The incidents connected with the early history of the town of Sherburne, are resting mainly in the recollection of a few individuals; and if not soon recorded, will be irrecoverably lost.

    The writer of the following pages undertakes the task, without any regard to his fitness or unfitness, for the following reasons: He is a descendant of one of the first settlers, and the longest resident in the town of any individual living; is the only male representative of any of the twenty proprietors, who now own or reside upon any portion of their paternal acres; and there are but eight of their children now living in the town. The remainder, over one hundred in number, are scattered to the four corners of the earth. Many minor incidents are related in this work, which are only worthy of note, as they serve to associate the reader with the trials, difficulties, and hardships, incident to settling and subduing an unbroken forest.

History of Sherburne.


Introductory Remarks.

    From the commencement of the French war, to the close of the Revolutionary war, was a period of constant struggle, in cabinet and field, for our rights, civil and religious. In the midst of these exciting and impressive scenes, the character and principles of the early settlers of the town of Sherburne were developed and moulded. The exigencies of their country, together with uncertainty as to the result of passing events, confined them to those acts and exertions which were most immediately pressing and necessary, until "the god of battles had crowned their arms with success, and the clarion of war had ceased to sound;" when they found themselves free and independent, with the responsibilities of Church and State resting upon their shoulders. They were now under the necessity of entering without delay, into measures to maintain themselves and their families, and lay a foundation for the future well being of their children.

    Accordingly, they resolved to make a settlement in the woods and wilds of the State of New York; there bring up their children to habits of industry, and rear them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

    Two years after peace with Great Britain was established, they removed from Kent, Litchfield county, Connecticut, into the then county of Albany, to lands belonging to Judge Duane, in the town of Duanesburgh. Judge Duane was unwilling to sell to settlers in fee simple. He would consent only to rent his lands for limited periods. This savored too much of servility for them, with their views of freedom and independence, patiently to endure. After seven years bondage under the annual rent system, they determined to remove in one body to the Valley of the Chenango, and settle upon lands then recently purchased by the State of New York of the Oneida Indians, known as the "Governor's Purchase." The treaty by which the celebrated "Twenty Towns" became the property of the State, was made in 1788, by George Clinton, at Fort Schuyler, now Utica.

    The act authorizing the Surveyor General, Simeon DeWitt, to locate and number these towns, was passed February 25, 1789. The lands were advertised for sale in 1791. The sale was to take place at New York city.

    It is recorded that the following incident occurred at the time when the treaty above alluded to was made. After it had been duly ratified, Governor Clinton having seated himself upon a log, one of the chiefs came and took a seat so close to him, that out of courtly respect, he moved along; the chief crowded close again -- the Governor made another move. These movements were repeated, until the Governor, not only found himself off the end of the log, but greatly perplexed, not comprehending the meaning of all this! The chief stoically replied: "Just so white man crowd poor Indian - - keep crowding - - keep crowding - - by and by, crowd him clear off! - - where poor Indian then?"


    Those who first came into the Valley of the Chenango, to examine the country, and select the location of a settlement for themselves and some of their neighbors, were: Deacon Nathaniel Gray, Elisha Gray, Joel Hatch, Newcomb Raymond, and James Raymond. They started on their journey the day these lands were advertised for sale, piloted by Josiah Throop, chief of the engineering corps, who had surveyed the "Twenty Townships" the previous year. Deacon Gray and the Surveyor came on horse-back, the rest on foot, with their packs on their backs.

    From Duanesburgh, they took a circuitous course to the north end of the Otsego Lake, thence down the east side of the lake to Cooperstown, at its southern extremity.

    Here, leaving the abodes of civilization, they take a westerly course, guided by compass and marked trees; now climbing precipitous hills --- now penetrating dark and tangled forests, crossing deep rivers, threading vales, and fording streams. Thus they toiled on their weary way until night overtakes them. Soon their camp-fire sends up a cheerful blaze. They seat themselves around upon thickly spread Hemlock-boughs, fresh cut from the branches hanging over their heads. After partaking of the humble fare furnished by their knapsacks, they wrap themselves in their blankets, and invoking the watchful care of Him whose eye never sleeps, lie down to rest their weary limbs for the night. They rise at dawn, realizing "that the sleep of the laboring man is sweet." Their patriarchal leader mounts his horse, they shoulder their packs, and resume their march, re-enacting each day the toils of the preceding. At length, they find themselves on the bank of the Unandilla river, which they crossed three or four miles below the present site of New Berlin village, and pursued their journey, buoyant with hope and expectations, enlivened by the ever changing panorama passing before them, as they approached the Valley of the Chenango.1 They struck this river, east of where Norwich village now stands, and followed its course ten miles north to the junction of the Handsome Brook, called by the natives To-to. They arrived at 2 P. M., after five days hard traveling, June, 1791.

    While standing upon the bank of this beautiful river, contemplating the scenery around their prospective locality --- scanning the hills that bound the valley --- eyeing the tall and stately Pines --- admiring the extensive groves of Sugar Maples --- and scrutinizing the soil and verdure, they discover that the grass has been recently cropt! While querying whether this has been done by wild or domestic animals, one of their number cries "Hark! I hear a bell!" They listen. "It's a cow-bell! Some family of white people must be near!" Guided by its tinkling sound, they cross the Handsome Brook, when, lo! Amidst the forest trees, a new shanty appears, built of bark, in the form of a tent! Excitement quickening their pace, they were soon at the door, and found a family consisting of five men, one woman, and some small children, who had arrived about three hours before them, from the town of Paris, Oneida county. After mutual congratulations had been exchanged, such as only kindred spirits having the same objects in view, and braving the same toils and danger, could realize; and each others views and wishes obtained, they proposed to examine the south-west, quarter of the ninth township, the next day in company.

    The good woman of the house addressed herself to the entertaining of her guests, with right good will. Her house was soon in order; a place was found for everything, and everything was in its place. One of these pioneers remarked that "She appeared to be as well acquainted with every room in the house, as if she had lived in it a twelve month." With true pioneer hospitality, she prepared the best room in her mansion for their repose through the night. Including the Surveyor, she had six more lodgers to provide for. How she accomplished this, you can conceive better than I can express. Suffice it to say, she had good new bread and beer of her own baking and brewing, upon the table for breakfast, the next morning. Seating themselves around an apology for a table, arranged with primitive splendor, the unexpected good fortune of having these luxuries, together with milk, spread before them, called forth with lively emotion the remark, "We can tell our friends and neighbors at home, that we found the land flowing with milk, if not honey." Tasting the delicious beverage, he exclaimed with a ludicrous scowl, "What's the matter with the milk?" They sip, shake their heads and look at each other in blank amazement. One better initiated into the mystery, laughing, steps out of the door, and soon returns with a leek, saying, "The cow has been eating leeks; taste this and you will not perceive the flavor in your milk." They rose form their repast wiser than when they sat down; and for years after were fain to put their knowledge to practical use. So luxuriant was the grass and herbage, so wonderful its effect upon the cow, that the milkman filled his pail the third time, when he exclaimed, "I wont go out again if the milk rots in her bag." My informant clapped his hand upon my knee, and looking archly in my face, said, "Its not necessary to state how large the pail was." After having finished their examination, and mutually agreeing to purchase in company, they departed, expecting to find this family on their return; but never saw them afterwards.

    Returning home, they take the northern route through the town of Paris. From thence to the Mohawk river; following this stream to the junction of the Schoharie, and thence to Duanesburgh. As they brought a goodly report of the land they had visited, Nathaniel Gray was dispatched to New York city, empowered to negotitate for the same. On inquiring he found that the State had sold to Wm. S. Smith six townships, including the land he was in quest of. The patent granted to Wm. S. Smith, was dated April 16, 1794, and recorded in the office of the Secretary of State.

    In disappointment he returned home. Unwilling however to abandon the enterprise, they resolved to make one more effort. Accordingly, Mr. Gray made another journey to New York. On presenting his second proposition, he had the mortification to be again rejected. As he was about to return, Mr. Smith offered him the quarter in question, at one dollar twenty-five cents per acre; proposing to execute a contract for a deed, upon certain conditions, to run seven years, which, if approved of by his associates, they might retain, if not, return it and he would charge nothing.

    This contract was given to Nathaniel Gray, Timothy Hatch, Joel Hatch, Newcomb Raymond, Josiah Lathrop, James Raymond, John Gray, jr., Abraham Raymond, Elish Gray, Cornelius Clark, and Eleazer Lathrop.

    It was accepted, none of them being able to pay down for their lands. The land selected by this company was the southwest quarter of the ninth township,2 one of the twenty towns purchased of the Oneida Indians, in 1788.

    The grantor of the deed to the eleven proprietors, was Benjamin Walker, its date 1796.


    Abraham Raymond and family, were the first to move on and take possession of their new home. They started in the winter of 1792, and came as far as Norwich, (where a few families had located about two years previous, and were the nearest neighbors to their intended settlement,) and tarried there until spring, when they were joined by their associates, (their number having in the mean time increased from eleven to twenty,) who came on for the purpose of commencing improvements, and preparing for the reception of their families, the next year. Their names were, Nathaniel Gray, Joel Northrup, Joel Hatch, John Lathrop, Elisha Gray, John Gray, John Hebbard, Eleazer Lathrop, Ezra Lathrop, Cornelius Clark, Timothy Hatch, Abraham Raymond, Newcomb Raymond, James Raymond, Josiah Lathrop, Elijah Gray, Elijah Foster, John Gray, jr.,3 Amos Cole, David Perry.

    A party of them arrived late one afternoon, and put up for the night on the west side of the Chenango river, opposite where Norwich village now stands. In a wigwam, on the east side of the river, owned and occupied by a family of Oneida Indians, a few Tuscaroras, (after having drank more "fire-water" than was meet,) were reposing for the night. One of these began to stab with a knife the squaw of another Indian. The cry of "David! David! He kill your squaw!" awoke her sleeping lord, who, seeing the condition of his squaw, and him who had done the deed, struggling with a sober Indian, who sought to control him, seized a tomahawk and sank it into his head. Abraham Raymond and Joel Hatch visited the wigwam the next morning, with many painful misgivings as to what might be in store for them and their families, in the future. They found the wounded man lying upon the ground, nearly naked, with a "lump of brain as large as a butternut, oozing out of the wound." He lived in this condition two or three days. Mrs. Raymond assisted in dressing the wounds, and administering to the necessities of the squaw, who, in a few days, was able to sail down the river in a canoe.

    A runner carried the news of this tragedy to the chief of the Oneidas, who, with his head men and councillors, soon arrived, and proceeded to examine the case according to their own laws and customs. He inquired very particularly into the general conduct of David toward the white people. Whether he was saucy and quarrelsome, whether he injured their cattle, &c. The witnesses all gave him a good character for peace and quietness. The chief, after due consultation with his head men, thus decided: "If Indian go kill my squaw, I kill him, so David he clear."

    Mr. Raymond and one of his associates went forward and erected a hut, for the accommodation of the whole company, for the ensuing season. This mansion, form which no one was turned away for want of room, was built in one day, and covered with bark and brush. It stood about forty rods below the junction of the Handsome Brook with the river. Lift up your eyes and survey the land, as when the fathers first beheld it! When trees of primeval growth, in towering grandeur, pierced the skies, carrying the mind back, almost coeval with the time when the morning stars sang together. What object in view has yonder solitary woodsman, with ax upon his shoulder, slowing wandering amid the giants of the forest, whose interlocking branches have for ages hid mother earth from the genial rays of the sun? Behold, with slow and measured step he moves along --- now halting upon the bank of this gurgling rill --- now pausing to examine this cool bubbling spring. He seats himself upon a moss-covered mound, his manly brow exhibiting the intense workings of his mind: "Yes, here will I build my house, set up my altar, and enjoy life with her who is the sunshine of my soul, the centre of all my earthly joys. I have a part to act in the great drama of the world, a duty to perform to God and his Church, to my family and country. Providence having led my footsteps hither, I ought not, I cannot go back." He rises to his feet, runs his eye up the trunk of a stately tree, lays off his coat, seizes his ax, strikes! It is the first blow, and the first echo from the woodman's ax ever heard in this region, since time began. Blow succeeds blow, and echo answers echo, until it totters to its fall. Instinctively raising his eye through the opening, the glorious orb of day salutes his gaze, apparently delighting to linger in his diurnal course to warm and vivify the earth, and cheer the laborer onward. Hark! what is that which comes swelling upon the breeze? He listens, lost in a pleasing reverie; a crash, succeeded by a heavy rolling sound, assures him that a brother pioneer has felled his first tree. Day after day witnesses to their patient, persevering toil.

    The echo form lot to lot gives to each pleasing assurance, that he is not doomed to struggle alone --- that kindred spirits have counted the cost and made the firm resolve, cheered by anticipations of the future when they may, around their own firesides, by the blessing of God, enjoy, amid the conveniences and comforts of civilized life, the sweets of domestic and social intercourse.

    During the summer and autumn of 1792, the southwest quarter was re-surveyed and divided into twenty equal parts, by Cornelius Clark, in such manner that each might obtain an equal share of river and upland, and assigned by lot to the several proprietors.4

    Such was their desire to live in peace and harmony with all men, especially with each other, that in order to remove, as far as possible, from their midst, every danger of disagreement, they mutually agreed to abide the metes and bounds established by their surveyor. They did abide them to the letter. I never knew any disagreement among them, on account of the bounds or quantity of land in their respective lots. This year they built their first saw-mill, cleared some land, erected a few log-houses, opened a road from the settlement now known as the Quarter, east to the Unadilla river, ten miles.

    The saw-mill was located in the gulf, on the stream, east of Sherburne village, about half a mile below the falls, known as the Sulphur Springs. Finding some necessary irons lacking, they dispatched Joel Hatch, on horse-back, to Clinton, (the nearest black-smith's,) to obtain them. Following Indian paths, after three days absence, he returned with them. The cost of the irons at the shop was trifling.

    It was at this mill that the first sermon ever preached in town, and probably in the valley, was delivered in 1792, by the Rev. Blackleach Burritt.5 His text, Isaiah xxxv. 1: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." The emigrants, in the midst of their high hopes of future prosperity, were disheartened by the appearance of a hard frost, on the morning of the 1st of September, succeeded by a premature snow, the effect of which was so severe on vegetation, that the trees of the forest were as effectually denuded of their foliage, by the 15th of September, as is usual by the middle of October.

    As they looked upon each other, almost in despair, they would inquire, Is this a cold, frosty country? Is the climate unpropitious? Will our undertaking prove a failure? The only answer that could be given was, our all is at stake --- we have purchased, and must abide the issue, whether for better or for worse.

    After sixty years residence in town, some of them remarked, that they had never since seen frost or snow equally severe, as early in the season. With these gloomy forebodings they returned to their families, except Abraham Raymond, who having his with him, tarried upon the spot, residing part of the winter with the settlers in Norwich.

    During the winter and spring of 1793, most of them, with their families, came on and took possession of their land of promise. Some of the company employed Indians to convey their baggage up the river, in their canoes, at about twenty-five cents per hundred. Afterwards, in their intercourse between the two settlements, the less timid mothers, with their children, would trust themselves to the skill of these primitive navigators, as preferable to traveling by cart and oxen through the almost pathless woods; and they never had cause to complain of their want of gallantry or honesty. Two sons of Cornelius Clark, Job and John, started on foot, in advance of their father and family. While on their way, they purchased a bag of flour, and carried it some sixty or seventy miles, upon their shoulders, together with necessary utensils for camping in the woods and clearing land. They built a hut three-fourths of a mile from any of the other settlers, and commenced pioneer life, cheered by the friendly interest in their welfare, manifested by their neighbors. With energy and ambition, these young men plied their task. The tangled pile of prostrate trees, testified that they were not idle. On a certain night, one of them, being left alone, was suddenly aroused from the enjoyment of "nature's sweet restorer," by his ever watchful dog springing upon his bed, uttering a low growl. Peering through the darkness, he discovered in the dim light of the aperture, which served for a door, the head of some wild animal, evidently determined unceremoniously to scrape his acquaintance! Not being disposed, unarmed and alone, to entertain such company, he seized a log-chain, which providentially hung within reach, and hurled it violently at the head of the unwelcome intruder, causing him to beat a retreat, clamorously pursued by the faithful dog. The terrific yells which succeeded, gave unmistakable evidence to the panic-stricken listener, that deadly combat was raging! At length, the uproar without gradually subsiding, evinced that the battle was drawing to a close --- leaving him to no enviable reflections upon his unprotected condition, impatiently awaiting the dawn of day. The fate of his dog hung in suspense until late the next afternoon, when he was discovered slowly advancing towards the cabin, so seriously injured that he died in two or three days.

    After securing a shelter, barely sufficient to protect their families from inclement storms, the great desideratum was to raise the requisite supply of provisions for the ensuing year. In order to do this, it would first be necessary to clear their lands, which would call for all their energy to have it done in time to insure a crop.

    The scarcity of seed among them at this time, especially of the coarser kinds, was no small item in their perplexities, as the following incident will disclose: They had no potatoes, and none could be obtained nearer than Otsego county. John Lathrop, with cart and oxen, started to obtain a supply. After the usual events incident to traveling in a new country --- plunging down steep banks, and fording unbridged streams --- he finds himself across the Unadilla river, where he was enabled to obtain about twenty bushels of potatoes, of a farmer, by the name of Dickey, who, some thirty or forty years after, became a citizen of the town. Mr. Lathrop, on his return was struggling to ascend the west bank of the river, with his load, to accomplish which, required all the energy of himself and strength of his team. When near the top, up tipped his cart-body! --- out slid the hind board --- down rolled the potatoes into the mud and water below, with a speed that contrasted finely (though not agreeably) with that of their ascent. To remedy this mishap, there was no alternative but to gather them into a basket, and carry them upon his shoulders several rods up a steep, wet, and slippery bank, requiring some twenty or more journeys, up and down, to accomplish. In relating this incident, he said, "When I had to rush into the river to prevent some of them from floating down the stream, to dig others out of the mud, and wipe them on the grass or my old frock, and lug them on my back up the hill, I thought my troubles were great." On the half-century anniversary of the settlement, those who remained, had a social gathering, at the house of Timothy Hatch, to celebrate the day. Deacon Dickey introduced himself among them, remarking, "Although I was not one of the early settlers, I think myself entitled to a seat among you, for supplying the first seed potatoes planted in the town." This little reminiscence inaugurated him into their fraternity with right good will.


    Their houses were constructed of round logs, laid upon the top of each other, and so notched at the ends, as to lie as close as possible---the joints between being filled with small sticks, and plastered over with clay mortar. Its covering was often of bark, sometimes temporarily of brush. Openings were made for doors and windows, a part of the logs cut away at one end, and a few stones piled up for a back to the fire place, the bare earth for a hearth and floor---a hole cut through the roof for the escape of the smoke---as large a log as could be conveniently managed, four or ten feet long, rolled into the fire-place, with a forestick to correspond, raised upon wooden "fire dogs;" and then the good wife and mother was prepared to commence the duties of her station. The inspiring influence of the hope and belief that they shall see better days, banishes every murmur, and sheds around her a halo of joy and cheerfulness. The kettle adjusted on the top of the burning wood, the pork and potatoes put therein, soon all are delightfully foaming and boiling. The long-handled frying-pan, or the short-handled spider is on the coals before the fire, containing the Indian meal, moulded and prepared for baking into bread. Some unexpected movement of the burning wood, causes the kettle to upset, precipitating its contents into the fire! The ashes and cinders raised into a cloud, unmercifully pepper the half baked bread. This mishap adjusted as well as circumstances allow, the frugal meal is arranged in due order, on the top of a large chest or some rough board, supported at each end on boxes or old barrels. The conch-shell echoing through the woods, summons the husband and father from his fallow ground, (which had been recently burnt over,) begrimed and blackened with soot and smoke, as thoroughly as the good house-wife's bread and pork. The accident explained, they instinctively glance at their child, express their joy and thankfulness that it was no worse, and sit down to their simple repast, with gratitude and cheerfulness.

    Gradually, as their circumstances allow, improvements are made. The blanket which has served as an apology for a door, gives place to one made of boards; it may be smoothed with the plane, or in its rough state; hung on wooden hinges of rude construction, with wooden latch and handle. A string connected with the latch, runs through the door and hangs on the outside.

    For want of glass, they substitute oiled paper. For a floor, some suitable tree is cut, rent in twain with the beetle and wedge, leveled with the hewing ax, and may or may not be, slightly smoothed with the plane; and then laid across a few poles adjusted upon the ground, leaving a suitable space for the hearth and fire-place.

    Let all who reside in the house, or who may enter it, take good care of their pocket knives, or other small articles of value, lest they find their way through the crevices of the floor, and disappear from sight.

    Let the gallant, who in self-complacency poises one leg upon his knee and rocks back in his seat, (strapping his new jack-knife upon his boot,) look well to his position, lest the legs of his chair explore the vicinity of a crack, seek a resting place below, and come out minus half their number, himself sprawling upon the floor, rubbing his elbows and scratching his head.

    This room constituted kitchen, nursery, parlor, and to a certain extent, lumber room. The bed snugly adjusted in one corner, on some rude structure---was surrounded and adorned with sheets or blankets for curtains.

    The pantry consisted of wide boards, one above another, resting on long pins driven into the logs. These shelves were adorned with pewter plates, from six inches to two feet in diameter, arranged in rows set up on edge, with cups, mugs, and basins, all polished to such a degree that your own image would be distinctly reflected from their surfaces. Pewter constituted mainly their table furniture, even to their spoons, whether for table or tea. At that day, there was but one set of silver spoons in the town. The tradition is, that Cornelius Clark had a pair of silver shoe-buckles, sent him from a relative in England, and that he had them melted down and wrought into tea-spoons, which are now in the possession of some of his grand-children. When they were able to obtain boards, the roofs of their houses were more substantially covered, and some laid loosely over head for a chamber floor, for lodging room for their children, visitors and strangers, which was reached by climbing a ladder. All lodgers therein might reasonably expect, that by some unpropitious movement of the wind, a volumn of smoke would be rolled through the apartment of sufficient density to silence the buzz, and prevent the sting of the musquito, leaving them to dry their tears the best they could.

    A shelf would generally be suspended from the beams over head, about one foot below the chamber floor, which served as a depository for almost every article not wanted for immediate use. A social party was seated one afternoon around the table of Joel Hatch. The tea having been poured out and distributed, the mistress of the house remarked, "Mr. Hatch, perhaps some of our friends would like some sugar in their tea, wont you hand it down? Its over where Mr. Gilmore sits." Mr. Gilmore rising, took it from the shelf, and commenced knocking off fragments with his knife. After repeated blows, he exclaimed, "I declare! This is the hardest cake of sugar I ever saw, it makes my knife strike fire!" and laying it down, began drinking his tea. Mr. Hatch took up the fragment to sweeten his tea. After striking one or two blows, he stopped, saying, "Well might Mr. Gilmore call this hard sugar! It's a piece of a grindstone!" Mr. Gilmore replied, he had not discovered but his tea was very well sweetened.

    A broom made of hemlock-boughs, or small twigs of beech, would give unmistakable evidence of having been frequently called upon to keep things neat and tidy, around the mansion.

    For that necessary article, a cradle, owing to the scarcity of mechanics, a sap-trough, for a brief space, would be substituted, and the "little darling" rocked to quietness and sleep, under the musical tones of "lullaby," with as much promptness and success, as ever attended its more aristocratic name-sake.

    Instead of the piano, their music would be the buzz and hum of the spinning wheel---the echo of the woodman's ax---and the crash of falling trees.

    There was a great equality among them. All were in debt for their lands, for the payment of which, together with the supply of their daily recurring wants, they were dependent entirely on the products of their partially subdued farms, and were obliged to practice in their domestic arrangements, the most rigid economy. Their dress was of the plainest kind, in the manufacture of which, every pound of flax, from the hatchel to the distaff, every fleece of wool, from the cards and spindle to the loom, must pass through the manipulations of the good matron's or her budding daughter's hands. Their own ingenuity and skill must be exercised in dying every article of their wardrobe, the materials for which could only be obtained from the forest around them, such as the Butternut, Soft-Maple, Witch-hazel, Sumac, &c.; or from the more aristocratic Indigo tub, which, as a matter of course must stand as an ornament by the side of every fire-place, especially in cold weather. If its odor is offensive, you have only to remove to a more respectful distance, and no offence will be given or taken. The mothers, all honor to their names, whether prepared for company, or dressed for church, would be clad in checked linen garments, every thread of which had passed through their busy fingers. The plaids with their blending shades and arrangements, were matters of their own fancy and taste. After being fitted and prepared according to their knowledge of the mantua-maker's arts, and having been subjected to the polish of the smoothing iron, this dress would bestow upon its wearer as much dignity and gracefulness, as can be found within the folds of silk or satin at the present day.

    The fleece of wool of "nature's darkest dye," taken from the "good old black sheep," and sparsely mixed with that of the white, would, through the doating mother's energy and skill, clothe her sons in garments, which to her fond view, would not disgrace them in the eyes of some lovely damsel, if it did not recommend them to their good graces and affections.

    In the supply of their tables, they confined themselves from necessity, to such kinds of food as afforded the most nutriment, with the least labor and expense; prominent among which were beans and Indian corn. The morning and evening repast, generally consisted of "hasty pudding," eaten in milk, or, in its more primitive form, spread over with maple molasses, the sight of which, when being prepared by the ever indulgent mother, would cause a noisy scramble among the little urchins, reminding us of the acme of three boys, while enjoying with great gusto such a meal, "I wish we were three kings, then we would have clean ruffled shirts to wear, a new coal-cart to ride in, and eat puddin' and 'lasses forever." Bean porridge, flavored by being boiled with salt beef or pork, was no uncommon article of food upon their tables. Their bread in its simplest form was "Johnny cake," baked in a spider, or on a board set up on edge before the open fire-place; or the loaf of Indian bread, compounded with pumpkins, to make it moist and sweet, baked in a wrapper of cabbage leaves, under a bed of burning coals, which could not fail to gratify the most delicate palate. Gradually, as their clearings increased, wheat became their more common bread, but of such a quality as would at the present day be condemned as unfit for use, in consequence of the mixture of cockle, chess, smut, and other impurities, which grew in their fields in rank luxuriance around remaining logs and stumps.

    Their only contrivance for cleaning grain was a hand fan, made of willow wicker-work, in using which, by a peculiar toss, aided by a dexterous movement of the knee against the underside, the grain received an upward impulse, when a portion of the chaff would be blown away. After this process had been repeated a number of times, it was passed through a coarse sieve or riddle, and then elevated high in the air, and poured in a gentle stream through a current of wind upon the threshing floor. This, though slow, tedious, and imperfect, was the best means they had, until mills for cleaning grain were introduced.

    Swine, which were easily fattened by the aid of acorns, beech-nuts and other "shack," constituted their standard meat. When cooked in any of its multifarious forms, it was customary for the master of the house to cut it into small pieces, and place it in the centre of the table, after which, each, fork in hand, would help himself, mouthful by mouthful. It would have been thought as selfish and vulgar at that day, to take a slice of meat upon your own plate, as it is at this, to be repeatedly helping yourself from the dish. This was the custom of the people, and sanctioned by the times.

    When the fatted calf was killed, or lamb slain, they would distribute portions to their near neighbors, who, in due time, returned the compliment without reference to the balance. They would mutually arrange the time when each should kill, so that they might, at suitable intervals, be accommodated with a piece of "fresh." Trout abounded in the small streams, and with venison occasionally, and other trophies of the huntsman, formed no undesirable portion of their animal food. The tin milk-pan, or the wooden bowl, would adorn one end of the table, well filled with ample sized dough-nuts, which, in modern times, are nearly supplanted, by stinted crullers, miffs, jumbles, and deleterious sweet cakes, that make us sigh for the good old days of yore.


    The nearest mill for grinding grain, was at Whitestown, about forty miles distant, reached only by Indian foot-paths, leading through a dense unbroken forest. For more than two years, this and the mortar and pestle, was their only resource. Some of the more ingenious would attach a spring to the pestle, which materially lessened the labor of pounding.

    Some of the first grists taken to mill, were from necessity carried on horseback, or on oxen yoked together, and one or more bags of grain lashed to their backs, with others hanging across the yoke between them. This mode of milling was evidently inconvenient and unprofitable. In order to carry more at a time, they constructed a "dray" or "carry all," by cutting a crotched tree of suitable dimensions, and so attaching one end to the yoke, that the two branching limbs shall spread out and drag upon the ground behind the oxen. By pinning cross pieces to these, and driving stakes into their sides, they were enabled to pile their bags of grain thereon. Two or more men, leaving behind them loved ones, with no neighbor in sight or hearing, anxiously awaiting their return, seize their axes, shoulder their musket, and plunge into the wild wood, clearing away such obstacles as block their path---fording streams and climbing their precipitous banks. Their cattle, at times, sink to their bodies in the mire. They struggle, flounder, and flounce to extricate themselves, but all to no purpose. They are unyoked, and by hard pulling and prying, released. Onward is the motto. Night overtakes them. They camp as best they may---build their barricade---examine their musket, pick the flint---renew its priming---commit one eye to Morpheus, while the other stands sentinel over the camp, ready to give the alarm on the approach of the common enemies that prowl in the forest, which, from their growl and howl, and fresh tracks recently seen, are known to be near. A blazing fire, like a guardian angel keeps them at bay. They arise at dawn to re-enact each day in substance, the toils of the preceding. Five or six days of precious time would thus be spent in procuring sustenance for their own and some of their neighbors' families, until, with joy, they find themselves on their return, and approaching their little clearing. At length, their log-cabin heaves in sight, their bosoms swell with emotion --- a little daughter, with blooming rose colored cheeks, discovers her father, bounds into the house, dancing with joy, and exclaims, "Oh, mamma! mamma! daddy has come! daddy has come! now we shall have something besides pounded corn to eat---some good new wheat bread to crumble into our bean porridge, shant we?---wont you make some short-cake?---Oh! oh! oh!"

    It is worthy of note, that at this time, there were but two log-houses where the city of Utica now stands, four miles east of Whitestown. Such incidents it is well to record, that the generation now growing up in comfort, ease, and luxury, may, by comparing the present with the past, realize how great is the labor, and how many the privations of those who first settle and build up a new country. Great was their rejoicing, when their landlord generously offered to furnish the irons, millstones, and other articles which could not be obtained upon the spot, and ship them to Albany, agreeing to take the mill when finished, at a fair valuation in payment towards their land, deducting the amount he had advanced. This proposition was readily accepted, and steps immediately taken to carry it into effect.

    To get their mill-stones from Albany was a herculean task, such heavy articles, such ways as the primitive condition of the Country furnished, (for roads they could not be called, roads were yet in the future, would appal almost any men but such as these. Their stout hearts, and indomitable energy, were adequate to every emergency. Two men, one of whom was John Lathrop, started with sled and oxen, the latter part of winter, to obtain them. Slow indeed was their progress. Day after day, their voices would echo among the trees, as they cheered their teams---now starting the bounding deer, anon frightening the nimble fawn---now joining teams to surmount this hill---now to cross that stream, and climb its abrupt bank---now breaking through nature's bridge of ice, and extricating themselves from their difficult position, in the best manner circumstances allow, until their formidable task was successfully accomplished.6

    In the spring of 1794, Joel Hatch built a temporary hut, and commenced operations upon the mill. He was three miles from his nearest neighbor, with his wife and two small children.

    As the evening twilight begins to hover around, the dense forest lends its aid to render the scene monotonous and solemn. In subdued quietness they seat themselves before the blazing fire, built where the hearthstone ought to be. The good old cow, lies upon the ground, near the door, chewing her cud, gently sounding her bell as she sways to and fro, when the howl of the wolf, from some distant hill-top, breaks the silence that reigns around. Wolf answers wolf, from among the neighboring hills---wolf answers wolf, from hill and vale, on every side, giving unmistakable evidence that a pack are near! A glance at the door, satisfies the inmates that a blanket only, is a poor barrier against famishing half-starved wolves. A large chest is hurriedly placed behind it, resting on its lower edge. Chairs, boxes, anything at hand, which will aid in blocking the entrance, are piled thereon. A solemn stillness succeeds, for some half-hour. These noctural visitors, in the mean time, reconnoiter the premises, halt near the door, and, without warning, raise on the wings of the wind, a prolonged yell, that reverberates from hill to hill, to the consternation of the inmates of the house! The cow leaped to her feet, and made the circuit of the house so furiously, that the clatter of her bell caused the wolves, with equal fear and fright, to beat a retreat. All was silent the remainder of the night, save an occasional howl from some distant hills.

    The mill, where the above scene took place, was the first erected for grinding grain in the town, and undoubtedly in the county, and is located about four miles north of the village, in the north west quarter, on the Handsome Brook. It is now owned by Walter Firman. I am aware that Preston and Norwich, both claim priority; but Sherburne people would not have gone to Whitestown to get their grinding done, if there had been a mill at either of those places. Neither would Norwich have resorted to Tioga Point, as she is said to have done, in Clark's History of the County, if Preston had a mill at that time. Besides, people living in Norwich, are known to have brought grain to this mill very early.

    Soon after it was put in operation, it became expedient for the daughter of Cornelius Clark to "go to mill." Caty, who was just budding into womanhood, was well pleased with the prospects of a ride of four miles through the woods on horse-back. "She was'nt afraid, no, not she." Being detained longer than she expected, she started rather late on her return. When within one mile of her father's house, her horse gave an unexpected spring, which brought her and the bag of meal to the ground. Striking upon her feet, and maintaining her hold upon the bridle, the first object she saw, was two fiery eyeballs, glaring through the twilight darkness, directly upon her! Scarcely realizing how it happened, she found herself astride her horse; and not inclined, if she could, to check his speed, bent all her energies to maintain her seat in the saddle. On reaching home, with natural excitement, she related her adventure. The family with one accord endeavored to allay her fright, by pretending to think she was more "scared than hurt." They did not deem it advisable, however, to go in search of the bag until the next morning, when they discovered the well known tracks of a large wolf, in its immediate vicinity!

    There have been, including the above, eight mills for grinding grain erected in town---there are now only two in operation.

    At an early day, a grist mill was built by John Gilmore, close to the Falls, known as the Sulphur Springs. The water was conducted by a spout through the roof. The road leading to it, was down a small ravine from the north, running under a bridge, over which the Cherry Valley turnpike road passed. The ravine, under the bridge, has since been filled up, and no trace of the bridge or mill remains. There have been twenty-one or two mills for sawing lumber, running at different times, within the bounds of Sherburne. At this day, there are but twelve.

    The remainder of the town, after this beginning, was settled with unusual rapidity. In seven years, the number of inhabitants had increased to twelve hundred and eighty-two. Many of these proved to be kindred spirits, drawn hither by the prospect of enjoying a well regulated Christian Society, with organized Churches and Schools. They were ready and willing at all times to throw their influence upon the side of good order, morality and religion, and were honored with offices of trust and responsibility, the duties of which they discharged with credit to themselves, and satisfaction to the people.


    When the first payment for their lands became due, their landlord, Benjamin Walker, mounted his horse and came to witness the progress and prosperity of the settlers and receive his dues. He met them at the house of Cornelius Clark. The money at that day was chiefly silver. One of them having brought his in a common mill bag, Mr. Walker purchased it, and added the remainder of his receipts. When ready to depart, he swung it across his horse, and vaulted into his saddle, with the air and attitude of a mill boy, which excited the merriment, and called forth the jokes of the spectators. They wished to know "how much toll" the miller was entitled to for grinding his grist, &c. As he bowed himself away, the settlers jocosely cautioned him to be on his guard, lest by riding against some protruding limb, he should rend his bag and scatter his grist along the path, a misfortune which sometimes happened. I would by no means be understood to intimate that the bag was so full, that he experienced any difficulty in tying its mouth; or, that it was so heavy, that he required assistance to lay it across his horse.


    The first school organized for winter, was at the house of Nathaniel Gray, one and a half miles north of the village. Two log houses having been erected adjoining each other, to accommodate two families, one of them was vacated for the benefit of the school. A pedagogue, by the name of ___Gardner, was employed to teach it; when exercising a class in spelling, he put the word book---the scholar spelled it b-u-k---the teacher pronounced it right. Edward Gray, son of John Gray, disputed this. The master, in order to maintain the dignity of his station, undertook to correct him corporeally; a scuffle ensued, from which the teacher came out second best. The result was, the school was broken up for the remainder of the winter.


    The first Town Meeting was warned by the Town Clerk of Paris,7 to meet at the house of Timothy Hatch, on the first Tuesday of April, 1795. They met in a log-house. Isaac Foote was chosen moderator, and Oramus Holmes, Town Clerk.8

    The Eighth and Ninth Townships were set off from Paris, as the Town of Sherburne, three years after the first Town Meeting, in 1798.

    Chenango county was formed the same year, from parts of Herkimer and Tioga counties, and extended from Oneida Lake to the Susquehanna River, and included Madison county. Madison was taken from Chenango, in 1806.

    The Town received its cognomen, according to tradition, in the following manner: After the bounds had been agreed upon, the question was asked by one of the members of the Legislature, "What name shall we give it?" The reply was, "The inhabitants of that place, always sing in their religious meetings, a tune called Sherburne; I think that name will suit them better than any other."

    I have taken the Town Records for my guide, in settling the time when Sherburne was first organized. As there are unaccountable discrepancies found in the laws and other publications, in regard to the time when the county and town were first organized, I advise great caution in all who would seek accuracy upon that subject. I believe the above is a correct version of the matter.


    Nathaniel Gray was the first Justice of the Peace appointed in the town. He was not a man of brilliant talents, but had the faculty to win from all veneration and respect. His counsels were received as words of wisdom, and his opinions as law. The religious and moral atmosphere which he diffused around all his actions, gave him a commanding influence over men, which few in any community possess. He was the Patriarch of the settlers---a man without an enemy---a burning and shining light in the Church. He and Abraham Raymond were chosen Deacons of the First Congregational Church, in Sherburne, at the time of its organization, 1794. Both of these men were soldiers in the French War. Mr. Gray having been honorably discharged, returned home. The next season, Abraham Raymond entered the service, and was marched upon the same ground, which was near the south end of Lake Champlain in the vicinity of Lake George and Crown Point. He was taken sick, and was unable to get home without assistance. With the spirit of the good Samaritan, Mr. Gray mounted his horse and went to his rescue, riding some two hundred miles from Kent, Litchfield county, Conn., through more than one hundred miles of unsettled woods and wilds, exposed to hostile bands of French and Indians, then in open war with the colonies, and known to be lurking around. He found him weak and feeble, unable to mount a horse without assistance. Riding behind and supporting himself as well as he could, they rode a few miles and halted. By frequent short journeys, rests, and careful nursing, he gradually increased in strength, and finally arrived home in safety; and more than twenty-five years afterwards, they became associates in forming a new settlement in the Valley of Chenango, and in leading church and society in the paths of Christian duty and usefulness.

    The impress, which the religious character of these two men stamped upon society, and the institutions they were instrumental in founding, are to this day exerting a salutary influence upon community. When we consider the almost normal condition of things in this valley at that early day---no organized town or county for some years---all recently from the tented field---State laws few and almost unknown by the people---their magistrate with but limited guide by which to square his official conduct, well may we marvel that so perfect order, peace and quietness should prevail. We can account for this only by their unwavering allegiance to the laws of heaven, and the confidence so implicitly placed in their Moses and Joshua, to judge righteous judgment over them. The law as administered by him, was not the "rich man's shield and buckler---the good man's terror, the poor man's scourge." Deacon Gray died June, 1810. Deacon Raymond died 1830.


    The first lawsuit in town, was before Nathaniel Gray, Esq. David Perry had discovered a dog, belonging to Weston G. Thomas, chasing and worrying his sheep. The owner, not regarding the repeated complaints that his dog was in the habit of so doing---that sheep had been killed, and they had reason to believe his dog was guilty of the deed. Mr. Perry killed the dog. Mr. Thomas entered complaint, and caused a writ to be served upon him for damages. The news spread and became the universal topic of conversation. The moral sense of the community was shocked. That one neighbor should go to law with another, was an event which could not be tolerated. The excitement became general. A gentleman by the name of Poyers, now residing in the lower part of the county, says, that at the time and place designated for the trial, he was present-that nearly every adult male in the town was there, intent on effecting a compromise, which was so readily acceded to by the parties, when brought together, that the people were taken by surprise. Their friendly remonstrances against the spirit of litigation, brought to light that fact that a certain pettifogger, by the name of ___Wilder, (who had recently come into the place,) had counseled him to prosecute, evidently for the purpose of pocketing a fee. This fact, turned the indignation of all upon the gentleman of law. They spontaneously resolved themselves into a committee, and delegated some of their number to wait on the barrister, and inform him that his presence in the town could be dispensed with---that his antecedents were distasteful to the people, and that the sooner he left the place, the more agreeable it would be to them; at the same time remarking, if he decided to tarry among them, his person and property would not be molested, but he might rest assured they should avoid all intercourse, if not dealings with him. The spirit and opposition manifested by the people against the course he had pursued, convinced him that the sooner he was away, the better it would be for him. To the joy of the community, in less than one year after he came into the town, he was seen on his way out of it.

    With the twenty proprietors, the writer was personally acquainted, and has often heard them "fight their battles o'er." There was not a low or grovelling spirit among them. Every individual, from personal worth, commanded and received respect. Litigation between any of them was an event, which never, to my knowledge, took place. Such was their confidence in each other's honor and honesty, that in traffic, they would trust their neighbor to weigh and measure for himself, whatever article he wished to obtain. They lived more like members of the same family, than neighbors having separate interests.

    They were generally Congregationalists in their church organization and belief---Calvinists in doctrine---zealous supporters of education, morality, and religion---given to hospitality and brotherly kindness. None of them possessed more than a common school education, and that very meagre, compared to the scientific attainments of the present generation; but they were men of strong minds and unbending integrity. United in their views, they controlled the political character of the town. They were Whigs in sentiment and policy. During all the varying phases of party names, they stood true to their principles. The spirit of '76 had almost uncontrollable ascendency over them. To question their devotion to their country, was touching the "apple of the eye." As characteristic of these men, the following anecdote may not be inappropriate: After the town had been settled fifteen or sixteen years, national politics caused party spirit to run rather high through the land. Newcomb Raymond, having business at the county seat, on his return, called on Col. Mead, who kept a public house near North Norwich bridge. They soon got into a political discussion upon certain measures then before the country. Col. Mead defended and Mr. Raymond opposed them. Mr. Mead growing warm, indiscreetly exclaimed, that all who were opposed to said measures were Tories. This declaration roused the lion. "Col. Mead! when you were in your cradle, I was following Gen. Washington, leaving my foot-prints marked on the snow and ice, in blood! To be called a Tory by you, is too much for flesh and blood to bear; nothing but your being in your own house saves you a drubbing! If you say it again, that shan't save you." The fire and bearing of this man, who was among those who, at midnight, under Generals Hamilton and Lafayette, entered the first redoubt taken from Cornwallis, at Yorktown, Virginia, bayonet in hand, without flint in his gun,9 awed the Colonel, and he said no more.

    The greater proportion of these, and many of the early settlers with them, had done more or less active service in the Revolutionary War, battling for their rights, liberties, and independence. Some of them assisted in taking Canada from the French. Two were at the taking of Cornwallis. Others at the battle of Saratoga, aided in compelling Burgoyne to surrender his arms and army, to Gen. Gates. Some were at the battle of Germantown, and in various other places of less note in our Revolutionary history.

    Their number was rapidly increased, by men of moral and religious principles, drawn hither by their unity of faith, and strong desire to begin life where they and their families could have church and school privileges, which gave to Sherburne, as a town, its moral and religious reputation. They were conservatives, deeply imbued with the principles of their Puritan forefathers---a law abiding community. The observance of the Sabbath, as holy time, was to them a matter of conscience, strictly enforced in their families, by example as well as precept. Among the first complaints for breach of the peace, was one for desecration of the Sabbath, entered by John Gray, Sen., (a Universalist,) against a party of men and boys, who had been seen upon the river, fishing through the ice on that day. They were duly arraigned, reprimanded, and punished by fine. Such were their conscientious scruples, in all matters relating to the desecration of the Sabbath, that, about 1809, they carried their ideas of duty so far, as to attempt stopping by force, people who were traveling through the town, upon secular business, on that day. The laws of the State authorized them, in no equivocal terms, to stop and detain all such until the Sabbath was past, and then take them before a magistrate, whose duty it was to impose a fine upon them. In attempting to put this law in force, opposition was aroused, resistance made, and lawsuits ensued. The law was so unpopular, and public opinion so manifestly against all attempts to carry it into execution, that they became convinced that it was, to say the least, of doubtful propriety, and all things considered, inexpedient. When we recollect that our wise legislators saw fit to pass such a law, and the Governor of the State to sanction it by his signature, we cannot wonder that men, having the fear of God before their eyes, should feel it to be their duty, by all lawful means, to carry it into effect. Whatever censure we are disposed to pass upon them for their misguided zeal, must, with equal, if not with greater force, apply to the law-making power.

    Soon after the organization of the town and county, Joel Hatch was appointed Justice of the Peace, as successor to Esquire Gray, whose age and infirmities rendered it expedient that he should resign. Esquire Hatch was retained in that office some fifteen or sixteen years. He was the subject of many jokes and anecdotes among the people, ready on any occasion and every emergency, with a well timed story, or an appropriate anecdote. At home, in any company, free, frank, and sociable---never disconcerted at any blunder or mishap that might light upon his shoulders. With fastidiousness or the toilet, he had little or not affinity. Plain in matter and manner---fearless and original---backed by a strong mind and a retentive memory---well posted in all public measures, civil or religious---remarkable for recognizing any individual with whom he had been ever so slightly acquainted---once anchored upon any important principle, you might as well attempt to "batter down the rock of Gibralter with a pocket poistol," as to move him from his moorings. No matter with how renowned a politician, or how celebrated a divine he was conversing, if he differed with him upon any point, he was ready to charge in battle array, in a tumbling rather than a rolling manner, with arguments and opinions so unique and original, as to command attention and win respect. His style and manner, when aroused, was that of the rasp, rather than the polishing file.

    In the early days of his public career, (1808,) a vote to divide the Eighth and Ninth Townships, which, until then had formed the town of Sherburne, was, after strenuous opposition from influential men, under considerable excitement, obtained. As the Legislature was then in session, it was considered advisable to appoint an agent to go forthwith, and present a petition for an act, authorizing the division. Esquire Hatch, was, accordingly appointed. On arriving at Albany, he presented his petition in due form before the Legislature, where he found that a strong array of opposition was organized. After some time had been spent upon the question, by the members, one of them remarked, "Perhaps the delegate can give us some information upon the subject, let us hear him." He arose at once, and was entering into the merits of the case, in his peculiar manner, riveting the attention of the house to such a degree, that the opposition became annoyed; and in order to break him down, raised the question of his right to address the House, wishing to know if Esq. Hatch was a member, &c. This interruption, and these remarks, were received by him as an infringement upon his right of petition, for the obtaining of which, he had shouldered his musket in the Revolutionary War. It aroused the spirit and energy that had carried him to the tented field. His stentorian voice instantly rang through the hall---"I came here with a petition from the people! I am one of the people! I have a right to be heard, and I will be heard!" He was heard in silent attention and evident delight, by the House. The object of his mission was soon accomplished to his own, and his constituents' satisfaction.

    The first two lawyers, who settled in the town, with the view of practicing their profession, were Jonathan Pettit, and Ezra Osborn. Their company, as lawyers, was looked upon with jealousy, as tending to promote rather than allay the spirit of litigation. Nearly, if not quite, their first débüt at a regularly contested suit, was before Esq. Hatch, who was frequently under the influence of somnolency; but when spoken to, was instantly aroused. The testimony finished, the lawyers commenced their pleadings. Esq. Osborn having completed his, Esq. Pettit began speaking in reply. The afternoon being warm and sultry, he soon discovered the magistrate nodding upon the bench. Being ambitious to acquit himself with honor, and establish his fame for legal lore, he thus addressed him: "I would thank the Court to keep awake, as there are some very important points which I wish to present for its consideration. "Go on, go on, the Court will hear you." Esq. Pettit proceeding, was again annoyed, by observing rather more whalebone elasticity in the neck of the Justice than he thought compatible with the dignity of his station, or consistent with the due appreciation of his arguments, and renewed his request for the special attention of the Court. Esq. Hatch, arousing from his lethargy, with his accustomed promptness and vivacity, replied: "Never mind, never mind, I decided the case more than an hour ago; but I thought I would let you earn your dollar;" which so disconcerted him, that he sat down, observing, "Then, all I can say will be of no avail." Judgment was rendered in favor of his client.

    After Esq. Hatch had served a few years as a magistrate, a number of Associate Justices were appointed, among whom was Stephen Benedict. He was his antipode in matter and manner. The contrast was instructive and amusing. One, bold, defiant, and determined; the other, mild, attractive, and winning---one inviting, rather than shunning, responsibility---the other, avoiding it if possible, but never shrinking from it, when necessary. Two men apparently more uncongenial, are seldom associated together, yet, no two individuals, in public business, ever harmonized better.

    Others, in various parts of the town, were, from time to time, appointed as their associates and successors, of some of whom, honorable mention might be made, but their increasing numbers renders the attempt inexpedient.

    The following incident may be taken as a sample of the moral integrity of the town officers at that day: At a state election, a certain individual offering his vote, began to question him, when an unscrupulous partizan whispered in his ear, "He is one of our party." The reply was, "I know no party here." He turned away, saying, "Upon my word, this is the most honest board I ever knew."


    The first Court of Common Pleas, held in Chenango county, was convened at the school-house, in the town of Hamilton, near the residence of Elisha Payne, June 1798. Madison county, at that time was part of Chenango. Isaac Foote, of the Eighth Township, now Smyrna, presided as First Judge, and held the office ten years.10

    In 1808, Joel Thompson, of Sherburne, succeeded him, and remained upon the bench several years, and was also a member of the Legislature. In 1813, John Gray, jr., of Sherburne, took a seat upon the bench, as Associate Judge. Tilly Lynde, also in 1816, and Philo Robinson, in 1841.

    The first jail limits in the county, were established by the Court of Common Pleas, July 1799, at Sherburne Four Corners, adjacent to the residence of Josiah Purdy, occupying an area of three acres. The jail of the county was at Whitestown, until 1808.


    The first Circuit Court was held on the 10th of July, 1798, in the Academy in the town of Oxford. James Kent presided. There was no business transacted at this, nor the second term, for want of litigants.


    The first Store was opened by James Elmore, about one and a half miles north of the village, on the farm now owned by Asa Foote, jr. He also hung out the first sign for an Inn, and built the first framed house in the town. He was the first Post Master appointed in the place. His commission bears date January, 1801, signed by Joseph Habersham, Post Master General. The first painted house in town was James Sherburne's.


    The first Machine for Carding Wool, was erected by Simeon Paddleford, in 1804, one mile below the village, on the Chenango river. It is said that this was one of the first two Carding Machines, brought into this country. It was at the same place that the first establishment, in the Ninth Township, for fulling and dressing cloth, was set up by Aaron Mills. Before that time, Joseph Collins had a fulling mill in operation, in the Eighth Township, now Smyrna, which, probably, was the first mill of the kind ever erected within the present bounds of Chenango County. The first settler in the Eighth Township was Joseph Porter, who came in the same year as the Twenty Proprietors.


    The first Woolen Factory was erected by William Newton, in 1812, on the Handsome Brook, one mile north of Sherburne village. It was twice burned down and then abandoned.

    Joel Hatch's Machine Shop, was built the same year, on the same dam. The first Turning Lathe in the town, and probably, in the county, was set up by him, for the purpose of turning the various parts of Spinning Wheels. It consisted of a spring-pole, fastened over head, near the chamber floor. A cord attached to one end of it, then wound around the article to be turned, the lower end fastened to a foot-piece. Pressing this with the foot would cause the stick to revolve a number of times. On releasing the pressure, the spring pole would return to its former position, causing the stick to roll alternately, backwards and forwards. It was on such lathes that he and his master did their turning, and they were unacquainted with any other until a later day.

    Ox carts and sleds were the only vehicles they had for their accommodation, for several years. Their cartwheels were many of them, made of one piece, cut from a large oak tree, with a hole bored through the centre, for the axle. Their cart and wagon wheels, when ironed at all, had the tire in pieces, spiked across the joints of the felloes. Whole tire were unknown at that day. Jacob Rees introduced the first two horse wagon into the town.

    The first white male born in the town, was Lorenzo Hatch. I am aware that this is claimed for Justin Guthrie. He was born, per family record, in 1792, and Lorenzo Hatch, in 1793. The first settlers came in 1792, and it was the uniform testimony of all who were then residents, that in that year, the wife of Abraham Raymond was the only white female in the town. The first white female infant was Abigail Raymond, born in 1793. She now lives in Oregon.11

    The first death was a child of Nathaniel Austin, which was occasioned by its being scalded in maple syrup. The first death among the proprietors, was Joel Northrup. The last was Joel Hatch.


    The first Physician was Dr. Lacy. He tarried but a short time. Dr. Asa White settled very early. He was eminently a practical man, possessing energy and skill to such a degree, that no other physician could successfully compete with him. In the early days of his ride, he was called to visit a patient, residing about ten miles distant. His path led him through a dense forest, of about six miles. Midway, some pioneer had commenced the erection of a log-house, which was so far completed as to be ready to receive the roof---a narrow doorway had been cut through one side. Receiving a bushel of corn, as part compensation, for his services, the Doctor set out on his return. Night overtook him soon after he entered the woods, when he was serenaded and followed by a pack of wolves! Hurrying forward, he led his horse into the half-finished house, took a seat with his bag directly over the doorway, and defended himself and horse, by swinging a long pole backwards and forwards, until the dawn of day---the wolves most of the time, in close proximity, making demonstrations of a determination to force their way into the inclosure. He died in 1818. His son, Devillo White, took his ride, and maintains the ascendency to this day, and ranks among the first of his profession in the county. In 1804 or 5, the typhus fever prevailed extensively through the town, causing more deaths, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, than any sickness that has prevailed before or since. It was generally attributed to the malaria arising from the decay of vegetable matter, as about that time, stumps and fallen trees, were very much rotted and began to crumble away. The effect of this was more marked in this town than elsewhere, because so great a number commenced simultaneously the work of clearing, the decay, and consequently the miasma, pervaded all parts of the town about the same time. Aaron Mills was the first person prostrated with this fever. He recovered. It was observed that strong robust constitutions, were as liable to be attacked with it as any others, and some thought more so.

    Dr. Asa White was the principal physician. In his management of this disease, he followed the standard medical works of that day, which directed the free use of stimulants, particularly wine and Peruvian bark. The fatality which accompanied this mode of treatment, was attributed to the virulence of the disease, until the supply of bark, in this and neighboring towns, became exhausted. When, to the surprise of all, those cases which were, from necessity, treated without the stimulant, succeeded best. After this, Dr. White abandoned its use, (but not without opposition, from others of his profession.) The fever soon became a manageable disease in all this region, which was, for a time, more or less exposed to it from the same cause. It was a difficult matter to obtain the requisite assistance to administer to the necessities of the sick. There were instances of persons riding eight or nine miles, to relieve some families only one night, and returning the next day, at the imperative call of urgent cases near home. It was no uncommon event, to travel four or five miles for watchers, and convey them home the next morning. Their comforts and accommodations at that day, were exceedingly limited. Many of them had but one room in their houses, in which, four or five sick persons might be lying at the same time, at one end of the room, in the various stages of the disease, and the necessary cooking going on at the other.

    Rumors of this sickness circulating abroad, checked the tide of emigration for a time, and retarded the increase of the settlement.


    The first School House erected in the town, was located about one and a half miles north of the village, near the bridge on the Handsome Brook road. It was in later times designated "The Quarter School House." No trace of it now remains. The district embraced the whole town. Many would have to travel between three and four miles to reach it. The pupils sometimes numbered between ninety and one hundred per day. From this district, others from time to time were formed, until the number had increased to twenty. The second School House was built, about one and half miles west of the village, near the residence of Daniel Newton. This district included all that part of the town lying on the west side of the river. Select Schools were early established and well patronized, especially during the winter months. About 1840, a building of moderate pretentions was erected, and a charter for an Academy obtained, which was maintained, with more or less fluctuations, until 1847, when a Union School was organized by combining four districts, and locating the school in the village. This drew many from the Academy, who would otherwise have attended, which had the effect to cause it to run down, and the corporation to give up its charter. After the Union School had been continued about thirteen years, the distance, scholars living out of the village, were obliged to travel, and other causes combining, induced the old district, commonly known as the "quarter," by mutual consent, to withdraw, and they were accordingly set back as an independent district in 1859.


    The act, authorizing the Surveyor General to survey and locate the Twenty Townships, was passed February 25, 1789, and among other provisions, required him to mark two lots of 250 acres each, as near the centre of the Township as might be, to be reserved for religious and school purposes. These were afterwards sold by the State, to speculators, without proper reservations. The intelligent and religious emigrants, who had taken up farms within the towns, remonstrated, and petitioned the Government with such energy and perseverance, that in 1811, the law-making power appropriated forty lots of 250 acres each, near Oneida Lake, which were divided among the towns interested; and, as far as I am advised, have been sold, and the interest generally appropriated to the support of Common Schools.

    The lot awarded to Sherburne, was situated in the town of Sullivan, Madison county. Joel Hatch, Esq., was appointed agent, to superintend the sale of these lands. It was twenty-three years after the passage of the law, appropriating these lands for the purposes above mentioned, before they became the absolute property of the towns, which was in 1814.

    The Permanent Fund, belonging to the town, for educational purposes, is one thousand and eight hundred dollars, which is secured by Bond and Mortgage.


    The settlers, before their removal to the Valley of the Chenango, feeling the importance of general information, and appreciating the necessity of providing the means of acquiring it, for the rising generation, formed a company, raised from their scanty means the sum of ten dollars, and appointed an agent to purchase suitable books, to form the neucleus of a future Public Library. This was styled Federal Library, and was maintained about thirty years. It had increased to nearly five hundred volumes, when, to the surprise and mortification of those who had maintained it from the beginning, a few individuals, who were mostly recent settlers, at an annual meeting (which was thinly attended) taking advantage of this circumstance, without regard to honor or moral honesty, ruthlessly voted to dissolve the same, and divide the books among themselves, thereby excluding all who had neglected to pay their annual tax at that meeting, from any participation in the division. The whole affair was a disgrace to the actors, and ought to go down to posterity as a monument to their shame.


    The first Wedding in the town was John Hibbard's, which took place about two years after the settlers came into the valley. There was no Clergyman, Justice of the Peace, or other officer legally qualified to administer at the altar, nearer than North Norwich, seven miles below---no carriage roads nor carriages, except ox-carts. There was then no alternative, but a ride on horse-back. Mr. Hibbard accordingly applied to Joel Hatch, saying, "Mr. Hatch, I want to get your horse to go to North Norwich; Betsey Sartel and I have concluded to get married, and I want to go to Esq. Purdy's and have the slop over with." He took his intended bride behind him, rode down to North Norwich, and, as a consequence, they came back husband and wife. The first fruit of this marriage, was a pair of twins.

    Joel Hatch, Esq., being called upon, by Mr. Tillotson, to perform the marriage ceremony for him, referred him to the Rev. Roger Adams, who was the first settled preacher in the place. Mr. Adams readily complying with his wishes, mounted his horse, rode three or four miles over the hills into the north-east quarter of the town, through such roads as the primitive condition of the country furnished, and duly pronounced them husband and wife. The ceremony ended, the bride-groom inquired the amount of his fee. Mr. A. replied, "I never charge anything---they pay what they please." He thanked him heartily, adding, "If Esq. Hatch had married me, I'll warrant it would have cost me a dollar." The divine waited on the magistrate the next morning, and notified him that his popularity was on the wane. Two or three weeks after, the bride-groom presented Mr. Adams with a new wash-tub.


    When their sons and daughters began to mingle in social glee, as young gentlemen and ladies must and will, regardless of all inconveniencies that arise from the want of carriage roads, of splendid carriages, and corresponding equipages, they resolve to have a ride on horse-back, and go four or six miles through a newly cut road, to make a call upon a neighbor, as every family, for miles around, are near neighbors, and well acquainted with each other.

    Every beau must furnish a horse for himself, and one for his lady, equipped with a side-saddle. In default of an extra horse, a pillion must be provided, lashed behind his own saddle, and his lady ride behind him.

    Thus equipped, each young gentleman starts for his lady; arriving at her father's house, he finds her tidily rigged in garments of her own manufacture, from the spindle to the loom. She is soon ready, and climbs upon the top of some newly cut stump, or recently fallen log. The horse is led along side, for her to mount. At the moment she springs, the horse makes an unexpected movement, and she leaps to the ground; nothing daunted, she remounts, and makes another attempt, perhaps with better success; off they start for the appointed rendezvous, merry and laughing.

    The scattered cavalcade gradually concentrates, until the whole troop greet and congratulate each other, in anticipation of the pleasures before them. They fall into line, chattering and giggling like a flock of black-birds---plunge into the wild forest---picking their way among old logs, stumps, and mud-holes, as best they can---now bowing their heads close to their horses' necks, to dodge an over-hanging half-fallen tree---now hauling to the right, and now to the left, to avoid this and that pool of mud and water---closely hugging some obtruding half trimmed log, in imminent danger of being precipitated into the mire below---now unhorsed by some protruding limb, with pride and spirit remounting, onward they move---now on the verge of some unbridged stream, they plunge down its short steep bank, calculating their chance of being precipitated over the heads of their horses into the stream below---now splashing through and defacing the crystal waters at their feet---now doubting whether they shall be able to ascend the opposite and steeper bank, without coming out minus their horses, and themselves sprawling in the mud and water in the rear. The ladies dismount, and by the aid of bushes, and the help of each other, are enable to ascend to the top. The young men, more delighted than otherwise, address themselves to their sport, eager to show their prowess. One of their number plunges forward, shouting and cheering his horse---which flounders and flounces, sending a due quantity of mud and water into the air, without partiality to horse or rider---the rest follow suit, with like success. With merriment they examine their wardrobe---"My shoes are full of mud and water," cries one---"So are mine," they all in chorus cry, with a vociferous laugh---right glad that their white stockings were left at home, if such an article as summer hose was owned by any of them. Their shoes are emptied of their contents, and, together with their feet, washed in the running stream---their pantaloons undergoing similar ablutions, especially near their feet---faces and hands not forgotten.

    After gathering some of the wild flowers that adorn the banks of the stream, they mount their horses, and with more intense glee, move on. A beautiful spotted fawn is discovered crossing their path. "O! catch him, catch him!" from the lips of one and all. Some spur their horses in chase, others dismount, in hot pursuit they shout and rend the air with their cries, spurred to vigorous intensity, by the excitement the race and the occasion inspire. They soon lose sight of him, give over the chase, and resume their ride, vivaciously relating their personal adventures in the scene.

    At length they rein up to a stout fence, made of large round logs, a few rods beyond which stands a well built log-house, looking as aristocratic as any in town. Dismounting, they let down a pair of bars, made of round poles, leap with agile step, their closely packed ends, and wend their way along a narrow grass plat, bounded on one side by a huge fallen tree, on the top of which, small poles and brush are piled, to guard and keep back intruding cattle from the garden, in the midst of which stands the mansion they are seeking. They rap: the response, "Come in," is quickly answered by a pull at the latch-string, and shove at the door, revealing the good woman of the house, busy with her cards, and her daughter with cheerful industry filling every corner of the room, with the well understood music of the spinning wheel. The "How do you do? and how do you do?" ended, the cards and wheel cleared away, the twig broom doing duty, the dust from the cards disappears, and they are seated with as much pleasure and heartiness, as ever reigned in any mahogany furnished parlor of the present day. "Where are the men-folks?" one of the young gentlemen inquires. "They are down at the lower end of the clearing---I will send for them." "No, we will go ourselves and see how they are getting along." Seizing their hats, they are guided to the spot, by the "Whoa---haw---gee!" that echoes through the surrounding wood. They find them busy, rolling half-burnt logs into heaps. The usual compliments ended---"We will finish this log-heap, and then go the house." "That's right---we will help you;" and at it they go with right good will. One seizes a lever, ready at any moment to lend a helping hand. Here is a large log, evidently requiring more strength to roll than the farmer and his two stout sons possess. It must be cut before it can be moved. One throws off his coat, seizes an ax, and mounts the log. Knowing that every blow will be strictly scrutinized according to the well known rules of the art, he takes pride and pleasure in displaying his talent on this occasion. He having finished one side, another, with equal ambition, mounts and finishes the other. Then their united strength rolls it to its destined place.

    Their task ended, they return to the house, where, instinctively, they seat themselves around the door, under some shade, on logs, stumps, or whatever else is at hand, discussing their progress and plans for the future among themselves. Let us see what is going on in the house. The tea-kettle is hung over the fire---the kind mother says, "Come, my daughter, you make some short-cake." The guests with one united voice, volunteer their assistance, for the spirit of industry, and help-one-another, reigns in-doors as well as out. Suiting their actions to their words, all are in lively motion, inquiring with exhilarated chatter, "Where is this? and where is that?"

    Here is the dish containing the ashes of burnt corncobs, the use of which they all well understand. In its stead, at the present day, pearlash, saleratus, or soda are substituted. The short cake in due quantity and quality, is soon swelling before the fire. The materials for the sweet loaf are paraded, which, after a full interchange of opinions, are maturely compounded in the most approved manner; and having been subjected to the process of baking, it is temptingly ready for the table.

    Now for the tea, what shall we have for tea? "We have been out for some weeks." "So have we, and so have we," echoes from more voices than one---"there is none to be had in town."

    After discussing the respective merits of sage, burnt crust, roasted acorns, evans-root, and parched-corn, the decision is made in favor of crust coffee. "Shall we sweeten it in the pot, or let each prepare it to suit his own taste?" The latter method is resolved upon. A cake of maple sugar, by no means diminutive in size, is produced. "Shall we cut it into small pieces?" "No, let each one shave it off to suit himself." These important matters all settled, the table set out, noses counted, mathematical calculations made, it is decided that the cross-legged pine-table must be enlarged, or divide the guests and set the table twice. "Here are a couple of wide boards, lay them upon the table, then there will be room for all." "That's it; see how nice they suit."

    The iron-bound chest is ransacked with care, until two neatly folded diaper table-cloths are produced, which, after being duly admired for their evenness and figure, (for mothers, at that day, well knew how to make "fine twined linen,") are spread upon the table. Pewter plates and dishes, in whose polished surfaces, your disturbed hair could be seen and rectified, together with wooden plates or "trenchers," to make up the required number, are arranged in order. In quick succession, the variously prepared viands, grace the table. The ham and eggs, dough-nuts, &c., which, if I have neglected to mention, they had not forgotten to furnish. The tea---no, crust-coffee---poured out, the gentlemen called, the table surrounded, all standing, the blessing asked, they take their seats.

    The gentleman of the house, as was the custom of those times, takes the meat, and after cutting it into small pieces, returns it to the middle of the table. "Help yourselves." All are busily engaged, at what their hands find to do. The good man of the house, casting his eye around, perceiving that all have finished their repast, rises to his feet. In respectful reverence, they all imitate his example, and return thanks for all mercies received, and soon after address themselves to preparations for their return, as there is no time to be lost. The usual parting compliments ended, they are soon in the saddle, and under a shower of good wishes for their safe arrival home, set forward in high spirits.

    After the most difficult part of their road has been surmounted, the deepening gloom, and the declining sun, have the effect to cause, in sympathetic harmony, their united voices in soft melodious strains, to echo in song. Suddenly, "The bird of wisdom," perched over their heads, mingles his intense, unearthly note, causing an involuntary shudder, succeeded by peals of laughter, and the cry, "Who's brought up in the woods to be scared to death by owls!" Gradually they relapse into a moody, monotonous state of mind, when, instinctively, they place a wider space between each couple, as if to enjoy each their own partner's exclusive company. Their horses, by some invisible means, appear quite inclined to closer contact than usual, and their riders manifest no objection to be placed in nearer proximity to each other, and are soon engaged in all manner of chit-chat, evidently to their own satisfaction---now discussing the prospective marriage of this, and now of that couple, and perhaps their own.

    Thus with slow and measured step, quietly they move along---none in a hurry---all in a little world of their own---deeply intent upon its internal organization. As the setting sun begins to entangle itself among the tree-tops, they find themselves sooner than they are aware, and than they desired, awakened from their pleasing reverie, by their arrival at her father's house. Dismounting, they pause for a moment on the steps, and are engaged in close, low-toned conversation---whether to renew their vows, or pop the main question, I will not attempt to decide, nor intrude upon their privacy, but leave them to their anticipations and dreams of future joy and happiness.

Book continued

1 - The name Chenango is of Indian origin, and signifies in their language, "beautiful river."
2 - It contains six thousand, two hundred, twenty-two and one half acres.
3 - John Gray, jr.'s name is on the original deed; but as he relinquished his lot to his father, John Gray, who settled upon it, and was always spoken of as one of the first settlers by his associates, I think it proper to name him as one of the first proprietors; he was, to say the least, practically such. John Gray, jr., settled in the west part of the State, and died there; and was the last of the twenty proprietors.
4 - Cornelius Clark having a preference for a particular lot, (the one now occupied by George Davis,) offered the man who drew it, a bottle of rum and an ax without helve, and in its rough state, to exchange with him, which offer was accepted.
5 - Mr. Burritt graduated at Yale, in 1765. That year, the British Parliament laid a tax of two pounds sterling, (about ten dollars,) on every diploma granted from any college in the colonies. He was a zealous Whig, during the Revolutionary War; often carrying his patriotism into his pulpit. He resided at that time on Long Island, near the East River, about twenty miles from New York city, which was in the possession of the British army. A party of British soldiers, guided by Tories, surrounded his house in the night, took him prisoner, and hurried him into their boat; not allowing time to put on his clothes, until they had him safe on board. They sailed immediately for New York, where he was confined, most of the time, with other prisoners, in what was known as the "Sugar House."

    He would preach to his fellow prisoners on the Sabbath, and administer the consolations of religion to the sick and dying, under repeated insults and threats, from a rude, unfeeling soldiery. After about two years captivity, expecting to be released on a particular day, he prepared a spicy sermon for the occasion, which the officers, knowing his spirit and independence, were determined to prevent his delivering. Accordingly, when orders arrived for his discharge on the Monday following, they released him on Saturday night previous. He requested permission to stay and preach to his countrymen on the Sabbath day. They peremptorily refused, ordered him to leave immediately, which to his deep regret, he was obliged to do.

6 - It took three weeks to perform the journey.
7 - Four years previous to that date, it was a part of Whitestown.
8 - Oramus Holmes was a soldier of the Revolution, a resident of Vermont. At the age of 17, he enlisted into one of the regiments of the celebrated "Green Mountain Boys." About the period of the evacuation of Ticonderoga by the British, he and a companion while out on a scouting expedition, were taken prisoners, conveyed to Quebec, and confined on board a prison ship. Making their escape in the ship's boat, with two others, they crossed the St. Lawrence, struck into the wilderness, without compass or guide, and traveled seventeen days in a wild, dreary, and unsettled region, subsisting for the first seven days on four hard biscuits, and eight ounces salt pork, per day, and the remaining ten days on the inner bark of the White Pine, and a few fish caught with their hands. After so many days of hunger, toil and anxiety, while fording a river, and when midway of the stream, they were discovered and retaken by a party of Indians in their canoes, coming suddenly around a bend in the river, and carried back to Quebec, where they were again imprisoned with others on the second floor of a two story building, under a guard of eighteen men. Mr. Holmes, with two of his fellow prisoners, escaped by leaping to the ground, evading the guard, crossing the river, and again striking into the wilderness. After many days of wandering and suffering, they reached the frontier settlements of Vermont in safety. In March, 1794 or 5, he settled in Sherburne, and soon united with the Congregational Church, and cheerfully co-operated in all plans for the establishment of civil and religious institutions, and whatever contributed to the growth and prosperity of the settlement. In 1805, he removed to the shores of Lake Erie. After living there 27 years, he removed to Ohio, and there died, aged 87.
9 - They took them out, lest an accidental discharge should betray their approach to the enemy.
10 - Judge Foote, was the first member of the Legislature from this region. He was appointed to represent the interests of the people in this vicinity, when it was included in the county of Herkimer. He held a distinguished place in the public eye, and won their confidence and respect to such a degree, that all felt that the "Ship of State" would be safe with such men on board.
11 - She, with her husband, crossed the Rocky Mountains, some 25 years ago, on horse-back.

Transcribed by Mary G. Hafler
December 2003 - January 2004

Pioneers, First Family by Tim Stowell, March 2005

Town of Sherburne
Reminiscences, anecdotes and statistics
Chenango Co, NY
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