History of Ira, 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


IRA is the north-east corner town of the County, and is bounded on the north by Oswego county, on the east by Oswego and Onondaga counties, on the south by Cato, and on the west by Victory. It was formed from Cato, March 16th, 1821 ; and aportion in the southeast corner was rëannexed to that town in 1824.

The surface is rolling, the summits of the ridges rising seventy to seventy-five feet above the valleys, and 225 to 275 feet above the level of Lake Ontario. It is poorly watered, the only streams being small creeks and brooks, which possess very little commercial importance. There is very little waste land, as the town contains neither marsh nor swamp and only one very small pond, in the west part.

It is underlaid by the rocks of the Niagara group, in the limestone of which several quarries have been opened. The most important one is that known as Fox's kiln, at Fox's Corners, about a mile west of Ira, which has been in use for fifty years. The lime is of excellent quality, though not perfectly white. Another quarry is opened on the farm of Jarius Palmer, about a mile southJ west of Ira; and a third on the farm of Stephen Pierce. In all three, lime is obtained at the north end of the ridges.

The soil in the south part partakes of the excellent character of that in Cato, while in the central and northern parts it is lighter and less productive, being largely intermixed with sand and gravel. In the north is a cold sandy soil.

The Southern Central R. R. enters the town about a mile and a half east of the west line, and leaves it about two miles south of the north line.

The first settlements were made in 1800, in which year David and Eleazer Stockwell, brothers, came in from Whitehall and located on lot 58, about a mile north of the south line, David, on the farm owned by Dewitt C. Pulsipher, and Eleazer, on the farm on which his son Augustus now lives. Both died on the farms then taken up. They were brothers of Andrew Stockwell, who settled the same year in Cato. David Stockwell kept the first inn in 1800; and his daughter Polly, who was born in April, 1802, was the first child born in the town. Eleazer Stockwell and Margaret Noble, contracted the first marriage March 7th, 1802. Wm. Patterson and Henry Conrad, Germans, came the same year and settled on lot 32, about three-fourths of a mile west of Ira. Conrad's farm joined Patterson's on the south. Both died there.

In 1802 the settlements were augmented by Daniel Parker, from Marcellus; John C. Barnes and his sons, from Sempronius; Edward Wood, from Sennett; and Rev. Michael Burge. Parker settled on lot 69, where Abiah Cook now lives, his farm extending to the south line of the town. In his log house much of the business of the town was transacted at an early day. He died on the old homestead, which is still held by the family, his daughter being Abiah Cook's mother. Barnes settled on lot 70, on the farm now owned by Eleazer F. Jaynes, where he died about 1837. His sons were Amos, John, Luther, Zadoc and Silas, all of whom are dead. The latter two died during the epidemic about 1811. Silas settled on the same lot with his father, and Zadoc on lot 83, on the west part of Isaac R. Merritt's farm. The death of the wife of Silas Barnes, in 1802, was the first in the town. Norton C. Barnes, a son of Luther, is living in Cato. Wood settled on lot 89. Burge drew lot 22 as a soldier's claim and settled on it. He was great-grandfather of David H. Marvin, who now resides on lot 24.

Jacob Labertaux, from Pennsylvania, came in May, 1803, and settled about a mile north of Cato. He moved west with his family, which was large, about 1830. Archibald and Charles Green, brothers, settled the same year, (1803,) on lot 70, the former on the farm now owned by Jacob Deforest, and the latter on the farm now owned by Harry Clark. Both removed to Sennett about 1820.

Abraham Willey and his son-in-law, Eli Matson, came in from East Haddam, Conn., in 1804, and settled on lot 23, Willey on the farm of Heman Benton, (whose father, Dr. Allen Benton, of Cato, married Willey's daughter,) where he died and is buried, in the family burying ground. Matson returned and brought in his family the following year, and settled a little north of Willey, on the opposite side of the road, where he kept a small store and where he died. His son, Eli S. Matson, was then about nine years old, and afterwards made the first settlement on lot 24, on which Augustine Matson, son of the latter, was born and now resides. Henry Ferris came in with his sons Augustus and Thatcher, and the family of the former, from Galway, Saratoga county, in the fall of 1804, and moved in his family in the spring of 1805. He took up 450 acres and built his log cabin where the house of his son, Harry Ferris, now stands, and where he died in 1808. His daughter Zipperah, (now Mrs. Luther Barnes,) is living in Auburn. Two sons are also living, Harry, aged eighty-nine years, on the old homestead, and James Harvey, who was born here, in Rose, Wayne county,

Thomas Barnes, from Washington county, settled at Ira Corners in 1805. Dr. John W. Squyers, the first physician, settled on the farm owned by Harvey Ferris, about a mile north of Meridian, as early as 1805, in which year he taught the first school. He was a natural genius, highly educated, but much addicted to the use of intoxicants. He was the first physician in the County north of the river, and had no equal as such in that country. He had a large and lucrative practice, which, in consequence of his bibitory habits, was gradually monopolized by others of less ability. He died at Plainville, in Lysander, some thirty-five years ago.

Luther, Samuel and Israel Phelps, brothers, came in from Galway, Saratoga county, in 1806. Luther settled on the farm owned by the widow of James Smith, where he remained only about a year, when he removed to Ira, to the place on which his son, John Phelps, now lives, and where he died in November, 1867. Chauncey Phelps, another son, lives a little east of that village. Samuel settled on the farm owned by James Slocum; and Israel, in Ira, where he built the present hotel about fifty-seven years ago, and where he, in company with his brother Samuel, opened the first store, in 1813. Samuel Phelps, Jr., and Dwight Phelps, son of Israel, are living, -the latter a mile west and the other three-fourths of a mile south-west of Ira. Stephen Pierce settled at Ira about 1806 and died in the house in which his grandson Chas. Pierce now lives. Daniel and Ezekiel Cogswell, brothers, from Gaiway, settled about 1806; Ezekiel, on the farm owned by Addison Everts, and Daniel adjoining him, about one and one-fourth miles north-west of Ira.

Heman West, from Washington county, setfled on the farm now owned by S. M. Brown, in the south part, on the line of Cato about 1806 or '7. He took up one hundred acres, which he sold after three years on account of sickness from fever and ague, one-half to Abel Pasko and the other half to a man named Shivers, and removed to Cazenovia. He came with his family, consisting of his wife Zeruah and five children, all of whom are dead. Three children subsequently born are living, Abel, at Meridian, where he has been engaged in mercantile pursuits since 1837; Charles, at Watertown, N. Y., where he is engaged in the sash and blind business; and Hannah, widow of Wm. Locklin, at Potsdam, N. Y. About this time, or perhaps a little earlier, Abram Sturge came in with his family and settled about a mile north-west of Ira, where his sons Abram and Samuel died. John, another son, lived a little farther north, where he also died. Parmenus Sprague came in about the same time and settled on a farm adjoining Sturge's.

John Hooker, a boon companion of Dr. John Jakway, who came in from Vermont, about 1809 and settled at Cato, came in about a year before the latter, from the same locality, where they had been associates of Ethan Allen, and settled at Cato, on the Ira side of the line. He lived there about thirty years, till his death. His son John is living near Victory. Hooker built the first grist-mill in the town of Ira, in 1818. A portion of the old mill still stands just east of and adjoining the buildings of the Cato Milling Company, near the depot in Cato, a portion of it having been torn away to accommodate the latter buildings. That which remains is used as a store-room by the present company, except in the east end of the upper part, in which a cabinet shop was recently started by Joseph Girard.

William DeForest, a German, came in from Albany county, at an early day, soon after Daniel Parker's settlement, and located about a mile east of Cato, on the farm now owned by Harriet Bartlett, widow of Rev. Gamaliel S. Bartlett, where he died about 1843. None of his children are living, but several of his grandchildren are. His sons were John, Martin and Jacob. Three of John's Sons are living, viz.: Jacob and William, on the farm adjoining on the north of that on which their grandfather settled, and Martin, in Oswego. Three of Martin's sons are living, viz.: William, at Meacham's Corners, one mile east of Merdian, David, near Ira Station, and Martin, in Michigan. Jacob's children are William I. and Henry, who live on adjoining farms in Victory.

Jarius Palmer, from Galway, settled about 1810, about a mile south-west of Ira, adjoining the farm of Dwight Phelps, where he lived till his death about four years ago, and where his wife Sally still lives, hale and active, though ninety-two years old.

The first town meeting was held at the house of Israel Phelps, April 3d, 1821, and the following named officers were then elected: Thatcher I. Ferris, Supervisor; Allen Benton, Cleric; Chauncey Smith, Henry Perine and Luther Barnes, Assessors; Ezekiel O. Cogswell, Jonathan Hurd and Wm. Townsend, Commissioners of Highways; Abraham Willey and Win. T. Shearman, Poor Masters; Ezekiel O. Cogswell, Collector; Lemuel Austin, Oliver Stone, Erastus Strong and Benj. Conger, Constables; Chauncey Smith, Israel Phelps and Henry Perine, Commissioners of Schools; Ebenezer Wilcox, Erastus Strong and Win. H. Noble, Inspectors of Schools; Augustus F. Ferris and Wm. H. Noble, Commissioners of Gospel and School Lands; Augustus F. Ferris, Pound Keeper.

The present town officers are:
Supervisor-Daniel H. Taber.
Clerk- George Terpening.
Justices- Robert W. Cole, Frank Terpening, Henry VanDusen, George B. Andrews.
Assessors- Ezra Baker, E. F. Jaynes, 0. A. Foote.
Commissioner of Highways- E. D. Crowninshield.
Overseers of the Poor- Henry S. Hunt, William Bradt.
Inspectors of Election- Wilson E. Palmer, Elbert C. Phelps, Wm. A. Wormuth.
Collector- Charles Ferris.
Constables- Emory J. Sweet, John Harris, A. O. Thayer, A. L. Thayer, Luman C. Goodrich.
Commissioners of Excise- James Terpening,
Jacob Deforest, E. R. Foxon.

The population of the town in 1875 was 2,064; of whom 1,889 were native; 175 foreign; 2,060 white; and 4 colored. Its area is 21,156 acres; of which 17,134 are improved; 3,026 woodland; and 996 unimproved.


Cato, on the south line, lies partly in this town and partly in Cato, in connection with which town it is noted. Here and at Meridian, in the north edge of Cato, the principal business of the town centers.


Ira Center is a post village of some 150 inhabitants, pleasantly situated a little north-west of the center of the town, about two miles east of Ira Station and five miles north-east of Cato. It contains one church, (Baptist,) a district school, one hotel, (which was built by Israel Phelps about fifty-seven years ago, and is kept by Peter Van Auken, who bought the property of John Wiggins and W. W. Hooker in April, 1878,) a cheese factory, two blacksmith shops, kept by John B. Smith and Hiram Cossett, one carriage shop, kept by Michael Bunk, three shoe shops, kept by G. L. M. Arnold, Selden D. Heath and D. T. Cook, a harness shop, kept by G. W. Shaw, a milliner shop, kept by Mrs. H. L. Downs, and a tin shop, kept by James McDonald.

The first settlement was made in 1805, by Thomas Barnes. The Phelpses settled here and in the vicinity the following year and have ever since been prominently identified with its growth. Stephen Pierce settled here about the same time.

MERCHANTS.- The first merchants at Ira Center were Samuel and Israel Phelps, who opened a store in 1813, where the Terpening Brothers' store now stands. Elijah S. Everts and Billings Clapp, uncle of E. D. Clapp, of Auburn, bought out the Phelpses about 1823, and kept a store for several years. Andrus P. Preston bought Clapp's interest, and subsequently that of Everts, but he kept the store only a short time.

William, Jonas, John and Strang Titus, under the firm name of Titus Brothers, opened a store a little before Everts and Preston changed, and did business several years. Jonas died in the south; William went to Locke, and Strang, to Oswego; and John continued the business, taking in Dr. Allen Benton as partner. They built and kept a distillery, which burned down after a short time, and dissolved, Titus selling out to Calvin Phelps, who kept the store three or four years, and then closed out and went west.

Campbell & Hollister opened a store where the post-office now is, which was taken, about 1836 or '7, by Henry R. Garlock, from Auburn, who kept it about six years and returned to Auburn.

David S. Kellogg and Norman McCausey opened a third store about 1838, which they kept some two or three years, when McCausey died, and Kellogg took in as partner Alpheus G. Noble. They kept it about four years, when Col. Levi Lewis bought Kellogg's interest, and kept it in company with Noble about two years, when they sold out the goods. Charles Garlock, son of Henry R. Garlock, came in from Auburn and opened a store about 1844, which he kept about a year, when he returned to Auburn. For a short time there was no store.

About 1846 Phillips & Lusk, from Fulton, opened a store, which stood on the site of the one kept by Wiggins Bros., which they kept till the spring of 1849. This same spring Judah Pierce, from Cortland, opened a store and kept it four or five years, when T. West Titus, son of William Titus, bought him out, and after a year removed the goods to Hannibal Center. Soon after Ingham & Suydam, from the town of Cato, opened a branch store from the store of William Smith Ingham at Meridian, and kept it till it burned, about two years after The same fall Henry R. Garlock moved a stock of goods kept by Edgar Ingham at Westbury, and sold them for Samuel Phelps in the store now occupied by the Terpenings, which had been vacant some years.

About this time, or soon after, S. M. Downs and Chandler M. Cogswell bought that stock and moved it to the house now occupied by D. T. Cook, the postmaster. After a short time Downs bought out Cogsweil, and moved the goods to a building which stood on the lot now owned by Mrs. George W. Miller. Downs, the same year, bought the store now occupied by the Terpening Brothers, which still belongs to his estate, and kept a store there till about rS6o, when he sold to David VanDusen, who at the opening of the war, resold to Downs, and went into the army, where he was killed. Downs continued in business till his death in the spring of 1876. About 1867 he admitted to partnership his son, H. L. Downs, who carried on the business about a year after his father's death, when, in April, 1877, he sold the stock to J. A. & G. Terpening, who are still engaged in the business.

Immediately after selling to Downs & Cogswell, Garlock filled up the store he had occupied with new goods, which he moved about a year later to the store occupied by Wiggins Bros., which was built by Samuel Phelps, Jr., about 1856. After two or three years he sold his goods to John McMaster, from Cato, who kept the store a short time, till the war broke out, when he sold out and went into the army. When McMaster went out, Hiram J. Wood and Ryland Alden put in a stock of goods. Alden sold his interest to Wood, who removed the goods to Conquest.

Lyndon Wooster, from Hannibalville, opened a store in 1867, which he kept only a short time, till 1868. Follett & Andrews put in a stock of goods soon after, and after about two years Andrews sold his interest to James Follett, who continued till May, 1878, when he moved his goods out, and John and George Wiggins, the-former from Victory and the latter from Syracuse, commenced business, under the name of Wiggins Bros.

POSTMASTERS.- The post-office at Ira Center was established in 1824, but we were unable to learn the name of the first postmaster. The second was Elijah S. Everts, who held the office sixteen years. Dr Jno. Thompson held the office from 1841,-'5. The next was Joseph Earl, who was appointed under Polk's administration, and held the office four years. The next was Benj. M. Ells, who was succeeded by Samuel Phelps, the latter of whom held the office but a short time. Wm. Cogswell was appointed in 1853, and held the office two years. He was succeeded by Lewis L. Suydam, who held it only two or three months, when Wm. Cogswell was again appointed. He was succeeded in 1857, by H. B. Kenyon, who held the office three years, when Wm. H. Palmer received the appointment, but held it only some six months, when he resigned, and Simeon M. Downs was appointed. He was succeeded by Lyndon Wooster, and he by Chauncy Phelps, who was appointedin 1872, and resigned in 1873.

He was succeeded by James Follett, who held the office till the spring of 1878, when Darius T. Cook, the present incumbent, was appointed.

PHYSICIANS.- The first physician at Ira Center, was Jno..Thompson, who practiced from 1825 to 1850, when he removed to Racine, Wis. He studied with Dr. Allen Benton, who lived two miles east. Wm. O. Luce bought out Thompson and practiced a few years, when he sold to W. W. D. Parsons and went to Elbridge. Parsons remained two or three years and removed to Fultonville. James D. Benton succeeded him about 1859, and after a year or two he sold to Azaniah Judson and went into the army. Judson remained but a short time arid was succeeded by David Monroe, who practiced here from 1865 to 1874. D. O. Blood, the present physician, immediately succeeded Monroe. He belongs to the allopathic school of medicine.

LAWYERS.- The only lawyer who has favored the Center with his residence is Geo. W. Miller, the present practitioner, who commenced in the spring of 1850, having lived in the town from boyhood.

MANUFACTURERS.- The only manufacturing establishment at Ira Center is The Ira Cheese and Butter Factory, which was incorporated February 23d, 1870, with a capital of $3,000; The first trustees, as named in the charter, were: Levi Wormuth, William Foot, Chauncy Phelps, Heniy Brackett and Simeon M. Downs. They chose the following named officers: Levi Wormuth, President; William Foot, Vice-President; Simeon W. Downs, Secretary; and Chauncy Phelps, Treasurer. - The present trustees and officers are Levi Wormuth, President; Irvin Squires, Vice-President; John Tallmadge, John Phelps, and Chauncy Phelps, the latter of whom is Secretary and Treasurer.

The building is 26 by 100 feet, with an engine room 14 by 16 feet. It was erected in 1870. Seven cheese of fifty-eight pounds each are made daily.

CHURCHES.- The first church at Ira Center, and the first one in the town was Congregational in denomination, and was organized July 7th, 1807, by Rev. Francis Pomeroy. Rev. Silas Barnes was the first pastor. This church is not now in existence.

THE BAPTIST CHURCH OF IRA was organized in March, 1836, with forty-three members, most of whom were dismissed from the church in Cato. Elder Ira Dudley became their pastor at or soon after their organization. Their numbers were nearly doubled during the first year of their existence, and during this year they commenced the erection of a house of worship, which was opened in 1837. In the latter year their first general revival was experienced, by which eightythree were added by baptism and letter. Eider Dudley's pastorate covered a period of two years. He was succeeded by William - H. Delano, alicentiate, who entered upon his labors in 1838, and was afterwards ordained pastor. During the second year of his pastorate a revival was enjoyed, by which thirteen were added to their number. Delano continued to serve them till 1840, when he was succeeded by H. G. Degolyer, who remained one year, and was succeeded by M. Waters, who remained a like period. J. S. Everingham succeeded to the pastorate in 1843, and remained till 1847.

During the period from 1840 to 1847, the church was sorely rent by divisions caused by the discussions of questions connected with the political actions of their pastors and other members, and their number was reduced from one hundred and forty-three to twenty-two. But in January, 1847, these difficulties were healed by the assistance of a council convened for that purpose, and in the spring of that year the labors of Henry B. Kenyon were secured and retained till 1849.

In their letter to the association in 1849, they write

"Since we last represented ourselves we have enjoyed -the labors of H. B. Kenyon a part of the time, and for the last three months the labors of Elder E. Robbins. We are now destitute of a pastor, and most earnestly desire the prayers of brethren that we may be kept from dishonoring the cause of Christ. We are at peace among ourselves."

Elder Kenyon again became their pastor in 1850, and died June 28th, 1851. The pulpit was supplied till 1852, in which year Judson Davis was called and served them eight years. In 1854 repairs were made on the church and a bell was bought. Elder Fuller succeded to the pastorate in 1859, and served them one year, resigning the charge January 1st, 1860. He was followed by Elder Wiggins, who served them two years, till 1862, when Elder H. B. Garfield was called and remained a like period, having baptized twelve and admitted two by letter. Elder Phillips was the pastor in 1864. He was succeeded in 1865 by Elder Greene, who continued his labors with them until 1869.

During the year 1870 their house of worship was -repaired, and.a new organ bought. The pulpit was supplied by different pastors. In 1871 Elder Ira Dudley was called to the pastorate. He.served them most of the time for four years. Elder Cross served them either as pastor or ply in 1874; and from that time till November 2d, 1877, when the present pastor, Rev. C. F. Whitcomb, of Syracuse, was called, the pulpit was supplied by Revs. M. Hewitt, Mallory, Robinson, Smith, Toilman and others.

In the winter of 1878, under the charge of the present pastor, a revival was experienced by which a large number were converted and nine added to the membership by baptism. The present number of members is 43.


Bethel Corners (p. o) is a hamlet of about seventy-five inhabitants, in the north-west corner of the town. It contains a church, (M. E.) but no business establishments, neither store, nor hotel. There was formerly a small tannery in operation here, but it was discontinued some six years ago. It was built about fifty years ago by Samuel Andrews, who run it some ten years, when he sold it to his son, George B. Andrews, who still owns it. The capital invested in raw material never exceeded $1,000, but considerable tanning was done on shares. -

The first settler at Bethel Corners was Daniel Thomas. The next was Samuel Andrews, whose son, Geo. B. Andrews, still lives there.

MERCHANTS.- The first store at Bethel Corners was started by Harrison Pollay, about flu- teen years ago. He continued it about three years and rented it to Chauncey Stewart, who kept it about a year. It was next kept by John DeForest, who bought it and after about a year sold it to Thomas D. Wands, who kept it about six months and sold to Mason Andrews, who built a larger store, which was burned about four months after. Newton G. Phelps opened a store in 1871, and in 1872 he built a new store. He did business here in all five years. He rented the building and sold his stock to John W. Guider, who kept store about a year, when he told his goods to a man in Auburn, who removed them to that place. There has been no store kept here since.

POSTMASTERS.- The first post-master at Bethel Corners was Edwin C. Holcomb, who held the office some six or eight years. He was succeeded about ten years ago by George B. Andrews, who still holds the office and distributes the mail in his house.

BETHEL M. E. CHURCH, at Bethel Corners, was organized in 1828, by Rev. Geo. W. Densmore, with nine members, viz: Samuel Andrews, and Margaret his wife, Lois Andrews, his mother, Geo. B. Andrews, his son, Eliza Andrews, his daughter, Mrs. Maria Follett, Mrs. Abram Williams, and Kinney and wife, of whom only Geo. B. Andrews and Maria Follett are living. Revs. Geo. W. Densmore and W. Ninde were the first pastors on this circuit, for, two years. The present pastor is Olin Webster, who commenced his labors October 1st, 1877. Their church edifice was built about twenty-six years ago. The present membership is about seventy; and the attendance at Sabbath school, about twenty.


Ira Station, on the S. C. R. R., is on the west line, two miles west of Ira Center. There is nothing here but the depot.

MANUFACTURES.- One-half mile west of Ira Center is a saw-mill, owned by W. H. Carr and James Follett, and built in 1848, by Samuel Phelps, Jr., and Samuel Sturge. In 1870, new machinery was put in and a stave machine added. The motive power is furnished by a thirty-six horse-power engine. Its capacity is 5,000 feet of lumber per day.

In the south part of the town, about midway on the road between Cato and Meridian, is a cheese-factory owned by Abial Cook. It wasstarted by a stock company about six years ago and run by them about two years, when it came into the hands of Abial Cook, who was the principal stock-holder. Three cheese only are made per day.

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