History of Conquest, New York
From: History of Cayuga County, New York
By: Elliot G. Storke, Assisted by: Jos H. Smith
Published by: D. Mason & Co.,
Syracuse, New York, 1879


CONQUEST lies upon the west border of the County, north of the center, and is bounded on the north by Victory, on the east by Cato, on the south by Seneca River, and on the west by Wayne county. It is the south-west quarter of the township of Cato, or No. 3 of the Military Tract, from which it was erected March 16th 1821. Its name commemorates the victory achieved by those who favored a division of the town of Cato over those who opposed it.

The surface is gently rolling, being broken by low ridges extending from north to south. It has considerable waste land, in the swamps and marshes which extend along the river forming the southern boundary, and along the course of a small stream which runs through the town from north to south a little west of the center. Duck Lake, in the north-west part, is about a mile in diameter. It is fed by springs within and upon its border, having no inlet, and contains an abundance of fish, principally bass. Six thousand trout were introduced into it in the spring of 1878.

It is underlaid by red shale, which, from the depth of alluvium and soil, is exposed in but few places. A deposit of gypsum four feet in thickness exists on Howland's Island, nearly forty feet below the level of Seneca River. The soil consists of a sandy and gravelly loam, intermixed with clay, interspersed with tracts of rich and fertile arable and grass lands.

The population of the town in 1875 was 1,727; of whom 1,607 were native, 120 foreign, 1,723 white, and 4 colored.

The town covers an area of 22,369 acres; of which 15,895 are improved, 3,831 woodlands, and 2,643 otherwise unimproved.

The first settlements in the town were made in 1800, by George Snyder, a Revolutionary soldier and a bachelor, from Schoharie county, and Israel Wolverton, from Tompkins county, the former of whom settled on lot 37, where he died some fifty years ago, and the latter, on lot 4, where he died some fifty-five years ago. Amos Wolverton, a son of the latter, who was born in 1803, was the first child born in the town.

Further settlements were made in 1802 by James Perkins and his sons Gilbert, Ira, Jeremiah, who was a surveyor, and John, from Onondaga county, on lot 3. In 1840 James Perkins built the first. frame house, which was torn down twenty-two years ago, and stood on the site of the house now owned by Chauncey McDaniels. Caroline, a daughter of John Perkins, (now Mrs. Chauncey McDaniels,) is the only descendant of the Perkinses now living in the town. James Perkins died November 22d, 1813, aged seventy years, and Tryphena, his wife, January 26th, 1828, aged seventy-three years. Gilbert, who contracted the first marriage with Betsey Snyder, died July 3d, 1824, aged forty-seven; and John, who taught the first school at Conquest Center in 1807, andwho was a captain in the war of 1812, being stationed at Sacketts Harbor, was born August 21st, 1774, and died January 17th, 1828. Ephraim Wetherell, from Tompkins county, settled on lot 4 in 1802, and the following year he opened the first tavern. It was built of logs and stood on the farm now occupied by David Anthony, two miles south of Conquest Center. He died February 23d, 1849, aged seventy-six. Theophilus and Clement B. Emerson also settled this year, the former on lot 27, and the latter on lot 15. The Emersons were brothers. They took up a tract of land and went to Galen, in Wayne county, and chopped wood for the salt works there to earn money to pay for it. Both died in the town, the former November i4th, 1863, aged eighty-six, and thelatter, who was born March 1st, 1785, July 28th, 1849. Lewis and Richard Emerson, Sons of Theophilus, are living in the town. The children of Clement R Emerson, moved to Michigan some thirty years ago.

In 1805 Dijar Wilcox, from Saratoga county, settled on lot 74; and Wm. McCollam and John Crowell, from Newburgh, on lot 77, about two and one-fourth miles north of the Center. Crowell located where his son Jacob now lives. He erected the first saw-mill, about sixty years ago, on Duck Lake outlet. It was a small affair, and never did much, the outlet affording but a slight fall. William Crowell, a brother of John, and brother-in-law of McCollam, settled on lot 77 in 1807. McColiam died January 22d, 1855, aged eighty-one, John Crowell died February 26th, 1831, aged forty-eight; and William, February 24th, 1842, aged sixty-nine.

Wm. and Philander Phinney, and their father, all of whom were blacksmiths, came from Saratoga county in 1612, and settled at Conquest Center. James Bennett, a German, from N.J., settled about half a mile north of Conquest Center the same year.

John and Philip Snyder, brothers of George Snyder, came in from Schoharie county about 1815, and settled about midway between Conquest Center and Spring Lake, on the farm now owned by Henry Moore. Philip brought in his family, consisting of his wife and seven children, only two of the latter of whom, viz: William and Margaret, are now living in the town, diagonally opposite where their father settled.

In 1817, Samuel Campbell settled on lot 78, where his son, Samuel B. Campbell, now lives; Philo Collins, father of Myron Collins, on lot 4, and five years thereafter removed to the farm on which he lived and died; and Daniel Wolford, a native of Albany, came at the age of two years, and is now living on lot 79 in this town.

Hiram J. Lake, a surveyor, was born in Litchfield county, Conn., in 1818, and in 1822 moved to Conquest, where he is now living on lot 90. L. H. Ballard moved into the town of Mentz in 1822, and was assessor there six years. He removed to Conquest, where he was justice of the peace eleven years and supervisor three years. He was supervisor in Victory one year, and justice of the peace three years.

TOWN OFFICERS.- The first town meeting of Conquest was held at the house of I. V. R. Perkins, pursuant to an act of the Legislature, passed March 16th, 1821, and the following named officers were elected: William Crowell, Supervisor; I. V. R. Perkins, Clerk; Joseph I. Chase, Theophilus Emerson and Ephraim Wetherell, Assessors; Isaiah Cortright, Collector; William McCollam, Theophilus Emerson and I. V. R. Perkins, Commissioners of Highways; Theophilus Emerson, Overseer of the Poor; Ephraim Wetherell and Enos Wetherell, Constables; Isaiah Cortright and Benjamin Osgood, Commissioners of Common Schools; Samuel Campbell, I. V. R. Perkins, Joseph I. Chase and Josiah Houghton, Inspectors of Common Schools; and Benoni Harris, William Crowell and Theophilus Emerson, Commissioners of Gospel and School Lands.

The town officers in 1878 were: Matthew Hunter, Supervisor; William H. Slack, Clerk; P. D. Blass, Assessor; Grover Lane, Conzmissioner; William Thomas, Town Auditor; R. Hutchins and Samuel Townsend, Overseers of the Poor; George W. Fuller, Henry S. Wendover, John H. Blakeman, George Presho and Willie Winnegar, Constables; Alfred P. Thompson, Game C'onstable; George Parsell, H. C. Slack, Matthias Huffman and W. B. Priddy, Justices.


Conquest Center (Conquest p. O.) is situated about the center of the town, six miles northwest of Port Byron, with which it is connected by daily stage, and five miles south-west of Cato, on the Southern Central R. R. It contains two churches, (M. E. and Protestant Methodist,) one district school, one hotel, (of which Lawrence J. Lindsley, from Ira, became proprietor May 1st, 1878,) two stores, one wagon shop, (of which John VanAuken is proprietor,) and one blacksmith shop, of which George Parsell and Henry Blakeman are proprietors. It has a population of seventy-five or eighty.

The first settlement in this locality was made in 1802, by James Perkins and his four sons, as previously stated. It is pleasantly situated, and is surrounded by a country sufficientlyfertile to render a generous return for the care and energy of the husbandman. It lies in the midst of an industrious and thrifty community of farmers, to whom the practical and really useful are held of greater importance than the ornate or the beautiful.

MERCHANTS.- The first merchant at Conquest Center was Jonathan P. Davis, who opened a store in 1824, but remained only three years. He was succeeded by Seth Sheldon, who bought his stock of goods, and who, in the winter of 1826, started an ashery on the lot owned by Sarah A. Cook. Sheldon was born in the east part of the County, near the line between Brutus and Sennett, whence he came to this town. He likewise kept the store only about three years. The third merchant was Albert Crane, who remained some twelve years; and next after him was Asahel Mundy, who remained two or three years and removed to Seneca Falls. Henry J. Wilcox and Worthington bought out Mundy in 1845, and dissolved partnership and discontinued, in 1847.

David Horton started a second store in 1844. In 1849 he sold his store and goods to Enos Wetherell, who continued about two years, when he sold to Joseph Gifford, who removed the store and goods about a mile and a half south of the village. Gifford was a blacksmith, and his wife tended the store. After four or five years he removed to the west part of the State, and the store, which was subsequently converted into a dwelling, stood till the spring of 1878. Wm. C. Hardenbergh was the next merchant in the village. He was succeeded by Henry Follett, A. P. Crowell, and George Stone. The latter died after three or four years, after which his wife carried on the business till burned out some ten years ago. A store was kept after this by a Mr. Shedd, from an eastern county in this State, by Peter Hood, and by Abraham Van Pelt, neither of whom remained long. Van Pelt sold to David C. Horton, who continued six years, and in the spring of 1877, sold to the present occupants, Velie Mead and Frank E. Davis, who keep a general stock such as is usually kept in a country store. Horton removed to Michigan.

About ayear ago Henry Lake opened a small grocery, which he still keeps.

There is no manufacturing establishment in the village; but about half a mile north is a saw-mill owned by Eugene Olmstead, who moved in from Mentz, his native town, and has carried on the business some eight or ten years. The first mill in this locality was: built by Henry Switzer some fifty years ago. It was the second saw-mill in the town, and stood near the site of the present one.

PHYSICIANS.- The first physician in Conquest Center was Dr. Nathan Wood, who joined the County Medical Society August 4th, 1808, and practiced here a good many years. He died October 6th, 1824, aged forty-two years. After Wood's death John Jakway, who resided at Cato, practiced here, making the circuit on horse-back. For several years there was no resident physician here. Alvah Randall, from Massachusetts, commenced the practice of medicine here fiftyone years ago, and remained ten or twelve years. He was succeeded by Eleazer R. Palmer, from the eastern part of this State, about 1839, January 3d of which year he joined the County Medical Society. He died here January 28th, 1852, aged forty-one years. His widow still lives here. He was succeeded by his brother-in-law, George Washington Reynolds, the present and only physician in the village, who studied medicine with Dr. Palmer, and joined the County Medical Society January 17th, 1867.

POSTMASTERS.- The first post-master was Benjamin Osgood; the present one is Dr. Geo. W. Reynolds.

HOTELS.- The present hotel was built by Isaiah Cortright fifty-two years ago. Cortright kept the hotel a number of years, and was the first hotel-keeper in the village.

CHURCHES.- One of the first preachers in this locality was Manonab Harris, who settled near Conquest Center about sixty years ago, long before there was any church organized here, He used to go on a circuit with his saddle bags, in one of which he carried his Bible, and in the other such things as he needed on the journey.

THE PROTESTANT METHODIST CHURCH, at Conquest Center, was organized about 1831, by Rev. Joshua Beebe,who was the first settled pastor. Prominent among the first members were, David Horton, Timothy and Martin Beebe, brothers of Joshua, the pastor, Amasa T. and Burt Currier, brothers, John S. Horton and wife, Paulina, and James and Simon Haley. For the first two years meetings were held in the schoolhouse. At the expiration of that time their church edifice, the one now in use, was built by David Horton, who furnished and drew all the timber, had it hewed, and supplied all the money used in its construction. It cost about $1,600, which sum was mostly reimbursed to Mr. Horton. It was repaired at an expense of some $200 about twelve years ago. Mr. Beebe continued the pastorate about eight or ten years. The present pastor is Rev.John Forbes,who has performed the duties of that office a little less than a year. The present membership of the church is about one hundred; the attendance at Sabbath School, about forty.

THE M. E. CHURCH, at Conquest Center, was organized about 1843 or '44 by Rev. H. Madison. John Hamilton and Jacob Struble were among the first members. The first pastor was Rev. William Castle, who remained two years. Other pastors of this church were, Revs. Alden, Peleg Barker, Marclius Rowe, D. E. Davis, Isaac Harris, ______ Phillips, William J. Mills, Richard Clark, Calvin Connell, and the present one William N. Sharp. Their church was built about twenty-five years ago. It is now undergoing extensive repairs, which will cost about $1,800. The present number of members is about ninety, and the attendance at Sabbath School, about fifty.

The Society met with the Protestant Methodists, as a Union Church, until some misunderstanding arose, which resulted in a separation and the building of the present church.


Spring Lake (p. o.) was formerly known as Pineville, which name it derived from the pine forests which, at an early day, covered the locality, pine being the principal timber in this immediate section when the first settlements were made. The name was changed in the spring of 1874, when the post-office was established here. It is an attractive little village of ninety-five inhabitants, pleasantly situated on Duck Lake outlet, which is, however, of little hydraulic importance. It contains one church, (Prot. Meth,) one hotel, (the Spring Lake House, which was built about 1851, by Hiram Worden, who kept it about nineteen months, and has been kept for fourteen years by his nephew, George K. Worden, the present proprietor, who bought the property of Alfred Disbrow,) one store, two blacksmith shops, (kept by Jacob White and Daniel Palmer,) two pump factories, one tin shop, (kept by Frank Garity and David Wickham,) and one milliner shop, which is kept by Miss Allie Reynolds.

MERCHANTS.- The present merchant at Spring Lake is D. E. White, who came in from Rensselaer county, and has kept the store about twelve years. He is also the postmaster, an office he has held for four years, having been appointed when the post-office was established here.

PHYSCIANS.- The first physician was Dr. Wm. Thomas, who came from Butler Center in the spring of 1849, and has since practiced here. He belongs to the botanic school of medicine. The only other physician is Charles S. Stocking, an allopath, who came from Red Creek about ten years ago.

MANUFACTURERS. - There are two establishments for the manufacture of wooden section pumps. One is owned by Henry Curren, who came in from Port Bay, north of Wolcott, about twenty-eight years ago, and has been engaged in the business about twenty years; the other by Frank Garity, who has been engaged in the business about twelve years.

THE PROTESTANT METHODIST CHURCH, at Spring Lake, was organized in 1853, by Rev. Nathan R. Swift, the first pastor. Some of the first members were Charles Frost and wife, Peter Thompson and wife, Jacob White, Archibald Forbes and wife, and Timothy Beebe. Swift served a pastorate of two or three years, and was succeeded by Revs. James Smith, - BalIou, Ira H. Hogans and - Ellis. Swift again became the pastor, remaining this time five years, and was succeeded by his brother Philip, the present pastor, five years ago. Their house of worship was built in 1855, and in 1875 it was moved back, enlarged and remodeled, nothing but the old frame being used, at an expense of $3,000. It will seat about 300 persons. The present number of members is 140. The attendance at Sabbath school is about 100.

SPRING LAKE TEMPERANCE SOCIETY was organized in December, 1877. Edson H. Marvin was elected President; Henry Curren, VicePresident; and Wm. Thomas; Secretary. It has a membership of 120; but does not hold regular meetings.

Among the early settlers at Spring Lake was Jason Goodell, who owned at one time about seventy-five acres of the village site. He is now living in the north part of the town.

"THE PEPPER MILL."- In the south-east corner of the town is a hamlet, which is locally known as The Pepper Mill. Theophilus Emerson, one of the first settlers, and probably the first in that locality, built a small grist-mill there at a very early day, and ground corn in small quantities for the settlers. This mill, which is still standing on the farm now owned by Lewis Emerson, a son of Theophilus, was built in 1810, and was the first grist-mill erected in the town. It was and is still known as The Pepper Mill, a name derived, says one authority, from its diminutive size, and by another, from the fact that at first a store was kept in it. Previous to the erection of this mill the sett]ers carried their grists to Springport, the journey being made by way of Seneca River and Cayuga Lake, and occupying four days. A canoe capable of holding sixty bushels of grain, was constructed by their joint efforts, and in this the grists of the whole neighborhood were conveyed. "In 1813, John Filkins took a load of wheat to Albany, and was obliged to sell the wheat and one horse to defray the expenses of the journey.

Among the first settlers in this locality were families named Slayton and Lucas, descendants of both of which are now living in the town.

There is in the locality known as The Pepper Mill, a Christian church, a small store, owned by Wm. S. Freer, two blacksmith shops, owned by. Leonard Rickard and - Beach, a wagon shop, owned by Wm. Wilson, and some fifty inhabitants.


ROWLAND'S ISLAND, in Seneca River, has the general form of a parallelogram, is nine and a half miles in circumference and contains between 3,000 and 4,000 acres, one-third of which is swampy and submerged during high water. It derives its name from Humphrey Howland, who acquired the title to it by buying soldiers' scrip for nominal sums, and took possession of it about 1823-'4. Previous to Rowland's connection with it, it was known as Walnut or Hickory Island, and was occupied and improved by families of squatters named Stone, Spiller, Hyde, Butterfield, Campbell, Herrick, Woodward, Phaddock, Harris and Springstead, there being two families by the latter name. They had established themselves as a colony and built houses and a schoolhouse, supposing that no one owned the island. They were forced to yield to Howland's superior claims, and, though each was paid something for the improvements made by him, they relinquished with reluctance the possessions which years of privation and toil had secured, and which they had fondly hoped to leave as a heritage to their families. Harris, who was a minister, preached, taught school, did the cobbling, and made himself the useful man of the island.

"In 1804 the job of clearing four hundred acres of land was let to John A. Taylor, Crandall, Giles, Adam Cuykendall, Z. Wackman, James Hamilton, Jonathan Vaughn, Martin Marker, Daniel Walling and his father Jeremiah Walling, two Mc Wetheys and Daniel Size. These men took the job by contract, clearing from ten to fifty acres each. This was a great enterprise for this part of the country at that time, but the echoing click of a hundred axes told that the island, instead of being a haunt for game, must soon be covered with fields of waving grain. The next year found the work of clearing off well done. Great elms and maples and mighty oaks had been felled and piled in windrows; none were spared for any purpose. The whole mass was as dry as tinder and a sufficient number of men were employed to fire it at one time. During the day the smoke was seen for fifty miles around, and at night the blaze lit up the country for the same distance. The sight was magnificent and grand beyond description. The heat was so intense that men and cattle were driven into the swamps and into the river even, and it ruined fields of green oats a great distance away.

"The first crop of grain on this four hundred acres told of the richness of the soil. Ten thousand bushels of wheat were taken from the first clearing the first season."

Mr. Howland was accustomed to entrust the care and management of the island to individuals, who farmed it on shares. The first manager was John Adams Taylor, now living at an advanced age near the south line of Mentz, who took charge of the island April ioth, 1826, and conducted its affairs with marked success. As Mr. Taylor was taking his share of the pigs home from the island, the scow, which was used in making the passage, struck a snag in the middle of the river and precipitated the whole cargo into the stream. The pigs finally made their way to the shore and after some difficulty were driven home. Taylor was succeeded the next year by Wm. Toll, a blacksmith, who lost his wife on the island by fever, and gave up the management at the end of the first year, without adding anything to his worldly store. Lincoln & Co., were the third managers, and their success was as marked as Toll's failure. Lincoln found and married a wife on the island, and is believed to have accumulated a handsome fortune, which enabled him to buy his farm in Conquest. They were followed by the Sheldon Bros., who were large, strong and energetic farmers, and who, during the six years they occupied the island, did handsomely both for themselves and principals. The management was next entrusted to John Wood, and the result under his supervision was as disastrous as that under the Sheldon Bros, was successful. On the death of Mr. Howland, his son, Penn Rowland, came into possession of the island, and that, with hundreds of thousands of dollars besides, was soon squandered by improvidence and mismanagement.

The property was sold on mortgage in the spring of 1855, to Penn Rowland's bondsman, Hiram Sibley, of Rochester, who leased it for a term of years to S. B. Fyler, with the privilege of purchasing it during that time for a given sum. Mr. Fyler commenced a thorough system of improvements. He took down over twenty miles of old and broken down fences; removed old hedges and dilapidated foundations ; cleared. burned, plowed and planted waste lands which were overgrown with bushes and weeds; cut ditches over seven miles in length through the lowlands; built eight miles of new fence ; and set maple trees on each side of the highway. At present:there are six hundred acres more tillable land than when he commenced work on the island. He has built a grain barn capable of holding 24,000 bushels of grain; and within the last year has built a good sized farm house, eight hay barns, each eighty feet long; a horse barn and tool house, ninety-six feet long, and has repaired and painted such houses and barns as were worth repairing. He is now building a tenant-house. The last season he cut over 1,000 acres of grain and hay. He has cattle barns fitted up, and has at present 300 head of fat and store cattle, besides 125 spring calves.

If Mr. Fyler purchases this property, as he now contemplates doing, he purposes to divide it into farms of fifty or one hundred acres each and put them in the market.

The island lies lengthwise across the river. Its surface presents a somewhat singular conformation. With the exception of about one mile on the east side it is surrounded by a heavily timbered river bottom, varying from forty to one hundred rods in width, that upon one side being one or two feet higher than the opposite side. The south part of the island consists of eight hills, which spread out into inclined plains, separated by narrow intervals, and compose onefourth of the hard land. These hills are similar in form, rising by a gentle inclination to about one-half of their height, then terminating abruptly and presenting a bold front to the north. Four are exactly So feet high ; three others, about 100 feet; and the eighth some 12 feet higher than the latter. The remainder of the island consists of four ridges or table lands, which are separated from the hills by a narrow interval, and present the boldest front to the south. They are from one-fourth to one-third of a mile wide and one to one and one-half miles long, converging and uniting at the north and forming one general plain. The most easterly ridge is the highest and a line extended from it at an angle of two degrees touches the vertex of the other three. The hillsides are studded with boulders to a height of forty-two feet, but above that not a stone of any magnitude is found.

The soil is an exceedingly friable, sandy and gravelly loam, differing entirely with that of the surrounding mainland, which is a stiff clay loam. The temperature of the island, from its insular position, is some degrees higher and vegetation some days earlier than in the surrounding towns.

Exactly in the center of the island is a circular basin covering an area of about fifty acres and lying about six feet above the river bottom.

From the hillsides and higher parts of the table lands issue springs, about a dozen in number, with such force as to indicate their connection with the waters of the southern lakes in the County, which, conducted and kept under by the impervious underlying strata of the intervening country, finds an outlet through the porous soil of the island.


HARRY JEFFERSON WILCOX was the third son of Mr. John Wilcox. He was born in Harpersfield, Delaware County N. Y., March 3d, 1802. His father, who was born in Dover, Dutchess county, N. Y., February 7th, 1765, moved to Harpersfield in 1781, and purchased a farm of Mr. Alexander Harper, then an extensive land owner; but in the year 1840 he sold his farm and with his son Harry J., moved west and settled in Conquest, Cayuga County, N. Y. The following year Mr. John Wilcox died at the age of 76. His son, Mr. Harry J. Wilcox, has followed the occupation of a farmer from that time, taking the entire charge of his farm of 200 acres, until the year 1872. Since then he has spent much of his time in traveling west and south, which has afforded him the pleasure of witnessing the great growth of this nation during his life.

This gentleman has always taken an active interest in County and State enterprises. He is a Republican and strongly opposed to the oppression of any nation; and is always ready to contribute to the success or prosperity of our Union. He never sought notoriety, nor accepted public office.

December 21st, 1829, he married Miss Eliza Ann Brown, who was born in Blenheim, Schoharie county, N. Y., in 1807. They have had nine children-Delia, Mary, Robert, Henry, Ann Eliza, Julia, Martha, John and George, all of whom are now living, except Ann Eliza, who afterwards became the wife of Sylvester M. Young. Mr. Wilcox is now in his 77th year and enjoying good health. Mrs. Wilcox died August 18th, 1874.

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