The First Settlement and Early History
From The First Settlement and Early History of Palmyra, Wayne County, N.Y., embracing Incidents and Anecdotes Hitherto Unpublished. A Review of Rev. Eaton's Thanksgiving Sermon, with Notes and Additions, by the "Wayne Democratic Press." Printed at the Office of the Wayne Democratic Press. 1858.
"A Thanksgiving Sermon, delivered at Palmyra, N.Y., Nov. 26, 1857. By Horace Eaton, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Palmyra. Published by request of the Descendants of the First Settlers." Press of A. Strong & Co., Rochester: 1858.
This is a review of the early history of Palmyra in this county, commencing at the primitive settlement of the town by the ancestry of its present inhabitants. It is printed in a duodecimo pamphlet of 26 pages. The Rev. author chose an appropriate theme for his Thanksgiving discourse, addressed as it is to the immediate descendants and successors of the pioneers who have just come to be numbered with a past generation. Few indeed now survive of the adult emigrants, who up to the beginning of the present century, pitched their tents in the then howling wilderness of "Ga-nar-gweh," (the aboriginal name of the tract,) now transformed to the blossoming gardens, the cultivated fields, and the happy "homes" of Palmyra and the adjacent region.
The reminiscences brought out in the discourse before us are rife with interesting incidents, which have been snatched from the fleeting memories of he past, for the contemplation, perhaps emulation, of the present and future generations. As well are marked by the author, "such review are designed to quicken our patriotism and our piety, and give new strength to the roots which bind us to the soil and the principles of our progenitors.
As our paper has a large circulation in Palmyra and the other western towns of this county, we propose to publish liberal extracts from these reminiscences of pioneer life and times, making some additions as we pass along in our review, believing that the subject must possess an especial edification for our readers in that locality, as it might be studied with profit by the public generally.
SIXTY YEARS AGO.
Mr. Eaton alludes to the custom by the early settlers, of taking observations from "Winter Green Hill," of the marks at different points, of the impressions made by civilized man - and observes:
"Sixty years have now passed away, and could the same men stand on the same eminence, how striking would be the contrast! The dark and lofty forest has given way to the waving harvest. Where went up the smoke of the wigwam, now rises the elegant mansion. Instead of the howl of the wolf, are now heard the cheerful sounds of a busy and happy community. Before us are evidence of men and agencies, to whom we may apply the words of inspiration - 'The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them.'
"In the obscure background of history, we find the sons of the forest the Iroquois, the general term applied to the 'Six Nations,' ranging in lordly freedom through their wild domains. Next, the French claimed the command of this wilderness. At length they gave way to British power. After the Revolution, the treaty of 1783 left it in possession of the victorious colonies. But the indistinctness of the original charts involved Massachusetts and New York in a sharp controversy - each STate insisting upon its claim to this part of the western territory. This dispute was submitted for decision to commissioners, appointed by the different States, who met at Hartford, December 16th, 1786, and was settled by a compact between the two States, in which New York 'ceded, granted, released and confirmed to Massachusetts, all estate, right, title, and property, (the right of government, sovereignty and jurisdiction excepted,) which the former had to a large territory west of the Military Tract, comprising the whole part of country through which the Genesee runs, from its source to where it flows into Lake Ontario. The amount of land was estimated at about six million acres. By the Legislature of Massachusetts, this district, in 1788, was granted to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, for the sum of $100,000, and from that time became private property. Phelps and Gorham the same year opened a land office in Canandaigua.
"Besides this 'Massachusetts Reserve,' there was the 'Military Tract.' These constituted the two general divisions of Western New York. The Military Tract was reserved by an act of the New York Legislature, July 25th, 1782, to be distributed among the officers and soldiers of New York State, who served in the Revolution. It was situated directly east of the Massachusetts' Reserve or the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. The western line of the Military Tract was drawn 'from the mouth of As-so-ro-dus Creek, (or Great Sodus Bay, a contraction of the Indian name,) south, along the western shore of Seneca Lake, and east by a line drawn from the most westerly boundary of Oneida or Tuscarora County, on the Oneida Lake, thro' the most westerly inclination of the west bounds of Oneida and Tuscarora territory, south, by a line drawn due east from the southern extremity of Seneca Lake.' The tract included 1,680,000 acres, and embraces the present counties of Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Cortland, the greater part of Tompkins, and a small part of Oswego and Wayne."
WYOMING - CONNECTICUT PIONEERS.
Following this sketch, is a graphic narrative of the first exploration and some of the Indian wars of Wyoming, a beautiful valley of the Susquehanna - a locality having a close connection with the early settlement of Palmyra. The first survey and map of that section were made in 1750, by John Jenkins, of a party of adventurers from Connecticut. This party, as the nucleus of a colony from that State in 1754, bought this valley from the "Six Nations," for the sum of £2,000.- The claim thus obtained was ratified by the authorities of England. In 1762, the colony having increased to some 200 by further emigration from Connecticut, conflicting squatter claims to the lands were set up by certain Pennsylvanians, and open hostilities ensued, resulting finally i the success of the Yankee proprietors. In 1774 the valley was constituted a township named Westmoreland, and included in the county of Litchfield, Con., numbering at that time some nineteen hundred inhabitants. This tract was afterwards ceded to Pennsylvania jurisdiction by the State of Connecticut.
Some of the first families locating in Palmyra came from Litchfield county, including numbers who had quit their lands in the Wyoming on account of controversies about titles, &c. John Jenkins, before named, and Gen. Swift, of whom particular mention is made in the following extract, were among the primitive adventurers to the then wilderness of Palmyra:
"There is a humble stone in the old grave yard of this village, bearing the inscription - John Swift. But few names are more deeply imbedded in the foundations of this community. Many of the 'first things' cluster around it. John Swift was a native of Kent, Litchfield county, Connecticut. When fifteen years of age, he became a soldier in the Revolution, and served seven years till the close of the war. He was one of the Connecticut colony in the valley of Wyoming, and in a bold attempt to fire the Block House of the Pennamites, he was shot through the neck, the ball passing between the spinal column and the esophagus. A like recovery was scarcely ever known in surgery. After the settlement of difficulties, a company of Connecticut people was formed, and John Swift and John Jenkins were appointed agents to select and purchase lands for their occupation. Jenkins had been in the employ of Phelps and Gorham, as surveyor, and was acquainted with this section of the Genesee country. In 1789, they proceeded to Canandaigua and contracted for township No. 12, of the second range, and immediately began the survey of lots along Mud Creek. They built a cabin just under the brow of the hill, in front of the house now owned by Nelson Reeves. While asleep there with their assistants, at two o'clock in the morning, four Indians, attracted by the light, put their guns through the open spaces between the logs, killed one man by the name of Barker, and shot a ball through the nose of another by the name of Church. It is probable this attack of the Indians dampened the zeal of the Pennsylvania immigrants. True it is, the Susquehanna company was given up, and Swift, in order to effect a settlement sufficiently formidable to render it safe, spent the summer of 1790 in forming companies in Massachusetts, Connecticut & Rhode Island.
"In September, 1790, Swift moved his family into this unbroken wilderness. He built the first house on the spot where Mr. Thomas Lakey's shop now stands. It was of logs and covered with bark. His wife was the first woman who ventured a residence in this native wilderness. One evening, when making hasty pudding, three Indians came in and sat around the fire. At length they made signs of violence. At this, the heroine of the log cabin seized a red hot poker, and so laid it over their heads, that they concluded a 'swift' retreat was the better part of valor.
"John Swift was the first pioneer. He was the first moderator of the first town meeting. He was the first supervisor. He was the first pound tender; the first captain. At his house was held the first training. At this house, if we except Canandaigua and Bloomfield, was formed the first church west of Oneida Lake. Asa Swift, his son, was the first white male child born in the town. He gave lands for the first grave yard, the first school house, and the first church in the village.* Indeed, from 1790 to 1812, the name of John Swift is connected with every enterprise, pecuniary, political and religious.
* The first parsonage was built of logs on the site of Nottingham's Hotel. Luther Sanford built the first framed barn. The first two-story framed house was Silas Hart's, now occupied by Daniel Gates. The first blacksmith was Zechariah Blackman, his shop standing on the spot of the tall elm in Col. Beckwith's lot. The first house burnt was Maj. Colt's smoke house. Doct. Azel Ensworth was the first postmaster - also the first tavern-keeper and deacon. [By reason of this latter double office, it was frequently Dr. E.'s good fortune to be the honored host of the clergy, either transient or resident. Sling was the favorite "treat" in those times, which were anterior to temperance societies. In his proverbial politeness, the Dr. was duly observant of the prevailing custom in treating his "minister" guests to sling made of West India rum with loaf sugar; while the "captains," "'squires," and common people, were content with home-made whiskey and maple sugar.]
THE WAR OF 1812.
The author proceeds to notice the early engagement of Gen. Swift, under a brevet commission, in the war with Great Britain declared at this period, and the lamented fate attending his service:
"At the commencement of the war of 1812, he was appointed Brevet General of the New York Volunteers. In 1814, while stationed at Queenston Heights, he led a detachment down the river, some six miles, to Fort George - surrounded and took prisoners a picket guard of the enemy, with some sixty men. Instead of commanding the prisoners to ground their arms and march away from them, he suffered them to retain their muskets. One of the captives inquired, 'Who is Gen. Swift?' Most unadvisedly he stood forth and said, 'I am Gen. Swift.' In an instant the inquisitive prisoner put a ball through his breast. Dr. Alexander McIntyre was by his side when he fell. He was borne to the nearest house, where he died, and was buried July 12th, 1814, aged fifty-two years and twenty-five days. After the war the citizens of Palmyra disinterred his remains and deposited them in the old cemetery (sic) of the village. The New York Legislature, out of respect to his patriotism and bravery, presented a sword to his eldest son, and directed that a full length portrait of Gen. Swift should be hung up in the City Hall, New York.
"And here, though not in the due order of settlement, I deem it proper to mention that another and earlier sacrifice to the war of 1812, was from Palmyra. Major William Howe Cuyler was the first lawyer that opened an office in Palmyra,- and a man still remembered for his public enterprise and generous sympathies. He was the aid of Gen. Hall. On the night of the 8th of October, 1812, he was killed, at Black Rock, by a four pound ball from the British battery at Fort Erie."
In connection with this brief but deserved tribute to the memory of Maj. Cuyler, it is believed some further incidents in the part he took in the early history of Palmyra will be acceptable to the public at this period. He removed to Palmyra in 1804, from Greenbush, after a short reconnoitre at Bath.- Soon after his arrival, he purchased the village lot on which now stands the Methodist Chapel, and built and occupied the house yet remaining next north of the Chapel. This being then a slave State, he brought with him two negro slaves, (Charles and Mahala,) and was the first if not the only slaveholder ever residing in Palmyra. He took a laudable pride in village improvements, and gave a fresh impetus to things in that direction - providing for himself a good garden and a dressed-up door yard - painting his house, planting out shade trees, &c.
FEDERALISTS AND DEMOCRATS.
At the declaration of the war of 1812, Mr. Cuyler was an enthusiastic politician - a "violent federalist," according to the then division of parties - and was very decided in his opposition to the war policy of Madison and to the democratic party generally. He was the Captain of an independent Rifle Company, in Gen. Hall's brigade, and possessed considerable military spirit; and this fact will account in part perhaps for the subsequent episode in his course. So high did partizan (sic) feeling run, he opposed the draft made from the militia in support of the war, in response to the recommendation of Gov. Tompkins, and denounced the same with much impulsiveness. On an occasion when such a draft from Col. Gilbert Howell's regiment, for the western frontier, was proceeding at Palmyra - each third man of the regiment drawn up in line being taken - Capt. Cuyler, in his military costume, and mounted upon his horse, with sword by his side, rode up in front of the regimental column, and with great earnestness announced to all concerned, that "no man could be legally held to his draft,- that the war was unjust and illegal- and that he as a lawyer would defend without fee all who might refuse to stand their draft." Being notified to desist by the commanding officer, he rode off the ground without further interruption, remarking "that he would obey the orders of the commandant."* This incident illustrates the humane sentiments of his nature, as well as the prevailing partizan (sic) rancor of that trying period. It was only a few months after this occasion that Capt. Cuyler changed sides upon the war question, broke with his anti-war friends, accepted the commission as Aid to Gen. Hall, (with Major's rank,) and with a generous enthusiasm united in his country's cause, and died the death of a patriot.
* An anecdote well remembered, will indicate Mr. C.'s peculiar impetuosity of temperament and force of character. He had a passion for "taking the lead" in public matters. A funeral occasion occurred at a busy season with the people. The clergyman of the village, who was to conduct the solemnities, was noted for his moderation and prolixity of discourse. Mr. C. assuming the marshalship, requested him to "make his prayer and sermon brief and to the point." The admonition for brevity not being satisfactorily observed by the preacher, Mr. C. became impatient, and involuntarily rising in his place, interrupted: "You have said enough, Mr. Roe - take hold here, bearers - these people can't afford to lose any more time." And the procession proceeded to the interment.
RHODE ISLAND EMIGRANTS.
Next in the order of time, following the first settlement of the Connecticut emigrants, we find the following notice of the first colony from Rhode Island:
"In November, 1791, Gideon Durfee, Edward Durfee, and Isaac Springer, arrived from Tiverton, R. I. They came in wagons on the Military road to the old castle at Geneva; from thence, without a path, found their way to Palmyra.* Pardon Durfee, husband of Mrs. Ruth Durfee, now living,† came early in the Spring of 1792, - driving the cattle belonging to the colony. Nearly exhausted with fatigue and hunger, he inquired of his brothers if they could bring him some food? With tears they were obliged to reply, 'we have none'; but there was relief in the case, - Webb Harwood had gone to Jerusalem, now Penn Yan, forty miles, to the nearest mill, and was expected back every hour. The next August a boat landed near the farm house owned by Martin Butterfield, bringing Gideon Durfee, the elder, and Job, Stephen, and Ruth Durfee. Lemuel Durfee arrived four years later. Ruth Durfee married Capt. William Wilcox. - This was the first marriage in the town. - Mrs. Wilcox died, at the age of eighty three, the 13th of the present month.
"It is said that Swift had failed to fulfil (sic) his engagements to Phelps and Gorham - but when the Durfee family arrived he 'took heart,' for they brought the hard coin in a leather satchel, sufficient to pay down for sixteen hundred acres of land. This money enabled Swift to secure a warranty deed of the town.
"These pioneers were soon followed by William, James, and Thomas Rogers, Festus and Isaac Goldsmith, Humphrey Sherman, Zebulon Williams and Weaver Osborn (sic; Osgood), all from Rhode Island. Osborn (sic; Osgood) married Hannah Durfee, and resided on the farm now owned by Alex'r. Grant. David Wilcox, from Adams, Mass., came with his wife and two children in April, 1791. Mary, his daughter, afterwards wife of Alvah Hendee, was born the 29th of next June, and was the first white female child born in the town."
* Prior to the date mentioned, (in the fall of 1790,) Gideon and Edward Durfee came on foot upon a tour of discovery to the "Genesee country," halting at the "Quaker settlement" in Farmington, where they commenced a negotiation for land with Isaac Hathaway. But afterwards preferring Swift's township, they bargained with him, and returned to R. I., where they arrived on the 1st of Jan. 1791. Their report was regarded with much favor by their friends, and emigration was at once determined upon. Preparations being made, the colony as above stated, with one hired man, embarked upon their journey with two yoke of oxen and a sled, about the last of Feb. the same year, reaching Palmyra the last of April. They planted that spring two or three acres of corn on the peak of land near the "Howell saw-mill east of the village, which had been cleared of timber and burnt over by the Indians. They also planted apple seeds which they had brought, on the same ground, (the first tame apples planted in the town,) and from these originated the old orchard of the Durfee family, yet remaining on the "homestead," now Mr. Butterfield's farm. Afterwards Pardon Durfee brought from R. I. and planted in the homestead garden, pear and other fruit seeds; and it was from one of these seeds that sprung the "Osband Pear" now propagated in the fruit nurseries as the best of all early summer pears. The seedling tree was given by Mr. Durfee to his brother-in-law Weaver Osband, who brought it into bearing - and hence the name it has taken.
† Died since the delivery of the discourse.
LONG ISLAND COLONY - THEIR ROUTE.
Next follows an account of the first emigration from Long Island. A colony was formed at South Hampton, who in 1790 sent forward Elias Reeves and Joel Foster as their agents to buy land. Gen. Swift having failed to meet the payment for his purchase, Reeves and Foster negotiated with Phelps and Gorham, in order to be sure of a good title. In April, 1792, the Long Island colony embarked at South Hampton, in a sail boat built by Joel and Cyrus Foster. Mr. Eaton thus describes their voyage of near 500 miles:
"They sailed through the Sound to New York, thence to Albany; from Albany they transported their boat by land, 16 miles, to Schenectady - with "setting poles" they pushed the boat up the Mohawk to Rome. - There the boat was taken from the Mohawk and conveyed by land something less than a mile to Wood Creek; thence floating down to Oneida Lake, through the Lake and the outlet, they came to Oswego River; thence into Seneca River - through that to Clyde River - from Clyde River, through Mud Creek to Saw-mill Creek, landing near the present residence of Hiram Foster. The whole voyage occupied twenty eight days. Mrs. Joel Foster brought in her arms her eldest son, Harvey Foster, then an infant of eleven months.
"The way now being open, the same old hive sent out repeated swarms of working bees. The Clarks, Posts, Howells, Jaggers, Culvers, Jessups, and many others, followed. This old boat did good service in going and returning, with other companies, as they arrived from Long Island at Schenectady. It was finally conveyed around to Seneca Lake, and used as a pleasure boat. Truly a noble craft! I would go as far to see that old boat, as the ship in which Dr. Kane penetrated the frozen North."
FROM MASSACHUSETTS AND CONNECTICUT.
In 1790-91, parties of emigrants came from Cummington, Mass. Lemuel Spear, Dr. Gain Robinson, David White, David Warner, Noah and William Porter, Noah Turner, with their families, were some of the earliest emigrants from Cummington. Also Reuben Town, who was the first physician located in Palmyra. Isaac Kelly, Stephen Phelps, Webb Harwood, Abraham Lapham, and Salmon Hathaway, were from Adams, Mass.- Joseph Colt, the first merchant in what is now the village, came from Lyme, Con.- Silas Stoddard was from Groton, and Enoch Sanders from Warren, Con. Asa Lily was from Athol, Mass. These latter emigrants came about the year 1800.
THE FIRST STORE - MUD CREEK NAVIGATION.
On these heads we quote from the pamphlet:
"The first store was a log edifice, on the very spot where the R. R. Depot now stands. Zebulon Williams was the proprietor. That store is described as a place of genuine rural felicity. The Indians encamped around it, spending their time in shooting, wrestling and dancing. The early settlers resorted to the same spot for amusement. Williams was the first to offer cash for wheat - thirty-seven cents a bushel - six cents a pound for butter. 'Money was tight.' Deacon Henry Jessup was largely interested in the leather and shoe trade. Joseph Colt carried on an extensive and honorable business. Col. James Stoddard was employed by him to convey goods from Schenectady up the Mohawk, by Wood Creek, and so to this place, and carry produce back in return, making the out and in passage once in two months.* Mud-Creek was the incorporated thoroughfare of travel and exportation. Judge Rogers cut a sled-road to Lyons to bring up a load of salt. Ebenezer Spear traveled on foot to Schenectady to procure some wine as medicine for Webb Harwood's family. Mrs. Bates, the mother of Mrs. Stephen Spear, to visit her relatives, rode on horseback, carrying a child in her arms, to Boston, Mass.- Such were the difficulties of travel and trade.
"By an act of the Legislature in 1799, Mud Creek was established as a navigable stream. Mills could not be built without locks. At Zebulon Williams' store [as above,] were the head waters of navigation.
* Afterwards, beginning about the year 1803, a line of heavy transportation wagons, drawn by 6 horse teams, was established by Robert and James Hunter, and Robert Teadman, upon the route from Schenectady and Albany to Palmyra and other "Genesee settlements," extending to the village of Batavia and Buffalo - Rochester then having no existence. The site of the now populous city of Rochester was an uninhabited wilderness in 1810 - having not a white settler until 1811. It was first laid out for a village plat in 1812. Monroe county, taken from Ontario and Genesee, was formed in 1821.
NAME OF THE TOWN.
The town or district was first christened Tolland by the pioneer inhabitants, (then in "Tryon" county) - the Indian name of Mud Creek and of the adjacent region, including the site of Palmyra village, being, as before stated, Ganargweh. Afterwards, in 1797, at a general meeting of the people called for the purpose of passing some necessary regulations of self-government, the name of Palmyra was adopted, (then became Ontario county.)* Palmyra was first legally organized as a town by the General Sessions of the new county of Ontario in 1798.
Gen. Swift was the first Supervisor of the town, (Tolland,) in 1796, and the following is the oath of office taken by him, as we find it, with the subjoined comment, in Mr. Eaton's historic sketch:
"I, John Swift, do sincerely promise and swear, that I will in all things, to the best of my knowledge and ability, impartially execute and perform the trust reposed in me as Supervisor of the town of Tolland, and the county of Ontario, and that I will not pass any account or any article thereof, wherewith I shall think the county is not chargeable,- nor will I disallow any account or article thereof wherewith I shall think it is justly chargeable. Signed- JOHN SWIFT."
"The acts of this town-meeting show the strong sense and honest purposes of the early yeomanry. They believed that good fences and well defined regulations make good neighbors. It speaks well for the political wisdom and moderation of the pioneers, that, for eight years, there was not a single law-suit in the town."
Among the first regulations adopted at this first town meeting, was one in regard to fences, providing "that a fence shall not be deemed legal unless it is five feet high- for the first three feet the logs to be no more than four inches from each other"; another, requiring "the owner of any swine that doth damage," to make good the damage "without regard to fence"; another, to "vendue the marks of cattle and sheep to the highest bidder"; and another, for the payment of a "bounty for wolves."It is no disparagement to the moral and religious sentiment of the early settlers, that they carried with them to their new home the Puritan institution of the "Stocks and Whipping-Post," for protection against criminal offences. All good communities may embrace individual exceptions to their general character. In this instance, it is thought, no doubt, that preventive was better than cure. Their theory was but a paraphrase of the Washingtonian maxim, "in peace prepare for war." The institution was built a number of years later than the date last referred to, by authority of Judge Rogers, Supervisor, on the first school lot - Abram Gallup, artificer - and paid for by vote of the next town meeting. There is no record showing that it was ever called into practical requisition, further than as a terror to the evil-disposed.*
* Ontario county was organized in 1790, set off from Montgomery, (the latter called Tryon county until a change of name in 1784) - embracing all central and western New York, including "the Genesee country." Wayne county was organized in 1823.
* More successful in this respect than its 'Lock-Up' successor at the present day.
THE INDIANS - CAUSELESS ALARM.
Up to a period of several years subsequent to the beginning of the present century, roaming bands of Indians, who, by universal consent, claimed the pre-emptive rights of "squatter sovereignty" to the land, continued the custom of taking temporary possession of the forests at their pleasure. They were generally sober, honest and peaceful - the males occupying their time hunting, fishing, and in their traditionary sports - and the squaws and younger Indians making and selling splint baskets, birch brooms, &c. - Bear and deer were among the wild game remaining, in a degree of plenteousness;† also salmon and other now extinct varieties of fish in Mud Creek. An incident is recollected by the writer, which will serve to illustrate something of early times, and also show the progress of half a century. Up to the early autumn of 1803, the ground along the north side of Main street, from the point where now stands Bowman & Walker's hard ware store, east to the residence of Mrs. Rogers, and extending north to the swamp skirting the interval of Mud Creek, was still a forest, embracing some stately oaks and tall whitewoods among its growing timber. - Most of the fires-wood trees and underbrush had been cut out. The fine spring of water now in the cellar of the Bunker-Hill Hotel, then overhung by a craggy thorn-bush,* sent forth its pure waters in a limpid streamlet running over the earth's surface. A number of Indian families had erected their bark wigwams near this spring, in this receding forest, and had so demeaned themselves during a sojourn of several weeks as to allay any serious apprehensions that might at first have been excited by their presence on the part of the scattering white inhabitants. On the day of a log-house raising two or three miles "in the country," the "men folks" (as was the custom) were all in attendance at that occasion - leaving the "village" wholly in the keeping of the women and children. It happened to be a day set by the Indians for one of their peculiar observances. Dressing and painting themselves in a style at once grotesque and frightful to the uninitiated, and armed with their tomahawks and other war-like implements, their movements were mistaken for hostile demonstrations, and a general massacre was supposed to await the affrighted and defenceless remnants of the resident families. Mothers seizing their offspring in their terror, watched from their windows the approaching crisis, ready for attempted flight, with feelings easier imagined than described. Happily, however, the absent husbands and fathers returned during the concluding performances of the savages, at evening, and better understanding their purport, relieved the dreadful suspense of their cherished households. No outrage was offered by these children of the forest - there had been no danger. Their performance was a friendly pastime - a pow-wow or war-dance.
What imparts an interest to this recollection of things as they were, is the comparison presented by the canal, the rail-road, the telegraph, the churches, the schools, the printing-presses, the edifices of industry and domestic peace, the densely-populated streets, the busy hum of commerce and trade, and the monuments of improvement and civilization generally, which now mark the same locality.
† About the same period, a man named Aldrich shot a large she bear under the following circumstances. He was living with his wife in a rude log hut having a (then) fashionable stick and mud chimney, near what for many years past has been called "the Huddle," in Macedon. One moonlight night, he was startled from sleep by a scratching noise upon his bark roof, which naturally excited the suspicion of an Indian burglarious design. Looking up the chimney, he saw the face and eyes of "somebody," apparently contemplating a descent. He quickly seized his loaded rifle, and "let sliver" - when down came old black bruin, with a fatal bullet hole through her head.
* The individual is yet among the villagers, who has not outgrown the juvenile religious impression made by the tender chiding of a pious mother, for taking from a nest in the crutch of this by-gone thorn tree, a helpless young robbin (sic) - a robbery required to be atoned for by the restoration of the little prisoner to its distressed parents.
THE FIRST SCHOOL AND CHURCH.
The first school-house in Palmyra was built in 1793, on what is now Church street in the village. The site was a gift from Gen. Swift, and it includes the old burying ground on the hill. The same year another school house was erected (of logs like the first,) in what is now called East Palmyra. The districts of these schools were of large extent, and without competition. The log house of the village was succeeded in 1801 by a framed one built upon the same site.- Like its predecessor, this building was used for both school and religious purposes - Rev. Mr. Fairbanks, (grand-father of Mrs. F. Bortle,) conducting for a number of years both the school and the church.
The first meeting-house for religious worship and town purposes, was erected on the old burying ground, (opposite the present Roman Catholic Church,) seven or eight years afterwards. It was burnt in 1832.
The early christian ministers, of different denominations, were Rev. Messrs. Condit, Johnson, Lane, Fairbanks, Bell, Roe, Irons, and Townsend.
POLITICAL DIVISION OF THE SCHOOL.
In connection with this first organized school of Palmyra village, it will perhaps present an interesting contrast of early and latter times, to mention a reminiscence remembered by but few of the present inhabitants of the district. Politics ran high about the years 1807-8, under Jefferson's administration - and the "federal" and "democratic" parties became greatly embittered in their divisions. The school was disturbed by these party animosities - even the boys in attendance espousing the quarrel, siding according to parental classification or individual sentiment. The trustee elections, and the teacher appointments, were all influenced by the political divisions, and the "federals" being in the ascendancy of numbers, carried the district exclusively for their own side. It was resented by the democrats, who in consequence procured a severance of the district, and the erection of a "democratic school house," on or near the site of Joel Foster's residence. Dea. Henry Jessup, who built the Foster house, was among the more prominent actors on the democratic side in this political school question. The new school house was completed in 1809, and the first teacher in it was a Mr. Stillwell- who was soon succeeded by (then) Rev. Byram Green, now of Sodus - and he by Ira Selby, Esq. - all democrats, of course. Such an example of partizan (sic) spirit by our good forefathers, might well admonish their sons to patience and forbearance in the evanescent party strifes annually occurring at the present day." [the review of the historical section of Rev. Eaton's address ends here, and the publication concludes with his religious sermon.]
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