History of DeWitt, NY
FROM: History of Onondaga County, New York
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches.
By: Professor W. W. Clayton
Published By D. Mason & Co., Syracust NY 1878


DEWITT was taken from Manlius and erected into a separate town April 12, 1835. It was named in honor of "Moses DeWitt, Major of Militia and Judge of the County Courts; one of the first, most active and useful settlers of the county. He was born on the 15th of October, 1766, and died on the 15th day of August, 1794." Such is the inscription found upon a marble slab which covers his remains in a small family burying ground about a mile south of Jamesville. The same stone bears the further inscription: "Also of his brother, Egbert DeWitt, born 25th of April, 1768; died 30th of May, 1793." Moses DeWitt was descended from a distinguished family of Holland, which immigrated to New York, and a branch of which settled in Orange County. His father was Jacob Rutzen DeWitt, a brother of the mother of DeWitt Clinton. The family mansion in the town of Deer Park, on the banks of the Neversink River, in the County of Orange, N.Y., had been built as a sort of a castle for defense against the Indians, and during the French War and the War of the Revolution had been strongly fortified. The walls were of stone, of immense thickness, and surrounded by a row of palisades. It was occupied by a garrison during the Revolution.

Moses DeWitt and his distinguished cousin, DeWitt Clinton, were in early life schoolmates, under the tuition of Thomas White, an English gentleman of liberal education, who formed a strong attachment to Mr. DeWitt, "was with him much of his life, and closed his eyes in death." Moses D. Burnet and Thomas Rose of Syracuse, were relatives of Moses DeWitt.

Moses DeWitt was associated with his uncle, Gen. James Clinton, and David Rittenhouse, Esq., as one of the surveyors of the boundary line between New York and Pennsylvania, when the former two gentlemen were Commissioners appointed by their respective States, to survey and establish the boundary-line-a work which lasted about three years; and during this time proved himself a skillful surveyor and engineer. When the Military Tract was laid out, the SurveyorGeneral, his uncle, Simeon DeWitt, appointed him as Assistant Surveyor, and with Abraham Hardenburgh, he laid'out and surveyed the several townships, and, with the assistance of other surveyors, subdivided them into lots. For this valuable service the State granted him several thousand acres of land, scattered throughout the Military Tract, and along the southern tier of counties, bordering on Pennsylvania. At the organization of Herkimer County, in 1791, he was appointed Surrogate and Justice of the Peace, and was the first man to perform the duties of that office on the Military Tract. In 1793 he was appointed a Major of Militia, and with Major (afterward General) Dariforth, had charge of a battalion. At the organization of Onondaga County, in 1794, he was appointed Judge of the Courts, Surrogate and Justice of the Peace, and was chosen the first Supervisor of Pompey, in April, 1794. His residence was on Lot No. 3, Pompey, (now northeast corner of LaFayette) a lot which had been drawn by his uncle, General James Clinton. In order to secure a valuable waterpower on Butternut Creek, on which he contemplated making extensive improvements, he had purchased fifty acres adjoining in the present town of DeWitt. But his untimely death brought all his labors and earthly prospects to a sudden termination. He died at the age of twenty-eight years, August 15, 1794.

The town of DeWitt has a surface of considerable variety, and in many places the scenery is unusually beautiful. The northern half is level, and the southern broken and hilly. The declivities of the hills are usually steep, and their summits from five to seven hundred feet above the valleys. Butternut Creek, flowing north, divides the highlands into two nearly equal ridges. Upon this stream are several fine mill sites. The falls below Jamesville are somewhat interesting as a curiosity. The water falls about thirty feet perpendicularly, and the breadth of the creek is about forty feet. Its rocky chasm and sublime scenery, connected with the immense beds of gypsum and water-lime, and the extensive works for their manufacture, render this a very desirable place for the rambles of the tourist and the researches of the geologist. There is a tradition, that at the time the French colony, located a little south of Jamesville, were massacred, one escaped and was pursued, overtaken and killed near these falls.

The first gypsum was discovered northwest of Jamesville, on Lot 81, in 1811. The first discovered in the United States was in the town of Camillus, in 1792. It had previously been brought from Nova Scotia, and was called Nova Scotia Plaster. Before this it had been brought to this country from France and Germany in limited quantities, under the name of plaster of paris. Dr. Franklin first introduced it into the United States as a vegetable stimulant. Robert Livingston first introduced it into the eastern part of the State of New York in 1805.

Water-lime was discovered in this town in 1818 or 1819, and is now prepared for market in large quantities principally in the towns of Manlius and DeWitt. (See Fayetteville Manufacturers.)

Clark, in his Onoridaga, gives the following account of certain caves in the vicinity of Jamesville:

"Nathan Beckwith, in sinking a well, about a mile east of Jamesville, in 1807, discovered a large cavern. It has been explored to some extent in a southwesterly direction from the entrance at the well. The depth at the entrance of the cavern may be about twenty feet; height of the cavern at the entrance, about seven feet; width, near fiVC feet. These dimensions continue six or eight rods, when the space becomes contracted to a width just sufficient for a single persou to pass through. It soon becomes broader. The size is very far from being uniform, the top in some places being not more than three or four feet from the bottom. Dogtooth spar, stalactites and stalagmites, are numerous. A small stream of water runs along the bottom.

"There is another cave, about two miles west of Jamesville, on the farm of the late Mr. Brown, which is several hundred feet deep and which has never been thoroughly explored. The opening from the top is through a fissure about three feet broad by eight feet long. After descending some twenty feet, there is an extensive opening to the great valley below. It is supposed that this cave extends all along the great ledge of limestone rock, from the western part of DeWitt, nearly to Jamesville. The ledge is usually about two hundred feet high. The cave itself is a great singularity, if not curiosity.

"At the time this cave was first made known to the settlers, tools which had been used for mining purposes were found at its mouth, and also a bar of solid silver two inches square and eighteen inches long, having a point of steel. It is also reported that a kettle of money was found about twenty rods from the cave, which was supposed to have been coined there."

In the southwest corner of the town, about a mile and a half from Jamesville, is a small lake occupying a deep chasm in the rocks. It is nearly circular in form, about eighty rods in diameter, and is almost surrounded by perpendicular banks from 150 to 200 feet high. This is one of the most singular bodies of water in Central New York. It has no outlet, but upon the eastern side is a low marsh through which the water might flow, but does not. In several places near the center a lead has been lowered three hundred feet without finding bottom, and within fifty feet of the shore the water is over a hundred feet deep. The water drawn from a considerable depth is highly charged with sulphureted hydrogen. Another lake of similar character lies two miles east of Jamesville.

MESSINA SPRINGS, three in number and twenty feet apart, are situated about three and a half miles east of Syracuse. The name was given them in 1835 by the people in the vicinity, on account of their contiguity to Syracuse, as the place of the same name is in Sicily. They emerge from a limestone rock on the surface of which is found specimens of calcareous substances. The temperature is uniformly fifty degrees Fahrenheit. The water is strongly impregnated with sulphur and has considerable local notoriety for medicinal qualities.


Benjamin Morehouse, from Fredericksburg, Dutchess County, N. Y., was the first settler in the town of DeWitt. He arrived here, with his wife and three children, following the Indian trail from Oneida to Onondaga, April 26, 1789. His log house was erected on the flats a few yards west of the old church, three and a half miles west of Manlius Village, then called by the Indian name, Kasoongkta Flats. Mr. Morehouse here opened the first tavern kept in the county in 1790, and it became a noted place, no less than its proprietor, who, on account of his dignified deportment, was popularly known and addressed as "Governor." At Mr. Morehouse's tavern was held many of the early meetings,both of a civic and military character, for this new region of country. When he first settled here his nearest neighbors were Asa Danforth and Comfort Tyler, seven miles distant at Onondaga Hollow. In 1791, he carried a plowshare on his back to Westmoreland, Oneida County, to get it sharpened, and while the blacksmith was doing the work he proceeded to Herkimer, purchased thirty pounds of flour and returned on foot with flour and plowshare on his back. This was the first wheaten flour introduced into his family after their arrival, except a small quantity brought along with them, and it sufficed for their necessities for nearly a year.

The first settlers, from 1790 to 1800, in Jamesville and vicinity, were Moses DeWitt, Daniel Keeler, Dr. Holbrook, Jeremiah Jackson, William Bends, Stephen Angel, Stephen Hungerford, Jeremiah and James Gould, Roger Merrill, Caleb Northrup, Benjamin Sanford and others. Jeremiah Jackson erected the first frame dwelling house in 1797; Joseph Purdy opened the first blacksmith shop about the same time. In 1798 Mathew Dumfrie built a distillery, malt house and brewery, and manufactured the first beer and whisky made in the county. Oliver Owen erected a saw mill in 1795. Mr. Trowbridge kept the first tavern at Jamesville, in 1804; Daniel Olmstead kept it in r8o6, when it was considered the best tavern west of Utica. In 1804, Benjamin Sanford built mills, and Mr. Hungerford started clothing works about the same time. John Post, from Utica, opened a store of goods, one mile east of Jamesville in 1802; Robbins & Callighan, in 1804, and Mr. Keeler, in 1805. Esquire Edgar opened a law office at Morehouse's Flats at an early day, and had for students Moses D. Rose and Luther Badger. Dr. Holbrook, the first physician in the town, located at Jarnesville in 1791. The doctor presided at the first public meeting held in this section of the country, convened at Morehouse's tavern for the purpose of taking preliminary measures for the division of Herkimer County. John Youngs was the first settler of Orville, in 1791, and kept the first tavern in that part of the town. The settlement, on this account, first went by the name of Youngsville. Mr. Youngs erected the first frame house and was for many years Justice of the Peace - the first in the town of Manlius.


Jarnesville is situated on the Syracuse, Binghamton and New York Railroad, and on Butternut Creek, seven miles from Syracuse. It has a population of about three hundred and fifty inhabitants, and is a thriving village, the amount of business transacted being larger by far than is done in most places of its size. The principal interests being stone, lime and plaster. There are two firms engaged in that business, viz: Robert Dunlop and Alvord, Dixon & Weston. Mr. Dunlop is also engaged largely in milling, owning and operating two grist mills, one saw-mill and a pearl barley mill, also extensive lime-kilns. There are several parties engaged in the immediate vicinity of Jamesville, quarrying and cutting stone of a very superior quality, which is shipped to all points in Central New York, and very largely to Syracuse, where it is used in building, many of the handsomest and most substantial structures being entirely or partly built of it.

The commercial interests are somewhat limited at present, owing to the great conflagration which occurred here October 14, 1877, whereby all the business portion of the village was laid in ashes- two hotels, the "Kortright House," and the" Clark House," three stores, kept by Reed & Conkling, Connell & Co., and Daniel Quinlan, Avery's restaurant and residence, a boot and shoe store kept by Isaac L. Sherwood, and four dwelling houses, one church and five barns were devoured by the raging element. The loss by the fire was estimated to be about fifty thousand dollars, an amount certainly sufficient to make the hearts of the citizens of the unfortunate place sink with despair. Rebuilding has commenced with vigor and one block is already up and ocoupied by Daniel Quinlan, who keeps a general stock such as is found in country stores. The "Kortright House" is being rebuilt, and will be ready for occupancy about June 1, 1878. It is to be a large structure, two stories in height with Mansard roof, and will be, probably, the finest hotel in the county outside of Syracuse.

The industrial interests of Jamesville are as follows: Two carriage and repair shops by Erasmus Green and Charles Cable; one sash and blind factory, by G. W. Burhans & Co.; one harness shop, by R. H. Bristoll, and two shoe shops.

Isaac K. Reed is Postmaster. Two physicians,. E. E. Knapp, M. D., and R. S. Humphrey, M. D. B. S. Gregory, who has resided here for the past forty-three years, is the only attorney here. He was Justice of the Peace for eight years, and is now also engaged in the insurance business.

The name of Jamesville was adopted at the time "The Jamesville Iron and Woolen Factory" was incorporated in 1809. The name was given by the Legislature in the act of incorporation, and was first published and proclaimed in a great Fourth-of-July celebration held here in 1810. In 1809 a postoffice was established, Thomas Rose, Postmaster; succeeded by Moses D. Rose. The first school house for Jamesville was erected east of the village in 1795. Folly Hibbard was teacher, succeeded by Susan Ward. The first school in Jamesville was established in 1806.

"ST. MARKS" EPISCOPAL CHURCH, JamesvIlle.- As early as June 6th, 1825, meetings were held in the house of Elijah C. Rust although it was not until July 13th, 1831, that the society was organized. The organization was perfected at Mr. Rust's, the following named persotis being among the original members: John Millen, Mrs. Ives, Mrs. Dibble, Harriet Gillespie, Helen Post, Hiram P. Holbrook, John Crankshaw, Mary Ann Holbrook, Mrs. Read, Phebe Wales, Catherine Littlefield, Abigail Salmon, and others. In the following year a church was built on a corner of the road leading north to Syracuse and the Seneca Turnpike. Rev. Seth W. Beardsley was the first rector and served this parish from 1831 to 1836. He was followed by Rev. Marshall Whiting, 1836 to 1839. After this came Revs. James Selkrig, Chas. W. Hayes, Julius S. Townsend, H. H. Loring, M. L. Kern, J. L. Gay, J. E. Barr, J. H. Bowman, whose respective terms of service we are unable to give owing to lack of records. Rev. J. E. Pratt, the present rector, has been connected with the church since 1873. The present number of communicants is twentyfive.

The church building was remodeled in the summer of 1874, at an expense of about $2,500. Burned, Oct. 14, 1877. Another church will in all probability be erected during 1878.

The present officers are Robert Dunlop, and Edwin A. Knapp, Wardens. J. G. Holbrook, C. W. Avery, G. B. Low, H. D. Weston, H. G. Dixon, E. C. Conklin, J. E. Van Vranken, I. K. Reed, Vestrymen.

M. E. CHURCH OF JAMESVILLE.- Most of the early records of this society have been lost, but from what we can find after diligent search, we can give the date of its organization and the names of the first Trustees only, which was in the year 1832, Hiram C. Snow and Joseph C. Green, presiding at the meeting called for that purpose, the following named persons being elected Trustees. Egbert Coleman, Moses Chapman, Abraham Van Chaick, Darius Sweet and Cornelius Cool; all of whom it is thought are now dead. It was "resolved that the organization be known as the Fourth Society of the M. E. Church in Manlius."

The present membership is about one hundred. A flourishing Sunday School of about fifty scholars, D. E. Weston, Superintendent. A. H. Shurtliff, pastor, who supplies the M. E. Church at DeWitt. The church is supplied with a cabinet organ.

The present Trustees are the following: O. M. Watkins, John S. Barker, A. A. Wright, P. B. Gove, and Albert Boughton.

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF JAMESVILLE. - This church was originally known as the Union Congregational Society, and was organized in October, 1807. Soon after this they built their first church, which was situated about one mile east of Jamesville on the farm of Daniel B. Marsh, one of the first preachers. Among the early members of this church were Deacons Ayer, Messenger, Barnum, Levett and Hezekiah Weston. In 1827 the society began holding meetings in Jamesville, which was more centrally located, and the following year erected the house now occupied by them, under the pastorate of Rev. Seth J. Porter. Among the prominent members of that time were Isaac W. Brewster, David Smith, Horace B. Gates and Amos Sherwood. At this time there were two hundred and forty-seven members in the church. In December, 1843, the church voted to adopt the constitution of the Onondaga County Conference, consisting of members of the Presbyterian and Congregational order, within the bounds of the Onondaga Presbytery, and in March, 1870, the Trustees petitioning the Judge of the County, the name was changed to the First Presbyterian Church of Jamesville. In 1832 there was a secession on the part of some of the members, who organized a Dutch Reformed Church, but this society only survived five or six years, when they disbanded and returned to the old church. The present membership is but forty-five. The Sabbath School attendance, fifty. The present officials are Rev. H. C. Hazen, Pastor; Daniel Marsh, Darius C. Avery and Benjamin S. Gregory, Trustees. The church building cost about $3,000.

METHODIST EPISCOPAL YOUNGS' SOCIETY OF DEWITT.- This society was organized in 1871, in the village of Orville, now DeWitt. under the ministration of Rev. Dan Barnes, taking the name and title of "The Ycungs' Society." The first Trustees were John Youngs, Sr., John Youngs, Jr., Zephaniah Lathrop, Benjamin Booth and Peter G. Van Slyke. This was then in the Pompey Circuit, of which William Case was then Presiding Elder, and the pastors were Rev. Dan Barnes and James Kelsey. The first class consisted of the Trustees and John Russell, Freelove Russell, Elizabeth Youngs, Seth Youngs, Jonas Scott, Mary Scott and Daniel Knapp. Immediately upon this organization they proceeded to erect their church, which stands upon the Turnpike leading to Jamesyule. The society was reorganized and reincorporated in May, 1826, as the Methodist Episcopal Youngs' Society of Orville. This society continued occupying their church until 1863, when the Presbyterian Society disbanded and gave their church building to this society in consideration of certain repairs. A special act of the Legislature was procured allowing this transfer, also empowering the Youngs' Society to convey their building to the School District, since which time the Youngs' Church has been used as a school house. The society at an expense of $1,200, repaired the old Presbyterian Church, which the society still occupy. The present membership is fifty. Sabbath School attendance seventy-five. The present Trustees are Emerson Kinne, James Moulter, D. C. Peck, Wm. Adams and G. C. Ferris. Rev. Shurtliff is pastor of this and Jamesville charge.

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH of Collamer. - Meetings were held in what was known as the Britton Settlement school house, where, in Oct. 1842, the church was organized with a membership of seventeen, among whom were John Furbeck, Sarah Baker, Deborah Furbeck, Prudence Smith and the present elders, Porter Baker, Samuel Baker, John Powlesland, and Orlando Spencer; also Deacons Dwight Baker and Andrew Fuller. In 1843 the present church edifice was erected at a cost of $600. The organization was effected under the pastorate of Rev. Amos W. Seeley who was succeeded by Rev. A. C. Lathrop who remained three years, followed by Rev. B. Ladd, after whom came Rev. Marcus Smith who labored here for twelve years, then Rev. J. M. Chrysler was called and remained five years; since then the present pastor, John M. Perkins. The present membership is seventy. Sabbath school attendance fifty.

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, of East Syracuse.- This, the youngest church in the county, was organized in 1876, by Rev. J. M. Chrysler, who came as a missionary preacher and by his energy succeeded in organizing a society and erecting a commodious church on the corner of Carpenter and Ellis streets. The society was organized, January 27, 1876, with twenty members-the most active of whom were Mr. and Mrs. John Jones, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Henry, Mr. and Mrs. E. S. Walker and Evan J. Crans. There have been 17 accessions since the organization and the flourishing Sabbath School of seventy members is a strong auxiliary. Rev. J. M. Chrysler still continues in charge and secures the hearty cooperation of his people.

METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, of Collamer.This was the first charge of the North Manlius Circuit and in 1828, when it was organized, was so designated. In 1830 the society erected their church at what is now Collamer Village then known as the Britton Settlement, under the pastorate of Rev. Austin Briggs. There were then nine trustees who were, the pastor, Adam Harrower, Isaac Carhart, Walter Wright, James Wright, Erastus B. Perkins, John Rowe and Abraham Delamater, all members of the first class which was organized several years prior to this time under the ministration of Rev. Seth Youngs.

About 1841, when the Rev. A. E. Munson came to this charge, he found the society in a condition that required a reorganization and through his efforts the society was reincorporated as the First M. E. Church of the northern part of De Witt. The church has been several times repaired and in 1857 it was rededicated as the first M. E. Church of Collamer. It cost about $2,500. The present membership is 112; Sabbath school 137. Present pastor, Rev. M. A. Wolcott.

FLOURING MILLS.- Lanark Mills were erected in 1823, by Robert Richardson, about 1-2 mile north of Jamesville. They contain four run of stones grinding about 30,000 bushels of grain, merchant and custom, annually. They are run by P. B. Gove & Son, and owned by Robert Dunlop. Costabout $15,000. Frame building, water-power.

FEEDER OR NEW YORK MILLS.- Built by Robert Dunlop in 1847, at a cost of $10,000. Frame building, stone basement, situated at the head of the canal feeder, contain three run of stones, leased by James Doe who grinds about 72,000 bushels of custom and merchant grain per annum.

BARLEY MILLS were erected on Butternut Creek about one mile north of Jamesville in 1840, frame building with stone basement. Contains three run of stone for pearling barley. Capacity about 10,000 bushels per annum, run mostly by lessees. These mills cost about $7,500. In connection with these there is a Mully Saw Mill, the only one in the town.

DUNLOP'S PLASTER AND CEMENT MILLS.- There are two located near the Lanark mills, one erected in 1836, the other in i868, owned and worked by Robert Dunlop. From these mills he manufactures about 7,000 tons of plaster and 30,000 bushels of cement or water-lime, employing about twenty men. The stone is taken from his quarries in the adjacent hills.

A. F. WILCOX'S PLASTER BEDS.- In 1812 Asahel Wilcox discovered a bed of gypsum two miles west of Fayetteville which he opened and which has been worked ever since by himself and the present proprietor, A. F. Wilcox. From these beds, which cover an area of about eighty acres, Mr. Wilcox takes from 8,000 to 15,000 tons of gypsum annually, which he ships to parties owning mills. Most of it is shipped from Jones's landing by Canal. During the winter season he employs from twenty to thirty teams and hands hauling it to the docks for summer shipment.

E. B. ALVORD & Co.- This firm is doing the most extensive business in cement, plaster, lime and stone done in the town. They began in 1868, purchasing the business of Hotaling & Co. Their quarry for cement and lime is situated about one mile south of Jamesville and covers twenty acres. In this quarry are eight kilns for burning the stone, from these kilns they take 125,000 bushels of quicklime and about the same of cement, which, with the plaster, is ground in their mill in Jamesville. The plaster comes from a quarry north of the village. They employ about twenty-five men; shipping 2,000 tons of plaster annually as well as a large quantity of cut stone for building and bridges. Capital, $50,000.

DUNLOP'S LIME KILNS.- Just north of the village of Jamesville are three large kilns seven feet in diatheter and forty feet deep, erected and worked by Robert Dunlop, from which he manufactures about 30,000 bushels of quick lime and 30,000 bushels of hydraulic cement annually.


This village, though rather small, is quite important as a place for shipping grain by the canal and as a station of the Chenango Valley Railroad. In 1871 a postoffice was located here and Mr. Stephen Headson appointed Postmaster. He also engaged in general mercantile business buying grain and produce, and in 1870 erected a substantial brick business block and warehouse, in which he does a business of $65,000 per annum.

DEWITT MILLS.- In 1821, Mr. William M. King erected a grist, plaster and cement mill upon the present site of the DeWitt Mills, about one and a half miles north of Jamesville, on Butternut Creek. In 1869, A. B. King became sole proprietor, and rebuilt the mill which now represents a cost of about $10,000. This mill furnished considerable water-lime used in the construction of the locks and masonry of the Erie Canal and was among the first cement mills erected.


In October, 1872, the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company purchased one hundred and fifty acres of land in Lots 42 and 43 for freight-yards, round-houses and shops, and established a half-way station between Rochester and Albany. Since then a very fine village of about three hundred houses, several hotels, four stores, a market and one church have sprung up as if by magic, and are growing very rapidly. The
railroad company have erected two substantial brick round-houses with room for forty-four locomotives, with turn-tables, shops, &c; have laid twenty-six miles of track in the yard, erected extensive coal houses and chutes, and have graded and prepared the site for the building of extensive shops. This promises to become a very important and populous village, the surroundings being so favorable as to make it a very desirable place to live in, and already many engineers and trainmen are building themselves homes and bringing their families from Rochester and Albany.

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