History of Warren County, Chapter 44

CHAPTER XLIV

HISTORY OF FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP

THE township of Freehold was formed from Columbus and Sugar Grove on the 3d of September, 1833. It contains about thirty-five square miles, or something more than twenty-two thousand acres. It is in the northern tier of Warren county townships, and is bounded north by Chautauqua county N.Y., east by Sugar Grove township in this county, south by Pittsfield and a corner of Spring Creek, and west by Columbus. The surface of the town is uneven and, along the streams and water courses, broken and occasionally even precipitous. It was originally covered with a heavy growth of valuable timber such as pine, oak, hemlock, chestnut, ash, and whitewood. The pine was floated in rafts down the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, while the oak was formerly manufactured into oil barrels, but more recently into butter-tubs and firkins, and the whitewood into household furniture of different kinds. The soil is generally a gravelly loam of good quality and very productive. The fruits, especially apples, are raised here in good quantities.

The Little Brokenstraw Creek flows in a southeasterly direction through the township, furnishing an abundant and continuous water supply. Along its banks five saw-mills and one grist-mill have been built; the first in 1815 and the last in 1886.

The road leading from Pittsfield through Wrightsville and Lottsville to the New York State line was opened in 1814, while the old country road, as it was known for a number of years, from Owen’s Ferry on the Conewango Creek, near the State line between New York and Pennsylvania, to Lottsville by way of Sugar Grove, was partly opened from Sugar Grove to Lottsville in 1816, trees and underbrush being cut out so that an ox team and, sled could pass over it.

The territory of Freehold remained practically unbroken by the ax of the pioneer until about 1802, when James Irvine and others came in, though Mr. Irvine was the only one who remained permanently. The fearful and discouraging privations of that early day, the perils and hardships that encompassed him who would make his home in the wilderness were so certain and severe that few could resist them long, but either died early from the exposures and fatigues, or removed to more congenial climes. James Irvine was born in Northumberland county, Pa., about 1773 or 1774, and died at Wrightsville in 1849. He was half brother to Guy C. Irvine, of Pine Grove, and Andrew Irvine, of Glade. He settled on the west side of the creek at Wrightsville, in September, 1802, where he built the first house this side of Pittsfield. During the rest of his life, which he passed here, he was a prominent lumberman and farmer of this region, and held a number of the township offices. He was a justice of the peace almost from the beginning until that office was made elective. Samuel Irvine, who came to his present farm near Wrightsville from Pine Grove about forty years ago, married a daughter of James Irvine, by whom he has had six children - all living. At the present writing Mrs. Samuel Irvine is living, though she is very ill.

The next permanent settler was probably Harmones Lott, who came from his home in Long Island, N.Y., in 1814, and in the following year removed to the present site of Lottsville, which derived its name from his family, and on the place now occupied by Mrs. A.M. Smith. Harmones Lott died some time previous to 1840 at an advanced age. Hewlett Lott, one of his sons, built the house (1847 or 1848) now occupied by Mrs. Smith (his daughter), and came to the place with his father. He was born on the 25th of September, 1793, on Long Island, and died February 16, 1868, in this township. His wife, Maria, daughter of A.D. Ditmars, of Sugar Grove, died December 18, 1880, aged eighty-seven years. The Lott family have always been prominent in both Lottsville village and Freehold township. Hewlett Lott was the first merchant in the township, though he relinquished that pursuit before the year 1830. His store building was converted into a school-house, which stood on the corner just opposite the present residence of Mrs. Smith. His brother, Daniel Lott, was also one of the leading men of the township for many years. He came with the rest of the family in 1815, when he was about eleven years of age, and remained in town until his death on the 24th of July, 1886, at the ripe age of eighty-two years six months and twenty-four days. On the 12th of January, 1827, he married Sally, daughter of William Row, who survives him. They had five children, of whom two, Charles and Stephen, are still living. Daniel Lott was a farmer, and for fifty years previous to his death he was also a preacher of vigor and force in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

He was ten years a justice of the peace in Freehold, and during two winters represented his district ably in the Legislature at Harrisburg. In all the questions which affect the morality, peace, or prosperity of the Commonwealth or community, he was found on the side of right, his tendency being rather to carry those principles too far, than to be too lax in the interpretation and execution of them. He was a believer in temperance, and during the long years of anti-slavery agitation he was an outspoken Abolitionist. For some time previous to his death he had accepted the doctrines of spiritualism, and under the inspiration of his feverish meditations, at night chiefly, he wrote several treatises on the subject, such as "The War in Heaven," "John Wesley and Modern Spiritualism," etc., believing himself to be under the direction of the unsubstantial inhabitants of the invisible world. A short time before he died, however, he renounced this faith, pronouncing it an injurious delusion.

William Row, the father of Mrs. Daniel Lott, was also an early settler in Freehold. He came from Broome county, N.Y., in 1823, with his family, and settled about three miles west of Lottsville in what is known as the Monroe neighborhood. Mr. Row was a farmer and a blacksmith, and had the ingenuity sufficient to make shoes for the members of his own family. He died about the year 1852 at a very advanced age. His wife had preceded him several years at the age of sixty-seven years. Five of his children are now living, although only three of them are in this county. Mrs. Lott, at Lottsville; John, at Bear Lake; and Edmund, at Columbus.

In 1815 and 1816, owing to the efforts of Agent Sackett, of the Holland Land Company, about thirty families emigrated from Oneida county, N.Y., to this part of Pennsylvania, most of whom settled in Sugar Grove and Pine Grove, although several families made their homes in Freehold. Among them was John Tuttle, who settled on the site of the village of Wrightsville, and for many years had a wagon shop in the building in that village now used as a blacksmith’s shop. Mr. Tuttle was born in the year 1771, and was therefore about forty-four years of age when he came to Wrightsville. He was a man of worth, well fitted to act the part of a pioneer in an undeveloped country. He died on the 30th of January, 1855.

Another early settler who lent force to the community by the worth of his character was Nathan Abbott. He was born in 1765, and as early as 1816 settled at the Four Corners between Lottsville and Wrightsville. He was a farmer and also engaged, as did nearly all the early farmers who cleared their own farms, in lumbering. He died on the 3d of September, 1841, aged seventy-six years and five days, and was followed, on the 29th of March, 1847, by his wife, Anna, who had reached the age of seventy-four years seven months and nine days. Mr. Abbott’s location made it convenient for him to entertain travelers, and he opened a public house, which benefited the lumbermen more than any other class of travelers. Among other early settlers, whose arrival probably antedates 1820 by several years, may be named Isaac L. Fitch, who settled in the southern part of Lottsville, and engaged in farming until his death some time previous to 1825; Joel Hill, a bachelor, who lived much of the time with Hewlett Lott; James Phillis who came early to Wrightsville from Columbus, married a daughter of James Irvine, and passed his time farming and hunting; and William Arthurs, or Arters, who occupied a plank house in Wrightsville previous to 1820, and later, also, and operated the mills in that place. Jared Boardman was an early settler in Wrightsville, and for years kept a tavern in the large block opposite the saw-mill. He was later than those who have been before mentioned, however, as his birth took place on the 8th of September, 1817, and his death on the 5th of June, 1882. He was a soldier in the last war, in Company D, Third Artillery, One Hundred and Fifty-second Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Joshua Wright, from whom Wrightsville derives its name, came to the site of this village in 1821 from near Rochester, N.Y. His house stood near the site of the present saw-mill. There were then only two houses on the ground now covered by the village. A grist and saw-mill were operated by William Arthurs. They were built a number of years previously by Peter Burgett. Joshua Wright died on the 19th of January, 1842, aged seventy years and four months. From the time of his arrival here until his death he operated the grist-mill, and also ran the saw-mill until it burned a year or two after he came, whereupon his sons, Lester and Jude, rebuilt and operated it for many years. Lester Wright was born in Massachusetts on the 20th of August, 1804, and went to Otisco, N.Y., when an infant. At the age of six years he was taken by his parents to Genesee, N.Y., and when he was sixteen accompanied them to Wrightsville, as it has since been called. They reached here on the 16th of July. At that time there was hardly an acre of tillable land in one spot in the entire township of Freehold, as now constituted. Trees had been extensively felled, but the farmers had been more industrious to reap the profits of lumbering than of clearing the land. The timber was principally beech and maple, with considerable pine scattered through the forests. The flat south of Wrightsville had been partly cleared and was occupied in 1821 by Stephen Burgett. The few roads were extremely primitive and rough, being cut out barely enough to permit the passage of teams. Lottsville had been laid out as a village by the members of the Lott family, and had been named. Its streets were 100 feet wide. Since that time Wrightsville has passed through all the events of a growing and declining village. Lester Wright started the first store in the place about 1832, on the site of the present meat-market. As he was engaged during the working hours of the day in his mill, he attended to the store only mornings and evenings. About 1837 he enlarged this branch of his business, and in 1840 built the large block now occupied by his son, Philander Wright. Lester Wright has been proprietor of this store from the beginning, almost without interruption, to the present. At the close of the war, in which his son took an active part, he took him into partnership with himself - a relation which has continued ever since. They keep on hand a good stock of goods.

Jude Wright, brother of Lester, died on the 12th of March, 1871, aged sixty-eight years seven months and twenty days. Quartus Wright, another brother of Lester, ten years his junior, was also in the mercantile business in Wrightsville for some time subsequent to 1840. He and Lester operated the saw-mill. Quartus now resides in Vineland, N.J., where he removed about 1864 or 1865, and since his departure his son, Newton Wright, has had sole charge and ownership of all the mills, both the grist and saw-mills. The first tavern in Wrightsville was kept by Chauncey Messenger, who built the present hotel many years ago. The site was occupied at an earlier date by Edward Jones. After Messenger left the hotel, Calvin Wright, son of Jude, kept it for two years. A number of years later, in 1861, Philo Wright bought the property, and now owns and has charge of it.

Wrightsville has seen very lively times. There have been as many as seven stores open in this place at one time. Just previous to the last war was perhaps its most thrifty period. As long as lumber was abundant it was one of the leading villages of the county. As many as 2,000,000 boards have gone over the dam there in a season. Then in the height of the season forty or fifty hands would come daily from neighboring towns to "run boards." At present Chauncey Messenger has a store in the village, though he deals principally in wool. He has been in the mercantile business in town almost as long as Mr. Wright, and is one of the most worthy and prominent men in the county. His son, Alfred, keeps another store, and a good one. Albert Wright has also a store here, which he has presided over about two years.

The first postmaster in Wrightsville was Cornwell Gifford, appointed about thirty years ago. Lester Wright has been postmaster, as have also his sons, Philander and Philo. The present incumbent is John Smallman, who received his appointment from the present administration.

As in most other towns the first religious meetings held hereabouts were called from house to house as convenience dictated. The members and allies of the Methodist Episcopal Church built a house of worship here some forty years ago. Their pastor now is Rev. J.P. Burns, who attends from Bear Lake. There was also at one time a Free Will Baptist Church here, but it is deceased.

Darius Cooper was born in Shoreham, Addison county, Vt., in 1797. When he was but seven years of age his father died, and when he was thirteen his mother died also, and he was left with no money and but few friends. He chose Eli Smith for a guardian, and lived with him nine years. He then, at the age of twenty-two years, resolved to take a journey into the West, and traveled successively to New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Upper Canada. He then returned to Vermont, but after a few days started on another journey to Quebec and through Lower Canada, and back to Vermont, taking up in this way about a year. About this time he was married to Martha Tower, shortly after which he removed to Florence, N.Y., where he purchased 125 acres of land and lived upon it two years. The title to this property being defective through some oversight he was compelled to use his personal property to pay his debts. He was thus practically destitute, but his courage did not forsake him. He employed a man to remove him again to Vermont, where he soon earned enough money to pay the man for his removal. He remained in Vermont five years, renting a farm and performing different kinds of labor, until by close economy he had accumulated five hundred dollars in money and a good team of horses. He then removed to Slab City, a small place not far from Buffalo, N.Y., where he remained until 1833, when he sold his land at an advance and started for Pennsylvania. He settled in the township of Columbus, now Freehold, and purchased of Mr. Barlow 200 acres of wild land and built upon it a log house and settled down. He lived in Freehold thirty-three years and then removed to Chautauqua county, N.Y., where he lived four years. After this he returned to Freehold and purchased the "Bordwell" place, where he lived three years until the death of his wife. Mr. Cooper, now in the evening of a long life, lives with his grandson. He has lived an honest and a useful life, a reflection which must indeed be pleasing to old age.

The village of Lottsville, as has been indicated, is of older date than Wrightsville, though it has never seen quite so stirring events. Between the arrival of Harmones Lott and family in. 1815 and the year 1820, the village had been laid out into streets, as it is at present to be seen. It is difficult to ascertain much more concerning the early history of Lottsville than has already been written in this chapter, because the early settlers have all passed away. In 1857 Chauncey Messenger built the hotel which is still open here, and for the first two years William Seeley kept it. John Eastman then came into possession and kept it until 1869, when his son, John, jr., succeeded him and remained in possession for ten years. Since his departure it has been managed by Frank Eastman. The widow of the original John Eastman, Mrs. A.H. Eastman, has owned the property since the death of her husband.

The only store now in the village is that of Whitney & Kay, the members of the firm being W.D. Whitney, M.D. and F.W. Kay. The partnership was formed in the fall of 1885, before which Dr. Whitney was here alone about two years. He was preceded by Charles Lott, whose uncle, James Lott, had been a merchant of good standing in the village for many years. Dr. Whitney was born in Brokenstraw township on the 28th of April, 1852. He received his medical education at the Buffalo Medical College, from which he was graduated in February, 1884. He is a regular. His wife, Mrs. D.A. Whitney, is also a physician. She was born in Freehold township on the 14th of November, 1853, and was graduated from the Homeopathic Hospital Medical College at Cleveland, Ohio, in February, 1886, and came to Lottsville at once. She is a daughter of Isaac Baker, who came to Lottsville in 1835 from Ithaca, N.Y., and engaged in farming here until his death, in 1870. He was born on the 25th of January, 1809. His widow is now residing with her daughter, Mrs. Dr. Whitney. , Mrs. Baker has eight children, all but one of whom are residents of this part of the county. The other is in Colorado.

T.I. Baker owns and operates the saw-mill at this village. He built the mill in the summer of 1883. It was burned in July, 1886, and was immediately rebuilt. Mr. Baker also owns and operates a mill at Abbott’s Corners, which came into his hands some time before he obtained ownership of this mill. Mr. Baker was, during the last war, a member of Company F, Ninth New York Cavalry, and was wounded at Morton’s Ford, Va., by a bullet which passed through his liver from the back of the right side to the front. This is a wound from which no one but with an iron constitution could have recovered.

The present postmaster at Lottsville is Dr. Whitney, who was appointed in November, 1881, as successor to William Allen, whose appointment is dated in the year 1875 or 1876. Previous to this term the office was held for many years by James L. Lott.

The only church in Lottsville is the Wesleyan Methodist Church, which organized on the 7th of October, 1852. Meetings were held for a number of years in the old school-house, during most of which period Rev. E.J. Carroll was the preacher. The house of worship was erected and finished during war times, and Mr. Carroll was present at the dedication. Services are now held once in two weeks, the pastor being Rev. John Case.

Concerning the early schools of the township a writer has reported substantially as follows: The first school was kept by Mrs. Rufus Fitch, at her house, in the summer of 1817. Her husband, Rufus Fitch, a Revolutionary soldier, kept school in the summer of 1818. In the following winter James Austin was the teacher. After the country became more thickly settled educational matters were systematized. The first school-house was constructed of logs, and extended sixteen by twenty feet. The salary for these early teachers was about ten or twelve dollars a month for men, and one dollar to a dollar and fifty cents for women. The text books in use were principally Webster’s Elementary Speller, the American Preceptor, Columbian Orator, Dilworth’s Arithmetic, and the New Testament.

Bear Lake. - This thriving village is the product of railroad enterprise. It was formerly called Freehold, but about fifteen years ago this name was changed to Bear Lake, after the beautiful body of water of that name about a mile east of the village. This lake has a surface about ten acres in area, is deep and very clear, and without a visible outlet. As late as 1860 there was no road through Bear Lake worthy of the name. Previous to that date a large part of the land now covered by the village was owned by Daniel Walker to the southwest, Asa Chapman to the north and east, and Ira Hamilton to the north and west. These three men, it is said, were here as early as sixty years ago.

The first store in Bear Lake was kept in a small shanty, 16 x 20, by Abner Chapman, on the site of Bordwell’s present store. He dealt in groceries, liquors, etc., about 1860, while the railroad was in process of construction. After an experience of a few months he sold out to George and Bryan Hill, who enlarged the building and increased the trade. They also kept a boarding-house. They failed, however, in the course of eight or ten months, and in 1868 sold to C.T. Bordwell, who kept store there until some three years ago. Howard & Wadsworth then purchased the property and opened a store, which they kept until a year ago, when they failed. Mr. Bordwell took the property again in April, 1886, and now owns and conducts the store.

One of the early mills in this part of the township was that of Bushrod Woodin, on the Little Brokenstraw, about two miles southeast of the site of the village. This mill he built about 1855. It was a large mill for those days. After running it for some fifteen years Mr. Woodin sold it to James Dennison, of whom he repurchased it in few years. The present owner, Clarence Triskett, bought it of Mr. Woodin about ten years ago, and has converted it from a water to a steam-power mill. Sylvester Williams built the first mill exactly on the site of the village about 1866 or 1867. It was a steam grist and saw-mill. It burned about 1871, after which he rebuilt it and soon sold it to James Goodwin, who operated it about five years. John Hill then owned it. Henry L. Wilcox next purchased the property, took down the old mill and built the present structure, which he now owns.

Present Business Interests. - It has already been stated that the oldest of the present merchants in Bear Lake, considering their term of service, is C.T. Bordwell, who began to trade here in February, 1868. He now deals in merchandise of almost every description, hardware, flour and feed, and other wares, his entire stock being valued at about $6,000. The store building now occupied by Howard & Laquay for the sale of dry goods and groceries, was built by Joel Carr about twelve years ago. The present firm came into the store in December, 1885. C.V. Mather began to trade in feed in 1876, and two years later changed his stock to drugs and groceries. He came into the building he now occupies in 1880. C.L. Chadwick and William Sweetland formed the firm of Chadwick & Sweetland on the 16th of April, 1883, and at that time bought out the store of Henry L. Wilcox, who had been engaged in mercantile business about two or three years. The stock is confined principally to groceries. The building which they now occupy was erected in March, 1886.

Willis H. Houghtling started a business in hardware about three years and a half ago, and in November, 1886, first occupied his present quarters. The stock which Mr. Houghtling originally owned was purchased in November, 1886, by Henry L. Wilcox, who now trades in this line of goods. The grocery and drug store of Phillips & Livermore was established by the present firm on the 18th of October, 1886, when the partnership was formed. The building which they occupy was erected by them in the summer of 1886. Their stock is valued at about $1,000. W.H. Davenny also deals in dry goods and groceries. The harness shop of G.W. Cole was opened in August, 1886. Mr. Cole then bought out George Livermore.

The saw-mill of Henry L. Wilcox, as it now stands, was built by the present proprietor in 1879. It has a capacity for 2,000,000 feet of lumber, but cuts ordinarily about 700,000 feet.

About 1874 Daniel Parkhurst built a steam shingle and planing-mill and cider-mill on Greeley street, west of the railroad station, which he sold the following year to Lorenzo Hyde. It was destroyed by fire about 1880, and Mr. Hyde then built another shingle and planing and grist-mill on the opposite side of the road, of larger capacity, which also burned in the fall of 1885. He now has a mill on Main street, with a planer and matcher, and connected with a grist-mill.

Sylvenus St. John erected his steam grist-mill - roller process - in the summer of 1886. The saw-mill of Borcher & Jamieson was built two years ago.

About the time that Mr. Chapman opened the first store in the village, one Jordan opened a small tavern on the site of the present hotel in Bear Lake; this was probably in the year 1861. Mr. Jordan did not remain long. The present hotel was erected in 1883 by A.E. Hollenbeck, who owns the property at this time. The lessee, since November, 1886, is B. C. Roberts.

The Bear Lake Record, a live newspaper which promises to be a success, was started here in November, 1886. Mr. Gardiner is to be congratulated both on the appearance of his paper and on his choice of a location.

The first physician to practice in Bear Lake was Dr. A.P. Phillips, who came about fifteen or sixteen years ago. Other physicians, of later arrival, are Dr. L.W. Harvey and Dr. F.T. Noeson.

The first postmaster in the village was Caleb Carr, who was appointed about 1862. The name of the office was at first Freehold. C.T. Bordwell succeeded Mr. Carr in two or three years, and was followed by William Sweetland about three years ago. Henry L. Wilcox then held the position a few months, and was succeeded by the present incumbent, W.H. Houghtling, in the summer of 1886.

The first house of worship erected in Bear Lake was built by the United Bretheren in 1874, at a cost of about $1,700. They formed a society in this vicinity about sixteen years ago, Rev. J. Hill being the first preacher. Among the first members were Joel Carr, S. Williams, H.C. Howard, William Huntley, and others, many of whom were from the surrounding country. The present pastor is Rev. Lucius Markham, who has resided here a little more than a year.

About 1876 the members of the Methodist Episcopal and Christian denominations organized churches here, and built a Union Church edifice at an expense of $2,000, in which they still worship. Among the first Methodists were Henry Widrig, Charles Goodwin, Harrison Robinson, and James Harter. Their present pastor is Rev. J.P. Burns. Among the early Christians were M. Kendall, Abner Chapman, and Frank Eddy. Their pastor is Rev. Mr. Wilbur.

About five years ago the town built a school-house here with two rooms. There are now in this building an attendance of not far from 100 pupils. H. Phillips is the present teacher.

SOURCE: Page(s) 523-532, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887