History of Urbana, 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

URBANA. - In the spring of the year 1793, William and Thomas Aulls left their former home in Lancaster, Penn., determined to establish for themselves and family a permanent abode in the new yet widely known Genesee country. They visited Geneva and Bath, both of which were primitive settlements, and finally made their way toward the head of famed Lake Keuka. This journey naturally led the travelers into the beautiful Pleasant Valley country where they found lands suited to their wishes, and here the senior Aulls located his purchase and built a cabin on what has been known as the Decker farm. This was the first civilized settlement within the present town of Urbana, although the country had been frequently traversed between Bath and other southern settlements, and Geneva and Canandaigua. Through the valley was the principal Indian trail leading to the head of the lake and thence down the same on both east and west sides After clearing and planting sufficient for the necessities of his family during the coming winter, the senior Aulls returned to Pennsylvania and brought the other members of his household to their new home.

In the fall of the same year (1793), Samuel Baker also built a cabin and made an improvement in the locality, and in the spring of the following year, brought his family to the valley, accompanied or closely followed by Richard Daniels and Amos Stone William Read came about the same time and has been mentioned as the third settler in the town. Other pioneers were Abram and Jonas Brundage, John Faulkner, Captain Shether and Eli Read. The Faulkner improvement was purchased in 1807, by Cornelius Younglove. Captain Shether purchased and located on the site of the present progressive village of Hammondsport, his deed bearing the date 1796, and his lands embracing 146 acres. The property was afterward transferred to William Root and by the latter to Lazarus Hammond, and from the last mentioned we have the name - Hammondsport.

Recalling briefly the names of other early settlers and residents in this locality, may be mentioned Daniel Bennitt, Robert Harrison, Caleb Chapman, the proprietor of the first log tavern at North Urbana, Stephen Kingsley, Abram Depew, John Walters, Obediah Wheeler, Reuben Hall, Andrew Layton, Erastus Webster, David Hutches, Samuel Drew, John Daniels, Samuel Townsend, Joseph Rosencranz, and others whose names are now lost. Many of these early settlers were natives of New England and several of them had served during the Revolutionary war, a few as officers in the service. The first birth in the town was that of Samuel Baker, Br.; the first marriage that of Jonathan Barney and Polly Aulla in 1794; the first death that of John Phillips, 1794; Eliphalet Norris taught the first school in the valley in 1795; Caleb Chapman kept the first tavern at North Urbana; Henry A. Townsend opened the first store at Cold Spring in 1815; John Shether built the first saw mill in 1795, and Gen. George McClure built the first grist mill in 1802.

From what has been stated the reader will at once discover that the the early settlement of this part of the county was accomplished rapidly. In truth, in all the vast area of land in Steuben no portion possessed greater beauty or more natural advantages than did this locality at the head of the lake and extending thence up the fertile Pleasant Valley. This prominence has continued to the present day, although the character of the occupancy and the pursuits of the inhabitants have materially changed. Urbana has become a vineyard and fruit township, and as such enjoys a State wide and enviable reputation. Even to the tops of her highest hills, some of which have an altitude of a thousand feet, the vineyards extend, and in all localities are fine farms and inviting places of abode and pleasure. These natural advantages have combined to make this town one of the most valuable and also one of the most interesting in the whole Genesee country.

Indeed, so rapidly were the lands taken up by early settlers that in 1825 there dwelt in the town no less than 966 inhabitants, and at that time the hamlet we now call Hammondsport was only a scattered settlement, while lake traffic was so limited as to be hardly a factor in local growth. On the t7th of April, 1822, the town of Urbana was set off from Bath and given a separate organization. In 1839 a part was re annexed to Bath, while in the same year a portion of Wheeler was annexed to Urbana; also a small part from Pulteney on April 12, 1848. As now constituted this town contains 25,200 acres of land, and has a population (1890) of 2,590.

The organization meeting was held in the school house in Pleasant Valley, on the first Tuesday in March, 1823, at which time officers were elected as follows: Henry A. Townsend, supervisor; Lazarus Hammond, town clerk; Andrew Layton, Henry Griffin and Abram Brundage, assessors; Obediah Wheeler, Reuben Hall and Abram Brundage, commissioners of highways; Samuel Baker and William Read, overseers of the poor; Caleb Rogers, Stephen Kingsley and William H. Ennis, constables.

In this connection it is also proper to furnish the succession of supervisors, as follows: Henry A. Townsend, 1823-31; John P. Popino, 1832 and 1835-37; William Baker, 1833-34; Amasa Church, 1838; Jacob Larrowe, 1839; Obediah Wheeler, 1840-41 and 1844; Peter Houck, 1842-43; Wm Baker, 1845; Aaron Coggswell, 1846; J. J. Poppino, 1847-48 and 1850; John W. Davis, 1849; John Randel, 1855-56; A. S. Brundage, 1853; M. Brown, 1854; Orlando Shepard, 1855-56; John Randel, 1857; John W. Taggert, 1858 and 1860-62; Joseph A. Crane, 1859; Benjamin Myrtle, 1863-65 and 1869-71; Absalom Hadden, 1866-68 and 1872; G. W. Nichols, 1873-75; R. Longwell, 1876; Charles L. Bailey, 1877-78; B. F. Drew, 1879-80; Adsit Bailey, 1881-85; H. J. Moore, 1886-87; J. H. Keeler, 1888; George H. Keeler, 1889-90; H. J. Moore, 1891-93; H. M. Champlin, 1894-95.

The town officers for the year 1895 are Harry M. Champlin, supervisor; Lemuel J. Benham, town clerk; Benjamin J. Wright, Frank H. Hunt, George W. Hubbs and David Longwell, justices of the peace; Joseph Smith, collector; George Austin, overseer of the poor; Robert L. Snow, highway commissioners; Theodore Hamilton, George Vrooman and Eugene La Rue, excise commissioners.

In the preceding portion of this chapter there has been narrated a brief account of the civil history of the town of Urbana. It began that history with the organization in 1823, and from that to the present time the record of the town has been one of almost continuous and uninterrupted progress. Noting its gradual growth, we may state that in 1825 the population of the town was 966, and in 1830 had increased to 1,288. During the next ten years the inhabitants increased in number to 1,884, and in 1850 to 2,079. In 1860 the number was 1,983, and 2,082 in 1870. Ten years later the population was 2,318, and still further increased to 2,590 in 1890 According to the enumeration made in 1892, the town had a population of 2,542.

During the famous anti rent conflict in 1830, and about that time, the inhabitants of this town were quite seriously affected by the discussion of the period, and some of the men of Urbana were prominently identified with the proposed measures for relief. The delegates to the Bath convention were Henry A. Townsend. John Sanford, jr., John Powers, Elias Ketchum and Dyer Crammer.

Again, during the war of 1861, the record of the volunteers from the town forms a bright page in local history, for no less than 200 men of Urbana were enlisted in all branches of the service. At that time the population was 1,983, and the records show that fully ten per cent of the whole number were contributed to the town's quota.

No less interesting is the history of the educational system of the town at large, for the fact is well authenticated that the inhabitants of Urbana have ever made generous provision for the support of public schools. As early as the year 1823 Edward Townsend, Franklin Baker and William Read, commissioners of common schools, divided the town into school districts, seven in number, and a school was at once established in each. In 1827 the town received of public moneys $59.76, and a like amount was raised by local tax. In this manner the system was established, and from it the present condition of schools has grown. As now constituted the town has twelve districts, and each has a suitable school house. During the last current year eighteen teachers were employed. The value of school property in the town is estimated at $19,450. The amount of public moneys received was $2,219.75. and the town raised by tax the additional sum of $5,440.83.

Still further referring to the subject of early schools in Urbana, we may quote briefly from Mrs. Bennitt's narrative: "In 1795 the agent of the Pulteney estate gave to William Read, Amos Stone and Samuel Baker, and their heirs, fifty acres of land for school purposes. Afterward by an act of the Legislature, it was made over to the trustees and their successors in office, and at the present time is doing the work intended by Charles Williamson. The first school house was built in 1795, and Eliphalet Norris was the first teacher. Mr. Williamson's offer of land for school purposes was made to other districts to induce settlement, but Pleasant Valley people were the only ones who took legal measures to secure the land."

In this chapter not more than a passing allusion has been made to the pleasant and progressive village of Hammondsport, nor to any of the institutions of the corporation. In accordance with the plan of this work, such mention is reserved for another department, to which the attention of the reader is directed. (See Municipal History.) In the same manner, also, in the Ecclesiastical history will be found mention of the several church organizations of the village and town.


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