Smith’s history of Cortland County describes the following pioneers arriving (Smith, H.P., editor. History of Cortland County with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Company, 1885, p. 183-197.):
“The first settlers in the town of Homer, as they were also of the county, were Amos Todd and Joseph Beebe, the latter’s wife Rhoda, and John Miller, whose experiences will be given a little farther on. In the spring of 1792 Mr. Miller, after a visit home, returned with John House, James Matthews, James Moore and Daniel Miller.
In 1793 Darius Kinney, Roderick Owen, John Ballard and Captain David Russell came into the town. In 1794 Jonathan Hubbard and Moses Hopkins (who located in the present town of Cortland) came in, and were followed in 1795 by Thomas L. and Jacob Bishop, Thomas Wilcox, Zebulon Keene, John Stone, Joshua Atwater, Libeus Andrews, John Keep, Solomon and John Hubbard, Thomas G., Ebenezer and Charles Alvord.
In 1797 Joshua Ballard, John Albright, Asa White and Caleb Keep came into the town, and in 1798, considerable accession was made to the population, by persons settling in various parts of the territory, but more especially along the borders of the east and west branches of the river. While the names of all who came in after this date cannot probably be given, we can mention the following: Stephen Knapp, Daniel, Samuel and Gideon Hobart, Titus Stebbins, Samuel Hotchkiss, Dr. Lewis S. Owen, Deacon Noah Hitchcock, Zenas Lilly, Timothy Treat, Enos Stimson, William Lucas, Asahel Miner, Col. Benajah Tubbs, John and Richard Bishop. [Footnote: Several of these pioneers settled within the present limits of Cortlandville and became identified with that locality.] These pioneers all came into the town prior to 1800, and constituted the beginning of the new settlement. They were the men who suffered many and great hardships, privations and inconveniences while subduing the wilderness, all the details of which it is impossible at this late day to obtain. Those who followed during the first quarter of the nineteenth century also endured privations and made sacrifices that are little realized at the present day. They all possessed aggressive spirits and labored not for themselves alone, but for their children and future generations as well. For this life and purpose they abandoned the hearthstones of their boyhood days, the endearments of social ties, cultivated associations and the many luxuries common to older settlements.
The forefathers of Homer could have been none other than men of enterprise, with positive characters and unfaltering determination, to have attained so high a degree of success in their efforts for the extension of civilization into what was then an unknown wilderness.
Amos Todd and Joseph Beebe, whose advent into the old town of Homer has been already alluded to, migrated from New Haven, Conn., and located at Windsor, Broome county, N.Y., during the year 1789. They explored the valley of the Tioughnioga in the summer of 1790 and in 1791 left Windsor to become the first settlers in Cortland county and, probably, in the town of Homer. They were accompanied by Mr. Beebe’s wife, Rhoda, who was Todd’s sister. The current narrative of the early experiences of these pioneers, as it has often been told and written, is as follows: –
Coming up the valley from the southward they selected the site for their primitive home, just north of the present village of Homer, within a few rods of the bridge across the Tioughnioga, and nearly opposite the residence occupied in later years by Erastus Goodell. Their rude dwelling was composed mainly of poles and was, perhaps, twelve by fifteen feet in its dimensions. Before this temporary abode was finished their team strayed away into the forest. Leaving Mrs. Beebe alone, the two men set out in pursuit of the animals. Without any protection other than the four walls of her unsubstantial cabin, which was yet without roof or floor, and with no door save simply a blanket hung upon the poles to cover the opening, the brave woman remained alone three days and nights. During these long, lonely hours she is said to have retained a tranquil mind and and received no annoyance save such as was caused by the howling wolves and occasional screaming panther, which at that time often made the nights hideous. She received but one call during the time the men were absent, and that was by a wolf which, being rather timid, only displaced the blanket door sufficiently to introduce his nose and take a survey of the apartment and the shrinking woman.
A severer trial, however, awaited this pioneer woman. During the following winter her brother and husband were compelled to return to Windsor for their household effects, etc. At the end of their journey they were snow bound for a period of six weeks, during which time Mrs. Beebe remained in her lonely wilderness home, the sole occupant of the forest and “palace of poles.” She must have been blessed with far more than ordinary courage and fortitude or she could never have lain calmly down in a dense forest, night after night, many miles distant from any human habitation, to rest by the lullabys of the wolves and panthers. Mrs. Beebe is said to have been thus situated, and it was not until the middle of the winter that her husband and brother pushed their frail craft to Binghamton, where they were joined by John Miller, father of the afterward well known deacon Daniel Miller. The little canoe was again pushed from shore and on their way homeward up the river “the men took turns in directing its course and removing obstacles, or following on foot and driving the cattle.” Sometimes the stream was found too shallow and the boat was drawn across the rift by oxen and then again set afloat. Time, which is the author of all changes in human affairs, at last brought the pioneers near to their wilderness home. The imagination of the reader can best depict the meeting of the two men with the brave and lonely wife and sister. So runs, in substance, the narrative of the first settlement of this town.
Unfortunately for the authors and circulators of this interesting story, there is a somewhat different version of it given upon undoubted authority (that of Mr. Charles Kingsbury, of Homer) which it is our duty to reproduce. Mr. Kingsbury has written and published many reminiscences of early times, and of the account of the winter journey of the three men from Broome county, says: “Now, it strikes me as being singular that those first settlers should pull from shore in midwinter and be able to propel their frail craft, not only against the current of the stream; but the winter must have been of a much milder type than modern winters, or the stream would have been filled with heavy ice which, of course, would have seriously obstructed the navigation. It appears that this story lacks confirmation.” These are Mr. Kingbury’s own words, and the narrative as best substantiated to him is to the effect that “Mr. and Mrs. Beebe and Mr. Todd, a brother-in-law of Beebe, and at that time, unmarried, came up the river in a boat from Windsor and landed on the west bank about midway between the present Port Watson bridge and the point where the two branches of the river unite. [Footnote: This would locate their first settlement within the present boundaries of Cortlandville.] There they constructed a temporary cabin of a few logs, but mostly of poles, and the men returned to Windsor for provisions and such articles as they could bring back, and which their circumstances imperatively demanded. It has been asserted almost times without number, that Mrs. Beebe remained alone during their absence; but it now appears upon good authority that she had a daughter named Clara, who remained with her. For some cause, at present unknown, the men were detained much longer than they expected to be; even more than twice the length of time they had marked out had already passed. Mrs. Beebe’s small stock of provisions was exhausted, and she was reduced to the necessity of resorting to roots and the barks of trees to appease their hunger and sustain life. At length she came to the conclusion that some serious misfortune had befallen her husband and brother, and that some decided effort was necessary on her part; the only alternative which presented itself, which appeared at all feasible, was to make the journey down the river through the forest on foot. This bold resolution she finally adopted, although well aware that the woods were inhabited by wild animals, many of which were fierce and dangerous. She hoped by keeping near to the stream, to avoid the danger of being lost in the woods, and thus by patient and persevering effort, she would at length succeed in emerging from the forest and discovering a settlement. The day for beginning the journey was fixed, the small means she possessed were in readiness, when, sometime in the night preceding her start, upon looking out of her cabin, she discovered a light some distance down the river. This was something so unusual that it created much interest in her mind, and watching it closely, she saw it was approaching. In a little time it drew near and with it her husband and brother, with a stock of provisions and other goods which they so much needed.”
This cabin was their temporary residence during the time the men were engaged in building a log house, on the farm upon which Mr. Beebe located, west of Homer village, on lot 43, on the south side of the road formerly known as “the turnpike.” Here the Beebes spent the remainder of their lives, Mrs. Beebe dying in 1830 and her husband in 1802. An old-fashioned headstone marks their graves, in what is now Glenwood Cemetery. Like a majority of the early settlers, Mr. and Mrs. Beebe were very worthy people. We find their names among the earliest members of the first Baptist Church society of Homer.
Mr. Todd subsequently settled on the farm adjoining Mr. Beebe’s on the east, where himself and his wife passed their lives. They were also worthy and respected members of the community. Both of these families reared a number of children, all of whom removed from the town. Harry S. Beebe, son of Joseph, succeeded his father on the farm, but subsequently removed to the State of Pennsylvania, where he died several years ago.
This last account of the first settlement in this county is undoubtedly reliable and correct, in the main, as we have it directly from one who is, probably, the oldest native citizen now living in the old town of Homer, to whom Mrs. Beebe herself related the circumstances, going with him to the spot upon which their first cabin was built, which she was enabled to recognize by a spring of water issuing from the ground near to and in a certain direction from the location of the cabin. The land on which the dwelling was built was owned and occupied in later years by Samuel Hotchkiss.
This last account of the first settlement in the county by white persons becomes of considerable importance when we consider its authenticity, its bearing upon the most prominent of the early experiences of the pioneers, and the fact that it removes the first settlement from the town of Homer to a point within the present boundaries of the town of Cortlandville.
As we have before stated, John Miller accompanied Todd and Beebe on their second journey up the Tioughnioga river and in the spring of the year, 1792, brought to the town of Homer his wife and two sons; they came from the State of New Jersey and constituted the third family in the town; although John House, James Mathews and James Moore accompanied him on his return from his former home in the spring of the year last named. It appears by an old record that the Miller family formerly resided in the State of Maryland, about fifty miles west of Baltimore; but at what time is not known; nor is the place in New Jersey, from which he is said to have migrated to this county, known at this time, as far as we have been able to learn. He settled on lot 56, now embraced in the town of Cortlandville, and further reference to the family will be found in the history of that town.
John House, James Mathews and James Moore, who came into the town with the Millers, were from Binghamton; they camped at the forks of the river, where their wives remained while the pioneers went forward and erected cabins for their temporary homes. “Mr. Mathews built on the upper end of Mr.Miller’s lot (56). Mr. House about eight rods west of where Ebenezer Cole afterward lived. Mr. Moore near the bridge just south of the cotton factory.”
Darius Kinney came into the town from Brimfield (from which Massachusetts town very many of the early settlers in this section migrated), and located in 1793 on the East river. Mrs.Kinney was a sister of the wife of Judge Keep. Mr. Kinney resided on that farm about four years, and near the dwelling of Judge Keep on the site of the present county poor-house. Mr. Kinney then disposed of his farm and purchased another in the valley of the west branch of the river, since owned by Abel Kinney (now owned by a Mr. Gallup), where he died in 1816. Mrs. Kinney survived her husband something more than twenty-five years and was one of the little band that constituted the first Congregational churh in Homer, in October, 1801; at the time of her death she was the last of the little company.
The Ballard family came from Holland, Mass. John located on the east side of the Tioughnioga, and three years later settled on the farm subsequently owned by Paris Barber. It was owned at that time by Capt. David Russell, who had erected a double log house near the northwest corner of Mr. Barber’s orchard.
During the year 1795 several small companies came in by way of Manlius and Truxton. Thomas L. and Jacob Bishop, from Brimfield, located on lot 25, on lands afterward owned by Noah Hitchcock, now occupied by his son, Dwight Hitchcock. The farm was known in early days as the Vanderlyn farm. Thomas Wilcox came from Whitestown, N.Y., and located on lot 64, where Joshua Ballard afterwards lived. Zebulon Keene located on the farm afterward owned by Mr. —- Sheffield. John Stone, from Brimfield, settled on lot 25, on what was subsequently known as the Albert Baker farm. Joshua Atwater located on lot 13, northwest of the village; Ezra and Joseph Atwater were his sons.
Solomon and John Hubbard, brothers, came from Massachusetts in 1795 or ’96; the former settled on lot 25 and the latter on lot 26, a little north from the present village. These men were active, intelligent citizens and their efforts in various directions for the good of the community became in after years important and influential. Solomon Hubbard’s residence, when originally erected, was looked upon as one of the largest and most pretentious in the county.
Thomas G., Ebenezer and Charles Alvord came in from Farmington, Conn., in 1795 or ’96, and settled in the northwest part of the town on lot No. 13. The former, however, drew lot 56. When he reached Manlius on his journey into the county he was met by two “land-sharks,” who, on learning the number of the lot on which the old hero was intending to settle, coolly informed him that they had been to Homer and that they were well acquainted with the position of his land, and would assure him that it was of very little value, was wet, the greater part of it being covered with water. By virtue of plausible lies of this character they induced him to part with six hundred acres of most valuable land for a few dollars.
In 1795 Enon Phelps emigrated from Morristown, N.J., and settled on the northeast corner of lot 50 in the extreme southeast corner of the present town of Homer; there, on the hill adjoining the town of Solon, he located on a hundred acres of land which he had bought of George Clinton. It is believed that Mr. Clinton drew this lot as bounty land for services rendered in the army. The location of Mr. Phelps was about three miles from the valley, between which points there was at that time, of course, no road. Mr. Miller, on lot 56, (where T. Mason Loring now resides) was desirous of opening better means of communication with his neighbor Phelps; he accordingly started for the purpose of locating a road by “blazing” trees – making what was early called a bridle-path. Leaving the valley, he proceeded, as he supposed, in the direction of Mr. Phelps’s house; he made good progress, finding the route a very feasible one. Pushing on as fast as the trees would admit, he finally emerged from the forest into a clearing. His astonishment may be imagined on finding himself not more than half a mile in a southeasterly direction from the place where he left the valley, and but a short distance from the ground now occupied as a burying-ground. He made a second attempt, but again failed utterly. Procuring a compass, his third effort at road making was successful. [Footnote: This is by no means an isolated instance of the kind. Most old settlers will remember similar experiences on either their own part or that of their neighbors. It has been often proved that it is an absolute impossibility for a person unacquainted with woodcraft to follow any point of the compass through a thick forest; he may do it by chance, but as an intention the probabilities are all against his success. On the other hand, the Indian, by some power that is difficult of comprehension by civilized man, finds no trouble in going miles through an impenetrable forest direct to a distant point, and seldom or never erring. Instinct, as it is called, often seems to baffle reason.]
William W. Phelps was a son of Enon Phelps and a printer by trade. He was at one time connected with one of the county Democratic papers, but subsequently removed to the western part of the State, where he became a leader among the Mormons, then located in that section, and printed their bible. Later still he returned to Homer and baptized his father, mother and brother. Enon Phelps cleared up his land and planted the first apple orchard in the town.
Joshua Ballard came from Holland, Mass., in 1797, and selected a location on lot 45. He was twenty-one years old at that time. During the next year he returned to his native State and brought back with him his young and interesting wife. They came by the way of Cazenovia into the town of Homer on horseback. Mr. Ballard taught the first school in the old town and gave valuable aid to the Cortland Academy, being one of its founders and most prominent supporters. He was appointed sheriff on the 10th of April, 1810; was a member of the Legislature of 1816; was appointed county clerk in July, 1819, soon after which he removed into the boundaries of the present town of Cortlandville.
In 1798 Daniel Crandall came to Homer and worked for Judge Keep, chopping the timber and clearing ten acres of land on the site of the county poor-house farm. He was a native of Voluntown, Windham county, Conn. He came in alone and it is believed he made the entire journey on foot. Late in the season after his arrival he was seriously wounded by an axe cut in his foot, which made it impossible to continue his labor in the woods. Under these circumstances he collected a few tools and began the business of “cobbling” in Judge Keep’s house. Here he was permitted to occupy a small space in one corner of the family room, which was not a large one, and contained a bed, a loom and other domestic furniture, for the use of which and his board he gave the judge one day’s work in each week. He soon became sufficiently expert in his new avocation to begin making boots and shoes, and so spent the winter in industry. It is quite probable that this was the first manufacturing of any kind, other than spinning and weaving, carried on in the county. Mr. Crandall subsequently returned to Connecticut, and in the winter of 1799-1800 was married and removed with his wife back to Homer; they made the journey with an ox team, crossed the Hudson river on the ice, opening and breaking his own road a portion of the distance, and being twenty-one days on the way. He afterwards helped to chop the trees from the ground now occupied by the “green” in Homer village, and also to build the structure there for school and religious purposes. He purchased fifty acres of land on lot 38, which included the site of the East River Mills, where he built a log house; he moved into it when it was without a door and the gables were open, and kept his oxen, a cow and a calf through the first winter on “browse.” The wolves attempted to kill the calf, but, strange to relate, the cow and oxen fought desperately in the feeble animal’s defense and came off victorious. Captain Crandall built the first saw-mill at East River, and subsequently, in company with Samuel Griggs, erected the first grist-mill at that point. He was one of the sixteen persons who constituted the first Baptist Church society in Homer.
In the pioneer days Mr. and Mrs. Crandall were in the habit of walking to the house of Judge Keep for the purpose of attending meeting, that being the place where, for some years, religious and other public gatherings were held, Mr. Crandall carrying their first-born child in his arms. On one of these occasions they had proceeded about half a mile, when they came into a small opening in the forest where the water bubbled in several springs from the ground and formed a little rivulet. Here they suddenly encountered a large bear, deeply engaged in digging roots from the soft ground for her cubs; the bear, being a mother and suddenly surprised, instantly reared on her haunches and for a few moments intently surveyed her enemies. It was a critical time; Mr. and Mrs. Crandall confidently expected an attack, and that at the next moment they might be clasped in the too ardent embrace of the animal and their flesh be torn by her teeth. But after a few moments, when her curiosity was apparently satisfied, the bear turned and disappeared in the forest, to the great relief of the church-goers.
In 1797 John Albright located on lot 29. He was an excellent citizen, respected by his friends, and his experience was of a very interesting character. He passed through much of the severest service in the Revolutionary War, faithfully and honorable serving his country. He was of Swiss parentage and early in life followed the tailoring business; but he did not like the work to which he was apprenticed, and the son of his foster-parent having been drafted, young Albright saw an opportunity of escape from his irksome position by taking the place of the drafted son in the colonial service, surrendering his indentures to the tailor’s trade. After his enlistment he was ordered to Fort Montgomery, Orange county, where he was stationed during the siege. He was afterwards engaged in the defense of Fort Stanwix, and was subsequently captured by Tories and Indians and taken as a prisoner to Canada. Afterwards he was a participant in the terrible march of the Continental army from Philadelphia to Valley Forge, where they could have been tracked upon the frozen ground by their bleeding feet. Finally he was in the siege of Yorktown, which ended in the capitulation of Cornwallis. For his services to his country he drew the military bounty lot on which he located.
Daniel Todd, brother of Amos Todd, located on a farm lying directly south of Mr.Beebe’s. It is now known as the Bedell farm. Titus Stebbins settled immediately south of Amos Todd prior to the year 1800, and Chester Boies located to the north of Stebbins, where he was succeeded by Bildad Hotchkiss. The latter was succeeded on this farm by Samuel Bunn; it is at present owned by his widow and children. Mr. Bunn gained the reputation of being an honest, upright and respected member of the community. A short distance to the east and adjoining his farm was that of Pliny Polly, the first settler on that farm. One of his daughters became the wife of Charles Todd, son of Daniel Todd; another the wife of A. Harris, of Little York, and another married a son of Dr. Carpenter, of East River; he removed to the west.
Asa White and Caleb Keep came from Monson, Mass., before 1798. The former located on lot 45, within the present limits of the village, and built his house on the grounds so long occupied in subsequent years by the residence of Jedediah Barber. He was the father of Horace and Hamilton White, afterwards bankers in Syracuse. He, in company with John Keep and Solomon Hubbard, built the first grist-mill in the county, in 1798, on the site of the present mill near the northern end of the village.
Other considerable accessions were made to the population during the year 1798, many of whom settled along the two branches of the river. Stephen Knapp came in with his brother-in-law from Goshen, Orange Co., NY, to make explorations. Knapp’s father had been killed in the War of the Revolution, leaving him to make his own way in the world; for this laudable purpose he sought the wilderness country and purchased a large tract of land. Returning to Goshen he made preparations to permanently remove to his new possessions; but he was delayed until the year 1798. He came in by the way of Poughkeepsie, Kingston, the head waters of Schoharie county; followed down the river to Prattsville; thence to Harpersfield, crossing at Wattles’s ferry; thence to Oxford; thence to Solon, where he took the Salt Road about two miles to ‘Squire Bingham’s; thence over the hills to Judge Keep’s and thence to the house of John Ballard, where he remained some time. One hundred acres of the land bought by Mr. Knapp, which afterward constituted the homestead, was a portion of what is now the cemetery grounds. His house, a simple log cabin, stood where the “tool house” of the cemetery is now located. Two hundred acres were below the village and within the present boundaries of Cortlandville (on lot 55) on both sides of the river, and two hundred acres on lot 85, also in the town of Cortlandville. During the following winter after Mr. Knapp’s location his mother, Hester Knapp, with her family consisting of Stephen, Daniel, James, Nathaniel and two daughters, Polly and Sally, came in over the route as above given. Stephen Knapp became a man of prominence and energy; one whose influence in bringing the wilderness under civilizing influence was permanent and important. During the earlier years of his life in Homer the broad valley of the Tioughnioga was covered with a dense forest, and it was easier for him to reach the lands on his lower tracts by following down the bed of the stream, than by making a journey through the wood. Mr. Knapp married Abigail Treat, and was the grandfather of William O. Bunn, late editor of the Homer “Republican”, and deputy U.S. Internal Revenue collector, with headquarters at Syracuse. Mr. Knapp lived to the venerable age of eighty-four years, sixty-six of which were passed in the town of Homer.
Daniel Knapp, older brother of Stephen, erected a dwelling house on the north part of the farm and near the four corners of the road at the cemetery, which he opened afterward as a tavern and kept it as such for several years. The succeeding residents of this farm were Chauncey Keep, Mr. Dickson, and General Martin Keep, who bought the property about 1824 and resided there ten years, removing to Tompkins county. The farm has since been owned by Walter Jewett, and by Paris Barber, who sold the grounds of the cemetery to the association. With the exception of twenty acres on the east side of the road, the farm is now and has been for some time owned by Henry Dennison.
A short distance up the river on the opposite side of the stream and near the foot of the hill is the location where Stephen Knapp resided for some years, now owned by Andrew Kingsbury. Aaron Knapp settled south of his brother Daniel on the farm now owned by Allen Smith.
Enos Stimson was from Monson, Mass., and settled on the site of the well known Schermerhorn residence in Homer village. He built a small house and hung out a tavern sign; but he was compelled to send his wife and children away the following spring, on account of the ravages of the small-pox. They sojourned at the house of Aaron Knapp, where they were vaccinated. An incident occurred during the absence of Mrs. Stimson, which shows what a strong appetite the Indian had acquired for the white man’s “fire-water.” Twelve Onondaga Indians called one evening at Mr. Stimson’s inn, where they drank freely, and became exceedingly hilarious. Demanding more liquor, it was refused by the landlord; but they were not at all disposed to depart until their now raging desires were gratified. They became threatening in their attitude, and prepared to attack Mr. Stimson, who was compelled to seek safety up the stairs, pulling the ladder after him. The field was now clear, and it was but a few moments before the bottles and decanters were emptied of their contents down the capacious throats of the red drunkards. A bacchanalian revel followed. In the midst of it, and after vainly searching for more jugs to empty, an old sachem found a bottle half filled with “picra,” from which he took a liberal drink; passing it on to a young chief, he swallowed the whole of its contents. The effect was pitiful and at the same time decidedly comical. The two sickened Indians felt sure they were poisoned to death; and indeed, there was danger of such a result. At this juncture, while some of the party were guarding the hole through which Mr. Stimson had disappeared into the upper regions, and others were bending over the supposed dying Indians, another one, who was in that glorious condition of uncertainty which might be expected under the circumstances, rushed hurriedly out of the door, and mistaking the side of the well curb for a yard fence, gave a leap, and the next instant was at the bottom of the well. This method of diluting the spirits he had swallowed did not please the old warrior, and he yelled and cursed with all the ardor and variations of which the language was capable; but there was too much of similar amusement going on in-doors to make it possible for his companions to hear him for some time. When assistance finally came he was drawn out of the well with blankets, a wetter and a wiser savage. With the coming of morning, and the disappearance of the entire stock of liquor, the Indians regained their reason, and the besieged landlord was permitted to descend to his proper sphere.
The Hobart family, consisting of the two brothers, Daniel and Samuel, were from Monson, Mass.; Daniel located on lot 43, west of the village; Samuel on lots 15 and 16, between the village and Little York. Gideon settled with his father, and remained on the same farm until his death in 1857.
Titus Stebbins came from the same town and settled on lot 43. It is now occupied by his son-in-law, Lyman Hubbard.
Samuel Hotchkiss came from New Haven, Conn., in 1798; located on lot 44. He became a prominent citizen, attaining a most enviable position in the community. He was county clerk several terms between 1822 and 1843, and was given other positions of trust. George Eldridge now occupies this farm.
Noah Hitchcock, before mentioned, came in from Brimfield, and located on lot 25, north of the village. He became one of the leading farmers of the county, and a respected citizen.
Zenas Lilly was an early resident whose life was closely identified with the growth of the town. He was also from Brimfield, and first located on lot 33, where he remained about twelve years, when he sold out and settled on “Factory Hill.” Some years later he disposed of his property and settled in Lenox, but he subsequently returned to Homer and located on lots 34-5.
Timothy Treat was from Berkshire, Mass., and settled about eighty rods north of the later residence of John Barker, subsequently owned by Mr. Bowen. He had a family of eight children, one daughter becoming the wife of Stephen Knapp.
William Lucas and Asahel Miner were from Woodbury, Conn.The former located on lot 35, and became a prominent and valuable citizen. His children removed to the State of Ohio. Mr. Miner settled on the farm afterward occupied by Lucas Welch, and was the first sheriff of the county. His son, Martin Miner, was long a prominent citizen of Cortland village.
Colonel Benajah Tubbs came from Washington county, and located on the site where George W. Phillips’s store afterward stood. He was one of the early merchants, and continued in business for many years.
Dr. Lewis S. Owen came from Albany, and located on lot 66. After remaining there three years he removed to Homer village, and erected a house on the site of the present residence of George Murray, where Dr. Robert Owen lived for some years.
After the year 1800 the town began to fill up with settlers at a more rapid rate. Those who had already made homes for themselves were gradually clearing their farms and homesteads, and surrounding themselves with such evidences of civilization and comfort as were available, making it more attractive to future prospectors. It is manifestly impossible, even if it were desirable, to name and locate all the settlers of the town from the beginning of the century down; a few of the more prominent may, however, be briefly referred to.
Ephraim P. Sumner came in from Connecticut in 1800, and located on lot 47, where his son of the same name now lives. He purchased two hundred acres, and died in 1843. His wife died in 1840.
Noah Carpenter came in from Pomfret, Windham county, Connecticut and located on lot 16, north of the village. His son, Asaph H. Carpenter, was born during the journey of his parents from the East. He lived on the parental homestead until his death recently. Francis B. Carpenter, one of the eminent artists of the country, and a resident of New York city, is a son of A. H. Carpenter.
Thomas, Nathan and Samuel Stone were from Brimfield, and located on lot 46.
Levi Phillips came in with his brother Waterman (who settled in the town of Cortlandville), and located on lot 16; he came with an ox team from Connecticut, bought fifty acres, and subsequently added ninety-seven more. He died in 1845 and his widow in 1850; his son, Oren, long occupied the homestead.
In the year 1801 several additional settlements were made. Among them was that of Seth Keep, who came from Massachusetts originally, but migrated to Homer from Vermont, locating on the northeast corner of lot 33.
Gad Hitchcock was from Monson, Mass.; his son, Horace Hitchcock, was for many years a respected citizen of the village.
John Coats located near the site of the Congregational Church in 1802.
In the same year Thomas Chollar came from Windham, Conn., and remained in the town about three years, during which time he made explorations in various parts of the surrounding country, informing himself thoroughly upon the soil and other peculiarities of the region. In the latter part of 1804 he selected a location on lot 17, upon which he settled in 1809. Mr. Chollar was a prominent citizen; he was the father of Thomas D. Chollar, who now lives in Homer village.
Rev. Alfred Bennett came into the town in 1803, and settled on the farm now owned by NIcholas Starr; he soon after entered the ministry and became a noted and successful divine. His church work will be referred to hereafter.
In this year, also, Jacob Sanders, Levi Bowen and Elijah Pierce settled in the town. Mr. Sanders was from Swansey, Mass., and located on lot 56 (now Cortlandville). Levi Bowen settled on lot 7, near Little York, coming here from Woodstock, Conn. He died in 1832, leaving eight children. Mr. Pierce was from Brimfield.
Moses Butterfield came from Canterbury, Conn., in 1803, and located about a half mile in a northeasterly direction from the Miller farm at East River, and on the same side of the stream; it was on lot 47, and where Charles Kingsbury now resides. In the spring of that year he built a house on the lot, and planted a small piece of corn on a spot which was supposed to have been cut and cleared by the Indians. Mr. Butterfield returned to Connecticut, and in October of the same year returned again to Homer, bringing his family. They passed their first night at Deacon Miller’s, and he accompanied them to their home the next morning. On going to the doorway (the door itself was not yet in existence, and the gables were open) Mrs. Butterfield looked in, turned around, and with a look of home-sickness and despair, said to her husband: –
“Mr. Butterfield, is this my home?”
By dint of hard labor, however, Mr. Butterfield soon had a respectable floor and roof for his house, splitting the “puncheons” out of logs, and smoothing them down with his axe.
Adjoining the farm of Mr. Butterfield on the east is the one on which his brother, Parker Butterfield, first located in 1806; he resided there until 1822, when he sold to Ward Woodward, who came here from New Hampshire. Mr. Woodward became a respected citizen of the highest moral character, and was long a consistent member of the Congregational Church.
About a mile from Mr. Butterfield, John Frazier settled on a small farm on lot 36, in 1803. He was born in 1749 in England, entered the country’s service, or, rather was dragged from his bed and forced to enlist under the banner of King George, and served in the army of General Burgoyne; he remained in the same division until the battle of Stillwater, and the surrender of his army to General Gates, in October, 1777. At that time he escaped from the service, and subsequently reached Pomfret, Connecticut, where he was employed by General Putnam. There he was married in 1799, and removed to Homer, as stated. He thought to make sure of a valid title to his land by paying for it; but he failed in this, and paid for it a second time, and his title being disputed, he actually paid for a portion of it the third time, and even then was forced to abandon it altogether; he died in the alms house in 1839. This incident will give the reader an idea of the trouble arising out of early land titles on the military tract, as narrated in the preceding history of that tract.
When Mr. Frazier came in from Pomfret he drove seven cows for Samuel Griggs, who came at the same time and located on lot 38. He was a prominent farmer; was president of the first agricultural society in 1822, and very active in the construction of the Albany turnpike through Cortland county. He removed to Cayuga county in 1829 or 1830, where he died.
Zebadiah Abbott migrated from Brimfield in 1803 and settled on the eastern part of lot 47, one-half of which he purchased, and resided there until 1820, when he died. His wife survived him about twenty years, and though she was totally blind and partially deaf, manifested the patience and resignation born of a Christian character. Their sons were Asa, Joseph and Nathan, who became valuable citizens.
Adjoining Mr. Abbott’s farm on the east is the one on which Eli Sherman located; he also came from Brimfield, Mass., in 1804, and lived on this farm and greatly improved it, until 1866, when he died at the age of 87 years. The farm is now occupied by Philander Manchester.
Adjoining the farm of Mr. Sherman is that where Frederick Partridge settled in 1803, or ’04; he purchased land of Mr. Abbott, on lot 47. He lived here about ten years, and was noted for his strict sobriety and temperance principles – something of an exception in those days. He was succeeded on the farm by Samuel Sherman, who also came from Brimfield, and settled on the Partridge farm in 1814. He became pecuniarily involved, and for the purpose of meeting his obligations, hauled cherry lumber from Homer to Boston, Mass. He also drew wheat to Albany, where, after discharging his load, would return with a cargo of merchant’s goods, or stock for mechanics.
James Horton also lived on a lot that was taken from Mr. Abbott’s farm; but at precisely what period is not now known. He engaged in the tanning and currying business and was a skillful mechanic.
Benjamin Knight, a native of Monson, Mass., first came to Homer in 1801, in the month of February, having probably made the journey on foot in ten days, and at an inclement season of the year. In January, 1802, he returned to Massachusetts, accomplishing the journey in twelve days. The next month he returned to Homer, again being twelve days on the road. He located on the southern part of the lot originally purchased by Judge Keep and subsequently again returned to Connecticut where, on the 11th day of September, 1803, he married Susan Goodell, of Pomfret; she was a sister of the wife of Judge Keep and also of the wife of Darius Kinney. Thus the three sisters came from Connecticut and settled within the radius of a mile. On this farm Mr. Knight resided during the remainder of his life. He united with the Congregational Church in 1806 and died in 1843, at the age of 66 years.
Capt. Zephaniah Hicks, originally of Rhode Island, migrated from Connecticut in 1805, and located on the southeast corner of the State’s hundred, on lot 17. He has been described as an active, energetic, high-minded man; generous, humane and courteous. His prompt and manly greeting gained him the good-will of his neighbors and gave him much influence in all pioneer gatherings. He removed in 1835 to Ingham, Michigan. Jacob Hicks was his son, who was two years old when he came to Homer. He afterward settled on lot 27, and is now dead. Capt. Hicks’s daughter married Silas Elbridge Mann, afterward a prominent merchant in Jordan, N.Y.
In 1806 Col. David Coye, from Royalton, Vermont, and Lemuel Bates, from Cincinnati, came into the town. The former located on lot 45, where he lived many years. He purchased the first acre sold as a village lot, and followed his trade as a joiner. In 1815 he bought one hundred acres on lot 44. His shop stood on the site afterward occupied by C.O. Newton’s store, on Main street, now occupied by Higbee’s store. Mr. Coye filled several county offices, among which was that of sheriff in 1825. He was the father of eleven children. Mr. Bates settled on lot 26; his sons were Joseph and Ransford Bates.
William Shearer came from Washington county in 1807 and located on lot 36. Stephen and Joel R. Briggs, Arial Tickner and Erastus Hayes were from Otsego county and also came into the town in 1807, locating on lot 50, in the southeast corner of the town. Joel R. Briggs afterward lived on lot 38.
Deacon Ira Brown came from Brimfield in 1808 and located on lot 34, but subsequently removed to Cortland.
Joseph Bean settled in the town in 1809; his sons were Jeremiah, who lived in Cincinnatus, and Samuel, of Homer. In the same year Noah R. Smith and Matthias Cook came in. The former located on lot 45, in the village; he was from Middletown, and became a prominent and useful citizen; he was sheriff of the county in 1819. Mr. Cook was from Albany and engaged in the hatting business, which he continued for many years; his partner at one time was Col. Benajah Tubbs. Mr. Cook was honored with the appointment of county clerk in 1821; was elected to the Legislature in 1824, and was also justice of the peace.
Deacon Jesse Ives and Andrew Burr came in in the year 1810. Mr. Ives was from LItchfield, Conn., and located on lot 16, where he originally purchased ninety acres. He was an industrious and enterprising farmer and universally respected. He died November 27th, 1857, at the age of 81 years. He was the father of Frederick Ives, one of the prominent citizens of Cortland village. Mr. Burr was from Sharon, Conn. He located on the lands afterward owned and occupied by William Kingsbury and now by Augustus Kingsbury. He was early engaged in the tanning business, but subsequently sold out to Mr. Kingsbury, and engaged in the saddlery and harness business, which he followed for thirty years. He made his influence felt on the growth of the village, erected several dwellings and otherwise labored for the good of the community.
Richard Graham and Henry Corl came in and located, the former on lot 28, in 1811; he was from Herkimer county. Mr. Corl came from Schenectady originally, but came here from Locke, Cayuga county, and settled on lot 8. A few years afterward he settled on his farm on “the hill,” which was given his name.
During the progress of the war, from 1812 to 1815, settlement was greatly interrupted in all parts of the county. Down to this period we have noted most of the more prominent persons who came into the town – making a list that is much more complete than can now be given in any other town in the county.
A noteworthy arrival in 1812 was that of George W. Samson, [Footnote: Mr. Samson was originally a seafaring man. His first voyage was to Charleston, S.C., at the time of the great fire in 1796. In 1800 he sailed for England, at the time of the war between that country and France; the vessel was captured by a French cruiser in the channel and the crew taken into the port of Brest. Mr. Samson was taken from there under an escort and afterward saw the inside of thirteen different prisons. Upon his arrival at Nantes the American Consul procured his release. In 1803 he sailed as mate of the brig Apollo and visited many of the southern ports. His death occurred in Homer in February, 1868, at the age of 86 years.] who came here from Plympton, Mass., and settled first on lot 19, near the place since occupied by Joshua Pratt and his son David and still later by Harry Lathrop. Mr. Samson removed to lot 29, where close to the Truxton turnpike he expended much labor in excavating the hillside for the purpose of making the foundations of a building. He erected his house in 1814, moved into it and the following year opened it as a hotel, giving the place the name of Mt. Etam. [Footnote: Named from the Bible history of Samson.] This was for many years a popular and well known stopping place on the turnpike. At this time there were but four families in the East Homer school district. Mr. Samson sold his tavern to Peter Westerman and engaged in the same business in Preble, and later in Homer village, where his son long kept the “Temperance House.”
William Wood, a native of Hinsdale, Vermont, migrated to Herkimer, N.Y., and in 1814 came to Homer, at first locating on the road leading from the valley on the east branch of the river to Enon Phelps’s on lot 48. He lived there two years and removed southward on lot 58, and in 1819 to lot 39, on the hill and adjoining the farm of Capt. Crandall. After planting an orchard and otherwise extensively improving the place, he was forced to leave it for want of a valid title. He removed into the valley and subsequently to the hill on the northwestern side of the river, where he died in 1850. His farm on lot 58 is now embraced in the town of Cortlandville.
John Burnham purchased of Mr. Hilliard 300 acres of land on lot 30, adjoining the town of Truxton, cleared it of the forest and in 1818 erected a saw-mill; he afterward bought land on lot 20, adjoining his first purchase on the north and annexed it to his farm, where he lived until 1864 and died. A portion of his first purchase was made of John B. Henry, who settled on lot 30 in 1804.
Erastus Goodell, father of C.B. and Erastus, jr., located on the State’s hundred, lot 7, in 1816; they were from Sturbridge, Mass. He became a prominent farmer.
William Andrews came in from Fabius, Onondaga county, in 1817. He secured the confidence of his fellow-citizens to such a degree that he was honored with several offices; he was constable and under-sheriff from 1820 to 1843 and in 1831 was elected sheriff on a Union ticket. He was one of the well known men of the county for many years.
Daniel Josling located in 1818 on lot 17; he was from Windham, Conn. Kenneth Scudder, from Monmouth, NJ, settled in Herkimer county in 1813, but subsequently came to Homer, locating on lot 18, he died in 1843.”