From Geneva Gazette 27 February 1852

Pioneer Events in Geneva -  
While the Pioneer events we have been recording, were going on in other localities, the little village of Kanadesaga, at the foot of Seneca Lake, had been going ahead under the auspices of Reed and Ryckman, and the Lessees.  In the compromise with Phelps and Gorham, the Lessees had come in possession of townships 6, 7, and 8, in the 1st Range, and 9 in the 2d.  These townships were deeded to the Lessees under the name of the "New York Company;" and a fifth township (No. 9 in the 1st) was deeded to "Berton and Livingston."  "In the fall of 1788," says a manuscript in the author's possession, "number 8 was divided into lots, and balloted for at Geneva; Benjamin Barton, sen., at that time being agent for the Niagara (or Canada) Company, drew the number of lots assigned to them; and Messrs. Benton and Birdsall, being present, drew for themselves and associates."

In the fall of 1788, about the time that the Pioneer movements were making at Canandaigua, Geneva had become a pretty brisk place; the focus of speculators, explorers, the Lessee Company and their agents; and the principal seat of the Indian trade for a wide region.  Horatio Jones was living in a log house covered with bark, on the bank of the Lake, and had a small stock of goods for the Indian trade; Asa Ransom (the afterwards Pioneer at Buffalo and Ransom's Grove,) occupied a hut, and was manufacturing Indian trinkets; Lark Jennings had a log tavern on the bank of the Lake; the Lessee Company had a framed tavern and trading establishment, covered with bark, on the Lake shore, "near where the bluff approaches the Lake," which was occupied by Dr. Benton.  There was a cluster of log houses all along on the low ground and bottom.  Peter Ryckman and Peter Bortle were residing there, and several others whose names are not recollected.  Col. Seth Reed was residing at the Old Castle. Dominick Debartzeh, an Indian trader from Montreal, was rather the great man of the country. His principal seat was the Cashong farm, which he claimed as an Indian grant, and where he had a trading establishment; though his trade extended to the western Indians, among whom he went after selling his claim to the Cashong farm to the late Major Benj. Barton, of Lewiston.

The Lessees were then strenuously claiming all of the lands of the six nations up to the old pre-emption line.  A letter from one of the company at Geneva to one of the Canada associates, dated in Nov. '88, speaks confidently of a compromise with State, "by which we shall be enabled to hold a part if not the whole of the lands contained in our lease."  To further this object, it is proposed that the Canada influence shall be brought to bear upon the Indians; and that a strong delegation of the chiefs shall be at Albany when the legislature meets, and "remonstrate openly to the sovereignty of the State, against the late proceedings at Fort Stanwix, and demand the restitution of their lands."  In April and May, 1789, the New York company held out to their Canada associates the strongest assurances of being able with their assistance, to induce the Indians to abide by the Lease, instead of their cessions to the State; but in the fall of that year, they began to be disposed to take whatever they could get.  In September, one of the "New York Genesee Company," writing to the "Niagara Genesee Company," says:  "Our business has fallen much short of our first idea," and after asking their concurrence in a proposed compromise with the State, the letter closed with, "I am, with due respect, but like the rest of the company at this time, somewhat dejected, your very humble servant."

All that was done at Geneva previous to the spring of 1793, was under the auspices of Reed and Ryckman and the Lessees. The little backwoods village that had grown up there, the scattered settlements in the Lessee towns and upon the Gore, and at Jerusalem, constituted a majority perhaps of all the population west of Seneca Lake.  "The district of Seneca," which, so far as organization was concerned, embraced all the region north of Lake Ontario, and the Lessee towns, had its first town meeting in April, 1793.  It was held at the house of Joshua Fairbanks, who still survives, a resident of Lewiston, Niagara county.  Ezra Patterson was chosen Supervisor, Thomas Sisson, Town Clerk.  Other town officers, Oliver Whitmore, Jas. Rice, Phineas Pierce, Patrick Burnett, Samuel Wheedon, Peter Bortle, Jr., Sanford Williams, Jonathan Oaks, David Smith, Benjamin Tuttle, Wm. Smith, David Benton, Benj. Dixon, Amos Jenks, John Reed, Caleb Culver, Charles Harris, Stephen Sisson, W. Whitmore, Joseph Kilbourne, Seba Squires.

In 1794, Ambrose Hall was Supervisor.  Store and tavern licenses were granted to Graham S. Scott, Thomas Sergeants, Joseph Annin, Hewson & Co.  1795, Timothy Allen was Supervisor, and Samuel Colt, Town Clerk; town meeting was held at the house of Ezra Patterson, who was chosen Supervisor of the town several successive years.  In 1800, the number of persons assessed to work on the highways in the town of Seneca was 290.

Mr. Williamson turned his attention to Geneva in the spring of 1793; and as will be observed, many of the early reminiscences of the locality occur in connection with him.  In fact, Geneva is more or less mingled with the earliest events of the whole region.  It was the door or gateway to the Genesee country, and there our race first made a stand preliminary to farther advances.

Herman H. Bogert commenced the practice of law in Geneva in 1797, being now the oldest resident member of the profession except Judge Howell, in western New York.  His father was Isaac Bogert, a captain in the Revolution attached to the New York line; was at the siege of Fort Stanwix, and at the close of the war became a merchant in Albany.  The son was preceded in his profession at Geneva, only by Henry H. Van Rensselaer, who remained but a few years.

Mr. Bogert observes that at the period he came to Geneva, land speculations were at their height; high prices were the order of the day; board was $4.00 per week at the hotel; and all things were going on as swimmingly as in the later years, 1836, '37. Eligible building lots of three-fourths of an acre, sold for $500; farming lands in the neighborhood sold for $5.00 an acre, that afterwards brought but $2 and $3.00.  Mr. Williamson had a sloop upon the Lake that was engaged in bringing down lumber. The mail was brought from Albany once in two weeks upon horseback.  Mr. Williamson's headquarters were then principally at the Geneva Hotel.  In addition to his other enterprises, he was actively engaged in the construction of the turnpike.

Mr. Bogert is now 77 years of age; his wife, the daughter of John Witbeck, of Red Hook, who also survives, is 73.  Charles A. Bogert of Dresden, Yates county, is a son; a daughter became the wife of Derick O. Delamater, of Columbia county; another, of Herman Ten Eyck, of Albany; another, of Godfrey J. Grosvenor, of Geneva.  Mr. Bogert died at his residence in Geneva, since this portion of the book was written.

Early lawyers in Geneva, other than Mr. Bogert, Pollydore B. Wisner, Daniel W. Lewis, Robert W. Stoddard, John Collins, David Hudson.  Mr. Wisner was an early District Attorney.  He died in 1814.  He was from Orange county; studied law with Richard Varick; at one period member of the Legislature.  Mr. Lewis died within a few years in Buffalo, leaving no children. An adopted daughter of his was the wife of Stephen K. Grosvenor, and is now the wife of the Rev. Dr. Shelton, of Buffalo. Mr. Stoddard died in 1847.  A son of his is a practicing lawyer in Brooklyn, and another is an officer of the navy. Mr. Collins is now a practicing lawyer in Angelica.  Mr. Hudson still survives, and continues a resident of Geneva.  Mr. Parke is yet a practicing attorney in Geneva.  He studied law with Lewis and Collins, and was admitted to practice in 1814. In the war of 1812, he was upon the frontier, and in the battle of Queenston, in command of a company of volunteers.

The early merchants of Geneva, other than those who were located there under Indian and Lessee occupancy, were:  Grieve and Moffat, Samuel Colt, Richard M. Williams, Elijah H. Gordon, Richard M. Bailey, Abraham Dox. Grieve & Moffat established the first brewery in all this region.  Mr. Grieve was in the employ of Mr. Williamson in the earliest years, as it is presumed.  Mr. Moffat was, as his name occurs in connection with the early movements at Sodus. Mr. Grieve was out in the war of 1812, a colonel under Gen. McClure.  He died in 1835.  Mr. Moffat removed to Buffalo. Richard M. Williams became a farmer in Middlesex, Ontario county (or in Yates county) where he died a few years since; a son of his was lately in the Senate of this State.  Mr. Colt was a brother of Joseph Colt, the early merchant of Canandaigua, Auburn and Palmyra. He removed to New York, and on a visit to Geneva, attending the commencement at the College, he died suddenly at the Hotel, in 1834.  Mr. Baily is still living.  He entered the regular army in 1812; had a staff appointment, was taken prisoner at the battle of Queenston; went to Quebec in company with Gen. Scott, where he was parolled.

Elijah H. Gordon is one of three or four survivors of all who were residents of Geneva previous to 1798; is in his 80th year. His goods came in early years, from Schenectady, via the usual water route, costing for transportation, generally about $3 per cwt. Barter trade in furs especially constituted his principal early business; potash and ginseng was added after a few years.

Mr. Gordon was a Judge of Ontario county courts in early years; and the second Post Master at Geneva, succeeding Walter Grieves, who was the first.  His two sons, John H. and Wm. W. Gordon, reside in Washington, Louisiana.

Dr. Adams was a physician in Geneva in the earliest years of settlement.  Drs. John Henry and Daniel Goodwin, were the earliest permanent physicians.  Dr. Henry died in 1812.  Dr. Goodwin removed to Detroit, where he died a few years since. Stephen A. Goodwin, an attorney at law in Auburn, is a son of his; another son, Daniel Goodwin, is an attorney in Detroit.  

A Presbyterian society organized in Geneva as early as 1798.  In July of that year, a meeting was held; John Fulton and Oliver Whitmore presided; Oliver Whitmore, Elijah Wilder, Septimus Evans, Ezra Patterson, Samuel Latta, Wm. Smith, jr., and Pollydore B. Wisner, were chosen trustees.  The Rev. Jedediah Chapman became the first settled minister continuing as such, until his death in 1813.  He was succeeded by the Rev. Henry Axtell.  The society built a church in 1811.

In 1806 "nineteen persons of full age, belonging to the Protestant  Episcopal church, assembled, and there being no rector , John Nicholas presided."  Trinity church was organized by the election of the following officers:  John Nicholas and Daniel W. Lewis, Wardens; Samuel Shekell, John Collins, Robert E. Rose, Richard Hughes, Ralph T. Wood, David Nagler, Jas. Reese, Thomas Powell, Vestrymen.

The Rev. Davenport Phelps was the first officiating clergyman; was succeeded by the Rev. Orrin Clark, who officiated for many years.  He died in 1828.  The society erected a church in 1809, which was removed, and its site occupied by the present Trinity Church in 1845.

Baptist and Methodist societies were organized, and churches erected, soon after the war of 1812, but the author has no farther record or information concerning them.

Among the earliest mechanics at Geneva were:  Wm. Tappan, John and Abraham B. Hall, John Sweeny, Elisha Donner, Moses Hall, W. W. Watson, John Woods, Lucius Cary, Jonathan Doane, Foster Barnard, Richard Lazalere, Jacob and Joseph Backenstose.

John Nicholas emigrated from Virginia and settled at Geneva in 1804.  He was a lawyer by profession but had retired from practice.  He was for several terms a member of the State Senate and a Judge of the courts of Ontario.  He engaged extensively in agricultural pursuits owning and occupying the large farm afterwards purchased by Gideon Lee.  Judge Nicholas died in 1817. His surviving sons are Robert C. Nicholas, Lawson Nicholas, Gavin L. Nicholas, John Nicholas; a daughter became the wife of Abraham Dox; and another became the wife of Dr. Leonard of Lansingburg.

Robert S. Rose, a brother-in-law of Judge Nicholas, emigrated with him from Virginia.  He located upon a farm on the opposite side of Seneca Lake, where for many years he was one of the largest farmers in western New York.  Both he and Judge Nicholas were at one period extensive wool growers and did much to promote the improvement of sheep husbandry in this region.  He was for one or two terms a representative in Congress.  He died suddenly at Waterloo in 1845.  His widow, who was of the Virginia family of Lawsons, so highly esteemed for her quiet and unobtrusive charities, and especially for her zealous aid to the Episcopal church, whose doctrines she adorned through life, died in 1847, or '8.  The surviving sons are: Dr. Lawson G. Rose, of Geneva; John and Henry Rose, of Jerusalem, Yates County; Robert L. Rose, of Allen's Hill, Ontario County, late a representative in Congress, from the Ontario and Livingston district, and Charles Rose, of the town of Rose, Wayne County.  A daughter became the wife of Robert C. Nicholas; another, the wife of Hopkins Sill.

From Ontario Repository and Messenger 29 January 1868

The friends of Henry Porter, Naples, were assembled at his house Jan. 15th, to commemorate his golden wedding. The number present was large, and many old and young hearts were made glad with the happy reunion. Some who were present at his wedding, fifty years ago, were present, and enjoyed the scene. Old by-gones for the old, and useful instruction for the young, with grapes and every luxury, passed the day and evening pleasantly. Mr. Porter gave his history, from memory, mostly, which we subjoin below:

This occasion requires that I should give a short history of my ancestry, and having no family record in full, I shall depend somewhat upon my memory. My grandfather was of Irish descent, and emigrated to this country about the year 1776, and settled on the Delaware river, in Penn. He died in the year 1812. My grandmother died about the same time. My father,  Alexander Porter, came to this country at the age of fourteen and settled in Oneida county, this State. He had one brother who settled near Albany, N. Y., and one sister who settled in Philadelphia. In the year 1797, my father moved to Flint Creek Hollow (now the north part of Italy Hollow.) This whole section was then a howling, unbroken wilderness, and my father the third family that settled. It was infested with panthers, bears and wolves, that prowled about filling the woods with hideous yells. The wolves were so ravenous that they killed yearling cattle in daylight, and at night were kept from the cabins by fire-brands. The bears were very numerous and troublesome, carrying off pigs and even hogs. One hog weighing 200 lbs., was taken from the pen in the daytime, and carried by the bear bodily, walking on his hind feet, fifty rods, and was shot while dragging his victim through a brush fence. We suffered much for help, so scarce were settlers and no teams. The trees were felled in slashes, across each other, suffered to lay one year, and then burned, and our corn was planted between the logs. When it was ripe, was cut up, a great fire built of the logs, and the settlers invited to the husking. The men carried the bundles and the women husked till midnight. This was done with each other until all were served. My father moved to Middlesex, adjoining this town, where he lived several years, when he moved to this town and died here at the advanced age of 89 years.

My mother was American born and her maiden name was Catherine Armstrong. While she was a child, living with her father at Fort Stanwix, (now Rome, Oneida Co.), she was one day picking wild cherries about one-fourth of a mile from the Fort, accompanied by another girl, and was taken prisoner by the Indians. The girls tried to elude them and the other girl succeeded, but as my mother was climbing a fence, she was taken. She was shown then, the scalps of seven neighboring women, fresh and dripping, and was in great fear. She saw her mother at evening when she went out to milk, but was told if she made a loud noise, her's would be there too. She was a prisoner among the Indians two years and nine months, and was then ransomed by her uncle, for five guineas and several gallons of rum. After the ransom she was sent to Albany with other prisoners, and there Gen'l Washington conversed with them about their hardships, and giving them their dinner and a crown each, sent them home. She died here at the age of 76.

I had five brothers, Archibald, Thomas, William, Robert and Charles. Archibald volunteered in the war of 1812, and was killed at the battle of Queenston. Thomas died at 18. William now lives in Pennsylvania. Robert and Charles live in Illinois. I had six sisters, Delany, Hannah, Patty, Esther and Mary, who are all dead but one.

I was born in Oneida county, in 1794, and moved with my father to this section, while everything was wilderness, as stated before. I never had a shoe on my feet until after I was 9 years of age, and my advantages for schoolling were very poor, and went two miles to school with rags on my feet. My parents, with the early settlers, endured many privations, and suffered greatly for necessaries. We settled here in 1803, and have lived here ever since. I was married to Ruth Watkins, on the 15th Jan., 1818, fifty years ago today, the Rev. Lyman Barrett officiating, and Eli Watkins and Sylvia Parrish stood up. Aunt Laura Clarke, the mother of Noah T. Clarke, Jr., and Mrs. Cummings, who are present today, were at my wedding with their husbands, fifty years ago this day. My wife was the daughter of Joel and Abigail Watkins, who emigrated from Berkshire, Mass., (being six weeks in moving,) and was one of the early settlers of this town, and held an important station many years. He had five sons and four daughters, who are all dead but two. Capt. Wm. Watkins, grandfather of my wife, died here in 1801, from the kick of a horse, the day following the accident. He was a useful man, and put out the first orchard in this town about 70 years ago, and the fruit of which my wife and I are eating every year with thankful hearts. The orchard is back of my house and mainly connected with the Elias Simons Farm, and stands by the brick house at the north end of Main street.

The milling at this time was done at Waterloo, below Geneva, also at Penn Yan and Painted Post. My father has taken his grist on his back, and gone to Waterloo, which was a severe task. The usual way was with oxen, drawing a sort of dray made from the crotch of a tree, and box on it. The first mill in this town was a mortar, dug out of a solid oak stump, and would hold six or eight quarts. It was located near where the old church stands, at the lower end of the village line. This wonderful mill was propelled by a spring pole, and had a pestle attached. This done our grinding until Maj. Clarke and Capt. Metcalf built a water mill on or near the site of the Ontario Mill, now owned by James Covel.

I have lived here about 65 years with the exception of about two years, during the troubles of 1812, in which I volunteered and went on the lines.

I have seen the forests fall by the axe, seen the village grow up, and country improve. Steadily has the march of civilization been onward from the first school by Miss Susanna Parrish, near where I now live, till now I listen daily to the bell of a first-class brick Academy. I now see a beautiful village, filled with churches and school houses, with bells; filled with stores containing the necessaries we so longed for once. I see three large flouring mills in place of the mortar, and rich vineyards in place of the dense forest. I live where I can from my door, see the place of first settlement and mill, and all the scenes of my early days, and can eat of the fruit of that first orchard. I am content here to live, where I can contemplate in my last days the changes worked by time and civilization, until God in His mercy shall remove me, I trust to His unbounded fields where toll and privations are no more.

From Geneva Gazette 10 August 1877

Country Jottings

During a ride through Seneca, part of Phelps and Hopewell in the early part of this week, the country hardly presented its finest aspects.  The roads were dry and dusty, and the weather extremely warm. The grain crops are all harvested excepting here and there a field of oats; in many instances the wheat has been threshed, and all report an abundant yield - ranging from 25 to 47 bushels to the acre. The Clanson wheat has been mostly grown in this section, and the old favorite Wicks prevailing with a few. It is claimed by growers of the latter that it will produce more flour to the bushel, and that its quality cannot be excelled. The barley crop is very fine, prices will rule fair, and most of it will undoubtedly pass into the hands of BETZ & NESTER,  the Geneva malsters. In fact all the cereals give promise of "panning out" largely, and however blue our merchants and tradesmen may have felt during the past few months, there is none of this in the country.

The improved machinery for harvesting gives more opportunity for repairs about the farm in favorable weather. Fence repairs, the erection of barns, and general cleaning up are progressing now.  Vincent L. Runyan, is putting the homestead farm, about a mile south of Seneca Castle, in prime order.  The barns have been moved off their old foundations, enlarged, newly sided and shingled, and will conveniently house his crops, horses and live stock. As newly constructed, they enclose a large square within the rows of buildings with ample room beneath the barns for wintering. The work is being done by a skillful carpenter, Mr. J. M. Wilson of Stanley, who is kept busy by the demands of his neighbors. Ed. McCombs, the victor in the late slander suit, of which we have before spoken, also draws on the purses of his neighbors for skilled labor.

Passing the broad acres of Gould B. Sears, and the pleasant home of P. A. Hall, his farmer, among others, we drew rein beneath the shade of the trees at Seneca Castle.

Mr. Schoonmaker, like the farmers in his region, has been compelled to "tear down and build larger."  The foundation for an imposing structure just east of his present store is laid, and the first joist in position. He may not occupy it this season, but next year he hopes to have the model country store of this region. In trade, and enjoying the confidence of that community, his hopes have been fully realized.

In manufactures, Seneca Castle has no less to boast of than similar rural hamlets.  The carriage shop of G. M. Child, the blacksmithing of Lew. Travis, are growing institutions, the products of their skill giving universal satisfaction. In one respect Geneva has to "cave in."  Ours, with a population of nearly 7,000, depends upon little Seneca Castle for the flour from its mills.

The elevated drive from the latter place to Orleans is full of pleasing memories. We have floundered time and again in the deep snow drifts that lined its roadway, and years agone have hunted its forests -- now all cut off -- for game and trolled its stream for fish.  On the hillside directly east of Orleans, the elder John Warner erected his home nearly a century ago. After living to ripe old age, having voted in that district at seventy-one fall elections, and gathered about him a vast body of descendants, near relatives and warm friends, about four years ago was gathered to a home of complete rest. Not a child did he leave behind him but to come up to a ripe old age in the same upright manner in which the father had lived; and so of the grandchildren. There is "much of them" when together, as we have seen on more than one occasion. The Warners own and occupy about one thousand acres of fine farming land in that region.

Orleans is a thriving little place.  It has its churches, stores, hotel, grist and flouring mills, and all the requirements for home maintenance.  The Sodus Point & Southern railway affords ample shipping facilities, and it has the reputation of being now a better grain market than either Geneva, Phelps or Canandaigua. Last season its shipments of apples and potatoes were enormous, at one time 2,000 barrels of potatoes being in store. Messrs. E. D. Aldrich and J. C. Warner are intending to buy grain this season, if the markets will warrant any investments. J. A. Blythe at the flouring mill takes in his share of grain, running the very finest grades of flour and meal.

The principal store at Orleans is owned by our friend, Lewis R. Lombard, who established in business there eleven years ago. The store is not large, but the placard in plain letters, "If you don't see what you want, ask for it," indicates that he has an ample reserve somewhere.  Justice is meted out by Esquire Spear, in a manner that makes friends. He only issues a warrant when all methods of reconciliation fail.  Would that all justices were so.

After climbing the hills west of Orleans, the most beautiful farm lands are presented to view - a broad panorama of rich fields, gently and evenly rolling as the waves of the great Pacific. From one hundred to three hundred acres are embraced in each farm, and the crops have been most abundant.  We pass in succession the lands of Jas. W. Moore, Tompkins and Milton Warner, Horace Baker and his brother, the Skekels, and others. Not a rod of poor land is to be seen for miles on this road in either direction.  But we fear to weary the reader. Such thrift we love to dwell on rather than return to the close atmosphere of office life.

Our drive was continued to the well-kept and broad acres of John H. Benham, and the yet more snug farm of G. Granger Benham in Hopewell. The former has made many exhibits at the State and County Fairs, invariably carrying off the premiums on fine livestock.  Mr. Benham regretted the departure from among us of James O. Sheldon, to whom the country is indebted for all that is good in blooded stock, and hopes that the White Springs farm may again, under the ownership of W. & T. Smith, assume its old place as the model stock farm of the country.

And another time we may journey off in the northern and western part of old Phelps and in returning by Gorham, Stanley and Manchester, and we hope our friends will be ready to "show up their hands."

From Geneva Gazette 12 January 1894

Old Time Funerals -
In my last published communication to you, I promised to give your readers a description of the manner of conducting funerals as I remember them sixty five years ago.  I now fulfill that promise. It must be understood that I am writing of funerals in the country.  In cities the manner was somewhat different, still there were some things similar.

There were no tinselled hearses, no prancing steeds with gaudy trappings, no ceremony attending the singing, no music on organ or melodeon.  Vocal music to me on such occasions gave impressions as lasting as life. The ministers officiating would give out a hymn, when some one present would start one of those never-to-be-forgotten tunes, others would start in on the first two lines, then the minister would read the next two lines, it being necessary as hymn books were but few in those days. The book generally used was called the Village Hymns; sometimes Watts' was used. As I look back, everything connected with the solemn occasions is stamped indelibly on my mind. First, the dead clothed in a winding sheet; generally the eyes were closed with a penny on each; the coffin made of cherry stained, costing from six to ten dollars. No undertakers; some neighbor would officiate to assist when necessary; no ceremony attending in order to take a last view of the dead. Everything was conducted in a way that would lift a pecuniary trouble from many sad bereaved ones at the present day. Of course, we wish to do for our departed loved ones, but is our love the less if their remains are enclosed in pine instead of rosewood? Do we cherish their memory any more though their monument reaches to the skies?

To proceed with my subject I would say, as there were no hearses, some neighbor having a one horse wagon, (no springs), would take the remains to the grave, preceded by the minister and doctor on horses, each having a common gift of three or six yards of fine bleached muslin, sufficient for one or two shirt patterns, so folded that it was fastened on the right shoulder by a bow of black ribbon and tied under the left arm. As soon as the procession came in sight of the church, the sexton would toll the age of the departed.           H.

From Geneva Advertiser 30 October 1894

Old Times Recalled --
With a great deal of pleasure we print the communication below, sent to us by one who knows what she is writing about.  The lady is not accustomed to writing for the press, but she need not fear in future efforts:

Editor Advertiser:

I was lately reading the Geneva items in the Elmira Telegram, and noted the mention of the death of David Hill which occurred at the foot of Seneca Lake.  That tavern has a history that is well worth recounting, but let me say that no murder was ever committed there nor in the tavern beyond -- none that was ever heard of.  

The famous Chapman murder was committed at the Sportsman's Hall, the large brick building still standing on the lake road, just within the Seneca County line.  I could tell you all about that murder, but will not encroach upon your time and space.

Now as to that history:  At my elbow sits a friend who is able to go back over seventy years, and remembers well when Captain Nathan Teall built the then fine tavern stand at the foot of Seneca Lake.  It was much larger then than it is now, nearly twice its size, with barns and sheds to accommodate travelers journeying over the road.  That was a farmers' stand in those days, to catch the weary horsemen and other people going to the Genesee country, then called "the far west," many with packs on their backs and many with families in covered wagons.  My informant tells me that he has often seen twenty, and sometimes fifty teams sheltered in those barns and sheds over night, and horses tied to the back ends of wagons.  It was a busy place in those days -- nearly every night all the rooms would be filled with beds thrown on the floors, beds brought in from the wagons, and big enough to accommodate the whole family.

Captain Teall was a jovial landlord, with a hearty welcome to greet the coming, and just as cheery a good-bye to speed the departing guest.  In his wife, Mrs. Polly Teall, he had most able help.  She was a model landlady.  The lake road then was a lovely drive, no canal at the north of it.  The road was nearly a quarter-mile out in what is now the lake, shaded all the way by fine trees.  It was the favorite drive from Geneva around the beach of the beautiful Seneca.  Gay ladies and gentlemen who rode so much on horseback at that time, would canter over the hard beach roadway, and rein up at the Teall tavern for a glass of their favorite wine or one of those slings so fashionable at that early day.

Mr. Editor, my informant closes his eyes, searches away back in Memory's garden and calls up parties who have long been laid to rest, who used to make merry and crack jokes in that old house by the lakeside !  Among the foremost who comes so fresh to memory is Mr. Charles Williamson, one of the gayest of the gay; then the quiet gentleman Mr. David Saxton Hall, with the Misses Scott, great belles in society.  They would rein up at the hotel for a pleasant chat and cheese.  Next come Mr. Robert Rose, Senior, who would canter up on his favorite pony, always wearing a white necktie, and that friendly snuff box was always ready for use of his friends.  Snuff was greatly in favor with some at the time; even ladies would carry a silver box for their own use.  Then comes up the genial, pleasant face of Doctor Rose.

How the Doctor did like to fish !  The lake was full of fish then.  Mr. Giles Parker, Sen., used to fish with a seine down near there, would draw in enough in one night to load a wagon.  Even the fish have left the old grounds -- nothing but a memory of what once was so pleasant remaining.

Few now living remember the gay balls that used to be held in Teall's Tavern.  It had a fine, large ball room, and many pleasant entertainments were given there, too.  Sickle's show, so popular in its day; and "Babes in the Woods!"  Who ever tired of that, when the Robins came and covered the babes over with leaves ? -- once seen, never to be forgotten.  Mr. Giles Parker, Sen., with his laughing gas made plenty of fun, because it was all new and thought so wonderful in 1822.

Mr. Ansel Teall, eldest son of Captain Nathan Teall, built a fine flouring mill at the foot of Seneca Lake on what was then the natural outlet.  Where the present outlet is was then a canal to let boats into the river from the lake.  It had a lock and lock-tender.  When the new canal was constructed it ruined the water-power and the mill and changed the outlet.

But above all, to wake up the people we had the stage coaches with their jolly drivers, four-in-hand, blowing their horns and dashing up to the door with their loads of travelers, and perhaps all to dine.  The stage driver was no lowly personage.  He was treated to the best, for he could bestow his patronage wherever he pleased.  He had a wide field to choose from, about a dozen taverns on the road between Geneva and Canandaigua, and about the same between Geneva and Waterloo, and every few miles a modest cake and gingerbeer house with its sign swinging in the breeze, so welcome to the dusty traveler on foot with his heavy pack on his back and generally a pair of boots hanging over his shoulders.  Today he would be called a "tramp," but then he was known as a foot traveler.

My informant can remember the names of nearly all who kept houses of entertainment in these towns during the times of which I write, but I will not tire you by giving them here, but I will mention one, the last before entering the village of Waterloo, kept by a Mrs. Smith, generally known as "Aunt Spudy."  She was famous for brewing hot slings, would always stir it up, then taste it, remarking, "That is good enough for the money."  

But the crowning glory was General Training Day, often held near Teall's Tavern.  How the young boys wished to be men, and train, and carry guns as these soldiers did !  What lots of pies, and ginger bread had to be baked for general training ! But I will not dwell longer on this happy theme. Will say good-bye to those good old days past and gone, never, never to return.

E. A. T.

From Ontario County Times 23 January 1889

The Naples Record, in urging that something be done by way of observing the centennial of the settlement of the town this year, gives this item of history: The deed of the town of Naples from Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham to James Harris, Nathan Watkins, William Watkins, Elizur Burnham, Nathan Hibbard, Edward Kibbe, William Cady, Ephraim Cleveland, Dennison Robinson, William Clark, and Thomas Robinson, Jr., is dated March 20, 1789, and conveys township No. 7, in th 4th range, six miles north and south, and five and one-half miles east and west, containing 21,120 acres. The consideration is one thousand and fifty-six pounds, current.

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