History of Farmington, New York
FROM: HISTORY OF ONTARIO COUNTY
NEW YORK
EDITD BY: GEORGE S. CONOVER
COMPILED BY LEWIS CASS ALDRIDGE
PUBLISHED BY D. MASON & CO., PUBLISHERS
SARACUSE, N. Y., 1893


CHAPTER XXI.
HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF FARMINGTON.

IN 1788, in pursuance of the authority conferred by the act creating Ontario county, the Court of Sessions formed the townships now known respectively as Farmington and Manchester into one town, and to the same was given the name of Farmington. Of this, however, it must be said there is no present positive record to prove the foregoing assertion, but it is nevertheless an accepted fact. Within the territory of the original township, were numbers eleven in the second and third ranges, each containing presumably thirty-six square miles of land. In 1821 number eleven in the second range was separated from the mother town and organized under the name of Burt, but subsequently changed to Manchester.

The first township sold by the Phelps and Gorham proprietary was number eleven in the third range, and its purchasers were a company of Massachusetts citizens, then residing mainly in Berkshire county, who were members of the old and honored society of Friends, whose desire was to leave their former home and take up their abode in a then wild, uncultivated and almost unknown region called the Genesee country. The purchasers of number eleven were Nathan Comstock, Benjamin Russell, Abraham Lapham, Edmund Jenks, Jeremiah Brown, Ephraim Fish, Nathan Herendeen, Nathan Aldrich, Stephen Smith, Benjamin Rickerson, William Baker and Dr. Daniel Brown.

Nathan Comstock and Benjamin Russell appear to have been the leading spirits of this enterprise, as the conveyance of the town was made to them individually, and the lots were afterward chosen by draft, a New England custom, and agreeable to the results of the allotment the deeds were given. The purchase being completed pioneership at once began, the honor of being first settler falling to Nathan Comstock, and his sons Otis and Darius, and Robert Hathaway, all of whom, during the year 1789, came to the town, made a clearing and sowed a small field of wheat, built a cabin, and thus accomplished the first permanent settlement in. the town. Closely following this little party, however, came pioneer Nathan Aldrich, who brought seed for planting and sowing, but when winter approached all save Otis Comstock returned to their New England homes.

On the 14th of February, 1790, Nathan Comstock and his large family, accompanied by pioneers Nathan Aldrich and Isaac Hathaway set out upon their journey to the town, and on the next day Nathan Herendeen and his family, comprising his son Welcome and his sqns-in-law, Joshua Herrington and John McCumber, with their wives and children, likewise set out for the new country. These pioneers were united at Geneva, and from thence journeyed together to Farmington, which name was given in allusion to the town of Farmington in Connecticut.

Referring briefly to first events, we may note the fact that Nathan Comstock and his party built the first dwelling and made the first clearing of land. Nathan Aldrich is credited with building the second dwelling, while Nathan Herendeen followed as third in the same improvement, and was first to raise a barn, this being in 1794. In 1790 a son was born to Joshua Herrington and wife. It was named "Welcome," after its uncle, but the surname was afterward changed to Herendeen. Otis Cornstock and Huldah Freeman were married in 1792. Elijah Smith died in 1793. Jacob and Joseph Smith built the first grist-mill in 1793, and the first saw-mill in 1795. The first wheat was harvested in the town in 1790. In this connection we may state the claim to building the first barn by Annanias McMillan for Isaac Hath away in 1793. The grist-mill was built the same year by McMillan for the Smiths on Ganargwa Creek. The first physician was Dr. Stephen Aidridge.

The greater part of the pioneers who are named above settled in the general southeast portion of the town, in what after ward became school district number one. In the same locality, and sufficiently early to be numbered among the early settlers, there came in 1790 John Payne, Jonathan Reed (the pioneer blacksmith), Samuel Mason (cabinet maker), John Dillon, Adam Nichols and Joseph Wells. Joseph Smith and James Fish started an ashery in this locality in 1793, and in 1800 Thomas Herendeen had a tannery in operation. In the region just west of that last mentioned Jacob Smith settled in 1791 ; Jonathan Smith in 1790, and at now unknown dates came Ichabod Brown, Abiather Power, George Jenks, John Young, Mr. Shotwell and Ebenezer Wells. In the southwest part of the town lived pioneers Isaac Hathaway, from whom Hathaway's Corners took its name, Asa Wilmarth, who run an ashery, Levi Smith, Arthur Power, Moses Power, Robert Power, Eseck, Jesse and Willis Aldrich, and Samuel Cooper, were also early settlers in this locality. Levi Smith and William Dailey were in in the same neighborhood, though farther south. Still farther west along the town line, in 1793, Annanias McMillan built the pioneer mill for Jacob and Joseph Smith, and two years later a saw-mill was built in the same locality. Both were operated until about 1840. The Smith families came to this vicinity in 1791, and other early settlers were Jephtha Dillingham, Richard Thomas and David Smith.

In the west part of the town the earliest settlers were Jeremiah Brown, one of the original purchasers of the town tracr, and near him were Gideon Grinnell Peter Smith, and others named Harris and Pratt. In this general neighborhood also were David Brown, Otis Comstock, William Smith, David Gulls, Zurial Brown, Nicholas Brown, Hezekiah Lippett and others now forgotten. The settlers last mentioned were early residents of what was known as the Brownsville district, a locality which at an early day was of much note as a center of trade. In this vicinity David and Stephen Brown had a distillery and an ashery, while Stephen Brown and Elias Dennis started a carding and cloth mill. Other early manufacturers hereabouts were James Van Vieck, and the Haskinses, Amos, James and John. Reuben Smith was in trade, as also, later on, were Paul Richardson, Abner and Stephen Brown and Albert Nye. Peter Cline is remembered as an old tanner, and Otis Brown a blacksmith. Joseph Jones made hats for the early settlers. The pioneer of Brownsville is said to have been David Gillis.

East of Brownsville was the pioneer abode of Dr. Stephen Aldrich, the first physician of the town, and in this district we may name as early occupants of the land Gideon Herendeen, Elisha Gardner, Turner Aldrich, Ebenezer Horton and others of later date. Here, too, was made an attempt to found a hamlet, for in the locality pioneers Talcott and Batty started an ashery in 1817; Reuben Hoyt built a tannery; John Sheffield kept hotel; Augustus Bingham had a blacksmith shop, and other trades were also pursued in the neighborhood. In the north part of the town, about where the quiet little hamlet of Farmington or New Salem is situated, pioneer Nathan Comstock and his farni]y made their first settlement. With him came his. sons, Otis and Darius, also Robert Hathaway, and later on four other sons, Nathan, jr., Jared, Joseph and John, were added to the settlement. Otis Hathaway was the founder of the village and its first merchant. S. Pattison built the saw-mill on the creek. Other early settlers in this locality were Hugh Pound, Isaac Lapham, James Brooks and Benjamin Rickerson.

The central and eastern portions of Farmington were not settled as early as many other sections, the marshy character of the land at that time making them not specially desirable as a place of residence. These localities, however, had their pioneers, and among them we may mention John and Elijah Pound, Stephen Ackley, James Hoag, Calvin Whipple, Job Howland, Major Smith, Jonathan Archer, William Dillon, Pardon Arnold,,George Smith and Ahez Aldrich. In the northeast part of the town Moses Power settled in 1798, and later on there came Isaac Price, Simpson and Benjamin Harvey, Peter Pratt, Lawrence McLouth, Perez Antisdale, Samuel Rush, Benjamin Peters and others now forgotten.

In this connection the statement may be made that the foregoing brief mention of the pioneer families is not intended to be a sketch of each, for such notices are reserved for another department of this work. However, in recording the early history of the town, at least a passing notice is due to the pioneers, and for more detail of early and late families the attention of the reader is directed to the personal and family sketches.

From what has been stated in this chapter it will be seen that Farmington was settled generally as early as other towns of the county, and was accomplished as early as elsewhere. Prior to 1821 its civil history was associated with Manchester, although the general characteristics of the inhabitants were radically different, yet all were worthy, industrious and self-sacrificing people. The settlement of this town was completed about 1820, and Manchester was set off from it in 1821. From the year last mentioned to the present time there has been no material variation in population, but there appears to have been less tendency toward vacating the town in favor of other localities than is noticeable in the history of the towns of the county generally. By referring to the census reports of each decade we may get a fair idea of the changes in population since 1830. In that year the population was 1,773; in 1840 was 2,122; in 1885 was 1,876; in 1860 was 1,858; in 1870 was 1,896; in 1880 was 1,978; in 1890 was 1,703.

As we have already stated, the original purchasers and pioneer settlers of Farmington were of the once extensive Society of Friends; earnest, honest, faithful and patient Christians and workers, whose everyday walk in life was in full accord and keeping with their religious belief and teachings. From the time of their first settlement, beginning in 1790, the Friends held regular meeting services, and although wholly devoid of display or demonstrations of any sort, the members were none the less zealous or devoted. Ostentation was foreign to their characteristics and repugnant to their doctrines; and it is a serious question whether these sturdy plodders were not the first settlers in the county to hold and conduct religious services, although the Friends themselves made no claim to this honor, as it did not become them to do so. When they came as pioneers to the Genesee country their action was disapproved by the body of the Friends' society in the east, and being without consent and approbation, the emigrants were for a time cut off from the parent society; but when, a few years later, representatives from the east made a vIsit to Ontario county and discovered the happiness and progress everywhere discernible in the Farmington colony, the errors and faults of the former separatists were condoned and forgiven, and the factions became united. Throughout several of the towns in this part of the State there dwelt families of the Friends, and by them regular meetings were held at various places. In Macedon there were many families of the society; in Farmington about thirty families, and in Palmyra about forty-five. In 1796 the first Friends' meeting-house was built of logs in the north part of Farmington, near the hamlet called New Salem. In December, 1803, the building was destroyed by fire, and in 1804 was replaced with a larger building, of frame construction, but perfectly plain in exterior and interior finish. The first speaker of the Friends in this town was pioneer Caleb McCumber, who died in 1850. From its first humble beginning the society increased in numbers, influence and usefulness for a period of about twenty-five years, when, in 1828, Elias Hicks, an able and eloquent speaker, was moved to so teach and preach sentiments not at all in harmony with previous usages, and the result was in a division in the society, a large number of the people flocking to the standard of the new doctrinal expounder, and thenceforth the seceders were called Hicksites, while those who remained faithful to their old allegiance at the same time became known by the name of Orthodox Friends. About the year 1816 the society had erected a new meeting house of greater proportions than the older structures, the building committee comprising Darius Comstock, S. Pattison, Ira Lapham, Nathan Aldrich, and W. Herendeen. The Hickstes took possession of the new building, and the Orthodox members returned to the old meeting-house, still standing in the same vicinity. The committee charged with the erection of the meeting-house of 1804 was comprised of pioneers Nathan Herendeen, Caleb McCumber, Stephen Aldrich, John Sprague. Nathaniel Walker, Nathan Comstock, Hugh and David Pound, Isaac Wood, H. Arnold, and Jesse Aldrich.

In the course of time the house of meeting occupied by the Orthodox Friends was burned, and to replace it the members built a neat and commodious modern structure, the first services therein being held in June, 1876 In addition, it may be stated that another Friends' meeting-house was built in the southeast part of the town, between lots 21 and 22, in which preparative meetings, were for many years conducted.

Having due regard for the educational and physical welfare of their children, the Friends established what has been called a Manual Labor School, in which the youth of the town might acquire necessary education, and pay therefor in manual labor on the lands connected with the institution. On March 19, 1838, Daniel Robinson, Isaac Hathaway, and Asa Smith conveyed lands to the extent of 12.14 acres to trustees Gideon Herendeen, Asa B. Smith, and John Ramsdell, in whom the management of the school was vested. It must be said, however, that notwithstanding the worthy character of the institution, it failed to produce desired results, and therefore enjoyed not more than a brief existence.

As must be seen from what is stated in this chapter, the majority of the early settlers and nearly all the pioneers of Farmington were Friends, and as such, possessing distinguishing traits and characteristics, they made their spiritual life a part of the temporal by erecting houses for meetings, and giving strict attention to attendance and discipline; and although a century has passed since their work in the town began, the present generation of inhabitants seems to possess much of the old and worthy spirit of their ancestors, and still remain a majority in the town. However, many of the later of the early settlers were not of the Friends' religious convictions, and when their numbers became strong enough they established churches of their own denominations. As early as 1817 a Presbyterian society was organized in Farmington, under the fostering care of the Geneva Presbytery, but its members were few and it passed out of existence after about fifteen years of vicissitudes.

The Farmington Wesleyan Methodist Church and society was organized January 12, 1846, and enjoyed a prosperous life of about forty years. The first trustees were Lewis Lumbard, Wm. Pound, Benjamin Haight, Wm. Plum, and Rufus Holbrook, and the first pastor was Thomas Burrows. The church edifice was built at New Salem, on property originally deeded to the trustees by Joseph C. Hathaway. The parsonage property was the gift of Miss Fanny Robson, and the cemetery lot was deeded to the society by Benjamin Soule and wife. Notwithstanding these and other benefactions, the society was destined to dissolution, but not until within the last three years did it finally cease to exist. The church edifice was sold to the trustees representing Farmington Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, who took possession of the property in 1892.

New Salem is the name of a small hamlet situated in the extreme north part of the town, in the locality where pioneer Nathan Comstock made the first improvement. The early settlers of this place and the various business enterprises established by them are sufficiently stated in a preceding paragraph, hence need no repetition here. The hamlet hardly retains its old importance, but the name "Pumpkin Hook," applied in derision, still clings to it. The post-office name of the place is Farmington. Its present business interests comprise the stores of Mrs. A. K Nichols and C. H. Betz, the latter being also postmaster. About half a mile west of the "Hook" is the grist- mill of Warren Young. The Hicksite and Orthodox Friends' meeting-houses are about half a mile east of the hamlet.

The hamlet of West Farmington, as originally called, but Mertensia, as more recently known, is sItuated in the southwest part of the town, in school district No. 6, and has little importance, except as a station on the Central road, and the possession of one or two small stores.

Farmton is the name of a station on the Lehigh Valley road, and was established in 1892, on the completion of the road. Industries and interests it has not, and the possibilities of the future are not proper subjects for discussion here.

Although the old school established by the Friends failed to secure the success hoped for by its promoters, the educational system of the town has kept even step with that of other towns of the county. Extracting briefly from the commissioner's report for 1892, it is learned that in Farmington there are thirteen school districts, only one of which has no school-Irwuse, and the twelve are frame buildings, having a total value of $8,160. The school population of the town is 488 children, for whose instruction thirteen teachers are employed at an annual expense of $3,079 20. The town received moneys for school purposes in 1892 to the amount of $4,131.62.

Present Town Officers- C. H. Herendeen, supervisor; A H. Stevenson, town clerk; Edwin J. Gardner, Charles G. McLouth, John F. Sadler. justices of the peace; Edwin A. Adams, Henry C. Osborn, Wm. H. Edmonston, assessors; Julius Aldrich, commissioner of highways; Hinckley Fay, overseer of the poor; Edward H. Randall, collector.

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