History of Canisteo, 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 Canisteo]

CANISTEO. - The originial town of Canisteo, erected cotemporaneously with Steuben county, contained the territory of the present town of that name, and also Greenwood, West Union, Hartsville, Hornellsville, and portions of Troupsburg and Jasper. A part of Troupsburg was taken off in t 8o8, and a second portion in 1818. Hornellsville was set off in 1820, and portions of Jasper and Greenwood in 1827. Reduced to its present area, Canisteo contains 32,200 acres of land, being sixth in size among the existing towns of the county. In the survey and subdivision of the vast Phelps and Gorham purchase, Canisteo was township 3, range 5, and was purchased conjointly with township 4 of range 6 (now Hornellsville), the early history of each being common in many respects, and also rich and interesting.

Previous to the advent of the white man this town, and in fact the whole valley of the Canisteo, was the abiding place and favorite hunting and fishing grounds of the American Indians. The region was originally the land of the Senecas, but by sufferance the Delawares were permitted to occupy portions of it. We are told that within the limits of this town was once the Indian village of "Kanestio," where also lived a number of deserters from the British army and other renegades from the white settlements. The murder of two Dutch traders by these outlaws brought upon them the vengeance of Sir William Johnson, and the result was the destruction of their settlement.

According to the oft repeated story, the valley of the Canisteo was discovered by the whites early in the year 1788, by Solomon Bennett, Capt. John Jamison, Uriah Stephens, Richard Crosby, and we may add possibly Elisha Brown, all of whom left their Pennsylvania homes on an exploring expedition into the southeastern part of the Phelps and Gorham purchase. After examining several localities in the Conhocton valley the party crossed the hills to the south and entered the Caniteo valley. Here they found land suited to their desires, and the result was the formation of a company and the purchase of township 3 of range 5, and township 4 of range 6, now known respectively as Canister, and Hornellsville. Each of these townships was surveyed and divided into great lots, twelve in number, and were drawn for by lot. In Canisteo the lots were drawn in this order: Arthur Irwin, No. 1; Christian Kress, No. 2; Solomon Bennett, Nos. 3 and 4; Joel Thomas, No. 5; John Stephens, No. 6; John Jamison, No. 7; Uriab Stephens, No. 8; Uriah Stephens, jr., No. 9; William Wynkoop, No. to; James Hadley, No. 11; Elisha Brown, No. 12.

This disposition of the lands having been made the company sent a party of men to cut and stack the hay found growing on the extensive Canisteo flats. This was in 1789, and in the fall of that year Uriah Stephens, sen., and Benjamin Crosby, with portions of their families, came from Newtown (Elmira) and made the first permanent settlement. Their personal effects were brought up the river on flatboats, while Elias, Elijah, Benjamin and William Stephens drove the cattle along the shore to the new settlement. These pioneers passed the following winter in the town, and in the spring of 1790 were joined by Solomon Bennett, Uriah Stephens, jr., Col. John Stephens and their families. Soon afterward there came Jedediah Stephens, John Redford and Andrew Bennett.

Thus was made the pioneer settlement in the town of Canisteo. One of the most active and wealthy of the settlers was Solomon Bennett, who in 1793 built the first grist mill in the town, it being located on Bennett's Creek about half a mile above its mouth. The building was soon burned, after which the settlers were obliged to go to Hornell's Mills for their "grist." Mr. Bennett also opened the first store, while Jedediah Stephens kept the first tavern. The first birth was that of Olive Stephens, November 18, 1790; the first marriage that of Richard Crosby and Hannah Baker, and the first death was that of Henry Stephens.

Referring still further to the subject of early settlement in this town, the statement may be made that Solomon Bennett came from Wyoming, and that his wife was a sister of Col. John Stephens. Daniel Jamison was a native of Scotland. His wife was Mary M. Baxter, and in their family were eight children, a number of whom were intimately associated with the early history of this locality. Col. John Stephens married Olive Franklin, and was for many years an important man in the new settlement. He and Rev. Jedediah Stephens were natives of Connecticut. Recalling the names of other prominent men and families in the town, we may mention Capt. Nathan Stephens, Joshua C. Stephens, Jeremiah Baker, sen., the Moore families, nicknamed respectively "Big John" and "Little Johnny," William S. Thomas, James McBurney, Uriah Upson, James Moore, John Stearns, Nathan Hallett and others; all worthy of mention among the substantial men of the town at an early day.

Once fairly begun, settlement in this part of the valley increased rapidly, and in 1800 the town had a population of 5t0. Ten years later, Troupsburg having in the meantime been set off, the population of Canisteo was 656. In 1820, its territory being reduced to substantially its present limits, the town contained 89t inhabitants. In 1830 the number was 619, and 941 in 1840. During the next decade the population was more than doubled, being in 1850, 2,030. In 1860 it increased to 2,337, in 1870 to 2,435, and in 1880, principally on account of the growth of Canisteo village, to 3,694. In 1890 the population of the town was 3,629, and in 1.892 was 3,593. The population of the village of Canisteo in 1890 was 2,071.

In 1812 Judge Hurlburt, of Arkport, wrote a descriptive history of Canisteo in which he said the town then contained 266 square miles, and was nineteen miles long, north and south, by fourteen miles wide. Speaking of the streams, he said that the Canisteo was "boatable" as far up as Arkport. He also described Canisteo village as having twenty houses and stores, a post office and considerable trade.

As we have already stated the early settlement of the town was accomplished rapidly, and indeed the organization was effected at the time of the creation of the county. But, unfortunately, the first records of this pioneer town are not to be found, nor any other reliable data from which we may learn the names of its first officers. This, however, cannot be regarded as important, for at that time the town was so large that the present Canisteo comprises comparatively little of its original territory. At the town meeting held in the spring of 1801, at the house of Benjamin Crosby, (Hornellsville), these officers were elected: Uriah Stephens, supervisor; Joseph A. Rathbone, town clerk; Obediah Ayres, Richard Crosby and Nathan Hallett, assessors; Samuel Hallett, jr., collector; James Hadley and Nathan Hallett, overseers of the poor.

In this connection also it is interesting to note the succession of supervisors from the year 1801 to the present time, viz.: Uriah Stephens, 1801-10; William Hyde, 1811; William Stephens, 1812; Christopher Hurlbut, 1813-15; Uriah Stephens, 1815-19; Thomas Bennett, 1820-22; William Stephens, 1823-26; Joshua Chapman, 1827; William Stephens, 1828-29; William Bennett, 1830-32; William Stephens, 1833-34; Elias Stephens, 1835-37; Finley McClure, 1838; Daniel Jamison, 1839-40; H. C. Whitwood, 1841-42; Finley McClure, 1843-44; William H. Mead, 1845-46; Obediah Stephens, 1847-50; Hart Eason, 1851-52; W. B. Jones, 1853-54; Hart Eason, 1855-56; Joshua C. Stephens, 1857-58; Lucius C. Waldo, 1859-60; Nelson Hallett, 1861-62; William H. Mead, 1863-64; N. C. Taylor, 1865-66; George Riddell, 1867-68; Thomas Hallett, 1869; John H. Brown, 1870-72; George Riddell, 1873-74; Miner Sammons, 1875-76; Albert J. Carter, 1877; Smith Eason, 1878; Leroy Riddell, 1879-82; W. E. Stephens, 1883-84; Nathan J. Stephens, 1885-86; H. E. Buck, 1887; M. D. Ellison, 1888; Harrison Crane, 1889-9t; James Roblee, 1892-93 Julius M. Hitchcock, 1894-95.

The town officers of Canisteo for the year 1895 are as fellows: Julius M. Hitchcock, supervisor; Jay Patchen, town clerk; Almon W. Burrell, Emmet Stephens, Adelbert Rosa, James Eben Wilson and Albert Sumner, justices of the peace; D. W. Comfort, D. C. Thomas and Ney Wilson, assessors; Stearns Jamison, collector; Daniel Ordway, overseer of the poor; J. M. Peterson, highway commissioner; Elijah Hallett, Jacob Vickers and W. P. Goff, commissioners of excise.

The civil history of the town of Canisteo, although uneventful, has nevertheless been a continuous record of growth, development and prosperity. Naturally, settlement began in the region of the Canisteo River, thence extended up the valleys of the lesser streams, Bennett's and Col. Bill's Creeks, and finally spread throughout the entire town. All,however, was practically accomplished during the first thirty five years of the town's history, while pioneership ceased with the last century. The "Swale" region was settled before 1825, and most of the town lands were fully settled within the next half score of years. The war of 1812 had little effect on the people here, though the attitude and disposition of the Indians was carefully watched, for the inhabitants feared an outbreak from them. However, the whites had by this time thoroughly impressed the natives with their superiority, and although an occasional demonstration was made by the savages, they were at all times under reasonable control.

The greater portion of the settlers were farmers, whose time and energies were devoted to clearing and tilling the land, paving the way for future successes by their descendants, and as a result of this early industry Canisteo is now regarded as one of the best agricultural towns of the valley. The soil generally is a clayey and gravelly loam, and not all the fertile lands are found in the valleys, but even on the hills are some of the most productive farms in the town. General agriculture has been the chief pursuit of the farming element of population, and the most profitable crops of the present day are hay, oats and potatoes.

For their personal convenience the settlers at an early day built up several small villages, the principal one of which, Canisteo, has grown to importance in commercial and business circles, and has become an incorporated municipality. However, this village is made the subject of special mention in another part of this work. The others we may briefly mention here.

Bennett's Creek is a postoffice (established 1845) and hamlet situate in the southeast part of the town, on the stream of the same name. A store has generally been maintained here, and the place now and for some years past has had an additional industry in the possession of a good cheese factory, the latter known as the Bassett cheese factory. The postmaster and merchant here is Elihu D. Conklin.

Swale is located in the southeast part of the town, and has a postoffice (established 1860) and one or two business enterprises. This region is somewhat extensive and was settled between 1820 and 1825. The office was established here for the convenience of the people of this part of the town. The postmaster is Orren I. Jones, and E. O. Downs is local tinsmith. In this locality is a Union Methodist and Universalist church, built by the people of the vicinity.

South Canisteo is also a post office in the southeast part of the town, for local accommodation. The postmaster and storekeeper is Elmer D. Van Ormen.

Spring Brook is the name of a locality in the vicinity of Col Bill's Creek. This is an agricultural portion of the town and has no village settlement, However, here are two Methodist Protestant churches, each of which has a good membership and a comfortable church home. Both of these societies, as well as that at Swale, are under the pastoral care of Rev. S. E. Matthews.

Adrian and Crosbyville are the different names of a little hamlet on the Erie road, less than two miles east of Canisteo. The former is the postoffice and railway designation, while the latter suggests the name of one of the old families of the town. Here are two stores, a blacksmith shop and a wagon shop. The postmaster is Hiram Crosby, and the merchants are Messrs. Crosby and Delaney.

Canisteo Center is between Canisteo and Adrian. Its only industry is the grist mill of I. V. Carman.

The inhabitants of the town and village of Canisteo, ever mindful of the spiritual and educational welfare of their families and children, have made generous provision for the erection and maintenance of churches and schools throughout the town. Those of the former in the outlying districts we have already mentioned in this chapter, while those of the village will be found referred to in the church history in this work. Of the early schools little is known except in a general way, and even unreliable tradition furnishes us no data from which can be determined the location of the first schools. Still, the fact is well known that about 1800 a primitive school was opened in the village, and as settlement advanced into the more remote localities, the town was divided into districts and good schools provided for each. According to the present disposition of school interests, there are thirteen districts, each of which is provided with a good school. The whole number of children attending during the school year 1893-94 was 783, for whose instruction nineteen teachers were employed. There was received of public moneys from the State, $2,506.08, and the amount raised by local tax was $3,609.21. The value of school buildings and sites in the town is estimated at $8,770.

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