By Vera Curtis
This History of Marion, Wayne County, State of New York, was written for Colonel William Prescott Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and was read at their regular meeting, at Newark, N.Y., on November 18, 1925. It is on file with the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, at Washington, D.C., and was printed in The Marion Enterprise, November 20, 1925; in The Union-Gazette of the same date; and in The Marion Enterprise - One Hundredth Anniversary Edition, August 27, 1926.
The Record of the Burials in Upper Corners Cemetery was included in the original paper. Nearly eighty-five years have passed since this has been used as burying ground. Most of the stones are crumbling, and in a few years will be unavailable for record.
One of my inspirations for the publication of this record of Marion came from reading "When I Was a Boy," by Rev. Seth Curtis Beach, of Watertown, Mass. This little book tells the story of a boy in Marion one hundred years ago, and gives a very accurate account of pioneer days. This book was printed private in 1924, by his son, Reuel W. Beach, at Cambridge, Mass.
Another inspiration was this letter from Dr. Myron Adams, descendant of one of our pioneers:
Pasadena, Cal., Dec. 4, 1925
Dear Mrs. Mason:
I have just finished reading in your recent issue of The Enterprise a fine and accurate history of the early days of Marion, prepared by Mrs. Vera Curtis, a work well done; and through your paper I wish to express my appreciations. Also I will say that while The Enterprise has been following us over the world with its weekly visits since the first publication, I have never seen a more commendable undertaking than the one referred to. My copy will be put aside for my grandchildren to enjoy. The importance and interest in ancestry has been neglected until recent years. To be well born and well bred is the greatest of good fortune to man.
I have read with great care the history of the first school in Marion, also of the first church in Marion as recorded in the first and subsequent meetings. Those records should be preserved. I think I will be pardoned for saying that I have felt a genuine pride in the fact that my dear old great grandfather, Reuben Adams, was the active founder of both school and church, of both of which I am a humble beneficiary.
The fine account of the doings of one pioneer, David Sherman, interested me greatly as it confirms details that I have heard from his own lips in the year of 1864-64, when I was a lad living in the same house with him. He told me how with his own little ax he cut down the big maple trees that covered the "Caldwell farm", and after which, for no good reason, he moved "over east", and cleared another farm, on which he died. Again here he with his ox team made the original road "toward the lake." I used to sit down by his cot to rest and to hear him tell with his face aglow, and when sitting alone by his side at the close of day, he ceased to breathe, and the giant he was, as pictured in his history, was dead. His grandson and my blood cousin, Jefferson Sherman, was a man, and a character, much like him.
Again I will say, as one of the posterity of those heroic pioneers, that the splended enterprise of The Enterprise, in the publishing of such a history, and the compilation of the same by Mrs. Curtis, awakens my admiration, and I am very sure, it will marvel others, both in these days, and in days to come.
Myron H. Adams
A few additions have been placed in this History, to include important events since 1925. The centralization of the schools, in the township of Marion, in 1932, and the placing of five historical markers in Marion, by the New York State Education Department, in 1934, are two of the appendages.
Marion, N.Y., March 29, 1937
In the obscure background of the history of the Town of Marion, we find the sons of the forest, the Iroquois, ranging in lordly freedom through their wild domains. Next the French claimed the command of the wilderness. At length they gave way to British power. After the Revolution, the treaty of 1783 left it in possession of victorious colonies. But the indistinctness of the original charts involved Massachusetts and New York in a sharp controversy, each state insisting upon its claim of this part of the Western territory. This dispute was submitted for decision to commissioners appointed by the different states, who met at Hartford, Conn., Dec. 16, 1786, and was settled by a compact between the two states in which New York "ceded, granted, released, and confirmed to Massachusetts all the estate, right, title and property which the former had to a large territory west of the Military Tract, comprising the whole part of the country through which the Genesee runs." This land estimated at about two million acres was granted by Massachusetts in 1788 to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham and others for the sum of $1,000,000 and from that time became private property. Phelps and Gorham, the same year, opened a land office in Canandaigua. The town of Marion with its 17,801 acres was a part of this large tract.
Robert Morris, the celebrated financier of the Revolutoin purchased in 1791 a part of the Phelps and Gorham tract. Later Sir William Pultney, a London capitalist, bought a portion of this land which included the nine western towns of Wayne County.
An interesting letter written about this time reads, "The most convenient route for Europeans to come to the Genesee country will be to land at New York; they will with much ease reach Albany by water, and from thence they can either hire wagons or take navigation by canals (the canal of the Inland Navigation Company, built in 1792), or the Mohawk River, to Geneva. Unless the water be in good order, I should certainly prefer the land journey. A wagon, with two oxen and two horses wil go twenty miles per day with a load of 30 cwt."
Immediately, steps were taken toward the sale and settlement of this land. They secured as their agent, Charles Williamson, a Scot who was a captain in the British army at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. He started for this country but did not fight, as he was captured and held prisoner in Boston until the end of the war, when he returned to England. Upon his appointment as agent, Captain Williamson came with his family to the new territory. He wrote back to London, "There is not a road within a hundred miles of the Genesee country that will admit of any sort of conveyance other than on horseback or on a sled when the ground is covered with snow."
In 1791 a road had been built from near Utica, west as far as Geneva, going through Auburn. Cayuga bridge was built in 1800 making that route the one selected for most of the travel. This highway left the territory of Wayne County in a measure isolated and added to the importance of the water way that was followed by many of the pioneers of this town: up the Hudson to Albany; thence to Schenectady by land; up the Mohawk to near Rome; a short portage to Wood Creek; down Oneida Lake to the Oswego River; thence to Seneca River, up the Clyde to Lyons, along Ganargwa Creek.
MARION'S FIRST HIGHWAY
Captain Williamson extended the road from Geneva to Canandaigua following the old Indian trail. In 1793, the road was brought to Palmyra. The first highway through the town of Marion was the old Geneva and Canandaigua road which passed through Palmyra and Marion to the Upper Corners, then taking a northeasterly course passed between the home of C. Roy Curtis and Abram Ressue and ran in a straight line to Wayne Witherden's Corners, then on past the Sidney Lookup farm to East Williamson. This road was built in 1794 by Charles Williamson and was known as the Sodus Road.
The second road was an enlargement of the Indian trail from Canandaigua to Pultneyville. It passed through Marion Upper Corners directly north to Williamson village and on to Pultneyville.
TAKEN FROM SODUS
Before the coming of the first settlers, towns had been laid out. Sodus and Palmyra were organized in 1789. Marion was a part of the town of Sodus for thirteen years. In 1802 Williamson set off from Sodus and Marion was a part of that town for twenty-three years. A law was passed April 18, 1825 to set off our town from Williamson, as the town of Winchester. This was to take effect the first Monday of the following April 1826. The name was changed to Marion April 15, 1826, in honor of General Francis Marion, the famous warrior whose exploits form an interesting chapter in the annals of the American Revolution.
ENDOWED WITH AMBITION
Into this region came during the last decade of the 18th century and the early years of the 19th century, a class of pioneers who were well adapted to the work of founding homes and communities in the wilderness. They were men and women endowed with ambition, firmness of purpose, industrious and frugal.
At the time of the first settlement of this locality the land was covered with a thick forest, principally of hard wood trees such as oak, hickory, beech and maple, with soft woods on the low lands. The cutting away of these forests by the pioneers was a great task but it gave them a source of cash income at a time when there was almost no other.
The forest was filled with wild animals, deer, bears, wolves and many smaller animals. Old records read that one of the first settlers killed thirty deer in one day.
SETTLERS FROM RHODE ISLAND
The first settlers to come to what is now the town of Marion were mainly from Rhode Island. There were a few families from New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The stony farms of New England were too barren to support the grown up family and the son left the land of his fathers, the scenes of his early days, with regret. He did not, as he departed, shake off the dust of the venerated soil from his feet, but on the banks of these distant streams he formed a settlement to perpetuate the home of his childhood.
BEGINNING IN 1795
Henry Lovell, Timothy Smith, and Daniel Powell came early in 1795. Henry Lovell and Timothy Smith took up what is now the west side of Main Street. Lovell's log house was built near the site of the house now occupied by Fred Cattieu. The first birth and the first death in the town of Marion was a child of Henry Lovell's born in 1795. This child lived but a few weeks and was buried under a large maple tree back of his house.
Timothy Smith built the original of the hotel in Marion. He must have been a public spirited man, for the first town meeting of Sodus, held on April 2, 1799, elected him highway commissioner and also school commissioner. In 1800 he was supervisor of the town of Sodus. The town meeting of Sodus in 1801 was held at his home in Marion, as was also the first town meeting of the newly formed town of Williamson, which was held at his home in March, 1803.
Daniel Powell with his wife and eight children came to Palmyra from Massachusetts in 1794 and removed to Marion in 1795. He was a wealthy man for those days. He took up a farm of 126 acres now owned by Arthur Young. He was a man of extraordinary strength and it is said he cleared over 500 acres in the towns of Marion and Williamson.
David Sweezey came to Marion in 1795 with his family from New Jersey, making the trip by boat. He settled a large farm in the southern part of the town. Part of this farm is still in the family, being owned by Lucian Sweezey. The first recorded meeting, April 2, 1799, of the old town of Sodus, which then included what now comprises seven towns, chose David Sweezey as collector and constable. David Sweezey was buried in the old family burying ground which was on the hill back of the school house just north of Lucian Sweezey's land.
Samuel Caldwell came to Marion in 1795 coming from New Jersey by land with a team and wagon, leading a cow behind. He took up the farm still known as the "Caldwell Place," now owned by his great-great-grandson John S. Rich, second. The earliest recorded town meeting of Sodus, April 2, 1799, chose Samuel Caldwell as school commissioner. At the March 6, 1804 meeting of the town of Williamson, he was elected assessor and overseer of the poor. Samuel Caldwell was buried in the family burying ground on the farm, but now rests in the Marion Cemetery.
The year 1796 brought David Sherman, Robert Springer and William B. Cogswell. Robert Springer came to Marion from Rhode Island and made a small clearing. He returned to Rhode Island and the next year brought his family, including five sons to the farm later known for a good many years as the James Shaw farm on Palmyra Road. Later, he moved to the farm, part of which Edward Corteville now owns.
WILLIAM B. COGSWELL
William B. Cogswell, another pioneer from Rhode Island, came that year. He took up the land opposite the Thomas Witherden farm on the Williamson Road. Ontario County records of 1797 state that he was tax collector for the town of Sodus in that year. The tax collected was $233.50, coming from the seven towns of what is now Marion, Williamson, Sodus, Ontario, Walworth, Lyons and Arcadia. In 1804, William B. Cogswell was highway commissioner for the town of Williamson. Mrs. Amanda Hodges, a descendant, owned until recently the farm William B. Cogswell took up later in the town.
David Sherman came in 1790 at the age of seventeen to Palmyra with his brothers. He married Elizabeth Howell in 1796 and settled on a hundred acre farm in Marion, which was a gift of his brother Humphrey Sherman. This he rapidly cleared and when he could find no more forests to conquer, he sold to the first purchaser which was Samuel Caldwell. This farm is still known as the Caldwell Farm. He bought a tangled woodland and made of it the Sherman farm, where his descendants have lived until recently when it was purchased by Joseph De Nearing. His fame as a driver of oxen through the forest or as a teamster in long journeys was wide spread. When the Negus family wanted to come west, David went to Rhode Island on foot and brought the famly to Wayne County. When the Howells wanted to come from New Jersey, he went after them on foot. When the Browns wanted to go to the Mississippi River, he led the way for them, returning by foot. When sixty years old he went to Rhode Island and returned on foot, staying only two nights. When Captain Williamson wished to send a load of goods from Canandaigua to Pultneyville, he selected David Sherman. He took the goods on his sled and came to Marion the first day. From William Cogswell's (Witherden Farm), it was unbroken forest. In four days, without help, he made his own roads and got the load through. His marriage to Elizabeth Howell was the first one in town. In 1799, David Sherman registered his sheep mark in the town of Sodus. His grandson Jefferson Sherman was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1879. He also served as school commissioner in the Second District of Wayne County. David Sherman's great grandson, Orrin Sherman, was sheriff of Wayne County in 1910.
Reuben Adams and his son Reuben came to Marion from Worthington, Mass., in 1798. They settled the farm across from the Stephen Reeves place now owned by Joseph De Witt. At the first recorded town meeting of Sodus, April 2, 1799, he was chosen poor-master. Reuben Adams is buried in the old cemetery at the Upper Corners. The marker on his grave is in find condition. It reads, "Deacon Reuben Adams died March 28, 1825 in his 83rd year." His son Reuben was also buried here in 1850 at the age of 69 years. His great-grandsons, Dr. Reuben Adams and Dr. Myron Adams, were both physicians in Rochester for many years.
TAX ROLL FOR 1799
In the large town of Sodus in 1799, there were only twenty-five families and nine of them were within the present boundaries of the town of Marion. The tax roll for 1799 includes the following names and assessments from what is now Marion.
|William B. Cogswell||196.00|
During the next few years, we find the names of Luke Phelps and Harris Cooley, who came from Massachusetts in 1800. Luke Phelps settled on the farm now owned by Arthur Kenyon. In 1804, he was selected the first supervisor of the town of Williamson. Luke Phelps died on January 16, 1813 at the age of 83. His wife, Prudence, died on March 22, 1816 at the age of 79. Both are buried in the old cemetery at Marion Upper Corners.
Other Pioneers were John Harkness; Zadac Huggins, the singing teacher; Seth Harris; John Case, the preacher; Jesse Harding; David Mason; Zebina Crane; Seth Tucker, the first doctor, whose home was on the site of the present home of Roy Curtis; Judge Marvin Rich, who lived many years at the Upper Corners; Stephen Sanford; William and Thomas Cory, from whom Cory Corners is named; Julius Hutchinson; and Joel Hall, from whom Hall Center is named.
Eliphalet Dean came to Marion about the year 1810 from New Ashford, Mass., with his wife, Synda Mason. He located on the Dean farm, which belongs now to his great-grandson Miles B. Dean, who served the town as supervisor for many years. Eliphalet Dean died on April 20, 1852, at the age of 80, and was buried in the old Upper Corners Cemetery.
Seth Curtis was born in Sharon, Conn., in 1778. He lived for a time in Columbia County, and also in Steuben County, coming to Marion in 1807. He took up one hundred acres of land at $2.50 an acre. About this time he signed a note for $100 and had it to pay. He worked at his trade, carpentry, for one hundred days at one dollar a day, and allowed himself but two hours' sleep in twenty-four, so that he might have time to spend in clearing his farm. He had the ambition to leave behind him $10,000, which he more than realized. He saw service in the War of 1812 at Buffalo, Sackets Harbor and Fort Niagara. The gun which he carried during the war is in the possession of his grandson, Roy Curtis. This gun is a flint lock, which belonged to the English government and was assembled for use during the reign of King George I. Judge Cassius M. Clark of Peabody, Kansas, is a great-grandson of Seth Curtis. Rev. Seth Curtis Beach of Watertown, Mass., was a grandson.
Stephen Sanford came from Tiverton, Rhode Island, soon after the year 1800. He married Lydia, daughter of William Cory, before leaving Tiverton. He purchased 100 acres of land south of Cory Corners in 1805 for $325, and a year later 50 acres adjoining, for $250. They had ten sons and five daughters; all except four lived to be married. The land purchased by Stephen Sanford was divided among his children, who lived in Marion and are buried in Marion Cemetery. The deeds transferring 150 acres from Daniel Powell to Job Booth in 1797, and finally to Stephen Sanford in 1805 and 1806, are carefully preserved by a grandson, Chester Sanford.
Elias Durfee was a leading townsman for many years. He was a member of the Assembly in 1847. He was supervisor first in 1829 and served thirteen years in all, in that office. He built in 1830 the beautiful Durfee home on Buffalo Street. During his lifetime part of the grounds were laid out in a deer park. This place is now the home of Charles Scutt.
Eddy Ridge was settled by Seth, David, and William Eddy. Seth Eddy was a member of the Assembly in 1831 and 1832. He was supervisor in 1826 and 1839. David Eddy was a side-judge at one time. He was supervisor from 1817 to 1820.
David and William Harding came from Rhode Island. The town meeting of Williamson in 1805 elected David assessor and gave him a fee of $4.37 for this work. The oldest marker in the cemetery at Marion Upper Corners is that of his wife, Nabbey, who died September 1, 1806, at the age of 40 years. William Harding died November 10, 1824 and is also buried there. David Harding moved to Indiana and in 1862 his son Stephen Harding was governor of Utah.
Micajah Harding was a leader in civil and religious matters. In 1804, he was assessor and also overseer of the poor for the town of Williamson. He was one of the original members of the Baptist Church in Marion in the same year. He organized a company of sharpshooters, who served in the war of 1812.
Thomas Young came to Marion in 1803. His father, Thomas, was a Revolutionary War soldier from New Jersey. He settled the farm of 123 acres in Marion which for many years was the home of the Young family and is now owned by M.J. Merson. Thomas Young first lived in a log house and in 1817 started to build the beautiful home which is now on this farm. In 1830 he built the main part of the house from lumber out of the woods on the farm. In 1812, his son Nelson Young saw the soldiers go past the farm. He died at the age of 88 years in 1866. His grandson is Conway Young of East Palmyra and his great grandson is Thomas Young of Marion, whose home is on part of the farm of his great-grandfather.
Thomas Clark came early to Marion and was a resident on the Clark farm until his death. This farm is located just north of Marion village and is now owned by Isaac W. Johnson. His grandson, Thomas M. Clark, was sheriff of Wayne County in 1876. Judge Cassius Clark of Peabody, Kansas, is a great-grandson.
Zebina Crane came to Marion in 1810 from Genoa, Cayuga County, to which place he had come from Cranetown, New Jersey. He settled about one-half mile from Marion on the farm which is now owned by Arthur White. He built a log house with bark roof, stone fireplace and used blankets for doors. Here he lived for about two years. He built the first blacksmith shop in town, was a famous shingle maker, and could do a fair job of mason work and carpentry. In the war of 1812, he went to the defense of Pultneyville and served for some time after that in the war. He died in 1823 and is buried at the Upper Corners Cemetery.
Privately printed in Marion, New York, MCMXXVII, The Cosmos Press, Cambridge, Mass.
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