The true dignity of history is derived from truth. No act or person is beneath observance of its relations. It elucidates subsequent transactions, and is a link in the great chain of instruction. The mere mention of names as they stand connected with the first occupation of farm lands may have little interest to the stranger, who would much prefer to know of contests with the bear, the pack of wolves, or the dangerous panther. In a different sense we essay to note the early history of Arcadia. Just north of Newark village is a large cemetery; the tomb-stones are devoid of ornament, and face the road. Little is noted there but name and date of existence, yet there are recollections of a life recalled by simple mention, such as custom for centuries has made a duty. Seeking new homes in the territory of western New York, hundreds have a history so alike that the experience of one in detail is that of all. All originally traveled the same highway by the same laborious means, all erected for themselves log cabins at sites to suit their fancy, and all directly or indirectly felled the woods; and year by year added to the area of tilled lands.
Along the banks of the Ganargwa the earliest settlement was made, thence northward and to the south, as choice became less practicable. Winding along the valley, the Mud creek was hidden from sight by the forest, which extended its branches over the stream, and the channel was obstructed by drift-wood or submerged trunks of trees fallen years before, and preserved by their position from decay.
In 1791, Joseph Winters and Benjamin Franklin moved into the forest near Mud creek, on the western bounds of Arcadia. They were followed in 1795 by Gilbert Howell and Paul Reeves, and a settlement having been effected by colonies from Long Island in Palmyra, the settlers eastward looked thither as the nucleus of a coming village. In 1793, George Culver came to this region. In May, two years later, Moses Culver, his father, made a like journey of exploration. Uniting with Nathan Reeves, the two bought five hundred acres of land, then located between the farm of Luther Sanford on the east, and that of Seth Howell on the west, and extending from Mud creek to the south line of Marion. Here the summer was passed, and preparations were made for the removal of the family. In 1796, Moses Culver and Nathan Reeves set out from Southampton, Long Island, for their new homes, and with them went their families. With Mr. Culver was his mother, then eighty years of age, and a family of nine children, three sons and six daughters, who lived to become heads of families.
The party took sloop at Sag Harbor about the first of April, and sailed through Long Island sound for Albany. Detained by bad weather before reaching Hurl Gate, a day or so was passed on the Connecticut shore, and a week had elapsed before they came to Albany, which was a village of little more than two thousand inhabitants. The goods and families were taken across to Schenectady, which was about half the size of Albany. We have noted the previous advent of George Culver. On his return in 1794, he, with another, had purchased a boat, and used it in voyaging to Schenectady. There it had been left until the arrival of Moses Culver and family. The boat needing repairs, detained the party about a week, during which time Nathan Reeves purchased a new boat. Each boat was of about two tons burden, and, equipped with setting-poles, the journey was continued.
Proceeding up the Mohawk river, in a day or so they had reached Kane's store, now the village of Amsterdam. Between this place and Little Falls clearings of small extent at wide intervals were met, and then the interminable forest, broken at Utica by a few rude huts. A part of the ground where the city stands was freshly cleared, and all about the stumps stood as upon many a settlement just begun. No habitation broke the monotony and gave cheer to the voyagers thence to Fort Stanwix, the head of navigation, the present city of Rome. At Fort Stanwix there stood a solitary house, and near by were the remains of the old frontier defense. The boat and cargoes were hauled from the Mohawk to the head-waters of Wood creek, - a tributary to Oneida lake, - a yoke of oxen kept by the occupant of the house being used for the purpose.
To these families thus, with others, beginning an era for western New York, there was a past upon the ruins of which they gazed curiously. There were the decaying old boats employed during the previous war with the French and Indians. Down Wood creek to Oneida lake, along its extent, they moved slowly, and halted for a night on its northern shore. Upon Oneida river they glided down to Three River point, where the Oneida and Oswego blend their waters. A rain-storm here set in, and continued two days, while the immigrants remained on shore under shelter of their tents. Upon the Seneca river they came to Jack's reefs, where both boats' crews took one boat at a time, and worked it over the rapids. The scene today would be most singular to see, some wading the stream and drawing by ropes, while others plied the setting-poles, and urged their way onward. The salt-works were reached, and here were several abandoned or unoccupied huts, the first vestiges of habitation and occupation, save by Indians, from Fort Stanwix. The salt-works, now Montezuma, were left, and the Clyde entered. At what is now Clyde stood the remains of the old block-house, a souvenir of perilous times and frontier expectation. At the "Forks," now Lyons, they turned into the Mud creek, and worked on up the stream to the west line of a farm owned by Luther Sanford, and here a landing was made, and the long, laborious voyage was ended.
It was the last week in May, 1796, when life in the wilderness began. About two acres had been cleared by Moses Culver in 1795, and this was planted in corn; garden vegetables were raised, game was hunted in the forest, and fish taken from the creek, and thus the family found support the first season. During this time about four acres were cleared, and sown in wheat. For two or three years privations were borne, and then habit and industry combined to make the outlook cheering.
In default of mills the grain was crushed in a stamp mortar. Wolves were numerous; sheep were not kept, and the crop of flax was the reliance for material for clothing. A mill on Flint creek was the first accessible; it was located at the west end of Vienna, now called Phelps. It was during the summer of 1798, while this mill was being built, that a sled-path was cut from the Culver neighborhood to the mill. The route crossed Red creek above its mouth, thence over Mud creek below the East Palmyra post-office, thence South of the churches, nearly coinciding with the present highway, to where was the plaster-mill on the canal, then south past the old Gillespie, Fisk, Green, and Garlock farms to and across Canandaigua outlet to the farm later owned by Deacon Reed, and thence to the mill. Along the pathway thus outlined there were no inhabitants.
In the winter of 1796, Cooper Culver, then aged twenty-one, set out with a sled and yoke of oxen for the Vienna mill. It was morning, the snow had fallen a depth of a foot, and the streams were frozen over. The mill was reached by noon, but it was midnight before the grist was ground. Snow began to fall during the afternoon and continued without cessation. Culver turned the team into the path, lay down by the side of his grist, drew over him a blanket, and left the oxen to make their way homeward. Approaching the outlet, he got out, guided his team across, and so continued to do till at daylight he reached home. Cooper Culver was known long and well in the town, and died at his residence on May 24, 1867, at the age of ninety years.
While many a settler followed the route as given in the preceding, others came along the old Military road to the "castle" at Geneva, and thence found their way to the site of settlement. To each the same field was opened. The man of means paid for his land and hired clearing done; the poor man, seeking a home with only a strong arm, himself felled the windrow of trees and toiled in his clearing, uncertain but hopeful of meeting his payments. We have said that Joseph Winters and Arnold and Benjamin Franklin were the first settlers in Arcadia. Mr. Winters located on the farm now owned by Demosthenes Smith. Little is known of him; save that he was a surveyor whose services were needful at the time in the location of lots and their division. The early survey of roads was also a training-school, so that those western surveyors undertook and executed, without precedent, the stupendous task of constructing the Erie canal, and performed their work with most creditable excellence.
Arnold Franklin made a settlement at what is designated Jessup's Corners, and Benjamin located near the Palmyra line. The death of a child in the family of the latter is asserted to have been the first in the town. The improvement of A. Franklin was purchased later by Hiram Soverhill. At this locality the first school-house was erected, and therein one Olmsted, Martin Root, and Jonathan Scott were winter teachers; and during the summer a term was taught by Eliza Romayn. Olmsted was a teacher during the great eclipse which happened in 1806. The darkness precluded study and the school was temporarily dismissed, and a party of the boys set out for the creek to engage in fishing; but as the sun came out, returned again to the school, which was resumed. Whether the teacher's knowledge allowed an explanation of the phenomenon is not certain, but that the hardy backwoods boys knew little fear in connection is apparent.
Samuel Soverhill came out on foot from New Jersey in search of a farm, and chose a spot upon the hill-side, above the creek flats, by a fine spring. Here, where Joel Soverhill now resides, he purchased one hundred and forty acres from Charles Williamson, agent of the Pultney estate. The contract price was five hundred and eighty-nine dollars and fifty cents, and it was conditioned to be paid for in wheat at fifty cents a bushel, delivered at Geneva. The deed bears date December 16, 1799. A small log house was built where Joel Soverhill's barn stands; a small clearing, now in orchard trees, was made, and next spring the family, consisting of his wife and three children, were brought on by horseback. A black-smith by trade, he erected a small log shop, which stood near the present school-house, and began the manufacture of edge-tools. His axes were in general use, and valued by the settlers; later his scythes were in demand, and the old-fashioned plows were fashioned at his shop. As was the custom with tradesmen and mechanics, he lured his clearing by work at his trade, and when not busied in the shop found employment on his lands. About 1812, he constructed a dam and built a saw-mill on the creek. The mill ran from six to eight months of the year, and lumber was sawed at the rate of seventy-five cents per hundred for hard-wood and fifty cents per hundred for white-wood and bass-wood. Upon the Soverhill farm was a patch of hemlock comprised in some three or four acres, and, save some clumps of trees, was all of that desirable timber found in that locality. The -time came when the water failed and timber became scarce; then the mill was torn down and the dam destroyed, for the overflowed land was valuable for purposes of cultivation.
For Mr. Soverhill was built the first barn in the neighborhood, if not in the town. It was constructed by the "square rule" or "cut and try." To frame a bent, the beams and braces were fitted. Oak was the only timber used, and the beams were huge and unwieldy. Every part of this barn was hewed out, - sill, beam, rafter, and brace, -while the shingles, sawed from oak, were four feet in - length. It stood on the present orchard lot, and in course of time was moved, - and finally dismantled and torn down.
Originally large school districts had been formed, and what now constitutes district No.3 is but a small portion of the early area of the district. The original school building in all this vicinity was erected in 1810 upon a site given by Soverhill. The house raised was a hewed-log structure, in dimensions twenty-four by forty feet. A huge fireplace at each end of the room maintained the proper temperature in winter, while slab seats - an outer and an inner row, the former with a board next the wall for writing, the inner for smaller children - gave no curved back against which to lean, but each sat doubled and held his book in -hand. The attendance upon this school was from a distance in any direction of -two miles, and among its teachers were a number of persons well qualified. Eliza Romayn was employed for the year 1813. Dennis Clark, Henry Parks, who had served in the war of 1812, Jesse Owen, Hiram Soverhill, and Ahiel Guthrie were the early school masters. The last-named continued five years, and while he bore the reputation of an excellent instructor, he was addicted to the too free use of liquor. Attendance increased till Guthrie's roll numbered one hundred and six.Of the old scholars now living there are Austin A. Parks, Phoebe Jessup, Freeman Luce, Joel Soverhill, and James H. Reese.
Desiring a place in which to hold religious services, it was proposed to enlarge the school-house, and use it on occasion. An addition of twenty feet was made, so that the structure was sixty by twenty-four feet. The persons concerned in the extension were Samuel Soverhill, Pliny Foster, Lewis Jessup, Joseph Bennett. and Paul Reeves. The interior of the churchly school-house was provided with a pulpit of white-wood boards, standing upon end, and arranged to form a semicircle. Above this clerical stockade only the head of the preacher could be seen. Elders Roe and Pomeroy officiated, and their services were of proverbial length. Elder Roe was accustomed to discourse for a period of three to four hours. The singing of that pioneer choir was as attractive as the sermon was tedious. It was led by Adonijah H. Fairchild. Samuel Soverhill sang bass, Isaac tenor, and Susan Soverhill counter.
In time churches were erected, and the old frame was removed, and in 1836 the present cobble-stone school-house was constructed. In the early day no wells existed; even the old well-sweep had not come into use, and the spring-basin was the source of supply. Wild beasts, ranging the woods, came occasionally out into the clearings, and Mrs. Soverhill was accustomed, when going for water, to carry the pail in one hand and a stick in the other. Nor was the precaution in vain, as on one occasion a wolf followed her some distance.
Little stock was kept, and these were closely guarded. Upon the flat a party of Indians came annually and pitched their rude brush-tents, and here they hunted and fished, and, visiting the settlers, demanded bread. They were fed, although ill able to afford it, by the settlers' wives, who feared to offend them. As settlement increased, game and fish grew scarce, and they left for more promising localities. Saumuel Soverhill died upon his farm in 1849, having reached fourscore, and his wife lived with her son Joel till 1866, and then died at the old homestead, in her ninety-seventh year. Hiram Soverhill is reputed to have been the first white child born in the town, the date being 1800, while it is also affirmed that a Stansell may reasonably claim that honor. Of seven children, Joel Soverhill, son of Samuel, is the sole survivor upon the farm where he was born, and a prominent citizen of Arcadia.
Simeon Burnett was an early settler north of Hydeville, and, having felled the trees of eight to ten acres, and got up the body of a log house, sold out. His trade was hat - making, and the old settlers unite in saying that his work was done upon honor, and that his hats were comfortable and durable, though not stylish. He was a bachelor, and lived near Soverhill.
Wanting in roads, the creek was the original highway. On the hill-sides by its banks the pioneer settlements were made, roads were cut along the flats, and communications established. Here and there the smoke of the log hut curled up ward, and the axe was heard as one by one the trees were leveled to the earth. The settlers north of the creek, so far as recalled, begin with the Austins on the east. The father was a resident of Columbia County, and made a large purchase for his sons, - Ira, Eben, and Phineas, - whose farms were adjoining. J. and G.G. Austin, descendants, were later owners. Henry Cronise and Henry Lambright were from Maryland, and came on together. They brought slaves with them and settled, Cronise on the north side of the creek, and Lambright on the South side, upon the farm now owned by Piersons Jeremiah. Beatty was a settler adjoining Cronise on the west. He was above the rough, coarser class, and was much respected. A circumstance, trivial now, was of sufficient novelty to impress the memory of old settlers in this connection. Beatty was accustomed to do his thrashing by horse-power, - that is, by driving a horse around upon the grain properly placed; this was an innovation upon the use of the flail. A son, Wm. Burnett, lived upon the farm now passed to George Erehart. It was not unusual for well-to-do farmers or others living east to make a tour of exploration through the Phelps and Gorham tract and to purchase a section or several lets as a portion for their children. In some instances the children held their lands as little else than valueless, but in general an exaggerated estimate prevailed, and the owner of a lot on the purchase was regarded as established. John D. Robinson made a selection, and bought six hundred acres on Mud creek. This land he divided among his sons, - Peter, John, and Harry. The former moved on, but Harry sold to the Crosbys, and they failing to make payment, Paul Reeves became the purchaser, and his son, Jacob H. Reeves, is the present owner. John Robinson died upon the place, and a part of his farm has passed to J. Soverhill. Peter sold to Aaron Vandercarr, and the property was later owned by Mr. Rankhart. Samuel Fairchild was a settler upon the land farmed by Henry Cronise, and followed the trade of a mason. The house erected during his proprietorship is still standing on the Cronise property. Pliny Foster located next to Soverhill, and cleared up a part of his farm. He finally removed to Newark, where he died. A son, Bailey D. Foster, now occupies the homestead. Silas Payne was the original owner of the farm now occupied by Miles Hyde.
In the fall season of the earlier years, before dams had obstructed the Streams, pike and salmon ran up the creek in shoals, and it was a passion with Payne to fish for them. These excellent fish were a welcome addition to the bill of fare, and were taken by torch-light. Not provided with spears, Payne, Culver, and others would transfix the fish by thrusting through them a fork, by which they were held, while a second party secured the fish by hand. A seine having been prepared, periodic trips were made to the "Point," and rarely did the settler-fisherman return without abundant supply. He had a son, to whom he had given the name "Hunting." This young man yielded to the appetite for strong drink, and one day, while driving a spirited team before a wagon, he lost control of them, and, they running away, the wagon came in contact with a log drawn out by the roadside, and the unfortunate man was thrown against it and instantly killed. The death of Hunter Payne was the first by violent means that took place in Arcadia. A daughter of Silas Payne married James Miller, who inherited the farm at Silas' death. Milo Galloway became possessor of the farm, and sold to David Jewell, who disposed of it to Artemas W. Hyde. Mr. Hyde was a doctor by profession and a tavern-keeper by practice. He built and opened a tavern at what is known as Hydeville, and kept it during life. The house was a favorite resort in the early day, and the settlers enjoyed in drinking, horse-racing, and athletic exercises a respite from the lonely labor on their clearings. Near the town a blacksmith-shop was built and a small store had a temporary existence. Dr. Hyde purchased the farms about him, and became an extensive land-owner. The place, Hydeville, is at present but a small cluster of houses.
Beyond Silas Payne lived Nathaniel Reeves. Samuel and Harmon, his sons, inherited the property. Harmon was thrown from a horse and killed. Samuel B. lives upon the old place, and is about eighty years of age. The Tibbetts family were of the earliest settlers. Caleb owned the place bought later by Cooper Culver, while John and Joseph had farms on the south side of the creek. The Sodus road was surveyed by Gillespie northward from the Mud creek road. It was the route pursued by the settlers to their favorite fishing-grounds at the lake. The first settler on this road, beyond the Robinson farm, was a Dutchman named Rettman. Where a break had been made in the forest, the most obscure person was known, and the old log cabin Sites, as existing at this period, were located by the pioneers for many miles, as their foot journeys were more extensive. The cabin of Rettman stood to the left, going northward, upon lands now the property of John and Marvin Lee. The next farm was on the opposite side of the road, and owned by Vaninwagen. Joseph Riggs at one time held the farm which is now occupied by H. Sours. James M. Stever early owned the farm south and West of Fairville, and carried on an ashery. He sold to John Nichols, a carpenter. Where a road leads west from the corners below Fairville, Elisha Avery had settled, and, occupying a log house, cleared a small patch of ground. The land passed finally to Newton Clark, whose sons were remembered as teachers. Other settlers in the Fairville vicinity were John Chambers, Nathaniel Avery, and Jesse Owen. Joseph P. Crandall was the owner of the site of Fairville village. He erected there a building which he turned to use as a tavern, and has lived in the hamlet to the present. He has two sons, - one a physician residing in Fairville, the other a farmer in the neighborhood. All north of Crandall was woods, save one settler, named Chambers, on the farm now owned by J. Keiser. In Fairville, Dr. Nicholas was an early physician. G. E. Robinson was engaged in keeping a store. P. Fleck carried on a wagon-shop, and James Bennett had a tannery in his place for many years. There are in the place two churches, belonging to a Methodist and a Presbyterian Society. A station on the Sodus Railroad is located about a mile from Fairville, which is a post-village, and has about two hundred inhabitants.
North from Jessup's Corners, the pioneer living settler is John Welcher. He came from New Jersey in 1798, and settled temporarily near Phelps; then he contracted with Mr. Fellows, of Geneva, for fifty acres of land of the farm he now occupies. Pay-day came, and he was in danger of losing his place, but secured time from the agent, and, by the trade of a yoke of oxen for a yoke of steers, secured sufficient cash on the difference of values to meet the claim. Beginning with this tract, he secured the team of Foster with Simon Brant on one day, and Soverhill and team with Culver on another, and in two days they had rolled the logs off three acres, and had piled thirty log-heaps, numbering ten to fifteen logs in a pile. The feet is noted to show both the amount of work done and the density of timber. Land rose in price, but ability to pay for it increased, and in time Mr. Welcher became one of the well-to-do farmers of the town. Joseph Fellows was a settler in the woods. The survey of roads, bringing some to the roadside and leaving others remote from them, was an after-consideration. A road was laid out in the north part of Welcher's. On what became the highway, next north of Welcher, Ezekiel Cronise came in next day after Welcher, carrying a rifle. He had traveled on foot to this section, and there marked out a home. The old rifle borne by him on his journey has been preserved, and is in possession of J. S. Cronise, for many years a hardware-merchant in Newark, and still engaged in that business. Benjamin Johnson located on the road beyond, and after him were Ezra Pratt and Austin Lee. The Vosburg farm was originally owned by Thomas Rogers. Jacob Venatten lived a mile beyond the last settler. Pliny Foster was the original owner of the farm upon which Platt [Pratt?] settled. The Lee farm is still owned by descendants. All the country northward was unimproved, and traversed only by foot-paths. Near the Sodus line lived a man named Howard, near whose place in time a road was cut. Howard passed his days upon this farm.
Silas Peirson came in from Long Island, and bought fifty acres from the land agent, and fifty acres of land adjoining from Simon Burnett. He was by trade a carpenter, and the higher value of his labors in building enabled him to clear his land by receiving two days' work on the clearing for one given at his trade. Henry R. Peirson, born on the place, is a present citizen of Newark, and has a son, Silas S. Peirson, engaged in banking there.
Among early settlers south of Mud creek were William Stansell, Lewis Jessup, Enoch Dc Kay, a miller, Wesley Benton, a Methodist minister, and a man of excellent character, and Jeremiah Lusk, whose sons, Jacob, Isaac, and Philip, were original owners of the site of Newark village. The first road laid out to Phelps south front Newark led to the outlet. The first settler from the outlet northward was Elder Roe, a Baptist preacher, and beyond him lived Gaius Howell. The road was underbrushed to the creek, through the influence of Jacob Lusk. On the road to Lockville, now Arcadia, from Phelps, Joab Hill had erected a cobble-stone house, yet standing, and next to him John Norris had built and improved. Jonathan Fairchild, brother-in-law to Joel Hall, lived on the cross-road running towards Palmyra. From Marbletown in the southeast part of the town to Lockville runs a road upon which Abraham Rush was an old-time settler. Grandchildren reside in the vicinity. B. Roberts was aIso an early occupant of a farm in this locality. O. Tobias cleared a farm situated southeast of Lockville, and southward was Daniels, with his sons, Clark and James. Phillips, Robinson, the Chadwicks, Ezra H. and C. C., were of the older class of settlers. Besides these were W. Ridley, M. Trowbridge, who died recently, almost a centenarian, and the Van Valkenburgs. Peter Van Dusen lives upon a farm partially cleared by Luke, an early settler upon what is now the canal road. Southwest of Newark were the Wolfroms, on land now partially the property of Jacob Keller, the tract having been divided. A machine -shop was long since operated in this place by one Aldrich, and near by was the furnace of Warren S. Bartle. H. J. Mesick had a sawmill on the Whipspool brook. Mesick was in his day known as one of the heaviest farmers in the country, and held a prominence in the acreage devoted to raising grains. The place is now owned by Messrs. Cady and Van Turrel. Next south of Mesick lived A. and E. D. Frisbee, and Abraham Garlock, of Phelps, owned land on the south line of Arcadia. Peter Garlock, a son, occupied the farm. Lanson and William Fisk took up land upon lot No. 57, when the country was quite new, and north of their settlement Daniel Smith was then living. Simeon Bryan, of New Jersey, seeking a farm found a fine spring on lot 88, and settled there in the midst of the woods. The farm was owned by sons, and a son-in-law, James Garlock, lives upon it at present. On 87-lived Lyman Husted, whose occupation was that of blacksmith, and north of him Sackett L. Husted settled, and has since resided. Samuel Gilky was the original occupant of the Husted place. Joseph and Caleb Tibbetts were pioneers on land later the property of Carlos A. Stebbins. On this farm was a fine sugar-orchard, and at one time Oliver Clark and Samuel Soverhill went into the bush and made five hundred pounds of maple sugar. Passing northward, on the west line of Arcadia, and a man named Buck was settled on the road; beyond him was William Tinney, then Preston H. Parker, and John Starks. A road leading out through the woods brought one to the log house of Chester Burke, who, like most others, had a large family, which finally removed to Michigan. To the northward, the lands came into market through value given to timber. The construction of the Erie canal gave a market for lumber, and Joseph Caldwell, purchasing a tract of four hundred acres, erected a sawmill, and settlers gradually found their way in. On the north end of Luther Sanford's farm his son dwelt, and northward John Halsted cleared a tract of land and carried on a store in connection with his saw-mill.
These are a portion of the pioneers of Arcadia, and in their ranks were found men of the stamp which give character to settlement and accelerate progress. The old pioneers have passed away, and none now living can recall them as they were. The old deeds of lands, rarely seen save when an attorney looks up a claim of title, designate original owners; but then, as new, lands were bought on speculation, and passed to frequent owners. In some instances the farms cleared by the grandparent or parent are still held by descendants, but in numerous eases the phrase "gone to Michigan" is applicable, and in that state entire communities of Wayne County citizens have their present residence.
We have noted the construction of Soverhill's barn of hewed material. A barn built by Moses Culver, on the farm owned by Conway Clark, was sided with boards brought from a saw-mill on Flint creek. The boards were hauled by oxen to Canandaigua outlet, and then transported by boat by Cooper Culver and Daniel Jaggar, down to Lyons, and up the creek to the farm landing. A saw-mill was built in 1803, and a grist-mill the year after, by Paul Reeves and Gilbert Howell, upon Mud creek. The grist-mill was extensively patronized, and men came from considerable distances to obtain grinding. Substantial mills occupy the original site. William Stansell had a sawmill at Marbletown, on Trout run, in an early day. Water failed, timber grew scarce, and the mill went to decay. James Bennett built a saw-mill at Hydeville, above the present mill. It served its term and was torn down. A small grist-mill, of little account, was run for a time. Henry Hyde was the builder and operator of a sawmill at this place, and a mill now occupies the site of the pioneer affair.
DISTILLERIES AND INTEMPERANCE.
Up to 1830 the state of temperance was bad enough. Within a distance of three miles along Mud creek there were four distilleries, operated by Harrison, Luce, Sherman, and Mansfield. Whisky was sold as low as twenty-five cents a gallon, and was drank on all occasions. Whether at general training, Fourth of July, logging-bee, raising, or harvesting, the liquor was freely used. It stood upon the sideboard to treat the casual visitor and teacher, doctor, and preacher were alike accustomed to potations from the cup. Ladies met to help along a quilting, and the "sling" imbibed made conversation spirited. If any failed to provide this stimulus it was made a subject of sharp comment. As years went by, a feeling prevailed that this system should be broken up. A preacher found intoxicated was dismissed, and in the county medical society a member accustomed to using liquors to excess was expelled. Still, tippling was common in taverns and in groceries. From 1845 to 1849 temperance people were active, and when in 1846 the question of license or no license was submitted to the people of the town, a majority decided in the negative. The death of Thomas Macy, drowned in the canal while drunk, and deaths from delirium tremens and other causes, gave intensity of purpose to temperance effort. In January, 1850, John B. Gough delivered two lectures at Newark, and over seven hundred persons signed the pledge.
Successive steps facilitating communication with other towns and villages have in general enhanced values and proved favorable to Newark and the town of Arcadia. The earliest effort to improve highways was the construction of bridges over the creek. At most seasons the stream was crossed at fords, and bridges were swept away by the freshets which flooded the lowlands. A bridge was built, in 1804, at the "Excelsior" mills of Messrs. Howell and Reeves, to enable their patrons to reach the mills. Other bridges were built from time to time until the construction of the plank-road across the flat, when a permanent work was done at the crossing by Jessup's corners. This plank-road, the enterprise of a few citizens, among them were Messrs. Bartle, Blackmar, and Miller, was known as the Newark and Sodus road. It was built by subscription, and Mr. Bartle was president of the company. Travel avoided the road to escape toll, and the road was given to the town. While it failed as a speculation, the road was of lasting benefit. The causeway across the flat, north of Newark and of the Central railway, cannot fail to attract the notice of the passer-by.
By legislative enactment of date 1799, Mud creek was made a navigable stream, and mills could not be erected without locks. Travel and exploration sought this route. A canal was cut across from the head-waters of the Mohawk to those of Wood creek. Locks were constructed at the rapids, and improved navigation resulted all along the stream. Merchants of Palmyra, Lyons, and other points made use of this natural highway in the transfer of flour, pork, and other products to the east, and the return of goods, groceries and other commodities. In favorable seasons two trips were possible between the subsidence of the overflow during spring freshets and low water in summer. Copious summer rains permitted trips to Montezuma for cargoes of salt.
Some of the early settlers regretted their removal to a point so distant from main channels of travel and communication, and little thought that along the valley of Mud creek the canal and railway would bear the tide of immigration and the burdens of a growing commerce.
In 1816 the Erie canal was authorized; on July 4,1817 it was commenced; and in October, 1825, it was finished. Freight from Albany sank from one hundred dollars to ten. Times grew prosperous in Arcadia, and the farming community found with satisfaction a market at their door. The direct branch of the of the New York Central Railroad was built through the town in 1854, and has a station between Mud creak and the canal, about a mile north of Newark. The Sodas Point and Southern railroad runs through Arcadia from north to south. This road was incorporated in 1852. A route was surveyed and some grading done. Financial trouble stopped the work in 1857, and it lay dead for years - an annoyance to farmers whose fields it had laid open and a subject of frequent discussion. In the fall of 1870 a renewed and successful effort was made, and the road was finished. The town of Arcadia gave bonds to the amount of over one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, upon which interest is being paid. The work was first resumed upon the farm of Joel Soverhill, and the first train passed over the road on July 4, 1872. The effect of its construction has been a marked reduction in the prices of coal and wood, and it affords a pleasant and speedy transit to the numerous pleasure-seekers who resort in summer to the pleasant scenes on the lake.
INCIDENTS OF EARLY TIME.
For an adult to be lost in the woods was no pleasant experience. For a child to be a wanderer in the forest was terrible. To look upon the smooth hill-sides, which make the scenery of Arcadia attractive, conveys no idea of the period when the valleys were dense with forest and swamp-growth, and a view from a hill-top disclosed only an unbroken stretch of trees. On the farm of Jeremiah Stever that pioneer had built a dwelling, and it was occupied by his family. In the spring-time Mr. Stever opened a sugar-camp some distance from the house, and remained all day to boil down the sap. His daughter, a child of ten years, was sent out to take him his dinner, and strayed away into the woods. Mr. Stever returned to the house without the child, and it was known at once that she was lost. The news spread as such tidings do, and fathers and brothers, as if it were one missing from their own loved ones, organized in companies and ranged the woods. A day of fruitless search passed, and on the second day the search continued. Forty-eight hours had elapsed since the child had disappeared; there was suspense and sympathy in many a home, and hope mingled with doubt among the lines of searchers. At last she was found by a settler; she was sitting beside a log, tired from travel and unnerved by her situation. The glad tidings preceded the return, and the restoration of the lost child to its mother was an event at once notable, and a fit illustration of generous sympathy.
In pioneer days the wolf and bear were not uncommonly met. Van Wickle, returning homeward one evening, was treed by a pack of wolves and kept in his perch all night. To stimulate their extermination a bounty of sixteen dollars was paid for each wolf's head. Traps were made by digging pits, covering them in part, and placing bait in the centre. The wolf breaking through, was found in the pit and killed. There were those who made trapping more profitable than farming. The discovery of a bear was greeted with satisfaction. One day, Ebenezer South and Daniel Beckwith were out hunting, and treed a bear on the Reeves place. The animal had climbed a white-wood tree of immense size, and disappeared in a cavity some forty foot from the ground. Several shots were fired into the opening in hopes of diverting him from his retreat, but he evidently preferred to remain. Smith was left to watch while Beckwith came to Welcher's in search of an axe wherewith to fell the tree, and invited him and Cronise to go along with him. They found all quiet, and began to chop into the trunk. They had not more than half cut the tree when bruin became dissatisfied and crawled out. Beckwith stepped back, rested his rifle upon a sapling, and, following the sharp report, the bear fell like a stone, shot dead. Beach-nuts were plenty. The animal was very fat, and the carcass, being divided, was taken to the cabins, cooked, and eaten.
The abundance of salmon at the creak bearing the name "Salmon creek" was akin to the marvelous. On one occasion, John Cook and Thomas Stafford set out with oxen and sled to the mouth of the creek, and found the stream alive with the finest fish. They had brought with them pitchforks, and with these in hand dashed into the water and began to pitch the fish on shore. They labored till wearied, then, loading their spoil, set out in triumph and returned. Different from this was the experience of a party of young men who, one fall, went with Silas Payne and Willlam Scott, owners of seines, to fish among the islands. The team of Samuel Soverhill was taken, and in the wagon went Isaac, James, and Joel Soverhill, Simon Bennett, and Vincent Mathews. Arriving by dark at the lake, the party embarked in a boat with the seine, and while engaged in setting it saw unmistakable indications of a rising storm. Unable to make the mainland, they, stopped upon one of the islands along the shore, and found upon it but one semblance of a habitation, - a log shanty, in which were a man and his wife. Hungry, they were provided with the best the place afforded, - canaille mixed with water and boiled, and boiIed corn. The floor constituted their bed. On the second day they reached another island, and here the fare was varied by boiled chestnuts and corn and a chicken, which was killed and prepared. The family did for their unexpected guests all that their poverty of resource would allow, and on the evening of the fourth day the weather had so far moderated as to allow of return. No mention is made of having taken any fish on this expedition, and, as evidence of the impression made upon at least one of the party, it may be said that Joel Soverhill, then fourteen years of age, never returned to the scene of this adventure till ground was broken on the Sodus railroad.
THE ORIGIN OF SPIRITUALISM.
The hamlet of Hydeville was a notoriety for being the birthplace of what is denominated spiritualism. Experience in all ages has shown that there is no creed without believers, and no delusion without its dupes. The saying that "murder will out" is accepted as truth, and the excitement attending the supposed discovery of crime was shrewdly turned to account, and avarice preyed upon credulity.
John Fox and family, consisting of his wife and five children, came out and settled originally on the place of John J. Smith, his brother-in-law. He later removed to Hydeville, rented a dwelling and a shop, and pursued his trade of blacksmithing. Mr. Fox was reputed honest and industrious, and his wife was a hard-working woman. Two girls of the family, Margaret and Catharine, and Elizabeth Fish, their niece, happened to hear a mysterious rapping on the night of March 31, 1849 and seemed to be badly frightened. The rappings were continued, and a system of communication devised by the mother, who was easily imposed upon, led to the revelation that one John Bell had killed a peddler and buried his body in the cellar. The news spread, and persons began to dig in the earth. Water was struck and, flowing freely, prevented further investigation. Several hundred persons went over from Newark. The next day after the manifestations full a thousand people had assembled about the house, and, gathered in groups, discussed the origin of the sounds, - some ridiculing, others earnest to investigate the matter. The unexpected success following the movement emboldened the girls to persevere, and early in May they removed to Rochester and gave public exhibitions, which were reported over the country, and took the name "Rochester Rappings." What is not understood is referred to the supernatural, hence intercourse with the departed was asserted, and "mediums' came upon the stage. The Fox sisters gave the cue, others took up and improved upon it, till apparitions, voices, and handwritings were imposed upon their audiences. Viewed impartially, we regard the origin of spiritualism by the Fox sisters as a ruse to astonish their mother, and the subsequent growth of the delusion as the play of cunning impostors upon feelings the most sacred. Whether recent exposures will end the deception or not, Hydeville, in all else obscure, is of lasting interest as the place of its beginning.
ORGANIZATION OF ARCADIA, ITS TOWNSHIP MEETINGS AND OFFICERS.
The territory now known as Arcadia originally formed the southwest portion of Sodus, which constituted the northeast township of Ontario county. Lyons was formed in 1811, and Arcadia was set off from Lyons on February 15, 1825. At the first town meeting held in and for the town of Arcadia, at William Popple's coffee-house in the village of Newark, on April 5,1825, the following town officers were elected: James P. Bartle, supervisor; Theodore Partridge, town clerk; Hezekiah Dunham, Joseph Luce, and Andrew Finch, assessors; Hiram Soverhill, collector; Samuel Soverhill and Joseph Mills, overseers of the poor; Henry Cronise, Edmund T. Aldrich, and Durfee Sherman, commissioners of highways; Hiram Soverhill, William Terry, and James McCain, constables; Caleb P. Lippett, Artemus Doane, and John L. Kip, commissioners of common schools; George W. Scott, A. Doane, and Joseph A. Miller, inspectors of common schools. Forty-nine road districts were formed, and as many overseers were elected. The keeping of the town poor was sold at auction to the lowest bidder, Abraham Loper, whose offer was one hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Experience or cheaper provision, reduced the cost on the year following to one hundred and forty-three dollars, bid by Peter Foster; and in 1827 Mr. Loper again took the contract for one hundred and fourteen dollars. This low rate argues few paupers and cheap fare. At the first meeting Samuel Soverhill was voted to be poundmaster, and a pound was directed to be built near his place. At a meeting held on May 25 following, Rufus A. Roys was elected marshal to take enumeration of legal voters, and on November 7, at the first election held in the town since its organization, Truman Hart received three hundred and fifty-seven votes for senator, and Ambrose Hall and A. Kip had respectively three hundred and thirty-three and three hundred and forty-one votes for members of assembly. At the gubernatorial election, held April 17, 1826, the party sentiment was shown by a vote of one hundred and forty for De Witt Clinton and one hundred and sixty eight for Wm. B. Rochester. In August, 1835, James Snow and Theodore Partridge being justices, a fire company was appointed by them, and the supervisor to take charge of a fire-engine which they had upon their hands. Most of those appointed declined to serve, and the record is silent as regards the disposition made of the engine. The following is a list of those who have served the town as supervisors since its organization: James P. Bartle, Joseph A. Miller, Esbon Blackmar, James Mills, Jr., Silas Peirson, Vincent G. Barney, Ezra Platt, Abraham Fairchild, Benjamin G. Price, George H. Middleton, Geo. C. Mills, George W. Scott, George Howland, James S. Crosby, Clark Mason, James D. Ford, Albert F. Cressy, Elon St. John, J. D. Ford, O. W. Hyde, Charles C. Chadwick, George Sheldon, Henry J. Peirson, Charles W. Stewart, Jacob P. Lusk, E. K. Burnham, and James Miller.
SURFACE, SOIL, SCHOOLS FARMS AND VILLAGES.
The surface is much diversified by drift-ridges, basins, and valleys. The principal stream is Mud creek, which flows east through the town, north of the centre, and receives a few unimportant tributaries. The soil is very fertile, and experience proves that cultivation, by accelerating the process of disintegration and decomposition of the clay and loam, tends to increase fertility. Gypsum exists in the southwest and marl near the centre. Timber has been swept off; whatever remains is valuable. School districts have been multiplied till conveniences have been secured to all. The preponderance of teachers has been of females. The area of the town is thirty thousand nine hundred and forty four acres, which is given to agriculture. Diversity of surface has rendered grazing and grain-growing equally profitable, and extensive effort is put forth in these channels. Winter wheat is raised in considerable quantities, as are oats, corn, barley, and potatoes. Apple-orchards are numerous and profitable. Tobacco and peppermint are grown to a noticeable extent. Changes of methods with increased machinery have given the farmer command of his fields, and Arcadia is famed for agricultural wealth. The farm buildings are capacious, and substantial rail, board, and stone fences divide the fields and commodious barns shelter the stock. In the early days it was common to see from eight to ten men mowing together on the flats of the Ganargwa, and like bands reaping with the sickle. Cradles were introduced by Thomas Crandall, who was also the maker of the wood-work on the old "Bull" plows. The country is not adapted to the use of reapers, yet there are many farms upon which they are profitably employed. The first reaper was a "McCormick," which attracted considerable attention, but the farmers adhered to the cradle until continued improvement had made the machines desirable. It is said that the first reaper in the town was owned by H. Cronise. The hamlets of Arcadia are Fairville, five miles north of Newark, Marbletown, in the southeast corner, Jessup's Corners, and Hydeville. Fairville contains a tavern, which brings the pioneer passer-by back to the olden time. Below, along the entire front, is room for seats in summer, and a balcony extends above. Vestiges of red paint indicate a former coating, and here and there old, unpainted houses recall the past. In the midst of this is life and freshness, and two churches, one a handsome brick, mark the prevalence of religious influences. Marbletown formerly contained a church, which has been removed to Newark. The place is occupied chiefly by farmers.
Town of Arcadia Section
Wayne County NY Historical Articles Section
Volunteer typist: Margaret Sherman Lutzvick