History of Thurston, 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

THURSTON. - On the 28th of February, 1844, the Legislature divided the town of Cameron, and taking 22,000 acres off the east side created a new town, naming it Thurston, in honor of William B. Thurston, an extensive land owner in the region who did much to promote local improvement and development.

Geographically, this town occupies a central position in the county, and within its borders are observed several of nature's unusual dispensations. We refer particularly to the deep gulf, which is almost impassable except at a single point at the south part, and here is found about six acres of rich flat land. In this locality was built the Yost saw mill. The gulf is 400 feet deep in places, and was originally filled with a dense growth of hemlock and hard timber. Another natural curiosity of Thurston was in the vicinity known as Cranberry or Friend's Pond, being a bottomless body of water, half a mile wide, and at one time adundantly supplied with fish. In the boggy lands around the pond there grew cranberries, to which the settlers helped themselves unstintedly, and from this product the name Cranberry Pond was applied. Among the early settlers in this part of the town were many who were of the society of Friends, hence that name.

On the high lands in the northwest part of the town Luke Bonny and William Smith made the first settlement in 1813, and from the pioneer first mentioned the locality was ever afterward known Bonny Hill. He also cut the road into the town from Bath, and was in many respects a leading man in the region. Anderson Carpenter settled on the hill in the same year, but was killed by a falling tree in 1817. Other early settlers in the same locality were Amos Dickinson, 1814, Joseph Fluent, 1817, David Smith, 1822, Harvey Halliday, Jacob Parker, John and Boanerges Fluent, John Stocking, Harlow Smith, Moses De Pue, and others whose names are lost with the lapse of time.

Among the settlers in the south of the town we may mention Stephen Aldrich and his sons Warner, Thomas, Stephen and George, who came in 1822 and located near the pond. Still others were Stephenson Pugsley, William and James Jack, Samuel Fisk and also Amos, Elias and Boralis Fisk. Seth Cook and Arnold Payne were also early settlers. In the same connection and worthy to be named among the older residents of what is now Thurston, were James Jerry, M. O. Keith, John Vandewarker, Henry Forburg, William Hawley, Fenner Eddy, tanner in the town in 1832, Paris Wheelock, Lifus Fish, John Corbett, Edwin Merchant, founder of the settlement called Merchantville, Josephus Turbell, Alva Carpenter, Harley Sears, O. P. Alderman and others, all of whom were identified with the gtowth of the town if they were not pioneers.

Many of these old residents of Thurston were lumbermen, and were attracted to the locality by the remarkably fine timber that stood on the land. In olden times Stocking Creek and Michigan Creek enjoyed about the same relative importance as did the Canisteo and Conhocton River regions. But as the lands were stripped of their forest growths good farms were developed and Thurston became recognized among the agricultural towns of the county. However, to the present day lumbering has been recognized as one of the industries. These extensive interests led to the founding of several hamlets, and less than forty years ago the isolated town of Thurston had five small villages, known as Merchantville, Bonny Hill, Risingville, Thurston and South Thurston. Now the post offices of the town are Thurston and Risingville.

The first child born in the town was Irma Smith in 1813; the first marriage was that of Joseph Fluent and Fanny Dickinson, in 1818; the first death was that of Anderson Carpenter, in 1817; the first school was that at Bonny Hill, taught by Caroline Vinan; the first store was kept by Harlow Sears at Merchantville; the first saw mill was built by Paris Wheelock, on Otter Creek.

The first meeting of electors of the town was held on April 2, 1844, and the following officers were chosen: Joseph Cross, supervisor; Noble H. Rising, town clerk; John S. Depew, Henry Briggs, Peter D. Edsell and Arnold Payne, justices of the peace; Henry Rising, James Ostrander and Fenner Eddy, assessors; William Jack, Amos Fluent and Jared Goodell, highway commissioners; John S. Eddy, collector; Stephen Waltman and Abijah Youmans, overseers of the poor.

The supervisors of Thurston have been as follows: Joseph Cross, 1844; Fenner Eddy, 1845-48; John S. De Pue, 1849-50 and 1856-65; Noble H. Rising, 1851; Cornelius Bouton, 1852-53; John Royce, 1854-55; Oliver P. Alderman, 1866; Alva Carpenter, 1867 and 1869-71; James Jerry, 1868 and 1875-76 and 1879-80; Lewis Masters, 1872-73; Lyman H. Phillips, 1874,1881-85 and 1890; William Richtmyer, 1877-78 and 1888-89; E. J. Jerry, 1886; W. H. Rising, 1887 and 1891; G. D. Wilson, 1892; E. J. Jerry, 1893-95.

The town officers for the year 1895 are as follows: Emeron J. Jerry, supervisor; Lorenz Angst, town clerk; W. H. Guernsey, T. C. Morrow, A. H. Kennedy, J. F. Eddy, justices of the peace; J. A. Filkins, T. C. Morrow, and J. W. French, assessors; S. W. Jessup, collector; A. B. Merrill, overseer of the poor; William V. Creveling, highway commissioner; J. D. Parker, Joseph Shearer, jr., and R. B. Rising, excise commissioners.

In 1845 the population of Thurston was 576, and in 1850 had increased to 726. Ten years later the inhabitants numbered 1,100 and 1,215 in 1870. In 1880 the population was 1,336, but dropped to 1,113 in 1890. In 1892 the town had 1,084 inhabitants.

During the war of the Rebellion, Thurston sent ninety eight men into the service.

From early records we learn that the first school in this part of the town of Cameron was taught by Caroline Vinan on Bonny Hill in 1818. However, previous to 1844 the general school history of Thurston was a part of the annals of the mother town, but still we may state that in 1828 $100 was appropriated to build a frame school house, and that in December of that year the town voted "that all hardness and quarreling in the district shall cease from this date, and we shall live in peace as neighbors ought to do." At the present time Thurston has eleven school districts, and eleven teachers are employed annually. The number of children who attend school is 302. The value of school property is $5,550. In 1893-94 the town received of public moneys $1,286.33, and raised by local tax $1,12 1.66.


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