The Town of Nelson.
This is one of the five towns in Madison county that were formed in the year following
its organization. It was set off from Cazenovia on the 13th of March, 1807, and received its name in honor of Lord
Nelson, the great English admiral. It is number one of the Chenango Twenty Townships, is situated southwest of
the center of the county, and is bounded on the north by Fenner and Smithfield, on the east by Eaton, on the south
by Georgetown, and on the west by Cazenovia. The town has a population of 1,350 according to the United States
census of 1890, and 1,339 by the State census 1892. This is a considerable decrease from the number in 1880, which
was 1,649. Nelson is divided into fourteen school districts that have a school house in each, in which were employed
in 1897 fifteen teachers. The value of the school buildings is about $5,000.
The surface of this town consists chiefly of a hilly upland, broken by ridges having a general north and south
direction. It occupies part of the elevated watershed between streams flowing north into Oneida Lake and south
into the Susquehanna. The principal stream is the Chittenango Creek, two branches of which join near the west line
of the town. The northern and larger branch rises in the town of Fenner, enters Nelson near the center of the north
boundary and flows across the northwest part in a southwesterly direction. The smaller branch rises in the south
central part and flows in a northwesterly direction to its union with the main stream; this, with a more northerly
tributary, flowing from the east forms the Erieville reservoir, constructed in 1850, to feed the Erie Canal; it
covers 340 acres, and cost $36.837.03. The Eaton reservoir, constructed for a feeder for the abandoned Chenango
Canal, is partly in this town. The old canal touched the southwest part of the town.
Nearly the whole area of Nelson is underlaid with the Tully limestone, the Genesee slate, and the Ithaca group.
The Hamilton group shows at the surface in a small part of the northeast and southwest corners of the town. Quarries
have been opened, but no stone suitable for building purposes is obtainable. The soil is a gravelly loam, well
adapted to grazing, and dairying is extensively carried on.
The territory of the town of Nelson was patented to Alexander Webster on June 4, 1793, and was purchased in the
same year by Col. John Lincklaen. In that year Jedediah Jackson and Joseph Yaw bought land in the north part of
the town in the interest of a Vermont company and during the succeeding two years twenty-six families, coming mostly
from Pownal, Vt., settled on that purchase and in other parts of the town. The names of the heads of those families
were as follows: Jedediah and Asahel Jackson, Joseph Yaw, Ebenezer Lyon, Daniel Adams, Sylvanus Sayles, Oliver
Alger, Daniel and Isaac Coolidge, Levi Neil, Thomas Swift, Roger Brooks, Ethan Howard, Robert and Solomon Brown,
Thomas and Jesse Tuttle, Luther Doolittle, Joseph Cary, Jesse Clark, James Green, Eliphalet Jackson, John Everton,
Amos Rathbone, David Nichols, and Rufus Weaver. Other early settlers were James Annas, Levi Brown, Richard Karley,
John Hamilton, Sr., Moses Smith, Enos Chapin, Erastus Grover, Richard Wilber, Ezra and Isaac Love. joy, Asa Carey,
Haven White, and the Richardson and Wells families; these came about 1796 and were mostly from Massachusetts. David
Wellington, Simeon Haskell, Jesse, Abner and Seth Bumpus, Aaron Lindsley, Moses and Solomon Clark, Paul Griffiths,
Isaiah and Ezra Booth, Joseph, Chauncey and David Case, William Knox, David Hamilton Jeremiah Clark (who built
the first saw mill in the town), Will. jam- and Jeremiah Whipple, Thomas Ackley, Benjamin Hatch, Dyer
Matteson, Jesse Carpenter, Robert Hazard, all of whom settled prior to the town organization in 1807. These and
many others are mentioned more in detail in earlier chapters and in Part III of this volume.
The first town meeting in Nelson was held at the house of Rufus Weaver, April 7, 1807. The first town officers
elected were as follows:
Ebenezer Lyon, supervisor; John Rice, clerk; Jeremiah Clark, Simeon Marshall, and Thaddeus Hazieton, assessors;
Thomas Holdridge, Moses Board man and John Knox, commissioners of highways; Day Fay and Moses Boardman, overseers
of the poor; Eri Richardson, Asahel Wood, Alvan Henry, and Benjamin Bumpus, constables; Alvan Henry, collector;
James Bacon and John Jackson, poundkeepers; Elijah Daniels, Daniel Butler, Silas Reeves, Joseph Sims, Rufus Weaver,
James Annas, Benjamin Turner, Uriah Annas, Robert Hazard, George Tibbits, Eldad Richardson, Jonathan Wellington,
David Smith, Abraham Parker, Ephraim Cone, David Nichols, Daniel Coolidge, Richard Green, John Rice, Stephen Kingsley,
Dyer Matteson, Francis Wood, John Knox and Warham Chapman, overseers of highways and fenceviewers.
Following is a list of the supervisors of the town from its organization to the present time: Ebenezer Lyon,
1807-10; John Rice, 1811-12; Ebenezer Lyon, 1813-17; Jabez Wright, 1818; Jeremiah Whipple, 1819; Ebenezer Lyon,
1820; Edward Hudson, 1821-22; Eri Richardson, 1823- 26; Oliver Pool, 1827-32; Daniel Lobdell, 1833-35; Benjamin
Turner, 1836-38; George Rich, 1839-41; Asa Richardson, 1842; Oliver Pool, 1843; Jeremiah Blair, 1844; John Donaldson,
1845; Oliver Pool, 1846- 48; Alfred Medbury, 1849; G. D. Richardson, 1850-51; Palmer Baldwin, 1852; Jonathan Wells,
1853-54; George Irish, 1855; David A. Hamilton, 1856; G. D. Richardson, 1857; Artecas L. Sims, 1858-60; Nelson
Richardson, 1861; S. Perry Smith, 1862-66; Charles K. Knox, 1867; Levi P. Greenwood, 1870; Isaac A. Blair, 1871-73;
Merritt L. Lyon, 1874; Isaac A. Blair, 1875; George E. Gaige, 1876-78; Peter R. Duffy, 1879-86; Jeremiah Blair,
1887; Peter R. Duffy, 1888; Horace K. Smith,
Following is a statement of the population of Nelson as shown by the census of various decades and semi-decades:
1835 1840 1845 1850 1855 1860
2,231 2,100 1,976 1,965 1,876 1,797
1865 1870 1875 1880 1890 1892
1,717 1,730 1,649 1,350 1,350 1,339
These figures indicate a slow but gradual decrease in population in the town. This is not due to its being in any
sense an unattractive or unprofitable locality for the prudent, industrious and economical farmer, mechanic on
tradesman. It is, rather, in keeping with the conditions in many other towns in the State and county, in which
in the passing years, there has developed among the young men a desire to leave the homesteads of their ancestry
for the alluring attractions and occupations of cities and large villages.
As before indicated this town is a profitable dairying region. There are four cheese factories within its limits,
one on the Richards estate farm, one in Nelson village, one at Erieville, and one four miles north east of Nelson.
The factory at Nelson was established in 1868 by A. T. Gaines and was later conducted during a period of more than
fifteen years by William Richards, who at that time operated four other factories in this vicinity. The factory
northeast of Nelson is conducted by J. P. Davis. A large part of the farmers of the town at the present time are
engaged in the production of milk, which goes to these factories or to distant market. The fattening of veal has
also in recent years become quite an important feature of the agricultural interest. Among the leading farmers
of the town are Ward Smith, Orson Graves, W. L. Richards, D. M. Jones, Money Brothers, W. D. Brown, M. D. Lyon,
H. K. Smith, S. L. Jones, Abelbert Howard, Charles E. Richards, John H. Richards and Evan D. Davis.
There is a grist mill a half mile east of Nelson village, with which is connected a saw mill and cider mill, operated
by L. H. Hutchinson; it was formerly for many years owned by H. P. Hutchinson, an old and respected citizen who
died in 1897. There is also an old grist mill on the road from Erieville to Nelson, formerly operated by S. E.
Bump, but now idle.
Erieville.- There are only two post offices in Nelson, one of which is in the village of Erieville, the largest
settlement in the town. It is situated in the south part of the town, with a station on the railroad. It contains
a hotel on the site of the one built in 1820. The present fourstory frame building was erected in 1883, soon after
the burning of the first structure; the house is now occupied by Mrs. H. T. Griffin, who succeeded her husband.
There are three general stores in the village, kept by C. E. Maynard, E. S. Jillson and G. C. Moore; two blacksmiths,
two steam saw mills, a cooper shop where James Stevenson worked for many years, a cheese factory and a milk station.
The village is an important milk shipping point, being situated in the midst of an extensive and productive dairying
region. The village has two churches; the Baptist, which is supplied from Hamilton College, and a Methodist Episcopal,
over which Rev. A. W. Battey is pastor; he also has charge of a church in Nelson village.
An extensive milk business is carried on here by C. E. Maynard, who in 1897 handled 3,946,065 pounds. of milk,
making 324,435 pounds of cheese, 22,592 pounds of butter, and shipping to the New York market 4,622 forty-quart
cans of milk. Mr. Maynard is one of the leading business men of this section and served the district in the Assembly
An undertaking business is conducted by D. P. Maynard, and E. S. Jillson has a flour and feed business in addition
to his general store. G. C. Moore, successor to G. C. Moore & Co., in a general store, is postmaster. The village
has a Grange Hall, a post of the G. A. R., and the lines of the Central New York Telephone and Telegraph Company
pass through the village, having a local office in the store of G. C. Moore.
Nelson (Nelson Flats).- This is a small hamlet in the north part of the town, containing a small collection of
houses, a Methodist church, of which Rev. A. W. Battey is pastor, a school house, two general stores, one conducted
by W. R. Richards, succeeding Gage & Whitney, and the other by W. H. James, a blacksmith shop, and a post-office,
which is located in the store of Mr. James, with George W. Holmes, postmaster. This store formerly contained a
stock of hardware and tin, and before that was a hotel in which Myron Hutchinson was the last landlord. Several
years ago a large evaporator was established by
C. E. Gaines, and the building is still standing in the main Street of the village. In the fall of 1885 a large
building was erected for a saw mill, grist mill and cider mill, a wagon shop and blacksmith shop, by the Nelson
Manufacturing Company, in which L. C. Barnes, Arthur Bailey, Frank Taylor, S. N. Judd and Charles Judd were interested.
Unfortunately for the place this building was burned in 1887 and not rebuilt.