History of Afton, New York
GAZETTEER ans BUSINESS DIRECTORY
OF CHENANGO COUNTY, N. Y. FOR 1869-70.
COMPILED and PUBLISHED BY HAMILTON CHILD, SYRACUSE, NY 1869
AFTON was formed from Bainbridge, November 18, 1857. It is the south-east corner
town of the County. The surface is a rolling upland, separated into two nearly equal parts by the broad valley
of the susquaanna. The highest summits are from 300 to 500 feet above the valleys, and the gradually sloping hill
sides are very productive. The Susquehanna flows through the town, near the center, in a south-west course. Its
valley is broad and beautiful, and among the most productive in the State. Kelsey's and Harper's Brooks are the
principal tributaries from the north. Pratt's Pond is a beautiful sheet of water containing an area of about forty
acres, and situated about one mile north-east of the village. It is twenty-five feet above the surface of the river
and has no visible outlet. The soil upon the hills is a shaly loam, and in the valleys a clayey loam and alluvium.
Joe Smith, the founder of Mormonism, operated quite extensively in this town and
vicinity during the early years of his career as a prophet. Smith was born in Sharon, Windsor Co., Vermont, December
23d, 1805. When about ten years of age he removed with his parents to Palmya, Wayne County, N. Y. The reputation
of the family was very bad and Joe was considered the worst of the whole. Somewhere about 1828 or 1829, Smith made
his appearance in Afton and attended school in District No. 9. Here his supernatural powers manifested themselves
by telling fortunes or "foretelling futurity." This was done by placing a stone in his hat and then looking
into it drawn over his face so as to exclude the light. He first organized a society at the house of Joe Knight,
on the south side of the river, near the Lobdell House, in Broome County. Excavations were made in various places
for treasures, and rocks containing iron pyrites were drilled for gold. Previous to digging in any place a sheep
was killed and the blood sprinkled upon the spot. Lot 62 was the seat of one of these mining operations. To convince
the unbelievers that he did possess supernatural powers he announced that he would walk upon the water. The performance
was to take place in the evening, and to the astonish ment of unbelievers, he did walk upon the water where it
was known, to be several feet deep, only sinking a few inches below the surface. This proving a success, a second
trial was announced which bid fair to be as successful as the first, but when he had proceeded some distance into
the river he suddenly went down, greatly to the disgust of himself and proselytes, but to the great amusement of
the unbelievers. It appeared on examination that plank were laid in the river a few inches below the surface, and
some wicked boys had removed a plank which caused the prophet to go down like any. other mortal. After pretending
to heal the sick, east out devils, &c., he gained quite a number of followers, but at length came to grief
by being prosecuted as an impostor. He was tried before Joseph P. Chamberlain, a Justice of the Peace. Two pettifoggers
by the name of John S. Reed and James Davison volunteered to defend him. Three witnesses were examined on the occasion,
all of whom testified that they had seen him cast out devils. They saw "a devil as large as a woodchuck leave
the man and run across the floor." One of them saw a devil leave the man and "run off like a yellow dog."
These witnesses were Mr. Knight and son, and Mr. Stowell, all of whom subsequently went west with Smith. Preston.
T. Wilkins, of Ashtabula County, Ohio, lived in Broome County, near the line of Afton, at the time of the Mormon
excitement, and while on a visit to a Mormon family learned that there was a chest of Mormon Bibles in the barn,
that it was guarded by an angel, and that it would be utterly impossible for any one to steal one of them. Mr.
W. prepared a key that would unlock the chest, and taking one of their Bibles carried it home in the evening and
placed it over the front door, so that it would fall into the house on opening the door. The result was what he
anticipated and the Mormons declared that an angel had brought the book and of course Mr. W. and his wife would
become converts at once. The Mormons had been laboring for some time to convert Mrs. W. and had caused her much
anxiety and her husband considerable trouble, which he wished to end. They would never acknowledge that one of
their books was missing. Some time afterwards Mr. W. explained the miracle of the Bible and informed the Mormons
that they must keep away from his house as he would no longer listen to their impositions. About 1831 most of them
went west where the saints had been commanded to assemble.