History of Eaton, NY
FROM OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE
A DESCRIPTIVE AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF
MADISON COUNTY, NEW YORK
EDITED BY: JOHN E. SMITH
THE BOSTON HISTORY COMPANY, PUBLISHERS 1899



The Town of Eaton.


Eaton was formed from Hamilton on February 8, 1807, and is one of the five towns organized in that year. It is situated near the center of the county and is bounded on the north by Smithfield and Stockbridge, on the east by Madison, on the south by Lebanon, and on the west by Lebanon. When organized its area was placed at 28,000 acres, but the assessed area in recent years is placed at less that 26,000. The surface of the town is composed largely of the valley of the Chenango River which flows across the town from northwest to southeast, through a beautiful valley which is bordered by picturesque and fertile slopes. On the hillsides the soil is gravelly or clayey mixture, while in the bottom lands it is a lighter loam. In the north part of the town the general slope is northward towards the St. Lawrence River. No rock is accessible for quarrying that is valuable. A number of mineral springs are found near Eaton village, their principal constituent being sulphur. The whole town is well watered with springs and brooks of pure water, and in early years the natural water power was used at many points for running the pioneer mills. The largest stream other than the Chenango, is called Alder Brook, which has been given wide notoriety through the writings of Fanny Forrester; it rises in Nelson and flows easterly through the southern part of Eaton and empties into the river at Eaton village. Leland's Ponds and Woodman's Lake, once favorite fishing resorts of the Oneidas, are situated in picturesque locations at the divergence of the Chenango and Oriskany valleys and are the headwaters of one of the branches of the Chenango. These ponds were utilized in 1836 as one of the sources of supply for the Chenango canal, which extends in a curve into the southeastern part of the town. Hatch's Lake is a beautiful body of water in the southwest part, and once con stituted the headwaters of one of the Otselic branches, its outlet being at its western end. When the canal was constructed this outlet was closed and the water directed through Bradley Brook reservoir to the canal. The lake covers about 136 acres and is almost wholly fed by springs in its bed. Eaton reservoir is on the west border of the town and covers 284 acres; from this flows Alder Brook (or Eaton Brook), through a narrow valley, supplying in its fall numerous mill sites.

At the present time and for three-fourths of a century, dairying has been the principal industry of Eaton, while at the same time it has long been one of the most important in the county, particularly in early years, in a manufacturing and commercial sense. Previous to about 1850 cattle raising was quite extensively carried on and mixed farming, the raising of cereals, was an important part of the agriculture of the town; but in more recent years these features have greatly declined. Eaton first introduced into the county the cheese factory and creamery system, which within a few years created a revolution in the farming industry. The first cheese factory was established at Eaton village, in 1861, by George Morse, and at one period later on there were eight factories in successful operation in the town. This town also was the first to witness the use of horse hay rakes and mowing machines, as elsewhere described.

Settlement began in 1792 with the arrival of John and James Salisbury, who came from Vermont in the fall, made a clearing in the south part, which they abandoned on account of extreme cold weather and did not return. Joshua Leland was the first permanent settler, coming in 1793; he at once began clearing a farm, and was soon joined by John H. and Benjamin Morris, who aided him in his work. He brought his family in the spring of 1794, the Morrises having improved his place during the preceding winter. This settlement was made on lot 94, on what has been known as the Dunbar farm. The Leland Ponds took their name from this pioneer. In his early home he kept the first tavern in the town and one of the first in the county. He also built and operated the first grist mill at the foot of the upper lake; that was done in 1795, and in the same year he added a saw mill, to the great convenience of the incoming settlers. Mr. Leland was killed in 1810 by fall ing from a load of potash near Cherry Valley, the barrels rolling upon him. He had seven sons and three daughters. He was the means of several other settlers coming in at that time, among whpm were Benjamin Morse, Simeon Gillett, Levi Bonney, Elijah Hayden, and a few others, who took up land in the vicinity of Eaton village site. Simeon Gillett died in 1796, the first death in the town, and in the same year his daughter married Lewis Wilson, a newcomer, which was the first marriage in the town.

Settlers of 1796 were Samuel Sinclair, Joseph Moss, William Mills, Humphrey Palmer, Deacon McCrellis, and several others whose names are not known. Thaxter Dunbar came in 1799 and lived to nearly a hundred years old. Benjamin, Windsor, Stephen and Ziba Coman settled in 1797 in the vicinity of the Center, and many others arrived during the early years of the century, whose pioneer labors, as far as known, have been described in earlier chapters. Bennett Bicknell came to the town in 1808 and became one of the leading business men of the town, and was honored with high office. David Darrow was also a settler of that year. Thomas Lumbard, a Revolutionary soldier, came in 1803, and the town thenceforth rapidly filled up with an excellent class of settlers from the New England States, whose sturdy labor amid privations in the wilderness laid the foundations of the later prosperous community.

The first town meeting was held March 3, 1807, at the "school house near James Pratt's," and the following officers were elected: Robert Avery, supervisor; David Gaston, town clerk; Martin Roberts, collector; Josiah Wilcox, poundkeeper; Ziba Coman, Benjamin Morse, and John Hall, assessors; Hezekiah Morse and Abram Ellis, poormasters; Seth Hitchcock, John Pratt, and Robert Avery, highway commissioners; Martin Roberts and Nathan Mixer, constables.

In this list are the names of several other pioneers Who have not before been mentioned. Following is a list of supervisors of Eaton from the time of its formation to the present with the years of their service:
Robert Avery, 1807; Joseph Morse, 1808-09; Hezekiah Morse, 1810-15; Bennett Bicknell, 1816-17; Windsor Coman, 1818; Bennett Bicknell, 1819; Rufus Eldred, 1820-1821; Samuel W. Osgood, 1822; Stephen Fitch, 1823; Artemas Ellis, 1824-25; David Gaston, 1826-27; Robert Henry, 1828-31; Uriah Leland, 1832-1835; Perley Munger, 1836; George Ellis, 1837; Windsor Coman, 1838; Ichabod Amidon, 1839-41; Moses Bicknell, 1842-43; Windsor Coman, 1844; Yale Leland, 1845-46; Ellis Morse, 1847-50; Hiram D. Cloyes. 1851-52; Ambrose Y. Smith, 1853-54; Calvin Morse, 1855-56; Francis H. Stevens, 1857; Albert W. Morse, 1858-59; Benjamin F. Coman, 1860-61; Edward C. Philpot, 1862-63; Horace M. Kent, 1864; George E. Morse, 1865-66; Alexander M. Holmes, 1867-99. The population of Eaton is shown in the following figures by the census taken in the various years named:

1835. 1840. 1845. 1850. 1855. 1860. 1865. 1870. 1875. 1880. 1890. 1892
3,758 3,409 3.444 3,944 4,061 3,871 3,861 3,690 3,644 3,799 3,121 2,875

The town of Eaton, with Brookfield, De Ruyter, Georgetown, Hamilton, Lebanon, Madison and Nelson, constitute the First School Cornulissioner District of the county. In this district are 119 school districts, eighteen of which are in Eaton, all having school buildings. Morrisville has a Union School, the organization of which is described in chapter XXIV. In the school year of 1897-98 the number of teachers employed in the town was twenty-six, and the whole number of children attending school was 602.

There are five post-offices in Eaton- Morrisville, the county seat, Eaton, West Eaton, Pratt's Hollow, and Pine Woods. Morrisville is the largest village in the town and since 1817 has been the county seat, which in that year was removed from Cazenovia. The village was named from its founder, Thomas Morris, and in early times previous to its incorporation as Morris Flats. The first incorporation took place under special act of the Legislature passed April 13, 1819. The first village president was Deacon Abel De Forest, who, it is related, built the first sidewalk in the place and was rewarded with the office of president. The village records under the first incorporation are lost, it being supposed they were carried away by the last clerk, Alexander Donaldson, jr., who died many years ago in New York city. Mr. De Forest was kept in the office of president ten years, after which the charter and the village government was permitted to fall into disuse. Under the general act for incorporating villages Morrisville was re-incorporated in 1848, and the following were elected as the first board of trustees:
A. B. De Forest, B. Tillinghast, Franklin T. Maybury, Luman E. Cole and E. Norton. A. B. De Forest was chosen president of the board; James Norton, clerk; A. S. Sloan, treasurer. David Gaston kept the first store in Morrisville, which he opened in 1804. Bennett Bicknell began trading in 1808. Present merchants are W. P. Chambers, general store, established in 1850 and the oldest merchant in the town; H. P. Mead, drugs and medicines, succeeded Windsor Coman in 1873, with H. E. Chapin as partner, who retired in 1884; M. L. Field, furniture, established 1895, succeeding George Wilbur; E. N. Dexter, department store, established 1887 ; James Hollenbeck, general store since 1890; W. B. Stewart & Son, bakery; P. A. Hart, market; Burden & Poyle, market; E. M. & F. Sanford, variety store; J. H. Parker, hardware and tin; W. P. Jones, general store, succeeded H. G. Phelps in 1878; C. M. Seymour, general store, succeeding Storrs & Seymour (Otis Storrs); John Reidy, harness shop, succeeding Edwin Barnard in 1877; C. M. Seymour, clothing and furnishings (under management of F. H. Southworth), established in 1895; Mrs. B. Wiltse, millinery; W. R. Kimball, general store, began in 1883, succeeded his father, B. N. Kimball.

The first hotel in the village stood on the site of the new Reidy block and was established in 1815; it was partly burned in 1859. John Farwell was proprietor, and Thomas Farwell resided in the house after the fire, it having been repaired. The Bicknell House was built on the opposite corner, and is now the Burden House, with John Burden proprietor. The Exchange Hotel was built for a Store by Samuel Shepard, and was converted into a hotel about 1826; it has had a number of proprietors and is now conducted by B. A. Wilbur. The old Madison County Hotel stood on the site of the Barker House and was burned in 1868. The present structure was built in 1872 by Edwin R. Barker, who kept the house several years. After several changes it passed to the present proprietorship of Charles Beekman.

The post-office here was opened about 1808. The successive postmasters have been as follows: Bennett Bicknell, Moses Bicknell, John Farwell, Hiram Lewis, F. P. Newell, James Norton, E. Norton, J. W. Hatch, W. H. Pilch, M. M. Chubbuck, W. P. Cleveland, B. F. Coman, P. B. Townsend, Wilbur Henderson, John H. Reidy, and John H. Broad, the present incumbent.

About 1815 Lonson Stiliwell began tanning leather and manufacturing shoes near the site of the later tannery, which passed to possession of Clark Tillinghast and Dr. Isaac Hovey, who purchased the old building and operated an ashery. Stillwell returned from Manlius whither he had removed, and built another small tannery a short distance west of the first one. In 1830 Bradley Tillinghast bought his brother's ashery and established a tanning business which grew to large proportions, and made and dealt in boots and shoes. The business was finally abandoned and a wagon and blacksmith shop occupies the building.

The buildings of the silk factory, noticed here, were purchased by Stephen Coman and in the spring of 1862 were converted into a cheese factory. After a few changes in ownership, J. B. Wadsworth purchased the factory in 1880; it was subsequently burned. At the present time the only cheese factory in the village is owned and operated by D. A. Hopkins and R. D. Champlin, who purchased it in 1898; it was built in 1894 by a stock company.

The old saw mill, now rapidly going to ruin, was owned by the sons of William R. Jones. It was built by Abel De Forest about 1830 and was sold to Mr. Jones in 1860; it is now owned by Thomas Green. The other mill is operated by William Field. Other industries of the past in Morrisville were the silk factory established about 1853 and continued about five years; the Bicknell comb factory, continued to about 1840; the distillery of Bicknell, Coman & Norton, built in 1836 and discontinued in 1860; the grist mill built in 1830 and long operated by Ben. jamin Graham, later by his son and now by F. Cook; Nathan Shepard's woolen mill of 1836, which failed in 1850; Torrey's machine shop, built in 1841; the saleratus manufactory operated a number of years previous to 1840 by Babbitt & Darling, and the foundry built by Jefferson Cross in 1830, afterwards carried on by his sons, Jefferson and George, in the manufacture of stoves, etc.; is now operated by D. C. Bennett in custom work.

The Congregational Church in Morrisville was organized in 1805 and built a meeting house in 1817, which has on several occasions been greatly improved. Rev. Thomas A. Fenton is the present pastor. The First Baptist Church was formed in 1809 and a small meeting house was soon built. A more suitable site was given the society in 1826 by Bennett Bicknell and to that the building was removed and enlarged. The present edifice was erected in 1848 and the old one sold. The present pastor is Rev. Enoch Powell. The Methodist Church of Morrisville was organized in 1834 and built its house of wotship in the following year.

The First National Bank of Morrisville was established December 26, 1863, with a paid up capital of $65,000; this was increased to $100, 000. The first officers were Daniel Stewart, president; Sidney T. Holmes, vice president; Lorenzo D. Dana, cashier. The present officers are Alexander M. Holmes, president; H. P. Mead, vice-president; B. Tompkins, cashier. The directors are H. E. Aton, F. S. Harwood, C. M. Seymour, W. B. Brown. The capital was reduced to $50,000 in 1897.

The Madison County Leader is an enterprising modern country newspaper, which was established as an exponent of Republican principles in 1885, by Stiliman & Spooner (W. E. Stiliman and F. S. Spooner). This partnership continued two years, when Mr. Stiliman became sole proprietor and so continued until 1890, when F. W. Nash purchased a half interest, Mr. Stiliman having received the appointment of clerk in the New York sub-treasury. In the fall of 1890 John H. Broad bought a one-fourth interest of Nash and the firm was during one year, Stiliman, Nash & Broad. Mr. Broad then purchased Nash's remaining interest and a year later bought also Stiliman's interest and since has conducted the business alone. In July, 1896, the Leader absorbed the old Observer, established in 1821. The Leader is a progressive, vigorously edited journal, and is welcomed in many homes.

The village has an excellent system of gravity water supply, the source being from pure springs and stored in a reservoir situated a fourth of a mile southwest of the corporation. The capacity of the reservoir is 7,000,000 gallons, and the pressure about eighty pounds. Twenty-seven hydrants are employed for fire extinguishment. The construction of the works was begun in the fall of 1894 and completed in the next year. Bonds to the amount of $15,000 were issued to pay for the system, which is under charge of a board of three commissioners; they are Dr. H. N. Aldrich, L. W. Burroughs, and David D. Jones.

The fire department as at present organized comprises the Morrisville Hook and Ladder Company of twenty-two members, equipped with a Rumsey truck. The old Croton Fire Company was disbanded after the water works were established.

An electric lighting system was put in operation in the village in 1897, previous to which several attempts had been made to properly light the streets, but generally without success. The present plant is owned by the D. A. Schuyler estate. The village pays $500 annually for public lightning. Families are also provided with light and a station is maintained at the hamlet of Pierceville, a mile below Morrisyule.

Eaton Village.- This beautifully situated and attractive village is situated five miles south of Morrisville in the midst of a fertile and prosperous agricultural district, on the old Skaneateles turnpike, with a nearby station on the New York, Ontario and Western railroad. The village was known many years as Log City. It was early and rapidly settled as a result of the efforts of Joshua Leland and his immediate followers, and the water power of Eaton brook.

The water power on the brook and several buildings used in past years for manufacturing purposes have recently been acquired by E. Tupper, who now operates a planing mill and conducts a cheese factory. A. D. Norton is a manufacturer of furniture, using both water and steam power and employing several hands. For many years the chief manufacturing industry was the extensive steam engine works of Wood, Tabor & Morse. This establishment originated in 1848, when Enos and Allen Wood began making machinery for woolen and cotton mills, which continued about ten years, when the business was removed to Utica. In 1859 A. N. Wood returned to Eaton and the firm of Wood, Tabor & Morse was at once organized and a very large business was soon built up in the manufacture of portable steam engines. The industry closed in 1890, though the buildings are standing and the machinery is still in place.

Joseph Morse was the founder of Eaton village and the first to utilize the power of Eaton brook. He built the old mill in 1800 and about 1812 Ellis Morse erected a distillery near by, which was operated until 1857. A small tannery was built in the village in 1807 by B. Carter, which was in existence fifty years. Cast iron plows were made many years ago by Aipheus and Ellis Morse. A small powder mill was built in 1806 and the Eaton Woolen Manufacturing Company, Dr. James Pratt and Joseph Morse at its head, built a mill in 1817. It was afterwards changed to a cotton mill and was burned in 1845.

The present merchants of Eaton are Morse Brothers, who established a general store in 1871, succeeding C. N. Burritt; B. B. Robie, drugs, groceries, etc., succeeded Charles T. Hamlin in 1895; H. R. Hamilton, groceries, established 1896; Thompson & Barber (L. C. Thompson, G. A. Barber),. general store, succeeding Arnst & Thompson, who began in 1894; John Heron, shoes; Andrew Pettit, harness shop. There are two hotels in the village; the Exchange Hotel was kept by G. D. Richardson for a time, who was succeeded by Byron Wilbur, John Richardson, Sidney Curtis and others; the Eaton House has been long kept by Norman Hunt.

There is a milk station at the railroad depot and the Madison County Poor Farm, elsewhere described, is situated a little south of the village. The post-office here was established in very early years, with Dr. Charles Hall postmaster. His successors have been John G. Curtis, Sylvester Thayer, Calvin Morse (two or three terms), Alpheus Morse, John Whitney, Charles Burritt, Frank Morse, Col. S. White, Frank Morse, E. A. Richardson, and Frank Morse again, the present official.

The Baptist Church of Eaton village was organized in 1816, services being held in the brick school house until 1820 when the house of worship was finished; it has been greatly improved at various times. Rev. J. W. Thorn is the present pastor.

The Congregational Church was partially organized November 22, 1831, with eight members. On the 27th of the following month it was reorganized with its present name. The church edifice was built in 1832. Rev. John Bamford is the present pastor.

The Methodist Episcopal Church in Eaton was organized in 1856 and the meeting house was erected in the same year. Rev. S. S. Pratt is the present pastor.

West Eaton.-This is a small village situated two and a half miles west of Eaton village. As far as its business interests are concerned it is a place of comparatively modern growth. The post-office was established in 1852 and has had the following postmasters: Joseph Darrow, Isaac Hopkins, Erastus Wellington, Marion Beebe, Albert Tayntor, Harvey Miller, L. L. Palmer and others; C. D. Tracy is the present incumbent.

The village was many years ago a manufacturing point of importance, but in late years its industries have declined. A grist will was built and in operation here before 1808 and a distillery in 1815. In 1830 John Brown began manufacturing augurs. A clothing or cloth works was established before 1820 by Abner Isbell, who sold in 1840 to A. Y. Smith & Son, who enlarged the works. They were burned in 1852, but were rebuilt. After various changes the property was bought in 1879 by H. I. Howe.

The Eureka woolen mills originated in a carding mill built about 1845. The property passed through various changes in ownership, as elsewhere detailed, and is now operated on a large scale by a company in which Richard and Thomas Jones, Wallace Frasier and Edward Peno are interested. A saw mill is operated by Philip Walden and there are two grist mills, one of which is situated half a mile east of the village and the other a mile west. The only hotel in the village is conducted by Everett Mack, who succeeded his brother, Edward Mack. There are two general stores, one conducted by Arthur Howe, who succeeded B. Davis, and the other by Clarence Omans.

The Baptist Church of West Eaton was organized in 1820 and reorganized in 1853, and a house of worship erected in the same year.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1841 and a small meeting house erected in 1843. This was superseded in 1869 by the existing handsome edifice. The society is prosperous.

A Catholic Church was organized in 1879 as a branch of the Hamilton Church, and a house of worship was erected in 1880-81.

School district No. 3, which includes the village, was organized as a union school in 1874 and a convenient school house built at a cost of $3,600.

Eaton Center (Eagleville) is a small settlement near the center of the town, where it was hoped by the pioneers the business and manufacturing industries would mainly be located. One of the first woolen mills in the county was established here by Perley Ayer, which was afterwards operated by Clarke Tillinghast. The dam was ultimately destroyed. A machine shop was opened many years ago and in 1879 Dwight Graham & Co., its proprietors, began manufacturing an agricultural steam engine. The business was subsequently given up.

Pierceville.- A small hamlet named from J. O. Pierce, who in 1844 formed a company and purchased a tract of land and erected a woolen manufactory, which was prosperously operated until 1850. The financial stringency of 1857 caused the business to fail. A cotton mill also was operated here previous to 1844, and a planing mill was a later industry. A hotel was built by Samuel Chubbuck previous to 1825. The old cotton mill is now owned by Le Roy Cook and is in use as a cider mill; he also has a carding mill in operation. Healy Brown runs the saw mill and John Copley a planing mill. There is also a grist mill.

Pratt's Hollow.- This is a hamlet and post-office in the northeastern corner of the town which, in early years, was a place of considerable business importance. Here John and James Pratt made their settlement, built a grist mill, saw mill, distillery, woolen mill, etc., and opened a store. J. F. Chamberlain built another woolen mill as early as 1809 and in 1824 a large cotton factory was established, as described in earlier chapters. All of these industries passed away in course of time. A general store is now kept by W. W. Lewis, and a hotel by Adelbert Cole. A milk station is located half a mile away on the railroad, the station bearing the name of Pratt's. A mile distant on the railroad is a station called White's Corners, where a saw mill is operated by Amos Avery.

A Methodist class was formed at Pratt's Hollow in 1808 and a society was organized a few years later. The church building was erected in 1838.

Pine Woods is the name of a post-office and a little settlement at the junction of the Cherry Valley Turnpike and the Munnsville road in the eastern part of the town. It takes its name from the pine forests that originally crowned the nearby hills. A tavern was built here in 1834 by James Madison. A public house is still kept, and a general store is conducted by B. P. Embury. Benjamin Knoff has been postmaster many years.

At Morrisville Station is a post-office bearing that name, with Z. A. Todd, postmaster, who also has a small store and a lumber business.

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