History of Smithfield, NY

The Town of Smithfield.

Smithfield was one of the towns organized in the year 1807 and was set off from Cazenovia on the 13th of March. It was named in honor of Peter Smith, its proprietor. It is situated in the central part of the county and bounded on the north by Lenox and Stockbridge, on the east by Stockbridge, on the south by Eaton and Nelson, and on the west by Fenner. It contains about 15, 630 acres. When organized it included what is now Fenner, which was taken off in 1823. The surface is mostly rolling, with a large cedarswamp extending through the town from north to south, much of which is uncultivated. The soil on the hills is sandy and gravelly loam. The drainage of the town to the north is into the Chittenango and the Cowasselon Creeks, and from a small part in the south into the Chenango. The old Oneida turnpike traverses the town, going from Vernon to Cazenovia, while the Stone road from Morrisville to Canastota crosses it from north to south. Smithfield is wholly isolated from railroads and canals, and receives its mail from Canastota by stage. The principal industry at the present time is dairying; hops are grown to considerable extent and mixed farming is also followed in most parts of the town.

The territory of Smithfield constituted a part of the great purchase made from the State in 1795 by Peter Smith, after having procured a lease in the preceding year of the Oneida Indians of the same lands for a term of 999 years. The price paid to the State was $350 for the whole, comprising more than 50,000 acres. It became and is still known as the New Petersburgh Tract. Jasper Aylesworth was sent on by Mr. Smith in 1795 to begin the permanent settlement on his purchase, and he located on and cleared the land on which the village of Peterboro stands. John Taft was a settler near by not long after Aylesworth, and the latter married his daughter in 1797; this was the first marriage on Smithfield territory. In 1798 Oliver Trumbull came in and settled on fifty acres a half mile south of Aylesworth’s clearing and there lived and reared his family. Between 1797 and 1799 inclusive the numerous and prominent family named Bump settled in the town and took up farms; the father’s name was Ichabod, but the son, Ithamar, was the pioneer; he was soon followed by his father and his brothers, Moses, Nathan, David, Jonathan, Gideon, Jacob, and a sister who married Ebenezer Bronson, father of Greene C. Bronson.

Among the settlers of 1800 were Solomon Merrill, David Shipman, Samuel and Jacob Walker, Jabez Lyon, Robert Streeter, Shadrach Hardy, Gideon Wright, Ezra Chaffee, David Tuttle, Mrs. Moody and her sons, Samuel and David, Mrs. Mattison and her sons, John, Abraham, Eli and Nathan, the Northrup and Matthewson families, Francis Dodge, Salmon Howard, Stephen Risley, Moses Howe, John Forte, Reuben Rich, David Blodgett, Daniel Petrie, who became the first sheriff of the county, and Capt. Joseph Black. Other early settlers are mentioned and more at length in an earlier chapter.

Peter Smith came on from Utica with his family in 1806 and soon afterward began the erection of the plain wooden structure which has been known as the Smith mansion, which was remodeled in 1854 by his son, Gerrit Smith, and is still standing. Peter Smith was the first supervisor of the town and in June, 1807 was elected associate judge of the county. Judge Smith in 1819 transferred all of his property to his noted son, Gerrit, and in 1825 removed to Schenectady, where he died in 1837.

The first town meeting for Smithfield was held April 7, 1807, “in the school house near David Cook’s”; this was in that part of the town now included in Fenner. The polls were open three days and the vote cast numbered over 300. Daniel Petrie was chosen the first town clerk. At this meeting there was an active rivalry between the eastern and the western parts of the town, two tickets having been nominated; the details of the contest are given in the early history of the town of Fenner.

There are two post.offices in Smithfield, one of which is at Peterboro, the only village of importance in the town. The village was an important one in its very early history as the site of a glass factory and a little later by two, which at one period employed a hundred or more hands. It was established about 1808. A distillery was built in 1802, which was succeeded by a second one in 1814. A tannery was established in 1810 by Benjamin Wilber and another by Abner Hall & Son in 1836; both long ago disappeared. A small grist and saw mill was built about 1802 by William Sayles which was owned by Peter Smith; it was superseded by second mills in 1850, which are not now in existence.

Samuel Stranahan built a darn across the stream here in 1807, erected a fulling mill and sold that and his privelege in 1816 to Perry Palmer and Wolcott Skidmore. The latter soon sold to his partner who in 1825 took down the building and erected near by a saw mill and shingle mill which he operated more than twenty years. George Peck had an early machine and wood working shop, where he invented the stave cutting machine which revolutionized the cooperage business. There is no manufacturing industry of account in the town at the present time.

This town was one of the first to adopt the manufacture of cheese in factories, and one was built at Peterboro. which was undoubtedly the first in the county. It was begun in the spring of 1861 at Peterboro and was the second one in the State. It was erected under direction of Mr. Williams, of Rome, who was the pioneer in this business. The proprietor was Harry Blodgett. The business increased and before many years passed there were five factories in successful operation in the town. One of these was at Peterboro, one at Siloam, one near the southeast corner of the town, one at Mile Strip and one on the farm of Frederick Putnam. At the present time only three factories are in operation—one at Siloam by Albert Miller; one at Peterboro by Robert Warcup, and one in the west part of the town by Levi Miller.

The first store in the town was opened by James Livingston in the same building in which he kept a tavern in 1801. In the same year Daniel Petrie opened a second store. Among other merchants of the place have been William Solon and Myron Taylor, Elisha Carrington, Royal and Dorman Cooper, Asa Raymond, Charles H. Cook, Peter S. Smith, Samuel Forman, Dunham & Clink, Harry Curtis, J. G. Curtis, Eliphalet Aylesworth, Ives & Woodbury, Dr. N. C. Powers, Andrew S. Douglass, Dr. A. C. Baum, James R. Barnett, Charles Cutler, John A. Campbell, William T. Marcey, W. C. Ives, Charles N. Snow, W. E. Coe, Thomas O. Taylor, J. N. Woodbury, Lucius P. Faulkner, and possibly a few others. The present mercantile business of the village includes the following: J. N. Woodbury, who has conducted a general store more than forty years; W. B. Coe, has sold drugs and groceries sixteen years; J. O. Wright has conducted a general store more than twenty years; Geo. W. Davis, druggist and physician, nine years; T. O. Taylor, clothing; Charles B. Wagoner, confectionery, etc.; A. M. Bump operates the saw and grist mills; William Johnson, a tin shop; wagon shops by Wiley Conine and David Devan, and blacksmith shops by William Ginney and Timothy Ginney; M. L. Dennison sells agricultural implements, etc. The present physicians are Dr. F. B. Dewey and Dr. G. W. Davis.

The first hotel in the place was the one before mentioned as built in 1801 by James Livingston, in which he kept also a store. This house passed through many hands and was occupied as a hotel until after 1850. It is now used for a residence. David Ambler built a hotel in 1830, which was the first temperance house in the State. Gerrit Smith subsequently purchased it to prevent liquor being sold there, removed the building and added the site to his grounds. At about the same time he built another hotel which he offered free of rent to any one who would keep it without selling liquor; it shared the fate of its predecessor. What is now the hotel was opened about 1876 and had a license for the sale of beer and wine, the first license granted in the town since 1846. It is kept by Frank Martindale. The Cameron House was built in recent years and is kept by Charles Cameron. The village is connected with Canastota by daily stages.

Peterboro Academy was built in 1853 with about $2,500, which was raised by subscription. The buildings now occupied as the Orphan’s Home were erected for its accommodation and the school opened in that year. The site was donated by Gerrit Smith. In 1864 the institution received an endowment of $15,000. Like most other academies this one subsequently began to decline, and in 1871 Gerrit Smith pur. chased all of the stock at 29 per cent. and transferred the property to the Home, which was then being organized. He then bought the Presbyterian church edifice, which was not in use, and expended $7,000 in fitting it for a school building, with a public hail above. This property he deeded to the academy trustees, under provision that it should revert to his estate whenever it should be used for any other purpose. It is still in use for the school. The Union School in Peterboro was incorporated in 1896. The first Board of Trustees were Garrett G. Miller, W. C. Dorrance, J. O. Wright, W. B. Coe and John N. Woodbury. The board is still in office, excepting John N. Woodbury, who was superseded by A. M. Bump. The present principal is Arthur H. Jackson, who has two assistants. The school is kept in the old Presbyterian church building, which has been refitted for the purpose. The town has thirteen school districts with school houses, the value of the property being about $10,000. The number of teachers is sixteen.

Three different newspapers have been published in Peterboro, among them the first one in Madison county; all of them long ago passed out of existence. The first one was the Madison Freeholder, established in 1808 by Peter Smith and continued to about 1819. The Washingtonian temperance movement brought into existence the Madison County Temperance Union, which died in 1852 after only a few years of feeble support. In 1854 the Christian and Citizen was founded and lived about three years.

Peterboro is a quiet and attractive village, built about the public “Green,” in the center of which stands a handsome monument which was presented to the town by Aaron T. Bliss of Michigan, who was formerly a resident of Smithfield and joined the Union army. The monument was unveiled July 4, 1893, and bears this inscription: “Erected in honor of the men of Madison county who served their country in the war which preserved the Union, destroyed slavery, and maintained the constitution.”

Siloam.— This is the name of a hamlet and post-office on the Oneida turnpike two and a half miles east of Peterboro. A tavern was built here as early as 1804 by Joseph Black, and in 1808 a second was built and kept by Samuel Ellinwood and John Black. In 18110 Jeremiah Ellinwood and Elijah Manly built a grist mill and a saw mill was added in the same year. A store soon followed by Mr. Black and Alexander Ostrander, and the post-office was established. The construction of the Chenango Canal and other general causes made a large demand for beer and whiskey in this vicinity and in 1880 there were here three distilleries and two breweries. The post-office was abandoned for a time, but was subsequently re-established. One store is kept here by Francis Wright, and no hotel. There is no grist mill now, but a saw mill and distillery are operated by Harmon Holmes, who is also postmaster.

About half a mile from the northern line of the town on the Stone road at a four corners is a postal station called Mile Strip. In 1813 a young mechanic who had a small shop here made the first steel hay forks turned out in this State. His name was Oren Soper, and he gained fame and made money in this work. The post-office, with Roscoe Gates in charge; is over the line in the town of Lincoln. Mr. Gates conducts a store.

The first church organized in Smithfield was the Presbyterian, at Peterboro, formed in 1806. For a number of years it prospered and at one period had a membership of 200. It finally declined and in 1870 was dissolved.

The Baptist Church was organized in 1807 and also had an active existence many years, its membership reaching at one time about 260; but it also fell into decline and its services closed in 1866.

Siloam was originally known as Ellinwood Hollow, and in 1820 the the Baptist Church of Ellinwood Hollow was organized and an edifice was erected in the next year. This passed out of active existence. The Methodist Church at Siloam was erected in 1896. It is a branch of the Stockbridge society.

The Mile Strip Methodist Church was organized in 1830 and after 1865 was attached to the Peterboro charge. It is still in existence.

What was known as the Church of Peterboro, organized in 1843 at the instigation of Gerrit Smith, was free from sectarian ruling, as he believed all churches should be. In 1847 he built a chapel and offered its use to all clergymen. It was long used as a free church, but was ultimately converted into a dwelling.

The Methodist Church of Peterboro was organized in 1854, and services were held at various places uutil 1858 when a small church was built. This society has maintained its existence and improved the edifice in recent years. Rev. George W. Reynolds is pastor.

The Home for Destitute Children of Madison County is situated in Peterboro, and is fully described in a previous chapter.

The population of Smithfield in the years when the census has been taken is shown in the following figures:

1835 1840 1845 1850 1855 1860 1865 1870 1875 1880 1890 1892
2,750 1,699 1,629 1,669 1,514 1,509 1,366 1,227 1,247 1,226 1,043 1,015

Following is a list of supervisors of this town from its organization to the present time with the dates of their election:
1807, Peter Smith, Roswell Glass; 1808—10, Asa Dana; 1811—13, Elisha Carrington; 1814—19, Nehemiah Huntington; 1820, Daniel M. Gilbert; 1821—24, Nehemiah Huntington; 1825, Elisha Carrington; 1826—29, Nehemiah Huntington; 1830—34, Daniel Dickey; 1835, John M. Messinger; 1836—38, Czar Dikeman; 1839, Daniel Dickey; 1840—42, John G. Curtis; 1843, Stafford Green; 1844, George W. Ellinwood; 1845, Silas W. Tyler; 1846—47, James Barnett; 1848—49, Alexander McGregor; 1850, Amzi G Hungerford; 1851—53, Caleb Calkins; 1854, Isaac Bartlett; 1855—56, Charles D. Miller; 1857—58, Joseph B. Morgan; 1859—60, Abi A. Phipps; 1861—62, James Riley Stone; 1863, Alex. McGregor; 1864—66, Abi A. Phipps; 1867—69, Edward Bliss; 1870, W. J. Wilbur; 1871, Gerrit S. Miller; 1872—74, R. J. Hollenbeck; 1875—77, James G. Messinger; 1878—79, Alex, O. Johnson; 1880, R. J. Hollenbeck; 1881—83, Leander W. Burroughs; 1884—91, W. Emmet Coe, 1892— 98, Albert L. Cameron.

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