Our County and It's People

Chapter 43

The Town of Rome


Four years after the then large town of Steuben was set off from the great town of Whitestown (1792) and on the 4th of March, 1796, the town of Rome was erected from Steuben. The town of Floyd was formed at the same time, which with Rome took all of the southern part of Steuben. Rome occupies nearly the center of Oneida county, and


its territory was almost wholly included in the Oriskany and Fonda's patents, as seen by the map herein. The Mohawk River flows southeasterly through the eastern part of the town; Wood Creek flows west through the northwest part while Fish Creek forms the northwest boundary. Canada Creek flows north across the western part of the town. The surface of the town is nearly level, and in the western part are extensive swampy tracts, to which reference has been made in early chapters of this work. The soil is a highly productive gravelly loam.

The inhabitants of the town met in their first town meeting at the dwelling house of Ebenezer Clafin, on the first Tuesday in April, 1796, and there elected the following officers:

Supervisor, George Huntington; town clerk, Ebenezer Wright, jr.; assessors, Chester Gould, Gershom Waldo, Daniel W. Knight; overseers of the poor, Thomas Wright, William Walsworth; commissioners of highways, Bill Smith, Elijah Wells, Caleb Reynolds; constables, Samuel Reynolds, David Waldo; fence viewers, Asa Tyler, Matthew Brown, John Williams; collector, Samuel Reynolds; pound masters, Nathan Thompson, Matthew Brown; commissioners of schools, Chester Gould, Sheldon Logan, Abijah Putnam.

Besides the election of these officers, the usual regulations for the simple government of the new town were voted.

The settlement at Fort Stanwix long prior to the Revolution by John Roof and a few others has been already described in an earlier chapter. He made his settlement in 1760, two years after the fort was built, and remained until driven away by the siege of the fort in 1777. His first son was also named John and was born August 28, 1762, without doubt the first child born in what is now Oneida county. When the Roof family were forced to abandon the improvements they had made they left their possessions in charge of one Conrad, who was afterward killed in the fort. The buildings were all finally destroyed, to prevent their occupancy by the enemy, and Colonel Gansevoort gave Roof a certificate that the property destroyed was worth 800 pounds. The family were never reimbursed for their loss.

The vicinity of Fort Stanwix was probably without inhabitants after the siege, until 1784. In May of that year Jedediah Phelps and James Dean located within the limits of what is now the town of Vienna. They built a log house and a shop, and in the latter Mr. Phelps carried on his trade as silversmith. A flood in the spring of 1785 practically dislodged them and Mr.


Dean removed to what is now the town of Westmoreland, while Mr. Phelps located at the fort, where he remained until after 1800. After continuing work at his trade two years and passing a few years on the Oneida Reservation, he located as early as 1806 on a large tract of land near the site of Verona village. A few other settlers came to Fort Stanwix in 1785-87; it is recorded by Judge Jones in his Annals that his father told him that in 1787 there were five houses there.

Ebenezer Wright brought his wife and six children to Fort Stanwix in 1789, and soon acquired 196 acres of land at what became known as Wright Settlement. In 1790 settlers came in quite rapidly. In 1795 a grist mill was built on Wood Creek near the old arsenal site, which was a great convenience to the pioneers. In 1796 the Clark and Hinman families settled on the Whitesboro road; Silas Matteson, grandfather of the late O.B. Matteson, settled about the same time on what was the county poor farm, and Thomas Selden, jr., grandfather of the late N. Hyde Leffingwell, came at that time.

In 1790 John Lansing, jr., who owned the large tracts of land in the northern part of Oneida county, leased to the following five persons 100 acres each, all the leases being dated in June: John Wright, son of Thomas Wright, one of the early settlers of Rome, what has been known as the Gates place, fifty acres, and fifty on the opposite side of the road known as the Waters place; to Moses Wright, brother of John, 100 acres next north of the latter, lying on both sides of the highway; to Asa Knapp the next 100 acres on the north; to Elijah Weeks 100 acres north of Knapp, mostly on the west side of the present highway and extending down to the Mohawk; to Jasper French (before mentioned), a surveyor, 100 acres mostly on the east side of the highway. The rent for these lots was to be eighteen bushels of wheat, payable in Albany.

By that year (1790) leases had also been granted in the Wright Settlement to the following: Seth Ranney, David I. Andrus, Nathaniel Gilbert, Rozel (or Roswell) Fellows, Ebenezer Wright, jr., Willett Ranney, jr., Benjamin Gilbert, John Wright, Moses Wright, Ass Knapp, Jasper French, Elijah Weeks, Elijah Root, Chester Gould, and Elisha Walsworth.


Thomas Wright, Willet Ranney, sr., and Bill Smith probably accompanied Ebenezer Wright in 1789, when he came on to make his settlement. Smith at first located near the fort, but as early as 1800 was living on the road to Floyd, and later on the Peter Williams farm. In 1810 he kept a small store on Dominick street in Rome. David I. Andrus and Nathaniel Gilbert came into the town either the same or the following year, and in 1791 lands were leased in the Wright Settlement to Dyer McCumber and Abner Pitcher. Other early comers, previous to 1800 were Colonel D.W. Knight, about 1790; Edward Simmons, 1793; Calvin Hurd, about 1794; John Simons and Jonathan Brainard, 1794; Daniel W. Lamb, John and Daniel Ashby, about 1795; Rufus Barnes (father of Rev. Albert Barnes) , 1795; Israel Denio (father of Judge Hiram Denio and of Israel and C.D. Denio , of Rome), about 1797; Cornelius Van Wormer, Zaccheus Abell, Abiather Seekill, Peter Lampman, "Pigeon: Palmer, Luke Usher, and Benjamin Taylor, about 1800. Some brief details of the settlement of these pioneers are at hand. Jesse Childs lived at the fort a short time and then located on a farm north of Ridge Mills, east of the Mohawk, in the Selden neighborhood. About the same time that he located there the families of Solomon, John, and David Williams came in from Connecticut, and with Daniel Ashby, and William Brewster, from Groton, Mass., settled north of the Ridge. David I. Andrus lived at the Wright Settlement before 1800, and held a lease for 138 acres of land near the Ridge from George Clinton, made in 1790. He operated a distillery before 1800 at the Ridge and about 1804 moved to Jefferson county. The three Williams brothers settled on land on the Mohawk a short distance above the Ridge Mills. David had served in the army at the fort and was familiar with the locality. His youngest son was Jesse Williams, who has been elsewhere mentioned as the originator of the cheese factory system in this country. Solomon Williams was great grandfather of B.W. Williams, a former post master of Rome. Joseph Otis came from Fort Ann, N.Y., in 1793 and settled in the Selden neighborhood; with him were Lot and Simeon Fuller, who located in what is now Steuben. Mr. Otis was among those who responded to the extra inducements offered by the owners of the Fonda patent to bring in settlers, and came with his young wife and entirely


without means. A road had been surveyed and opened two years earlier from the Ridge via what became known as Penny street northerly towards the covered bridge. In July of that year (1793) a road was surveyed by Moses Wright, as an extension of the one just described, which extended to the covered bridge over the Mohawk, going around the hill and nearer the river than the present road. On the opposite side of the river from the bridge stood a mill at that time owned by Roswell Fellows. Asa Knapp lived on what has been known as the Philander and Philemon Selden place. Mr. Otis assisted Benjamin Wright in the survey of thousands of acres of land. Rufus Barnes was a shoemaker by trade and a tanner. In January, 1796, he purchased an interest in a lease from Henry Wilson on Penny street and built a log house, and about 1801, built a shoe shop and tannery on the place. Near the Barnes place lived Israel Denio, who was a blacksmith; his father in law, John Robbins, settled as early as 1791, and came from Bennington, Vt. His coming to this locality was doubtless an inducement to Mr. Denio to follow him. The latter located first in what is now the town of Floyd, near the Rome line, and about 1797 removed to the Wright Settlement, where he built a blacksmith shop; he followed his trade at several different points in the vicinity. His son, Hiram, who was to become eminent at the bar, was born in May, 1799. (See Chapter XXII.)

Others who settled early in the Wright neighborhood were: Gideon Butts and Grant Wheat in about 1802, on what was called Canterbury Hill; John Butts in 1803; Daniel Kirkland, son of Joshua, about 1807; and the latter came in about 1811; Hazel Lathrop about 1807; and Daniel Butts, Samuel and Asa Smith, Zacheus Abell, Samuel Williams, and Asa Colburn (the latter with his family) all came in early and contributed by their toil to change the wilderness into a beautiful and productive country.

Thomas Seldon, jr., from Stanford, Conn., came about 1796, and settled on half of the 100 acres tract which John Lansing, jr., had leased to Jasper French. Mr. Selden was the grandfather of the late N. Hyde Leffingwell, of Rome, and after he had purchased Mr. French's improvements he returned to Vermont (Connecticut ?) for his family, bringing them and his aged parents back into the wilderness in the winter of 1795-96. Thomas Selden, sr., the aged father


walked the whole distance, though the roads were very bad, driving cows and oxen; the women and children road in a sleigh. Thomas, jr., built a frame house about 1800 and with Roswell Edgerton and John Ely, engaged largely in building and contracting. It is believed they built the early grist mill of Col. Samuel Wardwell at the Ridge, the "red mill" for Mr. Lynch and the factories at Factory Village, a suburb of Rome. Roswell Edgerton came from the same neighborhood as the Seldens, and settled on the road leading from Delta.

Dr. Elijah Clarke was a pioneer physician in the Wright Settlement neighborhood, coming as early as 1794 ; until about 1812 he practiced over a large territory. On what is known as Canterbury Hill in that neighborhood, other early settlers were Joshua Kirkland, who was living there in 1811; John Butts settled about 1803; Col. D.W. Knight about 1790; Gideon Butts about 1802; Daniel Kirkland, son of Joshua, about 1807; Zaccheus Abel, Samuel and Asa Smith, and Abiather Seekill. Of these Gideon Butts was the pioneer on the hill and Grant Wheat was next. The latter walked from Connecticut in 1801, carrying his gun and fifty pounds in a pack. Several of these settlers took part in the war of 1812, mostly at Sackett's Harbor.

Joseph Otis came on from Fort Ann, N.Y., in M arch, 1793, and settled in the Selden neighborhood; it will be noted that this locality was then in what is now Steuben. With him came Lot and Simeon Fuller. The then owners of Fonda's patent were at that time surveying it into lots, placing them in market, and offering extra inducements to settlers with limited means. Mr. Otis was among those who responded, and came on almost entirely without means, a young man, with his second wife, a lady but nineteen years of age, and a year old daughter by his first wife. About two years before a road had been surveyed, worked, and traveled from the Ridge, via what is now "Penny street", northerly towards the covered bridge, ending near the present residence of Amos M. Potter. In July of the same year (1793) a road was surveyed by Moses Wright, intended as a continuation of the above highway, to the present covered bridge over the Mohawk, running around the hill and nearer to the river than it does at present.


The road was changed within a few years. Mr. Otis moved into the dwelling of Willett Ranney until his own log house could be built. Mr. Otis aided Benjamin Wright in making surveys of thousands of acres of land in this part of the State and in fixing the boundaries of Oneida, Oswego, Jefferson and Lewis counties. Between Mr. Otis and the Fellow mill also settled early William Brewster, Daniel Ashby and Dea. Daniel W. Lamb.

About 1793 David, John and Solomon Williams settled on the Mohawk a short distance above Ridge Mills. David Williams had served in the Fort Stanwix garrison and like many other soldiers, was doubtless attracted hither by what he had seen of the country at that time. John Williams died in 1848, aged ninety; David in 1837, aged eighty six, and Solomon in 1852, aged ninety eight. The latter was grandfather of B.W. Williams, and Jesse Williams, the founder of the cheese factory system, was the youngest son of David.

Roswell Fellows, before named, probably made his settlement as early as 1790, at which time there was no road farther north than his location, except the Indian trail. A few years later and before the year 1800, Mr. Fellows, Hope Smith (a settler in that vicinity) and Luther Miller built a grist mill on the Mohawk a mile or more east of Mr. Fellow's place and opposite what was long known as Barnard's Mills. The latter mills were built by Mr. Fellows prior to 1793, on the west side of the Mohawk, and near the site of the covered bridge. Later on John Barnard, the enterprising Roman, bought the mill, and hence the name. A saw mill was also located there and quite a thriving business center gathered around in the early years. The pioneers of Wright Settlement and its vicinity carried their grain to Whitesboro before the building of these mills.

As early as 1800 Dr. Thomas Hartwell lived on a farm of 100 acres on the road to Whitesboro about three miles east of the city. He was father of Dr. J.P. Hartwell who practiced, and kept a tavern on the road to Delta on the corner of two roads, one of which ran easterly to the Mohawk River at the site of the covered bridge. This corner is about a mile southerly of Elmer Hill. He was father of Deacon Richard Peggs of Rome. Timothy Wood was next in this tavern and was followed by Josiah Tallmadge.


Opposite this corner and before 1800 Roswell Fellows, great grandfather of the late B.W. Williams, of Rome, kept a tavern; this was the second tavern north of Fort Stanwix.

In the western and southwestern parts of the town early settlers were Richard Brown (1801), J.B. Green, Jonathan Williams, Daniel W. Hazard, Daniel Williams, Amos Scofil, John C. Brewster, Lyman Thayer, Richard Brown, jr., Joseph King, Eleazer Dunham, Ephraim Covel, and others.

In tracing the history of Rome village it is necessary to describe what is known as the Expense Lot. This was a tract originally embracing 397 acres and bounded as follows:

Commencing on the south side of the Mohawk, and not far from Mr. Parry's brick yard; thence running southwesterly towards the poorhouse, about 240 rods; then northwesterly about a mile, towards Canal Village; then northeast about 150 roads, towards St. Joseph's church, passing south of that building, and crossing the track of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad at Henry streets, and up that street to near the track of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad, where Expense street extended would cross it; thence north up that street to appoint about half way between Court and Embargo streets; thence easterly, crossing the blocks diagonally, and passing near the house of Mr. Charles Keith, on the corner of Court and Washington streets, and so on diagonally across West part to James street; and thence nearly down Park alley, and crossing the Black River Canal near the bathing house of H.W. Barnes, and so on to the Mohawk; then following that stream down to the starting point.

On the 29th of November, 1875, the agents for the Expense Lot published a notice that on the 9th of January, 1786, they would meet "for the purpose of attending to the balloting for, and drawing by lot" the several parcels surveyed. At that meeting there were present the commissioners and agents, with Judge Visscher and Jelles Fonda. In the drawing made at that time the De Lancey one fifth was set off to the State, one of the parcels thus disposed of being a tract of 960 acres in the northwest corner of the patent embracing with other lands the Rome cemetery and most of the farm formerly owned by Asa C. Huntington and later by Dr. H.H. Pope; also another parcel of 460 acres east of Factory Village. The portion of the city site east of Washington street and next north of the Expense Lot was set off to William Livingston and Alida Hoffman, 460 acres, and included the old burying ground, the site of the Presbyterian church, the court house, St. Peter's church, the East Park,


and Factory Village. The portion west of Washington street and north and west of the Expense Lot, including West Rome, was set off to those claiming under George Clarke; and the portion of the Rome swamp, south of the Expense Lot, and between that line and the county house, was set off to those claiming under Thomas Wenham. On March 17, 1786, the Expense Lot was put at auction and bid off by Dominick Lynch, a New York merchant, for 2,250 pounds. This was his first purchase in this vicinity - the nucleus of the Lynch estate in Rome.

The price paid by Mr. Lynch for the Expense Lot was then considered large, but he evidently saw the prospective importance of the place. In July, 1786, he added to his purchase the 460 acres set of to Livingston and Hoffman, and in the next year he bought of the Commissioners of Forfeiture the 460 acres east of Factory Village which had been set off to the State. Other parcels bough by him previous to 1800 increased his holding to about 2,000 acres. Mr. Lynch laid out the village site as early, probably, as 1796, giving it the name of Lynchville (see map of 1810). The name Rome was not applied to the place until some years later and under precisely what circumstances is not now known. Mr. Lynch adopted the very objectionable plan of giving perpetual leases for his lots, instead of deeds of sale, and in case the annual rents were not paid the land was to revert to the owner. On July 30, 1796, twenty eight lots were leased to the following persons: Matthew Brown, jr., Michael McGrath, Sheldon Logan (what is now the Empire Block), Joshua Hathaway (Elm Row), and John Barnard, the latter leasing twenty two lots on Dominick street. Three years later, in 1799, the site of the Merrill Block and other premises were leased to George Huntington perpetually, at an annual rent of twelve bushels of wheat, payable May 1 of each year. It is possible there were also other leases in Lynchville where the rent was to be paid in grain.

It will be remembered that settlement on the site of the village had already begun. When Ebenezer Wright came in 1789 there were two log houses on the road to Newville, in one of which lived William Colbraith, the first sheriff; a log house near the old arsenal site in which Jedediah Phelps lived, and two other log houses; the only frame house stood near the site of the G.N. Bissell residence; and a log house near the site of the old St. Peter's church. The Ranney family, Bill Smith


(before mentioned), and a Dutchman named Dumont, lived near the fort. A man named Armstrong lived at the junction of Wood and Canada Creeks. These were all the houses then constituting Rome. In 1793 John Barnard kept a tavern near the site of the old Baptist church, and in the spring of that year George Huntington came to the place, bringing a small stock of merchandise which he began selling in Barnard's tavern. Mr. Barnard was an enterprising man and secured the good will of Mr. Lynch. He engaged quite largely in early building operations, but finally became involved, made an assignment and in 1799 conveyed to Caleb Putnam seventy two acres of land, most of which was composed of the so called "pepper corn lots". These lots lay in the southern and swampy part of Mr. Lynch's purchase, and one of them was usually given as a bonus to persons who leased more valuable lots. The rent named for each one was "a pepper corn payable on the first day of May in each year, if lawfully demanded, for the term of ten thousand years, and after that twenty cents annually for each lot". The land conveyed to Putnam by Barnard is now very valuable, extending south from the Erie Canal and including the site of the railroad station. On his land Mr. Putnam built the first tannery in this region, which did considerable business. MR. Putnam was killed by an accident in 1819.

Son after his purchase Mr. Lynch began making various improvements to enhance its value and render it attractive to settlers. In 1804 he built a dam across the Mohawk above the dam of the Inland Canal, and opened a raceway to the river on such a course that it discharged its waters into the river at the other side of "the bow" where the old red mill was erected in the same year. About 1810-12 Mr. Lynch built a woolen factory where the soap factory of Brodock & Co. stood; it was burned in 1817. Previous to 1820 he built a cotton factory farther down the race way, which was burned in 1849. A saw mill built in the same vicinity in 1863 and a wrench factory in 1865, were both subsequently burned.

The building occupied by Mr. Lynch as a residence when he was here, and by his son James previous to 1810, stood where H.K. White recently lived. It was a large square frame structure and occupied the space which had been covered by the southeast corner


of Fort Stanwix. The Lynch dwelling was burned about 1825. Quite early in the century Mr. Lynch built as many as thirty five tenement houses in the village, store multiplied, tavern were opened and various kinds of shops accommodated the inhabitants. Previous to 1800 a public house called the Rome Coffee House was built and was kept in that year by Solomon Rich; he was succeeded about 1804 by Peter Halleck, who was a tailor and worked in his bar room. The Masons had a lodge in the upper rooms. In 1839 the lower part of the Coffee House was converted into stores. What became the site of another hotel of early date was first occupied by a two story frame house, the site of the later Northern Hotel; Judge Beardsley lived there about 1820; it was burned about 1838 and J.M. Orton, a cabinet maker, built on the site of a part of the structure which was purchased about 1850 by Jacob Stevens and converted into a hotel; after being called by him the Fremont House and later the Tremont House, it finally took the name of the Northern Hotel.

Among the prominent early settlers and business men of Rome village may be mentioned the following: George and Henry Huntington, Alva Mudge, R.S. Doty, P.B. Langford, Frank De Ryther, David Utley, C. Grosvenor, Glen Petrie, J. & E.B. Armstrong, Dr. H.H. Pope, J.D. Ely, J.B. Bradt, G.N. Bissell, N.H. Leffingwell, B.B. Hyde, the Wardwell Brothers, Daniel Cady, Jeptha Matteson, Rufus Keeney all of whom were men of character and determination, whose capacity for business, united with their public spirit aided in the up building of the place and development of its resources.

Water was supplied to the early inhabitants from town wells, one of which was situated in the intersection of James and Dominick streets, and another at Washington and Dominick; still another at the corner of James and Embargo streets.

On the site of the later American block, corner of Dominick and James streets, was early a three story frame hotel built previous to 1800; it was transformed into stores about 1843, after having been conducted by many different landlords. In 1799 Cicero Gould kept a tavern in a building next to the site of the Presbyterian parsonage.

About the year 1800 John Barnard built a two story hotel on the site of the


present Stanwix Hall; while on the south part of that site Nathaniel Mudge, sr., had a grocery as early as 1812. Among those who kept the tavern in early years were Benjamin Hyde, sr., Enos Gilbert, Elisha Walsworth, Thomas Ford, John A. Ford, who gave it the name, Stanwix Hall, and in 1843 erected a brick building on the Mudge premises. Since that time a hotel has always been kept there and has passed through various hands.

On the site of the Merrill block, corner of James and Dominick streets, a store was kept as early as 1804 by a Mr. Devereux. Norman Judd carried on a pottery as early as 1813, some distance from the west side of James street. George and Henry Huntington operated an ashery in early years, and Elijah Worthington built a hat factory about 1822.

Previous to 1820 there was not a building of any kind south of the canal between the New York Central Railroad and the poorhouse, the whole space being covered with a swamp. Through it a road had been constructed on a causeway. In 1817 the Legislature granted a charter to Jeremiah B. Brainard and Isaac G. Green and their associates to construct a toll turnpike across the swamp on that route. The road was built and began taking tolls October 20, 1819. In 1819 Mr. Brainard build the tavern long know as the Mansion House, and as other buildings sprang up in that vicinity on account of the opening of the canal, the locality became known as Canal Village. The Mansion House was the first building erected on the south side of the canal, and the second one was built the same year and extended across the canal; it was used as a warehouse (the first one in Rome), and later as a brewery by John O'Neil; it was subsequently burned. The so called Canal Coffee House was built in 1824 by Daniel Whedon, and in 1826 John O'Neil erected a grocery building west of the Mansion House. In the same year Hiram Whedon built the first dwelling in that locality. During the first ten years of the existence of Canal Village its growth was slow, but the change in the rout of the canal in 1844 called away from the locality its Yankee element, and it then immediately and rapidly began to fill up with foreign population. The opening of the canal and later of the first railroad through the village gave it a market impetus, as seen by the census figures further on.

The village of Rome was incorporated in 1819, and the first election held on the


first Tuesday in June of that year. The following officers were elected:

  Trustees, George Huntington, Charles Wylie, Joshua Hathaway, Pliny Darrow, Belah C. Hyde;   assessors, William Wright, Samuel Beardsley, Arden Seymour;   clerk, Benjamin P. Johnson;   treasurer, Arba Blair;   collector, Archibald T. Funk.

The usual village ordinances were adopted, and the machinery of the civil government ran along without serious interruption through the later years.

In 1853 the village was divided into three wards, that portion east of James street being the First ward; and west of James street and south of Liberty the Second ward; and west of James and north of Liberty street the Third ward. The village was governed by five trustees until 1832, after which three trustees were elected for each of the three wards, over whom was chosen a president. The presidents from that time until the organization of the city were as follows:

1853, Alanson Bennett; 1854, B.J. Beach; 1855, Marquis L. Kenyon; 1856-63, George Barnard; 1864, David Utley; 1875, E.B. Armstrong; 1866, George Barnard, jr.; 1867-68, James Stevens, 1869, Edward L. Stevens.

Rome was incorporated as a city under an act passed February 23, 1870. The following is a list of the mayors elected from that time until the present:

DATE        MAYOR                     DATE       MAYOR
1870         Calvert Comstock       1883-84    Frederick E. Mitchell
1871-74     George Merrill           1885-86    Edward Comstock
1875-76     Samuel B. Stevens    1887-80    James Stevens
1877-1878  Edward L. Stevens    1891-92    E. Stuart Williams
1879-80     George Barnard         1893-94    Samuel Jillett
1881-82     Edward L. Comstock  1895-96    W.J.P. Kingsley

Following are the principal officers of the city for the year 1896:

W.J.P. Kingsley, mayor; Charles Carmichael, recorder. Aldermen: First Ward, Edward H. Walworth, Adelbert F. Sayles, James H. McLean; Second Ward, George M McLaughlin, Joseph Reh, Frederick Lewis; Third Ward, Alois Mertz, James H. Grogan, William J. Cramond; Fourth Ward, George Erhardt, Henry S. Wetherbee, Charles T. Hayden; Fifth Ward, Lyman A. Martin, Oswald P. Backus, Abram W. Honsinger.

The earliest religious society in Rome was organized in Wright Settlement at a meeting held September 28, 1800, though a preliminary meeting was held a few days earlier at which four persons signed a confession of faith; they were: Joshua Hathaway, Ebenezer Wright and Grace, his wife, and Daniel W. Knight. At the second


meeting nine other persons were added to the roll. The little society prospered and was incorporated in January, 1802, the first election of trustees taking place on January 11, resulting as follows: Daniel W. Knight and John White, one year; Benjamin Wright and Oliver Smith, two years; Clarks Putnam, three years. The title chosen was "The First Religious Society of Rome". There was no regular pastor over the society for the first six years of existence, but services were held frequently, as shown by different subscription lists for the payment of ministers. In October, 1807, Rev. Moses Gillett was installed pastor of the church, after which year the pulpit was regularly occupied. Down to that time services had been mostly held in the school house on the park. In December, 1806, a subscription was started to raise money with which to build a church edifice. A sufficient fund having thus been assured a lot was purchased for $180 on Court street, and there the church was erected. In January, 1831, a second church was organized, which was untied with the first one in June, 1847. The building of the second society stood on Washington street and was sold to the Welsh Methodist. Rev. Dr. James H. Taylor, the present pastor of this society, succeeded Rev. Peter Stryker, D.D.

The Baptist church was organized at Wright Settlement in December, 1810, with seventeen members, and Elder Dyer Starks was the first pastor. The corner stone of the present church edifice was laid September 13, 1826, and the present handsome stone edifice was erected in 1872-73. In 1870 Rev. H.H. Peabody assumed the pastorate of the church and has occupied the pulpit ever since.

Zion Episcopal church was organized August 15, 1825, and Rev. Algernon S. Hollister took charge of the little flock. The lower story of Masonic Hall, corner of Washington and Liberty streets, was leased for eight years and there services were held. This lodge rooms was purchased by the church in 1833 and enlarged and fitted up for church purposes. It was occupied until 1851. In 1850 the lot on the corner of Liberty and Washington streets was purchased and there on September 5, 1850, the corner stone of the present church edifice was laid; the building was consecrated in September, 1851. The building was enlarged in 1867. In 1885 a handsome stone memorial hall was erected to the memory of Rev. Mr. Clarke. The latter was succeeded February 1, 1881, by John H. Egar, the present pastor.


St. Peter's Catholic Church was organized and the building of the old edifice begun in 1838; the structure was completed in 1840, under the labors of Rev. Father William Beecham. He remained with the church more than forty years and until his death in March, 1876. He was succeeded by Rev. Father A. Murphy, and still continues. In 1893 was commenced the erection of the magnificent stone edifice on James street, which is to cost $150,000.

St. Mary's Catholic church. - German Catholic priests came to Rome in 1845 and after two years' labor took steps toward the erection of a church. In 1848 a wooden building was erected on the corner of James and De Peyster streets. The first resident pastor was Rev. Florian Schwenninger. On May 18, 1871, the corner stone of a brick church was laid on the lot on the north side of Liberty street; this building cost over $20,000.

First M.E. church - The first Methodist class formed in Rome was in 1799 on the Turin road three miles north of the village. The first preacher here was Rev. Jonathan Newman, who came about 1791. In 1803 the class moved over to the Ridge and joined with the Methodists there in worship. In Rome village a class was formed prior to 1820, and worshipped in a school room in the American block. In 1824 a church building was begun near the court house, which was finally and after great effort completed in 1829. It was enlarged in 1850 and there the society worshiped forty years. The present brick edifice was completed in September, 1869, at a cost of $45,000. The first trustees of this society were: Oliver Greenwood, Preston H. Grover, Joshua Hathaway, Stephen White, George Walsworth, Jeremiah Steves, and William Penfield. The present pastor is Rev. David S. Pierce.

The Liberty street Methodist church was organized in 1863, as the Court street church, with Rev. P.H. Wilds, pastor. In 1879 the church property on Court street was exchanged with the Welch Congregationalists for their Liberty street property.

A Free Methodist church was organized in about 1870, and occupied a building on Embargo street.

The Welch Calvinistic Methodist church was organized in 1847 and formerly occupied a frame building which had been used by the Second Congregational Society. A few years since a brick edifice was erected on North Washington street.


St. Joseph's Protestant Episcopal (German) church was organized by the German families living in Canal Village in 1840, under the name of ST. Mary's church and purchased a lot on the corner of James and De Peyster streets. Owing to internal difference over a site for a new church another society was organized in 1871 called St. Joseph's. A site on Ridge street was purchased in April of that year and the present brick edifice built under the administration of the present pastor, Rev. Bernhardt Werner. In December, 1876, the congregation transferred their allegiance from the Roman Catholic to the Protestant form.

Trinity German Lutheran church was organized in 1848, and the church edifice erected in 1853. The first pastor was Rev. Mr. Wetzel. In the spring of 1893 the church was rebuilt at a cost f about $3,400.

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran church was organized in 1869, and soon erected their frame church building on North Madison street. Rev. Charles A. Wiegel has been pastor for twenty years past.

The Welsh Congregational church has been alluded to in mentioning the Court Street M.E. church. The organization was effected and the exchange made for the Court street property in 1879. Rev. M.M. Hughes is pastor and services are held in Welsh and English.

The First Universalist church was organized about 1837 and long held meetings in the court house. In 1851 the Masonic hall, which had been fitted for church purposes by the Episcopalians, was purchased. Regular preaching has not always been maintained.

The first public school house in Rome was built on the southeast corner of the park, and in it were held some of the early courts, as related in Volume I. That building was used for school purposes until about 1819, when it was removed and a frame school house erected on the site of Zion church. This was burned some years later and the Liberty street school succeeded it. The first schools outside of the village of Rome were in the Wright neighborhood, where a log school house was built prior to 1800. About 1816 another school house was built on Penny street. Shadrach Hathaway was the first teacher, as far as known, in the old school house in the park, within the walls of which a number of scholars attended who afterwards became eminent men.

There is no available data from which to compile a detailed history of the


schools of Rome from about 1820 down to the incorporation of the Rome Academy. This institution was founded in 1835 and was re incorporated by the Regents of the University March 15, 1849. The three story brick structure was built in 1849, and is still in use. In 1850 the Liberty street school building was erected. This building was extensively improved and enlarged in 1891. In 1853 an appropriation of $300 was made for the improvement of the school building in Canal Village, which had been meanwhile erected. The present building, corner of Ridge and James streets, was built in 1868.

The free school system was not adopted in Rome until 1869, although efforts were made on several occasions in earlier years, beginning with 1861. The change was finally effected under the resolution adopted at a meeting held July 3, 1869.

The old academy was adopted as the academicals department of this district, and the property was transferred to the Board of Education. The academy opened in 1869 with ninety seven pupils.

In 1870 the Liberty street school was thoroughly repaired, and in September the second and first floors were occupied, the third floor having been abandoned as dangerous. In 1891 the building was gains improved and the top floor fitted up and occupied by the 7th and the 8th grade scholars; a fire proof tower was erected by which to reach this floor.

In January, 18761, the Thomas street building was first occupied; it was erected in the previous year. In 1872 the academy was thoroughly repaired and the seating capacity increased to 200. In the fall of that year a reorganization was effected and the advanced pupils of the Liberty street school were transferred to the academy.

In 1874 a site was purchased on the east side of South James street, on which was a building which was remodeled in the interior and fitted up for school purposes. It was opened with a school in the fall of 1874. In January, 1875, the new school building on Third street in East Rome was opened and the old one on Dominick street was transferred to the Common Council for fire purposes. In 1876 the building in West


Rome was repaired and improved, and the capacity increased to eighty pupils. In 18980 a lot and dwelling were purchased on South James street in which a school was opened.

The present superintendent of schools is W.D. Manro, who assumed the office August 1, 1893. The Board of Education is Dr. T.M. Flandrau, Edward Comstock, William R. Huntington, Albert H. Golley, Jerome Graves, William H. Van Wagenen.

A fire engine was purchased for the village probably in the early years of the century, but the exact date is lost in the past. A second one was bought in 1825, and on the 6th of June of that year the trustees of the village appointed twenty citizens members of a fire company. Fire company no. 2 was formed in May, 1827, comprising fourteen members, to which were added twelve more in August. The Rome fire department was incorporated by the Legislature April 12, 1855. In 1866 the first steam fire engine was purchased which cost, with a large supply of hose, etc., about $8,000. In 1867 a second steamer was purchased. The first of these was sold to the Rome locomotive works in May, 1884, a new steamer was purchased at a cost of $3,400. In April, 1896, the other old engine was traded for a new Clapp & Jones steamer. The fire and police commissioners for 1896 are: Thomas G. Nock, Willey L. Kingsley, Howard C. Wiggins, T.J. Mowry. Leonard Briggs is acting chief of the fire department, and Michael Hagerty is chief of police.

The Rome water works were established in 1872 and are owned by the city, bonds having been issued to the amount of $172,000 for the purpose. The plant comprises two horizontal, double action pumps, with a capacity of eight four gallons per revolution. The usual pressure is about fifty pounds to the square inch, but this can be greatly increased. The water is elevated sixty five feet into a reservoir twenty one feet deep and 297 feet in diameter, with a capacity of 9,000,000 gallons. There are now about 2,000 consumers, and the pressure is such that there is very little need for fire engines. The water works are in charge of the Water and Sewerage Commission, comprising in 1896: W.J.P. Kinglsey, ex-officio, chairman, John S. Baker, H.S. Bedell, A.R. Kessinger, and J.S. Haselton. H.S. Wetherbee is superintendent.


A sewer system has been inaugurated during the past year, under a law passed in 1893 authorizing the issue of bonds to the amount of $240,000.

The post office in Rome was established about 1798, with Matthew Brown, jr., post master. He was succeeded by Joshua Hathaway in 1810, who held the office until his death in 1836. His son, Jay, then took the office until 1849, when R.G. Savery was appointed. He was succeeded in 1852 by A.J. Rowley, who was followed in 1857 by Daniel E. Wager. E.H. Shelley succeeded him in 1861, who was displaced in 1866 by S.P. Lewis. Mr. Shelley was re appointed in 1867, and was succeeded in 1870 by B. Whitman Williams. The next post master was S.M. Palmer, who was succeeded by James D. Corcoran, and he by William E. Scripture. The present official is Charles H. Dunning, who succeeded Mr. Scripture December 1, 1893.

Rome has in the past possessed excellent and liberal banking facilities. The oldest bank now in existence is the First National, which was incorporated as the Rome Exchange Bank in 1851, and began business in August of that year with R .B. Doxtater, president, and F.H. Thomas, cashier. It was organized as a national bank in 1865, with a capital of $100,000. J.G. Bissell has been president since 1889; William R. Huntington, vice president.

The Central National Bank was organized in 1854, as the Oneida Central Bank, and changed to a national bank in 1865, with a capital of $100,000. It failed in December, 1894, and is now in the hands of Jim Stevens, receiver.

The old bank of Rome flourished many years prior to 1863, when its charter expired and its affairs were closed up. The present Bank of Rome was organized under the State law in 1875, with a capital of $100,000. W.J.P. Kingsley was elected president and still holds the office. R.M. Bingham, the first vice president, was succeeded by Edward Comstock. Samuel Wardwell is cashier.

The Fort Stanwix National Bank was organized as a State bank in 1847, and began business with David Utley, president; W.W. Nellis, cashier; H.G. Utley, teller. It was changed to a national bank in 1865 and after a long and honorable career, was wrecked in early 1896, through bad management of its president, George Barnard. Its affairs are being closed up while this work is in press.


The Rome Savings Bank was organized in 1851, and has enjoyed public confidence and support ever since. Henry Braton was the first president; Andrew C. Betts, vice president; B.J. Beach, secretary; Henry D. Spencer, the present president, was elected in 1891; Wheeler Armstrong, first vice president; A.P. Fuller, second vice president; C.F. Barnard, secretary and treasurer.

The Oneida County Savings Bank was organized on May 1, 1869, with Samuel B. Stevens, president; Alfred Etheridge, vice president; G. Harrison Lynch, secretary and treasurer. The first chief officers are: Owen E. Owens, president; T.D. Roberts, first vice president; F.L. Roth, second vice president; John R. Edwards, secretary and treasurer.

The first newspaper in Rome was the Columbian Patriotic Gazette, which was established in 1799, the first number bearing date August 17; its founders were Thomas Walker and Ebenezer Eaton. The latter left the paper early in 1800 and Mr. Walker continued the publication until 1804, when he removed it to Utica. (See history of Utica.)

The second paper in Rome was the Oneida Observer, which was founded by E. Dorchester in 1818. He removed hither from Utica, where he was publishing the Utica Observer. In 1819 he returned with his paper to Utica, and continued its publication there.

The Rome Sentinel, one of the best of the interior journals of this State, dates its ancestry back to the Rome Republican, which was first published in February, 1825, by Lorin Dewey. In June, 1828, a paper called the Republican was started by J.P. Van Tice, who later changed its name to the Oneida Republican. In 1830 these two papers were consolidated, in 1831 E. Moon became the proprietor and changed the name to the Rome Telegraph. After several changes in ownership it passed to R. Walby in 1838 who changed its name to the Democratic Sentinel, and Calvert Comstock was made editor. In 1840 L.D. Dana became editor, and in 1845 H.F. Utley and S.W. Morgan became owners and changed the name to the Rome Sentinel. In September, 1846, Mr. Morton sold his share to A.J. Rowley & Co.; the company was Calvert Comstock and the editor was Elon Comstock. In 1850 Mr. Rowley became sole proprietor. On July 15, 1852, the Daily Sentinel was started by Calvert and Elon Comstock. In October, 1854,


C & E Comstock sold half of the establishment to D.E. Wager and D.C. Rowley. In July, 1861, Wood & Larwill became owners of the establishment, and continued until December, 1863, when it passed to Warren & Beers. In June, 1864, the concern became the property of Franklin D. Beers and Augustus C. Kessinger, who have successfully conducted it for more than thirty years. The papers are Democratic in politics and leaders of the party in this section.

In July, 1835, a newspaper was established at Vernon, called the Vernon Courier. It 1840 it was removed to Rome, and its name changed to the Roman Citizen, C.B. Gray, editor, and H.N. Bill, proprietor. J.K. Kenyon, J.P. Fitch, Alfred Sandford, George Scott, G.H. Lynch, A.D. Griswold, and A.C. Sandford were successfully interested in its publication. In October, 1854, A. Sandford became sole proprietor. In 1855 the office was burned, but Mr. Sandford soon after resumed publication. In 1866 E.E. Carr purchased an interest in the paper, and the firm of Sandford & Carr continued until February, 1884, when the veteran Mr. Sandford sold his interest to Ernest E. Byam, who continued as Carr & Byram. In June, 1887, Mr. Carr sold out to Clark Briggs. The firm of Byram & Briggs continued to January 1, 1896, when Mr. Briggs purchased his partner's interest and has since continued sole proprietorship. The Citizen is Republican in politics and exerts a powerful influence in its district.

The Rome Republican was founded by J.J. Guernsey in 1881, as a weekly republican newspaper. It was successful under the energetic management of its proprietor and in 1895 a tri weekly issue was established. E.E. Pavey acted as editor in association with Mr. Guernsey until April, 1896, when he was succeeded by J.M. Burke.

The Harness Gazette is a very successful trade journal which is published monthly by T.J. Mowry. It was founded in 1886, by Mr. Mowry and H.B. Maxwell. January 1, 1889, the Harness Gazette Company was incorporated, the entire stock being held by Mr. Mowry.

Rome has acquired a fair reputation as a manufacturing center and has now in successful operation within her borders several very important industries. The Rome Brass and Copper Company is in a sense the successor of the Rome Iron Works, which company was established in 1866. In 1878 the manufacture of brass was taken up and


in 1887 the working of copper was begun. The name of the company was changed to its present in October, 1891, with S.O. Scudder, president; William R. Huntington, vice president; J.S. Haselton, secretary and treasurer. Upon the death of Mr. Scudder, Mr. Huntington was made president and W.J.P. Kingsley, vice president. Nearly 400 hands are employed in making brass, copper and German silver sheets, wire, rods, tubes, etc.

The Rome Merchant Iron Mill was founded in 1870, with John B. Jarvis, secretary and treasurer. In 1886 a reorganization was effected under the present name and management. The output of the mill is about 12, 000 tons of merchant iron annually. Jim Stevens is president; Samuel B. Stevens, vice president; Charles W. Lee, secretary and treasurer; Samuel Southall, superintendent.

The New York Locomotive Works were founded in 1881 and a large business was carried on until 1892, when the general depression and other causes led to the placing of the works in the hands of a receiver. In 1893 a reorganization was effected under the name of the Rome Locomotive and Machine Works, with Thomas H. Stryker, President; William B. Isham, vice president; Edward Comstock, secretary and treasurer. The capital was placed at $150,000 in stock and the same sum in first mortgage bonds; these bonds have been reduced since to $75,000. The establishment is still in the receiver's hands, but its affairs are being rapidly put in shape for future large operations.

Other Rome industries which have been instrumental in adding to the prosperity of the place are the works of R.M. Wilson, manufacturer of solid copper bath tubs, tanks, closets, etc., established in 1891. The Adams foundry and machine shops, established in 1835; the factories of the Rome Textile Company and the Rome Steam Knitting Mills. The cot, crib and chair factory of Carpenter & Dyett, established in 1866.

There are post offices in the town of Rome at Ridge Mills, the settlement of which has been described; at Green's Corners, about three miles west of Rome city, and at Stanwix, on the Erie Canal east of Rome. There has been a little mercantile business conducted at these points, and a few shops, but most of the trade in late years is diverted to Rome.


The following is a list of the supervisors of the town from 1797 to the incorporation of the city:

1797          Abijah Putnam          1831-32    Numa Leonard
1798-1801  Thomas Gilbert         1833-34    Henry A. Foster
1802          Clark Putnam            1835-36    Jesse Armstrong
1803          Henry Huntington      1837-38    Harold H. Pope
1804          George Huntington   1839-40    James Merrill
1805          Clark Putnam            1841-42    Adam Van Patten
1806-07      Thomas Gilbert        1843-44    Enoch B. Armstrong
1808          Samuel Dill              1845-56    Giles Hawley
1809          Henry Huntington      1847        John Niles
1810-11     Samuel Dill               1848-49    Alfred Etheridge
1812-13      Bill Smith                 1850        Allen Briggs
1814          George Huntington   1851        Benjamin N. Huntington
1815-16      Wheeler Barnes      1852-53    Stephen Van Dresar
1817          George Huntington   1854        Bradford C. Dean
1818-20      Samuel Beardsley   1855-58    Giles Hawley
1821-22      Rufus Barnes           1859-60    Alfred Ethridge
1823-26      Jay Hathaway           1861-68   Giles Hawley
1827-28      George Brown         1869        Enoch B. Armstrong
1829-30      Henry A. Foster

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Jane Stevens-Hodge