History of Warren County, Chapter 53

CHAPTER LIII

HISTORY OF FARMINGTON TOWNSHIP

 

FARMINGTON township was formed from Pine Grove by an order of the court confirming the report of commissioners, the date of the order being October 12, 1853. It lies in the northern tier of townships in the county, and is bounded north by Chautauqua county, N.Y., east by Pine Grove, south by Conewango, and west by Sugar Grove. As its name implies, its principal industry is agriculture, for which it is by nature well adapted, and which attained its prominence quite early. In earlier times the lumber business predominated, and the forests sheltered many a saw and shingle-mill, from which the manufactured products were taken to Russellburg, and thence down the river to the market. But as soon as the timber was taken from the land, the inhabitants turned their attention to farming, and discovered as much wealth concealed in the soil as they had found upon it, though it gave up its hidden treasures more reluctantly.

Early Settlements. - It is not positively known who was the very first inhabitant of what is now Farmington township, though it is generally and with reason supposed that Hugh Marsh is entitled to that distinction. From family records it is ascertained that he immigrated hither from toward the rising sun (see sketch of William S. Marsh) in 1798, and settled about a hundred rods south of what is known as Marsh, or Averill Corners, on the farm now owned by Lorenzo D. Phillips. Hugh Marsh was one of the most prominent of the early settlers, taking an active interest in the industrial, educational and religious improvement of the community that grew up about him. He was a Quaker, and was gifted with all the admirable qualities that have for centuries been the distinguishing characteristics of that peculiar sect. His intimate connection with the best interests of the town will be noticed by the reader in the frequency with which it will be necessary to mention his name in the course of this chapter. He died on the 16th of February, 1829, aged sixty-five years, and his wife survived him until the 27th of May, 1848, when she had attained the age of eighty-two years. He was the father of sixteen children, whose descendants are now numerous in Warren county. His brother John, who was born in New Jersey on the 9th of March, 1767, came to this township soon after Hugh, and resided here until his death October 9th, 1842. He had five children, of whom mention is made in the sketch of William S. Marsh, appearing in later pages of this volume. An anecdote is related of one of his sons, Joseph, which of itself is valuable for the idea which it gives of the condition of life in Farmington before the township was surveyed into existence. Wolves, bears, and deer were among the brute inhabitants of this wilderness previous to the clearing of the forest primeval. In the early part of this century Joseph Marsh (born March 10, 1795; died February 14, 1881) started out to hunt for deer just off the line of his father’s farm, leaving word that if he discovered any deer and needed help to take it he would shout, upon hearing which his father, John, was to come to his assistance. It was not long before Joseph saw a huge buck rubbing his neck against a tree. He fired and hit the buck, bringing him to the ground. Supposing his victim to be dead, young Marsh ran up to him, and putting his foot on the buck’s neck, began cutting his throat with a dull knife. He had just succeeded in bringing blood, when the beast began to revive and to make the most desperate struggle to rise. In his frantic efforts he kicked every stitch of clothing from Marsh’s body, and at last got upon his feet and stood in a defiant attitude. At this point the hunter shouted for help, and though before his father, with the dogs, reached him, the buck had beaten a hasty retreat, they found him and carried him home in triumph.

Almost contemporaneously with the settlement of Hugh Marsh, Hugh Frew settled on what was afterward the Spencer Johnson place, just west of the site of Lander. Here he built a grist-mill in after years, but abandoned it at an early day and went to Chautauqua county, N.Y., where he became the founder of Frewsburg.

Another early settler within the limits of Farmington township was John Portman, who, previous to 1806, took up two four hundred-acre tracts just north of the present farm of William S. Marsh. He was well known around here and at Sugar Grove, where he has descendants at this day.

John Mahan, of Irish descent, came to what is now Farmington as early as 1815, from Philadelphia, where his parents had then but recently died of the yellow fever. He boarded with the family of Hugh Marsh, and attended school here until he was old enough to take care of himself. He then began business as an operative in the several saw-mills in this part of the county. He died on the 21st of May, 1882. His son, David Mahan, is now a citizen of Farmington.

After the close of the War of 1812 the population of this part of Warren county began to increase quite rapidly, and was composed more and more of that steady element which contributes to the permanent prosperity of a town. They were men and women who desired to establish homes in the wilderness, and were willing to toil, in order that they might enjoy the blessings of peaceful and intelligent industry. Previous to the year 1822 the following persons had settled within the limits of Farmington, as those limits now run:

Captain Garrett Burgett settled a short distance west of where the Center, or Lander post-office now is, and engaged extensively in farming and lumbering. He died on the 16th of October, 1862. He was the father of Peter Burgett, who lived at this period on the farm now occupied by his son, Ira Burgett. Peter Burgett was also a farmer, and a successful man. He was prominent in township affairs and was for some time a justice of the peace. He died on the 5th of May, 1874. His mother lived until about 1873, when she died at the advanced age of ninety-seven years and five months.

Levi Chappel lived on the rise of ground east of Lander, and engaged in farming. He was one of four sons of Noah Chappel, who also lived near Lander, and who was a soldier of the Revolutionary War. The fires of "‘76" never died out in Noah Chappel’s heart while it throbbed with life, and he loved, with a soldier’s zeal, the country which he had helped to create. He always had the stars and stripes floating over his house on Independence Day. He died on the 23d of March, 1849. Andrew Chappel was another son of Noah, and he had served in the War of 1812, as had John Mahan. Andrew Chappel died on the 29th of October, 1864, and his widow is still living in Farmington. Another son of Noah, Alanson by name, lived south of Lander from the time of which we write (1821) until his death in 1879. The other son, Shubel, died in 1864.

Alexander Chestney, a bachelor of a quiet and reserved disposition, lived for a time on the farm now owned by Nelson Philo, and afterward in the northern part of the township, on the farm now owned by Thomas M. Knapp. He died on the 15th of September, 1868.

William Heaton owned and worked a farm just south of the farm of John Mahan, now owned by R.L. Gardiner. He settled in town quite early, and once, in a time of scarcity, carried half a bushel of salt on his back from Pittsburgh to Farmington.

Silas Rowland was living in 1822 in the "Hollow," on the county road. He moved away very soon after this. His brother Carroll was a stone-mason here for a time. Another brother, Stephen, went from here to Butler county, about eighteen miles below Franklin.

Levant Rathbun was a temporary settler of this period on the State road in the northern part of Farmington, but soon became a Baptist minister and removed to other fields.

William Shelden was one of the earliest and most prominent of the pioneers in Farmington township. He was born in 1766, and followed Hugh Marsh closely to this country from the East. It is stated by some that he built the first saw-mill in the county, and was running at full speed previous to 1803. It stood on Fairbank Creek on the farm now owned, by Isaac Howard, and was but a few rods from his house. His daughter Ruth married Joseph Marsh, and was the mother of William S. Marsh. William Shelden died (was killed by a rolling log) on the 15th of March, 1834. His wife, Parthene Sherman, who was born in 1770, became his wife in 1788, and died on the 23d of February, 1844. Their son William was a blacksmith, and for years engaged in his chosen trade near the home of his father, soon after whose death he went west.

Jonathan Thompson lived in 1822 on the place now owned by Frank Wilcox in the northern part of the township. He moved away quite early.

Spencer Johnson lived about half a mile north of Lander, on the farm now owned by his sons, Calvin and Isaac. He was a man of earnest purpose in life, a good and prominent citizen and a pattern in his domestic relations. He died on the 9th of July, 1865.

Joseph Jenkins lived on the country road about midway between Lander and Russellburg, on the place now occupied by his son Theron. A short time previous to his death, which occurred on the 1st of August, 1862, he was stricken with total blindness.

Ozam Kilbey lived about three-quarters of a mile south of Marsh’s Corners. He married a sister of Joseph Marsh. He remained on this farm until some time between 1840 and 1850, when he removed to Indiana.

Colonel Jeremiah C. Newman settled, sometime before 1822, in the eastern part of the town, on the farm now divided between Paul Brown and Aaron Wright, his sons-in-law. He was drowned in Irvine’s mill-pond on the 25th of February, 1866, when he had reached the age of sixty-eight years two months and seven days. He was an uncle to William S. Marsh. His descendants are now numerous in this township.

Lewis Osborn, a shoemaker, lived on the farm next south of the place now owned by William S. Marsh, where he died in April, 1833. Descendants of Lewis Osborn still reside in Farmington.

James G. Stanton lived in the eastern part of the township, in what is now called Stanton Settlement, where three of his sons, Alexander, John, and James, are now living. James G. Stanton died on the 4th of June, 1865.

Esquire Phillips lived on the place now owned by Frank Wilcox, in the northeastern part of Farmington. He was a pensioner of the War of 1812, and engaged industriously in farming and coopering. He was a former resident of Bennington, Vt., and resided here until his death, not far from the year 1850. Levi, son of Esquire and Anna Phillips, was born in Bennington, Vt., on the 24th of June, 1795, and died just south of Marsh’s Corners in 1883, leaving two daughters and one son on the old homestead.

A short time previous to 1830 William Cady settled about on the site of Lander, where he resided until his death, on the 23d of October, 1848, when he was aged nearly seventy-four years. Not long after his arrival Aaron Scranton made the first large clearing exactly on the site of Lander, and gave to the place the name of "Scranton’s Corners." He afterward moved south of this farm, where his death took place. Aaron Scranton, now living here, is his son, and he has other descendants in town.

Early and Present Business Interests. - The first mill in what is now Farmington township, and, indeed, in this part of Warren county, that belonging to William Shelden, has already been mentioned. The little grist-mill of Hugh Frew, undoubtedly the first in town, has been mentioned. Among the other early mills was the saw-mill of John Marsh, built soon after the year 1830, almost across the road from what is now the Marsh Cemetery. Another sawmill stood on the Johnson farm, and was kept in operation for some time by Shubel Chapel. A Mr. Gates afterward rebuilt it and operated it for a time. About 1835 Horatio Saddler built a short lived saw-mill in what is known as the Thompson Settlement. About the year 1853 Levi Phillips erected a sawmill half a mile south of the county road. Previous to 1865 Melancthon, son of David Miles, built a flouring-mill in the south part of Lander village, which burned while Mr. Miles owned and operated it. On the north side of the village, about 1879, Benjamin Franklin suffered loss from the destruction by fire of a saw-mill which he had but a short time previously erected. The saw-mills now in operation in Farmington are the saw-mill and planer built by its present owner, A.R. Mix, a little more than four years ago, in the south part of Lander village. Mr. Mix also grinds feed, meal, etc. He formerly owned a saw, shingle, and spoke-mill on Jackson Run, with his brother Horace, which was destroyed by fire ten or twelve years ago. Another saw-mill stands in the western part of the village, and is owned by John Eccles, who bought it of R. Stewart in the spring of 1885. Stewart had removed an old mill building to this site and rebuilt it in its present form. In the summer of 1885 James Dunham built a saw-mill in the southern part of the township, near the old mill (repaired and now operated by steam) of Joseph Fay. The cider mill now owned by Peter. Mahan and James Arird, was formerly the property of Mahan brothers. There are now three creameries in town, one owned by Ira Burgett, in the western part of the village (opened in the summer of 1886); another by James Curry, in the southern part of the village, which, until the season of 1886, had been for about twelve years a cheese factory; and the third by R. Houghwot, of eight or ten years standing, in the eastern part of the township.

The rest of the business of Farmington may be described as follows:

There are three blacksmith’s shops, one kept in operation by H. McKitrick, who has been here about fifteen years; one by A.I. Strickland, who has been here not far from twelve years, and one by H. Mix, jr., who has been here about two years. There are two wagon-shops, one owned by W.S. Livermore, who has been in the business in Lander for not less than twenty-five years, and one by E.G. Wilcox, who has been here about ten years. There are two cooper-shops in Lander, under the ownership and management of William S. Brown and Hatten Sweet respectively. E.F. Thompson has had a shoe-shop in Lander for many years, beginning as the successor of Daniel Thompson.

R.E. Miller has been dealing in general merchandise in Lander since the fall of 1865, at which time he established the business. His brother, J.H. Miller, was in partnership with him from the beginning until about five years ago. Mr. R.E. Miller was elected county treasurer in 1874, and served his term with the greatest satisfaction to his constituents. For some time previous to 1865 Melancthon Miles was the principal merchant in Lander or Farmington.

J.L. Thompson began to deal in general merchandise in Lander on the 1st day of February, 1884, succeeding J.H. Houghwot & Son. Their predecessors were Houghwot & Thompson. J.H. Houghwot had been in the mercantile business in the village for about twenty years, and had once been burned out. Mr. Thompson carries a fine stock of goods, valued at about $4,000. It was through his efforts that the telephone connection between Russellburg and Lander was effected in May, 1884, as he raised the money by his individual endeavors. The drug department of his store is owned by H.H. Cowles, M.D., who has practiced medicine in Farmington since the fall of 1877. Dr. Cowles is a native of Harbor Creek, Erie county, Pa., and received his medical education at New York city. He is of the eclectic school.

Henry N. Frazine owns a harness-shop in Lander, and has owned it for ten years or more. He carries a good line of stock and is doing a good business.

The first post-office in Farmington was on Jackson Run, about four miles south of Lander, and was called Jackson Run, but it was of short duration. The post-office was established at what is now Lander village soon after the formation of the township in 1853. The office was first called Beech Woods, and Rev. Obed Ovatt, a Baptist clergyman, was appointed the first postmaster. The name was soon changed to Farmington, and held that name until it was discovered that another office in the State had a name so similar as to produce confusion, when the present name of Lander was adopted in honor of General Lander. Among the successors of the first incumbent were Ansell Franklin, Peter Burgett, S.W. Brown, M.D. (who kept the office for as long as twenty-five years, though during a portion of that time J.H. Houghwot was acting postmaster), and the present postmaster, J.L. Thompson, who was appointed in May, 1885.

Schools and Churches. - The first school in what is now Farmington township was taught in 1803 by John Marsh in his own dwelling in Beech Woods, the pupils being his own children, those of his brother, Hugh Marsh, and one or two others. The second school was taught in the same place by Isaiah Jones. In 1805 John and Hugh Marsh built the first school-house in Farmington, near the site of the present one in Marshtown. It was constructed of logs, with white greased papers for windows, a large fire-place four or five feet wide, and seats made of slabs with the convex side downward. There were no desks, except a narrow shelf fastened to the side of the house for the purpose of writing upon with the split goose-quills.

The first religious organization in the township was of the Methodist Episcopal denomination. The church called the First Congregational Church of Farmington was first organized as a Presbyterian Church on the 11th day of February, 1830, with thirteen members, who adopted the faith of the Buffalo Presbytery. The organization was effected by Rev. W.F. Houston. Aurey Ballard and Vetes Pond were elected deacons. Meetings were held at first in private houses and new barns, membership increasing by letter and profession until 1836, when the roll showed a membership of eighty-four. In October, 1838, the Rev. Emery delivered a lecture, after which the church voted to dissolve their relations with the Presbytery and unite with the Congregational Association. They soon afterward received a discharge from the Presbytery. In January, 1839, Deacon Pond was the first representative of the church at a meeting of the association, and in June of that year letters of confession and faith were approved. In the spring of 1843 the services of William Todd were secured for half the time, meetings being held in the school-house at Pond’s Corners. Measures were now projected to build a house of worship, and by continued effort and much sacrifice, a house was completed and dedicated on the 14th of August, 1845. Up to 1878 meetings were regularly held, most of the time with preaching. At this time the numbers diminished, the members seemed to flag in interest and influence, and it was finally decided to remove to Farmington Center. The old church building was accordingly torn down and a new one erected, which was dedicated on the 20th of June, 1882, at which time and place the semi-annual meeting of the Western New York Association was held. At this time the pastor was the Rev. J.B. Davidson, who has been followed by the following ministers: Rev. Emery, Rev. A.C. Kaye, and Rev. H.N. Cornish, the present pastor. The present membership is thirty-seven, and is nearly evenly divided between the sexes. C.B. Mix and N. Preston are deacons. The Sabbath-school has an average attendance of seventy-five scholars, Dr. H.H. Cowles being the superintendent.

The Farmington Baptist Church was organized on the 21st of February, 1831, Elder Turner, moderator, preaching at the time. Following are names of the first members; William Heaton, Jacob Allen, Levi Hitchcock, Thomas Foster, Elizabeth Heaton, Olive Allen, Elizabeth Putnam, Louis Hitchcock, Bethana Foster, Bethiah Braley. Jacob Allen was the first deacon. The first house of worship was a log building, which stood about two and a half miles south of the village, near the present residence of R.G. Strickland. The church was recognized on the 24th of May, 1831, when it was decided to build a framed edifice for worship nearer the village. This was not completed until 1854, and stood at the junction of the main street leading south from the village and the street to the cemetery. After being ready for occupancy (except the seats) it was burned. Two years later the church rallied and built the present house in the south part of the village, which was dedicated September 23, 1856. The following have served as pastors in the order named: Revs. Gage, Alvord, Rathborn, Ovatt, Sparks, Stoddard, Hammond, Derby, Sharp, Merriman, Allen, Phellps, Foster, Harrington, Myers, Fisher, Seyse. The pulpit is supplied in union with the Congregational Church at present by Rev. H.N. Cornish, from Brokenstraw, N.Y. The present deacons are D.F. Strickland, Zurial Allen. The membership is fifty-two. The Sabbath-school is conducted in connection with the Congregational Church. A bequest from Mrs. Ross Marsh in 1879, approximating $700, placed this church on a sound financial basis, where it stands to-day.*

 

* For the history of the churches, and for other interesting matter connected with the business interests of Farmington, the reader is indebted to the kindness of Mr. J.L. Thompson.

SOURCE: Page(s) 586-593, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887