History of Fairfield, NY
FROM: Gazetteer and Business Directory
OF Herkimer County, N. Y. For 1869-70.
Compiled and Published By Hamilton Child, Syracuse, NY 1869


FAIRFIELD was formed from Norway, February 19, 1796. A part of Newport was taken off in 1806 and a part of Little Falls in 1829. It lies in the interior of the County, near the center. Its surface is a hilly upland, the center rising into a ridge 800 to 1,000 feet above West Canada Creek. The streams are all small. West Canada Creek flows south, on the west border. The soil on the uplands is clayey and in the valleys it is gravelly with local drift deposits of sand. Several fine quarries of limestone are found in different parts. Near Middleville are found beautiful crystals of quartz, many of which are perfectly transparent. Some of them contain a few drops of water or small pieces of anthracite coal.

Fairfield (p. v.) is located near the center of the town and. contains three churches, an academy, a saw mill, a cheese box factory and about 400 inhabitants.

Middleville, (p. v.) on the line of Newport, contains a Methodist church, a hotel, a tannery, several mechanic shops and about 300 inhabitants.

The settlement of this town was commenced in 1770, by three German families named Maltanner, Goodbrodt and Shaffer, about half a mile north-east of Fairfield village, upon the Royal Grant. In 1779 a party of Indians attacked the settlement, captured two of the Maltanners, killed a girl sixteen years old, a daughter of Mr. Shaffer, and burned all the buildings in the settlement. The families were loyal to the King and were living upon the land as tenants of Sir John Johnson. The captives were taken to St. Regis, where they were kept until 1782. This was only one of the instances where the savages attacked friend and foe alike, doubtless reminding the British authorities that the employment of savages was an uncertain mode of carrying on war. Near the Manheim town line was a settlement composed of several German families, among whom were the Kellers, Windeckers, Pickerts and others. In March, 1785, Mr. Cornelius Chatfield settled near the site of the village. He was the first New Englander who settled upon the Royal Grant after the war. Abijah Mann came in the same year and settled a little west of the village. There was a small Indian orchard near the residence of Mr. Mann, to which the Indians made their annual visits for several years after the war. In 1786 Josiah, David and Lester Johnson, came from Connecticut and settled sonth-westerly from the village; John Bucklin and Benj. Bowen, from Rhode Island; John Eaton, Nathaniel and William Brown, from Massachusetts, and Samuel Low, came in and settled in 1787. During the next few years several other families from Massachusetts and Rhode Island came in; among them were David Benseley, Elisha, Wyman and Comfort Eaton, Jeremiah Ballard, William Bucklin, Daniel Venner, Nathan Smith, Nahum Daniels, Amos and James Haile and ____ Arnold. Peter and Bela Ward, from Connecticut, and the Neeleys, came in soon after. Jeremiah Ballard located about two miles north-east of Fairfield village. He left his family the first winter after his settlement here and returned to Massachusetts, where he remained until spring. The family lived upon Indian corn and white rabbits when they were fortunate enough to catch them. Their corn was pounded in a mortar made by burning a cavity in a log.

The first store was kept by Smith & Daniels, in 1792—3. The first grist mill was built by ____ Empie, and the first saw mill by Samuel and Paul Green. William D. Gray .taught a school in 1795, though it was not the first.

The first preacher (Presb.) was ____ Fields, in 1791. Rev. Caleb Alexander, a missionary from Massachusetts, came through this County in 1801, and Rev. John Taylor, in the same capacity, made a similar tour in 1802. From their journals we learn something of the religious state of the country. Mr. Alexander says, under date of. Nov. 11, 1801: “Rainy and snowy,- rode six miles south to Mr. Nathan Smiths, in Fairfield; very muddy, chilled with the storm and much fatigued. 12th, Rainy and snowy, pain in my limbs, kept house all day, visited by Capt. Griswold. By him I learned that religion is in a low state in this town. There is a Congregational Church but no officers and no meeting on the Sabbath.” On the 18th of the same month we find the following: “In Fairfield is a Congregational Church of 24 members, some attention to religion. This town contains 2,065 souls, no minister; some Baptists, and some never attached themselves to any denomination. The County. of Herkimer contains 14,000 and no minister, excepting illiterate Baptist preachers who are exerting every possible means to gain converts to their denomination.”

Fairfield Academy was incorporated by the Regents of the University, March 13, 1803. The first Board of Trustees consisted of Moses Mather, Thomas Manley, Nathan Smith, Samuel Giles, Westel Willoughby, Jr., William Griswold, Alvah Southworth, Cyrus M. Johnson, John Meyer, Jonathan Hallet, Abijah Mann, Mathias B. Tallmadge, Samuel Wright, William Smith, Benjamin Bowen, Charles Ward, Clark Smith, Thomas Bennett, Moses Wheeler, Francis A. Bloodgood, Aaron Hackley, John Snell, John Herkimer and Henry Coffin. Rev. Caleb Alexander was the first Principal. In 1801 he visited the County as a missionary, preaching in several places, and the next year established a school which was the germ of the Academy. The building since known as the Old Chapel was the first erected, and for several years afforded all the accommodations available for the school. It not only served the purposes of an academy, but served also to accommodate the district school of the village, and was used for a church and a town. hail also, no other building being available for these purposes. The pious villagers were called together to worship, not by the sound of the “church going bell,” but by that of a tin horn or a conch shell. Success attended the labors of the Principal, and. the number of students increased to such an extent that another building became necessary. The liberality of the citizens was soon manifest and funds for the erection of a stone building, three stories high and containing twenty-four rooms for students, were raised in 1808—9, and the building completed and occupied soon after. About this time Dr. Josiah Noyes, of Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, became connected with the Academy as a teacher of chemistry, and soon after a teacher of anatomy was employed in the school. The facilities thus afforded for acquiring a knowledge of medical studies attracted thither students whb designed to enter upon the practice of medicine. This was the origin of the Fairfield Medical College. The Institution was at first under the supervision of the Trustees of the Academy, but subsequently received a charter, and a separate Board of Trustees was appointed. While under the supervision of the Trustees of the Academy, it received an appropriation of $5,000 from the Legislature, and with this appropriation the first college edifice was erected in 1811. The College Charter bears date June 12, 1812, and was signed by Daniel D. Tompkins, Chancellor, and H. Bloodgood, Secretary. In 1813 the college buildings and the grounds on which they are located were conveyed by the Trustees of the Academy to the Trustees of “The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Western New York.” The State made a further appropriation of $10,000, and a competent corps of officers was appointed to take charge of the Institution. The class of 1812-13 numbered eighteen medical students, and that of 1813—14 twenty-four. The number of students increased to such an extent that in 1827 it was found necessary to put up another building, and the one known as the south building, on the Academy green, was erected, containing thirty—two rooms. The number of students during the session of this year was 144, and, the number continued to increase until 1833—4, when it amounted to 217. During several subsequent years the number was about 200 and the institution was the most prosperous of any outside of the great cities, except one in Kentucky. The organization of other medical colleges had the effect to diminish the number of students, and in 1889-40 the last course of lectures was delivered. The buildings have since been repaired and adapted to the use of the Fairfield Academy, which still continues to flourish. Among those who have attained a national reputation since their connection with the Institution may be named, Rev. Albert Barnes, Prof. Gray, of Harvard University, Prof. Hadley, of Yale College, and others.

The population of the town in 1865 was 1,649; its area is 25,127 acres.

There are eleven school districts, employing the same number of teachers. The number of children of school age is 470; the number attending school, 346; the average attendance, 155, and the amount expended for school purposes during the year ending September 30, 1868, was $2,481.27.


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