History of Stockbridge, NY

The Town of Stockbridge.

With the exception of the two towns of Oneida and Canastota, erected from Lenox in 1896, Stockbridge was the latest formed town in Madison county. It was set off from Vernon and Augusta in Oneida county, and Smithfield and Lenox in Madison county on May 20, 1836. Of course most of its early history is embodied in that of those towns. It lies on the east border of the county and is bounded on the north by Lenox and Vernon, on the east by Vernon and Augusta, on the south by Eaton and Madison, and on the west by Lenox and Smithfield. It contains nearly 19,000 acres, of which more than 15,000 are improved. The surface is high upland, broken by the beautiful valley of Oneida Creek, which extends north and south through the central part of the town, the hills on either side rising in continuous ranges to the height of from 500 to 800 feet. These hills, while steep in many places and difficult to work, are tillable to their summits. The valley broadens towards the north and becomes merged in the plain that characterizes the northern part of Lenox. The soil is gravelly and clayey loam, fertile in most parts. Hops have been in the past and still are in a comparative sense a large product. For a number of years it was second in the county in the quantity of this crop; in recent years the production has somewhat declined, while more attention is given to dairying, in the products of which the town ranks high. Large quantities of milk are shipped to the eastern markets from the railroad stations at Munnsville and Valley Mills. There were twenty years ago five cheese factories in the town. Considerable attention is given in some localities to the growing of small fruits, and the apple crop in good years is large.

Oneida Creek is the only principal stream in Stockbridge, the main branch of which rises in Smithfield, traverses that town from northwest to southeast and enters Stockbridge in the southwest part, uniting with the direct branch south of the center of the town. As it flows down the west hill to the valley bottom it forms many falls and cascades, which add beauty to the scenery and in the past years turned many industrial wheels.

There are extensive deposits of limestone and gypsum in this town, both of which are quarried. The gypsum is found in the east ridge in the north part of the town, around Valley Mills; the limestone in the. hills on both sides of the valley in the southern and central parts; it has been quarried and burned at various points. A number of caves are open in the limestone, in some of which noxious gases exist, preventing their full exploration. In the bed of a small stream that flows down the east hill in the vicinity of Munnsville, were found years ago certain identations which local discussion characterized as the foot prints of animals and men. This theory is now dispelled.

The New York Ontario and Western Railroad extends along the slope of the east hill from north to south across the town, giving a fine view of the beautiful valley from its cars. There are stations at Munnsyule (now called Munns), at Valley Mills and at Pratts. The population of the town by census of 1892 was 1,704, about fifty less than the census of 1890 and about 300 less than the census of 1880.

The first settlers in Stockbridge were Nathan Edson and his sons, John, Barney and Calvin, who located in the southeast part in 1791. There were also four daughters in the family, one of whom was the wife of Robert Seaver. Descendants of the pioneer long remained in the town. Oliver Stewart came in a little later than Edson and located near him. Jonathan Snow also settled about the same time on the southeast corner lot of the town. William Sloan, George Bridge, and James Taft were pioneers of the last century, Sloan settling on a part of the Edson lot and Taft on part of the Oliver Stewart lot. Descendants of Mr. Bridge still live in town. Matthew Rankin, father of Jairus, who was the first physician in the town, and Aaron, a justice of the peace, settled early on a part of the Snow lot in the southeast corner of the town. Benajah House was a pioneer in the south part. Many persons leased lands of the Indians in this town and finally became permanent residents; but most of them came in between about 1820 and 1830.

The first town meeting in Stockbridge was held at Munnsville on June 7, 1836, when the following officers were elected: Henry T. Sumner, supervisor; Hiram Whedon, clerk; Orin Wright, justice; Elisha A. Clark, William Page and James Cowen, assessors; John Hadcock and Thomas Wilson, poormasters; Jesse Bridge, Luther Hathaway, and John Potter, commissioners of highways; Orange R. Cook, Danforth Armour, and Albert G. Bartholomew, school commissioners; William Temple, collector; William Temple, Levi Johnson, and Jonathan Carter, constables; Aaron Rankin, Ores Ranney, and Ephraim C. Brown, school inspectors; Clark Buck, sealer of weights and measures.

These men were almost without exception prominent in the community and mostly members of leading families whose members had in earlier years aided materially in developing the town and founding its institutions.

Among the prominent and successful farmers in this town, many of whom have passed away, may be mentioned the following: McGee Wilson, deceased; Williams Bridge, deceased; Addison Snell, deceased; Emerson Quackenbush, a large hop producer; Waterman Simonds, who built the stone house on the east road south of Munnsville; Captain Strong, who also built a stone house south of Munnsville and was a successful farmer; Fred Marshall and J. W. Rockwell, both large hop producers; Robert Clark, Samuel Spaulding, deceased; Lewis Hinman, deceased; Mackey Brothers, on the old Hinman farm; Adelbert Pardee, George Miller, Warren J. Gilbert, Andrew Perry, Nathaniel Harrington, Rensselaer Coe, John L. Foster, Austin Carver, Elbert Foster, Amos Bridge, John Hadcock, all dead; C. W. Dexter, Adelbert Ward, Orrin Porter, E. J. Spooner, Albert Lindsley, Charles Bunch, Norman Randall, Eri Day, and others who are living.

Following is a list of the supervisors of Stockbridge from the formation of the town to the present time, with the dates of their election:
1836-37, Henry T. Sumner; 1S38, Asaph Pratt; 1839, Elisha A. Clark; 1840, Oren Wright; 1841, Samuel W. Hull; 1842, William Smith; 1843-46, Ebenezer Porter; 1847, Grove Hinman; 1848, John McPherson; 1849-50, John Potter; 1851, Jonathan M. Forman; 1852, Peter H. Smith; 1853, William Stringer; 1854, Abel H. Rawson; 1855, James H. Gregg; 1856, John Cleveland; 1857, Jonathan M. Wilson; 1858, Alvin Strong; 1859-60, Jonathan M. Wilson; 1861, Alvin Strong; 1862, Jonathan M. Wilson; 1863, James H. Gregg; 1864, Jonathan M. Wilson; 1865-68, Robert S. Barr; 1869-70, Julius Treat; 1871-72, A. Watson Armour; 1873-75, William H. Stringer; 1876-78, A. Watson Armour; 1879, Robert S. Barr; 1880-82, Grove S. Hinman; 1883-95, George E. Woods; 1896-98, J. E. Quackenbush.

The population of Stockbridge as shown by the census of different dates, has been as follows:

1840. 1845. 1850. 1855. 1860. 1865. 1870. 1880. 1890. 1892
2,320 2,215 2,081 2,052 2,068 1,925 1,847 2,023 1,845 1,704

Munnsville.- This is the largest of the three post villages in Stockbridge, and is situated in the southern part of the town in the Oneida valley. The first mercantile business here was the store of Asa Munn, who removed from Augusta in 1817 and soon afterward built a small store; he also engaged in milling and distilling. Later merchants were:
Charles Chandler and his son Henry, Matthew Pratt, Hiram Whedon, William O. Sumner and Lorenzo Frost and James H. Lillibridge, who traded three years from 1870. George Colburn was then in trade about a year and sold to Clarence W. Dexter, a native and prominent citizen of this town. He enlarged the old store and has continued in business ever since. Nine years ago he took as a partner Clark W. Davis and the firm now is Dexter & Davis.

A. H. Owen began hardware trade in 1866 and has ever since continued, his son now being a partner. C. D. Jacobs was a former dealer in boots and shoes. George F. Griner is in the grocery and drug trade, succeeding William J. Lyndon, who began in 1876. Julius Treat was a physician in practice from 1851 to 1877, and began mercantile trade in 1878. W. T. Walker has a general store, succeeding F. L. Van Slyke. C. H. S. Lowe has a general store, succeeding his father, James Lowe, with whom he was a former partner; Henry Freeman was a member of the firm at one period. Dr. S. P. Moore, who has practiced since 1873, also conducts a drug store. Mrs. George Cook keeps a variety store.

There are two hotels in the village- the Hotel Rightmyer, kept by Dennis Rightmyer, who took the house in 1874; the Central Hotel, conducted by Kelly & Burke, who succeeded Rudolph Zimmer, the first landlord.

What are now the works of the Munnsville Plow Co. were established in 1853 by Daniel Holmes, William Stringer, Solomon Van Brocklin and R. S. Barr under the name of Holmes, Stringer & Co., and so continued a few years in the manufacture of plows and other agricultural implements. After various changes in proprietorship, which have been described in detail in an earlier chapter, the company was incorporated in 1892 as the Munnsville Plow Company, with a capital of $50,000. J. E. Sperry is president; W. R. Paul, vice-president; W. F. Bridge, secretary and treasurer.

The grist mill is now operated by C. M. Merrill & Son, who in 1898 succeeded J. H. Merrill. Before that Jerome Merrill, father of J. H., operated it a number of years; the mill was built in 1822. There was an early saw mill, but it long since disappeared to make room for a woolen mill built by Eben and Whedon Blakeman; the woolen factory was not successful as a business. Henry Stewart also had an early wool carding mill which was used in recent years for a creamery. A Mr. Buck established a tannery at an early day, which was afterwards operated by James Hazeltirte and others before noticed. There are two blacksmiths in Munnsville, L. P. Van Slyke and Joseph Carlton. George Frost is operating an evaporator and a cider mill, and C. J. Bradner has a harness shop.

The first permanently located physician in this town was Jairus Rankin, who began practice about 1812. Later ones were Orange Russell Cook, Henry T. Sumner, Julius Treat, and William Taylor. The only present physician besides Dr. Miller is William H. Griffiths, who has practiced many years. R. H. Woolver is the only attorney in the town.

Stockbridge Village - This little village is beautifully situated on the lower slope of the west hill about a mile above Munnsville, and has a station nearly a mile distant across the valley. The place was early and long known as Knoxville, from Hermon Knox, who was the first merchant there. Other early merchants were David Wood, who bought out Knox; Hiram Whedon, for a time a partner with Wood; Amadeas Hinman, Andrew J. Hinman, Matthew Pratt and Carlos Atkins. James H. Lillibridge began trade in 1877, buying the business of W. J. Nash, and continued fifteen years. C. C. White carried on a cabinet making business a number of 'years and sold to C. E. Love in 1891, who still continues it in connection with undertaking. C. C. White now conducts a hardware trade. Charles White has a general store in which he succeeded S. M. Davidson in 1898; he is also postmaster. The only public house is the Hotel de Van Loon, which has been kept by David Van Loon since 1882. Wadsworth Lyman and Luther Elphick were former blacksmiths; F. W. Cook began cabinet making in the village about fifty years ago and subsequently changed his business to wagon making, which he still continues.

The first physician in the place was Dr. Henry T. Sumner, who began practice soon after 1820 and continued until his death. Dr. Fayette F. Elphick succeeded and at the present time Dr. A. E. Broga is practicing.

Valley Mills is a hamlet in the northern part of the town, where a post-office was established in 1870, with J. D. Dunham postmaster. The grist mill there was built about 1848 by Ebenezer Ranney for a woolen factory and was operated as such by him a few years, when William Bridge and Nathan Hayes acquired the property; since that time it has had several proprietors. It is now owned by C. W. Dexter, the Munnsville merchant, and the firm of Dexter & Davis have a branch store. A cider mill and plaster mill is connected with the grist mill.

When this town was formed it was divided into fifteen school districts, the same number in existence at the present time. There were then in the town 803 children between the ages of five and sixteen years. There is only one Union school in the town, which was organized at Munnsville in 1894 as district No 1. The present handsome building was erected in the same year at a cost of about $4,000, besides heating and furnishing. Frank M. Wiggins has been principal from the first and gives eminent satisfaction to the district. The school went under the Regents in 1896.

The Congregational church at Munnsville was organized in 1828 and the meeting house built about 1834. In 1868 about $3,000 was experided in improving the building. Rev. Roland A. Farnham is pastor. The Methodist church at Stockbridge was organized as a station in 1827 and has had a prosperous existence since, as before noticed. The building has recently been improved. A Universalist church that was organized at Stockbridge about 1837, disbanded about 1865 and the building was removed to Munnsville where the upper part is now in ise as a public hail. There was also in former years a Congregational thurch, organized in 1834 and a house of worship erected; but the society soon disbanded and the building was demolished.

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