At the suggestion of some of the former inhabitants of the Town of Virgil, who had simultaneously proposed visiting the place of their nativity, it was deemed appropriate to extend a general invitation to such as had formerly been residents of the Town, to unite with the present inhabitants, in such exercises as would be suitable to the occasion promising so much of interest and gratification. The invitations thus extended were responded to cordially, and at the time designated, a large number of people came together, including representatives from many of the oldest and most respected families of the Town, whose course in life has led them to remote parts of our land.
In accordance with the arrangements of the Committee, when the guests had arrived on the morning of the 25th of August, they were escorted to the Presbyterian Church, where they were respectively introduced to the people, by the President, Dea. S. M. Roe. R.O. Reynolds, Esq., in behalf of the people of the Town, then arose and welcomed the guests as follows: 1
FRIENDS and GUESTS:---We are assembled here, after a separation of some years, to renew acquaintance, to brighten the golden chain of friendship, by genial interchange of hearts, of giving and receiving mutual pleasure. Many of you have been absent from us long and weary years. Some of you, ere you left us, had left the valley of youth and had begun the rough and rugged road that winds up the hill of active life. Then how much did the future seem to promise. Alas how little has been accomplished ! The experiences of life are that disappointment is the common lot of all men. With this view of the case how soothing the thought that we may return to the scenes of childhood and mingle our sympathies with former friends of like experience. Of friendships broken, of faith betrayed, of wrong inflicted and hearts crushed in the miserable conflict for the honors and distinctions of this life, and even for avaracious, miserly gain, we never heard or deemed them but as a horrid and distorted romance of fiends instead of men.
He continued in this strain, expressing the utmost cordiality and courtesy, for nearly a half hour to the great satisfaction of those addressed, who were welcomed in the most hearty manner to the festivities of the day.
Dr. F. Hyde responded in a few remarks, and introduced to the audience M. Frank, Esq., who said:
He did not come expecting to make an address and was not prepared to do so. He had written to an individual in the county, when apprised of this meeting, that no public address must be expected from him. He would, however, make a few remarks. When he came in sight of the place, the scenes of his early years came up before him, and he felt himself young again. But when he came and looked upon the people assembled, he was reminded of his mortality---time had made its impress upon many a once familiar countenance. He recognized a portion of the assemblage, but they were mostly of a new generation, who had risen up to take the place of their fathers. He had been absent from the county many years; had resided in the west fourteen years. He said he had become westernized; he was, in fact, a western man---his feelings, sympathies and interests were identified with the west. The west was, however, not that far off country it once was; the facilities of travel and communication had brought it to the very doors of the east. Manners, habits and tastes which once characterized the west from the east, now scarcely had any distinguished traits, but were fast assimulating to one great uniformity. But power was tending westward---soon the destinies of the nation would be controlled by the population west of the Alleghany mountains. All good men in the west felt that the future welfare of the republic depended not upon political platforms, or the measures of political men. The moral and intellectual elevation of the people, especially of the rising generation, was regarded as the only safe and sure guarantee to the perpetuation of our free institutions.
This meeting, he said, would be cherished in memory, as one of the most important events of his life. The recollections of the past and the scenes of the present awaken sensations and inspire emotions that can never be effaced from the mind. The past and the present, they pass in review before us, with a strange and yet indescribable interest. Voices once familiar here are now hushed in that mysterious silence to which all the living haste; friends we once loved to greet have passed from our sight forever. Those who seemingly but yesterday were young, appear to have been strangely hurried along the pathway of age. The responsibilities of manhood and active life, have, in part, passed to another generation. The destiny of the future of this Town is committed to the men now here upon the stage of action-that future will be elevated and glorious, in proportion as the moral and educational interests of the people are cared and provided for.
In behalf of the visitors from abroad, Mr. F. said he could not command language adequate to express a sense of obligation for the generous welcome and hospitality which had been extended. The expressions of kindness and friendship were overpowering, and he dare not trust himself with what the impulse of feeling might lead him to say. He concluded by thanking the assembly for its indulgence for the manifestations of kind regard.
At the conclusion of Mr. Frank's remarks the choir sang the following ode:
Home again---home again--- From a foreign shore. And, oh, it fills my soul with joy, To meet my friends once more. Here I dropped the parting tear, To cross the ocean's foam, But now I'm once again with those Who kindly greet me home; Home again---home again--- From a foreign shore, And, oh, it fills my soul with joy, To meet my friends once more.
Happy hearts---happy hearts, With mine have laughed in glee; But, oh ! the friends I loved in youth, Seem happier to me; And if my guide should be the fate, Which bids me longer roam, But death alone can break the tie That binds my heart to home. Home again, &c.,
Music sweet---music soft--- Lingers round the place, And, oh! I feel the childhood charm, That time cannot efface. Then give me but my homestead roof, I'll ask no palace dome; For I can live a happy life. With those I love at home. Home again, &c.
Rev. Mr. Ercanbrack then offered a fervent and appropriate prayer, when the choir sang the following:
Land of our fathers, wheresoever we roam, Land of our birth, to us thou still art home; Peace and prosperity on thy sons attend, Down to posterity, their influence descend. All then inviting hearts and voices joining, Sing we in harmony, our native land, Our native land-our native land-our native land.
Though our climes may brighter hopes fulfill, Land of our birth, we ever love thee still, Heaven shield our happy homes, from each hostile land; Freedom and plenty, ever crown our native land. All then, &c.
The president then introduced to the audience, Dea. Nathan Bouton, who gave the following incidents of the
FELLOW CITIZENS:---The duty assigned me by the committee, on this occasion, is one involving much labor and responsibility. The collection of the facts and statistics to be embraced in the brief outline of the history of this Town, which I propose to give, has been attended, not only with considerable labor, but much obscurity has rested on some important points, owing to the fact that most of the early settlers have gone "the way of all the earth." By diligent inquiry, however, I have been able to arrive at a good degree of certainty, respecting all the particulars set forth in these remarks, and the hearer may rely upon them as substantially true. I have availed myself of the various sources of information within my reach, and am especially indebted for the introduction to "HOTCHKISS' HISTORY of WESTERN NEW YORK." I am to deal with primitive times, and if the language used should not be as elegant or modern as that of some of the speakers on this occasion, I hope the effort may be acceptable.
Previous to 1789, the county of Montgomery embraced all the western part of the State. In that year the county of Ontario was set off, comprehending that part of the State west of what was called the "preemption line." In 1791, the counties of Herkimer and Tioga were set off from Montgomery. The county of Onondaga, including the whole Military Tract, was set off from Herkimer in 1794. From Onondaga, Cayuga was detached in 1799, and Cortland in 1808. The Military Tract was so called, from the fact that it was set apart for the payment of military bounties to the soldiers of the State who had served in the army for a certain period during the war of the Revolution. This tract embraces the present counties of Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Cortland, the greater part of Tompkins, with small parts of Oswego and Wayne.
The Indian title being at length extinguished, an act was passed by the Legislature of the State, February 28, 1789, for surveying the land and appropriating it to the use of the soldiers. The Tract was surveyed into twenty-eight townships, each containing one hundred lots of a square mile each. Every soldier and non-commissioned officer of the State troops had one lot assigned him. The officers received larger portions in proportion to rank. Many of the soldiers, by reason of the long period which elapsed previous to the issuing of the patents and the many uncertainties connected with the subject, had sold their rights for a mere pittance, some, it is said, as low as eight dollars, so that they derived very little benefit from the arrangement, and the way opened for much speculation and ultimately much litigation to settle titles. Many, however, lived to settle upon their lots, and thus secured to themselves a competence in old age, with an inheritance to descend after them to their children. The patents were issued in 1790, and preparations were soon made by those interested, to effect settlements on their lands.
The Township of Virgil is in the county of Cortland, and is one of the southern towns on the Military Tract. The whole of this Town does not belong to the Military Tract, as the tract called the "Massachusetts Ten Townships," comprehends about one and one-half mile in width across the south side, leaving, however, the Town nearly ten miles square. It is situated on the height of land between the St. Lawrence and Susquehanna rivers. The waters part here in less than a mile from where we are now assembled, and mingle with those of the broad Atlantic through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Chesapeake Bay. The surface is variegated with hills and valleys, watered by numerous springs and smaller streams of water. The timber is rather heavy, consisting of maple, beech, elm, basswood, pine, hemlock and cherry. Some of the hills have considerable chestnut and oak, and interspersed through the whole is white ash and birch. The soil is rather uniform---a medium between the best and poorest-and better adapted to grazing than tillage. The water is good, and most parts are remarkably well supplied for common purposes; but there are no large permanent streams adapted to the propelling of mills and machinery. The Tioughnioga runs through the northeast part of the Town, remote from the principal part of the population, and is not adapted to the objects to which allusion has been made. To facilitate the settlement of this section of the country, a road was projected, connecting Oxford with the Cayuga Lake, to pass through this Town. Joseph Chaplin, the first inhabitant, was entrusted with this work. The instrument by which he was authorized to engage in it was authenticated on the 5th of May, 1792. He spent that season in exploring and surveying the route, the length of which is about sixty miles. He came to lot No. 50, which he owned, and afterwards settled, erected a house and prosecuted his work, having a woman to keep the house and cook for workmen. The work of cutting and clearing the road was done in 1793-4; so that he moved his family from Oxford over it in the winter 1794-5, employing six or seven sleighs freighted with family, furniture, provisions, &c.
In 1794, John M. Frank, who had a patent for lot No. 43, came to ascertain its location and condition. He came along lines of lots by marked trees, taking the present south line of the Town, upon which his lot was bounded, made his discoveries and returned. The next year he came, made a beginning in the forest, erected a house, returned to his family and made preparations to move on. He came from Montgomery to Cooperstown, then down the Susquehanna to Chenango Point, thence up the Chenango and Tioughnioga rivers to Chaplin's, thence on the road to a point near where the village now is, thence southerly, passing near where Murdock's Tannery stands, and so on over the hill to near where Mr. Hotchkiss now lives, and then to the building he had erected. They arrived in November, 1795, after a journey of six weeks. And from that time till spring saw none but their own family. The man whom he had employed to move them in brought the family, and Mr. Frank came out on foot and drove seven head of cattle and six sheep. The sheep went away a little from the house a few days after their arrival, got out of sight and were never heard of after, and it was supposed that the wolves took them. The cattle were wintered on browse, and all lived except one yearling. Samuel Marvin, who moved the family, agreed further, that he would clear two acres and furnish the family with provisions for one year for three hundred acres off the east side of the lot, which agreements were mutually fulfilled. It is well to understand, that, though the patents were for the whole square mile, yet the State reserved to itself the right to retain one hundred acres in the southeast corner of each lot, and give an equal amount in Ohio, unless the person to receive the patent should give notice of his wish to have his land together, also charged the patentee eight dollars for surveying, and default of payment, reserved fifty acres in one corner, called the "Survey of fifty acres." Mr. Frank gave notice and saved the one hundred acres, but could not raise the eight dollars to save the fifty, though he offered a cow for the money, and also proposed to mortgage the whole lot in security; consequently the fifty acres were alienated, constituting part of the farm now owned by D. L. Bronson.
The next inhabitant was John Gee, also a soldier of the Revolution. He drew lot No. 21, bounded west by the town of Dryden, on which some of his descendants now live. He came in 1795, and two others with him, bringing their provisions with them on foot from Chenango Point, guided by marked trees. They cut down the trees on a little spot, and built such a house as three men could, with only an axe, without a board, a nail or a pane of glass, and returned. He moved his family the next year from Wyoming, arrived on the 17th of June. The family consisted of his father and mother, his wife and six children, to live in a building about sixteen feet by twelve. And it may perhaps as well be said here as anywhere, that all the structures for inhabitants were made rude. Generally they were small, built up of logs, with a floor of plank split from basswood logs, door of the same, hung with wooden hinges, and the roof of bark peeled from elm or basswood, without chimney or glass window. This was the case with nearly all constructed previous to 1801, when the first Saw Mill was built. And I may also proceed to say in this place, that the farming utensils, household furniture, and all such necessaries and conveniences of life, were rude and clumsy. The bedsteads were not French, but American, consisting of four posts of round timber, with holes bored to receive the end and side rails, and bark drawn across instead of cords. The young children, of which the number was considerable in proportion to the population, were soothed to rest in sap-troughs and hollow logs for cradles. It was the lot of your speaker to enjoy the latter, vibrating on the plank floor before described. Trenchers or wooden plates were, in many instances used instead of earthen, &c. Other points of correspondence might be traced, but we will leave that to the imagination of our hearers. With Mr. Gee the neighbors were: J. Chaplin, at the river, about twelve miles by the road, J.M. Frank, four miles without road, and Ebenezer Brown, twelve miles west in Milton, now Lansing. The nearest grist mill was at Chenango Point, now Binghamton, and no store even there. His flour was brought up in a canoe to Chaplin's, and generally from there on foot. In 1798, Ludlow's mill was built at Ludlowville, which was a convenience to him and the very few others who had then settled in Town. It would not, however, "quit cost," or as we have it, "would not pay" to carry corn that distance to be ground, so they would burn a hollow place in the top of a stump and pound it in that with a pestle hung to a spring sweep.
In the Spring of 1797, John E. Roe came on from Ulster county, and made a beginning on his lot, the same occupied till recently by himself and family, boarding with Mr. Frank. He cleared a spot, put up the body of a log house, split plank and laid a floor, peeled bark for a roof and agreed with a man in Homer to put it on. He also cut and cured some of the wild grass growing in the swamp, for hay, and returned. Preparations were then made for moving on, which was done in the winter following. He and his wife came in a sleigh with a young cow following them. When they came to the river opposite Mr. Chaplin's they found the water high and the canoe that had been used in crossing, carried away. Mr. Chaplin's hog trough was procured and Mrs. Roe was safely carried over in it. She then stood upon the bank to await the crossing of what remained. The horses being urged in, swam across with the sleigh, the cow followed, and came near being carried away by the current, but after a hard struggle made the shore in safety. They put up for the night, the horses being fastened to the sleigh, as no accommodations could be procured; and they ate out the bottoms of the chairs, to allay the keen demands of appetite. The snow was two feet, with no track, and the whole day was consumed in coming from the river to their new home. When they arrived they were surprised to find their house without covering, consequently the snow was as deep in it as out of it. Persons of less perseverance would have been disheartened. But no time was to be lost. The snow was cleared away from a portion of the floor, a fire was built against the logs, some blankets drawn across the beams for a covering, the horses tied in one corner with some of the coarse hay before them, and thus their first and several successive nights were passed..
Thus in February, 1798, we find four families in the Town, separated by long distances from each other, almost without roads, suffering in many respects for the necessaries of life, exposed in their property and persons to the ravages of wild beasts, and far from sympathizing friends. But the dark, howling wilderness must be changed to fruitful fields, and these were the pioneers to lead on in this great work. Wild beasts were very numerous, especially deer. Mr. Roe has sat in his house and seen twenty-five pass in a drove, and Jonathan Gee has seen from six to eight browsing with the cattle at once. There were also many wolves and bears, and Mr. Roe and Capt. Knapp caught and killed fifteen wolves in one year; and during the time when they were prevalent, Mr. Roe lost by them fifteen head of cattle and a large number of sheep. Their ravages were general, and subjected the inhabitants to the necessity of folding their sheep every night for about fifteen years. For a series of years the settlers suffered great hardship and privations, but they gradually diminished, so that in 1809 or '10 most of the necessaries of life were accessible to the mass of the people. Though I shall notice the progress of the settlements, I shall not be so minute in reference to particular families. To this number there was added in 1798, James Wright where Thomas Stanbro now lives, James Knapp where M. B. Mynard lives, James Glenny and John Glenny, near the residences of H. P. Jones and Thomas Hammond, Joseph Bailey where William Givens lives, and Wait Ball where J. C. Hutchings lives. In February, 1799, Enos Bouton settled where he remained while he lived; Dana Miles and others not now known, came in, so that in the year twenty-three men were taxed with highway labor. In 1800, we find James Sherwood, who settled on the ridge east from A. J. Brown's residence, James Wright, who settled near where Mrs. Byram lives, John Calvert, near where N. Chamberlain owns, Seth Larabee, near where Abram Oak lives, John Ellis where L. V. Terpenning lives, Moses Rice where Cephas Gleason lives, Abial Brown where Abijah Haight lives, Moses Stevens where Barnabas Tyler lives, Jason Crawford, on the river, and Primus Gaunt (colored) in that part now embraced in Lapeer. In 1801, Daniel Edwards settled where William Glenny lives, Nathaniel Bouton on the farm occupied by him during his life, and now by his son, Prince Freeman where Samuel N. Rounds lives, and James Clark and son where Joseph Colwell lives. In 1802, Jonathan Edwards settled where he lived the most of the rest of his life, Samuel Carson, near where Joseph Bouton lives, Alexander Hunter took the place of Joseph Bailey, George Wigant in a house near where J. Hancock's garden is, Abner and Ezra Bruce near the residence of L.V. Terpenning, and William Lincoln, a single man, came and has remained ever since, and is with us to-day. Peter Gray settled the same year on lot No. 70, (now Lapeer) and Robert K. Wheeler and Thomas Kingsbury in 1802 or '3; both in the same part. In 1803, Moses Olmstead settled where Josephus Gee lives, and Peter Powers and John I. Gee settled also, in the west part, and Andrew Van Buskirk in the east part of the Town, and Dorastus Dewolf in the south part, (now Harford) on the hill west from the present village of that name. Seth Jennings and Timothy Robertson also settled in the part now Lapeer, in 1803 or '04. In 1804, Silas Lincoln settled where Salmon Curtis lives, and Alexander McNitt on lot No. 3, taking the place of James Wright, Obadiah Glazier near where Newman Barton lives; Lemuel Barnes, Peter Tanner and Thomas Nichols also settled the same year in the part now Harford and Jeremiah Shevalier in the east part, near where his son John now lives.
In 1805, Simeon Luce settled on the hill that bears his name; Isaac Barton on land owned by Isaac B. Raymond; Jotham Glazier where Frederick Benton resides; Zophar Moore in this village; Oliver Ball at the present residence of M. B. Mynard; Isaac Elwell near where John Bouton lives. And at some time previous, of which we have not the date, Comfort Bruce, Shubel S. Marsh and James Roe came and took up their residence here. In 1806, John Hill settled where he lived afterwards, and where his family now live; John Green in the part now Harford; Zachariah Squires on lot No.70, and Robert Smith bought the farm of Peter Gray, and lived there in that year; John Snider settled on the hill that bears his name, June 10th, 1807. Time will not, however, admit of our pursuing this course further. Inhabitants continued to come in from different parts, till, at present time, there is very little non-resident land in the town. The early inhabitants did not settle on prairie, where they could raise their provisions the first year, but the heavy forest must be cleared away, which was a work of time before the laborer could be fed from the soil he cultivated; and must wait a year or two more before he had grass for his cows, and they must run in the woods, and much time be spent in finding and bringing them home. And frequently they could not be found, especially if the search were commenced late, when they would have lain down and the tinkling of the bell could no more be heard. The milk was also of inferior quality, owing to the leeks and other weeds upon which they fed. Money was very scarce through the country, and particularly in the new parts where was little to be sold and much to be bought. It would be impossible to express to the understanding of this, or any audience of modern times, the difficulties experienced on this account.
It was almost impossible to collect enough in the year to pay the taxes. This difficulty was very much owing, so far as the older parts were concerned, to the Embargo which was then in force, restricting commerce and causing a stagnation in all departments of business, and though the newly settled parts had not much to sell, they felt severely the effect of this state of things. We have seen the time when it would have been as difficult to raise five dollars as now it would be to raise as many hundred. Another difficulty existing in the Town particularly, was that the land was not owned by the inhabitants, but must be paid for from the products of the same to add to the capital of rich men living at a distance.
Another embarrassment was one to which allusion was made in the description of the natural features of the Town, viz.: the want of sufficient water power to propel mills and machinery, thus taking business away, and while other places were benefited, this Town was the loser. There was, however, a commendable degree of enterprise among the people, and the crops were, for a number of years, abundant, compared with the area of ground cultivated, and the people relished highly what they had. For example---we have the Sweet Bough, Red Astrachan and Red Margaret, (exhibiting a specimen of each) but neither of them tastes so delicious as some of those inferior apples first produced by our orchards.
Their hardships were also very much ameliorated by common participation and mutual sympathy. Hospitality prevailed and mutual dependence promoted harmony and fellow feeling. They met, exchanged accounts of their trials, often with much humor and pleasantry, and cheered each other on. If a log cabin was to be raised for some new comer they were all on the spot with strong arms and a hearty good will.
But we must attend to several branches of history in order.
When first settled, Homer, Solon, Cincinnatus and Virgil were in one town called Homer.
At the Town Meeting in 1797, it was resolved that the Township of Virgil shall constitute one highway district.
In 1798, Virgil seems to have been represented, and James Knapp was chosen Assessor, Commissioner of Highways and Overseer of Highways, and returned eight names to be taxed for highway work. The poll tax was three days, and the number of days assessed was fifty-eight and one-half. At the Town Meeting in 1799, held at the house of Moses Hopkins, Virgil was honored with the office of Supervisor in the person of James Knapp; Wait Ball was chosen Assessor; John E. Roe, Overseer of the Poor; Wait Ball, Commissioner of Highways, and Dana Miles, Overseer of Highways, and returned twenty-three names to be taxed.
Thus this Town continued with Homer through the year 1804, always having its proper proportion of office and privilege.
The Township of Virgil having been set off from Homer into a separate town, the inhabitants assembled in Town Meeting at the house of James Knapp, on the 2d day of April, 1805, and proceeded to choose John I. Gee, Moderator; Gideon Messenger, Town Clerk; Moses Rice, Supervisor; Abner Bruce, John Gee and Joseph Chaplin, Assessors; John Glenny, George Wigant and John I. Gee, Commissioners of Highways; Jonathan Edwards and Peter Powers, Poor Masters, and Shubel S. Marsh, Constable and Collector.
|1||John Gee,||5||Comfort Bruce,||9||Peter Powers,|
|2||Isaac Elwell,||6||Alexander McNitt,||10||Joseph Chaplin,|
|3||Samuel Carson||7||Obadiah Glazier,||11||Elias Thompson,|
|4||Jonathan Edwards,||8||James Wright,||12||Peter Gray,|
Moses Olmstead and Abial Brown, Fence Viewers.
Since the organization of the Town there have been forty-nine Town Meetings, at which the following persons have been elected Supervisors and Town Clerks, for the term specified respectively:
|Moses Rice, Supervisor,||8 years,||Ogden Gray,||2 years,|
|James Roe,||4 years,||Enoch D. Branch,||1 year,|
|Gideon Messenger,||9 years,||Moses Tyler,||1 year,|
|Joseph Reynolds,||9 years,||John Green,||2 years,|
|Michael Frank,||2 years,||Dudley Benton,||1 year,|
|Sanford Bouton,||3 years,||Page Green,||1 year,|
|Josiah Hart,||1 year,||M. B. Mynard,||1 year,|
|Timothy Green,||3 years,||H. J. Messenger,||now in office.|
|Abner Bruce,||2 years,||A. E. Heberd,||4 years,|
|Moses Rice,||2 years,||John Chamberlain,||2 years,|
|James Roe,||1 year,||Norman Chamberlain,||4 years,|
|James Chatterton,||12 years,||Willard Chatterton,||3 years,|
|Alvan Ryan,||1 year,||Wait Chamberlain,||1 year,|
|William Snider,||1 year,||Samuel Slafter,||1 year,|
|Kinne Grow,||1 year,||D. L. Bronson,||1 year,|
|Willard Chatterton, now in office.|
James Glenny was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1802, and held the office several years. Wait Ball was soon after appointed to the same office, and continued in it for sixteen years in succession. Moses Rice also held that office for several years, about the same time. But our time will not admit of giving the names and terms of service of all who have been Justices of the Peace in the Town.
Joseph Reynolds, Josiah Hart, James Chatterton, Nathan Heaton, Platt F. Grow and Timothy Green have been Members of the Assembly of this State, and Joseph Reynolds has been Member of Congress one term.
Soon after the first settlements were made, the people were visited by Missionaries who were faithful in looking to their spiritual welfare.
Among these were Rev. Messrs. Williston, Phelps and Johnson, Congregationalists, and Roots, Whipple and Cole, Baptists. There were also Methodist ministers, who came in at an early day and preached and otherwise labored to promote the spiritual good of the people. The Universalists, also had occasional meetings, when they were addressed by Rev. Archelaus Green, a resident of the Town.
The first religious meetings by the people were commenced in 1802. Prayers were offered by Prince Freeman, of this Town, and James Wood, of Dryden. Singing was conducted by Moses Rice, and sermons read by James Glenny. Since that time religious meetings have been held every Sabbath, except in case of some violent storm or remarkable event. On the 28th of February, 1805, the Congregational Church was formed with eight members, (one of whom, Mrs. L. Edwards, is still living,) by Rev. Seth Williston. The church was without stated preaching, several years. They felt severely their destitute condition, which will be seen by the following vote passed December 3d, 1806: "That the church will see to the satisfying of Rev. Dr. Darrow for two Sabbaths' service a year, at five dollars a Sabbath, to attend on sacramental occasions, and also to take the oversight of the church for the present." The church struggled on through various difficulties, with preaching part of the time, meeting in various places where they could, after the "Centre School House" was burnt, in 1818, till this house could be used for that purpose. This house was put up in 1821, but it was two or three years before it was enclosed and made comfortable, and the present seats were not built till 1831. Its location, near the burying ground, was found inconvenient, and removed to this place in 1834. About two hundred and seventy persons have been added to the church, and it now embraces about seventy resident members. The ministers who have preached statedly to the church, are Rev. Messrs. Wallace, Hitchcock, Dunning, Robertson, Bliss, Chaffee, Headley, Walcott, Thacher, Bronson and Bates. Among these Messrs., Robertson, Chaffee and Thacher were pastors.
A Baptist Church was constituted in August, 1807. They held meetings in private houses, etc., and had preaching from Elders Bennett, of Homer, Powers and Robinson, and others of this place till about 1826 or '27, when it was disbanded, and reorganized June 23d, 1830. In 1831, their present meeting house was built. The ministers preaching steadily since its reorganization, have been Elders Andrews, Robinson, Clark, Ainsworth, Cole, Jones, Lyon and DeWitt. Present number of members, sixty-nine.
The Methodists held meetings frequently, and had preaching from Rev. G. W. Densmore and others, previous to 1830. In that year there was much interest among them, and many were added to their number. In 1831, the chapel was built, and they have had as preachers since 1830, Rev. Messrs. Mason, Wood, Bronson, Harris, Meneir, Worthing, Hamilton, Porter, McDowell, Fox, Wire, Mynard, Hewitt, Torry and Ercanbrack. They have about seventy-two members.
The Free Baptist Church in the west part of the Town was organized in 1822, with six members. They held meetings in "Ball's School House," so called, till they built their present meeting house, often called "The West Meeting House," in 1838. Its preachers have been Elders Daniels, Hills, Darling, Gardner, Dodge, Moulton, and others. The number of members at this time is eighty-three.
In about 1834, the Universalists formed a society, which increased to about thirty members, and continued their organization and meetings several years. Among the preachers who labored statedly with them, were Revs. Brown, Sanderson, Doolittle, Brown, Foster and Bullard.
In the southwest part, now Harford, the first preaching was by Rev. Seth Williston in 1804. Preaching by Methodist ministers in 1806 or '7.
The Baptists formed a church in that part about 1818, which has been ministered to by Elders Robinson, Miller, Gibbs and others. This church has always been small, though we are unable to give its numbers.
The Methodists have had meetings and an organization in the same locality, and have participated in the erection of the meeting house, and have at times been prosperous.
The Christians were organized into a church about 1828, and have held their meetings in the vicinity of South Harford. They have had stated preaching by Elders Rouse, Gould, Dodge, Holiday, Grimes, Wade, Burlingame, Wescott, Hitchcock and others. Number of members we are unable to state.
The Congregational Church, of Harford, was organized September 28, 1831, with thirteen members; and in 1832, a house of worship was built by that society, in connection with the Methodists and Universalists. They have had stated preaching by Rev. Messrs. Ripley, Gaylord, Baker and Lord; and in 1846, when the Town was set off, had fifty-four members.
The Universalists formed a society in about 1831, which has numbered as high as forty-three members. They aided in building the house of worship above alluded to, and own a part of it. They have had stated preaching from Rev. Messrs. Chase, Doolittle, Whiston, Barry, Rounsville, Brown and others.
A church of Free or Open Communion Baptists, was formed in the southeast part of the Town, in about 1820, by Elder Lake, embracing members also residing in Marathon and Lisle. Their preachers have been Elders Lake, Hart and Matthews. The number of members rose at one time to nearly eighty. The Methodists had frequent meetings near the centre of that quarter of the Town, and have had at times, considerable religious interest among them. We are not able, however, to state their numbers.
There is also a church of the Christian order in that part, holding their meetings in the school house near Dann C. Squires'. They have been ministered to by Elder Hitchcock and others,---we cannot state their numbers.
There was also a church organized in the east part of the Town in about 1830, of the Congregational order by Rev. Eleazar Luce. It was ministered to by Rev. Messrs. Luce, Axtell, Chaffee and others; and in 1837, had thirty-one members. It has since been dissolved. The Methodists have also long had a branch of their church in East Virgil, and have had preaching a portion of the time. In 1844, a house of worship was erected at the place called Gridley Hollow, by the union of the several denominations residing in that vicinity. The years 1813, '20, '30 and '31, were signalized as seasons of special religious interest, and many were added tot he different churches.
The first infants baptized, were Betsey N. and Sylvester M. Roe, by Rev. W. Mandeville, in the autumn of 1802. The first adult was Mrs. Zeruiah, wife of Peter Powers, in 1803, by Elder Whipple. In common with other localities there have been societies with us for the promotion of the various benevolent objects of the day,---such as Bible, Missionary and Tract Societies. These have been successful in a good degree, in promoting the several objects for which they were instituted, and it may be safely estimated that the Bible Society has been instrumental in keeping the families in Town supplied with the Bible by means of funds received from its inhabitants.
And here we have to confess that there never has been resident in Town a regularly bred lawyer, but we have had those that have been able to advocate the rights of the people before the courts in Town, and some in other places. James Wright, a revolutionary soldier, was the first who acted in this capacity, and since his time there has been several who have engaged in that business; and now we have Messrs. Green and Grow, who are probably the ablest advocates in that department that we have ever had.
The first physician was Elijah Hartson. Since he left we had in this part of the Town, Drs. Moore, Green, Worden, Woods and Ryan, before 1820. Dr. Bronson came in 1820, and has been here ever since, except the short time he was at Vernon. During that time Dr. C. P. Weaver was here, and from 1841 to '48 we had Drs. Wilson and Robinson. Now our three physicians are Drs. Bronson, Fitch and Ball. The physicians in the part now Harford, have been Fox, Owen, Terry, Houghteling, Davis, Shipman and others.
The inhabitants were early awake to the importance of education, and were resolved that their children should have all the means in their power to provide for its acquisition. Accordingly in 1799, the few that were here came together and built a school house near where the Thorn Tree now stands, easterly from the residence of J. C. Hutchings. The first teacher was Charles Joyce, who taught two or three weeks. Another named Hatch, continued a short time, and left suddenly. Next Rebecca Ball, daughter of Wait Ball, taught two summers. After her, Abigail, sister to Rebecca, was employed one term. The first school near the village was taught by Mrs. L. Edwards in her own house. Afterwards Moses Rice taught in the Remington house in the winter of 1804-5. The first school taught in the part now Harford, was by Betsey Curran in the winter of 1806-7, in the house of Abner Rounsville.
The Legislature had appropriated one lot in this Town to the support of the gospel and schools, and when the school law took effect in 1813, the rent was added to the funds derived from the State, and has since been available for this purpose. In that year William Powers, Oliver Ball and Gideon Messenger, School Commissioners, divided the Town into seven school districts. The first grammar school was taught in 1819 by Henry J. Hall, in the east part of the double log house of John I. Gee, located were T. L. Lincoln, Esq., now lives. This was the first effort of systematic instruction in that science in the Town. It continued four weeks with thirteen scholars. Their names were Beebe L. Ball, Stephen S. Powers, James Ball, John M. Roe, John Harris, William L. Gee, Nathan Bouton, Rufus and Harriet Edwards, Lemira Byram, Marietta Chaplin and Sally and Lucy Messenger. Of this number eight are living by latest accounts, and four are present.
From 1837 to 1845, a school called the "Literary Institute," was taught one-half of each year by N. Bouton and William E. Gee, which was in a good degree successful. It was afterwards continued about two years by A. F. Frye. Other select schools have been taught since at different times. There have also been such schools in the part now Harford. One by Erving Taintor, and another by a lady, some time afterwards. There was also a select school taught by Jesse Storrs in the part now Lapeer, which continued several terms. There was a great scarcity of reading matter in the early settlement. Newspapers were scarce and dear; the usual price $2 per annum, with less than half the reading matter we now have, at double the price. (The speaker here exhibited a copy of a county paper published in 1829, with five columns on a page.) To remedy this defect, in part, the inhabitants set up a library called the "Virgil Library," with thirty shares of one dollar each, and a very good selection of books was procured in about 1807. Another library was established about 1814, with a capital of $200, called the "Virgil Union Library." At present the necessity for such libraries is superceded by their establishment in each school district. Books and papers are also plenty and cheap.
The first Sabbath School was instituted in 1822, in connection with the Congregational Church. Since that time Sabbath schools have been conducted in the different churches and neighborhoods with various degrees of success to the present time.
Allusion has been made to the kind of cradles in which some of us were lulled to rest in our infancy, but it is not to be presumed that it was always done without a lullaby. Probably none of us can remember that used for ourselves, but the singing that made the first permanent impression on the mind of the speaker, was the following words:
Where shall our country turn its eye?|
What help remains beneath the sky?
Our friend, protector, strength and trust,
Lies low and mouldering in the dust.
This is a part of the lamentation of a bereaved people, at the death of the Father of his Country. When individuals met who could sing they frequently engaged in this exercise, when the associations connected with it would lead their minds back to the place of their nativity, and bring up affecting remembrances of precious friends and scenes long past. The first Singing School was taught by Moses Rice, in the winter of 1805-6. Since that time this department of science and mental and moral improvement has received much attention, and we, to-day, enjoy the rich privilege of listening to delightful music in words eminently adapted to this thrilling occasion. The sacred music of this place is now in the care of Messrs. Slafter, Adamy and Sheerar.
The department of roads now claims our attention. The first road passing through the Town, was the "State Road." A road was slightly cut through from near this Village, in the direction of the head of the lake, called the "Bridle Road." The next was one laid from the State Road, commencing near the present dwelling house of William Bell, and taking a northeasterly direction till it intersected the road from Port Watson to Solon, laid July 2d, 1798. The next from the State Road on lot No. 24, southwesterly to near where the "West Meeting House" now is, and turned and went over to John Gee's, and continued on to the State Road. Soon after, a road was laid from the State Road, near the residence of L. V. Terpenning, past where Hiram Lament lives, and came out on the present road, near Thomas Stanbro's, and continued on to Homer. In 1801, this road was altered and run nearly where it now is, past Purvis', Morse's, etc. About the same time a road was laid from where the Village now is, southerly over Owego Hill, and the road leading from Mr. Frank's nearly as it now runs, intersecting the road leading to Gee's at the West Meeting House, was laid soon afterwards. The road from Cortlandville to Virgil, where it now is, was laid in 1806, and that over Luce Hill nearly at the same time. The State Road from Chaplin's this way was rather rugged, and it early occurred to the inhabitants that much of the hill might be saved by a road that might be constructed from the State Road near the residence of Daniel Price, passing down the stream to Vanderburg's mill, continuing on past the saw mill of A. Van Buskirk, intersecting the State Road near the house of Joseph Chaplin. This road was laid in 1818, through to the grist mill. This road required much labor and expense to make it possible, and must necessarily be a work of time. It was, however, cut and worked through, so that it was traveled in 1833, and remains a lasting monument to the energy and perseverance of Reuben Gridley, who was principally instrumental in its construction, though aided very much by funds appropriated by the Town.
Previous to 1808 there was no Post Office in Town, and all intelligence was transmitted by means of distant offices, or sent by individuals whom might be going in the direction desired, which was attended with much delay and uncertainty. In that year a post office was established, and Zophar Moore appointed Post Master, and the mail was carried for some time by a man traveling on foot; afterwards it was carried on horseback for several years. An office was established in the southwest part of the Town, in 1825 or '26, first named Worthington, afterwards changed to Harford, and Theodore E. Hart was appointed Post Master. An office was also located in the east part, called East Virgil, in 1845, and William Gray appointed Post Master.
Among the early settlers a large portion were soldiers of the French and Revolutionary wars. Derosel Gee, Thomas Nichols and John Smith were engaged in the French war, so called, of 1754-'63. The following are names of the Revolutionary soldiers who have lived in the Town:
|Joseph Bailey,||Silas Lincoln,||Stephen Kelly,|
|John Gee,||Jason Crawford,||Oliver Hopkins,|
|Seth Larabee,||David Robinson,||William Parker,|
|John M. Frank,||Altamont Donaldson,||David Crowell,|
|Dana Miles,||Abner Baker,||Robert Smith,|
|James Knapp,||Isaac Tillotson,||Nathan Smith,|
|James Wright,||Moses Stevens,||Henry Turck,|
|Nicholas Brown,||George Barlow,||Nathan Walker,|
|Robert Ryan,||Simeon Leroy,||Timothy Robertson,|
|John Smith,||Jeremiah Chase,||Samuel Sole,|
|James Sherwood,||John Stanbro,||Asa Parker,|
|Enoch Smith,||Cornelius Lament,||Thomas Nichols,|
|John Snider,||Elisha Brewer,||Lemuel Barnes,|
|Thomas Russell,||Thomas Kingsbury,||Joel Morten,|
|Seth Bouton,||Adam Kingman,||John Green,|
|George Totman,||Moses Rice,||Benjamin Glazier,|
|Elias Thomson,||David Darling,||Jonathan Skeel,|
Of these Jeremiah Chase, Simeon Leroy, George Totman, Joel Morten, John Gee, Elisher Brewer, Cornelius Lament, John Stanbro, Enoch Smith, Thomas Kingsbury and Stephen Kelly, were living in Town in 1840. Of this number John Gee is now the only survivor.
The scenes of the war through which they had recently passed were fresh in their minds; and it is not strange that much of a military spirit should exist among the people. Consequently the call for the performance of military duty was soon made, and the call was responded to by five men, of whom Gideon Messenger was one, going to Homer to train under Captain Moses Hopkins. Captain Hopkins had previously held lower rank, but had exerted himself to get up a company of forty-five, by enlisting old men and boys to obviate the necessity of going to Marcellus to attend company drills. Soon the soldiers in Virgil were permitted to train in Town, and the first meeting for that purpose was held at the house of James Knapp, where M. B. Mynard now lives, under the command of Captain John Ellis, afterwards Judge Ellis, of Dryden. The Captains after him were successively, Abial Brown, James Wright, Geo. Wigant and Joseph Chaplin. The company was then divided, and William Lincoln commanded the east company, and Enoch Allen the west. This was the condition of the military interest at the commencement of the war of 1812-'15. Levies of troops were made and the companies in this Town were called on for five or six men. In the west company a sufficient number enlisted,---their names were John Russell, Moses Woolfeen and Henry Green. The east company drafted for three, and John E. Roe, Daniel Price and Ira Lincoln were drawn. John E. Roe procured a substitute. Daniel Price went and served three months, and Ira Lincoln was excused on account of ill health. At another muster David Snider was drawn and went, serving three months, the usual time for militia. There have also been living in the Town several others who were soldiers in that war. Among these were Joel Hancock, Edmund H. Robinson, Jacob Bronson, Barnabas Baker, Zachariah Low, John D. Barnes, Thomas Foster, Ezekiel Miller, Reuben Gridley, John Fisher, Isaac Ayers, Gurdin Hall, Daniel Short, Uriah Harvey, Joseph Miller, Joseph Terwillegar and Edward Griswold. There was a company of aged men and invalids organized in 1813, after the example set in the time of the Revolution. Of this company Simeon West was Captain, John S. Squires, Lieutenant, and William Powers, Ensign.
The Town was afterwards divided into four companies, out of which there has also been for most of the time an independent company. A company of riflemen was raised in about 1813, of which Joseph Reynolds was the first Captain. This company was afterwards disbanded. A company of artillery was organized in 1828-'29, of which Michael Frank was the first Captain. It continued prosperous for several years, but was ultimately disbanded. Afterwards a company of infantry was raised, and John W. Morse was the first captain in uniform. This company was discontinued when military duty ceased to be called for.
The first Saw Mill was built by Daniel Edwards, in 1801, nearly on the ground where Murdock's tannery is located. The first Grist Mill was built near where Tyler's mill now is, by Peter Vanderlyn and Nathaniel Knapp, in 1805. Hutching's grist mill, in the edge of Dryden, was built in 1809---mentioned because this Town was much interested in it. Previous to the building of mills in Homer and in this Town, several individuals practiced going to Ludlow's and carrying their grist upon their backs. Among these were Joseph Bailey and Enos Bouton. After a few years, and when these mills were built, persons could go with a horse, get grinding done and return the same day; and the yellow horse of Mr. Luce has been known to pace off the hill six times in a week, for the family and neighbors. About 1814 or '15, Abner Bruce built a grist mill where the spring mill now is, owned by T. Green. It was burnt down in 1820, and rebuilt in a year or two. In 1827 it was bought by Josiah Byram, and occupied by him for carding and cloth dressing till his death, in 1842. It has since been fitted up at considerable expense, for a grist mill, and is doing a good business, and the owner deserves credit for his enterprise and perseverance. A grist mill was built in 1814, by Nathan Heaton, in the south part of the Town, now called South Harford. A grist mill was also built in the east part in 1819, by a Mr. Vanderburg, which has done considerable business. Harvy Jennings also built a grist mill in the southeast part, near Orrin Day's, in 1833, which did some business till it was burnt in 1842.
The first wool carding by machinery was done by C. Baker, at his mill, (now Tyler's) in about 1814. In 1819, Henry Burgess commenced wool carding and cloth dressing near the same place, taking water from the same dam. His building was afterwards removed to near the place now occupied for the same purpose, by H. P. Jones. In 1827, Josiah Byram commenced the same business in the building bought of Abner Bruce, as before mentioned.
The first child born in Town, was John, a son of Joseph Chaplin, who was drowned in the spring of 1798, aged two years. The first who lived to mature age was John Frank, one of our guests, in autumn, 1797. Next to him was James Gee, in March, 1798; Betsey N. Roe and B. F. Chaplin, in February, 1799, and Hiram Bell and Hiram Bouton, in the same year.
The first marriage, as nearly as we can ascertain, was solemnized between Ruluff Whitney, of Dryden, and Susan, daughter of John Glenny, of this Town, as early as 1800. In the autumn of 1801, Truman Terry was married to Rebecca, daughter of Wait Ball.
The first death was that of a stranger passing through, who undertook to go from Ebenezer Brown's, in Milton, (now Lansing,) to Chaplin's, at the river. He became fatigued, lost his way, lay down with his pack under his head and died. This was in April, 1798, and only four or five persons could be got together. George Frank was present at the scene, and is also with us here to-day. They placed some timbers about him, for a protection from wild beasts, and left him. One of their number went to Homer to make the case known to Solomon Hubbard, Esq., and ask direction. His advice was, that, as there was no Coroner nearer than Pompey, the few inhabitants should get together and make such examination as they were able, and proceed accordingly. The next day they assembled and had as much of an examination as was practicable in the circumstances, concerning the cause of his decease, and it was agreed as before stated. They took some boards brought into Town by John E. Roe, for the purpose of making a table, and fastening them together in the form of a box, placed him in it and buried him in the grave which they had dug, and now his bones lie mouldering somewhere between this place and Timothy Green's, near the hill. His son came subsequently, said his father's name was Charles Huffman, and took some shoemaker's tools found with him at his death. The first death of an adult resident was that of Mary, wife of Derosel Gee and mother of John Gee, in March, 1802. Exercises at the funeral were singing and prayer.
Previously to 1806, when the public burying ground was deeded to the Town by George Wigant, persons were buried on the premises where they died. The first grave-stone was erected to the memory of James Roe, Esq., in about 1823.
The first distillery was erected in 1803 or '4, by James Wright. Intemperance prevailed, as in other places, till in 1829, six distilleries were in operation. The moral and philanthropic in the community became alarmed and inquired with solicitude what could be done to stay its ravages. Temperance societies began to be formed in different parts, and the inhabitants of this place, on consultation, agreed to meet and form a Temperance Society. The Fourth of July, 1829, was chosen as the time to organize such Society, and Michael Frank, our guest, to give the address, at the close of which a society was formed with about twenty members. And here let us pause and drop a tear in memory of our early, cordial friend and associate, Beebe L. Ball, the first President of that society, and while he lived, its firm, judicious and ardent supporter. In 1831, a society was instituted in that part now Harford; and one on Luce Hill, and another on Snider Hill, about the same time. The temperance cause has been promoted since, by various means and with great labor and expense, and much progress has been made, but much remains to be done before its triumph will be complete.
About the year 1832, several individuals became much aroused on the subject of Slavery. Their number was small,---the subject was one of great difficulty, but they read and diffused information on the subject, and acted according to their convictions. The cause progressed slowly, as every great reform must, till in 1844, the Liberty Party gave their candidate for the Presidency ninety-nine votes. Since that time various changes have taken place in the aspects of the cause, and great progress has been made.
Agriculture, the foundation of all, has engaged the attention of most of the people. They have been employed in clearing away the forest and cultivating the earth, which has generally yielded good return. The implements used were those incident to the time. The plows were of the common rude kind till the year 1817, when the first cast iron plow was brought in and used by Esq. Ball. Some of the first settlers, of whom John M. Frank was one, cleaned their grain by throwing it across the barn floor with a small scoop shovel, and afterwards shaking it up in a hand fan made of a hollow log, when the refuse parts were brushed off with a quill. Afterwards a willow fan and riddle were used. It was very important that the grain should be cleaned, as there were no means of taking out dust at the mills, as there are now. Fanning mills soon came to be used; the first, however, that is recollected was about the year 1809. Considerable grain of the several kinds has been raised, and for some years past much attention has been given to the dairy, which in 1851, brought in a return of $25,000. Some of the people in an early day directed their attention to the cultivation of fruit, especially apples. Very soon after his first settlement, Joseph Chaplin sowed the seeds for a nursery of natural fruit, and Enos Bouton did the same soon after, and most of the oldest orchards are from these nurseries. The first nursery of grafted fruit was put out by Nathaniel Bouton, about 1808, and Oliver Ball did the same soon after.
The first barrel of cider made in Town, was by Enos Bouton, in 1818 or '19. The apples were bruised by a pestle hung to a spring sweep like that referred to in pounding corn. The pomace was pressed by a lever placed under a log, passing over the cheese, with a weight at the other end. It was sold for four dollars.
The first Merchant was Daniel Shelden, in about 1807 or '8. Next was Samuel L. Shelden, and next after him, Gideon Messenger. While he was in trade Joseph Reynolds set up a store in the village, since which there have been two stores in the village most of the time. William Snider, Hiram Bouton, G. V. Knapp, A. E. Heberd, Rufus Edwards and others have engaged in this business; and now we have the firm of Winslow & Slafter, and William Snider. The first in the part now Harford was Theodore E. Hart, in June, 1824. In the part called East Virgil, William Gray set up a store in 1834, and most of the time since there have been two stores in that vicinity. The early merchants carried wheat and other articles to Albany in wagons, and brought back such goods as the people could afford to buy. Doubtless they sometimes took money with them, but the sums must have been small. The mercantile interest has continually increased to the present time, so that in 1851 it was estimated that goods were sold at the stores in this Village to the amount of $30,000. It will be understood that this is but a portion of the purchases of the people in Town, as there are stores in other parts, and much trading---too much for the good of the people---is done out of Town.
Slight mention has been made of some of our exports. In addition to these we may be permitted to add that of barley, oats, eggs, and for many years past a large amount of oats has been carried to Ithaca, Syracuse and other places. It was rumored in the autumn of 1812 that oats could be exchanged at Ithaca for iron and other necessaries, and after much preparation and in the presence of several neighbors who came to offer their congratulations, an ox team set out for that place with a load, one Friday afternoon, and returned late on Saturday evening. Since that time a large amount of the article has been transported. This crop, however profitable it may be, is very exhausting to the soil, and we must abandon its cultivation for export, and direct our attention to the cultivation of other produce.
It would be desirable to speak of the different mechanical departments with their origin and progress, but as their beginnings were very small, and in most instances involved in obscurity, and were the result of stern necessity, it may be best not to make the attempt.
We will, however, state that the first frame building of much size, was the large house now standing on the elevation in this Village, owned by Shubel G. Ball, erected in 1804, by James Knapp, very much astonishing the natives, and with other causes ruining the man that built it. The first well of much depth was that near it, of more than forty feet deep, dug about the same time, and in which Seth Larabee, one of our citizens, came near losing his life, by its caving in.
The land surveying of the Town has been done by different individuals, as Wait Ball and James Roe, who commenced almost with its first settlement. Afterwards Daniel L. Allen and Hiram Ball, and very recently Abiather Briggs have done business in this line; and in this vicinity for the last thirty years most of it has been done by the speaker.
Several events have transpired that have caused great sensation for a time, and made a lasting impression on many minds. The first was that of a boy lost in the woods. In May, 1796, Daniel Chaplin, son of Joseph Chaplin, and father of Mrs. Gleason, now present, aged about fourteen years, set out to drive a cow to Mr. Frank, and took with him a few pounds of flour. The cow became refractory and turned out of the road, and in endeavoring to get her back he lost the road and wandered in the trackless wilderness. The cow returned home, thus giving notice that he was lost. An alarm was given and about fifty men assembled, which was a great number for so sparse a population. He was gone four days and three nights without food, and was found on the "Bridle Road," in Dryden, by Aaron and James Knapp, of Homer. They ascertained who he was, and proceeded to help him home. He had the flour with him, but the weather having been rainy, it had become mouldy and they threw it away. He was very faint and weak, but being supported on each side he could walk, and they arrived at his father's house about midnight, where his mother had about thirty men in and about the house, and was preparing victuals for them to take in their search on the morrow. Mr. Chaplin was absent at the time. We shall not make the vain attempt to paint the scene, but leave it to our hearers to imagine the feelings of that mother, and the sensation caused by his arrival.
The next to be noticed was the great eclipse of the sun on the 16th of June, 1806, which, though not peculiar to this Town, made a deep impression, and was an event from which many others have been reckoned. Another event which produced general solemnity, was that of a sweeping sickness, which occurred in the winter and spring of 1813. In a very few weeks four heads of families in that thin population were removed by death. Their names were James Roe, Esq., Jacob Chatterton, William Gee, and Lydia, wife of Benjamin Glazier.
During the present year a death has occurred in Harford, once Virgil, of an individual which it would be well to notice in this connection. It was that of Henry Ballard, at the very advanced age of one hundred and nine years. It remains to notice that the season of 1816 was very unfruitful, generally denominated the cold season, followed by great scarcity of provisions, etc. In 1821 there was much suffering on account of scarcity of food for stock, and it was also a time of great pecuniary embarrassment. In 1836-'37 there was also a scant supply of provisions and a time of derangement in pecuniary matters, resulting from the insane speculations immediately preceeding, in which many engaged with that recklessness characteristic of those in haste to be rich. It is unnecessary to say that these last were events common to the whole country, and affecting this Town only as a constituent part of the same.
Frequent allusion has been made to the division of the Town. It had long been evident to discriminating minds that this event must take place at some time, but the different interests involved and the condition of political parties delayed it till 1846. It was then divided into three towns; the north half constituted one and retained the original name. The south half was formed into two; the west part receiving the name of Harford, and the east that of Lapeer. Since that time a part of Virgil has been set to Cortlandville, and another part consisting of lot No. 20, has been attached to Freetown. Thus Virgil, from being one-fourth part of one town in 1796, has become the whole of three, and a part of two others. The population has increased from thirty in 1798, to 4541 in 1845, and 2410 in 1850, after the division. Stock taken on the Syracuse and Binghamton railroad amounts to $11,100. Other statistics have been given in their proper places.
It may be our duty, as it is certainly a pleasure, to advert briefly to the names of numerous individuals who emigrated from this Town, as well as to some who remain in it, as by their varied talent, intelligence and usefulness, doing honor to the place of their birth, or where they spent their childhood and youth and received most of their education. We rejoice to greet our guests at this "Festive Gathering," as among the number to whom allusion has been made. We have among them Colonel Frank, a native of this Town, who has exerted a great and salutary influence in the State of his adoption. Not a State when he emigrated thither, but a Territory where laws were to be enacted, forms of government adopted and the foundations of prosperity laid in the institutions to be founded and perpetuated in that wide region that must eventually bear great sway in our national councils. He has done much to promote the cause of education and to ameliorate the condition of the indigent. And being one of the three individuals appointed to revise the statutes of the State, those relating to common schools and support of the poor were particularly assigned to him, and bear strong evidence of his intelligence and philanthropy. We have here Judge Reynolds, who, though past the season of youth when he settled here, spent many years with us, and during a large portion of the time sustained the reputation of a prompt, intelligent and impartial Justice of the Peace, and was also Judge of the County Court.
We have also with us Drs. Hyde, Frank and Benton, who have respectively arrived at a good degree of eminence in their profession where they reside. Here are also John M. Roe, the successful merchant; William Woodard, the ready accountant; William E. Gee, the persevering and successful instructor of youth; R. O. Reynolds, the talented and eloquent attorney, and Horace L. Green, a young and promising practioner at law in Marathon. In addition to this we may say that Dr. Bronson, yet a resident here, has practiced his profession to general acceptance more than thirty years, and has had six students of medicine, all of whom have been successful in practice where they have located, viz.: William Hunter, in Jasper, Steuben county; James Ball, in Michigan; Marsena Terry, in Savanna, Steuben county; J. W. Jones, at Horseheads, Chemung county; Frederick Hyde, in Cortland village, and John B. Benton, in Spencer, Tioga county. The two latter are among our guests to whom reference has been made. To this list we may add the names of Dr. Shevalier, of Truxton; George Graham, of Jasper, Steuben county, the intelligent and persevering advocate of education and temperance; Theodore E. Hart, the successful merchant and banker, of Canandaigua, and many others. Honorable mention should also be made of Carlo M. Woods, son of Dr. Woods, who died when he was very young, leaving him a slender child to struggle with poverty and the various difficulties incident to his condition. He was a studious and successful scholar, learned the trade of a printer, went to Illinois, set up a paper published in Quincy, and has since been clerk of Adams county, and is now clerk of the Supreme and District Courts of Quincy District. We may be pardoned if we allude to the name of one, long a resident here, now sleeping in the dust---Nathaniel Bouton, the projector of the New York and Erie railroad, who continued to advocate the same till an influence was awakened that resulted in its construction and completion. This Town has furnished, at least, two individual youth who have attended through a course of instruction in the State Normal School, and have prosecuted their studies with a degree of self application and success, creditable to themselves and gratifying to their friends. The persons to whom reference has been made are A. P. Smith, present with us, and Sabrina Chamberlain, now in Ohio. It is, however, a delicate matter to speak of persons in Town, and to discriminate between those perhaps equally meritorious, and as there has been as much presented as could reasonably be expected, it only remains for me to take affectionate leave of the audience, deeply grateful for the patient and kind attention given during the long time occupied with this address.
At the close of Mr. Bouton's address, the choir sang the following:
Our happy homes of childhood days, We now remember well; And memory often fondly strays, To where it used to dwell. Hurrah! Hurrah! la, la, la, la, la, la; May music gladden every heart; Hurrah! Hurrah! la, la, la, la, la, la; Farewell, farewell, to night we part.
Those joyous hours of childish life, Were pleasanter by far, Than scenes like these with pleasures rife, Where friends and strangers are. Hurrah, etc.
From friendly throngs in stranger land, A few fond hearts we find; Yet can they cheer this little band, Like homes we've left behind. Hurrah, etc.
Pages 4-14 transcribed by James Knapp
Pages 15-34 transcribed by Tim Stowell
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