Samuel W Durant.

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

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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 72 of 192)
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on his way to Canada from the seat of government, where be had
been to transact some business with Congress. A Mr. Chapin and an-
other gentleman were also guests at the same time. The chief called
for one bottle of wine after another, until they wore all in a pretty
happy mood, when the two gentlemen declined drinking more. After
being repeatedly urged to drink, and as often declining, they were
told by Brant sportively that unless they drank he would pour it down
their necks. Becoming somewhat nettled at their decided refusal,
Brant made some other proposition to Mr. Chapin, and from some-
thing said or refused to be done by the latter the Indian flew into a
towering passion. Angry words passed, and Brant dared Chapin to
fight him, which the latter refused, and then tried by fair words and
persuasion to satisfy the chief that no insult was intended; but fail-
ing in this, he made an effort to leave the room, and the rest of the
company also attempted to calm the e.xcited passions of the great Mo-
hawh warrior. Brant, however, drew his sword, and drove Chapin
into a corner of the room, and there by the most bitter taunts and re-
proaches, by making passes at him with his weapon, and by rushing
furiously towards him, attempted to compel him to fight. Chapin
coolly bared his breast, and said, ' I will not lay bands on you, but
here is my bare breast ; pierce it with your sword if you wish a vic-
tim.' Mrs. Post, at this crisis, recollecting to have heard that an In-
dian could be moved by the sight of an infant, instantly took her
youngest child, but a few months old, and holding it in her arms,
placed herself in front of the infuriated Brant, tolling him that be
must destroy her and her child before be injured their guest and friend.
' How would it have looked,' she continued, ' if several ladies had met
here for a socijil visit, and they had ended it in strife? Put up your
sword, and, here, tike my babe and hold it, as you often have the
others. See, it smiles, and you look so angry !' The heart of the
savage Thny-eii-dan-e-gea was touched ; he who had reveled in scenes
of blood and cruelty at Oriskany, and in the whole extent of the Mo-
hawk Valley, was now conquered by the smiles and innocence of an
infant. The expression of bis features was instantly changed, and
laughing, ho exclaimed, ' What a fool I have been ! Chapin, let us
forgive each other.' After this reconciliation they retired. Mr. Post
was not present."

jMr. Post was the first citizen who held the commission
of postmaster ; but the exact date of his appointment, and
the length of time he continued to hold it, cannot be
precisely determined. He was probably appointed about
1793, and held it until 1799.

Among the settlers arriving in the year 1790 were
Captain Stephen Potter, his son-in-law, Benjamin Plant,
the three brothers — Samuel, Peter, and Cheney — Garret,
Matthew Hubbell, and Benjamin Ballou.

Captain Potter was a native of Connecticut, born Janu-
ary 12, 1739. He was a soldier in the American army
during the Revolution, and held the several commissions
of ensign, second and first lieutenant, and captain, issued
by Governors Jonathan Trumbull, John Hancock, John
Jay, and Samuel Huntington, which would indicate that
he served in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and
New Jersey regiments. It is supposed that he also served
in the old French war. He was at one time second lieu-
tenant in the regiment known as " Congress' Own," in
which also served the lamented Captain Nathan Hale, who
was executed by the British as a spy in 1776.

Captain Potter was a very religious man, and was naincd
as a member of the committee which drafted a constitution
for tlie " United Society of Whitestown and Old Fort
Schuyler," organized in 1793, and was subsequently dea-



con and elder. He was a peculiar and very plain-spoken
man, as the following anecdote from Dr. Bagg's work illus-
trates :

"Mr. Henry Huntington, of Rome, had a lawsuit against Abel
French, for failure to perform a contract for the sale of some land on
the hills south of the Mohawk, two or three miles from Utica. The
question was what damages he should recover. He regarded the land
as valuable, and wanted the difference between the contract price and
the current value, and called Deacon Potter as a witness to prove its
value. The latter was a warm friend of Mr. Huntington. "When
sworn and asked if he knew the land, he said, ' Yes, every foot of it.*
' What do you think it worth, Captain Potter?' The old man paused
a moment, and then slowly said, 'If I had as many dollars — as my
yoke of oxen — could draw — on a sled, — on glaze ice, — I vow to God
— I would not give a dollar an acre for it!' There was some noise in
the court-room on hearing the answer."

The captain died in 1810, and hia wife two years after-
wards. They had five children : Lucinda, Sarah, Matilda,
Mary, and William Frederick. The first married Benja-
min Plant; the second, Thomas Norton ; the third, Stephen
Ford and William Alverson ; the fourth, Mary, remained
unmarried. The son occupied and cultivated the home-
stead long after the city had grown up around it.

Matthew Hubbell was from Lanesboro', Mass., where he
was born in 1762. At the age of fifteen years he was
drafted into the army, and was present at the battle of
Bennington, in August, 1777. He had removed in 1789
to a part of the Phelps and Gorham purchase, in Ontario
County ; but his wife being discontented he sold his lands for
a small advance on their cost, and came via the outlets of
Canandaigua and Seneca Lakes, the Seneca River, Oneida
River and Lake, Wood Creek, and the Mohawk to Old
Fort Schuyler, arriving in December. He bought the in-
terest of Hendrich Salyea in the River Bend farm, and
subsequently obtained a deed of the same from the heirs
of General Bradstreet. Here he lived until his death, in
October, 1819, which was brought on by exposure at
Sacket's Harbor, to which place he was carrying supplies
during the war.

Benjamin Ballou was a native of Rhode Island. He
lived upon a farm of one hundred and twenty-six acres, on
lot No. 92, which was leased from the Bleecker family in
1797. He cultivated this farm and also carried on the
tanning business. He is described in Dr. Bagg's work as
" a tall, lank person, wearing a velvet suit much worn, and
a hat that lacked at least a third of its brim.'' He died
March 2, 1822.

The only chronicled arrivals for 1791 wore Peter Bellin-
ger and Thomas and Augustus Corey, from Rhode Island.
They were cousins, and purchased two hundred acres of
lot No. 95, upon which they erected a frame dwelling, re-
markable, among other things, for being shingled on the
sides as well as the roof. It stood on the northeast corner
of Whitesboro' and Hotel Streets. The Coreys did not
remain very long, for we find them selling out in 1795 to
Messrs. Boon & Linklaen, the agents in Utica of the
Holland Land Company, and removing from the place.
Thomas was a surveyor and came west with the intention
of pursuing his calling, but afterwards returned to his
native State, where he became prominent in civil affairs.

In 1792 we find new merchants locating in Utica.
These were Joseph Ballou and his sons. He was a brother

of Benjamin, from Exeter, R. I., and settled upon lot No.
94, where he cultivated quite an extensive farm. In the
month of August, 1800, he and his sons purchased lots on
Main Street, near the present John Street, upon which they
built a house and store. The dwelling stood fronting the
square, but when John Street was subsequently opened, it
was faced around upon that street, and made part of a pub-
lic-house, long known as Union Hall. The site is now
occupied by the Ballou Block.

Mr. Ballou died in 1810. His sons were merchants,
and occupied the store mentioned above. The sons were
named Jerathmel (or Jerathmael, as Mr. Jones writes it)
and Obadiah. They continued in trade for a number of
years, when Obadiah retired from business, and about 1834
removed to Auburn. The first named was for several years
one of the village trustees. He died June 29, 1817. HLs
son, Theodore P., still lives in Utica. Sarah, the daugh-
ter, was afterwards the wife of Bbenezer B. Shearman.
She died February 7, 1877, aged ninety-six years.

The summer of 1792 is noted in the annals of the town
for the erection of the first bridge over the Mohawk.*
The necessity of such a structure had been seen undoubt-
edly for some time previous to any action being taken, and
the principal obstacle in the way of its erection at an
earlier date had been the want of the necessary means.

At length it was resolved to petition the Legislature for
assistance, and the following document was drawn up and
signed by probably nearly every voter in the village and
vicinity. The petition and names of signers are from Dr.
Bagg's work :

" To the Honorahle the Leginlatiire, etc., etc. :

" The petition of the Subscribers, Inhabitants of the County of Her-
kimer, Respectfully shcweth: That having for a long time endured
the inconveniences and dangers of fording the Mohawk River at Old
Fort Schuyler, did some time past associate, and by voluntary sub-
scription attempt to raise money to erect a bridge across the river at
said place, but, after their most strenuous exertions, find themselves,
on account of the infant state of the adjacent settlements, incapable
of effecting said purpose; and your petitioners beg leave to state that
in addition to the inconveniences of fording said river (which at some
seasons of the year is very dangerous), the public in general are
hin-hly interested in the erection of a bridge at said place, as it is one
of the greatest roads in the State of New York, being the customary,
and, (in consequence of the erection of bridges over the Canada creeks
below,) the most direct, route from the eastern to the west part of the
State. In this situation, while the more interior parts of the State
are enjoying liberal donations from the State for building of bridges,
your petitioners earnestly implore the Legislature to extend a helping
hand to those who, having but recently settled in almost a wilderness,
have devolved upon them a very heavy burden in making roads and
building bridges. They therefore pray the Legislature to grant them
the sum of T,oo Thousand Pound, towards defraying the expense of
erecting a bridge at the place above mentioned, as it will require
nearly double that sum to complete the same. And your petitioners
will ever pray.

"HEnKiMBR CODNTY, October 24, 1792.

Thomas R. Gold.
Thomas Hooker.
Asa Brunson.
Robert Bard well.
Peleg Hyde.
Edward Johnson.
Ezra Hovey.
Jacob Hastings.

■-;^^^;;;^r^Z7^i^^^''' \ ^"t ^ - to^y for i829, this

wasthTfirst bridge erected on the Mohawk River at any point.

Blias Kane.
Jeremiah Powell.
Asa Kent.
ClandiitB Wolcont.
Archibald Hates.
John Cnnningham.
Joseph Harris.
Samuel Wells.



fried Heg haiivian, AngvstuB Saylca.

Uriah Suylea. George Wever.

Jacob (illegible). Samuel Griffith.

John Whiaton. Thomas Scott.

Daniel Gampble. William Alverson.

Isaac Brayton. Samuel Barnca.

Caleb Austin. William haile.

Nathan Smith, Elizur Moseley.

George Doolittle, Galus Morgan.

Daniel Reynolds. Phillup Alesworth,

Just's Griffeth. John Lockwood.

Benjamin Johnson. Aaron BIosb.

Philip Morey. John Foster.

Henry Chesebrough, John Richardson.

George Staples. Noah Kent.

Solomon Barter. Shadrach Smith.

Oliver Trumbull. Daniel FollctL

j46'«i. Bum {/iooin?) John BcUiuger,

Daniel C. White. John Chriatman.

Matthaw Httbhell. John D. Pelrye.

Solomon Wells. Jeremiah Read.

David Andrew. William Saylcs, Jr.

John Pout. Theodore Sprague.

Nath'l Griffelh. Benjamin Carney.

^ John H. Pool. Abram Jillct.

Silvanns Moicry. Solomon Whiston.

Abr*m Braer. Peleg Briggs.

William Saylcs, Townsin Briggs.

Nathaniel Darling. Seth GriflFeth.

John Crandal. ■ Henry Fall.

Sam'l Wilbur. David Stafford.

Jacob Chriatman, Francis Guiteau.

Obadinh BuUoUy Samuel Stafford."
Ellis Doty.

The names in italics are settlers at Old Fort Sclmyler

This petition was favorably considered and finally granted
by the Assenably.

The people went on, however, and constructed the bridge
without waiting the action of the Legislature, and the work
was well advanced before the result of their prayers was

The bridge was built at the foot of Second Street, two
blocks below its present location, and a little above the site
of Old Fort Schuyler. It is said that the raising of the
structure took place on Sunday, in order to enable more
people to take part in it without interfering with their farm
and other labor.

The necessity which could induce the staid, Sabbath-
observing people to break over their ordinary respect for
the day must have been very urgent indeed.

In speaking of this circumstance Dr. Bagg relates the
following incident :

"There was living in Deerfield a few months since a man who,
when a child, was present at the raising. This was Elder George M.
Weaver, who was bom " January 15, 1787,* and was then in his sixth
year, "An incident which he related as connected with the event
must have contributed to fix the fact in his memory. On the way
over with his parents from Deerfield they spied a bear in a tree by
the side of the road. While Mrs. Weaver bravely remained at the
foot of the tree with her young son and another child in arms, keep-
ing watch of the bear, the father returned home, procured a gun,
and shot the animal, after which they continued their course to the

This bridge had the honor of being inspected, about a

* Dr. Bagg says January, 1788, but we have it from members of
the family as given above, — Historian.

year after its construction, by a gentleman who afterwards
became the most celebrated engineer of his time, Markf
Isambart Brunei, who stayed at John Post's, in Utica, in
November, 1793, while on a journey from New York to
the French purchase on Black Biver, known as " Castor-
land." In the morning, young Brunei, probably by request,
went out and inspected the bridge, of which the inhabit-
ants were undoubtedly not a little proud. The following is
the account of the examination, taken from the files of
their journal, and which, if made known to the people,
must have been received as anything but complimentary to
the judgment and skill of the mechanics of the Mohawk
Valley :

" This bridge, built after the English manner, is in the arc of a
circle, with a very moderate curve, and is supported by beams placed
like a St. Andrew's cross, and covered with plank. The bridge has
already bent from the curve intended and inclined to the oval, an
effect due as much to the framing as to the quality and smallness of
the timbers, which are of pine and fir. The main support, which
they have put in the middle, would rather tend to its entire destruc-
tion when the ice is going off. The abutments are of timber, and
also settled from miscalculation of the resistance, the one on the
south side being built upon ground that is full of springs.

" This bridge has been built but a short time, and was erected by a
country carpenter. We asked Mr. Post why, when they had such a
work to execute, they did not employ an engineer or architect to draw
a plan and the details, which a carpenter might then easily execute.
He replied that this was not the custom^ and that no carpenter would
be willing to work after the plans of another man. He, however,
appeared mortified at the probable fate of his bridge which we pre-

The bridge was soon after destroyed by a flood, and a new
one was erected in 1794. We continue our extracts from
Dr. Bagg :

"From the preceding list of signers we gather a few additional
names. They represent farmers who lived near rather than within
the settlement, and some actually outside of the limits of Utica, as de-
termined by the first village charter. These limits reached from the
eastern line of lot No. 82, on the east, to the western bounds of No.
99, on the west. On or near the upper end of the former lot, and in
the vicinity that is called Welsh-bush, lived Nathan Darling, Jere-
miah Powell, and Joseph Harris,

"Somewhat nearer, though at quite a remove from the central set-
tlement, were John D. Petrie, Frederick Bowman, and Henry Staring.
Pctrie occupied the farm next east of Matthew Hubboll, afterwards
well known as the High School Farm, until 1802, when he sold it to
Alexander Cairns, who rtsold it to Solomon Wolcott. Below him
again, and at the end of the plain of Broad Street, just where the
road begins to descend to the hollow of the creek, was the house of
Frederick Bowman. Staring was his next neighbor on the east, if
not at the date in question certainly within a short time afterwards.
Petrie, Bowman, and Staring were all of German origin, and the
names of all occur among the patentees of the town of German Flats.
Bowman's is the only family of which there are representatives still
left in Utica and vicinity. Westward were found Claudius Wolcott,
a little west of Nail Creek,J on the present Court Street j Archibald

+ Written also Marc. Mention of the exploring party, of whom
Brunei was one, is made on a previous page.

t Mr. Jones gives the following regarding the origin of this name:
" By the Bleccker map Nail Creek is named ' Nagal Kill.' Some
twenty-five years ago (written in 1851) Mr. Joseph Masseth, a Ger-
man, catabliehcd a ' dog-nail-factory,' as it was called, on the banks of
Nail Creek, for the manufacture of wrought nails. His bellows were
blown by two dogs, who, in turn, ran in a wheel after the manner of
modern dog-churns, and a description of his factory (at first a mere
shanty ) went the rounds in most of the newspapers of the United States."
..." It is very generally believed that Nail Creek received its name
from these 'circumstances. But 'Nagal 1\\\V is German and Dutch,


f '






John Butterfield waa born at Berne, in the Helderberg, near Albany,
November 18, 1801. In early life we find liim in the employment of Thorpe A
Sprague, of that city, as a driver, and throiigli the Bolicitation of Mr, Theodore
S. Faxton came to Utica, where he for a time was employed in picking np
passengers from the taverns and boats for Parker's stages. After a time he
started a livery with but small accomniodalions, and such were the beginnings
of a life of great activity and enterprise, and which was botind up with most
of the different kinds of transportation now practiced; for in every means
undertaken to increase the facilities of travel and intercommunicaiion, Mr.
Buttortield was for a generation one of the foremost of the citizens of Utica.
His connection with Parker & Co. continued so long as they were still in buni-
ness, and was succeeded by important lines of his own, wherein he was a lead-
ing manager in the State until staging was superseded by railroads.

He was interested and had his share in the packet-boats and in the steam-
boats on Lake Ontario, and gave his eamebt personal efTorts to create the
companies and raise the funds required for the construction of some of the
plank-roads leading out of Ihe city, and was the originator of its street rail-
roads. His labors were arduous in stirring up tlte people to the importance of
roads to the north and to the south; and to him is Utica largely, if nut princi-
pally, indebted for the Black River and both of tlie southern railways. He
was amnng the first who realized how a lucrative business could be formed by
the rapid transportation of such articles as could afford to pay express charges;
and he became an early director in the express company. To him as much as to
any other individual, say the resolutions of the hoard, was due the high repu-
tation which this company obtained in commercial circles throughout the
country, as well as the success that has attended it. In that organization he
remained a directing power until the close of his life, and reaped from it a
large pecuniary profit. He was also among the first to Appreciate the capaci-
ties of the electric telegraph, and immediately upon the practical adoption of
the invention, he joined with Messrs. Faxton, Wells, Livingston, and others In
the establishment of the New York, Albany, and Buffalo Telegraph Company.
His faith followed upon his sagacity, and he steadily urged and aided in the
extension of lines and companies.

He assisted likewise In putting in operation the overland mail route, the
precursor of the Pacific Railroad, and which did much to demonstiate the im-
portance of a continuous connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific
States. Having long been a mail contractor, he had the experience and practical
knowledge essential for the execution of the work.

Mr. Butterfield was a dirpctt)r in the Utica City National Bank, and was
interested in other st«ek companies and business undertakings. Ho invested
largely in city property, while his cultivated land In the vicinity covers no in-
considerable space. The Butterfield House and the Gardner Block are among
the handsome edifices which he planned and built, and which have added
materially to the city of his residence. On taking possession of the land on
the New Haitroid road, on a portion of which his late residence now stands,
he extended liis operations in farming, already carried on to a limited exteut
on Pleasant Street. And until the time when he was stricken down by disease,
he conducted them with the same unflagging spirit that chai-acterized all hia
transactionB, and with a liberality in the means expended which surprised by
its results.

Of the State Agricultural Society he was an efficient officer and unwavering
friend. His mission in life was business. His enterprises were undertaken for
material profit, and, while they were successful as such, they proved at the
same time of great public advantage.

Much of what has been accomplished of recent years in developing the re-
sources of the neighborhood, and in making Utica what it is, bears the impress
of his organizing genius and restless enterprise. For these were the qualities
which marked his character. He owed nothing to scholastic education, and it
may be doubted whether books could have better fitted him for his career as a
man of action and a promoter of material undertakings. Nor had he that de-
gree of intelligent foresight which enabled him in advance of others to con-
ceive of the possible good wrapped up in an untested scheme. He waa prompt
tn avail himself of the inventiveness of others. A scheme unfolded, and what
it could accomplish onco exhibited, he was quick to note its bearings and re-
moter tendencies, and ready in plan and action to grasp success while as yet
practicabiUty was talked of. This success he achieved by careful insight and
minute attention to detail, wherein he was aided by a memory wonderfully
retentive, by a strong and enduring will, by the contagious influence his do-
termination exerted upon others, bearing them along in thecurrent of his own
enthusiasm, and by an energy that was balked by no obstacle, and nover asked
for rest. These it was — untiring activity, undaunted persistence, rigid super-
vision and control over others — which formed the chief source of his superi-
ority, and fitted him to do so mucli in associated as in private works.

Such confidence had Mr. Butterfield inspired by the generally prosperous
results of his operations, so accurate was deemed his insight in his peculiar
field, and so many were the instances in which his advance led on others
to the improvement uf their fortunes, that his approval and co-operation
in a scheme were apt to be deemed conclusive of its merits. His reputa-
tion was extended, and his relations intimate with capitalists in distant
parts of the country, who were glad to avail themselves of his capacity and

In politics Mr. Butterfield took hut little part, and was never an office-seeker.
By the Republicans of 1SG5 he waa elected mayor of Utica, and in the same
year was the unsuccessful candidate of the Democrats for the office of senator
of the county.

In October, 18G7, he was stricken with paralysis in New York city, and after
a little was brought home the wreck of his former self. He died November 14,
18C9. The large attendance at his funeral indicated that the loss sustained had
not been felt moat by any particular class. The representatives of wealth,

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 72 of 192)