NORWICH was formed from Union (Broome Co.) and Jericho, (now Bainbridge,) January
19, 1793, and named from Norwich, Conn. Pharsalia, Plymouth and Preston were taken off in 1806; New Berlin and
a part of Columbus in 1807, and North Norwich in 1849. A part of Preston was annexed in 1808, and a part of the
same town was taken off in 1820. It is the central town upon the east border of the County. The surface consists
of two high rolling ridges, separated by the valley of the Chenango River. The highest summits are about 500 feet
above the valleys. The Ohenango River flows south through the western part, and receives the Canasawacta Creek
and Mineral Spring Brook from the west, and Thompson, Ransford and Johnson Creeks from the east. Unadilia River
forms the eastern boundary. The soil upon the up lands is a shaly and gravelly loam and in the valleys a gravelly
loam and alluvium.
Norwich (p. v.) is delightfully situated upon the Chenango River, in the north-west part of the town, and was incorporated
April 16, 1816. Canasawacta Creek flows along its western bord.er and unites with the Chenango at the south bounds
of the viilage. The streets are regularly laid out and most of them bordered by fine rows of shade trees. The village
contains the County buildings, six churches, viz., Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, F. W. Baptist and
Roman Catholic, two banks, an academy, two newspaper offices, four hotels, a piano forte manufactory, several carriage
factories and tanneries, a blast furnace, a hammer factory, a planing mill, a sash, door and blind factory, a foundry
and machine shop, and several other manufactories of various kinds. The village is lighted with gas, contains between
4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants and is rapidly increasing. The Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley Railroad, now
open to Sherburne, will soon be open to Norwich, and the Midland Railroad is now in process of construction and
will, when completed, give direct communication with New York City.
The Piano Forte Manufactory of E. T. Hayes was established in 1838, with a capital of $150. Six or eight iustruments
were made the first year and the business gradually increased until about three hundred were made in one year.
At present about thirty hands are employed and four instruments are made per week.
The Gas Works were started about 1862, by Hayes & Rider, and now the public buildings, many private residences
and the streets are lighted with gas.
The Hammer Factory of David May-dole is a monument to the enterprise, energy and business talent of its founder
and proprietor. The business of making hammers was commenced. in the spring of 1847, and four or five men were
employed. In the fall of 1848 the establishment was burned, but rebuilt immediately and put in operation in January,
1849, since which its progress has been onward and upward until the present. About one hundred hands are employed
and the sales amount to about $150,000 per year. Sixty-four different kinds and sizes of hammers are made and are
generally acknowledged to be the best in the market. Mr. Maydole gives his personal attention to the manufacture
of these hammers and allows no defective work to leave the shop. To this in a great degree may- be attributed the
fact that he meets with no com petition in the market. The number of hammers made averages. from forty to fifty
dozen per day.
The Norwich Charcoal Blast Furnace was erected in 1856, by Andrews, Rider & Co., and cost about $25,000. The
ore used is from Salisbury, in Dutchess County, and the iron manufactured amounts to about 1500 tons annually.
The present proprietors areĽ Russell & Angel, ear wheel manufacturers, of Chicago, Ill., and Adrian, Mich.;
J. & N. C. Scoville, of Buffalo and Toronto, and B. B. Andrews, of Norwich. The iron manufactured is used by
the proprietors at their foundries in the places above named. About 25 hands are employed. On the 21st of April,
1869, the establishment was burned, but is now being rebuilt.
White Store, (p. v.) in the south-east part of the town, contains a church, a hotel, a grist mill, a saw mill,
a blacksmith shop and about a dozen houses.
Polkville is a hamlet near the center of the town.
The first settlement within the present limits of Norwich was made in 1788, by Avery Power. He came here previous
to the treaty by which the Twenty Towns were ceded to the State, and located on what was known as the Indian Fields,
on lot 39, in the south-east part of the village of Norwich. When the surveyors came here to run out the land it
is said that Power paid for his farm by boarding the surveyors and assisting them in their labors. His farm was
purchased of the State at the minimum price, three shillings per acre. In 1800 he sold out to John Randall for
four thousand and one hundred dollars. The farm contained 286 acres, including the whole of lot 39 and 36 acres
over. In the fall of 1790 and spring of 1791, several other settlers came from Massachusetts and Connecticut and
settled in various parts of the town. These settlers came via Albany to the Unadilla River and followed marked
trees to the Power farm. Where the streams were too deep to ford with safety they crossed in canoes. Some came
by the way of Whitestown and down the valley. David Fairchild was one of the first settlers and located near the
south line of the town and subsequently removed to Preston. Silas Cole is another of. the early settlers. His farm,
according to Clark's History, must have embraced nearly the same as that of Avery Power. He says: "The Cole
farm iiicluded all of the corporate limits of Norwich village lying. north of where the Canasawacha Creek crosses
South Main Street, and east of South Main Street to where East Street intersects Main Street." He built a
house for a tavern, and when the first militia muster was advertised for Norwich, made great preparations to entertain
the assembled multitude. Though the crowd that assembled was even greater than was expected, the inn keepers failed
to gain the largest share of their patronage, as the village swarmed with hucksters who ministered to the wants
of the multitude, leaving the landlords to dispose of Their supplies at the best market offered. Mr. C. became
involved by his outlay on this occasion and was compelled to sell his farm. He removed to the State of Ohio, where
he died. William Smiley came into the town about the same time and settled south of the village. Flis farm included
the once famous Sulphur Spring which was destroyed by an attempt to improve it. Nicholas Pickett was another who
came about the same time. Major Thomas Brooks, from Massachusetts, who was engaged in "Shay's rebellion,"
came here and settled on the west Green in N orwich. He built a log cabin without using either hammer or nails.
He subsequently removed to Plymouth, where he died. He was a soldier of the Revolution and was at the battle of
Bunker Hill. Israel, CharJes and Matthew Graves were among the early settlers and purchased all that part of the
village lying west of South Main Street, and extending to the Creek and as far north, as the Green. Other early
settlers were Josiah Brown, John Wait, Martin Taylor,Joseph Skinner, Captain John Harris, Samuel Hammond, William
and Hascall Ransford, Chauncey and. William Gibson, Simeon and Job Spencer, John Welch, Lemuel Southwick, Col.
William Monroe, Lobden Jaynes, Richard Miller, Manasseh French, Joab Enos, Elisha Smith, Mark, William and Stephen
Steer, stephen Collins, James Gilmore, Moses Snow, John Randall and his son the last named still living, John McNitt,
David and John Shattuck.
The first child born in the town was Lucy Power, and the first male child Marcus
Cole. The first marriage was that of Hascall Ransford and Miss Harriet Graves, July 12, 1792. There was no clergyman
or other person authorized to marry, nearer than Tioga Point, and Mr. Ransford at first proposed to go there to
have the ceremony performed, but finally it was decided to make a Justice of the Peace for the occasion, and the
oath was accordingly administered to Joab Enos, who performed his part in the drama to the satisfaction of the
parties most intimately- concerned. Doctor Jonathan Johnson was the first physician of the town, he came from Connecticut
and settled here about 1794. His widow who was a younger sister of Mrs. Haseall Ransford, the first bride of the
town, is still living. Dr. Johnson enjoyed a lucrative practice for many years. In the early years of his practice
the forests were infested by wild beasts, whose howls and screams made night hideous as he pursued his lonely way
over the hills and through the valleys.
Truman Enos, now living in the village of Norwich, came here in 1806 and, established a tannery which he carried
on about forty years. He says Joshua Whipple kept a store near the site of the drug store, on Main Street, a hogshead
of whisky being the chief article of trade.
The first mills were built by Deacon Elisha Smith, on the west side of the Creek, opposite the present stone mill,
in 1798. Near the site of the Hughson House was a large trough to hold the lye from several leaches, and near by
was a row of kettles to convert the same into black salts.
Dr. Harvey Harris, son of Capt. John Harris, was born in 1795, and is the oldest resident of the town, who was
born here. Tie informed the writer that five hundred Indians once stopped at his father's, on their way to attend
a council at Tioga Point. They proceeded down the river in canoes.
Captain Harris's farm was upon the' hill on the east side of North Main Street. The first town meeting was held
at the house of Captain Harris in 1793. Subsequently the town meeting was held at the house of Hascall Rausford,
who is said to have kept the first inn, though Mr. Power provided entertainment for travelers at an earlier day,
and the State Gazetteer says Benjamin Edmunds kept the first inn. It appears from the best information at hand
that Mr. Ranford's inn was much larger and' much more worthy of the name than any that preceded it. Mr. Ransford
was also the first post master, the mail being received once a week. Deacon Charles Randall, now living in Norwich,
informed the writer that when eighteen years of age he moved with his father from Stonington, Connecticut, to Pharsalia,
driving an ox team through the whole distance. He started with two yoke,and at Hartford added another. He crossed
the Hudson at Catskill and after a journey of twenty-one days arrived at his place of destination. This was in
May, 1798. A few years afterwards, his father, Mr. John Randall, purchased a farm in the present limits of Norwich
and removed hither.
Mr. Leonard M. Cutting was the original purchaser of this town, and on the arrival of settlers refused to sell
his land, but wished to lease it after the manner of the Van Rensseiaers and some other early land holders. The
settlers declined to enter upon the land upon such terms and proposed to remove to Whitestown, but finally Melanethon
Smith and John Stiles purchased Cutting's land and sold to the settlers at $2.50 per acre.
Peter B. Garnsey was an extensive land owner and was during his life identified with the prosperity of Norwich,
and his heirs are still land owners in the town.
The writer was unable to find the early records of the town and consequently is unable to give the early .town
officers and many other facts usually obtained from such records.
The first religious services were held by Rev. Manasseh French, in. 1793 or 1794. Rev. John Camp preached for several
years, alternating between this town and Oxford. In 1814 Rev. Joel Benedict and other missionaries visited the
town and their labors were attended with such success that a church of the Congregational br Presbyterian order
was organized. We quote the following from Hotehkin's History: "Mr. Benedict, in his report to the Trustees
of the Missionary Society, says, 'In the shire-town of the County of Chenango, called Norwich, for years past the
greatest stupidity, and an almost total indifference to divine things prevailed, and the Sabbath was wholly neglected.
During the last winter and spring the Lord remarkably owned the labors of missionaries in that place. I organized
a church there in June, consisting of twenty members, and on the Sabbath the - audience was large, nearly four
hundred persons attended. It is impossible to describe the alteration that has taken place there within a short
time, for the better.'" For several years succeeding this we have no report of the Church.
The Baptist Church of Norwich was organized August 18, 1814, with fifteen members; Rev. Jedediah Randall, pastor.
The following are the names of the other members at its organization, viz., John Hascall, John Randall, Beriah
Lewis, Elias Breed, Thomas Prentice, Reuben Nichols, Lois Lewis, Lois W. Lewis, Mary Norton, 'Anna Nichols, Huldah
Welch, Anna York, Elizabeth Breed arid Pruda Bushnell. On the first of March following, a council of members from
North Norwich, Preston, Pharsalia, German and Brookfield, agreed unanimously to give them fellowship as a church.
Of this council Jonathan Ferris was moderator and Nathan Noyes, clerk. The first person baptized was Miss Martha
G. Randall, in May, 1815. The last of the band who organized this Church, Mrs. Elizabeth Breed, died in thefall
of 1868. She was a sister of Miss Randall, the first one. baptized.
The Baptist Church and Society was organized August 12, 1816. Their first meetings were held in the Court House.
Their first house of worship was erected on the east side of the square, opposite. It was burned in 1845. . A new
house was nearly completed when the fire occurred, and was dedicated in December, 1845. It is of stone, situated
on the north side of the square, and cost originally $9,000. It has recently been repaired and presents a beautiful
appearance in the interior and exterior. The Church has had twelve pastors since its organization. The oldest surviving
member, Mrs. Elizbeth Lewis, was baptized December 9, 1816. Soon after the great revival of 1816, one hundred and
three persons were baptized. The present membership is five hundred and six; the whole number of males added to
the Church by baptism is 410; number of females, 648; the whole number of additions, 1,578, and the number who
have died, 214. Rev. J. D. Pope is the present pastor.
We were unable to learn at what time the Methodist Church was organized, but their house of worship was dedicated
in 1836. Rev. Lyman Beach was the pastor at that time. The present membership is about 400. Rev.. W. A. Wadsworth
The population of Norwich in 1865 was 4,331, and its area 26,892 acres.
The number of school districts is twenty; number of children of school age, 1,441; number attending school, 938;
average attend-' dance, 430; amount expended for school purposes during the last year, $5,830.68.