to state that he, in
company with his three brothers, chopped and split 25
cords of wood in one day. He acquired a common-school
education, and married for his first wife Judith, daughter
of Zenas Dewey, of Deerfield, by whom he had three
daughters, only one of whom is now living. For Ijis second
wife he married Eleanor, daughter of Bphraim Wheder,
of Trenton, by whom he had several children, only two of
whom grew to maturity, — Griles and Ellen Davis, — both
residing in Deerfield, and the former being one of the most
prominent and successful farmers in the county.


wes born in the town of Schuyler, Herkimer Co., N. Y.,
Dec. 12, 1803, being the youngest son of a family of seven
children of Joseph and Catharine Cox. His father emi-
grated to the town of Deerfield in 1809, he being a native
of Schuyler, where he was born Sept. 19, 1776. His
mother was also a native of the same town, being born in
1770. They located on a farm of eighty acres, which is
still in possession of the family, and which, by the industry
and economy of Mr. Cox, has been increased to 217 acres.
His parents died, and are buried, in the town of Deerfield ;
his father being over seventy-eight years of age, and his death
occurred May 15, 1855. His mother died Jan. 26, 1855,
being over eighty-four years of age. He was married, March

20. 1848, to Nancy M., daughter of Godfrey and Mary Wall,
who were among the early settlers of Remsen, where she was
born April 10, 1828. Their family consisted of four chil-
dren, one of whom died in childhood. Jane, born March

20. 1849, and was married, Aug. 20, 1866, to George Wil-
cox, of Wisconsin, and is at present a resident of that State.
James M., born April 13, 1856, and was married to Sarah
E., daughter of Joseph Barker, of Poland, Herkimer Co.,
N. Y., May 30, 1875 ; they have one child. Minnie A.,
born Jan. 27, 1863. In politics, Mr. Cox was a strong
and ardent Democrat, and though solicited to hold a
number of public offices by his fellow-townsmen, always
refused the honor. He was a member of the Universalist
Church. He died Jan. 15, 1878, and by his death his wife
lost a loving companion ; his children, a kind father ; his
friends, an honest and upright man. All mourn his loss,
and regret he was taken away from the duties of his life.


The father of this gentleman is Cornelius Schermerhorn,
who emigrated from Montgomery Co., N. Y., to the town
of Deerfield, in 1803, and was married there, in 1819, to
Nancy Harrington. They are both living, having been
companions in life for most sixty years, the former being
in his eightieth, and the latter in her seventy-seventh year.
His father was early engaged in the tanning and shoe-
making trade, but afterwards became a farmer. He received
only the advantages of a common-school education, and
worked on his father's farm till the age of twenty-six. He
then started in life for himself, renting a farm for four years,
and without any pecuniary assistance is to-day in possession
of one of the finest farms in Oneida County, consisting of
about 150 acres, on which are located large, fine, and com-
modious buildings, with all modern improvements. In
1853 he commenced the manufacture of cheese, and pro-
duced an article that gained high reputation in the market ;
and in 1870 he was hired by a factory in Derby, Derby-
shire, England, to educate their employees in the mode of
making cheese in America. He also went to Brook, in
Water Land, Holland, on the same business. He remained
abroad a year. He was married, Sept. 8, 1852, to Susan,
daughter of Elijah and Mehitable Terry, she being born in
Newport, Herkimer Co., Dec. 20, 1826. They have but
one child living, Lydia N., born in Russia, Herkimer Co.,
Dec. 28, 1854. He belongs to the Republican party, and
he and his wife are members of the Free Baptist Church.





This town occupies a position in the northwest corner of
Oneida County, and has an area of 33,473 acres. It in-
cludes township No. 4, and a part of township No. 3, of
Scriba's Patent. The town is watered by Mad River and
its tributaries, — Little River and others, — and several
branches of Fish Creek, which join the latter stream after
a southeasterly course through Camden and Annsville.
Several of these streams furnish very good power for driv-
ing the machinery of mills, tanneries, etc. The surface
of the town is somewhat hilly, and in places quite broken.
The soil is cold and stony, and only by the hardest work is
it made to repay the efforts of the husbandman. The
original settlers have nearly all removed from the town, and
in their places is now found a large population of natives
of the land of the Shamrock.


of Florence was commenced in the fall of the year 1801,
at which time Amos Woodworth located about half a mile
from its north line. John Spinning, at about the same time,
settled on what is called the " State Road," two miles south-
east of Florence village, and a Mr. Turner came at about
the same period.

" These three settlers had each fifty acres of land given them by
William Henderson, of the city of New York, who had previously
purchased the fourth township of Scriba's Patent. The land was given
ELS a bonus to induce them to commence the settlement of the town-
ship. Perhaps there were others who had land given them, but of
this no satisfactory information has been obtained. Very shortly
after these first settlers had moved into town, Azariah Orton, a Mr.
Crawford and his son, Clark Crawford, and Norman Waugh, settled in
the south part of town, and Benoni Barlow, Ebenezer Barlow, Am-
brose Curtiss, Ephraim Wright, Joseph Olcott, and Benjamin Youngs
settled in that part of the town known as ' Florence Hill.' ""*

Nathan Thomson visited this town in 1801, but did not
settle until the 6th of May, 1802, when he brought his
family with him and located on the farm now owned by his
son, Aaron H. Thomson. He built a log house a short
distance east of the site of the present dwelling, where he
kept tavern for a long period, and finally erected a part of
the building now standing. He occupied this farm until
his death, and was succeeded in the tavern-keeping business
by his son, A. H. Thomson, who was born on the place
Oct. 4, 1805. The latter is still a resident on the old farm,
and occasionally practices law.

Another early settler in this neighborhood was Job
Dawley, who located previous to the war of 1812, on the
farm now owned by Robert McFern, near the present resi-
dence of Mr. Dawley's son, Calvin. The latter person was
twice at Sacket's Harbor during the war above mentioned,
and is now eighty-two years of age. Other early comers to
the town were Anthony Empey, Hiram Fellows, John Crop-
per, Elijah Blake (the first surveyor), and Abel Smith.

When Nathan Thomson came to Florence there was but
one house between that of John W. Bloomfield, Esq., at
Taberg, in the town of Annsville, and the one occupied by

* Jones.

John Spinning, two miles east of Florence village, a dis-
tance by the route then traveled of about twenty-two miles.
The settler who lived in this lone dwelling was named John
Rogers. For animal food the pioneer of that day was
obliged to depend exclusively on his rifle to secure it from
the herds of deer which roamed through the dense forests
which surrounded his "log cabin home." Yet even that
being the case, he so far humored his taste as to select the
smoothest and fattest of the lot, for the hardy settler was
still somewhat of an epicure.

Mr. Thomson very nearly lost his life on the 11th day
of July, 1809, while engaged in drawing wood to his door.
When about to fasten the chain to a load, the horse started
and caught the hook of the chain through the fleshy part
of Mr. Thomson's left leg, tearing the tendons loose from
the heel to the knee. The horse dragged him about
twenty-five rods, but Mr. Thomson finally disengaged him-
self as the animal was preparing to leap a fence, when he
must have almost certainly been killed. He finally recov-
ered, but was badly scarred.

It has been impossible to ascertain anything reliable con-
cerning the early.sohools of this town, from the fact that in
the neighborhoods where they were likely to have been
kept the population has almost entirely changed. But in
this, as in other towns, it could not have been long after
the settlements were made before means were provided, as
best they could be, for the education of the children.
There are at present seventeen districts in the town, three
of them being joint districts. The attendance is consider-
able, and the schools are in very good condition.


" The first church organization in the town of Florence was a Con-
gregational Church, on Florence Hill, organized December 16, 1816.
At the time of its formation it consisted of 10 members, — 3 males and
7 females. When constituted, it was on the Congregational plan of
government, but early joined the Presbytery on the accommodation
system. It had so increased that it reported to the Presbytery, Jan-
uary 1, 1829, 68 communicants J in 1832 and in 1834, 72 in each
year. From this time it declined in numbers until 1845, when it re-
ported but 40 members. From the timeof its formation up to 1825
the church had no pastor, but was supplied with preaching quite a
portion of the time by clergymen employed for different lengths of
time. October 7, 1825, they gave the Rev. Samuel Sweezy a call to
settle with them. A society in connection with the church was
formed January 26, 1826, and forthwith became incorporated under
the statute. Mr. Sweezy, having accepted the call, was installed
March 8, 1826. At a society-meeting, held February 6, 1826, a vote
of thanks to Gerrit Smith was passed, ' for furnishing part of the
glass, a site for the meeting-bouse, a liberal lot for a burying-place,
thirty acres of land for the benefit of the society, fifty acres to the
Rev. Samuel Sweezy, and a subscription of $10 a year for the sup-
port of the Gospel.' In 1825 the meeting-house on the hill was com-
menced, but was not completed under two or three years. The Rev.
Mr. Sweezy afterwards removed to Camden, and the church lost its


The first class of this denomination was organized about
1815, on Florence Hill, where a society is still in existence,
with a small membership. Another class was formed about
three miles below Florence village, on Mad River, about
1820, which flourished for a number of years. At the vil-
lage a class was formed at about the same time, which




erected a house of worship iij 1833. This society has a
large membership, and is under the pastoral care of Rev.
R. 0. Beebe, who holds services also in Redfield, Oswego Co.


This organization was formed previous to 1828, in which
latter year it belonged to- the Oneida Baptist Association,
and had a membership of twenty-four, with Roger Maddock,
a licentiate, as pastor. Mr. Maddock labored here until
1831, when he was ordained as a preacher. In 1835 there
were 64 members, in charge of James B. Olcott. Among
the preachers were Denison Aloott, Benjamin Fuller, and
others. The society built a very respectable house of wor-
ship in the village, and in 1833 opened a school for the
education;of young, men, on the plan of combining mental
and manual labor. A large three-story -stone building, for
the use^of tl;e -school, -was erected in 183-4, .but, finally both
church and^ijhool'lost their visibility. The church is now
occupied by^ a small Congregational society, in charge of
Rev. Mr. "Watkins, of Osceola, Lewis Co. ; and the school-
building was. purchased by the Catholics about 1845-46,
and converted into a church. The latter congregation is the
largest in town, and is in charge of Rev. Father Ludden.


Owing to some disagreement, two churches were built at
this place originally, — one where the school-house now
stands, and the other in its present location in the western
part of the village. One or both these churches received
the name " Union Church" at first. Both were frame
buildings ; the upper one was converted into a school-house,
and finally burned. The present church was dedicated by
the Methodist Episcopal society within the past five or six
years. Owing to a recent revival, its membership has con-
siderably increased, and now numbers about 40. The
pastor is Rev. R. 0. Beebe, of Florence village. A
Sabbath-school is sustained, and the society is in a flourish-
ing condition.


The town of Florence was formed from a part of Cam-
den, Feb. 16, 1805. A portion of Annsville was taken ofi'
in 1823, leaving it with its present dimensions. By the
provisions of the act creating the town, the first town-
meeting was held at the tavern of John Spinning, two
miles southeast of Florence village, on the State road, on
the first Tuesday in April, 1805.* The following were
the officers elected, viz. : Supervisor, Asa Jenkins ; Town
Clerk, David Young ; Assessors, Benoui Barlow, Eliakim
Simons, Daniel Dye ; Collector, Joseph Olcott ; Poormas-
ters, Ephraim Wright, Abraham Morton ; Commissioners
of Highways, Samuel Town, John Spinning, Ephraim
Wright ; Constables, Joseph Olcott, James Angell ; Fence-
Viewers, Ansel Lovejoy, Imri Case, Lemuel Spinning,
Jonathan Morton ; Pathmasters, Azariah Orton, Jared
Olcott, Norton Waugh, David Kellogg, Amos Willcox,
Salem Town, Asa Jenkins, Daniel Dye.

The following are the Supervisors of Florence from 1806
to 1877, inclusive : 1806-7, Asa Jenkins; 1808, Samuel

* Town records have it March 5, 1805.

Stanford ; 1809-13, Asa Jenkins ; 1813 (special election),
Samuel Stanford; 1814-23, Benoni Barlow; 1824-28,
Calvin Dawley; 1829-32, Amos Woodworth ; 1833-34,
Simon Davis; 1835-36, Charles Curtiss; 1837-38, Safford
S. Delano; 1839-40, Amos Woodworth; 1841, Nathan
Thomson; 1842, Varnum Dunton ; 1843-44, Anthony
Empey, Jr. ; 1845-46, Daniel G. Dorrance ; 1847, Watson
Sammon ; 1848-50, Aaron H. Thomson ; 1851-52, John
Downer, Jr. ; 1853-54, Rensselaer Lament; 1855, Junius y
A. Cowles; 1856, Lewis Rider; 1857-58, Cornelius
Simpkins; 1859, Aaron H. Thomson; 1860-61, Lewis
Rider; 1862-63, Michael McLaughlin; 1864-66, A. H.
Thomson; 1867-68, A. L. Rider; 1869-70, Stoddard
Loveland; 1871-77, Edward Fitzgerald.

For 1878 the officers of Florence are as follows, viz. :
Supervisor, Joseph McFern ; Town Clerk, Michael Donohoe;
Justice of the Peace, John Moor ; Commissioner of High-
ways, Michael Smith ; Collector, William Cavanah ; Assessor,
James Fox ; Overseer of the Poor, Patrick Roach ; Town
Auditors, John Hoolihan, Joseph Finegan, Ira B. Griffin ;
Constables, Daniel O^Mara, Thomas Smith, John Hawks,
Elson Moses, Ambrose Osbbrn ; Inspectors of Election, Dis-
trict No. 1, Edward Williams, Stephen Loveland, Robert
Johnson ; District No. 2, Michael Malone, David Simpkins,
C. G. Vandewalker ; Excise Commissioner, Daniel Courtany.


is the most considerable place of business in the town, and
is centrally located on Little River, a branch of Mad River.
It contained in March, 1878, six stores, beside several estab-
lishments keeping liquors and notions, two tin-shops, one
hotel (another large hotel was burned in February, 1878),
four blacksmith-shops, three wagon-shops, one harness-shop,
a post-office, three churches, a tannery, a grist-mill, etc.
The hotel which was burned was a large building, owned by
J. K. Curry, erected in 1825 by James Cleveland, the
founder of the village of Cleveland, in Oswego County.

Florence post-office was established at an early date, and
in 1823 was located at the tavern of Asa Barnes, two
miles above the village. Mr. Barnes was then postmaster,
although undoubtedly others had held it before. About
1829-30 the office was removed to the village. The pres-
ent postmaster is Horatio J. Evans.

Thomas Evans, the father of the above gentleman, for-
merly of Peterboro', Madison Co., came here in 1823, at
the solicitation of Gerrit Smith, to aid in founding a vil-
lage for the latter. Mr. Evans was a blacksmith by trade,
and, on arriving here, began work in a shop which Smith
had built the previous year (1822). Mr. Smith induced
mechanics and men of various classes to locate here, and at
one time great hopes were indulged in for the future of the
village. His agent was Roger Maddock, a merchant of
Peterboro', who came to Florence and bought out a small
store kept by one Norton, and established himself in the
same business.

Smith also owned a grist-mill at the village, which had
been built but a short time previous. It is yet in operation,
the property of Wilmot & Graves.

Previous to the year 1828 a tannery was put in operation
by Ezra Graves, who left the place in 1828 or 1829, and is

Photos, by Hovey & Brainerd




William W. Graves, son of Elijah and Alice
Graves, was born in Cheshire Co., N. H., Sept.
5, 1809. He was the eldest of a family of four
children. When he was ten years of age his father
died, leaving his family in limited circumstances.
William being the oldest, it was essential that he
should earn something to help to support the family,
which he did by picking up odd jobs here and
there in the neighborhood. The first money that
was earned by this industrious boy was used to
purchase a cow for his mother. His advantages for
obtaining an education were very meagre ; but being
a practical man, he has adopted a system of book-
keeping that is both simple and accurate. When
he was twenty-one years of age he learned the
carpenter's and joiner's trade, which he has followed,
more or less, from that time until the present. In
the year 1837 he came to the town of Florence,
after traveling over a considerable portion of the
State in the employ of James Willson, introducing
the spiral vent water-wheel. In the same year he
built a grist-mill at Florence, and a few years later
added a saw-mill. Since then he has erected many
other buildings, doing much more in this line than

any other man in the town. His last enterprise in
building was the erection of a tannery for his
nephew, who was a practical tanner. Misfortune
overtaking them, the nephew abandoned the enter-
prise, leaving Mr. Graves to make the most of a
bad investment, which he did by applying himself
diligently to learn the trade.

June 20, 1841, he married Seba Page, a native
of the same county as himself, and daughter of
Elias and Olive Page. They were married in the
mill at Florence, and used it for a habitation until
their financial affairs warranted them in erecting
a more suitable dwelling. Together they have
labored for thirty-seven years, and have succeeded
in accumulating a fine property, and now they are
apparently enjoying the fruits of a busy life. The
writer found them affable and entertaining, and
hospitable to a fault. Not having been blessed with
children of their own blood, they have adopted a
loving daughter on whom they lavish paternal affec-
tion. Mr. Graves has erected a fine monument on
an eminence overlooking the village, a picture of
which can be seen on another page, in connection
with a view of their home and surroundings.



now a judge in Herkimer County. His father was sIierifF
of the latter county, and had established him in business.
The son was first judge of Herkimer County for fifteen
years; also held the positions of surrogate. State prison
inspector, and otliers.

Another tannery was put in operation at the village, in
1832, by James S. T. Stranahan, through the efforts of
Gerrit Smith. Mr. Stranahan has since become a wealthy
citizen of Brooklyn, Long Island. This tannery was de-
stroyed by fire ; and a second one was built by Lewis Rider,
who did a very heavy business. The property now belongs
to the Terrill Brothers, of Boston, and this building has also
been burned within the past three or four years. W. W.
Graves is carrying on at present a considerable business in
the manufacture of upper-leather. There was also another
tannery in the village, owned by John Sliter, the frame of
which is yet standing.


This place was named from Anthony Empey, Jr., whose
father, Anthony Empey, Sr., came to the town about
1811-13, and settled first where Calvin Dawley now lives.
Anthony Empey, Jr., laid out the village, and a saw-mill
was built here by the same family. Boai-dwine Dyer after-
wards built a grist-mill, the latter being at present out of use.

The post-office at this place is called " East Floronce," and
was originally located at the corners near the Thomson
place. Charles B. Thomson, a brother of Aaron H.
Thomson, was probably the first postmaster. The office
was changed to its present location at tlie village of
Empeyville April 14, 1863, during President Lincoln's
first term. The present postmaster is Garret Dyer. Blail
was carried through this region on the old route between
Rome and Saoket's Harbor, first on horseback and afterwards
by a line of stages, which was put on in opposition to
another, over what was known as the Black River route.

Empeyville contains two stores, two blacksmith-shops, a
saw-mill, two cooper-shops, a basket-factory, a. church, a
frame school-house, a post-office, and about 150 inhabitants.
It is located in an elevated position in the northeast part
of town. The hills in this neighborhood rise probably 300
to 350 feet above the Rome level, and the streams have a
rapid current. Numerous springs abound in this town, and,
with good water and pure air, its location is excellent for the
health of its inhabitants, even though the prospect for
gaining a. profitable livelihood by the cultivation of the
soil is not flattering.

The first marriage in town was that of Benjamin Wilcox
and Betsey Waugh, in 1803, and the first birth that of
a child of Charles Crawford.

Thanks are due to those of the citizens of Florence who
have assisted in the work of preparing its history. This task,
at the present day, is attended with great labor and few satis-
factory results, as so few of the descendants of the original
settlors are at present living within its boundaries. We are
indebted to the family of A. H. Thomson, to Garret Dyer,
and others, in Empeyville and vicinity, to Thomas Evans,
of Florence village, and numerous others in the town for
information obtained.



The town of Floyd is located east of the centre of the
county, and has an area of 20,650 acres. The largest part
of this town is included in the southeast corner of Fonda's
Patent, while in the southern part the Oriskany Patent
covers a considerable area. The eastern portion is in the
Holland Patent, and the southeast corner on the Sumner
Tract. The town extends to the Mohawk River on tlie
south, its southern extremity being at the junction of that
stream and Nine-Mile Creek. Tributaries of both flow
through the town, or, more properly speaking, have their
sources within it.

The southern part of Floyd is included in the level inter-
vale along the Mohawk, while farther north extends for some
distance a sandy plateau, reaching back to the foot of the
range of hills to the northward. This range has received
the name of " Floyd Hill," and rises to the height of
several hundred feet above the valley of the Mohawk.
From its summit the eye covers a vast expanse of territory.
The soil in a large portion of the town is excellent, and
many fine farms are seen ; but in other localities it is cold
and poor and much better adapted to pasturage than grain-

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 124 of 192)