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


NEWPORT was formed from Herkimer, Fairfield, Norway and Schuyler, April 7, 1806. It was named from Newport, Rhode Island, the former residence of many of the early settlers. It lies on the west border of the County, near the center. The surface is broken by ridges of highlands which rise from 400 to 500 feet each side of the narrow flats along West Canada Creek, which flows south-easterly through near the center of the town. White Creek flows south through the east part. The soil is a clayey loam, with a mixture of gravel on the hills. It is chiefly underlaid by limestone which is quarried in some localities.

Newport, (p. v.) situated near the center of the town, on West Canada Creek, was incorporated in 1857 and contains three churches, viz., Baptist, Universalist and Roman Catholic; two hotels, a grist mill, a saw mill, a tannery, a lock shop, two wagon shops, several stores and about 800 inhabitants. It is connected with the N. Y. C. R. R. at Herkimer by a plank road.

The site of the present village of Newport was purchased of Daniel Campbell, of New York City, in 1788-9, by William, Ephraim and Benjamin Bowen, of Newport, Rhode Island. Christopher Hawkins was the first permanent settler. He came into the town in the fall of 1791, and in the spring of the next year erected a small house for the Bowens, on their property, to which Benjamin Bowen removed the same year. Other early settlers were Joseph Beuseley, William Wakely, Stephen Hawkins, ---- Burton, George Cook, Nahum Daniels, Edward Coffin, John Nelson, John C. Green, John Churchill, George Fenner and William Whippie, all of whom came in previous to 1798. They were all originally from New England and derived their titles to the land from the Commissioners of Forfeiture and from the Waltons, who had received a tract of 12,000 acres from the King in 1768. Israel Wakely, Dr. Westel Willoughby and Sherman Wooster settled here at an early day.

The first death was that of Silas Hawkins, in 1793; the first school was taught by Abby Justine,in 1795; William Wakely kept the first tavern, in 1793, and George Cook the first store, the same year. Benjamin Bowen built the first saw mill, in 1793, and the first grist mill, in 1794. The first town meeting was held in 1807, at which Dr. Westel Willoughby was the Moderator, Christopher Hawkins was chosen Supervisor, and Phineas Sherman, Town Clerk.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins, the first settler of the town, was a native of Providence, R. I., and in May, 1777, at the age of twelve years, shipped on board the privateer schooner "Eagle," at New Bedford, Mass. The schooner cruised along the course of vessels sailing from New York to England, but meeting with no prize, at lenght reached the English coast, when, after remaining for a time, she returned and was captured by a British sloop of war, and the whole crew made prisoners. On reaching New York, Hawkins and most of his companions were assigned to the prison ship "Asia," then anchored in the East River. At the expiration of three weeks Hawkins was taken on board the British frigate "Maidstone," to serve as waiter to one of the officers. He remained on board this vessel eighteen months, passing the time quite comfortably. He had so far quieted the apprehension of his officer, by saying that he was satisfied with the service and did not wish to go home, that he was permitted to go on shore when the vessel was in port at New York. Taking advantage of this liberty he escaped and reached his home in North Providence in November, 1778. After remaining at home two or three years, he again shipped on a privateer of sixteen guns, commanded by Christopher Whipple. The vessel was captured by two British cruisers the fifth day after putting to sea. The crew were taken to New York and placed on board the Jersey prison ship where they endured all the horrors which have been so frequently portrayed, and only equaled by the horrors of Andersonville, Salisbury, and other rebel prisons during the late war. In the fall of 1781, Hawkins and a shipmate, William Waterman, conceived the project of escaping from their floating prison by swimming to Long Island, a distance of nearly three miles outside of the sentinels posted along the shore. To get clear of the ship was the main difficulty, as it was impossible to leave the upper deck without being discovered, and at night the prisoners were confined to the lower deck, the gun ports of which were secured by bars fastened to the timbers of the ship. With an old ax and a crowbar, during a thunderstorm, they removed the bars from one of the port holes and replaced it temporarily to avoid detection. They then placed their wearing apparel and what money they had in their knapsacks, which they fastened to their backs, and in that condition were let down to the water by their comrades. After being in the water about three hours and swimming nearly three miles, Hawkins reached the land, cold, naked and nearly exhausted. A short time before reaching the shore, his knapsack broke loose and he was obliged to abandon it. He then went to a barn where he slept in the hay during the next day, and at evening left it and wandered about in a rain storm, but to no purpose. The next day he slept in a barn until noon and then started in search of food, fearful that he might be detected, as that part of Long Island was frequented by Tories. After wandering for two and a half days naked and without food, he at length approached two young men who were at work in a garden and asked for some old clothes and something to eat. After some explanation, one of the young men told him to wait until he could consult his mother. In a short time the young man returned with food and a pair of pants. These being disposed of he was taken to the old lady who asked him varions questions, and among others if he had a father and mother. Hawkins told her his mother was in Providence and his father in the American army. With eyes streaming with tears she said, "I wish you were at home." It was arranged that he should take some clothing then hanging on the fence, and if he was arrested and any questions asked, he was to say he stole them. The kind hearted old lady then gave him a supply of food and told him where he could find a canoe to take him across a small bay in his route to Sag Harbor. After various adventures he arrived at home with no further desire for sea-faring adventures. About the year 1786 he located in Norway, where he remained a short time, then moved to Fairfield, and, in the fall of 1791, moved to Newport. He enjoyed the confidence and esteem of his townsmen, who elected him Supervisor for fourteen consecutive years immediately succeeding the organization of the town. After a short interval he was again elected to that office, which he held for six years more. He died on the 25th day of February, 1837, in the seventy-third year of his age. Mr. Hawkins raised a large family of children, one son and six daughters. The son is still living.

The first public religious services were held in the town in 1796 by Rev. David Haskell, of the Baptist denomination. The Baptist Church was organized in March, 1808, with twenty-nine members. Jeduthan Higby was the pastor. Their first church edifice, of' stone, was completed in 1822. The present number of members is 105. M. N. Negus is the pastor.

St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church; located about three miles from Newport, on tbe line of Schuyler, was erected in 1839. Services were held In this place for several years by clergymen from Little Fa!ls and Newport, but it subsequently became attached to Newport under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Herbst. Services are only held occasionally.

St. John's Roman Catholic Church, in the village of Newport, was organized in 1864, under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Herbst. They soon after purchased the house previously occupied by the Methodists, and have continued to hold services there until the present time. Rev. Thomas Reading, D. D., is the present pastor.

The population of the town in 1865 was 1,983; its area is 19,960 acres.

There are ten school districts, employing tweke teachers.

The number of children of school age is 65O; the number attending school 490; the average attendance 243, and the amount expended for school purposes during the year ending September 30, 1868, was $3,792.27.


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