PULTENEY. - In the extreme northeast corner of Reuben county, on the west side of Lake Keuka, is situated the
town of Pulteney; so named in honor of Sir William Pulteney, the principal owner in the familiarly known Pulteney
Association. The district of which this brief chapter treats contains 19,600 acres of land, and in some respects
is one of the most interesting towns of Steuben county. Its people are engaged in diversified pursuits, those living
west of the ridge being farmers, while the inhabitants and land owners on the east side of the town are almost
exclusively engaged in the pleasant and profitable employment of grape and fruit growing and wine making. These
latter industries have given Pulteney an enviable prominence in this vast vineyard region, which, together with
the importance of the lake front and all its kindred attractions, have combined to make this town possess an unusual
interest in the history of the county and its vicinity.
However, Pulteney did not become a civil division of Steuben county until 1808, when Bath surrendered to the new
creation all that is now this town, and also Prattsburg and a part at least of Urbana. The former was set off from
Pulteney in 1813, and the latter in 1848. Pioneership and settlement in this hilly and then uninviting locality
began with the present century and increased rapidly 'until the population was sufficient to justify a separate
organization. The story of early times is perhaps best told in the words of a reliable and well known local writer,
from whom we quote as follows:
This portion of Steuben county was a part of the original Phelps and Gorham Purchase; was sold to Robert Morris,
and by him to the Pulteney associates. Pulteney was surveyed in 1793 by William Bull, and was on the market at
that time at eighteen and twenty cents an acre. About the first settlers were Samuel Miller, John Van Camp and
G. F. Fitz Simmons, who came in or about i800, but who were soon afterward followed by James and George Simms,
Henry Hoffman, Abraham Bennett and Shadrack Norris, all during the year 1805. The next year there came Samuel and
Nathaniel Wallis, John Ells, William White, James Daily, Erastus Glass, Harmon Emmons and Seth Pierce. From this
time on settlement became more rapid and pioneership was virtually at an end. Still, we may properly refer to some
of the first events of town history as They stand recorded and understood. The first marriage was that of Christopher
Tomer and Jane Miller, in 1809; the first death that of the child of James Daily, in 1806. The first saw mill was
built in 1810, and the first grist mill in 1814, both by Melchoir Wagener, an early settler and a man of influence
and importance in the region. In 1807 Shadrack Norris opened the first tavern, and in 1808 Augustus Tyler began
storekeeping, while Polly Wentworth opened a school in the settlement. The descendants of several of the old families
still live in the town, and occasionally some relic of early times is observed, for only a few years ago the remains
of the old Wagener mill race were still visible; also the scattered and decaying fragments of the saw mill itself.
But later generations of occupants live in a different and perhaps more progressive period, and have little reverence
for the old and useless structures of three quarters of a century ago, yet they love to see recollections of them
on printed records. Pulteney of today is far different from the old town of 1810, and along the lake front few
indeed, if any, of the old farm lines and habitations have been preserved. Where once was a vast agricultural region,
with desirable eastern slope, we now have almost numberless vineyards and fruit farms, in size varying from five
to fifty acres.
According to the reminiscences of Mr. Risenger, grape culture as a special industry was begun in 1854, when he
and Samuel L. Wagener planted a vineyard in Pulteney, the ultimate outgrowth of which is the splendid grape and
wine producing interest which ramifies throughout the lake regions, and in many places extends far back into the
inland districts. However, at the time Wagener and Risenger planted their vines, J. W. Prentiss had a number of
producing plants, yet was making no special effort in the direction of what might properly be termed grape culture.
As is elsewhere noted, this town was formed and organized in 1808, and at that time the territory was comparatively
well populated. In fact, in 1810 the inhabitants numbered 1,038, and 1,162 in 1820. In 1813 Prattsburg was created
and took largely of both population and area, the inhabitants of the district set off numbering 615 in 1814. In
the same region in 1800 there were 132 persons.
The first town meeting in Pulteney was held at the dwelling of. Jesse Waldo on the first Tuesday of March, 1808,
at which time Urial Chapin was elected supervisor; Aaron Bell, town clerk; Aaron Cook, Elias Hopkins and Nathan
Wallis, assessors; William Curtis, collector, together with a full complement of minor officers. Urial Chapin held
the office of supervisor four years and was, with Robert Porter, Stephen and John Prentiss, John Hathaway, Josiah
Dunlap and others, a leader in the affairs of the town at an early day. However, in this connection it is interesting
to note the succession of supervisors in the old town of Pulteney, which has been as follows:
Urial Chapin, 1888-89 and 1811-12; Robert Porter, 1810; Stephen Prentiss, 1813; John Hathaway, 1814; John Prentiss,
1815-20; Josiah Dunlap, 1821-29; John N. Reynolds, 1830-38; Robert Miller, 1839- 46; Jared T. Benton, 1847 and
1851; Ira Hyatt, 1849-50, 1852 and 1856-57; John A. Prentiss, 1850; Robert Miller, 1853; Josiah Dunlap, 1854; John
N. Reynolds, 1855; Samuel Fitzsimmons, 1858; Josiah W. Eggleston, 1859; Wm. H. Clark, 1860; Geo. Coward, 1861-63;
Harry Godfrey, 1864; J. J. Reynolds, 1865-71, and 1873; Odel C. Cross, 1872; S. B. Lyon, 1874 and 1876-77; John
Gilson, 1875; A. H. Denniston, 1878-80; J. D. Stone, 1881; S. B. Lyon, 1882-84; James H. Giffin, 1885-87; Philip
Paddock, 1888-89; Edward D. Cross, 1890-95.
The officers of Pulteney for the year 1895 are: Edward D. Cross, supervisor; Guy D. Finch, clerk; H. R. Hess, J.
B. Hadden, J. H. Osborn and J. T. Bachman, justices; W. H. French, J. C. Barber and Darius Tyler, assessors; S.
E. Stone, overseer of the poor; F. H. Arnold, collector.
In 1892 this town had 1,693 inhabitants, and it is estimated that about one half of this population are at least
indirectly interested in grape growing or its associated industries. The people in the west part of the town are
agriculturists, with no special product to attract more than ordinary interest. From the earliest generation of
occupants here the region has produced farmers, all devoted to the arts of peace, and there have been built up
many fine farms as the result of continued perseverance and industry. During the period of the war of 1812, the
entire townspeople were somewhat alarmed for the safety of their families and property, but fortunately no untoward
event took place to mar the tranquillity of domestic life. However, during the period commonly known as the anti
rent conflict, at a time when the population reached 1,700 and more, and when the town was possessed of many strong
men, public excitement ran high, and we find Pulteney an active factor in the measures proposed for the common
welfare. In the notable Bath convention, in January, 1830, the town was represented by David Hobart, William Sagar,
Barnet Retan, Daniel Bennett and Seth Weed. This period also passed without serious disturbance, other than temporary
embarrassment, and until the outbreak of the war of 1861-65 the history of the town was uneventful, other than
was disclosed by the general advancement of local interests. It was during the years following 1850, and from that
until about 1880, that the special interest of grape, wine and fruit culture began to attract attention to the
locality. This brought to Pulteney an enviable notoriety; spread abroad the remarkable resources of the town; increased
the value of lands on the lake front, and was in all respects the source of much advantage to the whole people.
One of the chief auxiliary interests connected with the grape product is the manufacture of wines of various grades
and qualities. The chief seat of these operations is in the vicinity of Hammondsport, yet the business established
by J. S. Foster more than a quarter of a century ago is worthy of at least passing mention. It is a fact of local
and general history that the product of the Pulteney cellars are "true to name, pure and unadulterated."
Such is, in brief, a general historical view of the town at large. Still, in this connection it is proper to
call attention to the general stability of all local interests and institutions. Even in population there has always
been maintained a substantial degree of uniformity and gradual growth. The present population is estimated at 1,700;
in 1840 the number of inhabitants was 1,724. In 1860 the records disclose the fact that the population was only
1,470, and but 1,393 ten years later. However, during the war of the Rebellion, Pulteney sent into the service
a total of 110 men, a patriotic record, and one not frequently exceeded in similar towns.
The history of the schools in this town are incomplete and somewhat defective. It is known, however, that the first
school was opened and taught by Polly Wentworth, in the year 1808. From this humble beginning the present system
and condition have grown and developed, and at this time Pulteney compares favorably with the towns of the county
generally. As now disposed there are eleven districts, with a school house in each, in which fourteen teachers
were employed during the last school year. The value of school property is estimated at $8,325. About $1,680 of
public money is annually received for school maintenance, while the town raises by tax for like purpose about $2,300.
The ecclesiastical history of Pulteney forms an interesting element of local annals, though the absence of reliable
records embarrasses the efforts of the enquirer. It is said that the first religious services were held by Close
Communion Baptists, followed soon afterward by the Methodists; and that there were also Seventh Day Baptists and
Christians in the field at an early day. The now called Second Baptist Church of Pulteney was organized in 1814,
the church home being located at South Pulteney. The church has a membership of 105 persons. At Pine Grove is another
Baptist society. At Pulteney village is a Presbyterian and also a Methodist Episcopal church, each engaged in evangelical
and praiseworthy work.