TOWN OF STERLING.
STERLING, named from Lord William Alexander Sterling, of Revolutionary memory, lies upon Lake Ontario, in the extreme
north part of the County, and is bounded north by the lake, south by the town of Victory, east by Oswego county,
and west by Wayne county.
The surface is rolling and inclines slightly toward the north. The highest elevations, in the south, are from 200
to 300 feet above the lake. Big Bluff, on the lake shore, rises somewhat abruptly from 100 to 200 feet above the
surface of the lake. The streams are Little Sodus Creek and its branches, flowing north through the central part
to Little Sodus Bay, and the headwaters of Cartright Creek, in the south-west part, emptying into Blind Sodus Bay.
Little Sodus Bay is about two miles long and one mile wide, and is one of the best natural harbors on the south
shore of the lake. A swamp, covering several hundred acres, extends along the lake shore, east of the bay, and
another lies on the south border of the town.
The Clinton group, so well characterized by its iron ore beds and its marine plants, rests upon the conglomerate.
At Bentley's quarry it appears on the top of the sandstone, which corresponds with the Oneida conglomerate, showing
a series of their grayish-green sandstone and shale, the former containing numerous fucoids and other forms, with
the Clinton lingula, besides some other fossils, the mass exposed being about ten feet thick. It appears again
on the creek, extending from the village of Martville to the mill about half a mile below. At the village are seen
alternations of shale and calcareous shale, the latter somewhat solid. The whole is fossiliferous, the Clinton
retepora being abundant. Here was found a specimen of the Niagara delthyris, and, in the green shale of the higher
part of the group, a nearly complete specimen of the Calymene Clintonii. At the mill, in the bed of the creek,
rising for about eight feet in the bank, is a yellow-green shale. It contains some fossils among which is the Broad
Agnotis, and an Avicula yet unnamed; above which are thin layers of limestone composed entirely of Shining Orthis
(Orthis nitens.) This mass is covered with about fifteen feet of alluvion, at the bottom of which were fragments
of light-colored hard limestone with ore adhering to it, showing that a deposit exists in the vicinity.
Lenticular clay iron ore, also called argillaceous exists on the land of Peter Van Petten, a little south of Hume's
quarry, and a little west of Sterling Station, from which latter place considerable quantities of ore have been
This ore consists of lenticular or flattened grains of various sizes, which apparently have been made to cohere
by the pressure applied to the mass. It frequently contains joints or disks of the encrinite, and fragments of
other organic remains. Its usual color is brownish-red, its powder being more red. It is very friable, soils the
fingers, has but little lustre, and is often studded with minute grains of iron pyrites. All the samples examined
effervesce freely in acids, which is probably due to the admixture of carbonate of lime. By some its formation
is ascribed to the decomposition of carbonate of iron; and by others to that of iron pyrites. The infiltration
of water, acting in a slow and imperceptible manner, is supposed to be the cause which has produced this decomposed
form of the ore. It yields
The underlying rocks are the Medina sandstone, which covers the northern half of the town, and the Oneida conglomerate
and the series of the Clinton group, in the south part. An interesting locality showing the super-position of these
rocks is at Bentley's quarry, on the road from Martville to Hannibalville, where the red sandstone and the Clinton
group are within a few feet of each other, having a gray sandstone intervening, intermixed with the green shale
of that group. The junction between the red and gray sandstone is concealed by drift, &c. The two former have
been quarried for building stone.
The red sandstone is well exposed in the bottom of the creek at Sterling Center, and in its sides, extending along
the creek a mile south, the mass exposed being twenty-five feet thick. It appears again in the road near the place
formerly owned by Robert Hume, about two and one-half miles from Sterling Center, and four from Martville; also
at the quarry between Martville and Hannibalville, where it is of two kinds, the hard and variegated, which shows
the diagonal structure, and the more coarse and friable, of a darker color. The red sandstone is geologically the
lowest rock of New York which contains brine springs of sufficient purity and quantity to be manufactured into
salt. From this fact and its red color it was for a long time confounded with the red shale of the Onondaga salt
group. At Sterling Center a brine spring rises by the side of the creek, through a fissure in the sandstone; another
exists a mile further south, and a third near Little Sodus Bay. The salt from all these springs was said to have
had a sharper taste than common salt, owing probably to a more soluble muriate with an earthy base.
Conglomerate appears at Bentley's quarry and at the farm formerly owned by Robert Hume, both previously referred
to. In the former locality it is a light greenish-gray, fine-grained sandstone, in places mottled with green shale,
and in a few places with reddish purple spots of ferruginous shale. It was quarried for the mill at Martville,
the thickness excavated being four or five feet. The latter locality was opened for Wolcott furnace an iron which
is highly valued for various purposes, especially for castings ; and when mixed with other ores, it greatly improves
The soil is a sandy and gravelly loam, .and in some places is stony and difficult to cultivate. We noticed a good
deal of sorrelgrowing in various localities in the town.
The town has an area of 26,748 acres; of which 18,343 are improved; 5,017, woodland; and 3,388, otherwise unimproved.
The population in 1875 was 3,042; of whom 2,668 were native; 374, foreign; 3,038, white; 4, colored; and 605, owners
The Southern Central R. R. crosses the town diagonally from south to north, its northern terminus being at Little
Sodus Bay. The Lake Ontario Shore R. R. crosses it in the northern part from east to west.
Sterling Center, (Sterling p. o.,) is situated on Little Sodus Creek, in the central
part of the town, and is two miles north-east of Sterling Junction, and one mile east of Sterling Valley station
on the L. 0. S. R. R. It has a population of 237, and contains three churches, (Baptist, M. E: and Reformed Presb.,)
a union school, three stores, one hotel, one grist-mill, one tannery, a furnace, three blacksmith shops, a harness
shop, tin shop and shoe shop.
Wm. BYER, who keeps a general stock of merchandise, commenced business in Sterling Center, about thirteen years
since, in company with James D. Church and Nicholas Byer, under the firm name of Byer, Church & Co. About three
years thereafter he bought the interest of his partners, and has since conducted the business alone. The building
he occupies was erected in 1848, by John P. Hunter, who opened a general store at that date, and failed ten years
after. It stood idle till about 1863, when Plumb & Duel opened it. They sold out in the spring of 1865 to Wm.
James Green occupies the store built by Samuel Crawford about fifty years ago. Crawford put in a stock of goods
and kept it till about 1832, when he rented the store to William Graham & Co.; Bonesteel, of Oswego, Graham's
partner, furnishing the goods. After two years it was again kept by Crawford, who, in the fall of 1835, sold his
stock to John Gilchrist, who had formerly been his clerk, and who took in as partner Franklin Southwick. About
a year after, John Hunter bought a portion of the stock and kept the store some two years, when a Mr. Jenkins,
for whom Hunter had acted as- clerk in Penn Yan, became associated with him. About 1840, Wm. Bruce became a partner
with Hunter. About 1837 Crawford died, and the store went into the hands of his father-in-law, Liva Peck, who sold
it to Wm. Kevill about 1848. At this time Hunter built the store now occupied by Wm. Byer, and moved into it. The
store now occupied by Mr. Green was used some eighteen months as a dwelling, after which he and Wm. Kevill used
it for a boot and shoe store. In the spring of 1852, it was occupied by Wm. Longley as a general store. Longley,
being the postmaster at that time, kept the post-office there. About two years after he sold to his brother Freeman,
who removed the goods to the store now occupied by J. B. Chappell. About 1854 James Green,Wm. McKnight and James
D. Church, (Green having previously bought the building,) put in a general stock and continued about two years,
when Church sold his interest to the remaining partners. About a year later McKnight sold to Green, who still carries
on the business.
In 1839, there being then but one store in the village, the citizens formed a stock company, with a capital of
about $400, the shares being $25 each, and built the store now occupied by J. B. Chappell. It was finished in the
spring of 1840, and sold to Chas. Comstock, brother of Judge Geo. F. Comstock, of Syracuse, who put in a general
stock of goods. In 1847, he sold it to Luther and Wm. Longley, who occupied it together about five years, when
they dissolved, Wm. opening a store where James Green now is. About 1853 or '4, Freeman Longley, from Adams, Mass.,
a brother of Wm. Longley, bought out Luther Longley, his cousin. Wm. Longley made an assignment, his stock eventually
coming into the hands of his brother Freeman, who removed them to his own store, the one now occupied by J. B.
Chappell. Wm. Wood, a brotherin-law of Freeman Longley, subsequently became his partner, the two continuing the
business two or three years, when they sold the goods at auction and the building to J. B. Chappell. Wood returned
to Albany, whence he came, and Freeman Longley removed to Wisconsin.
The Caynga House, Ethan Allen proprietor, was built in 1833, by Samuel Crawford, and was first occupied as a hotel
about 1838, by Samuel Beattie, having been used previously as a dwelling. It was the first hotel in the village.
Beattie kept it three or four years, and was succeeded by several individuals who kept it only for a short period.
In 1876, Jno. C. Shaw, uncle of the present proprietor, bought the property and put it in good condition.
The grist-mill, owned by Edwin Clark, and run by James Mizen, was built in 1813, bya man named Ireland, whose sons,
though not practical millers, managed it several years. He built a saw-mill about the same time. The grist-mill
and some three acres of land were bought by Samuel Crawford, who operated it several years, and in 1835 gave it
a thorough over-hauling and put in new gearing. Soon alter it passed into the hands of Liva Peck, and others. Edwin
Clark is the present proprietor. It contains three runs of stones. The saw-mill and 225 acres of land were bought
by Asa Cary from Vermont, who came into the town in 1831, and whose son Nathaniel C. Cary, now resides here. Edwin
Sanford, now owns it, and has converted it into a shop for cutting out stuff for cabinet ware.
The creek, which furnishes the motive power for all the manufacturing establishments in the village, except the
foundry, has a fall of ten and one-half feet, but the supply is not constant of late years.
The tannery which is owned and operated by Wemple Halliday, was built in 1859, by John Halliday, father of Wemple,
on the site of one built in 1832, by Vilas, White & Co., and burned about 1852.
The foundry owned by Nathaniel C. Cary and Alex. C. Sturgis, was built about 1846, by Wm. Kirk and A. C. Sturgis,
who, in 1848, finding it too small for their business, erected an addition. About 1861, Kirk sold his interest
to Sylvanus Ferris, who, about 1864, sold to Nathaniel C. Cary. It has since been conducted by Sturgis & Cary.
Plows and cultivators are the principal articles manufactured. The works are operated by steam.
Fair Haven (p. o.) is situated in the northwest corner of the town, on Little
Sodus Bay, and is the northern terminus of the S. C. R. R. It contains two churches, (M. E. and Reformed,) a district
school, two hotels, eight stores, two saw-mills, a planing-mill, brick-yard and a population of about 700. The
village extends the whole length of the Bay and to some distance above it. It is prosperous, and new enterprises
are being rapidly undertaken. The gently sloping shores of the Bay, which is a pretty sheet of water, presents
many fine sites for residences.
The Barrus House was built in 1875, by Giles C. Barrus, who had previously, for about six years, kept a hotel at
the head of the Bay, in a building now in a dilapidated condition and used as a dwelling-house, and erected about
fIfty years since by Abijah Hunt, who kept in it for a good many years the first hotel in Fair Haven. Hunt was
succeeded by Emer S. Sayles, who kept it four or five years, when Benj. S. Patty followed him and kept it a like
period, being succeeded by James M. Crozier. Thos. Harsha kept it afterwards for five or six years, until it came
into the hands of Giles C. Barrus. Barrus, who was from Hannibal, kept the present house till his death in the
winter of 1877-'78, when he was succeeded by his son, Giles F. Barrus, the present proprietor.
The Meyers House, a fine large hotel, situated at the "Point," was opened in the spring of 1873, by R.
J. Meyers, the present proprietor.
Mrs. Jane Hitchcock opened a hotel just east of the old Hunt hotel, which she kept a good many years, till her
death during the war.
The first store at Fair Haven was started by Garrison Taylor, about 1825, in the building he now occupies, on Lake
Seth Turner was next to Taylor. He opened a store about twenty years ago in the building subsequently used as a
hotel, at the head of the Bay. He kept it some three or four years, when he went west. David Cole and a Mr. Oakes
succeeded him, but neither of them continued long.
Isaac Turner and Rufus S. Welch then opened a store near where the brick block of Mendell & Hitchcock now stands.
After a short time Turner went out and Welch continued it alone, but only for a short time.
Oscar F. Miller was the next merchant. He opened the store he now occupies.
Robinson & Mendell opened a store in the east part of the village about 1873. They separated in the spring
of 1877, Robinson opening the grocery store in the east end of the Mendell & Hitchcock block, which was built
in the fall and winter of 1876, and Mendell a stock of ready made clothing and boots and shoes, in the store in
the west end of the same block. Both are still in the business.
J. B. Chappell & Son opened the central store in the Mendell & Hitchcock block in the spring of 1877, and
still carry on business there.
Isaac P. Welch opened the grocery store he now occupies in the spring of 1878.
E. E. Austin and Geo. B. Knapp, under the firm name of E. E. Austin & Co., opened their store of general groceries
and ship supplies, at the Point, in the spring of 1878.
The steam planing-mill, owned and operated by Knapp & Hemingway, was built
by Post, Knapp & Hemingway, in 1872. It is 70 by 50 feet, two stories high, and is capable of planing 20,000
feet of lumber per day. The motive power is furnished by a fifty-five-horse-power engine. Connected with the mill
property is a dock, on the Bay, 528 feet in length. The annual sales are about 2,000,000 feet of lumber. In the
spring of 1875, the senior partner, Mr. Post, withdrew, his interest being bought by the remaining members.
The first saw-mill in Fair Haven was built by Seth Turner, some twenty-five years since, who sold it after three
or four years. It has passed through several hands, and is now owned by Mrs. Bottsford, whose husband acquired
possession of it some four years since.
R. S. Welch built the saw-mill now owned by him about four years ago.
Both mills are located at the head of the Bay. Jacob Hemingway and Wm. Van Hoesen commenced the manufacture of
brick a little south of the village, on the line of the railroad, in the spring of 1877. They give employment to
eight or ten men, and make 15,000 per day.
Floyd Kelsey, of Auburn, was the first to make brick in this locality. He commenced about 1856, and continued four
or five years. Nothing more was done till about four years ago, when David Lester, now of Oswego, manufactured
for about one year. The works then remained idle till operations were resumed by the present proprietors.
Messrs. Reed & Conger built an ice-house of large capacity at the Point in the winter of 1877-'78.
C. W. Austin and the S. C. R. R. are jointly building a steam transfer elevator at the Point, with a storage capacity
of 30,000 bushels, and a transfer capacity of 3,000 bushels per hour.
Peo & Rice are engaged in shipping foreign fish, and are doing an extensive business. Seventy-five tons of
fish, were entered at this port in 1877, when several parties were engaged in the business.
Several coal companies are doing business at this place, viz: Moser, Hoole & Co., organized in April, 1878,
with headquarters at Buffalo; the Lehigh Valley Coal Co ; the Butler- Colliery Co., with headquarters at Elmira;
Wheeler & Co., with headquarters at Oswego; for all of which C. W. Austin is shipping agent; and E. M. Ford,
with headquarters in Oswego, for whom C. L. Bloodgood is shipping agent. The railroad company have a coal trestle
at the Point, with a stock capacity of 45,000 tons, and a pocket capacity of 1,300 tons. They also own the steam
tug E. P. Ross, which is named after the president of the road.
The following statistics showing the magnitude of the business doneat this port were kindly furnished by Mr. George
P. Knapp, Deputy Collector of Customs of Fair Haven: The receipts at this office from June 30th to December 4th,
1877, were $24,000; and from March 20th to June 8th, 1878, $729. There were received and forwarded during the year
1877, 140,000 bushels of barley, 1,500,000 feet of lumber, 75 tons of fish, 2,000,000 lath, 1,000 cords cedar posts,
3,000 tons of iron ore, and 63,000 tons of coal.' From April 11th to December 4th, 1877, the number of vessels
coming into the port was 360, with an aggregate tonnage of 68,516 tons.
Little Sodus Harbor is naturally a good one, and has been improved by the general government and the residents
of the place. In 1828 Congress appropriated $400 for making a survey and examination of the southern shore of Lake
Ontario, between Geriesee and Oswego rivers, with a view to the improvement of the most accessible and commodious
harbors on the frontier. Capt. T. W. Maurice, Corps of Engineers, was placed in charge of the survey, and commenced
work in October, 1828. His report, submitted in January, 1829, adjudged Little Sodus to be of secondary importance,
but recommended its improvement and submitted a plan therefor.
The entrance to the bay was closed, except at two narrow openings, by a gravelly beach, out of water. The plan
proposed to make this beach answer the purpose of a breakwater, to construct two channel piers, each 290 yards
long, and close one of the openings by a dike 130 yards long, the whole work to be done at an estimated cost of
A resurvey was made in 1845, when the entrance was found to be in about the same condition as in 1828. With this
exception, nothing was done till 1852, when the first appropriation of $10,000 was made; but the beach which crossed
the entrance and formed the basis of the plan had been swept away since 1845, thus necessitating a new project.
Another survey was made in 1853, and it was decided to build piers from the crown of the bar to deep water, and
to connect the south ends with the adjacent shores by rip-rap. Work was begun in 1854, and suspended in 1858 for
want of funds. In 1858, the people locally interested formed a company, known as the "Ontario Bay Harbor Improvement
Company." It proposed to aid the general government in improving the harbor, and had on hand $6,000 in money
and materials, with which to build, under the supervision of the engineer in charge, 300 feet of pier. It is presumed
that this was carried out, for in 1866, 284 feet of pier was still in existence, although a portion of the outer
end had evidently been destroyed. Nothing further was done till 1866, when Congress made a further appropriation.
The following appropriations have been made for the improvement of this harbor:
In 1852, there was appropriated $10,000.00
In 1866, there was appropriated 33,840.41
In 1867, there was appropriated 50,000.00
In 1870, there was appropriated 5,000.00
In 1871, '2,'3 and '4, in each 15,000
In 1875, there was appropriated 10,000
In 1876, there was appropriated 5,000.00
The total appropriations to date are, $173,840.41 At the close of the year ending June 30th, 1877, there had been
constructed of the west pier 1,070 feet; of the west breakwater 500 feet; of the east pier 512 feet; and of the
east breakwater 780 feet. The only work remaining to be done under the original scheme of improvement is the connection
of the inner end of the east pier with the shore. The unexpended balance of appropriations available for that purpose
was $5,856. 57.
Revenue collected during the fiscal
year ending June 30th, 1877 $3,154.68
Value of imports 22,544.00
Value of exports 86,111.00
Number of vessels cleared 226
Their tonnage, tons 18,258
Number of vessels entered 213
Their tonnage, tons 13,417
The harbor is lighted by a fixed white light of the fourth order, placed near the head of the west pier. A vessel
drawing twelve feet can enter the harbor and go up to the coal docks of the S. C. R. R.
The first physician to locate permanently at Fair Haven was Dr. Crounce, who practiced a good many years. He removed
to Guilderland, Albany county, some twenty years ago. The next was Byron Dewitt, who came about 1850 and practiced
till about 1859, when he removed to Sterling Center, and subsequently to Oswego, where he is now practicing. Truman
F.. Brinkerhoff succeeded Dewitt and remained several years. He moved to Fulton some fifteen years ago, and subsequently
to Auburn, where he is now practicing. Some ten years elapsed, during which there was no physician here. Dr. R.
5. Fields came in 1873 and remained about a year. He was succeeded by Dr. Oliver Bloomfield, the present physician,
who came about 1875.
Dr. Marsh came to the village in the spring of 1878.
The first lawyer was A. R. Willey, who was born in the town of Victory, and moved into this town some forty years
ago. He was admitted to the bar about twenty years ago, and is still practicing in the village.
Geo. I. Post, a native of Fleming, in this County, who came into the town from Auburn some sixteen years since
and has acquired distinction in his profession, is living at the Point. He was, elected District Attorney in November,
1859, and was Member of Assembly in 1863, 1876 and 1877.
Thomas C. Bridges, ex-Supervisor of the Town of Sterling, was born in the eastern part of the town, and in the
spring of 1878 moved into the village, where he is reading law with Mr. Post.
Sterling Valley, (p. o.,) locally known as Pelham, is situated on the north branch
of Little Sodus Creek, one and one-third miles north of Sterling Valley station. It contains one church (United
Presbyterian), a district school, one store, a fiouring and grist-mill, two blacksmith shops, two saw-mills, a
shoe shop, tailor shop, wagon shop, and a population of 107.
John Hunter, John Cochran and James C. Hunter opened a store in 1859, under the firm name of John Hunter &
Co., in the building built by John Cooper and previously occupied by him as a tavern. In 1862 John Cochran sold
his interest to the Hunters, and in 1863, James Hunter sold his interest to his brother John, by whom the business
was carried on alone till 1867, when James C. Hunter again acquired a half interest, and the firm became and has
since remained James C. Hunter & Co. The postoffice is in the store, and James C. Hunter has been postmaster
A. Allen and Andrew Daggert, proprietors of the grist-mill, commenced the milling business here about four years
since, under the firm name of A. Allen & Co. The mill was built in 1869, by William Stevenson, who sold it
to the present proprietors. It stands on the site of the original mill built here by John Cooper, and is the third
mill on that site, two having been burned. It contains three run of stones. The motive power is furnished by water
from the creek, which has a fall hereof fourteen feet.
Martville (p. o.) is situated in the southeast part of the town on Little Sodus
Creek, and on the S. C. R. R. It contains two churches, (M. E. and Adventist, only one society having a building,)
a district school, a hotel, (kept by Norton S. Snyder,) one store, a saw-mill, a gristmill and saw-mill combined,
a tannery, (which is not in operation,) three blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, a shoe shop, and 124 inhabitants.
The first store in Martville was opened by Robert L. Lay, about 1825, in the hotel now kept by Norton Snyder. He
remained about three years, and was succeeded by Daniel McGilvrey, who remained about a year. A Mr. Lyon next kept
it a year or two, when William Hawley rented the building and put in a stock of goods. Hawley continued about six
years, and was succeeded by Benjamin Conger & Son, who bought the building and stock, and sold to Snyder, Conger
& Reed, who then owned the mill property. The store was discontinued when they sold the mill property, but
Hough, who bought that property, opened a store, which he continued till he disposed of the mill property, when
it was closed out.
Lay also opened an ashery, the first one here, and about two years later he opened the first tavern in the house
where George A. Desbrough now lives. Hough started a distillery at the time he owned the mill property. It was
burned after being in operation about five years. A distillery was in operation about 1828, kept by Nathaniel Watts,
and stood where Hiram C. Curtis' garden is.
Floyd F. Allen opened a general store in 1872, in the building erected about 1861 or '62, by Miles Allen, who died
a few years after, and was succeeded in the business by his son Charles, who carried it on about two years, till
his death. Stiles Allen, his brother, succeeded him, but remained only a few weeks, when the property came into
the hands of Miles' widow, now Mrs. Norton Snyder, who conducted the store about a year, when she sold to the present
occupant, who is a nephew of Miles.
Miles Allen commenced business about 1855, in the store erected by Abram Van Auken, some few years previous. Van
Auken rented the store to a Mr. Comstock, who carried on business about two years, when he sold his stock to Stephen
Tilford, who, about 1855, moved the goods to Sterling Valley.
The tannery at Martville, owned by Hiram C. Curtis, was built about 1849, a previous one in the same locality,
of small capacity, having been pulled down by reason of decay.
The grist-mill and saw-mill stands on the site of one built in 1823, by Chauncey Hickock and Timothy Austin, from
Marcellus, who were the first to settle on the site of Martville, in that year. In 1840 it was burned, and in 1841
William C. Hough erected the present structure. The grist-mill is built of stone, is 30 by 40 feet, four and one-half
stories high, and contains two runs of stones. The saw-mill is a wooden addition, built at the same time. Charles
N. Ross now owns and leases the mill to George A. Desbrough, the present occupant, for a term of five years. The
creek, which furnishes the motive power, has, at this point, a fall of eleven feet.
A man named Colton, started a carding and cloth-dressing mill about 1828. Josiah Bidwell started similar works
on the site of Barnes' sawmill. About 1835, he built a new mill on the opposite side of the creek and sold to Amasa
P. Hart about 1840. Lot Lannson and Ira A. Pease followed for five or six years, when they sold to Alvah Lund,
who took the building down and sold the machinery.
The first physician in Martville was Dr. Uriah Beder, who came to the village about 1826. The present physicians
are W. M. Wells and Wm. Kyle.
Sterling Junction, (p. o.) in the north-west part of the town, about one and three-fourths
miles south of Fair Haven, at the junction of the S. C. R. R. and L. O. S. R. R., contains a store, owned by Frank
German, and established by him some five years since, and a storehouse, erected in 1874, by Allison J. Albring
and Floyd H. Kevill, produce dealers. Both Albring and Kevill are employed by the two railroad companies, the latter
as station agent.
North Sterling, in the south-east part of the town, on the old State road, is
a hamlet containing a district school, a small store, kept by Wm. Pasells, a hotel, blacksmith shop, and two or
STERLING VALLEY STATION,
Also known as Crockett's Station, is on the line of the L. 0. S. R. R., in the
north-east part of the town.
THF FIRST SETTLEMENT in Sterling was made at the Valley, by Peter Dumas, a Frenchman, who came to this County
with LaFayette and served through the Revolution. He drew lot 13, and settIed on its south-west corner in 1805.
The Dumas' family were in destitute circumstances, and so severely did they feel the rigor of pinching want, that
their son, Ezra, who was convalescing from a fever and had recovered his appetite, died of starvation, while members
of the family were absent in search of food. This death, which occurred July 2 1st, 1806, was the first in the
town. Dumas died in the town in 1825. His sons Peter, John, Nathan and Jasper, resided in the town many years.
Peter, the eldest, lost four children, all he then had, under peculiarly distressing circumstances. While he and
his wife had gone to his father's one Sunday evening to milk for his mother, who was sick, their house caught fire,
and it, together with their four children, were consumed. Descendants of the family still reside in the town.
Captain Andrew Rassmusen settled the same year near the lake, in the north-east part of the town. He was killed
on board an American vessel on Lake Ontario in 1812. His wife died in the town many years ago. His children were
Andrew, who died in the town some ten years ago; William, who removed to Michigan after a residence here of many
years; and Mary, now Mrs. John Ireland, who is living with her son in the north-east part of the town.
A family named Hoppins settled in the southwest part of the town in this or the following year, and many of their
descendants still live in the town. Isaac M. Hoppins, who was born March i6th, 1807, was the first white child
born in the town. He is still living about one and one-half miles north-west of Martville. He is the father of
Hoppins recently tried for murder in this County and acquitted.
Francis DeCamp settled near Martville in 1806. He was a bachelor, and his sister Nancy, who came with him, kept
house for him. Both have long since passed away.
William Devine settled on the farm now occupied by Augustus Green, near the center of the north border of the town,
in 1807. He had a large family, none of whom are living in the town. Joseph Devine, brother of William, settled
adjoining him the same time. He; too, had a large family, but they, like William's, mostly removed to the west
at an early day. Nathan Wilmot settled on the farm now occupied by Joshua Cosbut, in the north central part, and
Jehial Parks in the same locality, in 1807. Wilmot and his wife died in the town at an early day. Nathan, his son,
removed west soon after his father's death. Parks bought fifty acres on lot 26, about 1820, and lived there for
many years. He afterwards went west, with his family, which was quite numerous, and there died.
Jacob Wilsey, from Saratoga county, settled in the north-west corner of the town, in 1808.
John Cooper, John Dusenberry, Curtis Stoddard and John McFarland and his sons, William, Robert, James and Thomas,
came in from Washington county, in 1810. Cooper settled at the Valley, which was for many years known as Cooper's
Mills, from the saw and grist-mills built there by him. It is not certain in what year these mills were erected,
as authorities differ, but there is no doubt that these were the first mills of their kind built in the town. Both
were burned. Cooper built the house now occupied by James Hunter & Co. as a store. It stands near the site
of his first log hut,in which, the same year, he opened a tavern, which was the first in the town. This old cabin
contained but one room, which answered the purpose of kitchen, bar-room, dining-room and family sitting-room, sleeping-room
and parlor; but many of the early settlers enjoyed its rude accommodations while their own homes were being built.
William and George Cooper, brothers of John, settled, the former on the farm now owned by Mr. Fry, and the latter,
from Saratoga county, in 1812, on the opposite side of the road, a little west of him, on the farm now occupied
by Frank Duel. The Coopers have numerous descendants living in the town. Dusenberry settled at what is known as
Galey's corners, and died in the town. Stoddard, who was an Englishman, settled in the east part, where Thomas
Manning now lives. He removed long since to Ohio. The McFarlands settled on lot 27. John died in the town, about
1813, of typhoid fever. William is living in Illinois. Robert, who served in the militia in the war of 1812, was
drowned in Nine Mile Creek, a little west of Oswego, while returning home with his company. The water in the Creek
was high and the current strong. Thomas Vaughn, also a resident of this town, was drowned while trying to rescue
him. James removed to Illinois, where he died in the winter of 1876. Thomas is living about half a mile south of
Sterling Center. Of McFarland's daughters, who came with him, Margaret, afterwards Mrs. Alexander Beattie; Nellie,
afterwards Mrs. Samuel Stevenson; Isabel, afterwards Mrs. Charles Crawford and later Mrs. Charles Williams; and
Jane, afterwards Mrs. John Daniels; all are dead.
John and Matthew Harsha also came from Washington county in 1810, and settled at Martville. John died in Oswego,
to which place his children removed; and Matthew removed to Michigan, where he died. The marriage of Matthew Harsha
to Charity Turner, was the first marriage celebrated in the town.
Joseph Bunnell and John Turner, from Long Island, settled in 1811, the former a little west of Peter Dumas, and
the latter at Fair Haven. Turner traded his possessions in L. I. for a farm of 140 acres in Sterling, in 1804,
and induced his son, Isaac, who was then becoming of age to accompany the family in making the settlement. They
came on in February, on the ice from a point one and one-half miles west of Sterling Valley, where the road terminated,
and where they stopped several days with an acquaintance who had preceded them. The family found shelter from the
bleak winds in a shanty with bark roof and split floor which bad been erected on the premises by squatters. At
this time a family named Ramsdell resided at the head of the Bay; and Peter Simmons' family and two others named
Myers and Wiltsey, on the shore of the lake in the vicinity. All were squatters, and subsisted mostly on fish and
wild game, both of which were abundant.
The nearest grist-mill was at Oswego, and the most convenient route by water, as there were no public highways,
nothing but paths through the woods along lines of blazed trees. Ofttimes the settlers would get out of provisions,
the rough waters of the lake making it too perilous to attempt to reach Oswego in their white-wood canoes. While
returning from one of these journeys to Oswego, Isaac Turner was overtaken by a storm, which compelled him to pull
his canoe and grist to the shore and make his way home on foot. When he reached home he was taken sick, and the
next day his father and younger brother set out to recover the cargo. When they reached the locality where it was
stored they observed several deer, which, taking alarm, plunged into thc lake, were pursued and four captured.
They were thus able to take home with their grist a bountiful cargo of venison. Isaac was a soldier in the war
of 1812. He has filled nearly every town office; and seen nearly every improvement which the last sixty years have
Benjamin Clark taught the first school in 1812.
June 19th, 1812, the town was set off from Cato. The first town records are lost; hence we are unable to learn
the names of the first officers.
Town officers elected at the Spring election of 1879:
Supervisor- E. Randolph Robinson.
Town Clerk-Daniel C. Sanford.
Justice of the Peace- James C. Irwin.
Assessors- L. Nathan Calbert, Hersen J. Lewis, to fill vacancy.
Overseers of the Poor- Harman Van Petten, George A. Cleaveland.
commissioner of Highways- Orville E. Curtis. Collector- William Stevens.
Inspectors of Elections- Shelden D. Cole, Isaac Borst, Frank Jones, appointed to fill vacancy.
Constables- Christopher Huntley, Wm. Butler, Ira Ward, Edward Floyd Snyder and H. J. Coalman.
Game Constable- Lewis Tebedo.
Town Board Justices of the Peace- Wm. Kevill, A. S. Douglass, James C. Irwin.
John Ingersoll, from Scipio, came in 1812, and settled where James Bennett now lives. Silas and Elijah Marsh and
a man named Bothel were among the first settlers at Fair Haven. Bothel kept a small tavern there a good many years.
William Miller, Samuel Stewart and Alexander McFadden, from Argyle, Washingtbn county, and Benjamin Lyonscarnein
1815. Miller came in the fall, and settled in the south-west corner of lot 26. He is now dead. Stewart also came
in the fail, and settled on lot 27. He subsequently removed to Michigan, where he died. Lyons settled on the State
road from Oswego to Fair Haven. He has numerous descendants living in the town. McFadden settled on lot 26, a little
southwest of Sterling Center. He brought with him his wife, Jane, and seven children, viz: William who died on
the old homestead in 1834; Mary S., who is living with her brother, John H., in Sterling Center; Margaret, afterward
Mrs. Daniel Hoy, with whom she removed to Missouri, and on whose death she returned here, and subsequently became
Mrs. Robert Hume, and who died in the town May 5th, 1869; Jane, who is also living with John H.; Sarah, the widow
of William Calvert, with whom she removed to Cortland county, where she now lives; and Alexander, who is now living
in Lexington City, Missouri. Thomas McFadden, who was born after the family moved into the town, is living in Michigan.
Hugh McFadden and Robert M. Stewart, from Argyle, Washington Co., came in the spring of 1816. McFadden was a brother
of Alexander and John W. McFadden. He settled on a farm adjoining that of Alexander's, and died in the town several
years since. Stewart came on foot, arriving in the town on the 7th of May, and settled on twenty acres, on lot
27, near the center of the town. He was the first blacksmith in the town. His shop was about a mile east of Sterling
Center. He busied himself at farming when not employed in the shop. He was a noted hunter.
John Winchell was a blacksmith at Fair Haven at an early day. He was fond of fishing and spent thuch time at that
when not engaged in his shop. Joshua Barnes located on the creek below the bridge crossing the creek on the State
road. He used to fish for salmon while his wife rowed their log canoe.
Big Bluff was, at an early day, a great cattle run in the summer, and was the scene of the destruction of a good
many cattle. Its elevation secured it a breeze which attracted the cattle to the edge, whence they were frequently
precipitated below from the caving of the embankment, which was then almost perpendicular. About 1820, an ox belonging
to a Mr. Eno, who was an early settler upon the shore, was precipitated over the bluff and lodged on a ledge about
half way down. It remained there several days before being discovered. It was rescued alive by means of ropes,
which scrved to guide it and prevent its failing while making the steep descent.
When the first settlers came the marshy tract bordering the lake was covered with cranberry bushes, and the fruit
was gathered in large quantities and marketed at Oswego and Onondaga Hollow. A few years later they were killed
by a rise in the water which covered all that tract. The water has receded somewhat, but the tract is subject to
frequent inundation from the backing of the lake water.
THE ASSOCIATED REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH,
the first church in the town, was organized at Sterling Valley in 1817 or '18, in the old log tavern kept by John
Cooper, the most prominent ones then connected with it being David McFarland and Samuel King, Elders, and John
and George Cooper, John and Hugh McFadden and Isaac Turner. Their church edifice was built in 1828, and an addition
built to it some two years since. The first settled pastor was Rev. David Curry, who maintained pastoral relations
with the Church for fifty years, and died in the town a short time since, having previously given up the ministry.
He was succeeded by Rev. John Edgar, who remained about ten years, and gave place to the present pastor, Rev. Mr.
Hume, who entered upon his duties about two years since. The Church is in a prosperous condition and has a membership
of 150. It has a flourishing Sunday school, with an attendance of about 125.
THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF STERLING CENTER,
was organized about 1820, with some thirty members, among whom were Alex. Mc Crea, Alex. Mc Fadden, John Scott,
Robt. M. Stewart, James Erwin, Thos. Cox, Samuel King and Andrew Galey. The organization was effected in a school-house
which stood where the Methodist church now stands. The first meetings were held in 1815, in a schoolhouse in Sterling
Valley, and were conducted by Revs. Alex. Milligan, Cannon and others. Even after the organization the meetings
were held in the valley for many years. Their first house of worship was built in 1828. It is now owned by "Big"
Smith, and used as a dwelling-house. In 1851, the present house in Sterling Center was erected, at a cost of $1,600.
It will seat 250 persons. The first settled pastor was Rev. Wm. L. Roberts, who previously supplied the pulpit
at an early day. He was succeeded by Rev. Matthew Wilkin in 1856, having served a faithful pastorate of thirty
years. He removed to Ohio, where he died. Wilkin remained about twelve years, and was succeeded by Rev. Samuel
R. Gilbreath, who remained only a year and a half, when he was appointed missionary to Assyria, where he died.
The present pastor, Rev. J T. Allen, succeeded him in the fall of 1876. The society numbers seventy; and the attendance
at Sabbath-school is about seventy-five.
THE M. E. CHURCH OF MARTVILLE
was organized about 1830, and built their house of worship about 1842. The latter was torn down in 1875 with a
view to rebuilding, but no building has yet been erected. Meetings are held in the school-house. The present pastor
lives in Bethel, in the town of Ira.
THE BAPTIST CHURCH OF STERLING,
at Sterling Center, was organized October 2d, 1841, in the school-house in Sterling Center. A society known by
the above name was organized several years previously, at the house of Joseph Bunnell, one and. one-half miles
notth-east of the Center, and a few years thereafter their place of meeting was changed to the town of Hannibal,
after which it took the name of that town.
Forty-one members were dismissed from the church in Hannibal to form this. The first pastor was Rev. T. H. Green,
who perfected the organization. During the first year of the existence of the society twenty-five were added to
its membership by baptism, ten by letter, and one by experience. The building of their church edifice was commenced
in the spring of 1842, but owing to pecuniary embarrassments and the loss by fire of a quantity of lumber, which
was a serious hindrance, it was not completed till 1845, the first meeting being held in it on the first Sabbath
in April of that year. In January, 1845, the pastor was assisted by Revs. I. Lawton and D. Foot, in a series of
revival meetings, which resulted in the addition of eleven by baptism and fifteen by letter. Elder Green closed
his labors with the church May 26th, 1850, and was immediately succeeded by Rev. A. R. Palmer, who was granted
a letter of dismission July 5th, 1851. During the remaining half of 1851, the church was ministered to by Elders
M. Shaw, Plumb, Green and I. R. Nesbit, the latter from Rochester University. The pulpit was afterwards filled
for a short time by Elder Peevit, who tendered his resignation March 6th, 1852. June 6th, 1852, a call was extended
to Elder G. A. Ames, and September 12th, 1852, he commenced his labors among them. He was succeeded April 5th,
1856, by Eider Ira Dudley; and in August, 1858, by Rev. Samuel Smith. September 17th, 1859, a call was extended
to Rev. Thomas H. Green; and in October, 1864, to Rev. J. P. Simmons, the latter of whom maintained pastoral relations
with them fourteen years. He left in the spring of 1878, and his place has not yet been filled. The present membership
is eighty; and the attendance at Sabbath school, about thirty.
THE FIRST M. E. CHURCH, at Sterling
Center, was organized in 1856, with about thirty members, among whom were John N. Smith, Isaac M. Hoppin and family,
and Mrs. Rhoda Duel. Previous to this, an organization had existed and fallen into decay, and meetings were held
by circuit preachers during a period of several years. Rev. David B. Smith, father of Gary Smith, was one of the
early preachers. Their house of worship was erected in 1860, at a cost of about $2,000, and will seat about three
hundred persons. Previous to the building of the church, meetings were held in the school-house; and, during one
summer, by invitation of the Baptists, in the church of that society. At its organization, the church became an
appointment on the Fair Haven charge. It 1869 it separated from that charge, and attached to itself Martville as
a second appointment. It then first became known as Sterling charge. In 1872, Martville was detached, since which
time the church has stood alone. Following is a list of the pastors since the organization in 1856, with the year
in which they came to the charge: Hiram Woodruff, 1856; Samuel Salisbury, 1858; E. W. Pierce, 1860; Paddock, 1862;
0. C. Lathrop, 1863; J. Barns, 1864; F. A. O'Fartell, 1866; D. Stone, 1868; A. Miller, 1869; R. O. Beebe, 1870;
P. T. Hughston, 1871 ; R. Houghton, 1873 ; Z. Wilcox, 1876; George P. Avery, the present one, 1877. In 1869, during
the pastorate of Allen Miller, but under the evangelical labors of D. W. Thurston, of Syracuse, and H. Giles, a
remarkable revival occurred in this church, which resulted in the conversion of about a hundred and in adding sixty
to the membership.
THE ADVENT CHRISTIAN CHURCH, at
Martyule, was organized August 17th, 1873, with sixty-seven members, among whom were A. H. Dunbar, John Tappan,
D. R. Childs, Wm. H. Barr, S. Stum, S. H. Bradford, Oliver Blanchard, George Timeson, S. D. Crofoot, Nelson Palmer,
Orin Barnes and Elkany Baker, and as the result of a series of a meetings, during a period of six weeks, held in
a tent, and conducted by Elders M. R. Miles and B. P. Stevens, who attracted large numbers, some from great distances,
and expounded the doctrines peculiar to this denomination, which "were new and strange to many who listened,"
and with such effect as to convert between thirty and forty individuals. In 1875 they built their church edifice,
at a cost of $2,300, and dedicated it Aug. 15th of that year, the sermon being preached by W. J. Hobbs, of Honeoye
Falls, N. Y. Elder M. R. Miles was called to the pastorate in 1874, and served them that and the two succeeding
years. In 1877, Elder James E. Wells, of Ontario, N. Y., accepted a call from this Church, and served them with
such acceptance as to be chosen pastor in 1878. The membership June 15th, 1878, was ninety. There is a large and
interesting Sunday school, of which James Barnes has been superintendent for a number of years. The attendance
at the school is eighty-six. Communion is observed once a quarter. The form of government is Congregational.
A little distance from Sterling are Kevill's grist, cider and shingle-mills and apple-jelly factory, all of which
were built and are owned and conducted by William Kevill. The grist-mill was built in 1851, contains three run
of stones, and has a capacity of 200 bushels per day. The cider-mill was built in 1861, contains three presses,
and expresses the juice usually from 10,000 to 15,000 bushels of apples per season. The shingle-mill was also built
the latter year. It contains one self-setting machine, with a capacity of 5,000 shingles per day, and is in operation
only about four months in the year. All three are propelled by water. The jelly factory has a capacity of 400 pounds
of jelly per day. This is a new industry, having been- established here in 1870, and is developing into a large
business. The jellies manufactured from apples are reputed to be superior to all others.