History of Ossian, NY
FROM: History of Livingston County, New York
By James H. Smith
Assisted by Hume H. Cole
Published By D. Mason & Co. 1881



CHAPTER XVI.
HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF OSSIAN.

THE town of Ossian lies in the extreme southern part of Livingston county.

If is bounded northerly by West Sparta; southerly by Burns, (Allegany county,); on the east by North Dansville, and Dansville, (Steuben county,); and on the west by Nunda, and Grove, (Allegany county,).

Originally a part of Angelica, Allegany county, it was taken from that town March 11, 1808, and erected into the town of Ossian. For fortynine years after, it belonged to Allegany county, when, in 1857, it was taken from that county and annexed to the county of Livingston.

The township has an area of 25,086 acres, nearly one-third of which is timbered land. Its surface is hilly, nearly mountainous, some of the points ranging to a height of six or seven hundred feet above the level of the valleys. The soil on the hills is a sandy loam; in the valleys a gravelly loam, well adapted to the culture of wheat, barley, corn and oats, which constitute the principal crops.

At the date of its first settlement it was an unbroken wilderness, and it presents even now, with all its indications of modern improvements, the unmistakable signs of primeval wildness.

The town of Ossian was one of the sales of Phelps and Gorham to Jeremiah Wadsworth, who sold it to Robert Troup, in honor of whom, some thirty years ago, it derived and retained for years the name of Troupstown. The records relating to. the earlier history of Ossian are quite meagre; the rugged lives and hardships of its first settlers, and even of their descendants, making the recording of historical data, if not distasteful, at least, impossible so far as concerned accuracy and method. But few now live who can remember with any degree of certainty the dates of the incoming of many of its first residents, or the minor historical facts and reminiscences which it is the duty of the historian to record. The early days of the settlers were rugged and severe. Coming into what was then a new found land-a sort of El Dorado to the dwellers in the Eastern States was this far-off Genesee country-they were thrown absolutely upon their own resources for livelihood and homes. Those who now live on the well tilled farms in this picturesque township, and who occupy, by right of inheritance, the comfortable dwellings built by the persevering industry of their forefathers, scarcely realize the difficulties which their brawn and brain had to meet and overcome to bring the wild forests of those days to the fertile farms of modern times. Coming from various parts of the country, over rough roads, and in rude conveyances, they had, first to build themselves homes, and then to hew from those forests a precarious sustenance for themselves and families. Their homes for years were uniformly of logs rudely cut into shape and roofed with shingles of their own make. Shingle making was at first the occupation whkh furnished the necessaries of life and such of the luxuries as they craved and could afford, and which were procured by means of barter, money being a scarce commodity.

It is related that the earliest settlers, presumably the squatters, were so reduced in means that they were obliged to cut a few bunches of shingles, haul them to the nearest market on sleds, and exchange them for codfish, meal, and molasses; the bunches of shingles thus bartered were denominated "Ossian Bank Bills."

So scanty were the means of the residents of those days, and so scarce in that region of woods the means of subsistence for even their meagre stock of cattle, that they were often compelled to fell the basswood trees which grew abundantly and let the cattle browse on the tender branches. As exhibiting the poor resources of the settlers a story is told of Abram Porter, the first white child born in the town. His parents had a logging bee one day to which the men of the neighborhood were invited, but having no dour in the house and Abram presenting too ragged an appearance to send for some, his mother wove from the piece in the loom cloth for a pair of pants which she made, and sent him a mile and a quarter to mill for flour for the evening meal. In those days the loom was a power.

The Indians were numerous in the days of the early settlement, but were well-disposed and kind to the settlers, rendering them many friendly acts. A tribe of Indians held their encampment one winter on the land of Jacob Clendennin, opposite the house where his son now lives.

Among the names of these were "Tall Chief," Laughing Molly" and "Yankee John;" the latter a skillful hunter who used to share with the settlers the proceeds of the chase.

Mr Clendennin and family being out till late one night, were surprised on coming home to find that they could not open the door of their log cabin. Mrs. Clendennin, giving the door a push it flew open, and a heavy object fell on her giving her a severe fright. The object proved to be a quarter of venison which some one had placed above the door during their absence.

She related the incident to "Yankee John" on the following day, telling him how frightened she was, which so amused him that he danced around in Indian fashion, throwing up his arms, and shouting between his peals of laughter, "Me Me meaning" it was he who had given her the surprise. Lumbering became from necessity the first lucrative business of the pioneers. Saw mills sprang up as if by magic, and the busy hum of saws betokened the advance of a civilization new to that region. Good pine lumber as it ran was drawn to Dansville, thirty years after the first settlement, and sold for three dollars per thousand feet in "truck," or barter from the stores.

The first saw-mill was built by Nathaniel Porter in 1809. It has been established, with a certain degree of credibility, that the first settlers in the township were Richard W. Porter and his brother J ames Porter, who came in 1804. They settled at what is now known as Ossian Centre, although the settlement at that point has been ascribed to Abram Porter in the year 1800. Among other early settlers were Isaac Burrell, James Haynes and James Croghan, who located about 1806. Jacob Clendennin came in 1807; Heman Orton in 1813. Nathaniel Porter died June 3, 1852, aged 73 years. Jacob Clendennin Nov. 4, 1559, aged 81, and James Haynes May 13, 1829, aged 68. Jacob Clendennin now living at Ossian Centre is a son of the Clendennin who settled in 1807. Mrs. Dutcher, of Dansville, is a daughter of Heman Orton. Mrs. Frederick Covert, of Ossian, is a descendant of the Porters.

The first frame house was built in 1830, by Phineas Howard on the land of James Gregory, now owned by the Covert family. It was a story and a half house, 18 by 24, and was painted red. The first frame barn was built by Henry Bowman on land of Nathaniel Porter, now owned by Oscar Covert. The old barn is now standing. Abram Porter, who, as before mentioned, was the first white child born in the town, dates his birth from 1805. The first marriage was that of John Gilsan and Betsey Shay, in 1816. The first death of which any record as to name and date can be found, was that of John Turner, who was killed by the fall of a tree while chopping in 1807. The first schoolmaster was named McCoy, although French claims Weston, who taught in 1813-14. The first hotel was kept by R. N. Porter in 1817, who sold to Oliver Stacy soon after. The first merchant was Samuel Chapin, who dealt in general merchandise for five or six years, and then sold his store to Daniel Canfield, who kept it in 1824. Chapin moved to Michigan. The first grist-mill was built in 1826 by John Smith.

The first postmaster was James Porter, but in what year, or when the postoffice was first established, could not be learned.

The first doctor was named Hopkins; a root and herb doctor, who carried his "pharmacy" in a saddle-bag. He practiced some eight or ten years. The first regular physician who began and retained any settled practice was Dr. Sholl, who practiced some ten years, but the date of whose coming or going is unknown.

In the present business of Ossian lumbering still constitutes a by no means unimportant part. Numerous saw-mills are scattered over the town, and the remaining forests are being rapidly cleared up into improved farms. A few more years and those remains of the primitive condition of the town will have given place to fields of grain and corn, and the forests which stood wild and trackless before the pioneers, will be remembered only in the pages of history. in 1875 there were in the township 9,218 acres of woodland, to 14,772 acres of improved land. The value of farm lands is estimated at $961,320; of farm buildings, $87,395; of stock, $109,962.

In 1875 there were 4,156 acres plowed, 4,913 acres to pasture, and 3,280 mowed. The gross sales from farms were $48,448.

The Supervisors and Town Clerks from 1808, as near as can be ascertained, were as follows

Year.

Supervisors.

Town Clerks.

1808.

Richard W. Porter.

James Horken.

1809.

"

"

1810.

"

"

1811.

"

"

1812.

"

Samuel Boylan.

1813.

"

"

1814.

Nathaniel W. Porter.

"

1815.

Jacob Clendennin.

"

1816.

"

"

1817.

"

"

1818.

"

"

1819.

"

"

1820.

"

"

1821.

Merritt Brown.

Richard W. Porter.

1822.

"

"

1823.

Nathaniel Porter.

"

1824.

Richard W. Porter.

Alfred Bailey.

1825.

"

"

1826.

Samuel Chapin.

Isaac H. Consalus.

1827.

Richard W. Porter.

Joel J. Knapp.

1828.

"

"

1829.

"

"

1830.

William R. Bennett.

"

1831.

"

Hiram Gorse.

1832.

Samuel Chapin.

Joel J. Knapp.

1833.

"

"

1834.

James D. McCurdy.

"

1835.

"

"

1836.

Isaac H. Consalus.

Samuel Porter.

1837.

"

"

1838.

"

"

1839.

"

Lewis A. Sprague.

1840.

Joshua Rathbone.

Joel F. Knapp.

1841.

Isaac H. Consalus.

Samuel Porter.

1842.

Israel Canfield, Jr.,

Caleb Haws.

1843.

"

Ira Canfield.

1844.

Joshua Rathbone.

"

1845.

James Lemen.

Corydon Hyde.

1846.

"

Ira Canfield.

1847.

A. T. Wood,

James Wilkins.

1848.

"

Levi Wairath.

1849.

Israel Canfield.

John N. Lemen.

1850.

William Gould.

"

1851.

Isaac Hampton.

George Voorhees.

1852.

"

John N. Lemen.

1853.

Israel Canfield.

James Voorhees.

1854.

Isaac Hampton.

"

1855.

James Lemen.

"

1856.

Samuel Porter.

William Stapleton.

1857.

Samuel Porter.

James Voorhees.

1858.

"

Jonathan N. Gould.

1859.

"

J. J. Hubbard.

1860.

William M. White.

"

1861.

James Voorhees.

"

1862.

"

Austin B. Dunn.

1863.

Isaac Hampton.

"

1864.

"

John McCarthy.

1865.

"

Nathan Fenton.

1866.

"

R. B. Rathbun.

1867.

"

"

1868.

"

Oscar Porter.

1869.

"

Nathaniel Shay.

1870.

"

"

1871.

"

"

1872.

"

"

1873.

William M. White.

"

1874.

"

"

1875.

L. C. Lemen.

"

1876.

N. P. Covert.

A. B. Dunn.

1877.

"

"

1878.

Isaac Hampton.

Charles E. Hyde.

1879.

Andrew McCurdy.

"

The officers for 1880 areas follows:- Andrew McCurdy, Supervisor.
Isaac F. Hampton, Town Clerk.
J. B. Prentice, Wm. R. Shay, John C. Scott, Justices of the Peace.
Ambrose Shay, Commissioner of Highways.
Stewart Milliman, Collector.
Herman Chittenden, James Lockwood, Andrew Powell, Constables.
Henry McCartney, J. B. Wilcox, Overseers of the Poor.
A. Barney Clendenin, Ira J. Knapp, Boyd Runyan, Jnspectors of Election.

There are ten school districts in the town, containing comfortable frame buildings. The total number of children in the town ol school age is 435. Non-residents, 22. The number who attend school some portion of the year is 348. The average attendance is 131 ; average attendance of nonresidents. 7. There are four acres of land devoted to school sites. The value of property and sites is $3,974.

The population in 1875 was 1,143, as against 884 in 1865; of which 1,042 are native; or foreign. Of this population 1,131 are white, 42 colored; males, 580; females, 563; aliens, 7.

OSSIAN CENTRE.

The town contains but two settlements. Ossian Centre is situated on Sugar creek, the only stream of importance, flowing southwesterly through the center of the town, and so named because of the plentitude of sugar maples in early days abounding along its banks. The settlement at an early date was called Sugar creek. It is situated in a remarkably fertile farming country. The valley at the centre expands into a broad plain, but northerly opens into a narrower valley of striking beauty.

The settlement is scattering and consists of a town hail, built in 1880; a grocery and dry goods store owned by Crystal Fanning, who began business here sonic two years since; two blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a schoolhouse, two churches, a few saw-mills, and twenty or thirty houses.

Aside from farming its business is lumbering. Three steam saw-mills are run by Isaac Hampton, who owns four thousand acres of land, and three other saw-mills by Elias Geiger, who owns two thousand and three hundred acres. The present Postmaster is Isaac Hampton, who has held that office for twenty years, being appointed in Abraham Lincoln's first administration. Mr. Hampton has also been Supervisor for a number of years.

The town officers for 1880 are :-Supervisor, Andrew McCurdy; Town Clerk, Fremont Hamp-. ton; Assessors, Freeman Covert, Charles Canfield, Richard Mitchell; Highway Commissioner, Andrew Shay; Justices of the Peace, John Scott, Riley Shay, J. B. Prentiss, Blake Dunn.

BISBEE,

Or Bisbeetown, as it is called by the inhabitants, is in the northwestern part of the town. It is a small settlement similar to Ossian Centre. It was first settled about the year 1816. Among the first settlers were Jesse Bagley and Heman Orton, the latter coming in 1813. They engaged in farming and shingle making. Luther Bisbee, for whom the settlement was named, was a Revolutionary War pensioner. He came there in March, 1819, and built the first saw-mill.

Bisbee consists now of two stores kept by David Clark and John S. Kriley; the former beginning four years since, the latter ten years ago; a saw and grist mill, run by Charles Porter; a saw-mill by Harvey Chittenden: two blacksmith shops by James Ingersoll and Washington Forrester, and a small collection of houses.

The first school house was built of logs in 1820. The first frame school house was built in 1829, on land of Isaac H. Consalus. Stephen D. Murphy was the first schoolmaster, in what is now district No. 4. The first store was kept by Israel Canfield, in 1840 or '42. The first meetings for religious purposes were held in the log school house in 1820 by the Methodists, Elder Benton first presiding. In 1862 a singular phantasy seized upon some of the residents in and about this settlement, which led twenty-two persons to leave their homes and go to Utah to join the Mormons. Among those who went were Israel Canfield, his wife and three children; Abram Porter and his wife Marcia, and his sons and daughters, Luther, Nahum, Henrietta, Mary and Ellen; Henry Miller, and wife and one child; Augustus Canfield and his daughter Lucy, who became the Mormon wife of John Young, by whom she had two children. He afterward repudiated her and married her cousin.

From this vicinity there went to the war of the Rebellion a number of brave men. But very few, however, of those who enlisted from Ossian were ever recorded so that a complete list can be collected. The records which were made and filed have been lost, and the town records have been loosely cared for. The following are the only names* that could be obtained :-

Wm. H. Decker,

Wilfred Crocker,

John D. H. Wright,

John Crocker,

Milton Seymour,

Lucius A. Bisbee,

Alexander Crocker,

Edwin Luce,

Lucius C. Fenton,

Allen Luce,

Alexander Wilson,

Seymour Newton,

Zenas Denton,

Thomas Sanford,

William Smith,

William Libby,

George Cowen,

Jackson Bush,

Henry Bush,

Elijah Frasier,

Charles E. Pennock,

Perry DeForest,

George DeForest,

Bert Price,

Robert Hughes,

Joseph Price,

William Lindsey,

Marvin J. Magee,

George Prentice,

William Price,

Marshall Giddings,

Barney Clendennin,

Bruce Rathbun,

Darius Woolverton,

Isaac Smith,

Jerome Chesebro,

Hiram Foster,

William Hopkins,

Hugh Kelly,

Oliver P. Pennock,

Lafayette Woolworth,

Joseph Hillman,

Ichabod Hubbell,

David Utter,

John More,

Fairfield Snider,

Egbert Gorse,

Daniel Wilkins,

Nelson Pennock,

Isaac More,

Eugene Marr,

James Welton,

George Thompson,

Amos VanDerhoof,

George Swingle,

Augustus More,

Solomon Tierney,

Wilber More,

Isaac Witheral,

Walter Witheral,

Hiram B. Wright,

John Barrager,

John McCarthy,

Daniel Shultz,

Martin Hotaling,

Charles Bush,

William Gilboy,

William A. Luce,

H. C. Roff,

David Clark,

Henry Runyan,

John Runyan.

The two latter enlisted in the Wadsworth Guards, formed at Geneseo. Henry, who ranked as Orderly Sergeant, died June 22, 4864, from wounds received at the battle of Petersburg. John Runyan died June 22, 1863, from wounds received at the battle of Gettysburg. His mother went alone to Gettysburg at a time when there was much danger, searched until she found his body, and brought it home to be buried in Ossian.

William A. Luce enlisted in Co. I, First New York Dragoons, and died October 1st, 1864, in the service. H. C. Roff enlisted in the First New York Dragoons, and was killed at the battle of the Wilderness, June 1864. William Smith was a corporal in the First New York Dragoons, and died in the service, July 7, 1864. Charles Bush, Co. D, 104th Regiment, was killed at Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862. John Barrager was corporal in Co. I, First New York Dragoons, and died of wounds received in action June 2, 1864 David Clark enlisted at Portage in the 130th Regiment, afterwards mounted as the First New York Dragoons, under command of Capt. James Lemen. He came home wounded.

It could not be ascertained in what regiments the others enlisted, or what became of them.

CHURCHES.- The Methodist Episcopal Church of Ossian was built about 1852. Revs. Robert Parker and _____ Piersall were the first pastors. The present pastor- 1880 -is Rev. George Gibson, residing in Canaseraga, who has presided two years. The church records, unfortunately, have been lost, so that a fuller account could not be obtained. The church is situated at Ossian Centre.

The Presbyterian Church of Ossian was formed in r8i8 by Rev. Robert Hubbard, pastor of the church of Angelica, who attended by invitation. The names of the candidates for membership in the church when it was formed, were as follows :- James Haynes, Mary Haynes, Wm. Boyles, Esther Boyles, Sam'l McCray, Catherine W. Porter, Catherine N. Porter, Nancy Vorhees, John Shay, Jeremiah Flynn, Jonathan Haynes, John Haynes, Jane Haynes, Anna Conkright, John Perine, Polly Perme, Jacob Clendennin, Lucy Huribut, Rhoda Clendennin. The first ruling elders were chosen Nov. 21, 1818. They were Jacob Clendennin and James Haynes. Jacob Clendennin was appointed clerk. The church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1878. The present elders are Jacob Clendennin and David McCurdy. The church has a membership of about 80. The pastor for 1880 was Rev. J. L. Box, who has presided for three years. The building is a large substantial structure located at Ossian Centre.

Return to [ NY History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]


NY Counties - Albany - Allegany - Broome - Cayuga - Chatauqua - Chenango - Clinton - Columbia - Cortland - Dutchess - Erie - Essex - Franklin - Fulton - Genesee - Herkimer - Jefferson - Lewis - Livingston - Madison - Montgomery - Niagara - Oneida - Onondaga - Ontario - Orange - Orleans - Oswego - Putnam - Queens - Rensselaer - Richmond - Rockland - St. Lawrence - Saratoga - Schenectady - Steuben - Suffolk - Tioga - Tompkins - Tryone - Ulster - Washington - Wayne - Yates


All pages copyright 2003-2012. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy

.