History of Summer Hill, 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


SUMMER HILL lies in the south-east corner of the County, and is bounded on the north by Sempronius, on the east by Cortland county, on the west by Locke, and on the south by Tompkins county. It was formed from Locke, as Plato. April 26th, 1831, and its name changed March 16th, 1832.

The surface is rolling and has an elevation of 1,000 to 1,100 feet above tide. The general level is only broken to any considerable extent by the valley of Fall Brook, which flows south through the east part, 300 tO 400 feet below the summits of the hills, and is the only stream of any importance. This stream, which is one of more than ordinary interest, after leaving this County, flows about twenty miles of its course through Tompkins county, furnishing some valuable mill sites, and near its mouth, in the vicinity of Ithaca, plunges, by a succession of falls, the principal one of which is over ohe hundred feet, a distance of over four hundred feet, within a mile, presenting a series of grand displays scarcely equalled in the State by a stream of its magnitude. Summer Hill Lake, or Locke Pond, by which name it is also called, is a rather pretty sheet of water, threefourths of a mile long by one-half of a mile wide. The shores are low had rise gradually to the highlands upon the east and west. It lies in the north-east part of the town, and discharges its waters in Fall Brook. It is moderately well stocked with fish, chiefly bass. Formerly salmon trout were abundant in its waters.

The soil is a clay loam, admirably adapted to grazing, to which it is, and has been for a great many years, almost exclusively applied. Dairying is the chief, almost only, occupation of the inhabitants. The full capacity of the town is utilized and has been for many years in grazing cattle for dairy purposes ; and the increase in the butter product is due to the improvement in the character of the land, its increased fertility, and the consequent ability to subsist more stock upon it. The dairies, which are all private, range from five to forty cows each. The number of much cows in the town in 1875 was 1,362 ; the number of pounds of butter made in families. 186,613, being an increase of 8,596 pounds, as compared with the product of 1874; the number of pounds of cheese made in families, 4,448 and the number of gallons of milk sold in market, 55. With respect to its butter product, Summer Hill ranks as the fourth town in the county. The construction of the Syracuse & Binghamton and Southern Central railroads, though neither of them pass through this town, has been of immense advantage to its dairy interests, in opening up new and more accessible markets.

The first settlement was made in 1797, by Hezekiah Mix, from Genoa, to which town he moved a few years previous to his settlement here. He located on lot 37, a mile west of Summer Hill village, on the farm now owned by William M. Grinnell. He died in the town. Francis Mix, who is living one and one-half miles west of the village, is his son.

Among the early settlers was Nathaniel Fillmore, father of Ex-President Millard Fillmore, the latter of whom was born in this town January 7th, 1800; served an apprenticeship in the woolen factory at Montville and afterwards commenced the study of law in the office of Walter Wood, at the same place. While pursuing hislegal studies in this office, he first acquired notoriety by the delivery of a Fourth of July address in a grove upon the premises now owned by Wm. Walker near the gulf. "Some of his hearers," says James A. Wright, in his Historical Sketches of Moravia, "then prophesied that he would 'make his mark,' and perhaps become a Judge, but he went far beyond their expectations, and doubtless his own brightest fancy never anticipated the high estate to which he was to arrive at last." Nathaniel Fillmore taught the first school in the town in 1804.

"Nathaniel Fillmore was a grandson of John Fillmore, the common ancestor of all of that name in the United States, who was born in one of the New England States about the year 1700. At the age of about 19 he went on board of a fishing vessel which sailed from Boston. The vessel had been but a few days out when it was captured by a noted pirate ship, commanded by Capt. Phillips. Young Fillmore was kept as a prisoner nine months. enduring every hardship which a strong constitution and firm spirit was capable of sustaining and, though threatened with instant death, steadily refused to sigh the articles of the piratical vessel, until, being joined by two other prisoners who also refused, the three attacked the pirates, and after killing several, brought the vessel safely into Boston harbor. The surviving pirates were tried and executed, and the heroic conduct of the captors was acknowledged by the British government. Fillmore afterwards settled at Norwich, (now Franklin) Conn., where he died. His son Nathaniel settled at an early day at Bennington, Vt., where, having proved his devotion to his country's cause by service in the French and Revolutionary wars, in the latter of which he gallantly fought as north-east of the village. It was in operation but a short time, as the construction of the dam so raised the water as to overflow the low lands above and produced malarial fevers. Litigation ensued and resulted in the tearing away of the dam and the abandonment of the mill. Bennett subsequently removed from the town. A family named Eaton settled among the first in the east part of the town, on the place on which Elijah Eaton, one of the sons, died in 1877, at an advanced age. Wrn. Webster was also among the first settlers.

James Robinson, who was a noted wolf hunter when there was a bounty of $40 apiece offered for their destruction, settled in the north part of the town about 1800.

Smith Covert came in from Genoa as early as 1805, November 6th of which year, his son Leonard, now living in Niles, was born in Summer Hill. He came to Genoa with an ox-cart, the wheels of which were made of hewed logs pinned together with wooden pins. James Aiken, father of L. O. Aiken, of Moravia, moved in from Antrim, N. H., with his family, in March, 1806.

Harmon Peters and his son-in-law, Reuben Sherman, came in company from the Mohawk country about the close of the war of 1812-'14, and settled on lot 8. Peters is still living in the locality of his settlement. Sherman afterwards removed to Cortland county, where he died at an advanced age.. His son, Reuben Sherman, Jr., is living on the old homestead. Elisha Griffin settled soon after 1814, where his son, Burdett Griffin, now lives, and died there some ten years ago. Another son is living on an adjoining farm. Archibald Bowker, a son of Elisha Bowker, of Locke, moved in from that town previous to 1819 and settled on lot 40, where he died in 1831. He held the office of Justice of the Peace a good many years, and till his death. En, his son, is living a little south of the old homestead. Samuel Ranney came in from Vermont in 1819, and settled three-fourths of a mile east of the village, where Martin Monroe now lives. After three or four years he removed to lot 29. near Bennett's old grist-mill. He was the first Supervisor of Summer Hill, and is now living with his son, Elijah C. Ranney, one and one-half miles east of the village, aged eighty-six, but still possessing good mental faculties. Two other sons are living, Lieutenant under Stark in the battle of Bennington, he died in 1844. Nathaniel, his son. and father of Millard, was born in Bennington in 1771. He was a farmer, and soon after his removal to Summer Hill lost all his property by a bad title to one of the military lots he had purchased. About 1802 he removed to Sempronius, (now Niles,) and from there, in 1819, to Erie county, where he lived till a few years since.

Martin Barber settled first on a farm about a half mile south of the village, about the beginning of the present century. He afterwards removed to the site of the village, and kept a tavern there a good many years, till after the organization of the town. He was a captain in the militia and was called out during the war of 1812, but was cashiered for some misdemeanor. He died in the town. None of his family are living here.

Joseph Cone settled a little north of the village, on the old east and west road, which was abandoned when the present one, which is an extension of the Albany and Homer turnpike, was built in 1818. There he kept the first tavern in the town, which he opened in 1803. Wrn. Honeywell settled on the east side of Fall Brook, on lot 30, which borders on the line of Homer, on the farm occupied until recently by his son Isaac, where he died long ago. Two sons, Isaac and Enoch, are living, the former on the east line of this town and the latter in the western part of the State. A daughter, the widow of Ezra Hough, is also living at an advanced age in Moravia. James Savage settled on lot 29, about a mile and a half north-east of the village, on the farms now occupied by Loren Bangs and Richard Coilyer, where he died at an early day. Harvey Hough, from Connecticut. settled on lot 39, a mile east of the village, on the farm now occupied by Grove Stoyell, where he lived a good many years, till an advanced age, when he removed from the town, and died soon after. One son, Joel, is living in Venice. Josiah Walker settled on lot 40, two miles east of the village, on the farm now owned and occupied by his son Aaron. He died on the old homestead. Henry, another son, is living in Michigan. Ebenezer Bennett settled on the site of the village. He erected the first mill in town, in 1816. It was a grist-mill, and was located on lot 30, on Fall Brook, about four miles viz: Henry E., in Summer Hill, and Ebenezer G., in Homer.

TOWN OFFICERS.- The first town meeting was held at the house of Martin Barber April 3d, 1832, and the following named officers were elected : Samuel Ranney, Supervisor; Winslow Ham blin, Clerk; Benjamin Atwood, Wm. Ingraham and Alfred Ranney, Assessors; Ezra Hough and John T. Rollo, Overseers of the Poor,Charles Garrett, Elisha Griffin and Daniel Hamblin, commissioners of Highways; Jesse Woodward, Jr., and Harskill Gilbert, constables; Jesse Woodward, Jr., Collector; Joel I. Rough. Tolbert Powers and Isaac Honeywell, Commis- sioners of common Schools; Elijah Eaton, Edwin L. Aiken and Nathan Branch, Inspectors of Common Schools; Levi Walker and Archibald Bowker, Justices; Alfred Ranney and Nathaniel Freeman, Trustees of School Lots; Oliver P. Bancroft, Sealer; and John Allen, Pound Master.
The present officers (1879) are:
Supervisor- Benjamin C. Robins.
Town clerk-Nathan Chipman.
Justices of the Peace- David Pinkerton, Aaron Walker, E. G. Howell. Burdett H. Griffin.
Assessors-Darius Brown, C. E. Brogden, Henry B. Robins.
Constables- M. G. Monroe, Horace Marble. Wm. A. Robinson.
Game constable-Joseph Miles.
Excise Commissioners-Henry E. Ranney, George H. Allen, Columbus Miles.

The population of the town in 1875 was 1,006; of whom 972 were native; 34, foreign; and all, white. Its area was 16,075 acres, of which 11,822, were improved; 2,489, woodland; and 1,764, otherwise unimproved.

The natural features, character of soil, and the occupation of the inhabitants of this town and Sempronius are so much akin to Cortland county, and the business interests of these towns so intimately connected with that county, that efforts have been made to have them set off to it.


SUMMER HILL is a post village of 104 inhabitants, situated in the south part of the town, six miles east of Locke, and eight miles south-east of Moravia. It contains three churches, (Congregational, M. E. and Free Methodist,) a district school, one store, three blacksmith shops, (kept by Judson Van Marter, Robert Buchanan and John Wilson,) and a tannery, owned by John Carpenter and Ira P. Ranney, but not now in operation.

PRINCIPAL MERCHANTS. - The first merchant was Charles Crane, who opened a store in 1816, where the store now occupiect by Nathan Chipman stands, and kept it till about 1821 or '22. A man named Marsh kept a store several years where George Maltbie now lives. He closed it in 1832. Henry Millerd kept a store a year or two in the building vacated by Marsh. A man named Sweet, from Cortland county, kept a store one year; and Ezra Rough kept one several years. Robert C. Rollo kept a store some three or four years, and was a merchant of some prominence, but he was probably preceded by others whose names can not now be ascertained. Hiram Baker and D. Beeman, Jr., the latter from Homer, opened a store about 1845 and kept it some two years. Jonathan Hoxie kept a store from 1861 to '64; and Cornelius E. Brogden, from 1865 to 1874. The latter was succeeded by Nathan Chipman, the present merchant, in 1875. Mr. Chipman sold a half interest to Geo. Peters, and repurchased it in the spring of 1878. He keeps a general stock of goods and carries on the business alone.

POSTMASTERS.- Ezra Hough was probably the first postmaster at Summer Hill. He held the office from about 1836 to 1846, and was superseded by Hiram Baker, who kept it several years. He was succeeded by Horatio Day, who also held the office several years, and gave place to E. G. Hatch. Jonathan J. Hoxie succeeded Hatch in 1861 and held the office till 1863, when Wm. W. Grinnell was appointed. Grinnell was succeeded in 1865 by Cornelius E. Brogden, who remained in office till 1874, in, which year he was superseded by Sullivan Ladd, who held the office till 1875, when Nathan Chipman, the present incumbent, was appointed.

PHYSICIANS.- The first physician was David Bennie, who came in 1824 from Groton, where he studied with Dr. Crary, who practiced in this town several years, but did not settle here. Dr. Bennie practiced some twenty years and removed to Allegany county. Dr. Jewett, who is now living in Cortland. whence he came, succeeded Bennie and practiced here a few years, when he returned to Cortland county. Dr. Osborne practiced here a short time about forty years ago. A young man named Bartlett, who married one of Dr. Bennie's daughters, and moved in with his father a short time before, commenced practicing soon after Bennie left, but remained only a short time, when he, too, removed to Allegany county. Dr. Weaver, from Groton, practiced here a short time after Bartlett left, and returned to Groton, where he is now practicing. Dr. Bradford came in from Cortland about 1874, and after practicing two or three years, returned to Cortland, where he is now practicing. Milton Merchant, the present physician, came in from Auburn in 1878.

LAWYERS.- Levi Walker was the first and only lawyer. He was a native of the town and commenced practicing about 1831, continuing some six or seven years, when he removed to Genoa, and subsequently to Auburn. He afterwards removed to Michigan, where he acquired some distinction in his profession. He died there in 1877.

CHURCHES.- The first Church organized in the town was of the Baptist denomination, in 1807, with Elder Whipple as the first pastor.

THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF SUMMER HILL was organized at the house of James Aiken, February 26th, 1827, and incorporated April 17th, 1827, as the East Congregational Society in Locke, with sixty-eight members, a part of whom formerly belonged to the East Church in Groton, and were dismissed for the purpose of forming a church here. June 28th. 1827. they adopted the Congregational form of government.

Their first pastor was Charles Johnston, who maintained that relation till 1334. in which year Rev. Mr. Scott became the pastor, and served them till 1836, when he was succeeded by Wm. Goodell. January 4th, 1841, during Mr. Goodell's pastorate, their house of worship, which was built in 1826, was consumed by fire. It was rebuilt the same year. W. W. Collins succeeded to the pastorate in 1843. S. P. M. Hastings was chosen pastor April 17th, 1846, and was installed June 9th, 1846. A letter of dismissal was granted him February 11th, 1849. He was followed February 7th, 1850, by Wm. G. Hubbard, who was ordained March 13th, of that year, and continued his ministrations till December 6th, 1855. James C. Smith immediately succeeded him on trial and was chosen pastor July 4th, 1856. Isaac F. Adams assumed the pastoral duties August 15th, 1860, and continued them till the spring of 1869. The pulpit was supplied a short time in 1869 by W. O. Baldwin of West Groton. Ezra D. Shaw. whose services were engaged November 7th, 1869, commenced his labors with this Church on the first of the preceding October, and continued them till February 6th, 1873. when he removed to Victory to supply the Presbyterian Church there. Josiah Greene Willis became the pastor June rst, 1873, and remained just two months. A call was given to Christopher J. Switzer, December 21st. 1873, and he served them two years. February 1st, 1876, Windsor Brown, a Free Will Baptist. became their pastor. He also served them two years. Since his departure the Church has been without a pastor. The present membership of the Church is about fifty.

THE FREE METHODIST CHURCH OF SUMMER HILL was organized in September, 1867, with five members, viz: Albert Rogers, Melvin and Charlotte Marble, Philinda Van Marter and Esther Ann Renwick. by Rev. D. W. Thurston of Syracuse. The first pastor was Benjamin Winjet, who served them two years. He was followed successively by Zenas Osborne, John Osmun, Wm. Griswold, A. W. Paul, John Osmun, (a second term.) Lester King and Thomas D. Ross, each of whom served them one year. except Mr. King, whose pastorate covered a period of two years. John B. Stacy, the present pastor, succeeded Mr. Ross, commencing his labors in September, 1877. The house of worship was erected in 1873, during Mr. Paul's pastorate, the entire cost of site. building and furniture being $1,000. The present membership of the Church is forty-eight. They have had a Sabbath School since the organization of the Church, with an average attendance of thirty to forty. Previous to the erection of the church, meetings were held in Brogden's Halls, and doing the first winter in Squire Swift's shoe shop. During Mr. Osmun's first pastorate an interesting revival was experienced,as the result of which one hundred were converted and about twenty-five joined this Church, several of them joining other Churches.

There is a Baptist Church about two and one-half miles north-east of Summer Hill village, and a Free Will Baptist Church three miles northwest of that village, at what is called Lickville from George and Peter Lick, who were early settlers in that locality.

Return to [ NY History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]

NY Counties - Albany - Allegany - Broome - Cayuga - Chatauqua - Chenango - Clinton - Columbia - Cortland - Dutchess - Erie - Essex - Franklin - Fulton - Genesee - Herkimer - Jefferson - Lewis - Livingston - Madison - Montgomery - Niagara - Oneida - Onondaga - Ontario - Orange - Orleans - Oswego - Putnam - Queens - Rensselaer - Richmond - Rockland - St. Lawrence - Saratoga - Schenectady - Steuben - Suffolk - Tioga - Tompkins - Tryone - Ulster - Washington - Wayne - Yates

All pages copyright 2003-2012. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy