History of Union, New York
FROM: BINGHAMTON and BROOME COUNTY
NEW YORK A HISTORY
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: WILLIAM FOOTE SEWARD
LIBARIAN FOR THE BINGHAMTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
PUBLISHED BY LEWIS HISTORICAL PUBLISHING COMPANY
NEW YORK AND CHICAGO, 1924


UNION

The township of Union was created by an act of the Legislature passed March 16th, 1791. Up to that time the territory had been included in Tioga county. By the same act four other townships were erected, namely, Chemung on the west, Owego lying next toward the eastward, Chenango adjoining Union on the east, and Jericho still farther to the eastward. As described in the act, Union township included "All that part of said county of Tioga bounded southerly by Pennsylvania, westerly by the town of Tioga, northerly by the north bounds of the county of Tioga and easterly by the rivers Chenango and Susquehanna."

As originally constituted, Union township had a territory of more than 700 square miles. A number of reductions have left it with about 33 square miles of territory, or not far from 20,872 acres. Oxford and Norwich were created as separate organizations in 1793, Tioga in 1800, Lisle in 1801. From the last-named township the townships of Barker, Nanticoke and Triangle were at a later date established. Still another portion of Union was removed in 1808 to become a part of Greene, Chenango county, while Vestal was set off as a separate township in 1823, and Maine in 1848.

In discussing the development of this township, we are on historical ground. In our search for original sources we find that because of Indian depredations made by the Tuscarora tribe, which at a very early date had its home in the vicinity of the present village of Union, a body of troops under an American commander was dispatched to the valley of the Susquehanna at this point in the summer of 1779, with orders to exterminate, so far as possible, these red men. In the month of August of that year these troops reached the junction of the Susquehanna and Chenango, and destroyed an Indian village at "Ochenang," where Binghamton now stands, and later wiped out "Chugnut" or Choconut, where Vestal was afterward located.

In his diary recording the events of this expedition, Lieut. McKendry observes in regard to the land about Union, "This is a fine flat, chiefly on the right hand of the river going down." Thus early careful observers noted the situation of this now prosperous town. Three years later trappers and traders began to come into the same section, and in 1782 Amos Draper, a trader, made his home on the Vestal side of the river at the mouth of the Choconut. After that, settlers began to come with such frequency that in 1791 there were 177 men who were liable to do labor on the highways of the town. It is historically certain that the following were the first settlers who located within the bounds of the present township: Amos Draper, Nehemiah Crawford, Briant Stoddard, Nathan Howard, Jabesh Winship, Caleb Merrirnan and Winthrop Roe. These persons came to Union in the year 1785. Nine road districts were formed about the time the township was erected in 1791, with a pathmaster for each district.

It seems to be universally conceded that the men who came with their families to make the township of Union their homes were of more than ordinary intelligence and ability to carry forward important projects. From them have sprung a great many men and women who have made their mark upon the life and history of their day and generation. It would be wrong to attempt any roster of these people within the space at our command.

Acting in accordance with the act of the Legislature which established the township of Union, the first town meeting was held in the house of Neherniah Spaulding in April, 1791. It is so important that we should preserve the list of those who were chosen as officers to serve the township that we here give their names: Supervisor, Joshua Whitney; town clerk, Silas Hutchinson; assessors, Daniel Seymour, Silas Hutchinson, William Bates; poormasters, James Lyon, Silas Gaskill; commissioners of highways, Amaziah Hutchinson, William Whitney, Nathan Howard, William Bates, Amos Draper. One of the duties of the highways commissioners was to regulate ferries across the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers, within the boundaries of the town.

An interesting glimpse is gained of the methods of procedure followed in those early days in the fact that at the time of the first general election, held on the last Tuesday in April, 1791, also in the house of Amos Draper, the polls were kept open for four days, that being "according to law," and that Joshua Whitney served two days as inspector of elections, being followed by William Bates for the same length of time, while Amaziah Hutehinson and Daniel Seymour served in the same capacity for four days each.

Upon the commissioners of highways fell the greater portion of the service which was rendered in those days by the town officers, and they were kept busy considering applications' for new roads to be constructed in various parts of their territory. We find that the first road built by the township was that which extended up the west side of the Chenango river. Another soon came providing means of travel and traffic from the old mill at Castle Creek west into Chenango township in the Boston Purchase.

A measure for the protection of the settlers from the ravages of wild beasts was taken at the town meeting held April 1 and 2, 1793, when the freeholders voted to pay a bounty of two pounds for every grown wolf and panther killed in the township, and one pound each for young animals of the same species.

In a decidedly different field was the action taken at the town meeting held two years later. At that time the first school commissioners were elected, John Patterson, Joshua Mersereau, Edward Edwards, Daniel Hudson and John Moore being chosen. An incentive to this action is found in a notice which had been received just prior to the election, to the effect that State moneys for school purposes to the amount of £70 14 shillings had been apportioned to the county. It is impossible, however, to ascertain what part of this sum was received by the town of Union.

The town lost its first territory in 1800, when the township of Owego, or Tioga as it was then called, was set off as a separate organization. By the terms of the ordinance effecting the division, the dividing line between Union and rpjoga lay practically identical with the present western boundary of Broome county. That same year another town meeting was held in the house of Nehemiah Spaulding, Joshua Whitney, Daniel Hudson and Daniel Seymour, at that time serving as justices of the peace, being the inspectors of election. At that election Charles Stone was elected supervisor.

The period from 1812 to 1850 was one of steady growth in the history of the town of Union. The principal occupation of the settlers was that of clearing up the lands and carving out homes. Along the streams, grist mills ground flour for the use of the people, while saw mills turned the forest trees into lumber, much of which was rafted down the Susquehanna. By the time the New York and Erie railway passed through Union, the timber had been for the most part removed and the settlers were directing their attention to farming.

The year 1848 saw the last territory taken from the town of Union, for the formation of the township of Maine. In 1835 Union had 12,039 acres of improved land and 40,014 acres of unimproved territory. The value of these lands was placed at $232,116, and there was personal property to the amount of $18,640. The population then was 2,415, of which 1,255 were males and 1,160 females. In the township there were 533 men entitled to vote; 17 school districts; 23,333 neat cattle, 540 horses, 3,457 sheep, 1,806 swine. That the housewives were busy then may be seen from the 'fact that in the year above mentioned 3,913 yards of fulled cloth were made, and 4,703 yards of flannel cloth. That the industrial life of the township was beginning to be more diversified is shown by the fact that there were in 1835, in addition to three grist mills and thirty-five saw mills, one carding mill, a place where potash was made, and three tanneries. At that time the United States had established postoffices at Union and at Maine village.

That the early settlers of this locality were interested in the education of their children is shown by the fact that in 1795 action was taken in the direction of opening and maintaining a school in the town of Union. In 1800 there was a school in the Mersereau neighborhood, while the next year one was opened near Amos Patterson's house. Other schools soon came along. It is interesting to note what particular subjects engrossed the thought of the pupils of those early days. In 1821 in the common schools the following textbooks were in use: Webster's Speller, Columbian Spelling Book, the American Preceptor, English Reader, Walker's Dictionary, Murray's English Grammar, and the New Testament.

Within the limits of the township of Union, besides the village of that name, the hamlets of Hooper, Union Centre, Nanticoke and East Union came into existence at an early date. Nanticoke was west of the present site of Union, but has disappeared. Union Centre has survived, as has Hooper, or Endwell, as we now call it. At the former place there was as early as 1812 a saw mill carried on by Richard Bradley and a man named Doud. Here also Barzilla Howard had a saw mill and rake factory in more recent years, both of which have passed out of existence, as has a churn, firkin, tub and barrel factory which once did a considerable business. A creamery now does a thriving business at this point.

After considerable friendly rivalry between Nanticoke and what was then termed Union Corners, the tide of fortune turned away from the former, and the latter, renamed Union, became a thriving trading point. The chief business centre of the village from the begnning has been what it now is, namely, the intersection of the highway leading from Owego to Binghamton, and the road running down the Nanticoke creek from Maine village. With this point as a place of beginning, streets were laid out in different directions, although it was not until 1836 that the village was really laid out in an orderly manner.

In pursuance of a law passed in 1870, Union was duly incorporated June 17th, 1871; and on the 22d of the following July the first village election was held, at which time the following officers were chosen: President, Francis B. Smith; trustees: Edward C. Mersereau, Martin C. Rockwell and Theodore P. Knapp; treasurer, Samuel F. Smith; collector, William W. Mersereau. The first village clerk was Edwin C. Moody.

The first fire department was organized in February, 1876; the Union Water Works in 1891, August 13th; the Union Forging Company, leading industry, came in 1893; and the first newspaper, "The Union News," was established in 1851 by Alfred E. Quinlan. The Broome Academy was incorporated in 1839 and maintained its organization until 1886, when the Union School District was organized. On August 18th, 1886, the Board of Education held its first meeting.

The first Presbyterian church society was incorporated March 10th, 1819; the first Methodist Episcopal in 1825, May 18th; the first Universalist, April 27th, 1829; the first Free Will Baptist, October 19th, 1838; the first Baptist, July 30th, 1840; the first Christian, August 14th, 1874; and the Grace Protestant Episcopal, February 22d, 1871. At Union Centre a Methodist Episcopal church was organized February 12th, 1857, and February 16th, 1841, the Congregational church was incorporated at the same place. The Free Methodist Episcopal of Union and Vestal was organized April 22d, 1878.

Prior to 1888 there was little indication that a thriving town would ever stand on the site of Johnson City. The country round about this now bustling place was occupied by farms. Then suddenly a great change came. November 22, 1888, George Harry Lester began to buy up land just west of the limits of the city of Binghamton, in the town of Union. Mr. Lester was the son of Horace N. Lester, a successful manufacturer of shoes, who established himself in business with his brother, George W. Lester, in Binghamton in 1850. After the death of his father, Mr. Lester determined to build a large shoe-making plant out side the city limits, and decided upon the present town of Johnson City as the most favorable location. As a part of his plan, the Lestershire Boot and Shoe Company was incorporated, and a factory put up near the Lackawanna railroad tracks. April 11, 1890, Mr. Lester withdrew from the concern, disposing of his stock and his shares in the lots which had been bought in connection with the factory proposition.

The prospect of such a manufacturing plant brought many newcomers, and a new day dawned upon this quiet community. Merritt S. Squires put up a box and lumber factory; William Burdick built a store at the corner of Main and Broad streets, and was soon followed by others who had the foresight to recognize the great possibilities lyIng close at hand; a volunteer fire department was organized; land was set apart for Methodist Episcopal and Baptist churcnes; a Union Lee school district was organized; in 1890 the Faatz Brothers began to operate a brush factory, and Roberson's planing mill began to do business. The summer of 1890 saw five hundred hands regularly employed in the different shops, and many more were employed in erecting stores and dwellings. September 15th, 1892, the village was incorporated and the following officers elected: President, Peter T. Perrault; trustees; James L. Derby, Elmer W. Van Slyck and Charles T. Dickson; treasurer, Edward L. Baldwin; collector, Frank A. Day.

Significant as were the events connected with the establishment of the Lester Brothers Boot and Shoe Company in 1890, they were bit the forerunner of the phenomenal changes which were soon to come in the development of what has come to be known today as the "Valley of Fair Play."

The affairs of the Lester Company were not going very well, and in 1892 H. B. Endicott, of Boston, the chief creditor, owning some $10,000 worth of stock, decided to buy out the other stockholders and become sole owner. This he did, and placed George F. Johnson in charge as superintendent, he having served with the Lester concern in a subordinate capacity for a number of years. It was not long, however, before Mr. Johnson became a partner. Things then assumed a decided change. Business grew by leaps and bounds. A new site a short distance from the village of Union was bought and new factories erected. A veritable city, beautifully laid out, began to assume remarkable proportions. From this time on the history of this part of Broome county is practically the history of the Endicott-Johnson corporation. Nor has the expansion yet reached its limit. In 1921 land was purchased just west of Union village and extensive plans made for factories and dwellings, all the outgrowth of the same great scheme for making the valley of the Susquehanna indeed the "Valley of Fair Play." This part of the E. J. project is still in process of development, and it is a safe prophecy to say that it will not be long before the "fine flat land" of which Lieut. McKendry spoke in 1779 will be one continuous city from Port Dickinson on the east to the utmost boundaries of the old township of Union on the west. With the manufacture of boots and shoes as carried on by the Endicott-Johnson corporation have come new schools, hospitals both at Johnson City and Endicott, fine lighting systems, excellent water works, community markets and stores, and many other up-to-date improvements such as libraries, recreation parks and centres of attraction of practically every name and nature.

Aside from the Endicott-Johnson Company, numerous other manufacturing concerns have located in Union, Endicott and Johnson City. Among these may be mentioned the International Time Recording Company, a vast organization employing several hundred men; the Ansco Company, manufacturers of cameras and films; the Achilles Tire Company; the F. S. Converse Company, makers of coal handling equipments; the Felters Company, employing a large force of men; the Hopton Candy Company, the Roberson sash and blind factory, the Fibre Mill, the Victory factory, and the Lestershire Lumber and Box Company, besides a number of other enterprises, all lending strength to the industrial interests to the town of Union.

The hamlet of Hooper, a very old settlement, has been metamorphosed almost beyond recognition by the building of scores of fine residences, a beautiful new schoolhouse and many fields of recreation. The name itself has been changed to Endwell. Very much like this is the change which has come to East Union, which now boasts of a fine new school building and many fine homes.

From the time the village of Endicott began to take form, the line between the new town and the village of Union was very indistinctly defined. It was not long before any geographical distinction which originally existed was altogether wiped out. The two villages steadily approached one another and finally it was impossible to determine where Union left off and Endicott began. The last line of demarcation was removed when the people of the villages were legally united on March 1st. 1921, under one form of government. At the time of the consolidation. Union village had about 3,000 inhabitants, while Endicott numbered quite 13,000. Not less than 10,000 to 12,000 people also at the present time have their homes in Johnson City.

According to the federal census of 1920 the township of Union had a population of 25,651, having increased in the previous decade from 9,486 to the number indicated. The assessed valuation of real property of the township was placed for the year 1921 at $20,832,035 with personal property amounting to $55,900 and franchises valued at $857,430.

The roster o officers now serving in the township is as follows: Supervisor, Frank E. Whittemore; town clerk, D. S. Mersereau; assessors: James Farrer, Frank W. Downey, Harry G. Howard; superintendent of highways, John J. Fenderson; justices of the peace; W. F. Ingerson, Wayne Woodward, George Eckert, Forman E. Whitcomb; collector, George S. Hooper; superintendents of the poor: Louis Darrow, Almon L. Oliver; constables: Charles A. Newell, James F. Holmes, George J. Tonne, Robert K. Vanderburg, Frank Rodgers.

In 1791 what is believed to be the oldest church in Broome county existed in the township of Union. This was known as a Dutch Reformed church, all original records of which have been lost with the passing of the years. It is known that ,the house of worship stood in the rear of what is now Riverside cemetery, in the village of Union. The building was of the crudest, being constructed of logs, with seats of slabs and an earthen floor. Two shillings an acre was paid for the land; and it would appear that this was all that could be afforded for religious purposes at that time; for we are told that in 1803 by vote of the people the sum of $25 was appropriated for the support of this pioneer church. Sickness came upon the settlers of this "Happy Valley," so that for a time it seemed advisable to close the church. With the coming of other settlers, however, the desirability of religious services impelled the people to reopen the doors of the original house and to add to the handful remaining of the Dutch Reformed church the strength of the newcomers of the Presbyterian faith; and March 10th, 1819, what was entitled "The First Presbyterian Society in the Town of Union" was organized with fourteen charter members, as follows: Orange J. Stoddard, who lived near Gray's Crossing, and who has one descendant now living in Vestal, Mrs. Earl Landon; Jabish, and Abiahai Truesdell, a former soldier of the Revolution, two of whose descendants, Miss Jessie Swan and Mrs. Evelyn C. Eldredge, are now members of this church; James Brewster, Richard Christopher, five of whose descendants are now members of this church- Drs. William and Ernest N. Christopher, Ernest Christopher, Jr.; Mrs. Susan Brown and Mrs. Edith Ballard: Ezekiel and Nancy Taylor, two of whose descendants are at the present time on the church rolls- Mrs. Alice LaGrange and Mrs. Florence Winans; Cyrenius McNeil; Phoebe, wife of Daniel Seymour, who has descendants still residing in Vestal; Barbara Mercereau, wife of John Mercereau, one descendant of whom, Job M. Warner, still retains his membership in this church; Annie Garrison; Sally Newell, wife of Manny Newell; Rebecca Polhemus; and Dolly Seymour LaGrange nee Dolly Olmstead.

The first trustees chosen by the church were Chester Lusk, Lewis Keeler, Elisha B. Bradley, John LaGrange, Cornelius Mercereau and John Dunbar. Three years later the church was received under the care of Cayuga Presbytery. The old log house continued to be the place of worship until 1822, when a new building was erected on the north side of Riverside Cemetery, at a cost of $3,500. Here divine services were held for half a century, when in 1872 the building was moved to its present location, East Main and Liberty avenue, and important additions made, the expense of these changes amounting to about $10,000. May 17th, 1906, this building was destroyed by lightning. Not two months passed by before arrangements were made to rebuild, resulting in the present beautiful house, finished and dedicated March 16th, 1907, in the pastorate of Rev. Charles L. Luther. A manse was built in 1826, and the present pastor's residence just east of the church was erected in the summer of 1898, being occupied at the present time by Rev. Robert C. Gaibreath, pastor of the church, chosen November 4th, 1913. On the lawn and slightly west of the church building stands a substantial grey stone monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution, marking the spot where the military forces of General Sullivan formed a union under Clinton and Spoor in 1779. A suitable tablet narrates the fact of this union, which gave the name to the township of Union.

Reference has already been made to the establishment in 1851 of the "Union News" by Alfred E. Quinlan. This paper has been published continuously since the date of its founding, although it has been carried on under various names and by different persons. Quinlan sold the paper to Ransom Bostwick, he transferred it to Sephas Benedict, who sold it to E. C. and G. W. Mersereau, and they, not being printers, in a short time placed Mr. Benedict at its head, and he not long afterward became its proprietor again. Moses B. Robbins next published "The News," disposing of it after about nine years to William F. Gilchrist. Jesse E. LeBarron and William McWade about 1880 established "The Argus" in Union, Mr. LeBarron soon becoming sole proprietor of the paper. "The Argus" not long afterward disappeared, having been consolidated with "The News," being published under the firm name of C. Benedict and Company. In 1898 Mr. LeBarron assumed entire control of the paper. Still another change came in the history of "The News" when it was consolidated with "The Dispatch," published at Endicott, and continued under the title "The News-Dispatch" by its present proprietor under the name of the NewsDispatch Publishing Company, with V. W. Bradbury as editor and publisher.

The "Lestershire Record" was first published by William M. Cheney August 24th, 1896. In the summer of 1897 Mr. Vincent Cheney sold the paper to Z. A. Stegmuller. In December, 1899, "The Record" was bought by Hon. William H. Hill, who, in November, 1921, merged it with the Binghamton Morning "Sun." The forerunner of "The Record" was "The News" which began publication soon after the Lestershire Boot and Shoe Company was organized, the paper being materially aided by this company. Another Johnson City venture in the journalistic field was "The Independent," concerning which more is said in the chapter relating the story of the Binghamton city press.

At Endicott is published by the Bulletin Publishing Company "The Weekly Bulletin," a clean, enterprising paper, of which William I. Engle is editor. Mr. Engle makes this a most readable paper, superior to many issued in towns of the size of Endicott.

Unique in many respects is the magazine published at Endicott under the title "The E. J. Worker's Review," which Ida M. Tarbell calls "a steam valve of excellent calibre and quality", for blowing off steam for the Endicott-Johnson Corporation. This magazine is published in the highest type of topography, with good, clear-cut pictures and serves as an outlet for expressing the opinions of the workers in the various factories, Mr. Johnson himself often contributing to its pages.

One other publication of the township of Union is "The Echo," issued by the managers of the Practical Bible Training School. This is a monthly magazine, well printed and devoted to the advancement, religious and otherwise of the students of the school as well as that of the general community throughout which it circulates.

One of Union's busy and prosperous places is the Ideal Caramel Company. This concern was established in the year 1907, by Mr. E. F. Hopton, of Binghamton. About ten years ago the business was moved to a building especially adapted for it, on Willow street, Johnson City. In 1920 Mr. Hopton retired from the business, which was incorporated for $150,000 under the laws of New York State, with the following officers:

President, O. S. Fellows; vice-president, O. B. Fellows; secretary-treasurer, F. B. Williams; general manager, J. W. Franger. As at present constituted the firm officers are: President, F. B. Fellows; vice-president, O. B. Fellows; secretary-treasurer, C. W. Moore; general manager, J. W. Franger.

An assorted line of caramels is made by this concern, which has an output now of 16,000 pounds daily. The plant is undergoing enlargement and new equipment is being put in. Fifty persons find employment in this factory.

About the beginning of the year 1922, the Union Cut Glass Company was established. Mr. T. L. Flynn is at the head of this concern, which manufactures electric fixtures with a complete line of light cut and engraved tableware. The output of the Union Glass Company goes to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York markets.

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