History of Ridgeway, NY
FROM: Gazetteer and Business Directory
OF Orleans County, N. Y. For 1869.
Compiled and Published By Hamilton Child, Syracuse, NY 1862

RIDGEWAY, named from the Ridge Road, which passes east and west through it on the Lake Ridge, was formed from Batavia, (Genesee Co.) June 8, 1812. Gaines was taken off in 1816, Shelby in 1818, and Yates and a part of Canton in 1822. It lies upon the west border of the County, between Yates and Shelby, and is drained by Johnson's and Oak Orchard Creeks and their tributaries. At Medina is a beautiful cascade, about thirty feet high, and at Oak Orchard, where the stream crosses the Lake Ridge, is another fall of less hight. There is another fall at Jeddo, where the creek of the same name crosses the Lake Ridge. The surface is generally level and the soil is a sandy loam. Several salt springs are found in this town from which salt was inanufactured as early as 1805. The works were erected by the Holland Company, about one and a half miles north of Medina, and two roads were opened about the same time, one south to the Old Buffalo Road and the other east to the Oak Orchard Road, called the Salt Works Road. In and near the village of Medina are extensive quarries from which building and flagging stone are obtained in large quantities and sent to Rocbester, Buffalo and other places on the canal. The upper layers cleave off in smooth slabs, from two to five inches thick. The succeeding layers are thicker, some of them, in the lower strata, several feet.

Medina, (p. v.,) situated upon the south border of the town, partly in Shelby, was incorporated March 30, 1832. it is an important station upon the canal and railroad, and contains five churches, viz., Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Roman Catholic; a union school, three hotels, four grist and flouring mills, three foundries and machine shops, three steam stave and heading mills, a sash, blind and planing mill, a linseed oil mill, gas works, a turning shop, a newspaper office and about 3,500 inhabitants. The village is regularly laid out and the streets are shaded by beautiful rows of trees. There are several very fine business blocks, of Medina sandstone, which would be an ornament to any town and are not surpassed in this County.

The first Trustees of the village, elected May 1st, 1832, were Justus Ingersoll, Asahel Woodruff, Nathan Sawyer, James E. Evans and Haisted H. Parker.

The Public School is under the management of a Board of Education, consisting of nine members. The course of study embraces. six grades, including the higher mathematics and languages.

Ridgeway Corners (p. v.,) contains a Universalist church, a hotel, a store and about 150 inhabitants.

Jeddo, (p. v.,) in the west part of the town, contains a saw mill, a grist mill, two blacksmiths shops, a wagon shop, a cooper shop, a shoe store and about thirty houses.

Oak Orchard (p. o.,) is a hamlet and contains one store.

There is a Baptist church in the south-west part of the town.

Knowlesville, (p. v.,) on the Erie Canal, in the east part of the town, contains three churches, several mills and manufactories, and is a flourishing village. It received its name from William Knowles, the first settler of the village.

The settlement of this town was commenced by Ezra D. Barnes, from DeRuyter, Madison County, in 1809. Israel Douglas, Dyer Sprague, Otis Turner, Dr. William White, David Hooker and S. B. Murdock, were among the early settlers. Mr. Douglas was a native of Connecticut, but removed to Vermont with his father when quite small, and remained there until 1806, when he removed to Monroe Co., and, in 1810, to Ridgeway, at that time forming a part of Batavia. He was the first magistrate appointed within the present limits of Orleans Co., having been appointed previous to 1812; he was also elected Town Clerk at the first election after the formation of Ridgeway, and subsequently held several other offices, discharging their duties in such a manner as to show that he was one of the best business men in the County.

The late Judge Otis Turner was one of the early settlers, and came here in 1811. He came with an ox team from Palmyra, transporting his family and household goods. There were no bridges across the streams, and the passage of the Genesee above the falls was attended with great peril. Taking the near ox by the horns he made the passage in safety, and, proceeding west by the Ridge Road, arrived at Oak Orchard, where he located. Dr. William White became the neighbor of Judge Turner soon after, and in company they erected a saw mill on the creek, between Oak Orchard and Medina. A mill had previously been erected at Medina by the Holland Company. The salt works at Oak Orchard were first worked by Israel Bennett in 1818. He bored about one hundred and fifty feet and obtained water of good strength, and at one time had seventy kettles in use for boiling purposes. The settlers in this region obtained their supply of salt at this place for several years. In 1823 Henry Boardman became proorietor, and after the completion of the canal the works were abandoned.

William C. Tanner and his brother, Josias Tanner, came from Vermont in 1816 with an ox team. The journey was performed in twenty-one days. In 1817 he became a Lieutenant of Militia, and in 1826 received the commission of Brig. General, the first in the County. Elder J. Morse also came in 1816. The sufferings of the early settlers can scarcely be realized at this day. At one time the Elder's cow lost her bell and was gone eight days, his stock of provisions was reduced to a small piece of bread and some maple sugar. He could get no flour and the grain in the field was not ripe. The small amount of bread was divided among the children, and some potato tops were boiled and eaten with vinegar, but the stomach was too weak to digest such food and rejected the whole. The next day he called on a neighbor who divided his scanty allowance of flour with him, and that, made into a pudding and eaten with molasses, was one of the sweetest meals he ever tasted.

Seymour Murdock came to Ridgeway in June 1810, and is said by some to be the first settler. The memory of the "oldest inhabitants" is not always alike, consequently we cannot always know what the facts are. Murdock raised a large family of children, eight sons and four daughters, eight of whom settled in this town. S. B. Murdock was a delegate to the first convention that met in the County to nominate County officers. He was the first commissioned officer of the Militia in the town, and was one of the Board that sat as the first Court Martial in Orleans County Hiram and Wm. Murdock came into the town in 1810, and are now living. George Davis came in 1810, and a daughter of his about seven years old was the first person who died in the town.

Miss Betsey Murdock taught the first school in the summer of 1814; her school house was a barn which is still standing. The first school house was erected in 1815, and the school was taught by Lucy Judson. The first male teacher was Cyrus Morrison. Eli Xtoore kept the first store and the tirst inn in the town.

F. H. Daniels came in 1811; P. H. Hooker in 1812, and is now living where he first settled, on the Ridge Road, east of the Corners. Witter Stewart came in 1811, raised a company for the war of 1812, and served as Captain during the war. William Cobb, Asel and H. N. Parker and Daniel F. Hunt, came in 1816. Amos Barrett came to Ridgeway in March, 1812, with a sled drawn by an ox and a horse. Jeremiah Webb came to Murray in 1815, and remained there until 1820, then removed to Shelby, where he remained until 1865, when he came to Ridgeway. Joseph Davis, Christopher Servss, Jonathan Barlow, Wm. Jackson, Henry McNeal, George W. Martin, Samuel Church, Jacob L. Weld and Lyman Bates, were among the early settlers.

The first town meeting of Ridgeway, was held April 6th, 1813.

OlIver Booth was elected Supervisor; Israel Douglass, Town Clerk;

Lansing Bailey, James Carpenter and Henry Lovewell, Assessors; John Proctor, Collector; John Anderson and Otis Turner, Overseers of the Poor; Samuel Clark, Gideon Freeman and William White, Commissoners of Highways; John Proctor, Minoris Day, Otis Turner and Robert Garter, Constables; James Mather and Eli Moore, Pound keepers. At this meeting $250.00 were raised for roads and bridges, and they "voted that the town of Ridgeway be divided into two towns, and that the line dividing the second and third ranges of townships be the division line."

The second annual town meeting was held April 5th, 1814. A bounty of five dollars on wolves killed in the town, was voted.- "Voted to raise double the sum of school money that should be drawn from the State for the use of schools." School Commissioners were allowed $1.12½ per day for services visiting schools. In 1815 they "voted to raise three times as much for schools as shall be apportioned to the town from the school fund." The bounty on wolves was raised to fifteen dollars.

In 1816, "Voted that if any man suffer a Canada thistle to go to seed on his land knowingly, shall forfeit one dollar to the poor." Adjourned to Ellicott's Mills.

O. Turner. Clerk.

At a special meeting held to discuss the subject of a division of the town, it was "Voted that this town be divided on the township line, between the 14th and 15th Townships, in the 3d and 4th Ranges, and that application be made to the next Legislature accordingly."

"Voted that the first town meeting in the new town be held near the mills of Andrew A. Ellicott, and that the first town meeting in the town of Ridgeway be held at the house of Eli Moore."

At a special meeting held Sept. 30th, 1819, Jeremiah Brown was appointed "Agent to wait on Joseph Ellicott respecting the land which the Holland Company intend to give each town of six miles square."

April 12th, 1823, a special town meeting was called " For raising a sum of money to build a bridge over a ditch which runs across the Ridge Road in District No. 1, and other purposes." The town also gave the Commissioners of Highways "sufficient authority to make such a compromise as they may think proper with those 'who first opened the drain which caused the above ditch, and if they cannot get a satisfactory compromise that they may commence by prosecution." In 1828, "Voted to raise all the money for the use of schools that the law will allow." This certainly is an indication that there was no lack of interest in the education of the rising generation.

From the Records of the Pioneer Association we derive the following incidents in the life of Seymour B. Murdock, who came to Ridgeway with his father in 1810. He was then fourteen years old and located on a part of the farm which he now occupies. The family consisted of twelve persons and came from Greene County, with an ox team. He says:

"We were a little over a month on the road and reached here the first day of June, domesticated ourselves in our wagons for almost six weeks and until we could erect a house in which to live. From Genesee River to Clarkson Corners was one dense wilderness, with only here and there a small clearing and the cabins of a few early immigrants. At Clarkson was a log tavern at which we stopped. From Clarkson to our final stopping place there were, I think, but three houses, and these all cheaply erected log ones. The roads were almost impassable, if roads they may be called. At Otter Creek, in Gaines, the fire had consumed the iogs thrown in to make a sort of dug-way up the bank, which necessitated an almost perpendicular ascent, to accomplish which,, we took off the oxen, drove them up the old road, and then, with teams on the hill and chains extending to the pole of the wagon below, drew it up. At first the draft appeared too great for the team, the oxen fell and were drawn back, and the horn of one ox broken off by catching under a root. The next difficulty was at a slash, two miles east of Oak Orchard Creek, where a Mr. Sibley had cut down timber along the track on both sides and had. set it on fire, rendering the passage difficult and dangerous, as the only passage was through the midst of the slash." At Oak Orchard Creek the dug-way down the bank was only wide enough for "Yankee Wagons," and Mr. Murdock's being a Pennsylvania wagon, with a longer axle, was in danger of going off the bank. At this point one of the children fell out of the wagon and might have been left had not his crying announced the mishap to the others. Mr. M. gives the following description of their first meal after arriving at the place of their destination. "This was arranged around a large stump, and I well remember the relish with which we all partook of our first meal at our new home in the west."

"The scenery as now remembered was truly magnificent, one dense forest composed of large sturdy oaks extended as far as the eye could reach, east and west, on the south side of the Ridge Road. On the north side the forest was more dense and composed of a greater variety of timber. The nearest clearing east was the one just named as burning; the nearest one west was at Johnson's Creek, about five miles distant, where there was a log house and a small clearing; this was our nearest neighbor. North, to the lake, the forest was unbroken, with no mark of human existence west of Oak Orchard Creek, so far as we knew." "South of us were no inhabitants, so far as we knew, except two families named Coon, who, I think, came the same spring, and one named Walsworth, near the Tonawanda Swamp, the only stopping place between our house and Batavia on this side of the swamp. The nearest store and post office were at Batavia, also the nearest church, thirty miles distant. The nearest grist mill was at Niagara Fails, forty miles distant." The first year the season had so far advanced that they could raise nothing except potatoes and turnips.

William Knowles came to Ridgeway in 1815, and located on lot 3, Township 15, Range 3. He took an Article of the Holland Company for 200 acres, and soon after purchased, at second hand, 141 acres more. In March, 1815, he hired two men in Riga to work for him, and without waiting for them, set out for his new habitation. He engaged board with William Slater, and with his ax upon his shoulder plunged into the forest, and upon his own land began to cut timber for a cabin. His biographer says: "The spot on which he cut the first tree is that now (1866) occupied by the residence of R. P. Wood, Esq. When the logs were put up, the roof was made of staves, or shakes, as they were called, fastened on with poles, and the floor consisted of split basswood logs, roughly hewn on one side. Mr. John Canifee, having a wife and one child, came along, and wanted a plaee of shelter until he could build on his own land. Satisfied with the accommodations, he took possession while the floor was only half laid and a blanket served for a door. In two weeks his men arrIved. They first marked out sixty rods square and began slashing down the trees and logged off and cleared a spot for oats and turnips, and in the fall had sixteen acres sown to wheat." Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, and wife of one of the hired men, died, and the men left soon after. Mr. Knowles then boarded with Mr. Canifee until November, when he went to Massachusetts and returned in January, 1816, with a wife. A set of splint bottomed chairs, which he had purchased as a part of his furniture, were regarded by the neighbors as an extravagant expenditure. A board placed upon a barrel answered for a table, and their bedstead was made by boring into the walls of the house and inserting rods. The first surveyors of the canal through this place pitched their tent on Mr. Knowles' farm. In 1825 he built the first frame house in Knowlesville, on the south side of the canal, and kept a hotel for several years. He afterwards built a brick one and kept a temperance house. He built the first warehouse in 1825, and purchased and shipped the first boat load of wheat in the County. He assisted in building the first school house, of logs, which was used also for a church. He was an energetic business man and is still living to enjoy the fruits of his early toil and privations.

As an evidence of the unanimity of the political sentiment of the town, we give the vote for Governor at the election in April, 1813: D. D. Tompkins received 98 votes, and his opponent, Stephen Van Rensselaer, 5. The vote for Lieutenant Governor was 96 to 5.

The population in 1865 was 5,328, and the area 30,518 acres.

The number of school districts is sixteen, employing twenty-six teachers; the number of children of school age is 2,285; the number attending school, 1,538; the average attendance, 762, and the amount expended for school purposes during the last year was $11,480.20.

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