NORWAY was formed from Herkimer, April 10, 1792. Fairfield was taken off in 1796; Russia, at first called Union,
and a part of Newport, in 1806, and Ohio in 1823. It lies in the interior of the County, north of the Mohawk. The
surface is elevated and rolling. It is drained by several small streams, tributaries of West Canada Creek. The
soil is sandy in the north-west, and in the east and south loam mixed with gravel. Limestone is quarried in several
places, and fossils have been found near White Creek. There is a sulphur spring about a mile north of the village.
Norway, (p. v.) situated near the center of the town, contains three churches, viz., Baptist, Methodist and Episcopal;
one store, a hotel, a carpenter shop containing a steam engine, a cheese factory, a carriage shop, a; harness shop
and about 200 inhabitants.
Gray, (p. v.) on the line of Ohio, contains an extensive tannery, giving employment to about fifty men and turning
out about $125,000 worth in 1868. Most of the leather is sold in Boston, Mass. Water and steam are both employed
as power to run the machinery. There is also a large cheese factory using the milk of 600 cows and making English
cheese, and a saw mill with circular and mulay saws. The village received its name in honor of Latham Gray, who
came from New London, Conn., and. settled here in 1828. The place was then a wilderness and is largely indebted
to his enterprise and energy for its prosperity.
Western, on Black Creek, is a hamlet containing a Methodist church, and a saw and grist mill. The first saw mill
in this part of the County was erected at this place.
The first settlement was made by Christopher Hawkins and ____ Whipple, from Rhode Island, in 1786, but they soon
abandoned the place. In 1788 Jeremiah Potter and his son, Fisher, settled about eight miles north of Fairfield
village. They made a small clearing, built a hut and passed the winter with nothipg but pota .toes, a little salt
and such game as they were able to secure for the sustenance of their families. John, Andrew and Amos Coe, and
Captain Hinman, came from Connecticut; John and David Corp, N. Fanning, Thomas Manly and David Underhill, from
Vermont; five families by the name of Brayton, from Rensselaer County; Angel!, Lemuel and Philip Potter, Edward
Henderson, Uri H. Cook, Henri Tillinghast, Abijah Tombling and others, all settled here at an early day. Mr. Tillinghast
was from Vermont and settled in 1794, on the farm now occupied by his descendants. He erected a tannery and laid
the foundation of his future prosperity.
The first birth in the town was that of a child of Gideon Brayton, and the first death that of the wife of E. Hinman.
The first school was taught by Jeanette Henderson, in 1793. Amos Coe kept the first inn, and Thaddeus Scribner
& Brother the first store, in 1793. Captain Hinman built the first saw mill, and Carpenter Cole the first grist
mill, in 1793. Vale & Eddy built a fulling mill the same year.
A tornado had prostrated several acres of the forest near the cabin of the Potters, and here father and son were
accustomed to seek the white rabbit with which to replenish their scanty larder. One ëold frosty morning,
while hunting for rabbits, they discovered a hole in the snow which was four or fire feet deep and several inches
in diameter. The sides of the hole were hard and covered with a white frost, indicating that some living animal
was below. Using their snow-shoes for shovels they soon removed the snow and found beneath it a mass of hemlock
boughs, and beneath these a large cavity in the earth which proved to be the winter quarters of a large bear. Bruin
not relishing the disturbance of his winter quarters came forth to see who was trespassing upon his territory.
He had no sooner made his appearance than a bullet was lodged in his head and he became the lawful prize of his
captors. He proved to be fat, his meat was tender and was a valuable acquisition to the settlers.
In 1842, while cutting down a maple tree, Mr. Fisk found near the center several marks of a hatchet and a small
piece of the edge of an iron or steel hatchet, indicating that the incisions were made when the tree was a small
sapling. On counting the grains of wood outside of the marks he found three hundred, showing that three hundred
years had elapsed since the marks were made in the sapling.
The first religious services were held by ____ Robertson, in 1792. Rev. Caleb Alexander made a missionary tour
through this and adjacent counties, in 1801, and Rev. John Taylor made a similar visit in 1802. Mr. Alexander says
in his journal, under date November 16:
“Rode early to Norway, met with the church at Mr. Newland’s and attended all day to the settling of difficulties
of long standing.. It appeared that in many instances they had been irregular in their proceedings, which served
to be the principal cause of the contentions and animosities existing among them. These were all canvassed and
reduced to a happy train of accommodation. Adjourned to meet on Saturday morning, at which time I agreed to preach
a lecture and to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper on the next Sabbath so be that all difficulties
should be settled. Lodged at Mr. Lewis Hinman’s and spent the evening in preparing papers to be laid before the
church on Saturday.”
“Tuesday, 17, breakfasted at Mr. George Cooks, dined at Mr. Moses Mather’s, returned to Fairfield. There has been
some attention to religion in Norway, several have attained a hope and give evidence of true piety. The church
consists of thirty-seven members, incorporated three years since by Rev. Mr. Marsh in union with the associate
churches of Morris County Presbytery. Mr. Marsh preached here two years and is now settled in Ballstown. In Norway
are two Baptist churches, one on the open communion and the other on the close communion plan. The open communionists
are Armenians in sentiments.”
“Saturday, 21, rode early in the morning to Norway, very cold and rough riding. Convened with the church at Mr.
Ruland’s and attended to the difficulties and controversies existing among them. After much conversation, explanations
and mutual confessions it was unanimously agreed that they would all make a public confession to-morrow in the
presence of the congregation, and renew their covenant with God and one another. During the whole of the transaction
they all appeared to manifest a tender, charitable and forgiving spirit, and it appeared that their divisions arose
more from mistake of judgment than error of heart.”
The next day, Sabbath, he says: “Read the confession of the church for their past misconduct, read their covenant
to which they all gave consent, administered the Sacrament and took tea at Lieutenant Smith’s.
The next year Rev. John Taylor says of Norway: “There is one Methodist church, numerous; two Baptist churches and
part of a third; no meeting houses. The people almost universally inclined to hear preaching of their various sects.
I have concluded to visit this place and several other towns in this quarter, near the close of my mission, should
I be able to make it convenient.”
In 1808 the snow fell to the depth of seven feet, and the only means of communication between neighbors was upon
snow shoes. There was great distress and one woman perished. Food was so scarce at one time that the people dug
gentian roof and carried it to Fort Plain and exchanged it for corn.
The population of the town in 1865 was 1,080; its area is 21,942 acres.
There are ten school districts, employing eleven teachers. The number of children of school age is 484; the number
attending school is 366; the average attendance, 186, and the amount expended for school purposes during the year
ending September 30, 186S, was $4,213.40.