History of Seneca, New York
SARACUSE, N. Y., 1893


IN 1789 the Legislature passed an act creating Ontario county, and authorized the Court of Sessions to divide its territory into districts. This was done, and although we have no record of the event, it is well kpown that the district of Seneca included a large area of territory much larger than did the original town of Seneca, organized in 1793. The town organized in 1793 included township No. 9 and the south half of township No. 10, and also so much of the " gore" as was east of the same and between the old and new pre-emption lines.

Within the bounds of the original town of Seneca there took place many of the most interesting events of early history in Western New York, for within these limits was the home village and favorite hunting and fishing grounds of one branch of the famed Senecas of the Iroquois. Old "Kanadesaga," their village, was within the town, and here dwelt their famous king. Also within the same limits was the historic burial mound of the Senecas, and around all these there still clings a wealth of memories dear to the student of archeology. Previous to their settlement at this place, the Senecas had been located at the White Springs and at Burrell or Slate Rock Creek, both of which are in the limits of the old town of Seneca. In June, 1750, when Bishop Cammerhoff and Rev. David Zeisberger, the Moravian missionaries, were on a journey to the western town of the Senecas, they passed through this region and along the site of the White Springs, where they were informed a former village of the Senecas had been, and which they called "Ganechstage," and on which there was at this time but few huts This settlement had been broken up in 1732 by a plague of the small pox, with which an Indian had become infected at Albany. Taking a wrong path, the missionaries went southwesterly, passing "through a beautiful, fruitful valley," and came to the site of" New Ganechstage." On their return they again came this way, and at "New Ganechsatage" they were hospitably entertained by "Gajinquechto" and his wife. This is but a dialectical variation of" Sayenqueraghta," and is the same person who in later years was the "smoke bearer" at Kanadesaga. The "sachern's" wife pointed out the way to them and they journeyed on, passing old "Ganechsatage," reaching a spring. The location of New Ganechstage was in the present town of Seneca, on the farm of J. Wilson and Newton A. Read, lot 32. Other village sites were on the Rippey farm, lot 36; farm of W. P. Rupert, lot 36; Haslett farm lot 37. It was from here that they were gathered and formed the "new settlement village," as has been stated in another chapter.

However, in 1872 Seneca was deprived of the greater and more interesting part of its history, for in the year named the town of Geneva was created and included within its boundaries nearly all the old interesting localities formerly of Seneca. The town so set off comprised all that part of the old town which was in the gore, and also the eastern tier of lots in townships 9 and ro. Therefore, the subject of Ihis chapter must be the town of Seneca as constituted after the separate organization of Geneva as an independent civil division of Ontario county; and as all that remains to be told in this connection relates to its early settlement and organization, we may properly begin with the advent of the pioneers into the region, referring only incidentally to the settlements at Kanadesaga and Geneva. As the places last mentioned were for several years previous to the erection of this county the center of operations in the entire western country, settlement naturally began there, but after the survey of the Phelps and Gorham purchase, pioneers at once sought to purchase the towns, or portions of them, and settlement thus followed in due time.

Township number 10 of range i, of which a part is included within Seneca, was purchased by a party of twenty New Englanders, and under this proprietorship the settlement of the town was begun. One of the purchasers was Captain Joshua Whitney, who first examined and explored the lands of the purchase in 1789, and became a permanent settler therein in 1790. He was a man of influence, large means, and much experience; had been a soldier during the Revolution, and had gained his title in that service. He had at first 1,052 acres in the town, which amount he doubled later on. We may also state that the Whitney family was represented by other early settlers in the town, all of whom constituted a fair contingent of the number entitled to be called pioneers.

Among the other early settlers and pioneers of Seneca, whose names as heads of families or single men seeking homes in the new country are equally worthy of mention, were Anson Dodge, Abraham Burkholder, Peter Van Gelder, Zora Densmore, John Berry, George Ackley or Eckley, Ammi Whitney, Robert Carson, Leonard Isenhour (built grist and saw mills as early as 1800), Peter Wyn coop, William Esty, Thomas Taliman and others, the date of whose settlement was prior to 1800, and that of many of them before 1795. There were also the families named Clemons, Parker, Harris, Fiero, Charlton, Childs, Torrence, Rogers, McPherson, Culver, Latta, Darrow, and the McCauleys, Hallidays, Duttons, Onderdonks, the Ringers (John and Jacob) and others now forgotten, whose names are equally worthy of mention as early settlers in this rich agricultural region.

In the same manner we may also recall the names of other pioneers, among whom were Thomas Ottley, Nathan Whitney, Eben Burt, Isaac Amsden, Peter Gray, Matthew Rippey, David McMaster, Abram Post, Israel Webster, Simeon Amsden, Joel Whitney, Hugh Fulton and Gameliel Brockway, all of whom with others named and yet to be named, were located in the town of Seneca as early as the year 1800. There were also William Rippey, Joseph Fulton, Edward Rice, Philip Gregory, John Dixon, Seba Squier, Jacob Reed, Thomas Densmore, Solomon Gates, Colonel Wilder, David Barron, all pioneers, nearly all of whom had families, and all of whom contributed to the prominent position Seneca early occupied among the towns of the county.

The Stanley family, of whom Seth Stanley was the pioneer head, settled in the town in 1796, and the locality afterwards became known as Stanley's Corners, while the still later station and railroad junction are known as "Stanley's." On the old Geneva and Rushville turnpike at an early day settled pioneers Peter Diedrich, George Simpson, Will jam Fiero and George Rippey; and elsewhere in the town were Salma Stanley, Thomas McCauley, Matthew Rippey, Peter Blackmore, Mr. Harford, John McCullough, Captain Wm. McPherson, Whitney Squier, Jonathan Reed, the Phillips family, Squire Parks, James Rice, James Means, Leonard and William Smith, Chauncey Barden, Alfred Squier, Aaron Black, the Careys, John Wood, John Rippey, Robert Parks, Timothy Miner, James Black, Aden Squier, Edward Burrall, Samuel Wheadon and others, the dates and precise location of whose settlement cannot now be accurately determined.

In this connection also we may name among the early settlers John Hooper, Foster Sinclair, the Dorman family, Adam Turnbull, Richard Bell, Wm. Foster, William Brown, John Scoon, Aaron Black, Mr. Stockoe, Jonathan Phillips, George Conrad, Thomas Vartie, Edward Hall (the pioneer for whom Hall's Corners was named), Sherman Lee, Wm. Wilson, the Cooleys, the Robinsons and Robsons, James Beattie, George Crozier, the Straughtons and the Wilsons, Rufus Smith, Robert Moody, Valentine Perkins, David Miller, Mr. Clark, the prominent Barden family, Daniel Sutherland, Sylvester Smith, Levi Gland, John Thompson and others.

From the large number of names of early settlers above mentioned it will be seen that the settlement of this town must have been very rapid, and when we consider that none of those named were from the part of the town recently set off to Geneva, the conclusion must be natural and correct that Seneca was settled and improved as early as any district or town in the county. In i8oo the population of the whole county was only 15,218, yet the assertion is made that of the number the then town of Seneca had at least 2,000. In fact, until Geneva was set off, Seneca was by far the largest town in the county. In i8io the population was 3,431; in 1830 it was 6,161; in 1840 if was 7,073; in 1850 it was 8,505; in 1860 it was 8,448; in 1870 it was 9,188; and in 1880, by reason of the erection of Geneva, the local population was only 2,877; in 1890 it was 2,690.

In 1793 the population of the town was deemed sufficiently great to warrant its complete organization by the election of officers, consequently a town meeting was held at "the house of Joshua Fairbanks, Innkeeper," on the first Tuesday in April, 1793. At this time the first town officers were elected, as follows: Supervisor, Ezra Patterson; town clerk, Thomas Sisson; assessors, Oliver Whitmore, James Rice, Phineas Pierce; commissioners of highways, Patrick Burnet, Samuel Wheadon, Peter Bartle, jr.; collector, Sanford Williams; overseers of the poor, Jonathan Oaks, David Smith; constables, Charles Harris, Stephen Sisson, Whelds Whitmore; overseers of highways, Nathan Whitney, Oliver Humphrey, Jerome Loomis, Jeremiah Butler, Benj. Tuttle, Wm. Smith, jr., David Benton, Benjamin Dixon; fence viewers, Amos Jenks, John Reed, Joseph Kilbourn, Seba Squiers, Caleb Culver; poundmasters, Peter Bartle, jr., David Smith; sealer of weights and measures, Peter Bartle, sr.; surveyor of lumber, Jeremiah Butler.

Among the first proceedings of the town authorities were those relating to the laying out of highways, among them, and one of the very first, being one of historical importance, inasmuch as it was evidently laid out on the old Indian trail which led southeast from the foot of Seneca street, and afterwards in a westerly direction until it reached the west line of the town. The western part of this was where the turnpike from the old pre emption road was laid out later on.

The officers elected in 1793 and mentioned above were chosen, the reader will of course understand, from the town of Seneca, as at that time constituted, therefore including all that is now the town of Geneva. The center of population at that time, and for many years afterward, was at Geneva, and here all trade and barter was carried on; therefore it was usual that the town meetings should be held at the village, the first at Joshua Fairbanks' "Inn "; the second at "the house of Elark Jennings, Inn Keeper," the third at the house of Ezra Patterson; the fourth at Benjamin Tuttle's house; the fifth at the house of Epenetus Hart, adjoining Powell's Hotel; the sixth and seventh at Powell's Hotel, and so on to the end of the list. In this connection it is interesting to note the succession of supervisors of the old town of Seneca from its organization to the present time, which succession is as follows,

Ezra Patterson. 1793; Ambrose Hull, 1794-95; Timothy Allen, 1796; Ezra Patterson, 1797-98; Samuel Colt, 1799; Ezra Patterson, 1800-1801; Samuel Wheadon, jr., 1802; Ezra Patterson, 1803-04; Septimus Evans, 1805-14; John M. Cullough, 1815; Septimus Evans, 1816-17; Nathan Reed, 1818-28. The records of town officers between the years 1828 and 1838 cannot be found. Abraham A. Post, 1838-42; Philo Bronson, 1843; Abraham A. Post, 1844-47; John L. Dox, 1848-49; Chas. S. Brother, 1850-51; Lucius Warner, 1852-54; James M. Soverhill, 1855-56; John Whitwell, 1857-58; Perez H. Field, 1859-60; Joseph Hutchinson, 1861-62; George W. Nicholas, 1863-68; Samuel Southworth, 1869-70; John Post, 1871-72; Seth Stanley, 1873; Edward S. Dixon, 1874; Seth Stanley, 1875; Robert Moody, 1876-81; Levi A. Page, 1882-89; H. Joel Rice, 1890-93.

Present Town Officers- H. Joel Rice, supervisor; Mathew D. Lawrence, town clerk; Harmon W. Onderdonk, Orson S. Robinson, W. H. Whitney, assessors; E. S. Dixon, Eben E. Thatcher, Wm. H. Barden, W. D. Robinson, justices of the peace; Albert M. Knapp, John B. Esty, Hamilton Rippey, excise commissioners; John H. Carr, Frank L. Parshail, C. E. Onderdonk, commissioners of highways; overseer of the poor, James Woods.

Returing again briefly to the period of old times, we find the pioneers of Seneca engaged in the laudable enterprise of raising a fund for the purpose of building a bridge across Flint Creek at Castleton, to form a part of the main thoroughfare from the town to the county seat. The subscribers to this fund, with the amount of their respective subscriptions, in pounds, were as follows: Sanford Williams, 8; Oliver Whitmore, 3; Nathan Whitney, 6; Solomon Gates, 3; Hugh Maxwell, 2; Samuel Warner, 3; Warner Crittenden, 3 ; Ebenezer Bunt, 3; Solomon Warner, 3; Joel Whitney, 3; Oliver Whitmore, sen., i; Luke Whitmore, 1; Elijah Wilder, 3

Villages and Hamlets.- In this department of this work it is not proposed to make any extended reference to the Indian occupation of any of the towns of the county, nevertheless, in this connection it is not inappropriate to allude to the old Seneca villages which formerly existed in this town, in the north part thereof, one of them on lot 56, and the other on lot 58; but where they were first located and inhabited by the Senecas, and the precise date of their disappearance we know not of.

The present villages and hamlets of Seneca are five in number, four of them being on the line of the commonly called Northern Central railroad, while the fifth is in the eastern part of the town, and is accessible only by team or foot travel.

Seneca Castle, the largest of the villages, and sometimes known as Castleton, is situated in the northwest part of the town, on Flint Creek, also on the railroad extending from Stanley to Sodus Bay. The original name of the village was Castleton, and the application of the name Seneca Castle was an afterthought. As a trading center this place has some prominence, but during the last half century it can hardly be said to have increased or lessened in business interests or population. The village has two church societies, each of which has a substantial church home. Of these we may make a brief record.

The Presbyterian Church of Seneca Castle was a branch or off-shoot of the mother church at Geneva, the latter having been organized in 1798, and in connection therewith occasional services were conducted in this western part of the town, altthough it was not until 1828 that the Seneca Castle was fully organized. The early services here were held chiefly by Revs. Jedediah Chapman and Henry Axtell, the former the first, and the latter the second pastor of the church at Geneva. The Castleton (such was the name then) Church was organized February 5, 1828, with nineteen original members "inhabitants of the village of Castleton and its vicinity." On the 4th of March the trustees were chosen, and steps were at once taken to raise means with which to erect a church home. This was quickly accomplished and the house was dedicated during the latter part of July, 1829.

The pastors, in succession, of this church have been as follows: Stephen Porter, Oren Catlin, Stephen Porter (second pastorate), George C. Hyde, R. Russell (supply), B. B. Gray, Alex. Douglass (supply), A. H. Parmelee, H. H. Kellogg, James S. Moore, and Howard Cornell, the latter being the present pastor, whose service as such began in June, 1893. The church has about eighty members, and a Sunday school with about ninety pupils.

The Castleton Methodist Episcopal Chapel was the outgrowth of a series of revival meetings held by the Presbyterians of this locality during the years 1830-31. The M. E. Class and church was organized soon after this time, and in 1842 the society erected a substantial brick edifice in the village. Its membership is about eighty, and the Sundayschool has about one hundred members. The present pastor is Rev. S. F. Beardslee.

Flint Creek is a small hamlet of about twenty dwelling-houses, one store, a post-office, a combined cider mill and wood-working factory, the school of district No. 2, and a M. E. Church. The village is on the stream from which it is named, and is about midway between Seneca Castle and Stanley. A grist and saw-mill were in operation many years a few rods south of the village proper.

The M. E. Church at Flint Creek, one of three societies of this denomination in this town, is of comparatively recent origin, and is supplied in its pastoral relation from Hopewell. The present pastor in charge is Rev. Cordello Herrick.

Stanley, formerly Stanley's Corners, is second in size and greatest in business importance among the hamlets of Seneca. The village is situated near the center of School District No. 1. Here also the Northern Central railroad divides, one branch leading to the county seat and the other to Sodus Bay. During the year 1892 the long hoped for Middlesex Valley road was completed and put in operation between Stanley and Naples; and during 1893 the work of construction on the same road between Stanley and Geneva is expected to be prosecuted.

Although of considerable importance among the hamlets of Seneca, Stanley is only a small place, having two good stores (Hill & Coon, and James A. Pulver), a hotel, a grain elevator, a good district school, and two churches.

St. Theresa's Roman Catholic parish was organized in 1875, and the church edifice was built in 1876. This parish is a joint station with Rushville, and includes about ninety, families. The priests in charge have been Fathers James A. Connelly, Joseph Hendrick, Joseph J. Magin, D. W. Kavanaugh, J. H. Butler, James F. Dougherty, and John P. Hopkins.

The Methodist Episcopal Church and society of Stanley are also of quite recent organization. The church and class work began many years ago, and the organization duly followed. There are now about thirty-five members, and preparations are being made for the erection of a substantial church home in the village. The services are now conducted by Rev. 0. D. Davis, as supply, he being pastor of the church at Gorham village.

Hall's Corners is a small though busy hamlet in the south part of the town, .and being in the center of a large fruit and grain region, becomes a place of much importance during the harvest and shipping season. The village proper is about forty rods from the station. The merchants are William C. Mead (also postmaster) and George 0. Rippey & Son.

Seneca.- About a mile and one-half northeast of Hail's Corners is a little settlement and post office called Seneca. It has no industries of any importance, except the nursery of W. P. Rupert, yet around the old Presbyterian church at Seneca has been built up a quiet little settlement.

This church was organized June 29, 1807, by a devoted little band of Christians, by whom it was resolved "That we form ourselves into a church, to be denominated the Associate Reformed Church of the Town of Seneca." In July following the work of organization was completed, and at the first communion service forty-five members were on the church roll. After much work the little society succeeded in raising a fund and erecting a church edifice, a plain though neat frame structure, which was used about twenty- five years, and then, in 1838 and '39, was superseded by a larger and more pretentious building, which the society still occupies. This edifice was enlarged and improved in 1862, and again in 1868.

In 1859 this church changed its ecclesiastical connection and became essentially Presbyterian in doctrine and teaching. Its present membership reaches the remarkable number of 350 persons, and within the bounds of the congregation there are maintained four Sunday-schools. The succession of pastors and supplies of this church has been as follows: James Mears, Andrew Wilson (supplies), Thomas White (first pastor), William Nesbit, John D. Gibson, Samuel Topping, George Patton, A. B. Temple. The latter, Mr. Temple, became pastor in March, 1873, and has ever since continued in that relation, a period of more than twenty years.

Schools of the Town.- In traveling along the public thoroughfare of Seneca, the observer is at once attracted by the general beauty of his surroundings in every locality, but in respect to the public schools of the town his attention is at once called to their ever substantial appearance and pleasant situation. When the town was divided, in 1872, it became necessary to re-district the old town; hence at that and at the present time its area is divided into thirteen districts, only two of which (Nos. 9 and 10) are not provided with school-houses. In 1892 the school population was 798, to instruct whom there were employed fourteen teachers at an expense of $3,961. The total amount of money raised for school purposes was $5445. Of the school-houses six are frame and five of brick, and the total value of all school property in the town is estimated at $13,750.

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