History of Vestal, 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



VESTAL

Like the township of Maine, Vestal was originally a part of Union, having been settled in 1785 by Samuel and Daniel Seymour. The separation from the parent township came to Vestal earlier than it did to Maine, however, this occurring January 22, 1823. The first town meeting was held February 11th, 1823, when the following officers were chosen: Samuel Murdock, supervisor; David Mersereau, town clerk; Daniel Mersereau, James Brewster and Nathan Barney, assessors; Nathan Benjamin, collector; Lewis Seymour, John Seymour and Ezekiel Taylor, justices of the peace, (appointed by the governor); Ephraim Potts and Nathaniel Benjamin, poundmasters.

The township made its greatest growth in the years from 1845 to 1850, until recently. The enterprises which have lately been established in Endicott, Union and the adjoining territory, have had the effect of giving marked impetus to the life of Vestal. From 1845 to 1850 the population of Vestal grew from 1,017 to 2,054. Lumbering was the leading industry at this time, and Vestal held a high rank in the making of lumber. After about 1875, however, it began to wane, but never has entirely lost its prestige as a manufacturing occupation. In 1838 there were also two grist mills, in addition to the fifteen saw mills, one fulling mill, one cotton mill, one distillery, an oilcloth factory and two tanneries. Many of these have disappeared, so that Vestal is in the main an agricultural township, comprising 32,257 acres of land, much of which is of the finest quality. Population statistics show in 1825, 794; 1830, 948; 1840, 1,253; 1850, 2,054; 1860, 2,211; 1870, 2,221; 1880, 2,184; 1890, 2,076; 1900, 1,850; 1910, 1,618; 1920, 1,910. At the time the township of Vestal was organized in 1823, there were four school districts, with 210 pupils of school age between five and fifteen years old. In 1838 this number had increased to seven, the number of pupils being then 325. The districts numbered eighteen in 1858, while the number of pupils had reached 372.

When the troops of General Clinton and General Poor were campaigning the valley of the Susquehanna in 1779, they were quartered at a place known to the soldiers as “Chugnut”, or Choconut, on the south side of the river from the present village of Union. Even then the location was one of marked beauty, and at a very early date men began to settle there, both to carry on trade and to build homes. Prior to assuming the name of Vestal, the place took the title of Crane’s Ferry, because of the fact that one Jonathan Crane had started a store there and ran a tavern in connection therewith. In addition to his other business, Mr. Crane attended to the ferry, having as his successor, Jacob Rounds. Both these names still cling to a number of families in this section. Another hotel was opened up in 1844 by John and Jacob Rounds, and a new name came to attach itself to the thriving village, that of Vestal Mills, both for sawing lumber and grinding grain, were established, and a creamery and milk station followed. The coming of the D. L. & W. railroad gave Vestal a decided impetus, and it has steadily gained in prestige ever since. A Methodist Episcopal church gives the people a place of worship, while a good graded school cares for the educational needs of the young.

Another hamlet in the township of Vestal is Tracy Creek, at one time a lively rival of Vestal. Here the Osincups and the Campbells at a very early date settled and carried on a lumbering business, the latter probably having built the first dwelling in the village. A Methodist Episcopal and a Reform Methodist church are the places of worship established.

Still another village in Vestal township is Vestal Centre, four miles east of Tracy Creek. As early as 1804, Jabesh Truesdell located here. At Vestal Centre there are a Methodist Episcopal and a Baptist church and a district school.

The mercantile interests of Vestal are now in the hands of J. S. Crane, Frey’s Pharmacy, Lee Dubois, general merchandise, and Crane & Taylor, who have a flour and feed mill in the village.

The taxable property of Vestal township for 1921 was placed by the assessors at $935,320, with franchises to the value of $102,548. The officers elected at the last town meeting and now serving are: Supervisor, James N. Allen; town clerk, Silas Murphy; assessors, Charles Russell, Clarence Jones, Isaac Mosher; superintendent of highways, Timothy Coughlin; justices of the peace, Fred Pierce, Fred Noyes, Owen Wenn, Edward Zimmer; collector, George Foster; superintendent of the poor, Hermon Krom; constables, Frank Kie, Barney Newman, Ross Cook, Ashton Morton, Charles Smith. The population of Vestal township, as set down by the census of 1920, was 1910, showing a growth of 282 since 1910.

Of more than ordinary interest to the historian is an old Record Book, which is now in the possession of Mrs. H. D. Harris of Vestal, who in early life was a member of the Rounds family, one of the oldest in the township. Mrs. Harris prizes this book very highly, as it was opened at the time Vestal was set off from the township of Union, the first entry being made June 27th, 1823, by David Mercereau, the town clerk. Many of the transactions recorded in this old book relate to the laying out of highways, from which it would appear that this work bore an important part in the life of the people of the township at that time. It is interesting to note that in the year 1824 it was the opinion of the highway commissioners of Vestal that the sum of $20 should be raised for highway purposes for the ensuing year. The taxpayers of the township today would be happy to know that they might escape by paying a hundred times that sum for the building and maintenance of roads within the township limits this year.

In this same year of 1824 we find that a highway was laid out “from the river road near Peter Latourette’s unto the State line of Pennsylvania, beginning at a large white pine tree standing upon the north side of the road upon the west line of said Peter Latourette’s farm, said tree being marked with a blaze and two notches, from thence running to a beech tree standing on the Pennsylvania line, marked E. H. and a blazed tree and two notches, surveyed 1809.” Later entries record the fact that at the town meeting held in Vestal, March 2d, 1824 a resolution was passed providing that “All horn cattle shall run as free commoners”; while another glimpse to the life of this early day is given us in the somewhat startling statement that it was determined by a vote of the taxpayers present at this annual meeting that, “David Myers, a pauper, be disposed of at the best advantage,” with a further minute that he was “Sot up at auction and bid off to Lewis Seymour for 12½ cents for one year.”

In the year 1823, according to this ancient record, men began to register with the town clerk earmarks for their stock. Thus we read: “Finch Akerly entered his earmark Feb. 22, 1823; half penny under right ear and a slope under the left”. Many such entries were made thereafter, all accompanied by pictures in pen and ink, no doubt the work of the town clerk, showing the heads of stock recorded, with the respective earmarks adopted. In 1837 the township voted to pay a bounty of twentyfive cents for every fox killed in Vestal. It was at the same time determined by the taxpayers to require all farmers to use “all due diligence to destroy every Canada thistle on his premises.” In 1846 the question of the liquor traffic came to the front for the first time in this township, the vote standing 102 against license and 78 for. For neatness of penmanship and accuracy of statement the work done on this old-time Record Book would make a good example for all engaged in similar occupations at the present time.

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