The History of the Town of Galen

From "Landmarks of Wayne County, New York"
Edited by Hon. George W. Cowles of Clyde, N.Y. 1895

Part 1

History of the Town of Galen

The town of Galen was organized by a division of Junius, in Seneca county, February 14, 1812; on the 11th of April, 1823, it became a part of Wayne county; on November 24, 1824, Savannah was set off, leaving it with its present area of 35,299 acres. It is the second town in size in the county, and is bounded on the north by Rose and Butler, on the east by Savannah, on the south by Seneca county, and on the west by Lyons. It comprises township number 27 of the old Military Tract, and received its name of Galen from being reserved for the pyhsicians and surgeons of the New York regiments in the Revolutionary war; more definately speaking, it was named in honor of the professional followers of Claudius Galen (or Galenus), a celebrated Greek physician who was born A. D. 130. With the other portions of this vast tract, it was originally surveyed into farm lots of 600 acres each.

The surface is broken into high hills and level marsh, the latter covering a total of over one-fifth of the town. The soil of the highlands is a sandy, gravelly loam, while that of the lowlands is a black muck. It is very productive, and except the marshes is susceptible of easy cultivation. Almost the whole area was originally covered with a dense growth of hardwood timber, the sugar maple predominating, and during the earlier settlements, a number of saw mills found profitable employment in manufacturing lumber. The principal drainage is afforded by the Clyde River, formerly called the Canandaigua outlet, which enters the town from Lyons, flows northeasterly to Clyde village, and thence runs southeast into Seneca county. It has several small tributaries, the largest being Black Creek, which flows through the northwest part of Galen and joins the river one-fourth mile east of Lock Berlin. Marsh Creek courses southward through the east edge of this town and enters Savannah near the New York Central Railroad. In 1872 a project was instigated for the drainage of Black Creek with a ditch seven miles long, ten feet wide and four feet deep, costing $4000. This was the greatest effort of the kind ever attempted in the town. Several appropriations have been made by the State to drain and reclaim portions of the marsh lands. In the spring of 1855 a freshet inundated the banks of the Clyde River and other streams, and caused considerable damage to buildings, bridges, and adjacent property. March 30, 1873, a similar flood occured, in which two brothers, Michael and Fenton Kelly, were drowned while trying to reach land on a raft from the Fox malt house in Clyde.

Wheat long constituted the chief agricultural production, but within recent years it has been largely superceded by mixed farming, the strength and fertility of the soil, enabling the husbandman to raise a variety of crops indigenous to this latitude. Fruit growing has been an important industry from an early day, and the apples produced here have given the town, as well as the county, a leading place in distant markets. Raspberries are also cultivated with profit, and peppermint is extensively grown, especially upon the wet or marshy tracts. The largest vineyard in Galen is owned by A. F. Devereaux. In 1858 the town produced 31,178 bushels of winter wheat and 199,093 bushels of spring wheat; 3,806 tons of hay; 19,546 bushels of potatoes; 48,588 bushels of apples; 140,588 pounds of butter; 16,278 pounds of cheese; and 1,271 yards of domestic cloths. It contained 1,373 horses; 1,961 oxen and calves; 1,649 cows; 8,814 sheep; and 4,198 swine.

For twenty years or more following the advent of white settlers, the Clyde River was the avenue of considerable commerce; it conveyed the bateaux of the pioneers, brought them merchandise, and carried their produce to market. Previous to that its waters had long floated the canoe of the aborigine, for its evedent on good authority that one or more Indian villages existed within the borders of the town. On the Joseph Watson farm numerous relics have been found and several deep black spots in the earth, indicating fireplaces, were discovered. Half a mile east, on the old Adrastus Snedaker place, were similar evidences of an Indian encampment. In the road near the Catholic Cemetery is now a stone five long, two and one-half feet wide, and sunk deep into the ground; its surface is dug out to form a basin, in which it is claimed the Indians pounded their corn. In the immediate vicinity many arrowheads and other relics of wigwam days have been picked up.

The present site of the village of Clyde is historic ground. A little east of the Central depot, during a part of the eighteenth century, there stood a block house, so called from its construction. The date of its construction in unknown, but it was used as a trading post by the French prior to the French and Indian war in 1754. From that time until the Revolution it was occupied by other traders; it then fell into the possession of the Tories, who used it as a station for smuggling goods from Canada via Sodus Bay. But before the war closed the government made a descent upon the place, arrested some of the smugglers and drove the others away. In the mean time quite a number of lawless characters had squatted in the immediate vicinity, and by hunting and smuggling, by the aid of friendly Indians, carried on a profitable business. They boldly kept out all persons unfavorable to their illegal traffic and being distantly removed from any regular settlement they prosecuted their trade with little fear of molestation. The best evidence extant indicates that the block house was burned during or soon after the government raid, notwithstanding the many assertions made that it was seen by white men as late as 1820. Captain Luther Redfield once said that when he and others were passing in a boat, about 1804, the charred remnants of the old building were plainly visible; even its corners and shape could be distinguished. In 1811 Jonathan Melvin, jr., erected on the south side of the river the first log dwelling within the present village limits. This was also known as a block house, which accounts for the statement referred to above. The location of the original block house has advanced the theory that this was formerly a Jesuit mission, but this is incorrect. If this were true it would undoubtedly have been mentioned in the Jesuit Relations.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825, not only drew all the shipping business from the Clyde River, but also aided materially in advancing the settlements and promoting various industries. This was followed several years later by a project to connect this waterway with Great Sodus bay by a ship canal, locally known as the "Sodus ditch." In 1841 General William H. Adams organized a company, obtained a charter, and began work a half-mile west of Clyde. After digging a portion of the channel, the waters of the streams and marshes were turned in to wash out the ditch. The general's property was all expended in January 22, 1853, a company, capitalized at $150,000, was formed for the purpose of building a railroad from Clyde to Sodus Bay; a survey was made, but the clashing of individual interests caused the abandonment of this project also.

In 1853 the New York Central Railroad was completed and opened and added a new impetus to the development of the town. In 1872 the Pensylvania and Sodus Bay Railroad, from a point in Pennsylvania, via Seneca Falls and Clyde to Sodus Bay was projected; and to aid in its construction it was proposed to bond this town for $70,000. Contracts were let in 1873, but soon afterward the whole plan fell through. In 1884 the West Shore Railroad was completed and opened, with a station at Clyde.

Roads were opened in Galen prior to 1810, and as settlers increased in numbers they were improved and extended. Probably the first one was the military trail or State road, leading from the block house northeasterly and easterly to Salina. The State road proper ran through the north part of the own. The eastern plank road from Clyde to Port Byron, running north of Savannah village past the salt works there, was graded and opened at an early day, but it was planked eastward only to a point south of Crusoe Lake in that town. Laomi Beadle, the pioneer settler, was instrumental in constructing the Montezuma turnpike from Montezuma to Lyons about 1820. It ran through the south part of Galen and became an important mail route and stage line. The Clyde and Rose Plank Road Company for several years maintained a plank road between those two villages, but discontinued it soon after 1877, at which time the officers were: P. J. Thomas, president; Seth Smith, secretary; J. M. Nichols, treasurer. The highways in the vicinity of Marengo were among the earliest opened in Galen. There are now 105 road districts in the town.

In 1818 mail was brought from Geneva to Marengo on horseback, and in 1820 the mail route was extended to Clyde. About this latter year a line of stages was established, and in 1830, when the first newspaper was printed at Clyde, the business was in full blast under the proprietorship of James M. Watson. He ran a stage between these points thrice weekly each way. In 1833 Mr. Watson sold to William F. Pierce of Clyde, who disposed of the business a few years later to S. Salisbury. In 1841 the latter sold to Adrastus Snedaker, who operated it until 1844, when the route between Rochester and Syracuse through Clyde was discontinued. The travel between Clyde and Geneva necessitated a daily stage, and Mr. Snedaker, who sold a one-half interest to Lewis & Colvin of Geneva, who continued the route until 1854, when stages were abandoned. The mail route was kept up, however, and the business again passed to Mr. Snedaker, who sold it in 1857 to B. Hustin. The latter had several successors. Stage routes are now maintained between Clyde and Junius in Seneca county.

The assessed valuation of real estate in Galen in 1823 was $385,531, and the personal property, $7,499. In 1858 these were $1,381,393, and $367,578, respectively. In 1858 the town had also 24,301 acres of improved land, 2,706 male and 2,475 female inhabitants; 924 dwellings, 995 families, and 490 freeholders. In 1890 its population numbered 4,922, or 539 less than in 1880. In 1893 the assessed valuation of real estate aggregated $1,360,347 (equalized $1,423,940); village and mill property, $949,250 (equalized $988,806); railroads and telegraphs, $836,281; personal property, $173,950. Schedule of taxes, 1893: Contingent fund, $3,388.01; poor fund, $750; special town tax, $2,820; school tax, $3,131.77; county tax, $7,493.12; State tax, $4,129.11; State insane tax, $1,065.23; dog tax, $97.50. Total tax levied, $28,196.01; rate per cent., .00842853. There are five election districts, and in 1893 the town polled 976 votes.

The first town meeting was held at the house of Jonathan Melvin, jr., in April, 1812, and Mr. Melvin was elected the first supervisor. The records covering the years intervening between 1812 and 1862 have been burned and therefore it is impossible to give the names of the other first officers or a list of the successive supervisors. The town officers elected March 4, 1862, were as follows: Albert F. Redfield, supervisor; Jacob T. Van Buskirk, town clerk; Hiram P. Jones, justice of the peace; Charles E. Elliott, assessor; Levi Lundy, commissioner of highways; Ambrose S. Field and Timothy S. Brink, overseers of the poor; James Murphy, collector. Supervisors since then have been: Albert F. Redfield, 1862-63: Porter G. Denison, 1866; Matthew Mackie, 1867; Stephen D. Streeter, 1868; Edward B Wells, 1870-71; Matthew Mackie, 1872; E. W. Gurnee, 1873; E. W. Sherman, 1874-75; Thomas P. Thorn, 1875; Elijah P. Taylor, jr., 1877-78; Adrastus Snedaker, 1879; Albert F. Redfield, 1880-81; M. S. Roe, 1882; George G. Roe, 1883-84; William Gillette, 1885; Ward H. Groesbeck, 1886; Alexander Graham, 1887-88; Milton J. Blodgett, 1889; Charles H. Ford, 1880-91; Edwin Sands, 1892-94. The town officers for 1894 are: Edwin Sands, supervisor; Frank A. Haugh, town clerk; Albert M. Van Buskirk, J. M. Lieck, W. H. Gilbert, justices of the peace; A. H. Gillette, W. A. Groescup, Harvey H. Benning, assessors; William E. Mead, collector; Archibald Barton, highway commissioner; Willard Crawford, overseer of the poor. The town Board of Health was organzed August 15, 1881.

Mention has been made of the hunters, trappers, and smugglers who squatted in the vicinity of what is now the village of Clyde, and who were driven away by the government soon after the Revolutionary War. The squatters made no substantial improvements, and when the actual settlers arrived it is said that not a sign of any former habitation save the ruins of the original block house could be seen.

The first permanent white settler was Laomi Beadle, who located on land which his father, Thomas Beadle, of Junius, owned at Marengo in 1800. He built the first log house in Galen, planted the first orchard, and on the little stream at that point he erected the first saw mill. In 1801 the families of David Godfrey, Nicholas King, and Isaac Mills, consisting of thirty-three persons, settled on lot 70. Dr. James Young, the brother of Mrs. King's mother and a surgeon of the Revolution at Albany, drew military lots 28, 37, 70 and 87, and offered 100 acres to his nephew if he would settle thereon. The three men selected lot 70 in 1800, built two log cabins that fall, returned to their home in Aurelius, and brought their families hither the next spring. October 13, 1801, David Godfrey was accidentally killed, and in February, 1802, his son Isaac was born, these being the first death and birth respectively in town.

These settlers were followed in 1803 by David Creager and J. King, from Maryland. Mr. Creager built a log house in the northwest corner of Galen, which became the oldest of its kind in town. He was a veterinary surgeon and one of the first assessors, an office he held seventeen years; he died here in 1854. Isaac Mills was killed by a falling tree; his son Nathaniel served in the war of 1812, and in 1835 he sold the homestead to John and Manley Hanchett and moved to Ohio.

In 1804 Capt. John Sherman, Elias Austin, Mr. Payne, and Jabez Reynolds came in. Captain Sherman and Mr. Payne, while coming by way of Clyde River, encountered an insurmountable obstacle of logs and brush in a bend of the stream, called "big wood reef." They changed the course of the river, and lessened the distance half a mile, by cutting a channel twelve feet wide across the bend; this was long known as the "old canal." Jabez Reynolds and Polly, daughter of Isaac Mills, were married in 1805, the first marriage in the town.

Among the settlers of 1805 were Asaph Whittlesey, William Foreman, a Mr. Rich, Salem Ford (at Lock Berlin), Isaac Beadle (at Marengo),and Aaron Ford.

In 1810 Abraham Romyen located south of Lock Berlin, and Jonathan Melvin, jr., settled at Clyde. The latter in 1811 erected on the south side of the river a log dwelling, which was known during its existence as the block house. In it was held the first town meeting. Mr. Romyen had settled in Lyons in 1808. He died here in 1839; his son Thomas T. died February 9, 1885.

In 1809 James M. Watson moved from Schoharie county to Junius, Seneca county, whence he came with his family in 1810 to lot 95, near Marengo, and finally became stage proprietor, as before stated. Joseph Watson, his son, was born in 1800, came to Clyde in 1817, married a daughter of Capt. Luther Redfield in 1822, and died March 22, 1881. He was a mason, a merchant, and a farmer. Levi Watson, born in Galen in 1835, died on his father's homestead November 18, 1890.

James W. Humeston, James Dickson, Henry Archer, D. Southwick, Arza Lewis, and E. Dean also settled at or near Clyde about 1810. Soon afterward Edward Wing, Benjamin Shotwell, Nathan Blodgett, and Samuel Stone located near Marengo. Mr. Humeston died in Michigan in May, 1893. Mr. Blodgett engaged in the manufacture of potash.

The war of 1812 checked the tide of immigration, and we find few settlers to notice until 1815. In that year, in March, Simeon Griswold, sr., purchased of Judge Nicholas, of Geneva, 300 acres of wood land on lot 69, and settled his family upon it. Aaron Griswold, his son, was born in Fairfield, N. Y., December 1, 1799, came to Phelps, and thence to Galen with his parents, taught school, and died in February, 1883. In 1822 father and son built and floated on the Clyde River and afterward on the canal the first canal boat (the "Gold Hunter") ever owned in town. In 1826 Aaron Griswold built two other canal boats at Lock Berlin, and for a time was associated in the business with Stephen Ferguson. In 1828 the two contracted to build three sections of a canal on the Juanita River in Pennsylvania, and in 1831 a half mile section on the Camden and Amboy Railroad in New Jersey. In 1831 he started a mercantile business at Lock Berlin with William Ford, who sold his interest in 1832 to Alfred Griswold, a brother of Aaron. In 1836 he came to Clyde, and in 1840 bought the Clyde Hotel. He subsequently engaged in milling, banking, merchandising, and manufacturing. April 30, 1825, Mr. Griswold joined the Lyons lodge of Masons, and was deputy grand master of the State in 1864-65. He was candidate for county clerk in 1855, for member of the State Legislature in 1857, and for member of Congress in 1858. He held several other positions of trust and responsibility.

Sylvester Clarke came to Galen prior to 1820, for on November 5 of that year his son, Sylvester H. Clarke, was born here, and is now the oldest native of the town. The latter is a writer of marked ability, and an authority on local history. He has in his possession the initial number of the first newspaper (the Standard, January 6, 1830), ever published in Clyde. The house in which he lives on the south side of the river, in Clyde, was built by his father for a store; the upper story was occupied by the Masons and by the Presbyterian Church Society.

Among the settlers between 1815 and 1825 were Luther Redfield, Abraham Knapp, William S. Stow (mentioned in the legal chapter), Dr. John Lewis, John Condit, James B. West, Rev. Jabez Spier, Levi and David Tuttle, David Dunn, Harry West, Moses Perkins, Rev. Charles Mosher, Elias R. Cook, Melvin and J. P. Pailey, William Hunt, Samuel M. Welch, Eben Bailey, Lemuel C. Paine, George Burrill, and others. Thomas J. Whiting was born in New York city in 1801, came to Clyde in 1825, and died here February 22, 1881. He was a shoemaker and a merchant.

Henry Van Tassel, who was born in September, 1807, became a farmer and later a merchant in Rose, settled in Clyde in 1864 and engaged in the dry goods business, and died January 7, 1875. David E. Garlic, the son of a captain in the Revolutionary war, came to Galen in 1814, and erected two and one-half miles east of Clyde the first frame house in the town. He died May 6, 1884. Captain Chester Smith, born in 1801, came here about 1860, and died September 9, 1892. Stuckley Ellsworth, who became prominent in State politics, was his neighbor. Isaac Wiley was a pioneer settler at Marengo, where he died in January, 1889. He lived for a time in Clyde and was a justice of the peace two terms. J. Stevens, a blacksmith, and Bryant Hall, a carpenter and hotel keeper, died at Marengo in 1887. Both were early settlers and the former was the inventor of a ditching machine and cider mill.

General William H. Adams, the instigator of the famous Sodus ditch, and a lawyer of eminent ability, occupied while a resident of Galen the old house standing a few yards west of the present residence of Hon. Thomas Robinson; in the cellar he had Henry Robinson (father of Thomas) build four wine vaults of solid masonry. He also owned 600 acres surrounding the place, most of which is now included within the village corporation. Prior to General Adam's occupancy and during the anti-Masonic excitment this old house is said to have been stoned by a mob which had gathered to wreak vengeance upon a number of Masons who had taken refuge therein, and who had prepared it for the occasion by making loop holes through the walls and barricading the doors and windows. General Adams had four sons, one of whom, Alexander D., became captain of Company B, 27th Regiment, in the war of the Rebellion. The property passed from General Adams to Alexander Duncan, his chief financial backer, and in 1872 the homestead was purchased by Mr. Robinson.

Between 1810 and 1815 a number of Quakers settled in the vicinity of Marengo, among them being David Beadle, Steophen T. Watson, Daniel Strang, James Tripp, Henry Donnell, and Mathew Rogers. Cyrus Smith, a member of the Hicksite branch of this denomination, located in Clyde at an early day and finally moved to the farm afterward occupied by Joseph Crawford.

Thomas J. Marsh, born in Massachusetts in 1816, came to Galen with his parents in 1820, and died May 1, 1887. Franklin Humphrey, a native of Phelps, N. Y., born in 1808, moved here with his father's family in 1812, was engaged in the foundry business forty-one years, and died in June, 1877. Horace Barnes and Jacob Y. Brink both died here in November of that year. Matthew Mackie, who was born in England in 1811, removed to Galen with his father, Thomas, in 1818, and died here June 30, 1873; he was a farmer and nurseryman, and supervisor two years. William Aurand, born in Bucks county, Pa., in 1803, came to this town with his parents in 1819, and died in September, 1884. Peter Vanderbilt, a native of Romulus, N. Y., born in 1809, moved to Galen when a lad, and died August 23, 1891; John Vosburgh, who settled here in 1835, died July 30, of the same year. Lendal Putnam Powers, a harnessmaker, was born here November 7, 1828, enlisted in the 9th New York Heavy Artillery, and died in town June 30, 1892. Richard Wood settled in Clyde in 1826; he was a stone mason, groceryman, village constable, and proprietor of the Indian Queen Hotel, which stood near the corner of Glasgow and Columbia streets. Seth Henry Wood, who died January 18, 1886, came to Galen with his father, Israel, in 1830; he was a cabinet maker, and in 1868 established with his brother, Sidney W., the present engine manufactory in Clyde of S. W. Wood & Son.

George R. Mason (died July 2, 1886) and Oliver Stratton (died September 3, 1886) came to Galen in 1824 and 1820 respectively. John M. Blodgett settled with his parents in Marengo in 1818, removed to Clyde in 1827, and died February 23, 1888. George Closs located at Lock Berlin in 1813; his widow died there August 28, 1875.

Among the settlers of the town and village from 1830 to 1850 were: Tobias Forbes, carpenter, died January 13, 1891; Prosper S. Sloan, died in March, 1891; Porter G. Denison, son of George P., owner of the Clyde Hotel in 1850, merchant, supervisor, died in March, 1890; Henry Schindler, died August 22, 1887; James M. Nichols, dry goods merchant with Albert Frisbie, died the same day; Peter Emigh, shoemaker, farmer, died November 26, 1887; Thomas Smith, father of Arthur H., died in December, 1889; George W. Moon, blacksmith, died in November, 1887; Samuel S. Morley, born in England, served as postmaster from 1862 to 1871; John Schindler, died in March, 1874; Jacob Scott, father of Mrs. Delancy Stow, born in 1803, came to Clyde in 1831, hat dealer until 1877, became an Odd Fellow in 1845, died August 8, 1887; Thomas Tipling, crockery dealer with his brother, John, and under the firm names of Tipling & Cockshaw and Tipling & Tuttle, died October 17, 1875; John G. Hood, druggist; George G. De Laney, in business with his brother Amos N., died October 31, 1878; Philip Mark De Zeng, lumber and coal dealer, and predecessor of A. H. Holmes, recruited and became major of Briggs Guards, 67th N. Y. Vols., son of Philip N., died April 19, 1888.

Adam Fisher, the youngest of fifteen children, was born in 1811, learned the shoemaker's and glassblower's trades, came to Clyde in 1833, and died here September 11, 1893. His mother attained the age of 101 and his father 104 years. He conducted a tannery for a time in company with S. Whitman, and later became a boot and shoe dealer.

Continue on to Part 2

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