History of Fenton, New York


The township of Fenton came into existence December 3d, 1855, in pursuance to an act of the board of supervisors of Broome county, being formed from territory originally belonging to the township of Chenango. The name at first given to the newly created township was Port Crane, this being out of respect to Jason Crane, an engineer employed in constructing the Chenango canal. The board of supervisors, however, changed the name to that of Fenton, who was at the time of this action (1867) Governor of New York State.

There is authority for stating that the first settlement in this township was made in 1788 by Elisha Pease, who cut his way into what was then a wilderness and began to clear land for a farm. Chester Pease, his son, was the first child born in the township, in 1793. Jared Page, who gave his name to Page Brook, probably came next, being followed shortly afterward by Garret Williamson, Isaac Page, John F. Miller, and Elias Miller. A descendant of William Miller, by the name of Addison, figured prominently in the life of the township, serving as justice of the peace for many years and also as justice of the sessions, passing away only at a comparatively recent date at his home in North Fenton. Other prominent families of early date were Michael McDonald, Caleb Ketchum, Reuben McDaniels, Lewis Cross, Peter Shaw, who located at Port Crane about the beginning of the nineteenth century; Jeremiah Holt, Richard Lewis, John and Henry Kales, all of whom were active in the public life of the township. At Ogden, Joseph Ogden settled about 1790. A number of these men have descendants still living in the township.

Like many of the other townships of Broome county, Fenton had a good many sawmills along the streams, and the lumbering business gave employment to many hands. The Chenango canal for some time after 1837 afforded shipping facilities which were improved, so that between 1840 and 1865 Fenton reached the height of its prosperity. Since the forests have been cut away, farming has been the principal occupation of the people.

The tavern of Charles Hull was the place where the first election was held in Fenton, in pursuance to the act which established the township, which also fixed the date as the spring of 1856. The following officers were elected at that time: Town clerk, Herman V. Waite; justices of the peace— John Bishop, Enos Puffer, Thomas Taber, Ebenezer Crocker; assessors—James A. Barnes, Israel D. Amsbry, George P. Miller; superintendent of schools, John B. Van Name; commissioners of highways— James Howland, Benjamin A. Potter; overseers of the poor — William Slosson, Gary V. Scott; collector, Hiram Stillman; constables — Henry Kark, Sherman McDaniel, John Jones, Leverett Jeffers, Wilett Cross. At this election no supervisor was chosen, but we find that John Hull was serving later in the year 1856.

Changes in population are noted as follows: 1860, 1,345; 1870, 1,499; 1880, 1,555; 1890, 1,280; 1900, 1,171; 1910, 1,050; 1920, 1,111.

With the coming of the Chenango canal, Port Crane, being located on the line of this waterway, forged rapidly to the front, with stores, hotels, boat yards and repair and dry docks. Among the first settlers here were Samuel Andrews and James Hunt. Wheeler and Yates established the first store. In 1832 Samuel Andrews put up a mill in Osborne Hollow, known as the Shear mill. This mill was for many years a landmark in the vicinity of Osborne Hollow. As with practically every village that was located on the line of the canal, when the canal went, prosperity departed. Very little is left of Port Crane at the present time. The D. & H. railway far more than takes the place of the Chenango canal as a means of communication with the world.

Scattered here and there throughout the township are a number of people who trace their ancestry to early settlers. We may mention, for example, Jeremiah Holt, who came from Chenango county in 1835. He left a descendant of the same name, Jeremiah Holt Jr., who was supervisor of the township for a number of years and still has important interests in Fenton. Another supervisor is Henry Kales, son of John Kales. The name of Watrous is known all over the county, and all are descendants of David Watrous. Allan Bogert, George Wayman, Rufus Bunnell, and Jane Mandeville, now ninety-three years old, all of Port Crane, are survivors of early settlers.

At this point there are two churches, Baptist and Methodist. Fenton supports a good school of which all are justly proud. Three general stores provide for the wants of the people in the mercantile way, owned and operated by J. D. Young, H. A. Snow and W. E. Potter.

Ketchum’s Corners was the name first given to the hamlet we now know as North Fenton. It was here that the Millers lived, and we find some of that name still living in this vicinity. We name Lester Miller, a grandson of John Miller and a son George Miller, whose home at the present time is in this part of the township. Here, too, lives a niece by the name of Mrs. Charles Davis, whose uncle was Addison Miller, son of George Miller.

At North Fenton is still another prominent citizen, M. H. Christian, whose grandfather, Rufus Christian, came to Fenton when deer were plenty. A brother, G. B. Christian, and a sister, A. E. Christian, are still residents of the neighborhood, as is also a second cousin of those just named, Willis Christian. Still having in mind North Fenton, we mention Thomas Scott, today living in the vicinity. Mr. Scott’s grandfather, Jerry Scott, was one of the early settlers of the township.

North Fenton has one church supported by people of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, a school, and one store carried on by Mr. Charles Cronk. The valuation of real property in the township of Fenton for the current year is $1,278,940, and that of the franchises within its borders, $60,617.

The following comprises the list of officers of the township as chosen at the latest election: Supervisor, George N. Weed; town clerk, Harlan S. Wilcox; assessors— George R. Kales, Robert Hatfield, William M. Krumb; superintendent of highways, Jerome Kinney, Sr.; justices of the peace— O. W. Hatch, R. H. Slauson, Earl Beckwith, Reuben Cross; collector, Elmer Stephens; superintendent of the poor, Allan Bogart; constables— Louis Beckwith, George H. Hobbs, Allan Bogart, Sharles O. Gee.

April 26th, 1919, the Home for Orphan Children of Wyoming Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York, for the purpose of receiving orphans and caring for them until they could be placed in good homes. For a number of years prior to this time a home had been conducted on Floral avenue, Binghamton, for deaconesses of the Wyoming Conference, not hicorporated or carried on under any particular legal authority.

It was found that there was need for some similar place devoted to the care of orphans of the conference, and they began to be received into the deaconess’s home. The number increasing beyond the capacity of the home, a farm house was secured in the town of Fenton for this purpose, and this, too, was soon overcrowded, so that it was evident that if this care and oversight of the orphans of the conference were to be continued, provision must be made for a much larger building. The matter was laid before the Conference by Hon. Harry C. Perkins of Binghamton, and after due consideration it was determined to secure a site and erect a structure for the Home. Mr. Perkins raised the money needed for this worthy object, and the old Macumber place in the township of Fenton was bought. This farm contained twenty-four acres of land, and is ideally adapted to the work for which the institution was organized. A building was erected at a cost of $110,000 for the structure itself, with an added expense of $10,000 for furnishings and equipment. As it stands today, the Home represents a total investment of $160,000. Accommodations for sixty children and ten in the Baby Fold have been provided, and the institution is supported by the Wyoming Conference. The officers are as follows: Hon. Harry C. Perkins, president; Alfred A. Lord, vice-president; Homer Mitchell, secretary; William McLean Sr., treasurer and manager; president of the board of lady directors, Mrs. Grace Crary Haskins; secretary, Mrs. F. B. Hulbert; treasurer, Mrs. A. J. Miles.

The Wyoming Conference Home at Hillcrest was inspected and formally accepted by the building committee in the late fall of 1922. As designed, this Home represents a cost of $100,000. It is built in colonial style, situated 240 feet back from the street, and with a brick-faced exterior presents a very tasteful appearance. The building is two stories in height, with a basement and a third story in front. The frontage is 66 feet in length and the depth 119 feet.

As it stands today the Home provides accommodations for thirty boys and an equal number of girls. There are living rooms, office, reception room, bedrooms, library, sewing room and kitchen on the first floor, and room for nurses, bedrooms, nursery and baths on the second floor, while the playrooms, lockers, food storage rooms and heating apparatus are located in the basement.

The building committee which gave its approval to the Home is composed of the following: Harry C. Perkins, chairman; William H. McLean, Sr., Homer Mitchell, Mrs. Edward A. Martin, and Mrs. Grace Haskins.

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