History of Lindley, 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

Lindley. - "Township 1, range 2, Phelps and Gorham Purchase." This was a fair description of this town one hundred and five years ago, when Col. Eleazer Lindsley came from New Jersey and made an extensive purchase of land in the Genesee country. Still there has ever existed a doubt as to the amount of land actually acquired by Colonel Lindsley from Oliver Phelps in 1790, some authorities asserting that his purchase included the entire township, while others claim that his title covered only the southern half of number one, range two, and that the other proprietors took title directly from the proprietary, John Ryess taking the northwest quarter, and Judge Garrettson the northeast. However, with all respect for the opinions of competent authorities, the present writer is inclined to accept the theory of Colonel Harrower, that the township was purchased from Oliver Phelps by Colonel Lindsley, John Ryess and Judge Garrettson; that a commission made a fair and equitable division of the territory according to the respective interests of the vendees; and that Colonel Lindsley was awarded the south half and the others the upper quarters as noted above. Other authorities contend that Lindsley bought the town at sixpence per acre, and sold the north half to the persons mentioned' at one shilling per acre.

In some respects Lindley differs in physical features from other towns of the county, and while these characteristics are not specially important, they are at least noteworthy. Extending north and south the entire length of the town is the charming and fertile valley of the Toga, from any point in which the observer is at once attracted by the delightful view about him. The river valley averages about a mile in width, while on either side the hills rise to a height varying from five hundred to six hundred feet. When the doughty colonel made his first visit to the region he found evidence of cuitivation along the bottom lands, and the general fertility of the soil was at once apparent. Small wonder, therefore, that he preferred the exhilarating atmosphere of the combined hills and valley rather than hazard the uncertanties of settlement in the lake region farther north in Ontario county. And if we may believe well verified tradition Colonel Lindsley found a clearly marked Indian trail running along the river through the township, indicating that this was a thoroughfare of travel between the Seneca country on the north and the land of the Delawares on the south; and evidences are not wanting to show that the Moravian missionaries frequented the valley while traveling from their Pennsylvania homes to the villages of the Senecas and the subjugated tribes suffered to dwell within their vast domain. It is also a known fact that the Tioga valley was a favorite fishing and hunting resort of the red men, and that some of the small tribes had villages and cultivated fields scattered along the river. Such was the situation in this region one hundred and more years ago.

Col. Eleazer Lindsley, the proprietor of township one, range two, was a native of Connecticut, born December 7, 1737. During the Revolution, he was active in serving on the side of the Americans, and was an officer in the regiment commonly called the "Jersey Blues," for, before the war, he had moved to New Jersey. It is not known why Colonel Lindsley left his comfortable home in New Jersey to brave the trials and hardship of pioneer life in the new country, nor may we properly enquire into the motives which actuated his movements, and it is sufficient to say that his coming to the region was fortunate for local interests, as he showed himself to be a worthy citizen, kind and generous in his nature, and public spirited in all measures for the welfare of the valley and its people.

In the Lindley colony, as it has been called, were about forty persons, many of them relatives of the proprietor. They left New Jersey in the spring of 1790, making their journey in wagons and on horseback to the Susquehanna River at Wilkesbarre, thence came in boats to the purchase, arriving and landing at the Tioga Flats on the 7th of June. In the party were Colonel Lindsley and two sons, Samuel and Eleazer, also five son in laws, Dr. Mulford, Ebenezer Backus, Capt. John Seelye, Dr. Hopkins and David Payne. Nearly all brought families, while in the party were several slaves. This was unquestionably the first introduction of slavery into the south part of Ontario county, a novel though not unknown institution. It is said that Colonel Lindsley gave a slave to each of his children, and further, that only a few years passed before all were set free and provided for, for slavery was soon regarded as inimical to our State institutions and also forbidden by law.

In the new settlement Colonel Lindsley was an important personage, an earnest Christian, and a worthy leader. In 1793 he was elected to the State Legislature, opening the way, it is said, to a career of usefulness in public life, but, unfortunately on the 1st of June, 1794, he was stricken ill and died. His wife, whose maiden name was Mary Miller, died November 20, 1806. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Lindsley kept public house, the first in the valley between Bath and Williamsport.

In addition to those whose names have been mentioned, we find the Lindsley colony to contain other persons, among them Joseph Miller, a substantial farmer of the valley and whose descendants still live in the county. David Cook also formed one of the pioneer party of 1790, and, like the colonel, was an old Revolutionary soldier. He made a comfortable farm in the valley on the east side of the river, and, with Robert Patterson, another pioneer, is entitled to the honor of having planted the first apple tree in the town. Among the other early settlers, though possibly not pioneers, may be mentioned the names of Abner Thurber, another Revolutionary patriot, Benjamin Harrower, Simeon Rorapaugh, Thomas Clark, Ira Lyon, Elam Watson, James Sherwood, James Ford, Lyman Truman, Jared Butler, William Chilson, Parker B. Crandall, Henry and Ethan Pier, Russell and Julius Tremain, Joseph Upham, Elijah Knapp, Abram Kinney, Hezekiah Collins' and others whose names are now forgotten. The Piers, the Tremains, Uphams, and several others, settled in the north part of the town, near Erwin Center, as it was for many years known, but now called Presto. Benjamin Harrower became the owner of a 2,000 acre tract of timber land and built a "gang mill" at the Narrows.

John P. Ryess came from the eastern part of this State about the year 1810. He, too, was an extensive land owner, having some 3,000 acres. Among other early residents in the town were Silas Cook, Frederick Heckert, Jeremiah Mulford, Joseph Miller, Michael R. Thorp, surveyor, Mr. Waller, and possibly others.

All these came into township number i previous to the division o Erwin, and many of them while the territory was included within the still older town of Painted Post. They were an industrious and energetic set of men, and under their persevering efforts the lands were cleared, fine farms were developed and comfortable homes were built. For many years the chief occupation of the settlers was lumbering, and in this industry the locality long held a prominent position. At that time the Tioga valley was subject to frequent sudden inundation and on several occasions the settlers and lumbermen suffered serious damage. In the spring, and often in the fall, of each year came the rafting season, events of importance and activity throughout the entire valley.

As we have stated, Lindley, previous to its separate organization, formed a part of Erwin, and possibly was the more important portion of the town. The center of business was at the hamlet called Erwin Center (now Presho), for here was about the geographical center of the town. In 1836 the number of inhabitants in the south part was about 600, and they generally favored a separation from the mother town. The result was that on the 12th of May, 1837, township 1, range 2, was erected into a new town, and named "Lindsley" in compliment to Col. Eleazer Lindsley, its acknowledged pioneer and founder. As then and still constituted the town contains 23,000 acres of land.

The original name of this town was "Lindsley " but through an error in making the record the "s" was omitted, making the name "Lindley," which has since been accepted without question. The first meeting of freemen was held in the school house at the Center, on February 6, 1835, and these officers were elected: Benjamin Harrower, supervisor; Chauncey Hoffman, town clerk; Silas Cook, William Seelye and Jonah Davis, justices of the peace; Ansel C. Smith William Lindsley, Jeremiah Upham, assessors; G. A. Ryerss, Thomas Clark and Benjamin Patterson, commissioners of highways; W. A. Lindsley, collector.

In this connection may also be furnished the succession of supervisors of this town, viz.: Benj. Harrower, 1838; Wm. Lindsley, 1839-40; Silas Cook, 1841; Ansel C. Smith, 1842-43; G. T. Harrower, 1844; James G. Mercereau, 1845-46; Henry A. Miller, 1847; Samuel J. Mercereau, 1848-49; Gabriel T. Harrower, 1850-51; Ansel C. Smith, 1852; Eber Scofield, 1853; Samuel Heckart, 1854; A. B. Lindsley, 1855; G. T. Harrower, 1856-57; Henry G. Harrower, 1858; A. C. Morgan, 1859-60; Eber Scofield, 1861-63; Wm. Moore, 1864-65; Eber Scofield, 1866; S. M. Morgan, 1867; Eber Scofield, 1868; Wm. Moore, 1869-70; Mason Hammond, 1871; Wm. Moore, 1872; Jas. C. Orr, jr., 1873; G. T. Harrower, 1874-75; Wm. Moore, 1876; T. J. Presho, 1877; James A. Rogers, 1878; W. H. Hill, 1879-80; T. J. Presho, 1881; Jas. C. Orr, jr., 1882-83; Marcus Stowell, 1884; Wm. Moore, 1885-87; Marcus Stowell, 1888-89; Wm. Moore, 1890; Marcus Stowell, 1891-95.

With the same propriety we may also furnish the names of the town officers for the present year, 1895, viz.: Marcus Stowell, supervisor; Wm. Hutchinson, town clerk; H. C. Hill, Henry Stowell, Ira Knapp and C. J. Starner, justices of the peace; Oliver Camp, J. Brinnan and J. Starner, assessors; James L. Colder, overseer of the poor; John Brinnan, highway commissioner, George Snyder, James Harris and James Colder, commissioners of excise.

The population of Lindley by decades has been as follows: 1840, 638; 1850, 686; 1860, 886; 1870, 1,251; 1880, 1,563; 1890, 1,537 1892, 1,455.

As Lindley was one of the towns purchased directly from the Phelps and Gorham proprietary, its inhabitants were less affected by the anti rent controversy than in other localities. In fact at that time, while Lindley, or Erwin, had a number of settlers whose farms were encumbered, and while the whole town suffered somewhat from the depressions of the period, there was less of actual distress here, in the Tioga valley, than was noticeable elsewhere in this part of the Genesee country. Erwin was represented in the Bath convention of January, 1830, but none of the delegates was from township number 1, of range 2.

With a population of 886 in 1860 the town of Lindley is credited with having sent into the service a total of 125 men, a record equaled by few towns in this part of the State, and an indisputable evidence of patriotism and loyalty on the part of its inhabitants.

Glancing back into the early history. of this township, we may note the fact that the first white child born was Eliza Mulford, August 10, 1792; the first marriage was that of David Cook, Br., and Elizabeth Cady; the first school was taught by Joseph Miller, in 1793, near the State line; the first tavernkeeper was the widow of Colonel Lindsley; the first saw mill was built by Colonel Lindsley. The death of this pioneer was about the first event of its kind in the town. A writer of local history in 1860 said: "There is no church, no hotel, nor place where liquor is sold in the town."

Previous to the separation of Lindley from Erwin, the local schools were a part of the system then in operation in the latter town, but, at the organization meeting in 1838, the electors chose D. P. Harrower and T. L. Mercereau as inspectors of common schools. Soon after this the territory of this town was divided into school districts and provision made for a school in each. From that time this department of local government has received the same generous attention as have all others, and the schools of Lindley now rank well in the county. The districts now number ten, and during the last current year thirteen teachers were employed. The value of school property is estimated at $6,945. The amount of public school moneys received was $1,551.57, and the town raised by tax $1,868.83.

That the reader may not be misled by a preceding statement to the effect that in 1860 Lindley was without a church, we may here remark that several church organizations have had an active and useful existence in the town, the Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, Free Methodist and Independent, as respectively known. At the present time there are at least two societies, the Methodist and Free Methodist, both of which are mentioned in another department of this work.


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