FREETOWN was formed from Cincinnatus, April 21, 1818, and embraces the
north-west quarter of the town In 1820 it was increased by the. addition of lot 20 of Virgil. It lies upon the
ridge between the Otseliô and Tioughnioga Rivers, south-east of the center of the County. The surface, is
high and hilly, and in some parts much broken by the streams which flow north and south through narrow ravines.
Forests still cover a considerable part of the more hilly portions. The soil is a clay loam and in some parts sandy,
and gravelly, better adapted to grazing than to grain.
Freetown Corners, (p. v.) situated near the center of the town, contains two churches and about twenty-five houses.
The town contains four churches, three saw mills and one cheese factory.
The first settler of this town was Robert Smith, a Revolutionary soldier, who drew lot No. 2 and. moved on to it
with his family in 1800, having previously erected a log cabin for their reception. Soon after Mr. Smith located
on his lot, Caleb Sheapard and David Monrose moved from the eastern part of the State and settled on lot 22. Mr.
Monrose remained on his farm until his death in 1837. His son Daniel subsequently occupied the same farm. In 1802
William Smith, a native of Vermont, came from Great Bend, Penn.; to Freetown, and settled on lot 25. In 1804 Gideon
Chapin located on lot 42, and erected soon after the first saw mill in the town. There is at present a larger one
covering the same ground, under which is &:run of mill stones for grinding feed. This is the only grist mill
in the town. Gen. Sam'l. G. Hathaway; originally from~Freetown, Mass., removed from Chenango ‘County and purchased
the farm of Robert Smkh, consisting of about three hundred acres. In 1806 Eleazer Fuller, from Northampton, Mass.,
settled on lot 12; and Rockwell Wildman and Isaac Robertson settled on lot 15, in 1808. Among the other early settlers
were John Aeker, Henry Gardner, Charles and Curtis Richardson, William Tuthill, Jacob Hicks, Isaac Doty, John Backus
and Aruna Eaton.
The first church (Baptist) was organized in 1810 by Elder Caleb Sheapard, the first treacher. Elder Sheapard resided
in Lisle, Broome County. Benj. W. Capron was the first ‘settled minister. Don A. Robertson was the first school
teacher, and Peter McVean was the first merchant.
The early settlers of this town endured all the hardships and privations incident to the settlement of a new country,
being destitute of roads, mills and other improvemants, which; they subsequently enjoyed. The following description
of a trip to mill is from "Goodwin's History of Cortland County.”
“The early pioneers, in preference to going to Ludlowville or Chenango Forks to
mill, usually went to Onondaga Hollow or Manlius Square, a distance of forty miles, fording creeks and rivers,
exposing themselves to cold and storms by night and day, being obliged to camp out two or three nights during their
journey to and from mill, through an almost entire wilderness, filled, with wolves, panthers and other ravenous
beasts of prey. As there were then no roads, they traveled by marked trees, whiling away the dull hours of time
by whistling or singing some merry tune, or telling some legendary tale which may have been preserved for centuries
by Indian tradition. At night, tired and hungry, the jaded horses were tied to a tree, and by the roots of some
enormous oak or hemlock the pioneers would find a resting place; with the bags for pillows and an Indian blanket
for a covering; and there, in the deep forest, surrounded by gaunt, howling wolves ani poisonous reptiles, with
the deep blue sky above all radiant with night’s darkness, or perchance overspread with tartarean blackness, while
the harsh, hoarse thunders rolled and reverberated through the wide expanse; now startled by a vivid flash of forked
lightning as it leaps athwart the darkened sky, or shatters a proud old relic of the ancient wilderness into a
thousand pieces, would await the return of day to resurne their journey. And thus they endured these privations
until 1798, when a mill was erected at Homer, or a year late; when Mr. Hubbard, of Cortlandville, built the old
John Conger, from Washington County, settled on lot 12 in 1812, having purchased one hundred. and five acres. In
1818 Austin Waters removed from Saybrook, Connecticut, and located on the same lot, having purchased one hundred
and five acres, all covered with a heavy growth of timber.
Among the early incidents in the life of Gen. Samuel G. Hathaway, is the following: Desiring to make’some addition
to his stock of cattle, soon after he came to Freetown, he started for Caleb Sheapard’s residence, about five miles
distant, for the purpose of purchasing a calf. It was nearly night, and, without coat or stockings, he started
on his journey with no road but marked trees. He succeeded in obtaining the ealf and started for home, leading
his purchase by arope halter. Darkness soon came on and he was unable to distinguish the marked trees, but hoping
to ‘come out all right, be continued, to press forward.’ At length beingsatisfied that he was not in the right
course, he stopped and began to make preparations for camping out for the night. These preparations consisted of
tying his calf to a tree and lying upon the ground by its side. Here amidst the hooting of owls, the howling of
wolves and the screaming of panthers, he passed the night. When morning dawned he found himself about two miles
out of his way. Hastily untying his calf; he started for home, where he arrived in time for breakfast, and with
a keen appetite for that most desirable meal.
In November, 1799, an old hunter was passing between the Tioughnioga River and Freetown. Center, when, on ascending
an elevation, he, struck an Indian trail leading to the pine woods. Soon after entering upon this trail he heard
a piercing scream as if coming from a female in distress. This was repeated and, as he quickened his pace, the
sound became more distinct, and he could hear moaning, as if some one was suffering great pain. His anxiety was
soon relieved however by seeing an enormous panther springing upon a deer that was struggling upon the ground and
almost coyered with blood. The hunter was unarmed, and he hesitated a moment undecided what to do, but concluded
to hasten on his way rather than run the risk of fhrnishing the panther with any part of the meal he seemed to
be taking from the deer. He had not proceeded far before he was startled by what appeared to be the leap of a panther
behind him.” As he had a few pounds of fresh venison he picked up a heavy bludgeon and hastened on until he came
to a large log, when he cut his venison into two or three pieces and throwing one into the mouth of the log and
the others at a little distance from it, awaited the approach of the enraged. beast. The moon was shining sufficiently
to enable the hunter to see the panther approach and’ attempt to enter the cavity of the log, when the hunter sprang
upon him and with. one blow laid the aminal almost powerless upon the ground. By repeating the blows the huge beast
was soon dispatched, and the hunter hurriedly taking the hide from the body retraced his steps homeward. The next
day’a grand hunt was proposed which ‘resulted in the death of three panthers, five wolves and six bears.
The population in 1868 was 942 and the area 15,265 acres.