U.S. Centennial Celebration, 1876

Including "Early History of Palmyra"

Source: "A Memorial of the Celebration at Palmyra, N.Y. of the Centennial Fourth of July, 1876, including the Oration of Theodore Bacon, and a Sketch of the Early History of Palmyra," by Rev. Horace Eaton, D.D. Rochester, N.Y.: E.R. Andrews, Book and Job Printer. 1876.


The Town of Palmyra at the Annual Meeting March 7th, 1876, voted to raise by tax, two hundred dollars, to aid "in the proper observance of the coming Fourth day of July in the Village of Palmyra."

Tuesday evening, May 9th, 1876, a citizens meeting was held in Village Hall to consider the subject of a proper celebration upon July 4th, this year of the Centennial Anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence.

The officer of the meeting were MARK C. FINLEY, President, and Col. GEO. McGOWN and OLIVER DURFEE, Secretaries.

At this meeting there was appointed the following

General Committee of Arrangements.

Pliny T. Sexton, Chairman
Henry P. KnowlesJoseph W. Corning
Isaac C. BronsonFrank C. Brown
Geo. HarrisonHenry R. Durfee
Leonard S. PrattWells Tyler

Thursday, May 11th, the Committee of Arrangements met and appointed the following


On Orator and Reader - Charles McLouth, S.B. McIntyre, John W. Corning.

On Finance - Chas. D. Johnson, Geo. Harrison, W.S. Phelps, John F. Strain, Oliver Durfee, Chas. W. Tucker, Jas. Reeves, Peter C. Howell.

On Ordnance - Capt. Henry J. Draime.

On Fire Works - John W. Corning, Alex. Rannie, Chas. B. Bowman.

On Printing - Isaac G. Bronson, Geo. McGown, E.S. Averill.

On Music - Leonard S. Pratt, D.B. Harmon, C.B. Brigham, S.E. Harkness, Andrew Seeley, Caleb Beal.

On Programme - Henry R. Durfee, Joseph W. Corning, Henry P. Knowles, Frank C. Brown, Pliny T. Sexton, Geo. McGown.

On Decoration - Frank C. Brown, Wells Tyler, Isaac F. Taber, Chas. Snedaker.


Orator. Theodore Bacon of Rochester.

Reader of the Declaration of Independence. Rev. C.W. Winchester.

President of the Day. Maj. George W. Cuyler.

Col. Joseph W. Corning - Chief Marshal.
Maj. H.P. Knowles- Ass't Marshal.
Maj. M. Hopkins - Ass't Marshal.

Vice Presidents.

Arcadia - Dr. C.G. Pomeroy, Joel H. Prescott.
Marion - Amasa Hall, Charles Tremaine.
Walworth - Theron G. Yeomans, W.D. Wiley
Macedon - Jere. Thistlethwaite, Lyman Bickford, Wm. P. Nottingham.
Ontario - A.W. Casey, A.J. Bixby
Williamson - John P. Bennett, T. Scott Ledyard
Manchester - John W. Parker, Wm. H. Short
Palmyra - Geo. Harrison, Jas. Reeves, Ornon Archer, H.K. Jerome, Wm. H. Southwick


July the Fourth, 1876, the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence, was observed by the citizens of Palmyra and its vicinity, with becoming spirit and appropriate solemnities.

The opening day was greeted with a Federal salute of thirteen guns by the Artillery, under command of Capt. H.J. Draime, and by the pealing of bells.

Son after eight o'clock, citizens from the neighboring villages and the surrounding country began to arrive, and by half-past nine, the time for the forming of the procession the streets of our village presented a sight that has seldom, if ever, been equalled.

Thousands of people of all ages thronged the main thoroughfare, and every residence and building displayed National Emblems; some being elaborately draped with the "Red, White and Blue."

Punctually at the appointed time the grand procession was formed, under the direction of Col. Joseph W. Corning, Marshal of the Day, and his Aids, Majors H.P. Knowles, and M. Hopkins.

The following, taken from the official programme, was substantially the

Order of the Procession.

1. Palmyra Cornet Band.

2. A detachment from Zenobia Commandery Knights Templar, as escort.

3. Palmyra Lodge 248 F. & A.M.

4. Pierian Lodge 243, I.O.O.F.

5. Palmyra Grange P. of H.

6. President and Vice-Presidents of the Day, Orator, Reader and Clergy, in carriages.

7. Village and Town Officials, Invited Guests, Committee of Arrangements, and Soldiers of 1812.

8. The Sunday Schools of the several Churches, under charge of their Superintendents.

9. Veteran Martial Band.

10. Soldiers of the Late War.

11. Fire Department, with Steamer, Hose Cart and Hook and Ladder Truck.

12. Highlander in Costume, with Bagpipes.

13. Trades and Industries, Printing Press in operation on wheels.

14. Citizens in General, on foot or in carriages.

15. Grand cavalcade, representing Gen. Washington and Staff escorted by Continental Cavalry, all in old time costumes, and composing the largest and most interesting body of mounted men ever witness in this vicinity.

The line of march included several of the principal streets and ended at the Grand Stand on the grounds of the Union School, where admirable arrangements had been made for the carrying out of the following

Order of Exercises.

1. Music by the Palmyra Cornet Band, Andrew Seely, leader.

After which owing to the illness and absence of Major Geo. W. Cuyler, President of the Day, Pliny T. Sexton, Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, called the meeting to order, saying, in substance,

"Friends and Fellow Citizens:- To-day it may be said, that as American citizens, we are all one hundred years old, - an age which is but as a day we trust in this Nation's enjoyment of the fruits of that great struggle whose beginning we are here assembled to commemorate.

"It is not all in the spirit of an idle frolic that we have gathered in attendance upon this Our Country's birthday party; but rather with reverent gratitude to the Great God of Nations for the blessing and protection bestowed on the people of our land, and in opening the formal exercises of this day we will call upon the Rev. John G. Webster to give voice to our hearts in thanksgiving and prayer."

2. The Rev. John G. Webster offered the following


Almighty and eternal God, King of kinds, and Lord of lords, by whose fiat nations exist, continue or decline, we bow before Thee this hour in humble adoration; acknowledging Thee as our Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier and divine Benefactor.

We render to Thee our unfeigned thanksgiving for this goodly Heritage that Thou hast given us, and for all the institutions of moral, social, and intellectual development that abound in it.

We praise Thee for the light of the Gospel, for the blessing of Liberty, for the protection of Law.

We pray Thy blessing upon our nation; and for all in authority over us; for the President of the United States, the Governor of our State; for all Legislators and officers. Give them wisdom to enact wholesome laws, and impartial fidelity in their administration and enforcement, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety may be established among us forever.

Bestow and continue thy blessing upon this whole people. May we all and each perform our manifold duties as responsible to Thee.

Be with us in this day's celebration; may our rejoicings be quickened by patriotism; may our festivities be tempered with moderation; and may we so live and act in Thy sight, in all things all our days, that when we depart hence we may be received into Thy Heavenly Kingdom.

We ask these mercies in Thy name, and through the merits of our dear Redeemer and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in whose perfect form of words we conclude our prayer: Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

3. Music. The Choir and audience sang

Whittier's Centennial Hymn.

Our father's God! from out whose hand
The centuries fall like grains of sand,
We meet to-day, united, free,
And loyal to our land and Thee,
To thank Thee for the era done,
And trust Thee for the opening one.
Here, where of old, by Thy design,
The fathers spake that word of Thine,
Whose echo is the glad refrain
Of rended bolt and falling chain,
To grace our festal time from all
The zones of earth our guests we call.
Be with us while the New World greets
The old world thronging all its streets,
Unveiling all the triumphs won
By art or toil beneath the sun;
And unto common good ordain
This rivalship of band and brain.
Thou who has here in concord furled
The war-flags of a gathered world,
Beneath our western skies fulfil
The Orient's mission of good will;
And, freighted with Love's golden fleece,
Send back the Argonauts of peace.
For art and labor met in truce,
For beauty made the bride of use,
We thank Thee, while withal we crave
The austere virtues, strong to save;
The honor, proof to place or gold;
The manhood, never bought or sold!
Oh! Make thous us, through centuries long,
In peace secure, and justice strong;
Around our gift of freedom draw
The safeguards of the righteous law,
And cast in some diviner mold,
Let the new cycle shame the Old!

4. Reading of the Declaration of Independence, by Rev. C. W. WINCHESTER.

5. Centennial Song; words by JOHN McINTOSH

The spirits of our father throng
The spaces of the West,
Forgetting heav'nly heart and song,
In regions of the blest.
They seek to touch with sacred fire,
The souls that mingle here,
And joining in our Nation's choir,
Salute our hundredth year.
Our bright centennial year hurrah!
Long wave our flag of stars.
With heart and soul this glorious year
We welcome with hurrahs.
Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!
'Mid cannon smoke and flashing swords
They hailed our nation's birth;
With throbbing hearts and burning woods,
To all the sons of earth,
The banner of the free they gave -
Our flag to freemen dear;
And so was ushered by the brave
Our nation's natal year.
Our bright Centennial year, hurrah, &c.
Long may that starry standard glow,
The beacon of the West;
Its stripes a curse to ev'ry foe,
Its stars to freemen blest;
And in the van of progress aye
Be all its folds unfurled,
The fire by night, the cloud by day,
To lead the modern world.
CHORUS- Our bright Centennial year, hurrah, &c.

6. The grand event of the day followed, in the delivery by THEODORE BACON, Esq., of Rochester, of an eloquent oration, which he has kindly permitted the Committee to print and publish in full with this report of the exercises.

7. Music, Yankee Doodle, by the "Veteran Martial Band." This band was composed of men whose devotion to martial music began over half a century ago, and they gave much time and patience in practice, in reviving their old skill, that they might grace, as they did most highly, this centennial occasion.


8. Music. Scotch airs upon Bagpipes, by Prof. PROCTOR, in Highland costume.

9. Music. The entire assembly joined in singing, to the grand old tune "America," the following


Free by they might, O God,
We sound they praise abroad
   In grand acclaim!
Through night and storms and tears,
Through dark and bloody years,
More than all strength that cheers
   Was they great name!

So, ever led by thee,
Right on to liberty
   Our fathers strode!
Their children own thy hand,
And o'er our goodly land
Uncovered, rev'rent stand,
   To worship God!

Free in the vows we speak-
Free in the laws we make-
   Here freedom's seat!
Fair cities rise in might,
Fair fields the eye delight,
Truth free upholds the right-
   O joy complete!

Rise, sons of liberty!
Rise, maids and matrons free!
   Rise, children, rise!
Hail now the hundredth year!
Hail with resounding cheer!
Let all the nations hear
   Freedom's emprise!

Sacred the tears we shed
Over the honored dead
   Of that great time!
Shout we adown the years,
Ye who are freedom's heirs,
Guard ye the ark that bears
   Our hope sublime!

Faith, law, and liberty,
Triumphant trinity,
   By thee we stand!
Long as the rivers run,
Long as endures the sun,
Our flag and country one-
   God keep our land.

10. Benediction, by Rev. H. Eaton, D.D.

At the conclusion of the exercises, the procession reformed and escorted the Orator and officers of the day to the Palmyra Hotel, where the latter dined together in an informal manner, and honored with the company of the entire clergy of the village, including the following reverend gentlemen:

REV. HORACE EATON, D.D., Presbyterian
REV. JOHN G. WEBSTER, Episcopalian
REV. WM. CASEY, Roman Catholic
REV. CHAS. C. SMITH, Baptist

At mid-day, Capt. DRAIME put in a Centennial reminder of one hundred guns, from his battery on Mt. Holmes; and at sun-set a National salute of thirty-eight guns.

In the evening, a fit finale of the memorable day was found in the following

Grand Display of Fireworks.

1. Star of '76 and Union7. Brilliant Cross
2. Fairy Dance8. Medallion of Washington
3. American Flag9. Revolving Globe
4. Chaplet10. Polka
5. Chinese Tree11. Yankee Doodle
6. Scroll Wheel12. Liberty -- 1776-1876 -- and Battery

The above was interspersed with a fine display of floral shells, rockets, mines, batteries, roman candles, &c.

THEODORE BACON, of Rochester.

[Note: Mr. Bacon's oration consists of 13 pages of, as he puts it, "subjects, familiar upon such occasions, for public congratulation," and "the infinite causes that exist for pride, and joy, and common congratulation in being American citizens." The contents of this dry and general patriotic review provide no historical or genealogical information specifically relevant to Wayne County, New York, and could have been read before any audience. Please refer to the original booklet for the full text of Mr. Bacon's lengthy speech.]

Prior to Mr. Bacon's oration:

"The worn-out regimental colors of the 33d New York Volunteers, a regiment which went to the war from Wayne County, were carried in the procession and set up in front of the speaker's stand."



The blossoming of the Century plant, the striking of one hundred by the great clock of time, should open the dullest eye to peer into the future and quicken the most leaden ear to listen to the whispers of the past.

In crossing the first Centennial of the Nation, the words of Elihu, the Buzite, express the common sentiment, "Days should speak and the multitude of years should teach wisdom."

Back of the settlement of the white man, a nebulous haze rests upon the history of Western New York. Then it was the paradise of the Six Nations. Arrow-heads and other memorials of the red man, found in our meadows and along our hillsides, tell of their camping grounds and of openings where maize and tobacco grew under their hand. Once the gleam of their watchfires shimmered across these waters and the smoke of their wigwams curled above the trees. At the close of the Revolution, measures were taken to restrain their hostile attacks and to secure amicable relations with them, and it is grateful to reflect that none of this fertile territory was wrestled from the Indian by violence, but was purchased by what was considered a fair and equitable price. For this favored domain God had a higher destiny than the sleepy romance of savage life. The tomahawk was to give way to the ax,- the thick trees to the standing corn,- the rude wigwam to the neat and comely mansion,- the frail canoe to the well built steamer,- the Indian trail to the four-track railroad,- the snarl of the wolf to the neighing of the iron horse,- in short, the wild life of the forest was to be exchanged for a refined and Christian civilization.

Different currents of emigration mingled in the early settlement of Palmyra. The first pioneers were from Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania. There is a humble stone in the old graveyard in this village, bearing the inscription, JOHN SWIFT. This name is deeply imbedded in the foundations of this community. Many of the "first things" cluster around it.

John Swift was a native of Kent, Connecticut. At fifteen he enlisted a soldier of the Revolution. At the close of that war he joined the colony of Connecticut people who settled the valley of the Wyoming. Swift was active in defending the colony against the Pennamites and the Indians. In firing a fort of the enemy he received a ball through the neck. After the massacre, a remnant of these harassed settlers resolved to seek another home. John Swift and John Jenkins were appointed agents to select and purchase lands for their occupation. John Jenkins, had been employed by Phelps and Gorham as a surveyor and was acquainted with the Genesee country. In 1789 they secured of the aforesaid proprietors a deed of this township, "No. 12, Second range." The next year Swift moved his family into this then unbroken wilderness. Here he struck the first ax - built the first house. It was logs covered with bark and stood on the corner of Main and Canal Streets, where Harry Tiller now has his wheelwright shop. John Swift's wife was the first woman who ventured a residence amid the perils of this new settlement. One evening, while preparing her accustomed meal, three Indians came in and sat around the fire. When they made signs of violence, the heroine of the log cabin seized a red-hot poker and so laid it over their heads that they beat a swift retreat.

John Swift was the first pioneer, the first moderator of the first town meeting, the first supervisor, the first pound master, the first captain. At his house was held the first training. Asa, his son, was the first male child born in Palmyra. John Swift gave lands for the first saw mill, the first grave yard, the first school house and the first church edifice in this village. From 1790 to 1812 the name of John Swift was connected with every enterprise, pecuniary, political or religious. When the war of 1812 broke out, he was commissioned General of the New York Volunteers. In 1814 he led a detachment from Queenstown Heights down the river to Fort George. There he surrounded and captured a picket guard of the enemy of 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'l Swift?" Most unadvisedly he stood forth and said, "I am Gen'l 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 July 12th, 1814, aged fifty-two years and twenty-five days.

After the war, the citizens of Palmyra disinterred his remains and deposited them n the old cemetery in this village. Said a historian of the time," never was the country called to lament the loss of a firmer patriot or braver man." The New York Legislature voted a sword to his eldest son and directed that a full length portrait of Gen'l Swift should be hung up in the City Hall New York.

Another honored name should here be recorded as the first sacrifice of the war of '12 from Palmyra. Major William Howe Cuyler from Greenbush, N.Y., opened the first Law Office in this Village, in 1800. He was esteemed for his energy, public enterprise and generous sympathies. He was the Aid of General 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. Major Cuyler left two sons, George W. and William H. Cuyler,- the former a banker, the latter a merchant. The elder, Maj. George W. Cuyler, was announced President of the Day for the Centennial Celebration on the 4th inst., but was stricken with a fatal disease and died lamented by all, July 20th.

William Jackway, John Hurlburt, Jonathan Willett, Nathan Parshall, Barney Horton, James Galloway and Mrs. Lydia Tiffany were some of the followers of Swift from the Valley of the Wyoming.

Next in order of time is the Rhode Island colony. In November, 1891, Gideon Durfee Jr., Edward Durfee and Isaac Springer arrived from Tiverton Rhode Island. They came in wagons on the military rad to the "Old Castle" at Geneva. From thence without a path they found their way to Palmyra. Early the next spring, Pardon Durfee came driving the cattle belonging to the family. Nearly exhausted with fatigue and hunger, he met his brothers with the cry for food. With tears they were obliged to reply, "we have none." But there was relief in the case. Webb Harwood had gone to Penn Yan, forty miles to the nearest mill and was expected back every hour.

The next August a boat landed near the farm house of Mr. Ira Lakey, 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. To the patriarch, Gideon Durfee, there were born eleven children and ninety-six grand children. Stephen Durfee was the first in town to adopt total abstinence principles. In 1811 he raised his house on good food and coffee without any intoxicating drink. It is said that Swift had failed to fulfil his engagements to Phelps and Gorham. But when the Durfee family arrived he took heart for they brought the hard coin in a leathern 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 Osburn, all from Rhode Island. Osburn married Hannah Durfee. David Wilcox, with his wife and two children, came from the same state April, 1791. Mary, his daughter, after the wife of Alvah Hendee, was born the 20th day of the next June and was the first white child born in the town.

Next, Long Island sent her contribution to the early settlement of Palmyra. With conflicting hopes and fears, a band of emigrants launched away from their sea-girt shore April 4th 1792. Ocean waves bore their humble but trusty bark from Southampton around into New York harbor. The noble Hudson welcomes them to Albany. Here, like the ships of Cleopatra, lifted over the desert, their boat becomes their burden to Schenectady. There is launched anew and pushed up the Mohawk to Rome. From the Mohawk it goes overland to Wood Creek. Through that, it hoists sails on Oneida Lake, feels its way along up to Oswego, Seneca and Clyde Rivers into Mud Creek. After a voyage so peculiar, of five hundred miles in twenty-eight days, this well freighted Argosy comes to anchorage at the mouth of Mill Brook on Mud Creek, near the present residence of Deacon Hiram Foster.

Could we return upon that fine spring morning, it would delight us to witness the play of surprise, the zest and the curiosity, as they appear in the colony just set down in the wilderness. The practical, strong minded men walk forth to observe the strength and depth of the soil and to take in the lay of the land. Their inward thought is 'here is to be our home,- here to be our graves,- here the inheritance we leave to our children.' Elias Reeves, William Hopkins, Joel Foster and Abraham Foster acted as trustees for the colony. Their first purchase of land in East Palmyra was five thousand five hundred acres. The rich inheritance has come down well preserved.

But "the strength of the hills" as well as the strength of the sea mingled in the early society of Palmyra. Cummington is a high, sterile town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. A Scotchman by the name of McIntyre was the first settler. William Cullen Bryant, the first of American poets, has honored this town by the bequest of a public library and by replacing the old house in which he was born by a splendid mansion. This Cummington was one of the head-springs which irrigated the early life of this Palmyra. Lemuel Spear was a soldier of the Revolution and came here in 1790. Abraham, Ebenezer and Dea. Stephen Spear were his sons. Col. John Bradish, the father of Calvin, Charles and Luther the Governor, Doctor Gain Robinson, David White, father of Orrin, James and William White, David Warner, the father of Nahum Warner, Noah and William Porter and Noah Turner were all from Cummungton. The death of David White was the first in the colony. Isaac Kelly, Stephen Phelps, Webb Harwood, Abraham Lapham and Salmon Hathaway were from Adams, Mass., Asa Lilly from Athol, Mass., Enoch Sanders from Warren, Conn., Silas Stoddard from Groton, Conn.

So far as I have been able to gather from faded memories. such are the names, nativity and time of coming of settlers before or about 1800. As a whole they were choice men and women, sifted, flint wheat. If the men from Wyoming led in the discovery, purchase and settlement of this town, the men from Rhode Island were the first to pay for it. If the emigrants from the hills of Hampshire were more ready in pressing education, the Long Island colony bore the palm in staid adherence to the Bible and the Sabbath and were first in erecting the Sanctuary. To their honor it should be recorded that from their arrival, they have not failed in keeping up the pubic worship of God every Sabbath.

Severe were the sacrifices of the early settlers,- their labors Herculean, their principles patriotic and pure. They laid deep and broad the foundations upon which their posterity may build high and strong.

Growth, changes, incidents crowd every year since the first white settlement. Beside the above notice of the early emigrants, it would be interesting to tell of the subsequent incoming of citizens from different States of the Union,- from Dutchess, Columbia and other counties of our own State,- from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and to define what each class has contributed to the common good,- how we are assimilating to each others tastes and increasing in harmony and right living. But time and the limits of this sketch permit but a further glance at some of the more striking contrasts between the early past and the present.

If we turn our eyes back eighty-six years, the felling and firing of trees in the new settlement, present a sharp contrast with the fence and cultivated fields, the shaven lawns as they now appear. To bring to a single acre has taxed the toil of many a strong arm. The first plough was hewn out of a log. Now we have the polished share. Once the farmer and his boys with the sickle in hand went bending to the standing grain. Now the lord of the manor rides in a triumphal chariot,- the harvest bows to him and at his mandate the wheat piles itself for binding. Look at the steam thresher. It will do the work a hundred men used to do with the flail and the fan. Thanks for the change wrought by modern inventions in cultivating these fields.

Trade suggests similar contrasts. Zebulon Williams was the first merchant and had his store where the depot now stands. Joseph Colt was the second. His store was on the corner of Main and Market streets where Royce and Brigham now trade. Swift & Sawyer had their store on the site of the Vinegar factory. George Beckwith began business at the mill now owned by M.B. Riggs. These stores paid twenty-five cents a bushel for wheat, six cents a pound for butter,- asked twenty-five cents a pound for nails. The first carrying trade to and from Albany was by boats through intervening rivers and lakes. Then came the heavy wagons. In 1825 the canal began to bear the burdens of trade, in 1851 the railroad. Col. Stoddard, who was in the employ of Joseph Colt in 1804 and after, assured me that it took him sixty days to go by boat to New York with produce and return with goods. The traveler can now go round the world in the same time.

In Mechanism there has been a like advance. Where are the old cards, spindles, distaffs, looms, clock-reels that struck off the knots- all of the days of the blessed homespun? Swift built the first carding machine, Edward Durfee the first saw mill, on our little brook, just above the steam mill of James Galloway,- Jonah Howell the first grist mill, where now stands Ezra Chapman's saw mill. Swift took a bushel of his first wheat on his shoulder and carried it all the way to Seneca Falls, had it ground and brought back the flour.

Zechariah Blackman was the first blacksmith and had his shop under the great elm in front of Mrs. George Beckwith's, James Smith was the first hatter, David Jackway succeeded him, Joel Foster the first carpenter, Gilbert Rogers the first tanner. Henry Jessup commenced his extensive leather trade in 1800. F.C. Strong was the first printer. He began to publish the Palmyra Register in 1818. Pomeroy Tucker commenced the Wayne Sentinel in 1824. Pliny Sexton was the first silversmith and watchmaker. He left tictics for the tactics of hardware in the firm of Sexton & Butterfield. For thirty years he was associated with Geo. W. Cuyler in the banking business. Now, at the age of eighty, he survives both his former partners.

Education presents contrasts. In the year 1793, the date of the first town meeting and the first church, it was ordered to build two log school houses. The first was on land given by Swift, nearly opposite St. Ann's Church,- the other was the Hopkins school house in East Palmyra. Schools sprung up in other neighborhoods. An Academy was incorporated somewhere about 1816. The building was of brick and stood on the site north of the Catholic Church. The present arrangement of the Classical Union School was adopted and the building completed in 1848. Daboll, Murray, Webster, the English Reader and the ferule have had a racy history in our town.

We trace the name of the town to the early literature of the place. "No. 12, Second Range" was first called Swifttown, then Tolland. These names not pleasing the citizens, somewhere between March and June 1797, a meeting was held to determine the name. Daniel Sawyer, the brother of Mrs. Swift, was then for two reasons in the literary mood. First, he was in love with Miss Dosha Boughton, the first school-mistress; secondly, he was interested in ancient history. Now as ancient Palmyra had a Zenobia, he doubtless thought that his modern Dosha should have a Palmyra. It is not strange that he should urge the name of the ancient City with felicity and success. "Palmyra" was adopted by acclamation.

In regard to the churches, we can detain you but with a word. Their formation, edifices, growth, pastorates would fill a volume.

The Baptist Church was organized in the house of Lemuel Spear in 1800. Their edifice was on the site of the school house opposite the dwelling of James Kent, the elder. Rev. William Jones was the first pastor.

The Methodist Church was formed in 1811. Their first house was on the corner of Johnson and Vienna Streets.

The Episcopal Church was organized in June 1823. Rev. Rufus Murray was the first Rector. The first edifice was consecrated February 1st, 1829. It was built on the spot where the present Church now stands.

The Roman Catholic Church was organized in 1848. Its present edifice was erected in 1862 by the present pastor Rev. William Casey.

The Presbyterian Church was organized 1793. In regard to the place of its organization, there are conflicting statements; one, that is was in the house of John Swift,- another, with perhaps more accuracy, in the first school-house in East Palmyra. Their first edifice was built in East Palmyra in 1807. Their first edifice in the village was built in 1811 on the hill in connection with the old cemetery. It is a pleasant fancy that the gathering in of these churches from their dispersions and planting themselves down so near each other, is emblematical of increase in kindly feeling and co-operation.

In connection with the growth of the churches, I cannot forbear to mention one phase of moral progress. Stephen Durfee used to say, "the first curse that entered Palmyra, was whiskey; it used to ruin many of the early settlers and their sons." The early drinking usages were evil and only evil. Everybody drank. The good people treated their minister as others, only with a little finer sugar and a little smoother liquor. Farmers carried whiskey into their fields, mechanics into the shops. Cider flowed like water. Stephen Durfee started the temperance ball in 1811. Rev. Mr. Stockton entered the war against rum in 1825. Though there is still a clandestine, back-door traffic and man a victim is bitten by the serpent, yet the glistening decanters have come down from the sideboard and the sparkling cup is banished from the funeral, the wedding, New Year's calls and social entertainments.

Joseph Smith, the apostle of the Latter Day Saints, came to Palmyra from Sharon, Vermont, when ten years of age. When fifteen years he began to see visions. On the night of September 21st, 1823, an Angel (?) ordained him to his great work. September 22nd 1827, the Angel placed in his hands the golden plates and the Urim and Thummim by which to translate them. The house where the translation was completed, the old press which struck off the pages are still with us. But if the Mormon Prophet and the Hydesville ghosts did hail from Palmyra, they did not stay here. If we must own the deceivers, the deluded belong elsewhere.

The day we celebrate revives the remembrance of the fact that the nation had its birth and baptism in blood. Search the silent halls of our dead and you will find not a few memorials of the Revolutionary heroes. Still more numerous are the graves of those who fought in the war of 1812. Of the boys in blue, not less than ninety names are engraved on the two tablets of stone in our public hall and still deeper in all our hearts. They offered themselves a free and living sacrifice for the dear old flag. And while we live we will strew their graves with flowers and with loyal affection pledge ourselves to sustain the liberties they died to save.

In the series of eighty-six years since the first settlement of the town, there has been a succession of valuable men in the legal, medical and clerical professions. On these farms, in these stores, shops, homes, a succession of men and women have contributed to make Palmyra what it is. Yet the name and work of each cannot be eliminated. But unpublished history is not lost. Silent, unseen agencies live in their results. If good be done, what matter if it be now unknown? The secret, unseen rivulet is content to nourish the verdure that conceals it from view. In the light of a clearer day, unwritten history will be published, corrected, stereotyped. Present reputation is ephemeral, character is eternal.

This booklet has been typed and reformatted for ease of coding for online presentation. Spellings of names and punctuation are as given in the original historical resource, and will not be changed. The site coordinators have no information whatsoever about individuals, families or events discussed, and appreciate your not emailing us with questions about them. We thank you in advance for directing ALL inquiries to the Office of the County Historian.

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Created: 1/22/04
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