The History of the Town of Huron
From "Landmarks of Wayne County, New York"
Edited by Hon. George W. Cowles of Clyde, N.Y. 1895
Huron was organized as Port Bay from the northwest corner of the old town of Wolcott on the 25th of February, 1826. The name first chosen remained until March 17, 1834, when the present designation was formally adopted. It contains 21,826 acres, and is bounded on the north by Lake Ontario, on the east by Wolcott and Butler, on the south by Rose, and on the west by Sodus.
The town was originally included within the Williamson's patent of the Pultney estate, which has been detailed in the chapter devoted to Wolcott. It lies east of the center of the northern limits of Wayne county, directly north from Clyde, and has more than fifteen miles of lake and bay coast. Dense forests covered its primitive surface, and long furnished lucrative employment to the numerous saw mills that dotted the several streams. The largest watercourse is Dusenbury or Mudge Creek, which flows from Rose through the west part of Huron and the village of North Huron into East Bay. This bay also receives the waters of another brook a little west. Other streams are Third and Thomas Creeks, which empty into the head of Sodus Bay, and a branch of Wolcott Creek, flowing into Port Bay.
The surface is undulating and inclines toward the lake. In the west, northeast, and southeast parts of the town are large tracts of lowlands originally of a marshy formation, but by systematic drainage these have largely been brought under cultivation. The soil is mainly a sandy and gravelly loam and unusually fertile; in many places it is admixed with considerable clay. East and west through the southern portion of Huron is the famous ridge, which geologists claim formed the shore of Lake Ontario in past ages, and along its summit runs the Wolcott and Port Glasgow road.
The coast formation of the town of Huron is worthy of special mention, for its equal does not exist in Wayne county. Bold and precipitous, and interesting alike to the student and tourist, it is in places extremely picturesque and contributes not a little to the popularity of the Sodus region as a summer resort. The highest elevation is Chimney Bluff, 175 feet above the lake. Bay Bluff is 125 feet high, and several other promontories have nearly an equal eminence. In the northwest corner of the town lies the larger portion of Sodus Bay, which forms one of the finest harbors along the American shores of Lake Ontario, and which is described in the Sodus chapter. This great indentation extends to within one mile of the southern boundary of Huron, and near its head is Le Roy's or Long Island, which contains a summer hotel and four or five cottages. Newark or Little Island, another summer resort, is so named from its proportionate size, and is owned mainly by citizens of Newark village. Eagle or Big Island remains chiefly in its primitive condition. Charles Point is a series of islands and bars extending from the mainland at the lake toward Sodus Point village, its elevations being named Bute, Isley, and Arran. It was formerly called Farr's Island, and contains a number of handsome summer homes.
The first thoroughfare in Huron was the "old Galen road" from the salt works in Savannah to Glasgow, or "Floating Bridge," as it was then sometimes called. It was opened by the Salt Company prior to 1808. The first highway regularly surveyed was that from Sloop Landing (Port Glasgow) to Wolcott village. The surveyor was Osgood Church, who laid out many of the early roads and was resident sub-agent of Williamson's patent. He established this road June 8, 1810, at which time Jacob Shook and Peres Bardwell were commissioners of highways. June 29 of that year Mr. Church surveyed the road from Port Bay to Clyde.
Prior to the construction of the Erie Canal the Huron side of Sodus Bay promised a brilliant future, but the great waterway drew the principal commerce southward and killed whatever prospects the promoters of this region may have entertained. The site of Port Glasgow was intended for a port under the name of Sloop Landing. Here Obadiah Adams, of Wolcott, had a large warehouse and a sailing vessel to transport his produce to Canada. He bought quite a tract of land, laid it out into village lots, and erected several very good buildings. Jarvis Mudge also built a commodious hotel. April 9, 1819, the Sodus Bay Bridge Company was incorporated to construct a bridge "over Great Sodus Bay as or near the route of the Niagara ridge or State roads in the town of Wolcott." Considerable shipping was carried on, as the place formed the outlet for a large extent of adjacent territory. The opening of the Erie Canal was its death-blow, but long afterward immense quantities of lumber were sent thither to distant markets.
April 18, 1837, an act was passed authorizing William Edwards and Harlow Hyde to establish and maintain a ferry over the bay at this point for ten years at the following prices: fifty cents per coach, thirty one cents for two horses and wagon, eighteen cents for one horse and wagon, twelve and one-half cents for man and horse, six cents each for footmen, and ten cents per head for neat cattle.
About 1822 Joseph Fellows and Andrew McNab, agents for the Pultney estate, made an effort to build up the business at Sloop Landing, but without avail. They gave it the name of Port Glasgow in honor of the city of Glasgow in Scotland, and building a warehouse, schooners, etc., they took measures to establish a permanent commerce. In 1827 a preliminary survey for a canal from Clyde to Sodus Bay was made, and the event momentarily aroused declining interests. In 1841 the project was revived with Gen. William H. Adams as the chief promoter, but clashing influence prevented its consummation. In 1850 the Pennsylvania and Sodus Bay Railroad was chartered with Port Glasgow as the northern terminus. Surveys were made and enthusiasm continued with more or less ardor until 1870, when the laudable plan was permanently abandoned. And now the town is practically devoid of either ports or railway, although the R. W. & O. Railroad cuts off its southeast corner. The nearest stations are Wolcott, North Rose, and Alton, all of which have furnished excellent shipping facilities since the completion of the line in 1873. The town is principally an agricultural section and produces annually large crops of fruit, grain, peppermint, etc. The primitive wilderness has passed away, like nearly all of the earlier settlers, whose labors, however, are still extant in the form of broad cultivated fields, attractive homes, substantial schools and churches, and thriving hamlets, embodying all the arts and elements of our best civilization. Their descendants and successors worthily maintain the wide prestige and sterling characteristics so ably implanted amid the privations and hardships of pioneer life.
The first town meeting convened at the tavern of Josiah Upson near South Huron on April 4, 1826. Norman Sheldon presided and the following officers were elected: Supervisor, Norman Sheldon; town clerk; Elisha Benjamin; assessors, Wareham Sheldon, Spencer Chapin, Jedediah Wilder; collector, Ira Smith; overseers of the poor, Simeon Bissell and Josiah Upson; commisioners of highways, Alanson Jones, John C. Frazier, Simeon Bissell; constables, Ira Smith and Benjamin Parker; commissioners of common schools, Arad Talcott, Spencer Chapin, Wareham Sheldon; inspectors of common schools, Ebenezer Jones, Elisha Benjamin, Lemuel Colbath; poundmaster, Stephen Carey.
The town officers for 1894 are: H. Demmon Sheldon, supervisor; E. B. Kellogg, town clerk; Anson S. Wood, George C. Mitchell, Charles B. Kellicutt, and (after January 1, 1895) James W. Seeber, justices of the peace; Darwin Dermond, collector; William Quereau, highway commissioner; A.F. Davenport and Walter W. Darling, overseers of the poor; Frank B. Green, John Carroll, George E. Thomas Clarence F. Davenport, constables; John Proctor, Adonijah Church, Harvey Brundige, excise commissioners; Abram Davis, game constable.
The first settler in this town was Capt. William Helms, (Lot 14)(?), who came from Fauquier county, Va., and located on the present site of Port Glasgow in 1796. He brought with him about seventy slaves, but soon afterward left them and his farm to the management of his brother, Thomas, and removed to Bath, N. Y. Thomas Helms was highly educated, possessed superior abilities, and had been a congressman from Virginia, but becoming dissipated he had lost nearly all of his inheritance. Infatuated with a poor, uncultured young woman named Lydia Mohaz he lived with her as his wife, and after having two children they ran away from Virginia and came to his brother's home in this town. This family and their slaves were the sole inhabitants of Huron until about 1807, by which time two more children had been born to them. Their daughter, Celia, born in 1803, was the first white child born in the town. Other settlers came in, and so emphatically did they express their dissatisfaction at the mode of life as it existed on the Helms homestead that Helms and his woman went through the forms of marriage. He was a brutal fellow, and his slaves were most cruelly treated, but the institution existed until his death. He cleared nearly 100 acres with them and without the aid of teams, rolling the timber together and burning it. The negroes lived on the place and had their own cabins, and obtaining their freedom they scattered to more congenial climes.
In November, 1807, Ezra Knapp purchased a farm three-quarters of a mile east of the Helms homestead, upon which he settled with his family of six children. He came from New Marlboro, Mass., with three horses and two wagons. With him came the families of Jarvis Mudge, Nathaniel Hale, John Hyde, and Adonijah Church, the latter of whom located in Wolcott. Mr. Mudge settled on the creek that took his name and built there one of the first saw mills in town. Abraham Knapp, a married son of Ezra, moved from Pompey, N.Y., the same year and located on a farm adjoining his father. In April, 1808, Mr. Hale's wife died and was buried on his farm; this was the first white death in Huron, and soon afterward he removed to Wolcott. Prior to this several negroes belonging to Helms had died, and in later years some of their skulls and bones were found while excavating.
Early in 1808 and 1809 other settlers arrived, among them Josiah Upson from Connecticut, Mr. Chapin, a Mr. Knox, and the Sheldons. Roger Sheldon and Elizabeth Marsh, his wife, came from Hartford, Conn., in 1809, and settled about two miles east of Port Glasgow. Their family consisted of six sons: Norman, Wareham, George, Grove, Ralsamon, and Ralph, and four daughters. George owned and cleared what is now the Jacob Viele farm. Grove died at sixteen and Ralsamon lived to be nearly 100, dying in Genoa, N.Y. Ralph cleared the Allen Robinson farm and died in Wolcott in 1871. On their way from Hartford the family stopped over night with Judge Johnson in Dutchess county, and Mrs. Johnson gave the children some Virginia pears, the seeds of which were saved and planted near their wilderness home. From them came the famous Sheldon pear, and the original tree is still standing on the homestead. Norman Sheldon was the first supervisor and died in Huron, aged ninety eight.
The first white man to die in the town was Mr. Chapin. About 1809 Elihu Spencer located North Huron. Osgood Church, as previously stated, was the sub-agent for Williamson's patent, which included the whole of Huron, and in his old book of records 117 contracts are
recorded, from June 16, 1808, to October 15, 1813, after which the business was transacted with the land office at Geneva. The contracts falling within our limits are as follows:
* This is known as Negro Point Lot at Port Bay.
The last named lot was the Helms property at Port Glasgow. Martin became a noted hunter and trapper. Prior to 1812 Erastus Wilder, Daniel S. Butrick, Noah Lyman, Luther Wheeler, John Wade, Noah Seymour, Robert M. Palmer, Jason Mudge, and others became settlers, but the war of that period almost checked immigration. On one occasion, when a report gained credence that 1,500 hostile Indians were advancing on the settlements with warlike intentions the people all fled to the interior; Joseph Watson, of Clyde, and others drove with a wagon down to the bay to bring away the only remaining family-- a widow and her children.
Among subsequent comers were Richard Redfield (the first shoemaker), John Holloway (an early blacksmith), Ebenezer Jones, Elisha Benjamin, Jedediah Wilder, Simeon Carey, Spencer Chapin, D. Barker, Ira Smith, Lemuel Colbath, Messrs. Ellis and Westcott, David Bought, Levi Wheeler, James Alexander (for several years highway commissioner), and Rufus D. Sours (who died in February, 1875). Horace Demmon was born in Vermont in 1803, came with his parents to this town in May, 1817, and died April 2, 1891. His father commenced making brick for the "City of Sloop Landing." Dr. Zenas Hyde, a son-in-law of the Ezra Knapp previously mentioned, was the town's first settled physician but he soon removed to Wolcott. A child of his was the second white person born in Huron. John H. Newberry came here in 1827, bought a farm near East Bay, and died October 28, 1878. Daniel Lamb, from Hartford, Conn., settled on what is now the David Lake farm at South Huron prior to 1820, and died here, leaving two sons, William and Lewis. A son of the former is postmaster at Lummisville. Daniel Whipple located where Aaron Sours now lives in 1836.
Prominent among other settlers may be mentioned Charles E. Reed, son of R. E., elected sheriff of Wayne county, and died in office November 17, 1890; Daniel Chase, blind many years, died at North Huron in November, 1872, aged nearly 100; Simon V. W. Stout, born in Lyons in 1807, sheriff in 1840, died at Port Glasgow; Benjamin Parker, who died in 1874; James M. Cosad, who built the first barn with stone basement in town; Major Farr, who purchased and settled on one of the islands of Charles Point and gave it his name; Benjamin Catchpole, living on the Dr. William N. Lummis estate; and many others noticed further on and in Part II. of this work.
In 1814 the first plot was laid out and set apart for burial purposes near South Huron, and Catherine Alexander, who died in 1815, was the first person regularly buried therein. Prior to this, however, several bodies had been removed to it from various localities. The first marriage in town was that of Dr. Gardner Wells to Paulina M. Fuller in 1813; the ceremony being performed at the house of Ezra Knapp. Dr. Wells lived in Junius, Seneca county, and was a surgeon in the War of 1812; he obtained leave of absence to consummate his marriage, after which he rejoined his regiment. Jason Mudge opened the first store a mile and a half northeast from South Huron in 1812. Giles Fitch drove the first stages through the town from Wolcott to Rochester about 1820.
In 1858 the town had 12,221 acres improved land, real estate assessed at $575,999, personal property valued at $31,444; 985 male and 896 female inhabitants, 386 dwellings, 384 families, 315 freeholders, 712 horses, 1,091 oxen and calves, 675 cows, 3,716 sheep, and 1,438 swine. There were produced then 10,357 bushels winter and 113,035 bushels spring wheat, 1,010 tons hay, 15,895 bushels potatoes, 20,36l bushels apples, 59,850 pounds butter, 4,844 pounds cheese, and 1,310 yards domestic cloths.
In 1890 the population numbered 1,793, or 243 less than in 1880. In 1893 the assessed value of land aggregated $768,477 (equalized $716,170); village and mill property, $35,560; railroads and telegraphs, $18,539; personal property, $8,000. Schedule of taxes 1893; Contingent fund, $1,187; town poor, $250; roads and bridges, $500; school tax, $712.03; county tax $1,073.61; State tax $938.78; State insane tax, $242.19; dog tax, $97.50. Total tax levy, $5,827.86; rate per cent., .00701664. The town has two election districts and in 1893 polled 331 votes.
The first school was taught by Paulina M. Fuller (afterward Mrs. Gardner Wells), a stepdaughter of Ezra Knapp, in 1809. Her school house was an old log cabin on the Helms farm formerly occupied by a family of negro slaves. The first regular school building was erected near the Huron post office in 1813, and the first teacher therein was Gardiner Mudge. Minerva Flint, who married Ralph Sheldon, was a very early teacher in the town; she died in 1871. Huron now has eleven school districts with a school house in each, which were taught in 1892-93 by as many teachers and attended by 305 scholars; value of school buildings and sites, $5,245; public money received from the State, $1,296.38; raised by local tax, $1,333.81; assessed valuation of the districts, $817,240.
During the War of the Rebellion the town of Huron contributed a large number of its brave citizens to fill the Union ranks. The part it took in that terrible struggle is detailed in a previous chapter.
North Huron is a small post village near the head of East Bay in the northern part of the town. Elihu Spencer erected here, in 1809, the first grist mill and saw mill in Huron; the former was a brick structure. J. L. Barber built another mill in 1825 which finally passed to Thomas Graham. Other mills have been put up on the same stream (Mudge Creek). The place now contains a store, blacksmith shop, two churches and 75 inhabitants. James Chase succeeded Charles R. Weed as postmaster and died in office July 14,1894.
South Huron (Huron post-office) is a scattered settlement near the center of the town. Josiah Upson settled here at an early date and in 1811 established a tanning business, which he continued till 1818, when he built and kept the first regular tavern in Huron. In 1849 a town hall was erected just south of the Presbytrian church, and a few years since a Grange hall was erected on the opposite side of the road. Besides these the place contains a grocery and a blacksmith shop. The post-mistress is Mrs. S. E. Andrus.
Lummisville, about one mile northwest of South Huron, is another small postal settlement containing a store, repair shop, etc. The post-master is Wilson Lamb, who succeeded Lafayette Legg in the fall of 1881. The office was named from Dr. William N. Lummis, the first postmaster, who kept it where David Green now lives.
Port Glasgow (Resort post-office) has been noticed in previous pages of this chapter. It is chiefly noted as a summer resort and contains two hotels. The post office was established June 1, 1894, with S. G. Stacey as postmaster. Near here Dr. Zenas Hyde is said to have opened in an old log building, about 1810, the first tavern in town. Norman Sheldon about the same time opened another. The place lies at the head of sloop navigation on Sodus Bay and until recent years was a point of some shipping importance.
Bonnicastle is a small but attractive summer resort on Sodus Bay a little more than a mile north from Port Glasgow. It contains a few cottages and accommodations for tourists.
Lake Bluff is a summer resort on the lake shore, west of East Bay and contains two hotels, a store, and a few cottages. The post-office here is continued three months in the year with E. B. Fuller as postmaster.
Rice's Settlement on Mudge Creek in the southeast part of the town, is so named from Decatur Rice, who finally came into the possession of the mill built by Jarvis Mudge in 1811.
The Presbyterian Church of Huron was organized as the First Presbyterian Church of Wolcott by Revs. Charles Mosher and Henry Axtell on July 18, 1813, with these members: Erastus Wilder, Robert M. Palmer, Luther Wheeler, Jonathan Melvin, Sr., Martha Fox, Lucy Wheeler, Damarius Wilson, Ezra Knapp, Elisha Jones, John Wade, Noah Seymour, Roswell Fox, Elisha Plank, Marian Seymour, Johanna Bunce, Elizabeth Olmstead, Margaret Upson, Elizabeth Sheldon, Ruth Plank, Josiah Upson, Amy Hancock, Noah Lyman, and Eunice Wade. The first officers were Ezra Knapp, Noah Lyman, Erastus Wilder, and Josiah Upson, elders; and Erastus Wilder and Ezra Knapp, deacons. The first pastor was Rev. A. M. Butrick. (The first minister of this denomination in Huron was Rev. Francis Pomeroy, who preached the pioneer sermon in the town at the house of Ezra Knapp in April, 1811. Two other ministers prior to 1813 were Revs. Royal Phelps and Daniel S. Butrick). In 1826 the name of this church was made to conform with that of the town by formally adopting the title of the Presbyterian Church of Port Bay, and in 1836 it was again changed, this time as at present, to the Presbyterian Church of Huron. The first and only house of worship was built of wood at South Huron in 1836 and attained its present dimensions by a subsequent addition of twelve feet. The society has about 100 members with Rev. R. A. Ward as pastor.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of North Huron was organized as a class at the school house by Benson Smith in 1817 with seven members. Mr. Smith was an exhorter and the first class leader. The first preacher was Rev. Enos Barnes, and services confined at private dwellings and the Dutch street school house until the present edifice, a frame structure was built at North Huron about 1844, at which time the society was legally organized. It cost $1,200 and was dedicated by Rev. Hiram Mattison. It was repaired in 1865 at an expense of $1,500. The first minister in charge of the new church was Rev. Almon Cawkins, and the first officers were: Trustees, Simeon Slaght, J. Seeber, Stephen Seaman, R. L. Ostrander, Stephen Playford; stewards, Horace Demmon, Simeon Slaght, William G. Brene, John McCarthy, Stephen Playford; class leaders, Horace Demmon, John Hyde, John McCarthy. The Sunday school was first organized in 1832 with Horace Demmon as superintendent. The society has about fifty members under the pastoral care of Rev. P. Martin.
The Methodist Protestant Church of North Huron was organized about 1840, and the same year their present edifice was erected and dedicated. The society has twenty-five members with Rev. R. K. Andrews as Pastor. They also maintain a flourishing Sunday school.
HURON Residents in the book "Landmarks of Wayne County" , including page numbers
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