Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 173 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 173 of 192)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tliat, from information, it appears to tlie committee tliat nine gallons
Qf water will make two quarts of salt.

" 7^t«o/yet/, That said committee devise ways and means to make
further experiments in order to ascertain the quality of said water at
Oriskic; and if they are of (he opinion that Silt can bo manufactured
to advantage, that they pro=eed, without delay, to procure materials
and employ proper persons to carry on the same."

It is probable that nothing further was ever done towards
manufacturing salt in that locality,«and the location of the
" certain springs at Oriskie" is unknown to even the oldest
dweller in the villajie.

9 For a more complete account of this engagement, see General


As early as 1756, during the French and Indian war,
the colonial soldiers of the British army who passed through
this region noticed the beauty and fertility of the country,
and, returning, told wonderful stories regarding it, which
were generally verified by Indian missionaries.

The attention of the New Englanders was turned to sub-
jects nearer their homes during the earlier days of the
Revolution, and it was not until the year 1777 that they
again visited this portion of New York. During that year
General Larned's Massachusetts troops were with the army
which marched under Arnold to the relief of Fort Stanwix,
and Sullivan's men, in his famous campaign against the
Indians, in 1778-79, were largely from New England.
Recollecting the beauties and various advantages of the
Mohawk Valley, or the region around its head-waters,
many removed from their former homes and located in
the newly-opened territory. The first permanent settle-
ment in the county, and in the State west of the German
settlements on the Mohawk, was made within the limits of
the present town of Whitestown. The narrative of the
settlement of Hugh White, the first permanent settler in
what is now Oneida County, is so well given in Judge
Jones's "Annals of Oneida County" that we reproduce it
here •.'\

"Hugh White removed from Middletown, Connecticut, in May,
1784, and arrived in what is now Whitestown on the 5th of June.
He came by water to Albany, crossed by land to Sckeneetady, where
he purchased u bateau, in which he made passage up the Mohawk
River to the mouth of the Sauquoit Creek. His four sons, a daughter,
and daughter-in-law accompanied him. When he left Middletown
he sent one of his sons with two yokes of oxen by land to Albany,
who arrived there about the same time as did his father. As the
family proceeJed up the Mohawk in the boat their teams kept even
pace by land, and when they arrived at Shoemahev'B, a. few miles
below Utica, on the south side of the river, they found many of the
farms in that vicinity unoccupied, and the charred remains of dwell-
ing-houses and outbuildings told a fearful tale of the ravages com-
mitted by the Tories and savages. Judge White, looking to the means
for the future subsistence of his household, stopped at this place,
tilled one of the vacated fields, and planted it with corn. At the
proper season the father and sons returned from their new home at
the mouth of the Sauquoit and hoed this field of corn, and in the
fall they were repaid for their labor with a bountiful crop. It was
harvested and brought up in their boat.

"Judge White was born Feb. 15, 1733, making him filty-one years
of age at the time of his rciiioval. It was not, tberefm-e, the ardor
and restlessness of youth that inducdl him to emigrate, but that spirit
of enterprise and perseverance which looked forward to the future
prosperity of himself and familj*. The precise time at which he
arrived at the place where the field of corn was planted cannot now
be ascertained, but it was just before 'pinltster' (Whitsunday), a
movable feast which comes six weeks after 'paa^,' or ' poss,' — I'.c,
Easter-day, — which would bring his arrival there at about the 20th
of May.

" Imiuediatety aftar tho llcvolution Judge White became one of
the purchasers of Sadaqueda Patent, jointly with Zephaniah Piatt,
the father of the late Judge Jonas Piatt, Ezra L'Hommedicu, and
Melanclhon Smith. By an arrangement between tlic proprietors it
was agreed that they should meet on the land in tho summer of 1784,
and make a survey and partition. Upon the arrival of Judge White
at the mouth of the Sauquoit, a bark shanty was erected for a tem-
porary residence. During the summer the patent was surveyed into
four sections, and the particular section of each owner was decided
by lot. The section drawn by Judge White being all intervale, ho

I Sec also Tracy's lectures, from which Jones' account is mostly



purchasod of Smith tho lot drawn by him in its rear, which extended
to the south line of the patent upon the hill. By this last purchase
the judge became the owner in al! of about fifteen hundred acres,
comprehending all tho land on both sides of Sauquoit Creek, from
the corner formed by the road to the Oneida factories, and the Utica
Road where Lewis Berry resided for many years in Whitcsboro',
and extending back on tbo hills more than a mile from the village.

"After th.6 judge had obtained this division and purchase, he at
once proceeded to locate a site for u. dwelling. The place selected
was upon the bank which forms the eastern termination of the village
green* in Whitesboro', and about six rods southerly from the Utica
road. The house erected was peculiar. He dug into the bank
so that the lower story was underground, and then the upper was ■
built in true primitive log house style. The ridge-pole for the sup-
port of the roof was upheld by forked trees, cut and set in the ground,
and the roof was composed of slabs, split for that purpose from logs.
This was the first house erected on the Indian and military road be-
tween Old Fort Schuyler (Utica) and Fort Stanwix."

The judge cleared about four acres of land, rolling tlie
logs off the above-mentioned bank, instead of burning them,
as is the custom with persons of greater experience in clear-
ing new land. The lot was the same on which the old
court-house (now the Whitestown town hall) and other
buildings stand, and extended back from the Utica road
towards the site of the canal. In January, 1785, Mr.
"White returned to Connecticut and brought back his wife
and the remainder of his family.

"Several of his relative?, with others from Middletown and its
vicinity, quickly followed; and the new settlement, under the name
of * Whitestown,* soon became widely known as the place in which
the emigration from New England centered. The hardships and
perils encountered by these early settlers can scarcely be conceived of
by those who now visit that tbickly-settled region. The whole country
was in the wildness of nature. The nearest millf was at Palatine, —
forty miles dietanr. The hostility of the Indian tribes had hitherto
rendered the settlement of that region impossible, and at the cIofc of
the war the whole central and wei^tern portions of the State were with-
out civilized inhabitants. It was therefore necessary that the pioneer
of the new settlement should conciliate the favor of the Indians. In
his intercourse with them he was fiank and decided. On one occa-
sion an Indian chief :{: demanded of Mr. White, as a test of his pro-
fessed confidence, that he would permit him to take to his wigwam a
little granddaughter then playing about the house. The chief prom-
ised to keep the child safely, and to bring her home again the next
day. The child was intrusted to him ; but it was not until the ap-
proach of night, when fears of treachery had almost overcome her
mother, that she was returned, finely arrayed in Indian dress, with
many ornaments. This incident is said to have contributed much
towards establishing a lasting friendship between the new settlers and
the neighboring Indians.'*^

Many anecdotes are related of Judge While, which arc
always interesting. The following from " Tracy's Lec-
tures" is worth reproduction :

* Present park, 1878.

f A wheeled vehicle could not be drawn along tho narrow trail
which led to Palatine, and very often the settlers carried bags of
grain on their backs to that place or the German Flats to be ground
and returned with their grists in the same manner.

J The chief mentioned was named Han Yerry, commonly called
" Colonel," perhaps because he had held a commission of that grade
from the king. At the time of his visit to Mr. White he was accom-
panied by bis wife and a mulatto woman named Lane, who acted as
interpreter. The child afterwards married Nathaniel Eels, of Whites-
boro', and finally removed to Missouri, See Jones* Annals, and the
Lectures of William Tracy.

^ White Genealogy. This incidint is also mentioned in Tracy's
Lectures, and the Historical Collections of New York, and is a
faithful example of Ihc judge's sagacity and cst'mato of character.

"An Oneida, of rather athletic form, was one day present at his
house with several of his companion", and at length, fur amuse-
ment, commenced wrestling. After a number of trials had been
made, in which the chief came off conqueror, he came forward and
challenged the settler to a clinch with him. This was done in a man-
ner and with a degree of braggadocio that convinced tho judge that
if he refused the encounter it would subject him to the constant in-
convenience of being browbeaten by the Indian, and cost him the
trouble of being believed a coward. In early manhood he had been
a wrestler, but he had become quite corpulent, and for years unused
to any athletic feats. He felt conscious, however, of great personal
strength, and he concluded that even should he be thrown, yet, as a
choice of evils, the being thrown would be a leaser one than the ac-
quiring of a character of cowardice by declining. lie therefore ac-
cepted the challenge, and took hold with the Indian, and by a fortu-
nate trip Fucceeded almopt instantly in throwing him. As he saw
him falling, in order to prevent the necessity of ever making another
trial of his powers, he contrived to fall with all his weight — he then
constituting an avoirdupois of some 250 pounds — upon the Indian.
The weight for an instant drove all breath from the poor fellow's
body ; and it was some moments before he could get up. At length,
he slowly aroFe, and shrugged his shoulders, with an emphatic * Ugh !
You good fellow, (oo much !' I need not add that he was never after-
wards challenged to wrestle with an Indian." .

So popular did the judge become with the Indians that
in the course of a few months after his settlement they
offered to make him a member of their tribe. The offer
was finally accepted, and shortly after the ceremony of adop-
tion was duly'^performed, — Scanandoa, Colonel Han Yerry,
Grood Peter, and others being present, — and Judge White
became practically an Oneida, Probably the only benefits
he ever derived from this relationship were the friendship
of the Indians and his " share of the salmon caught at the
first fishing of each season at Te-ge-so-lcen (Fish Creek). "||
He and several of his sons — including Philo, the fisherman
of the family — having been notified, attended at the " fish-
ing" at the forks of Wood Creek the spring after his adop-
tion, witnessed the catching of the first salmon of the
season, and after receiving a proportionate share for each
member of his household, returned home.

Philo White, the judge's youngest son, was an adept
with the rifle and fishing-rod, and being but sixteen years
of age at the time of his father's settlement in Whitestown,
the many opportunities for exercising his skill with these
implements were zealously improved by him, and many fine
strings of trout and saddles of venison were laid by him
upon the family table. Pigeons being extremely plenty in
the spring of 1785, many were taken and the breasts salted
down, A barrel or two of this meat was preserved, and
answered as quite a substitute for other meats, although
perhaps not quite *as palatable. It was necessary to rely
upon the game found in the forests to a great extent, owing
to the fact that the incursions of the Indians and Tories
upon the settlements during the Revolution had greatly de-
creased the amount of stock in the valley of the Mohawk,
and what was left was of too much value as a nucleus from
which to restock the country to kill for food. As the num- "*
ber of settlers increased, and greater areas were devoted to
agriculture, the wants gradually lessened, until in a few
years excellent grains, vegetables, etc., were grown, and
samples of wheat, corn, oats, etc., were sent by Judge White
to his friends in New England, as an inducement for them
to emigrate. Many left their liomcs and came to Whites-

II Jones' Annala.



town on this account, and in a few years a flourishing vil-
lage had sprung up at Whitesboro', where so short a time
before had stood in all its beauty the " forest primeval."

Many of the settlers, instead of taking their grain to
Palatine or German Flats to be ground, resorted to the
" samp mortar," an article much used by the Indians. It
was fashioned by taking a section of a white-ash log, some
three feet in length and fifteen or eighteen inches in diam-
eter, and hollowing it out by the use of fire, placing coals
on the upper end and keeping them alive with a hand-
bellows. The quantity of coals was decreased as the cavity
deepened, so that a perfect taper was acquired, [t was con-
tended by the Indians that meal manufactured in such
mortars tasted richer and better when cooked than if
ground in a milL*

The first mill in Oneida County was built in ITSS,"!" on
the Sauquoit Creek, upon the Whitesboro' and Utica road.
It was erected by Judge White, Amos Wetmore, and John
Beardsley, and long retained the name of " Wetmore's
Mill." Some frouble afterwards ensued over water-privi-
leges, but it was finally settled by the Court of Errors, in

Judge White lived to see the territory originally in-
cluded in Whitestown containing a population of over
300,000. He died April 17, 1812, aged seventy-nine
years. He acquired his title of judge from the fact that
on the organization of Herkimer County he was appointed
to that office, and afterwards held the same office in Oneida
County. He was twice married, and was the father of ten
children, all by his first wife. Numerous members of the
family, and of other families intermarrying, became highly
distinguished in both local and national circles. Of the
judge's children, his oldest son. Colonel Daniel Clark White,
who accompanied his father to Whitestown, was the father
of the first white female child born in Oneida County, viz.,
Esther White, whose birth occun-ed Slareh 15, 1785.|
She became the wife of Hon. Henry R. Storrs, a graduate
of Yale College, and afterwards an eminent lawyer, first
judge of Oneida County, and twice a member of Congress
(1817 to 1821, and 1823 to 1831).

Hugh White, Jr., third son of the judge, served three
years in the Revolutionary army, and was for a short time
on board of a privateer. He also accompanied his father
to Whitestown, and afterwards removed to Shrewsbury,
N. J., where he died.

The fifth son, Philo White, was at one time engaged in
merchandi.'iing at Whitestown and at Tioga Point.

Of Judge White's daughters, Aurelia was married in
1788 to Parsons Wetmore, one of the early settlers of the
town, and afterwards removed with him to Warren Co., Pa.,
and later to Steubenville, 0., finally locating at Rochester,
N. Y. Some of their children became noted.

The youngest daughter of the judge, Mary S. White,
was married in 1792 to John Young, a surveyor, who be-
came the founder of Youngstown, 0., and afterwards re-
located in Whitestown, where he died. Their eldest son.

» Jones' Annals of Oneid.!, County.
-f A aaw-mill was built the same year.

t Subsequent to the Revolution. John Eoof had three daughters
born at Fort Stanwix previous to 1778. See History of Rome.

John J. Young, received an academic education at the
then " Whitestown Academy," and in 1812 was appointed
a njidshipman in the United States navy. He attained a
highly reputable standing as an officer and naval tactician,
and about 1825 was assigned to the post of executive officer
of the United States twentj'-gun ship-of-war "Hornet."
During a cruise of his vessel in the West Indies he lost both
his legs in a. sea-fight with a piratical armed ship. He was
landed at Havana and brought home to his family, while
his vessel proceeded on her cruise. She was never after-
wards heard of, and probably foundered in mid ocean, the
only vestiges ever found of her being two or three tarpau-
lins with " Hornet" marked on them, which were picked
up while floating on the sea. Commodore Young, although
sadly mutilated, was assigned to shore duty as superintendent
of public woi-ks, disbursing and recruiting officer, etc. He
died Nov. 4, 1875, in the eighty-second year of his age,
after a life of public usefulness.

Among other residents of this town who were appointed
midshipmen during the war of 1812—15 were Samuel
Brecse, William Inman, Antle Lansing, and Edward and
Benjamin Carpenter. These naval officers were undoubt-
edly selected from this far inland town through the efforts
of Hon. Thomas R. Gold, member of Congress for several
years from Whitestown.

Hon. Fortune Clark White, son of Col. D. C. White,
was born at Whitestown July 10, 1787. He made the
law his profession, and for five years was first judge of the
Oneida County Court. He was brigadier-general of New
York State militia, and was twice in the Legislature. In
1826 the honorary degree of Master of Arts was conferred
upon him by Hamilton College. He died in 1866 at

Canvas White, son of Hugh White, Jr., served one cam-
paign on the frontier during the war of 1812 as lieutenant
in a volunteer corps, and was at the sortie of Fort Erie.
He was one of the earliest and ablest engineers on the Erie
Canal, and was afterwards engaged on the Union, Lehigh,
and Delaware and Raritan Canals He died in St. Augus-
tine, Florida.

Hon. Hugh White, brother of the above, became promi-
nent in public affairs, and served three terms in Congress,
from 1845 to 1851.

Hon. Philo White, LL.D., son of Philo White and
grandson of the judge, is now a resident of Whitesboro',
where he was born June 23, 1799.

"After acquiring an academical education at the seminary in
Whitesboro', Mr. White spent three or four years as learner and con-
tributor in the Cntiimhlnn Gnzelle newspaper office, in Utica. In
1820 he migrated to North Carolina, and became the editor and pro-
prietor of T/ie WeHteni Citraiinian, which ho continued to conduct
until 18:10, when he was appointed United Stotcs Navy Agent for the
Pacific station. Returning home in 1834, ho established the Nurth
Cnrolinrt Standard, at Raleigh, was elected State printer, and the
Standard became the State paper. From 18.37 to 1844 he was pay-
master and purser in the United States Navy, and was attached to
squadrons in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and on the home and
Gulf stations.

" Mr. White removed to AVisconsin at an early period of its terri-
torial e.\istence, and ultimately fixed his residence at Racine. He
was the editor of several newspapers at different periods. In 1847
ho was chosen a member of the Council of the Territorial Legislature,
and subsequently was elected to the Senate of the State Legislature.



Here he took a prominent part in promoting various measures of
public utility. As chairman of the Committee on Education and
School Lands, he shared largely in devising and framing the present
system of public instruction in that State. At a later period he was
active in the founding of Racine College, under the auspices of the
Protestant Episcopal Church of that diocese, and was one of its trus-
tees. In 1856 the College conferred upon Mr. White the honorary
degree of Doctor of Laws. Chosen as one of the Presidential electors
of Wisconsin, he was selected as president of the Electoral College of
that State in December, 1852. He was also brigadier-general of the
State militia.

"In ISW, Mr. White was appointed United States Consul to the
Hanscatic Republic at Hamburg, and resided there for one or two
years. In July, 1853, he was a[(pointed Charg6 d'Affaires to the
Republic of Ecuador, S. A., and in 1854 was raised to the grade of
Minister Resident in that country. He continued in the discharge
of the functions of the latter office until September, 1858."*

Among; the early settlers of Whitestown the name of
Jonas Pktt occurs in a prominent position, and a brief
sketch of him will not be out of place. It is principally
taken from " Jones' x^nnals of Oneida County" :

Mr. Piatt located at Whitesboro' previous to 1791, and
on the organization of Herkimer County, February 17 of
that year, he was appointed its clerk, and held the oflBce
until the formation of Oneida County, of which he was
also appointed clerk. In 1809 he was elected by the Fed-
eralists to the State Senate, from the old western district,
which had previously been strongly Republican. January
5, 1810, he was nominated as the Federal candidate for
Governor, but was beaten by Daniel D. Tompkins. In the
winter of 1814, Mr. Piatt was appointed judge of the
Supreme Court of New York, in place of Smith Thompson,
who had been raised to the office of Chief-Justice upon the
elevation of Judge Kent to the chancellorship. Mr. Piatt
was regarded as the most active and influential member of
his party in the Senate during the exciting sessions of 1810,
1811, 1812, and 1813.

Upon the adoption of the constitution of 1821, Judge
Piatt, with his colleagues, Judges Spencer, Van Ness, and
Woodworth, was " constitutionalized out of office," but
upon the reorganization of tlie Supreme Court all but Mr.
Van Ness were renominated by Governor Yates; their
political tendencies, however, proved a bar in the eyes of
the Senate, and they wore rejected. Judge Piatt returned
to the bar " with all the ardor and industry of youth,"
owing to the lamentable state of his pecuniary affairs, and
by patient exertion 'retrieved his lost fortune. He was a
member and an elder in the Presbyterian Church at Whites-
boro'. He finally removed to Plattsburg, where he died.

General George Doolittlc was also one of the pioneers of
Whitestown. He had served in the Continental army
during the Revolution, with the rank of orderly-sergeant.
Being a shoemaker by trade, he carried his " kit" of tools
during his entire .service, and whenever not upon the march
or on duty was " ready to unpack his tools and mend his
compatriots' boots and shoes." On his removal to Whites-
town, in 1786, he engaged in the tanning, currying, and
shoemaking business. He was the first brigadier-general of
militia commissioned in Oneida County. The general was
a native of Middletown, Conn. He was supervisor of the

^ White Genealogy ; also Livingstones Portraits and Memoirs of
Eminent Americans, vol. iv.

town of Whitestown for more than twenty years, and also
held a seat in the Legislature of the State. He died Feb.
21, 1805, aged sixty-five years.

Another prominent citizen of the town, and one of its
early settlers, was Hon. Thomas R. Gold. He was a law-
yer of eminence, and for many years stood at the head of
his profeission in Central New York. He represented this
district in Congress in 1810, '11, '12, '13, '16, and '17,
and it was said of him that " he was the last to retire and
the first up in the morning." From 1796 to 1800 he was
in the State Senate, and in the latter year was chosen as
member of the Council of Appointment. At the erection of
the Presbyterian Church at Whitesboro', in 1803, it became
necessary to level the ground around it, and Mr. Gold drove
the oxen attached to the plow, while Judge Piatt and
several others, all unused to the work, handled the spade
and shovel.

The first birth in Whitestown has already been men-
tioned. The first death was that of Mrs. Blacksly, aunt to
Judge White, with whom she resided. The exact date of
her death cannot now bo ascertained, but it was a very few
years after the settlement of the judge.

A military spirit was manifested early by the citizens of
the town, and within a few years from the arrival of Judge
White it was deemed expedient to raise a company of
militia. Governor George Clinton was applied to for com-
missions for the necessary officers, and he informed them

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 173 of 192)