Donated by: Georgeann Reed - Many thank yous
Transcribed by: Jo Dee Frasco
OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE A Descriptive Work on ONEIDA COUNTY New York
Edited by Daniel E. Wager
The Boston History Company, Publishers 1896
Until recent years this town occupied a large area in the extreme northeast corner of Oneida County, much of which was covered by the original forest. Remsen was reduced to its present area of 23, 264 acres by the erection from it of the town of Forestport in 1869. Most of the territory of the present town was included in the Remsenburgh patent; a small section in the west part in the Steuben tract, as shown on accompanying map. Remsen was erected simultaneously with the formation of Oneida County (March 15, 1798), when it was set off from Norway, Herkimer County, and named after Henry REMSEN, one of the original patentees. Black River forms the northern boundary of the town, and Canada Creek the southeastern boundary it is further watered by Cincinnati Creek, Baker Brook and small tributaries. The surface of the town is well elevated and generally hilly and broken, while the soil is a light sandy loam. A very large portion of the inhabitants of this town, are of Welsh descent.
Settlement began in Remsen previous to the formation of the town with the arrival of Shubael CROSS from Massachusetts, who in March, 1794, came on westward, left the Mohawk at Utica and with his family turned northward into the forest. He made a line of marked trees along the Cincinnati Creek through the site of Remsen Village, and halted and built a log cabin at what became known later as Burritt’s Mills, and afterwards as Bordwell Settlement, now Porpoise Glen. Mr. CROSS was an energetic pioneer and he soon had a piece of land cleared and built later a wind-power gristmill. This was followed by the erection of a sawmill, both of which were of great utility to the settlers in that section. Mr. CROSS took a cold from getting wet in the creek, lost his mental balance, and finally died being, probably, the first in the town.
In 1795 three more families came into the town; these were John BONNER, Barnabas MITCHELL and Amos BULL. Mr. BONNER was an Englishman, but came in from Vermont and settled on the lot afterwards owned by Jenkin JONES; later he moved west. Mr. MITCHELL settled on land afterwards owned by his son Milo MITCHELL, and his daughter Polly, who became Mrs. VAN SYLKE, was the first white child born in the town. Amos BULL settled on the tract which was long known as Bull’s Commons, and later as the Camp farm; discouraged with the land and his prospects he removed to Floyd, where he died.
These pioneers were soon followed into the town by Ephraim HOLLISTER, father-in-law of Judge STORRS, who followed brick making, and who was elected the first supervisor of the town.
Stephen HUTCHINSON and a Mr. KING located in the town about this time, and a daughter of the latter and her husband were probably the first persons married in the town, about the year 1800. Mr. KING kept the first public house. It is recorded that the first religious service of a public character was held in Mr. HUTCHINSON’s barn on what became known as the Price Farm; he was the first overseer of the poor of the town.
The site of Remsen village was settled early by Peter BECKER, who built a small log cabin on his hundred-acre lot afterwards selling the property to Deacon PLATT, of Steuben. The log cabin was soon afterward burned.
About the same time Joseph BROWNELL purchased the 100 acre lot on which the upper tavern was built. He was one of the first three road commissioners of the town. He soon sold out to Oliver SMITH and left the town; Gershom HINKLEY, a practical surveyor, was elected road commissioner in his place. It was on the farm of the latter at Fairfield Corners that the first schoolhouse in the town was built.
James SMITH and his son Jacob came into the town about 1795, and the father opened a tavern in 1797 on the place afterwards occupied by Captain Root; the son died at Sackett’s Harbor in the war of 1812. At about this time the families of Jacob DAYTON, Nathaniel ROCKWOOD, Solomon GILLETT, Perez FARR, Ebenezer DODD, William PLATT, Philip SCOTT (the first physician in town and an early town clerk) and Rev. Edmund TEFFT, the first resident minister, settled in the town. The names of other early comers appear further on.
This town and those adjoining it in the eastern part of the county are very largely settled by Welsh. The first of this nationality to locate here was David JONES, but it is not known in just what year he came. Steuben and Trenton, adjoining, already contained a large number of these thrifty citizens. My JONES took up the so called Billings lot, on the Steuben road. In the year 1803 Broughton WHITE and his brother-in-law, Lemuel HOUGH, came in from the town of Steuben, and Mr. WHITE subsequently opened a small grocery in a log building on the site of the later store in Remsen village; it was the first mercantile establishment in the town, and Esquire WHITE’s chief returns for this goods were ashes. He sold out, after making further improvements, to John MAPPA and Jacob BELTICHER, who in turn transferred it to Heman FERRY.
The eastern part of the town remained substantially a wilderness until a number of years after settlement had progressed in the western part. It bore the local designation of “Ninety-six,” and the first settlers came in there about 1816. About the year 1808 the Welsh families of David MANUAL, John JAMES, Griffith I. JONES, John OWENS, and Hugh HUGHES, all from Wales, settled in the town, and were succeeded by many others who with their descendants contributed largely to the prosperity of the community. It is recorded that Griffith O. GRIFFITHS, of Remsen village, now deceased, was the first Welsh child born in this State west of the Hudson River.
It is unfortunate that the earliest records of this town are lost, but it is known that the first town meeting was held in the year of the town organization (1798), in the log dwelling of Samuel HOWE, at Cross Settlement; Mr. HOWE was the first justice of the peace of the town. The list of supervisors of the town, however, is complete, through the record in the Jones Annals; they are as follows:
1798, Ephraim HOLLISTER; 1799-1808, Gershom HINCKLEY; 1809-1819, Broughton WHITE; 1820-21, James SHELDON; 1822-23, Zalmon ROOT; 1824-25, Luther CONKLING; 1826-28, Lemuel HOUGH; 1829-34, Henry R. SHELDON; 1835-28, Mather BEECHER; 1839-43, Evan OWENS; 1844, Thomas R. WHITE; 1845, Obadiah J. OWENS; 1846, Griffith O. GRIFFITHS; 1847, Andrew BILLINGS; 1848-49, William THOMAS; 1850-54, Evan JONES; 1855, Joseph H. MONTAGUE; 1856-58, Didymus THOMAS; 1859, Samuel LAMB; 1860-61, John J. VAUGHN; 1862, William H. OWEN; 1863, James MITCHELL; 1864, William H. OWEN; 1865, Morgan OWEN; 1866-67, Silas MOORE; 1868, William A. THOMAS; 1869-72, James MITCHELL; 1873-74, Evan G. WILLIAMS; 1875-76, Richard R. JONES; 1877-78, 1877-78, John R. THOMAS; 1879-80, Evan G. WILLIAMS; 1881-82, William G. GRIFFITH; 1883-85, John S. KENT; 1886-87, William A. THOMAS; 1888-89, William J. JONES; 1890-91, David H. JONES; 1892-93, Griffith MORRIS; 1894-95, B. H. KENT; 1896, Clinton R. THOMAS.
The foregoing list adds considerable to the record of names of early as well as later settlers in various parts of the town, and also indicates to what a large extent the region is settled by Welsh who are worthy of holding responsible positions. Silas KENT was another who was among the very early pioneers of Remsen, and here his son Chester was born January 1, 1802, and became a prosperous citizen. William ROBERTS settled in the town in 1820 on the old State road, with his wife and two sons, Robert and Hugh, both of the latter having been born in Wales. They became prosperous farmers. Milo MITCHELL, son of the pioneer Barnabas, became one of the most successful farmers in the county; he was born in Remsen October 26, 1797. He built the first cheese factory in this town and the second one in the United States, and held several town offices. The family history of many other prominent settlers in Remsen is given in Part III of this work.
The first school house in this town has been mentioned as situated at Fairchild Corners. The first meeting of the inhabitants for school purposes was held on the 4th of September, 1813, when districts were formed and the first district school house was built on the following year. The first trustees were John PLATT, Lemuel HOUGH, and Ezra GREEN. In December 1813, it was voted that “Broughton WHITE be instructor of said school for this winter.” Austin WARD was another early school teacher, and also taught singing. The first school house was a frame building and stood in the upper part of the village. New districts were gradually formed until in 1860 there were fourteen. After the erection of Forestport the number was reduced to eleven, including two joint districts in connection with that town and Trenton. There are now ten districts with school houses and twelve teachers are employed. An academy was founded in Remsen village many years ago, which prospered for a period, but finally declined and closed its existence.
The settlement of Remsen village gradually increased in numbers and it became a center for the large lumber business of the town. The construction of the Black River Railroad through the place gave it an impetus and the business interests developed rapidly. William PLATT, who settled here in 1795, built the first saw mill on the site of the later one. John G. JONES erected a carding mill in early years on the creek some distance below the village. The ruins are still visible. In later years A. C. HERRON built a grist mill in which either steam or water power could be used. This was afterwards occupied as a butter tub factory. It is still standing and used for shops. Among the early merchants of the village were William and Heman FERRY; the latter removed to Utica and the former to Michigan; he was father of Thomas FERRY, U. S. senator from that State. Dr. BILL erected a part of what became the Dawson Hotel at an early day; he removed to Ohio. He was the first physician in the village and practiced many years. Horace N. BILL, once editor of the Roman Citizen, was his son.
Remsen village was incorporated in 1845 and
on the first Tuesday in May of that year an election was held and the following
officers were chosen:
John SMITH, Andrew BILLINGS, Griffith B. JAMES, trustees; Thomas R. HAWLEY, G. B. JAMES, Morgan OWENS, assessors; Mather BEECHER, fire warden; L. Evan JONES, clerk; John T. GRIFFITHS, treasurer; Josiah GRIFFITHS, collector.
A fire company was appointed by the trustees on the 19th of July, 1845, consisting of the following men: George P. BRIDGEMAN, Morgan OWENS, John EDMUNDS, Owen E. JONES, William L. WILLIAMS, William E. LEWIS, Thomas JONES, Edward James, Henry CROSBY, Griffith J. GRIFFITHS, Isaac W. ROBERTS, Delos BEARHYTE, A. H. DOTY, Francis PRINDLE, Seth WELLS, jr.
The grist mill is operated by Richard Bros., and stores are kept by R. G. GRIFFITH, R. O. GRIFFITH, O. R. GRIFFITH, and Owen J. ROBERTS; D. S. DAVIES has a jewelry business and T. L. MORGAN, tailoring. The Bristol House is kept by Brant & Gansway, succeeding on March 1, 1896, Friend BRISTOL. The Pierce House is conducted by Pierce DINES. John H. WILLIAMS also keeps a hotel. At Bordwell Town, as it is known, is a saw mill run by Menzo BORDWELL, and what was formerly the tannery is now used by the Porpoise Lace Company, who started in the fall o f 1895.
The election in the village in 1846 was declared illegal through some informality, and the officers of 1845 held over. The trustees from that time to the organization under the new charter were as follows:
1847, Z. D. ROOT, Mather BEECHER, Isaac W. ROBERTS; 1848, G. A. YEOMANS, N. C. PHELPS, O. J. OWENS; 1849, F. W. BUCKINGHAM, J. H. SMITH, Z. D. ROOT; 1850, Morgan OWENS, Fred E. HALE, Jonah GRIFFITH; 1851, no record; 1852, William E. OWEN, Griffith O. GRIFFITHS, Josiah GRIFFITH; 1853, Griffith O. GRIFFITHS, John R. JONES, Robert P. WILLIAMS; 1854, Morgan OWEN, James OWENS, William W. THOMAS; 1855, no record; 1856, A. C. HERRON, Griffith O. GRIFFITHS, Didymus THOMAS; 1857, no record; 1858, Henry W. ROBERTS, Delos BEARHYTE, R. P. WILLIAMS; 1859, Morgan OWENS, S. DOUGLAS, D. BEARHYTE; 1860, G. O. GRIFFITHS, William W. THOMAS, William E. WHITE; 1861, D. BEARHYTE, W. H. WILLIAMS, W. S. EVANS; 1862-63, same as 1861; 1864, G. O. GRIFFITHS, J. MITCHELL, John D. GRIFFITHS; 1865, James MITCHELL, Morgan OWEN, Josiah GRIFFITH; 1866, Richard R. JONES, William H. WILLIAMS, Robert W. ROBERTS; 1867-68, no record; 1869, John P. SAMUEL, Robert W. ROBERTS, Hugh HUGHES; 1870, William W. THOMAS, Evan G. WILLIAMS, Rowland ANTHONY. There is no record for 1871. In 1872 a new charter was obtained under the general law, and the following officers for that year were elected: President, Dr. R. H. WIGGINS; trustees, Joseph ROBERTS, R. W. ROBERTS, “Jink” JONES. The village presidents to the present time have been as follows: Dr. R. H. WIGGINS, 1872-75; Joseph I. FRANCIS, 1876; R. W. ROBERTS, 1877-80; 1881-83, record missing; 1884-86, Robert W. ROBERTS; 1887, George E. PUGH; 1888-91, Owen R. GRIFFITH; 1892-93, Robert R. GRIFFITH; 1894-96, R. R. JONES.
The village has an excellent graded school, with two teachers. At one period there were twelve churches in this town, most of them Welsh. The number is now reduced to five. These are the Baptist at Remsen, which was formerly a Welsh Congregational and burned in 1892, and was rebuilt and changed to a Baptist in February 1894.
The Methodist Episcopal Church in the village and the Calvinistic M. E. church have had a long existence, and the Welsh Calvinistic society, a mile and a half east of the village, is an old one.
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