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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Syracuse, to whom Utica, in turn, was obliged to give way.

About 1801-2, A. B. Johnson, a son of Bryan John-
son, arrived from England, and became associated with his
father in business, which rapidly increased and continued
unabated until the senior partner withdrew in 1809. By
strict attention to business and excellent management, he
had accumulated a fine property, which steadily increased
in value for many years.

His earliest residence was over his store. In 1800 he
bought and reconstructed another dwelling on the opposite
side of Whitesboro' Street, where he resided until his death,
which occurred suddenly, April 12, 1824, at the age of sev-
entj'-five years. The following closing remarks upon Mr.
Johnson we quote from Hon. P. Jones: " The last earthly
record respecting Mr. Johnson is as follows : ' Here lies
Bryan Johnson, the lamented father of Alexander B. John-
son. He was a native of England. His mercantile enter-
prise gave Utica its first impulse. For paternal affection
he had no equal — for knowledge of the ways of man no
superior. His life was abstemious and cheerful, his death
instantaneous, on the 12th of April, 1824, in the seventy-
fifth year of his age, and in the vigorous possession of all
his faculties.' " His wife survived him twenty years, and
died at the age of eighty-five.

Another prominent citizen of Utica was Major Benjamin
Hinman, who settled here in 1797 or 1798. He was a
native of Southbury, Conn., and was a soldier of the Rev-
olution, serving in the various capacities of wagon-master,
commissary, captain, and aid-de-camp to General Greene.
It is said that thirteen Hinmans from the town of Woodbury,
Conn., held commissions in that war. At one period du-
ring the war he was stationed at Fort Stanwix, and was so
well pleased with the Mohawk Valley that he determined to
settle there ; and accordingly, about 1787, purchased a tract
of 2000 acres of land near Little Falls, where he married
a daughter of John Keyser, who had been an army con-
tractor at Stone Arabia during the war.



HISTOEY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YOEK.



269



He soon after exchanged Ins purchase for lands near
Trenton, in Oneida County, whither he removed and erected
a house, a saw-mill, and a trip-hammer shop. He did not
remain long, and settled at Fort Schuyler, as above stated,
in 1797 or '98. He occupied different places in Utica, and
kept a public-house in Deerfield, just across the river, but
finally settled down on Main Street, near the square. He
continued his works at Graves' Hollow, near Trenton,
which were subsequently destroyed by lightning and flood
during a terrible thunder-storm. While living in Deerfield
he superintended the building of the dyke where the turn-
pike now runs across the bottom-lands of the Mohawk.
Mayor Hinman died while on a visit in Pennsylvania,
April 7, 1821, in his sixty-sixth year. His widow sur-
vived him until Aug. 20, 1863, when she died at Rushville,
111., in her ninety-fifth year.

Rev. John Hammond, a Baptist preacher, who arrived
about this time, was an Englishman, and came of a pious
ancestry, several of whom were ministers before him. He
lived on the public square, below Bagg's tavern. He
preached in Deerfield and other places in this vicinity, and
was probably the first Sunday-school teacher in Utica. He
was also a surveyor of repute, as were three of his sons, and
assisted by them he surveyed the celebrated "John Brown
Tract," lying in what are now Herkimer and Lewis Counties.
He continued to officiate as a gospel Piinister until he was
nearly eighty years of age, and died in 1819. He was one
of the seventeen seceders from the Welsh Baptist Church,
who established the Second Baptist or Tabernacle Church.
His wife taught, in 1804, one of the earliest schools in the
village of Old Fort Schuyler.

FIRST SCHOOL.

The first school-teacher at Old Fort Schuyler, according
to Dr. Bagg, was Joseph Dana, who taught in a building
on Main Street, between First and Second Streets, which
was also used for religious and secular gatherings previous
to 1800. He also taught in Deerfield, and in addition was
a teacher of singing. He subsequently removed to West-
moreland, where he taught for the space of three years.
He was afterwards a soldier in the war of 1812-15, and
held the rank of sergeant in the regular army.

In or about the same year, 1797, came another noted
man to the embryo city, — Nathan Williams. He was born
in Williamstown, Mass., on the 19th of December, 1773.
His father's property fell a sacrifice to the vicissitudes of
the Revolution, and at the age of thirteen, with only the
rudiments of an education, he left the parental roof and
launched into the world to take care of himself and seek his
fortune. He made his way to the city of Troy, where in
after-years he became a law student and was admitted to
practice, and soon after appeared and located in Utica. He
had been already admitted to the courts of Herkimer when
the county of Oneida was organized, in 1798, and at the
first term of Common Pleas was admitted to practice in the
new county. The same year he was admitted in the courts
of Chenango County. In the year 1802 ho was appointed
district attorney of Chenango County. He was a prominent
member of the united congregations of Whitesboro' and
Old Fort Schuyler, and subsequently assisted in the organi-



zation of Trinity Episcopal Church. He was also active in
establishing the first public library in the place, and was
president of the village, and of the Manhattan Bank. In
the war of 1812 he went as a volunteer to Sacket's Harbor
when threatened by the enemy. That place was then under
the command of General Jacob Brown, who was a brother-
in-law of Mr. Williams.

He filled the positions of district attorney of the Sixth
District in 1801-13, and of Oneida County in 1818-21 ;
was representative in Congress in 1805-7, and member of
Assembly in 1816, 1818, 1819. He was also a member
of the Constitutional Convention of 1821. In April, 1823,
he was appointed circuit judge, which position he held for
many years.

He was at one period counsel for the Oneida Indians,
who bestowed upon him the sobriquet of " Upright
Friend." He was appointed clerk of the Supreme Court,
and a few months previous to his death removed to Geneva,
Ontario Co., where he died Sept. 25, 1835. His remains
were brought to Utica for interment.

" Judge Williams was twice married, and the father of a
large family. His first wife, to whom he was married in
1800, and who died in 1807, was Mary Skinner, of Wil-
liamstown ; his second, Maria Watson, an adopted daughter
of her uncle, James Watson, of New York, to whom he
was married in 1809, survived him many years, and died
in 1851.

" Of his numerous family, who have occupied honored
posts in the church, at the bar, and in various walks of
business, the most are now deceased. They were as fol-
lows : Thomas Skinner, Henry Hunt, Edward Templeton,
Nathan Thompson, James Watson, Mary Eliza (Mrs. David
Wager), John Douglass, Hobart, Brown Howe, Sarah
Watson (Mrs. Theodore Dimon), Helen (Mrs. Kathern)."*
Erastus Clark, another prominent citizen, came to Utica
in 1797. He was born in Lebanon, Conn., May 11, 1763.
His father was Dr. John Clark, and his maternal grand-
mother was a sister of Rev. Jonathan Edwards. Mr.
Clark graduated with honor at Dartmouth College, N. H.,
and was admitted to practice law, for which he had pre-
pared himself. He removed to Clinton, then in Herkimer
County, in 1791, and in 1797 changed his residence to
Old Fort Schuyler. At the first election held under the
village charter of 1805, he was elected one of the trustees ;
and again, in 1817, under the revised charter, was elected
a member of the council. He also represented his district
twice in the General Assembly, and was one of the original
trustees of Hamilton College. Among his associates were
such men as Alexander Hamilton, Egbert Benson, Jonas
Piatt, and Thomas R. Gold.

The following estimate of Mr. Clark, by Judge Jonas
Piatt, we transcribe from Dr. Bagg's " Pioneers of Utica' ' :

" For originality and decision of character his name was proverbial.
An enlii'htened conscience was his habitual guide ; and if from pre-
cipitancy or irritation his head sometimes erred, there was a redeem-
ing principle in his heart which reclaimed and regulated his erring
judgment and passions with magnetic influence. His frankness was
sometimes ill-timed and excessive. What others thought he spoke, and
this naked and unreserved habit of mind and expression frequently

« From Dr. Bagg.



270



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



gave offense when he was not conscious of it, and sometimes betrayed
apparent vanity. But of no other man can it be more truly said, that
those who knew him best esteemed him most. His liberal charity and
his generous spirit in promoting benevolent objects and public institu-
tions were ever loading and conspicuous, while no man was less indul-
gent to his own appetites or more self-denying in his pleasures and
personal gratifications. His habit of living was simple, plain, and
frugal, and yet his house was the abode of cheerful, cordial, and fa-
miliar hospitality. In the more intimate and tender relations of
domestic life, the virtues of this excellent man shone with peculiar
lustre. His religious character was free from ostentation, but uniform,
consistent, sincere, and ardent."

James Watson Williams said of him, —

" He was a man of strongly-marked character, of noted integrity,
and of shrewd, sharp sense; of fine classical attainments, which he
kept fresh to the close of his life ; of thorough historical knowledge,
and a wonderful memory j sparing of words, but not of point or pith ;
a man to the purpose, but somewhat cynical; not quite bland enough
to be popular, but esteemed for his independence and force of mind."

He died Nov. 7, 1825. The father of Mr. Clark died in
Utica, Dec. 23, 1822, at the age of ninety-four. His
mother died in Lebanon, Conn., Dec. 14, 1823, aged ninety-
two. >

" Judge Ambrose Spencer said of him, that he was the
only man he ever knew who could split a hair and show the
parts."*

Another prominent lawyer of this, the " heroic age" of
Utica, was Francis A. Bloodgood, who was a native of Al-
bany, and a graduate of Union College. He was admitted
to practice before the Supreme Court, Aug. 5, 1790, and
made his first public appearance before a Utica audience on
the anniversary of the nation's birth, July 4, 1797. He
filled the office of village trustee in 1805, and was one of
the original trustees of the Utica Bank. In 1810 he rep-
resented his district in the State Senate, where he embraced
the political doctrines of the De Witt Clinton school. His
residence was in Whitesboro' Street. About 1823 he re-
moved to Ithaca, Tompkins Co., where he subsequently
died.

One of the most noted personages that ever made Utica
his home was Colonel Benjamin Walker, of Revolutionary
fame, the friend and companion of Baron Steuben, who also
settled at Utica in 1797. Colonel Walker, it is believed,
was born in London, England, in 1753. He received a prac-
tical education, and passed some time in France, where he
became proficient in the French language. While yet quite
young he became connected with a respectable mercantile
firm in London, under whose patronage he came to Amer-
ica, and procured a situation with an eminent merchant in
New York, with whom he was residing at the breaking out
of the Revolution. He at once espoused the cause of the
colonies, and .served in the Second New York Regiment, in
which he rose to the rank of captain, and while in this ca-
pacity was appointed aid to Baron Steuben. The army was
then encamped at Valley Forge. He became the firm friend
and confidant of the baron, and from 1778 to 1782 had
charge of all his correspondence. The baron dictated to
him in French, and Walker translated and wrote it in
English :

" He accompanied his general to all the inspections and '

* Dr. Bagg.



reviews, acted as translator in case of need, and often extri-
cated him from difficulties." He was emphatically the
baron's " right-hand man," and the one on whom he chiefly
relied in all matters of importance.

About 1782 he became attached to the military family
of G-eneral Washington, where he continued during the
remainder of the war. He kept up a correspondence for
many years with the commander-in-chief, and was one
of those who were strongly recommended by Washington
to the patronage of Congress.

After the close of the war he filled the position of sec-
retary to the Governor of New York. He subsequently
engaged in the wholesale hardware and commission business
in New York, with Major Benjamin Ledyard as a partner.
He also held the position of naval officer of the port of
New York up to the year 1797. In that year he was ap-
pointed as agent for the estate of the Earl of Bath, an
extensive property lying mostly in Madison County, and
closing his business in New York he removed to Utica (or
Old Fort Schuyler), where he continued to reside to the
end of his life. " The management of this estate, as well
as the care of tlie lands devised him by Baron Steuben (in
1794), occupied much of his attention." In 1800 he was
elected as representative to Congress ; but one term satis-
fied him, and he would never afterwards accept of a public
office.

" Among those who took part in the organization and
erection of Trinity Church he was perhaps the foremost.
The Bleecker family had promised the donation of a site
to the first church of any kind that should be erected in
this place. Lady Bath, of England, had also pledged the
gift of several hundred acres of her land in Madison County
to the first church of an Episcopalian character that should
be built in this part of the State. Not only was it through
the agency of Colonel Walker that the latter gift was
realized, but his name also heads the list of individual
subscriptions made for the church, and, in association with
Nathan Williams and William Inman, he was appointed
on the building committee."")"

Colonel Walker had a large farm adjoining the village,
and he built himself a fine residence on Broad Street, — the
same now occupied by Abraham E. Culver, — where he dis-
pensed a " refined and elegant hospitality." . . . " He gave
most of his time to the society of his friends, to whom his
gay, good sense, his unassuming manners, his open, gener-
ous temper, his independent spirit, and his extensive ac-
quaintance with the world rendered him a most enlivening
and instructive companion. For those days his style was
considerable. He kept three slaves,^ employed several men
on his gardens and grounds, had a good deal of plate, and
was the first inhabitant who owned a coach."

It is said that " it was his particular delight to search
out merit in distress, to cheer the poor man in despondency,
to prove himself a father to the fatherless, and to restore
hope and comfort to the breast of the widow. To these
beneficent purposes he appropriated a large share of his



t Dr. Bagg.

J Slavery existed in New York until as late as 1S20, and slave-
sales were announced in the Utica papers as late as 1S17.



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



271



income ; and it is confidently believed that no individual
in this part of the country distributed more charity than
he. And yet in all this there was no ostentation of bene-
ficence."

Colonel Walker is described in Dr. Bagg's work as being
" in person rather short and fleshy, having a decided Eng-
lish physiognomy, and an expression of benevolence coupled
with some degree of sternness. He had a fine voice, and
when he presided at one time at a meeting of citizens, called
to express their disapprobation of Mr. Jefierson's embargo,
he addressed them in a loud tone, and with a curt, mar-
tial air, as he would have issued orders on the field of
battle."

He died on the 13th of January, 1818, and his remains
were interred in the village burying-ground, where they re-
mained until the 17th of June, 1875, when they were re-
interred with befitting ceremonies in Forest Hill Cemetery.
His portrait is preserved in the picture, by Trumbull, of
Washington resigning his commission, which is in the ro-
tunda of the Capitol at Washington, D. C.

The following interesting matter concerning Colonel
Walker and his family is from " Pioneers of Utica'' :

"Miss Robinson, his wife, who was from New Yorli, and a sister
of Captain Thomas Robinson, of the navy, had died the yciir previous
(1817). Witli respect to his earlier aequaintancc with her, tlie follow-
ing anecdote is related by Peter S. Duponccau, another of Steuben's
aids, who s.iys he had it from Walker himself:

"MVhile he was in the family (military) of General Washington,
he asked the general's leave of abscnec for a few days, to go and see
this lady, to whom he had already been long engaged. The general
told him that ho eould not at that time dispense with his services.
Walker insisted, begged, and entreated, but all in vain. " If I don't
go," said be, "she will die." "Oh, no," said AVashington, "women
do not die for such trifles." "But, general, what .-jliall I do?"
" What will you do ? Why, write to her and tell her to add another
leaf to ber book of sufferings." '

"Baron Steuben, who had friendly nicknames for his aids and
sub-inspectors, used to call Colonel W. and hia wife * le petit }Valker
et sa grande femnie,* After her death her sister-in-law, Mrs. Robin-
son, became the housekeeper, a son of his being installed as secretary.
Colonel Walker had a niece and adopted daughter, who became the
wife of Peter Bours, and a natural daughter, who at first mar-
ried u. French gentleman, the Marquis de Villehaut, who fled from
Franco at the time of the great Revolution in that country. He set-
tled at Morris, in Otsego County, where he kept a store. She was
divorced from him, and after her father's death she visited France,
where she married Colonel Combe, an officer of the first Napoleon.
Upon the accession of Louis Philipjie to the throne of France, Colo-
nel Combe returned to his native country, and was soon after dis-
patched to Algiers, where he was killed at the head of his regiment.
Mrs. Combe continued to reside in France until her death, June 5,
1850."

Samuel Hooker was another settler of the year 1797.
He had removed from Barre, Mass., and settled in Albany,
where he pursued the business of a carpenter ; and it was
while engaged at his trade that he accepted a proposition
from the agents of the Holland Land Company to come to Old
Fort Schuyler and superintend the erection of a large brick
hotel on Wliitesboro' Street, since well and favorably known
as the " York House." He accordingly removed to this
place, and began the work in 1797 and finished it in 1799.
In 1803, Mr. Hooker and his son drew plans for the new
Trinity Church and made a contract for its construction.
He also carried on the business of fire-insurance agent.
His popularity in the church may be inferred from the



statement that he was annually elected warden for a period
of twenty-one years. He died Oct. 19, 1832, at the age
of eighty-six years.

His sons were quite prominent, — Philip as an architect
in Albany, and John in Utica, in various callings. The
latter became eventually insane, and died at the age of sixty
years. Junius, another son, was a merchant in Utica, and
something of a military man, and subsequently removed to
New York. William also removed to New York. Samuel
F. was a resident of Utica for a time.

Among other residents for longer or shorter periods were
Richard Kimball and James Flusky, the latter of whom
lived across the bridge, in Deerfield, and pursued the vari-
ous callings of cooper, fish-dealer, cartman, and ferryman.
His dwelling was known as " Fort Flusky."

THE FIRST VILLAGE CHARTER.

The year 1798 witnessed many civil changes in the
western portion of the State. The original county of
Montgomery, which once included about half of the State,
had been gradually curtailed by the erection of various new
counties, — Ontario, Tioga, Otsego, Herkimer, and Onon-
daga, — until it contained only a fraction of its former di-
mensions. On the 15th of March, 1798, an act was passed
by the Legislature for the organization of Oneida and Che-
nango Counties from the extensive territory of Herkimer
County. Whitestown, which had at one time comprised
all of the western portion of the State, but had been re-
duced in size, fell to Oneida County, and the village of Old
Fort Schuyler was still included within its limits. But
the growing village began to feel itself of considerable con-
sequence, and the question of a separation from the mother
town had been already discussed. This action took tan-
gible form early in 1798, and culminated in a meeting of
the people for the purpose of choosing a name for the pro-
posed new village. There was much discussion upon this
point, almost every citizen having a difiFerent choice, and
the matter is said to have been finally decided by lot, and
fell upon the name Utica, which was the choice of Erastus
Clark, evidently a classical scholar, and a man of taste.
The Legislature was petitioned, and on the 3d of April,
1798, an act was passed erecting the village government,
and authorizing the citizens to elect annually five freehold-
ers, who should bear the honorable title of Trustees. The
actual powers conferred in the charter were very restricted,
and amounted mainly to the right to enact ordinances for
the prevention and extinguishment of fires, and the abate-
ment of nuisances. The Legislature named the place, in
its title. Old Fort Schuyler, and in the body of the act,
Utica, so that it was a question whether the place really
had a legal name after all.

The first section of the act of incorporation, describing
the boundaries, is as follows ;

" The district of country contained within the following boundaries,
to wit: beo-inning at a point or place on the south side of the Mo-
hawk River, where the division line between lots Nos. 97 and 98, in
Cosby's Manor, strikes the said river; thence running southerly in
the said division line to a point in the same forty chains southerly of
the iToiit road leading to Fort Stanwi.i ; thence east, thirty-seven de-
grees south, to the easterly line of the county of Oneida; thence
northerly in the said county line to the Mohawk River; thence
westerly up the waters thereof to the place of beginning, shall here-



272



HISTORY OP ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



after be known and distinguished by the name of the village of
Utica."

The records of the village for the first seven years of its
existence, or from 1798 to 1805, are lost, having been
burned in the fire which destroyed the council-chamber,
Dec. 7, 1848, and there are no means of determining who
were the original and subsequent officers for that period,
excepting that some stray item of intelligence has pre-
served the fact that Francis A. Bloodgood was treasurer in
1800, and Talcott Camp in 1802.

It would seem, from an item preserved in the columns
of a newspaper of that date, that at the time of the burning
of Post & Hamlin's store, in February, 1804, there was a
fire company of some description in existence, and this
would indicate that the board of village trustees had per-
formed certain acts of legislation. The burned-out firm
returned " their warm thanks to the fire company, and to
the citizens and strangers in general, for their eager exer-
tions in saving the property of the sufferers, and in ex-
tinguishing the flames.''

The year 1798, in addition to the noteworthy event of
incorporation, witnessed many improvements in the village,
and the arrival of many new-comers, both settlers and
travelers.

Among the former was Thomas Skinner, from Williams-
town, Mass. He was a graduate of Williams College, and
soon after his arrival in Utica entered into partnership in
the practice of the law with Nathan Williams, who married
Mary, a sister of Mr. Skinner. Mr. Skinner became a
prominent citizen, and filled various offices both in the
church and in the gift of the people. He served as one
of the village trustees, and as early as 1807 was attorney of
the corporation, and also acted in the latter capacity for the
Utica Bank. He was for several years treasurer for the
Presbyterian Church, and contributed as a fluent writer to
the Columbian Gazette. He also held the position of
trustee of the Utica Academy for thirty-five years, and
always punctually attended their meetings. At one time



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 74 of 192)