History of Addison, NY
From: Landmarks of Steuben County, New York
Edited by: Hon. Harlo Hakes
Assisted By: L. C. Aldrich and Others
D. Mason & Company, Publishers,
Syracuse, New York, 1896

[Also see the Village of Addison]

ADDISON. - Addison is not only one of the most progressive and prosperous interior towns of Steuben county, but it is one of the oldest of its civil divisions. It was formed under the name of "Middletown" in March, 1796, and was one of the original provisional districts created at that time, that some form of authority might be exercised over the sparsely settled region. The old name was preserved until 1808, and then changed to Addison; and so called, we are told, in respectful allusion to Joseph Addison, the English author of note in his time.

The old town of Middletown embraced a large area of territory, including all that is now Addison, Rathbone, Thurston, Tuscarora, Woodhull, and a part of Troupsburg and Jasper. In fact, the district included the entire southern portion of the county, chiefly hill lands, yet so interspersed with valleys and elevated flats as to invite early settlement and consequent subdivision. As now constituted, under the present name, the town contains 16,500 acres of land, small indeed, comparatively, but rich in resources and enterprise, hence one of the best divisions of old Steuben.

Samuel Rice was the pioneer of what is now Addison. He was a Connecticut Yankee by birth, a farmer by occupation, a hero and survivor of the Revolution by patriotic instinct and love of country, and a worthy pioneer in the Genesee country. Mr. Rice made his settlement on Tuscarora Creek, near the so called Wombaugh mills, in 1791, and built the first house in the town. Other pioneers soon followed Rice, and among them we may mention Reuben and Lemuel Searles, George Goodhue, Oliver Miller, John Martin, Jonathan Tracy, Isaac and James Martin, Abel White, James Benham, Silas Morey, Asahel Stiles, Lemuel Stiles, Elisha Gilbert, William Wonibaugh and Martin Young. These pioneers were farmers and lumbermen, kindred pursuits in the then wilderness region. They came prepared to fell the forests, manufacture lumber for domestic use, and also to ship to market, but the ultimate purpose of the majority of them was to build up comfortable farms and homes in the new country. That they were successful is fully attested in the fine farms and beautiful homes that line the streams in this town of hills and valleys. Later generations, perhaps, have improved upon the condition of things left by the pioneers, yet the foundation for this after prosperity was laid by the first corners during the last years of the eighteenth century.

The beautiful Tuscarora valley extends south from Addison village; the equally charming valley of the Canisteo stretches away to the west, while to the northward is the lesser valley of Goodhue Creek. The little body of water called Goodhue Lake lies in the extreme northwest of the town. At the village the Tuscarora unites with the Canisteo, while to the eastward the creek from the north adds its volume to the general flow, and the Chemung River eventually receives the combined waters of the three. These "beatable" streams were large enough to permit running large rafts during the early history of the region and as lumbering and rafting were important and profitable industries of the time, this was a central locality, and one widely known to lumbermen and speculators. Therefore we are not surprised at the very early settlement of the town, nor at loss to account for early evidences of thrift and comfort which distinguished this from some other localities less favored by nature.

The inference that Addison, or Middletown, was comparatively well settled at a very early day seems to be borne out by fact, for the census reports show that the population of the district in 1804 was 174, and in 1813 had increased to 369, and that despite the fact that a large part of Troupsburg was taken off in 1808. Although the records throw no light on the point, it is confidently believed that when this district was formed in 1796, there were one hundred inhabitants on the territory. At all events there was population sufficient to perfect the town organization.

The first town meeting was held on the first Tuesday in February, 1797, at which time officers were elected as follows: Reuben Stiles, supervisor; Oliver Miller. town clerk; Lemuel Searle, constable; Jonathan Tracy and Asahel Stiles, poorm3sters; John Martin, George Goodhue and Stephen Dolson, highway commissioners; Lemuel Searle, collector; Abel White, Oliver Miller and Jonathan Tracy, school commissioners; Elisha Gilbert and Silas Morey, fence viewers, and Reuben Searles, poundmaster.

From this it will be seen that the governmental affairs of the town were placed in proper condition in the year next following the creation of the county, but it would appear that the first meeting of electors was rather poorly attended, for there were not enough incumbents for the several offices without "thrusting double honors" upon some of the freemen present.

Pioneer Reuben Searle held the office of supervisor until 1804, and Clerk Miller had charge of the town records until i800. However, as is done in each of the town chapters of this work, we may also in Addison furnish the succession of supervisors from the organization meeting to the present time, viz.: Lemuel Searle, 1797-1803; George Martin, 1804; Semuel Searle, 1805; George Martin, 1806-09; David Dickinson, 1810; Timothy Searle, 1814-16; Wm. B. Jones, 1814-16; Samuel Colgrove, 1817-20; Wm. B. Jones, 1821-22; Samuel Colgrove, 1823-27; Edward Nichols, 1828; Wm. Wombaugh, 1829-30; John Loop, 1831-32; Jas. Baldwin, 1833-35; Jno. H. Thompson, 1836-37; Wm Hamilton, 1838; Jno. H. Thompson, 1839-42; L. A. Jones, 1843-44; Frederick R. Wagner, 1845; Wm. Wombaugh, 1846; Rufus Baldwin, 1847; W. W. Smith, 1848; Jas. H. Miles, 1849-50; H. Ross Jones, 1851-52; E. D. Root, 1853; Geo. W. Carr, 1854; Abram Dudley, 1855; Edwin J. Horn, 1856; O. Seymour, 1857-c8.; Thos. Paxton, 1859; Henry Baldwin, 1860; E. J. Horn, 1861-63; F. C. Dininny, 1864-71; Henry Baldwin, 1872-73; S. V. Latimer, 1874-77; Albert G. Crane, 1878-8o; Henry Baldwin, 1881-85; D. C. Hagar, 1886; E. D. Root, 1887-93; James S. Harrison, 1894-95.

The town officers for the year 1895 are: James S. Harrison, supervisor; Frank B. Orser town clerk; Philander C. Daniels, Eugene Wade, Charles Turnbull, W. A. Bartlett, justices; J. J. Martin, F. H. Wheaton and C. O'Connor, assessors; R. B. Orr, collector; Oliver D. Stewart, overseer of the poor; Jos. Thompson, highway commissioner; Frank Bliss, C. Connos and A. Allison, excise commissioners.

The town of Addison, inclusive of the village. had a population in 1890 of 2,908. In the history of the town there has ever been shown a gradual increase both in population and business interests, though the frequent reductions in areas, taken for other towns, makes it difficult to present any comparative tables showing actual progress in all directions. As we have mentioned, the inhabitants in 1890 numbered 174, and 369 in 1810. In 1820 the number was 652, and in 183o was 944. It was 1,920 in 1840, and the greatest number, 3,721, was reached in 1850. 1856 Rathbone was taken off, and the census of 186o gave Addison a population of 1,715. From this time no further reductions in territory were made, and subsequent years have witnessed a constant increase as follows: 2,218 in 1870; 2,534 in 1880, and 2,908 in 189o.

In the early history of the town it appears that Addison had in its population a number of enterprising men, who were firm believers in improvement of the region as well as personal gain, and from well preserved records we learn that George Goodhue built the first saw mill in 1793, while William Wombaugh's saw mill was built in 1805, and his grist mill one year later. Samuel Smith was the first storekeeper. Stephen Rice, son of Samuel, was the first white child born in the town, while the first marriage was that of Brown Gillespie and the daughter of Elisha Gilbert. A postoffice was established in 1804. Slavery was not an unknown institution of the town, although the number of slaves owned here was far less than noticeable in some other localities. The records show occasional entries of ownership and birth of slaves, yet this custom of the past was found not to be congenial to the interests of proprietors, and the bondmen were soon set free.

The first settlers also found a few straggling Indian occupants still in the region, and the latter reluctantly withdrew before the steady advance of civilization. Little trouble was occasioned by their presence and few indeed are the Indian traditions and stories of a century ago. A little later, during the war of 1812-15, much excitement prevailed in the region, growing out of the discussions of the events of the time, and there seemed to be a small though determined element of Federalism pervading this community. However, public feeling seldom went beyond animated controversy and the patriotic pioneers enrolled themselves on the side of "home and country," joined the militia and made ready for war and the threatened possibilities of an invasion.

About the year 1825, and from that time on to 1855, Addison was the very center of a vast lumber region. Indeed, this was one of the most famous pine lumber localities in the State, and also a place of resort for all the lumbermen on the northern border of Pennsylvania and Southern New York. "In the spring of the year," says a cotemporary writer, "the surface, of the Canisteo was a complete sheet of rafts from Hornellsville to the ' Deadwater,' as Addison was then called; and the story has often been told that during the rafting season that one could almost walk from Horne11svi11e to Addison on rafts, except where there were dams across the river."

A few years before lumbering was at its height in this region, the settlers passed through the period remembered as the anti rent conflict, and all local interests were more or less affected by it; and at one time, it is said, business was practically at a standstill. Many of the foremost men of the town were active participants in the events of the period, and in the Bath convention, in January, 183o, the local delegates were William Wombaugh, Lemuel B. Searles, David Shumway, Eber Scofield and Daniel Burdick.

Another interesting subject for perusal and reference in the history of this town is found in the record made by her contingent of volunteers enlisted and sent into the service during the war of 1861-5, by which it is known that the early martial spirit of the ancestor was inherited by the later generation of descendants. By the acts of the latter the patriotic reputation for which this town has long been noted was upheld and elevated. A brief reference to the roster of volunteers from Addison discloses the fact that during the period of the war the town furnished two hundred men for the service, who were scattered through the several regiments recruited in the county and in this part of the State. In another chapter the reader will find a complete list of the several commands, and also a record of their service at the front, wherefore the subject may be briefly mentioned in this place.

In matters pertaining to the spiritual and educational welfare of the youth of, the town, the first settlers gave full heed, and their example has been accepted as a rule of action for the authorities during later years. The church and religious societies will be found mentioned in another department of this work, hence repetition here is unnecessary. Unfortunately, the early records afford but little reliable information concerning the first schools of the town, or the division of the territory into districts, yet well verified tradition informs us that the schools have kept even pace with progress in other directions. As at present constituted the town is divided into five districts, each of which is provided with a good school. In the town, including the village, sixteen teachers were employed during the last current year, and the whole number of children attending school was 646. The value of all school property is estimated at $33,715, and the assessed valuation of the districts is $879,870. There was apportioned to the town public moneys to the extent of 2,313.34, and the town raised by tax the sum of $8,387.38, all used for maintenance and support of schools.

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