History of Newfield, NY
From: Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York
Including a History of Cornell University
Edited By: John H. Selkreg
Publishers: D. Mason & Company 1894


This town was formerly a part of Tioga county, and was taken from the town of Spencer in that county on the 22d of February, 1811, and called "Cayuta." The name was changed to Newfield March 29, 1822, it having become a part of Tompkins county when the county was organized in 1817. The town was reduced in area on the 4th of June, 1853, when "all that part of the town lying on the west side of said town, and beginning at the north line of said town, at the northeast corner of lot 4, thence along the east line of lots 4, 8, 12, 19 to 84, 51 and 52, and 9 and 10, shall after January 1, 1856, be annexed to and form a part of Catharines in Chemung (now Schuyler) county."

The records of this town giving the early proceedings of the authorities were all destroyed in 1875.

Newfield is in the southwest corner of Tompkins county, and contains 34,892 acres, of which about 25,000 are under cultivation. The surface is hilly, much broken in the central part, with ridges rising from 400 to 600 feet above the valleys. The soil is a good gravelly loam. The town is generally well watered by living springs and their outlet streams. Cayuta Creek drains the southern part, and the inlet to Cayuga Lake the northern part. These are the principal streams.

The territory of this town not being within the military tract, and its lands therefore not drawn by soldiers, speculators and settlers did not buy up the lots, nor were the farms occupied until several years after pioneers had made their homes in Ithaca, Dryden, Groton and Lansing. But the time came when the rugged and uninviting aspect of the town could not longer deter the adventurous and hardy pioneer from entering its thick forests to begin the work of civilization. Settlement began in the town with the advent of James Thomas, who, about the year 1800, settled on the old Newtown road. None of his descendants lives in the town, and almost nothing is known of where he came from or whither he went. Within a year or two later Joseph Chambers settled on the farm occupied in late years by Augustus Brown. In 1804 John White arrived, and about the same time David Linderman came in from Orange county and settled on the farm recently occupied by Curtis Protts. He brought his wife and infant son, the latter being Harvey Linderman, long a well known resident of Newfield village:

Richard Seabring, a Revolutionary soldier, died in Newfield in 1821. His son Cornelius was a very early settler in the the town of Lansing, and in April, 1801, removed to Newfield and located at what became known as "Sabring Settlement." He was an early postmaster, when the mail was carried once a week on horseback between Ithaca and Elmira. He continued until 1824 on the farm first occupied by him, and then sold it to his son Samuel. The latter died in 1871, and the farm passed to Cornelius H., son of Samuel.

In 1805 Barnabas Gibbs settled on what has been called the John P. Hazen farm. He had then lived one year in Dryden. His son, John C. Gibbs, was about three years old when they came to Newfield, and passed his long life in the town. One of his daughters became the wife of J. B. Albright of this town.

Philip Lebar, from Pennsylvania, settled early in Lansing, but came to Newfield in 1806. Jonathan Compton was also a settler in the town in 1806.

From and including the year 1809 settlements were numerous in this town, among them being James Todd, father of John P. and Solomon S. Todd, well known residents of the town, and was conspicuous in the community, and one of the early deacons in the Presbyterian church. Abraham Brown, father of Alvah, Stephen S., Hiram and Holden T. Brown, arrived in town in 1809 and settled on the farm afterwards owned by his sons.

In 1810 Isaac L. Smith, who had settled early in Lansing, came to Newfield and located on the farm, where his son, Samuel H., afterwards lived. The several pioneers who came into this town from Lansing were led to adopt that course on account of the comparatively high prices of land in that town.

Deacon Charles Gillett came in at about the same time with Mr. Smith and settled where Joseph Kellogg lived in recent years. Deacon Gillett had also settled some years earlier in Lansing and married a sister of Mr. Smith.

Solomon Kellogg came in about 1811 and, with others already mentioned, has descendants in the town.

Between 1812 and 1815 there was considerable influx of population in the town. Deacon Ebenezer Patehen was one of the early settlers in the so called "Windfall Settlement." James Murray, father of David Murray, settled where Morgan R. Van Kirk afterwards lived, and Jeremiah and Stephen Green settled in the Seabring neighborhood.

Jacob A. and James Trumbull came from New York city and settled at Trumbull's Corners in 1813. Other settlers of this period in that immediate locality are mentioned further on.

William Dudley, from New Jersey, came to Ithaca not far from 1810, and in 1816 removed to Newfield. His son, George Dudley, worked in the store of Luther Gere at Ithaca, where he learned the mercantile business, and afterwards became the first merchant at Newfield village. His brother, Abram, was associated with him in the business. William Dudley was grandfather of P. S. Dudley.

Noah Beardslee was an early settler in the town of Lansing, removing there from Connecticut in 1806. He was a blacksmith. In 1818 he removed to Newfield, ancd later in life was engaged in lumbering. He died in 1868. John Beardslee, long a resident of Newfield, was a son of Noah.

The other prominent settlers of the town will be properly mentioned in the succeeding village accounts.

The town of Newfield, although not settled so early as other parts of the county, has kept well to the front in more recent years in its agricultural interests. More than two thirds of the town is under a good state of cultivation, while such mercantile operation and mills are carried on as are needed in the community. Churches and schools were early established and have since been liberally supported. In the war of the Rebellion the town sent about 227 of her sons to aid the distressed government, and their patriotic deeds are remembered by their grateful townsmen.

Owing to the destruction of the town records only a portion of the town officers can be presented. The supervisor in 1878-89 was Ezra Marion; 1880-87, Randolph Horton; 1888-90, S. A. Seabring; 1891-93, Randolph Horton; 1894, William H. Van strand.

The town officers for 1894 are as follows: Supervisor, William H. Van Ostrand; town clerk, Howard McDaniels; justice of the peace, William Weatherell; assessor, Alonzo Bower; commissioner of highways, Irving Holman; collector, S. W. Bellis; overseer of the poor, C. M. Beardslee.

STATISTICAL - The report of the Board of Supervisors for the year 1893 gives the following statistics: Number of acres of land, 36,997; assessed value of real estate, including village property and real estate of corporations, $488, 670; total assessed value of personal property, $32,220; amount of town taxes, $6,212.45; amount Of county taxes, $1,534.97; aggregate taxation, $9,985.56; rate of tax on $1 valuation, .0184. Corporations - P. & R. Railroad Co., assessed value of real estate, $20,000; amount of tax, $308; P. & R. Railroad Telegraph, $500; amount of tax, $9.20; N. Y. & P. Telegraph and Telephone Co., $5,000; amount of tax, $92.

The methods of the farmers of this town have undergone considerable change in the past few years, as they have in other towns of the county. While sufficient grain is generally produced for home needs, and in sonic instances more than this, much attention is now being paid to the production of hay for market. Many acres are thus turned over to grass, and shipments from the town are large.

NEWFIELD VILLAGE. - This little village is situated near the Cayuga Inlet in the northeast part of the town. Its site is embraced in the Livingston purchase, a part of which passed to Stephen B. Munn, and for which James Pumpelly acted as agent. Through him Eliakim Dean, father of Jefferson Dean, and grandfather of David M. Dean, a prominent attorney of Ithaca, purchased the village site in 1802. Mr. Dean's residence was in Ithaca, but he proceeded to improve his purchase. In 1809 he built the first saw mill, where the upper mill stands.

In 1811 he erected the first grist mill in the town on the site of the lower mill. This mill was sold a few years later to Gen. J. John Green. Jefferson Dean is now residing in Ithaca at a ripe old age.

In 1815 Samuel R. Rogers established a carding mill and cloth making factory at the village, which was long ago abandoned. The Perry saw mill stands on the site.

In 1816 William Cox cleared a lot and built the fifth frame house in the village, opposite the hotel on the north side of the creek. There was a post office at the Seabring neighborhood and about this time was transferred to Newfield village, and Mr. Cox was the first postmaster there; his receipts for the first quarter were $1.50. Mr. Cox was born in Orange county, this State, of strict Presbyterian parents. When young he went to Ohio and was converted under the ministrations of Rev. J. B. Finley, and became a Methodist. He afterwards was prominent in establishing the first Methodist class in Newfield village.

In 1846 John T. James began manufacturing oil cloth in the south part of the town, and in the following year removed the business to the village. It was long ago given up.

George Dudley kept the first store in the village, beginning about the year 1816. Under the management of himself, his brother Abram, and son, P. S. Dudley, the business continued and prospered. John L. Puff & Sons, Geo. W. Peck, E. Patterson, S. Dudley Cook and Wm. Tanner are now leading merchants.

Jeremiah Hall kept the first tavern in the village in 1810. There are now two hotels, one kept by Robert S. McCorn and the other by Nelson Swan. The McCorn House was formerly the residence of Dr. Cook.

The first log school house was built about 1816, and was succeeded by what was long known as "the Old Yellow School House." This old house is now a store house on the Benjamin Drake farm: and the former school yard forms an extension of the cemetery. The first meeting house was built by the Presbyterians in 1832; before that time religious meetings, as well as those of various other kinds, were held in the old school house.

The little village grew steadily, but its prosperity was seriously checked on the 15th of June, 1875, by a disastrous fire which destroyed a large share of the business part of the place. But this fire was in one respect a blessing, for on the several sites of the ruins more substantial and handsome brick and wood structures arose, giving the village a more modern appearance. The Newfield Flouring Mills were built by Nicholas Luce and Dudley about 1830. Mr. Nicholas soon became sole proprietor and continued to 1842. After several changes the property passed to P. S. Dudley in 1861. The mill is now conducted by Wm. H. Van strand, who changed it to the roller process in 1804.

The Lower Mills were erected in 1850 by John Dean. In 1856 P. S. Dudley purchased an interest in connection with O. C. Puff. Dudley & Puff continued to operate the mills to 1850, when Mr. Dudley became sole proprietor. The mill has since passed to Wm. H. Wetherell, who added a saw mill a few years ago. Below this mill was formerly a cloth factory, and still farther down is the old tannery.

There have been various saw mills scattered throughout the town, but they are gradually disappearing as the timber becomes more scarce.

TRUMBULL'S CORNERS. - This is a hamlet in the northwest part of the town, and was first settled in 1813 by Jacob A. and James Trumbull, from New York city. They took up land on three of the four corners, which gave the place its name. Herman Parker, James Douglass, J. V. Clark, Joseph Stubbs, Lewis Hughes, Daniel Strang and others settled early in that locality. Shops and stores were established in later years, and about the year 1844 a post office was opened, with Daniel Strang, jr., postmaster. The present postmaster is Theodore Kresga, who also has a store, and another is conducted by James Douglass. There is no manufacturing here other than the saw mill.

EAST NEWFIELD. - This is a station on the G., I. & S. Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and a post office, in which John C. Gibbs was the first official. The present postmaster is H. B. Howell. The name of the post office has been changed to "Nina."

There were formerly post offices at "Pony Hollow" and at Stratton's, the latter in the eastern part of the town; the former has been closed.

Rural cemetery associations have been formed under the State laws at both Newfield and Trumbull's Corners, the former on the 2d of April, 1808, and the latter on the 1st of May, 1877. The first officers of the Newfield Association were: David Nichols, president; R. H. Estabrook, secretary; B. B. Anderson, treasurer. The grounds have been handsomely improved and contain five acres. The present officers are: President, James F. Linderman; secretary, Geo. W. Peck; treasurer, R. Horton; trustees, Geo. W. Peck, James F. Linderman, John E. Puff, A. J. Van Kirk, Morgan P. Van Kirk, Chas. W. McCorn, Jonathan Stamp. The first officers of the Trumbull's Corners Association were Burr Rumsey, president; E. Keene, secretary; J. W. Clark., treasurer.

King Hiram Lodge F. & A. M. was instituted June 1, 1880. The present officers are: Master, Wm. Payne; sr. warden, Charles Stringer; jr. warden, Wm. E. Bush; sr. deacon, S. D. Cook; jr. deacon, Berkelv Simpson; tyler, De Witt Payne; secretary, Chas. Van Marten treasurer, John L. Puff.

RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS. - As early as can be known the Methodist denomination is entitled to the honor of first establishing a class in Newfield, in 1818, in the Seabring neighborhood, and another in the village of Newfield a year later. Of course there had been religious meetings at various points, sometimes conducted by itinerant missionaries and preachers, several years earlier than this date. Jeremiah Green was the first leader at Seabring's, and soon afterward moved to Newfield and occupied the same position there. William Cox was a conspicuous worker in the cause at the village, and first procured the services of Rev. James Kelsey, then holding an appointment at Ithaca. At his residence the class meetings were held during six years after its formation.

The first Methodist society was organized at Newfield in 1834, and Benjamin H. Clark, Israel Mead, H. M. Ferguson, David Murray, N. W. Reynolds, Charles M. Turner, Abram Dudley, Samuel Seabring, and Daniel B. Swartwood were the first trustees. The erection of the meeting house was begun the same year and finished in the next year, under the pastorate of Rev. Moses Adams, the first pastor. The old church, with various improvements, served the purposes of the society until the present edifice was erected. The present pastor is Henry C. Andrews.

The First Baptist Church of Newfield was organized in 1820 by Elder Oviatt. The first deacons were Elijah B. Georgia and Nathan Stewart. Meetings were held in the school houses until 1842, when the church was erected. The church had a fair degree of prosperity many years, but for some time there has been no resident minister, and no services are held.

The First Presbyterian Church of Newfield was organized with twelve members, under Rev. William Levensworth, about the year 1820, in the Yellow School House. Miller Wood, Charles McCorn, Simeon T. Bush, Hobert Estabrook and Daniel Crowell were chosen trustees. The lot on which the church was built was conveyed to the trustees February 10, 1832, and in that year the meeting house was built. In 1878 the church underwent extensive repairs. The present pastor is Rev. Christian W. Winner.

The First Christian Church of Newfield was organized May 20, 1854, in School District No. 12. The first pastor was Rev. Ezra Chase. In 1858 the society built a neat church, which is still standing.

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