Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 144 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 144 of 192)
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acres of his father's estate, and at the present time works
about twelve hundred acres of land.

For the last three years he has dealt largely in cattle.
In the management of this large landed property, Mr. M.
has proved himself a worthy successor of his father. In
politics he has always taken a prominent part in the town.
His first vote for President was cast for James G. Birney.
Was always a strong anti-slavery and temperance man. He
served as town supervisor five years; was elected to the
Assembly in the fall of 1853, as a Maine Law Whig, and
served on the Maine Law and Claims committees. In his
own neighborhood, Mr. Mitchell will perhaps be best re-
membered as a Sabbath-school man, having served in the
capacity of Sabbath-school Superintendent of the Methodist
Episcopal Church of Remsen village continuously for seven-
teen years. Both Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell have been for
many years members of that church.


The subject of this sketch, the fourth of five brothers,
was born May 24, 1812, under the shadow of the historic
grove in which lies all that is mortal of Baron de Steuben,
in the township named in honor of the illustrious dead.

His parents were natives of Caernarvonshire, North
Wales. His grandparents, with eight of their children,
landed at Philadelphia in the year 1795, leaving one son
in his native land, who attained great eminence as a scholar
and poet, under the nom-de-plume of " Evan Prydydd"
(Evan the Poet). His writings, since compiled by his son,
are now conspicuous in almost every Cambrian household.
Thomas Thomas, the father of Didymus, in his youth led a
seafaring life, and at the age of twenty-one (having previ-
ously become an American citizen, by the act of his father)
suflfered the indignity of seizure by a British man-of-war,
whilst en route from New York to Liverpool in the merchant
service. He and two fellow-sailors were impressed into the
British service, a species of barbarism then in vogue on the
part of England, which was not fully abandoned until the
treaty of Ghent, at the conclusion uf the second war be-

tween that power and the United States. Directly follow-
ing Mr. Thomas' enforced service under the British flag,
against the first Napoleon, the vessel to which he had been
forcibly transferred engaged a French frigate of superior
armament, and during the bloody carnage which ensued
Mr. Thomas suffered the loss of his right lower limb, which
was carried away by a thirty-six-pound cannon-ball. The
engagement was not decisive in consequence of a dense fog
which separated the combatants. His limb was amputated
by the ship's surgeon, and he was soon transferred to the
hospital at Halifax, thence to London, where he remained
until his cure was effected, when he returned to his native
home in Wales. He married Miss Mary Hughes, and soon
thereafter re-embarked for the land of his adoption, arriv-
ing in Philadelphia in the year 1800, where he remained
four years ; his father and family having, in the mean time,
removed to Trenton, N. Y., whither Mr. Thomas followed
them, reaching Steuben in the year 1804. At this time
the fame of the baron, and the grand and salubrious hills
comprising his patrimony, had become widely spread, and
was attracting the Welsh emigrants, of whom Mr. Thomas
was a pioneer. And such was his energy, indomitable
perseverance, and judgment, although wearing a " wooden
leg," none surpassed him as a successful agriculturist, or
more satisfactorily discharged public trusts devolving upon
him as a citizen. Mr. Thomas survived to his eighty-sixth
year, and had used an artificial limb for the unprecedented
period of sixty-five years. Thus, for nearly the space al-
lotted to human life, did he endure this great deprivation,
the result of British tyranny. But in justice to England,
it is proper to state that, although the subject of another
government, he was up to the time of his death a British
pensioner, an anomalous case, and exceptional throughout
the records of English admiralty.

Didymus Thomas was always studiously inclined. He
obtained a good academic education, and in early life inter-
spersed farm labor with school-teaching, harboring a pre-
conceived idea also entertained by his father of devoting
himself to the profession of medicine, in which he did em-
bark as a student ; but the duties developing more and more
of that which was repugnant to his nature, the further
pursuit of the profession was abandoned, and he entered
upon the business of merchandising. Throughout the
years to which he devoted himself to this pursuit, as clerk
and as principal, fidelity to every trust was his unvarying

In later years Mr. Thomas was extensively engaged in the
manufacture of cheese, using for the purpose a large building
(represented in the drawing on another page) which, at the
time, was one of the best patronized factories in the vicinity,
and the product of which was regarded in the English
markets among the best of American make. But owing
to the onerous duties imposed, and unreasonable exactions
of patrons, unfortunately for himself and the community
the business was abandoned, and the premises leased for
other purposes. But for many years past he has devoted
his time and means to real estate transactions, in which he
is extensively engaged at the present time. He has been
prominently identified with positions of honor and trust, in-
teresting himself actively in all educational interests in the



community, discharging the duties of magistrate, supervisor,
postmaster, etc., with uniform ability and fidelity, and sub-
sequently representing his distiict in the State Legislature
in a manner highly creditable to himself and most satisfac-
tory to his constituents, taking an active part in all the im-
portant work of the session. A singular circumstance con-
nected with his election to the Legislature was the fact, —
being then a supervisor, he oflBcially certified to his own
election as chairman of the board of canvassers, in which
proceedings his opponent also participated as a member of
the board of county canvassers. Mr. Thomas has been
twice married. His first wife was the daughter of Rev.
William Gr. Pierce, a pioneer in the ministry of his native
town. She lived but a few years after her marriage ; one
daughter now survives her, who, with her husband, is
abroad, and is at the present time sojourning in Wales,
revelling in the gorgeous scenes of mountain, valley, and
stream ; scenes in the midst of which generations of her
ancestors played their parts and went hence.

His present estimable and accomplished wife is a daugh-
ter of John R. Griffith, Esq., deceased, of Philadelphia,
who was an honored and successful business man of that

Mr. Thomas is an exceptionally rigid temperance advo-
cate, having never during his life made use of alcoholic
stimulants or tobacco in any form, nor with money or in-
fluence contributed in support of habits which he deems so

Of the five brothers, four still live in the town of Rem-
sen, and within a few miles of the place of their birth.
Still more remarkable is the fact, that the mother and the
grandparents of these brothers, together with the eight
children whom they brought to this country, all sleep in
the little churchyard. Capal-Ucha (upper church) referred
to, is shown in the background of the drawing ou the
left side, only a short distance from the northwest corner of
Mr. Thomas' farm, which was erected by the first Welsh
religious organization formed north of the Mohawk River ;
and thus, notwithstanding the flight of years, and the mul-
tifarious changes they have wrought in their course, the
living and the dead of this family still remain in close

In politics Mr. Thomas has always been an ardent Free-
Soil Democrat, but never failing, either by his vote or influ-
ence, to promote the cause of temperance.



Sangerfield is the westernmost of the southern tier of
towns in the county of Oneida, and has an area of 19,18S
acres. It includes the greater part of township No. 20, of
the Chenango " Twenty Towns," and is watered by the east
branch of the Oriskany and the west branch of the Che-
nango Creeks. Its surface is an upland, from 700 to 800
feet higher than the Mohawk at Utica, and considerably
hilly. Along the west branch of the Chenango is what is

known as the Great Swamp, extending from near Water-
ville to the southern border of the town, and averaging a
mile in width. It was originally covered with a heavy
growth of pine and cedar. The soil in the valleys is a rich
alluvium, and that on the hills a gravelly loam. The great
industry of this town is the culture of hops, which in most
years has been a source of large profit to the inhabitants.
Stock-raising is also extensively engaged in, and consider-
able grain is produced. Bailey's Pond, in the southern
part of town, covers about 10 acres, and lies 200 feet above
the Great Swamp. It has been sounded to the depth of
120 feet without touching bottom.

Under a law passed in February, 1789, this town was
surveyed in the summer of that year. In 1790 and 1791
it was purchased of the State upon speculation, chiefly by
Michael Myers, Jedediah Sanger, and John J. Morgan,
and a considerable portion of it was subsequently leased in
perpetuity. The following is a copy of the record of this
case, subsequent to the application of the above-named
gentlemen :

" The iippliciition of Michael Myers, Jedediah Snnger, and John J.
Morgan for the purchase of Townships No. 18 and 20, and the pjirts
unsold by the Surveyor-General of Township No. 19, being three of
the Twenty Townships surveyed by the Surveyor-General pursuant
to an act pnssed the 25th day of February, 1789. The two first town-
ships, to wit, Nos. 18 and 20, at the rate of 3 shillings and 3 pence
per acre, and the parts of No. 19 unsold, as above mentioned, at the
rate of 3 shillings and 1 penny per acre; one-sixth part thereof to be
paid on the 1st day of October next, and the residue in two equal
payments, the one-half on the Ist of April, 1792, and the remaining
half on the 1st of January, 1793, being read and duly considered.

"Acres, 67,130 =£10,908, 15 shillings."*

The " Great Swamp'' has been drained and converted
into valuable meadow-lands, and most of its timber has
been cleared away. The town was named from Colonel
Jedediah Sanger, one of its original proprietors, and the
pioneer of New Hartford. It was formed from Paris,
March 5, 1795, and included what is now Bridgewater ;
the latter was taken off in 1797. From March 15, 1798,
to April 4, 1804, the town of Sangerfield was included in
Chenango County, but at the latter date an act was passed
annexing it to Oneida.


'* Sangerfield, April 7, 1795.

"Agreeable to a law in that case made and provided, the Free-
holders and Inhabitants (qualified to vote for Town Officers) of Sanger
met at the house of Zerah Phelps. After the meeting was opened
voted to adjourn to the barn.

" 2d. Made choice of Thomas Brown, Esq., Town Clerk.

" 3d. Chosen David Norton Supervisor."

The remaining ofiicers chosen were as follows, viz. : As-
sessor, Joseph Farwell, Daniel Brown, and Ezra Parker ;
Constables and Collectors, Jonathan Porter and David
Chapin ; Overseers of the poor, Oliver Norton and Thomas
Converse ; Commissioners of Highways, Timothy White,
Saul Smith, and Oliver Norton ; Pathmasters, Jonathan
Palmer, Eldad Corbet, John W. Brown, James Kenny,
Eri Brooks, Philip King, Asahel Hunt, Jesse Ives, Roger
W. Steele, John Phillips, Thomas Stephens, Oliver Eagur,

» Documentary History of New York, vol. iii. p. 1072.



Zerab Phelps, Joel Blair, Solomon Williams, Benjamin
White, John Stone, Joseph Putney, Moses Bush, Elias
Montgomery, and Thomas Hale ; Fence-Viewers, Ezra
Parker, Joel Blair, Nathan Gurney, Uri Brooks, and
David Norton, Esq.

" Voted to build two pounds : one at or near the house of
Ebenezer Moody, and the other near the house of Ebenezer
Hale." These two gentlemen were chosen poundmasters.

"Voted to hold the next town-meeting at Timothy
White's dwelling-house."

The Supervisor of Sangerfield in 1796 was David Nor-
ton; for the four years from 1797 to 1800 inclusive the
record is incomplete ; those since 1801 have been the fol-
lowing: 1801, Amos Muzzy; 1802, Oliver Norton; 1803-
4, Justus Tower; 1805, Benjamin White; 1806-9, Oliver
C. Seabury ; 1810, John Williams; 1811, 0. C. Seabury;
1812, Josiah Bacon; 1813, 0. C. Seabury; 1814-20,
Josiah Bacon ; 1821-23, Reuben Bacon ; 1824-27, Sam-
uel M. Mott; 1828, Josiah Bacon; 1829-31, Samuel M.
Mott; 1832, Reuben Bacon; 1833, John Mott, Jr.; 1834,
Erastus JefFers ; 1835, Levi D. Carpenter; 1836, Erastus
Jeifers; 1837-40, Horace Bigelow ; 1841-42, Julius
Tower; 1843, Horace Bigelow; 1844, Otis Webster;
1845, Amos 0. Osborn; 1846, Erastus A. Walter; 1847-
48, De Witt C. Tower; 1849, John W. Stafford; 1850-
51, George W. Cleveland; 1852-54, James M. Tower;
1855, Edwin H. Lamb; 1856, Hull Page; 1857-62, Piatt
Camp; 1863-76, James G. Preston; 1877-78, Marion B.
Crossett. The remaining officers for 1878 are the follow-
ing: Town Clerk, E. H. Mott, who has held the office con-
tinuously since 1852, with the exception of the four years
from 1860 to 1863 inclusive; Assessor, William S. Smith ;
Overseer of the Poor, Delos C. Terry ; Collector, Marion J.
West ; Constables, M. J. West, Isaac H. Benedict, William
H. Randell, James D. Terry, William Bardin ; Inspectors
of Election, District No. 1, Hermon Clark, C. M. Felton,
John B. Jones; District No. 2, W. F. Bayless, A. G.
Haven, Frank B. Demming ; Town Collector, Morris
Terry, George Beach, Francis H. Terry; Excise Commis-
sioner, G. N. Lock ; Justices of the Peace, George H.
Church, L. G. Williams, George W. Cleveland, Orlando


The article relating to this town which was published in
Judge Jones' history of the county was prepared for him by
Amos 0. Osborn, of Waterville, and from it we make liberal

In the fall of 1791, Zerah Phelps, who had previously
purchased lot No. 42 in this town, sent his hired man to
build a log house upon it. This building stood about a
mile southeast of Sangerfield Centre, and was the first tene-
ment erected for a settler in the town. Mr. Phelps was
then a resident of the " Green Woods," in Massachusetts.

"About the first of March, 1792, Minierva Hale and wife, and
Nathan Gurney and wife and infant, moved into the town from New
Hartford, where they had previously resided one or two years. The
first day of their journey they reached the house of Simon Hubbard,
in the town of Marshall, where they remained overnight. Their con-
veyances were o-t-teams and sleds. On the next morning, the snow
being very deep, they made short yokes for their oxen, and using their

bed-cords for traces, they drove them ttmdem, and thus plowed their
way to their new farms. The distance from Mr. Hubbard's was but
about four miles, biit such was the almost impassable state of their
route (for road they had none) over hills and logs, across and through
creeks, swamps, and thickets, overlaid with at least four feet of snow,
that it was quite night before they reached its termination. Mr. Hale
had purchased land adjoining the lot of Mr. Phelps, and Mr. Gurney
had purchased lot No. 40, now in the village of Waterville, and a part
of which was afterwards owned by Aaron Stafford, Esq., whose father,
Ichabod Stafford, noticed as among the earliest settlers of Augusta,
purchased of Gurney. They both, however, proceeded to the house
of Mr. Phelps, who had moved into it only two or three days pre-
viously, and here they remained until they built houses for them-
selves. The three men, their wives, and Gumey's child all occupied
the same room, and for the best of reasons, — it was the only one in the
house or in the town. In the month of April, when the heavy body
of snow on the ground began to melt, their proximity to the creek
became a source of considerable annoyance. After a very warm day
and night, for the season, upon awaking in the morning, they found
a portion of the creek had formed a current directly through the
house. A sort of cellar had been dug, large enough for present pur-
poses, under the floor in the centre of the room, of which the water
had taken possession, and the pork-barrel was merrily waltzing in
the eddy. The women remained in bed while the men waded out and
cut large logs, on which to make a fire. During the remainder of the
day, and until the water subsided, the women performed all their
housework while upon their beds. Mr. Gurney immediately went to
work upon his Land, and was the first settler in Waterville."

In the month of April following Benjamin White came
and settled on a farm included in lots Nos. 39 and 40, the
same afterwards occupied by Amos Osborn. The same year
witnessed a number of new arrivals. Phineas Owen and
the father of Nathan Gurney settled on lot No. 40 ; and
in April and May there arrived Sylvanus Dyer, Asahel
Bellows, Nathaniel Ford, Henry Knowlton, Jonathan Strat-
ton, and a Mr. Clark. These were all the families in town
in 1792. Nathaniel Ford was really the first one of the
actual settlers that visited the town, as he had helped
survey it in 1789, and located upon the lot then selected.

Early in the fall of 1792 a serious frost occurred, which
utterly destroyed the corn crop, and frightened away emi-
grants until 1794 ; even those already here thought seriously
of removing if the next year should prove as unfortunate.

In May, 1792, Mr. Clark had his leg badly crushed by
a falling tree, the accident happening on Saturday afternoon.
He was taken at once to the house of Mr. Hale, but newly
erected, and made as comfortable as circumstances would
permit. A surgeon's presence was necessary, and Mr. Hale,
mounting the only horse in town, started in quest of one,
carrying a torch to light his way, and being guided only by
the moss on the north sides of the trees. He arrived early
Sunday morning at Whitestown, but finding no physician
there who dared to perform amputation, he proceeded to
Port Schuyler, where he found Dr. Guiteau, who returned
with him'. The doctor examined the man's leg, but did
not wish to operate without the aid and counsel of an older
practitioner, and Dr. Petrie, of Herkimer, was accordingly
sent for. Upon his arrival, on Tuesday, the two, with the
assistance of Dr. Elmer, of Paris, amputated the limb.

The first white child born in the town was a daughter of
Mr. and Mrs. Zerah Phelps, whose birth occurred in July,
1792. This family afterwards removed to Batavia, Genesee
Co., where another daughter was the first white child
born in that town. Mr. Phelps was a member of the first
grand jury ever impaneled west of the Genesee River. The



first white male child born in Sangerfield was Seneca Hale,
son of Mr. and Mrs. Minierva Hale, the date of his birth
being Jan. 20, 1793.

Several false alarms from Indians occurred during the year
1792, and the settlers prudently made friends of the red
denizens of the forest rather than in any manner to incur
their displeasure. The Indian trail — " Oneida Path" —
entered the town about two and a half miles east of its
northwest corner, and left it but a few rods west of the
southeast corner, and sometimes the Indians were seen
along it in considerable numbers while on their fishing and
hunting expeditions from Oneida to the Unadilla.

" One afternoon, in the early part of October, all the men in the
town, eight in number, were collected together, constructing a bridge
over the Oriskany Creek, near the subsequent site of the woolen-fac-
tory. While thus engaged they heard the hum of many voices, and
a scout who was dispatched soon reported that about 150 Indians, of
all sizes, were passing on their path to the Unadilla, about 200 rods
from where the men were. Mr. Hale, knowing that if nothing worse
happened his wife would be sadly frightened, started for his home,
but did not arrive as soon as the Indians. Mrs. Phelps, who had
just finished baking when she first saw the Indians, left all but her
infant and ran to Mr. Hale's, and, on her arrival, Mrs. Hale, who
was equally frightened, proposed to run to the men. Mrs. Phelps,
however, objected to this, on account of her being burdened with her
infant, and at that moment they saw through the window a single
Indian approaching the house. Mrs. Hale concluded that the two
could conquer him, and, if not, they would meet the worst .is they
best could. The Indian, who from his appearance she supposed to
be the son of a chief, addressed her in the Indian dialect, which of
course was not understood. Mrs. Hale, in haste to see the end of the
matter, pale and frightened as she was, assumed an air of unconcern,
and said, ' If you want anything, use plain language and say what it
is; if I have it, you shall have it.' He immediately responded,
* Bread,' and was almost as soon supplied with all she had. The In-
dian took out of his belt of wampum a silver brooch, of the value
perhaps of a shilling, and ofi'ered to pay for the bread, but this was
refused, and he was told it was given him. He left with a smile upon
his face, and was soon with his comrades, who were in full possession
of Mrs. Phelps' house, and a shout of laughter, which made many
broad acres of the forest ring, announced his arrival. Mrs. Hale said
she presumed the merriment was caused by his description to the In-
dians of the ridiculous figure she made when, pale and trembling
with fear, she assumed so bold an air while addressing him. Mrs.
Phelps, to her astonishment, upon returning to her house found her
own bread untouched, and everything precisely as she had left it, as
if no one had been there."*

February 9, 1793, Colonel David Norton and his family
moved into town from Arlington, Bennington Co., Vt.
The colonel kept a diary on his journey the previous year
to the western country, on a tour of exploration, from which
the following are extracts :

"May 28, 1792. — Set out from Arlington to view the western

"June 1. — Rode to Whitestown, thirteen miles from German Flats,
to James Ferguson's; from thence to Colonel Sanger's, four miles;
from thence to Samuel Ferguson's, two miles. Whitestown is mostly
level; the soil rich, but poorly watered. The timber is maple, beech,
elm, bass, hemlock, and butternut.

" Monday, June i. — Went to Clinton, and thence through the In-
dian lands, the soil of which is excellent, the ground being covered
with nettles and other herbage, four miles ; from thence to the twen-
tieth township, which is thirteen miles from Colonel Sanger's, by way
of Clinton, and lodged at Stratton's.

" Thursday, June 7.— A rainy day ; viewed in other parts of the town.
Land rich, hilly, and well watered. Lodged at Dyer's.

"Friday, June 8.— Went to view lots No. 41, 38, and 27. Level;

* Jones.

timber mostly maple, with some bass, elm, beech, butternut, cherry,
and two cedar swamps, with pine and hemlock; a branch of the
An'nea [Oriskany] running through 38, and a small pond on 27.
Lodged at Stratton's.

" iiaiurday, June 9. — Returned to Colonel Sanger's by Colonel Tut-
tle's [Paris Hill], and bought of Colonel Sanger lots Nos. 38 and 27,
and tarried at Samuel Ferguson's."

Colonel Norton became one of the most prominent men
in the settlement. He was the first justice of the peace,
the first supervisor, the first captain and first colonel in the
militia, and the first postmaster after the post-office was re-
moved to the centre. His name appears almost uniformly
foremost in all the early enterprises of the town, be they
religious, civil, political, or social. Tlie first wedding in
town was that of his eldest daughter, Hannah Norton, and
Sylvanus Dyer, whose marriage took place Oct. 3(1, 1793,
the ceremony being performed by Esquire Tuti^le, as his
first attempt in' that line. Every person in the town was
invited, and not one failed to be present.

As previously stated, the season of 1792 was disastrous
to the crops of the settlers, and matters appeared gloomy
enough. However, in 1793 affairs brightened, corn and
all other kinds of grain which had been sown ripened to
the greatest perfection, and the hearts of the pioneers were
made glad and their granaries overflowed with the plenitude
of the harvest, and the following year, 1794, witnessed the

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 144 of 192)