History of Virgil, New York

VIRGIL was formed from Homer, April 3, 1804, and named in honor of the distinguished Roman poet. It was number 24 of the Military Townships. Harford and Lapeer were taken off in 1845. A small portion of the east part has been annexed to Cortlandville and Freetown. It lies upon the we3t border ofthe County, south of the center. The surface is a broken and hilly upland, greatly diversified, and exhibits a variety of picturesque scenery. The Owego Hills, in the south-west part, are about 600 feet above the valleys and about 1,700 feet above tide. The valleys are narrow and bordered by the steep declivities of the hills.. The principal streams are Virgil and Gridley Creeks, the former flowing west, the latter east. The soil is a gravelly and sandy loam, best adapted to pasturage.

Virgil, (p. v.) situated a little west of the center of the town, on Virgil Creek, contains three churches, a hotel, a marble shop, several stores and mechanic shops, and between 200 and 300 inhabitants.

East Virgil, (p. v.) situated in the south-east part, contains a church, several mills and mechanic shops, and about 100 inhabitants.

State Bridge (Messengerville p. o.) is a station on the Syracuse, Binghamton and New York Railroad, in the south-east corner of the town.

Frank’s Corners, in the south-west part, is a hamlet.

The first permanent settlement was made by Joseph Chaplin, on lot 50. He erected a log house here in 1792, while engaged in layirig out the road from Oxford to Cayuga Lake, but did not move his family until 1794. This road, about sixty miles in length, was a very great improvement and was a general thoroughfare for emigrants. John M. Frank settled on lot 43 in 1795. John Gee, from Pennsylvania, settled on lot 21 in 1796. He was a soldier of the Revolution and had previously erected a log house, twelve by. sixteen feet, for the reception of his family which consisted of his wife and six children together with his father and mother.

John E. Roe, from Ulster County, moved into the town in the winter of 1797—8. The journey- was made in a sleigh which contained also a few of the most valuable of their household effects. When they arrived at the river opposite the residence of Mr. Chaplin, there was no bridge, and in consequence of the rise of the water the canoe in which the passage was usually made had been carried away. The prospect was not very encouraging, for they must either cross the stream or remain where they were without shelter.

Mr. Chaplin’s hog trough was procured and in it Mrs. R. was safely landed upon the opposite shore. The horses and the cow swam the stream in safety, and our pioneers put up for the night. The horses were tied to the sleigh, and for want of more nutritious feed ate the flag bottoms of the chairs. The next day they proceeded on their journey to their new home. Mr. Roe had erected a log house in the spring, split plank and laid the floor, and peeled bark for the roof which a man in Homer had agreed to put on, but on their arrival they found their cabin roofless and the snow as deep inside as out. The snow was shoveled away from one side and a fire built against the logs, some blankets drawn across the beams for a shelter, and thus they passed their first night in their new home.

In 1798, James Bright, James Knapp, Bailey, John and James Glenny, and Wait Ball, came in and settled in different parts of the town. The next year Enos Bouton, Dana Miles, John Lucas, Henry Wells, Jared Thorn and Primus Gault came in. The early set tiers had to contend against wild beasts, and after all their precautions their flocks and herds sometimes fell a prey to the wolves. The first flock of sheep brought into the town by Mr. Frank were all destroyed. Fifteen wolves were killed in one year by Mr. Roe and Capt. Knapp. The following incident will show the dangers to which the children were exposed:

David Scofield, when but a lad, was once playing upon a brushfence, and suddenly falling off was seized by a bear that hastened with him towards her den. Passing near his father’s-house his aged grandmother saw his perilous condition and snatched a warm loaf of bread and hastened to his rescue. Just as the bear was entering her den the old. lady threw the bread in front of the bear, at which she dropped the boy, seized the bread and disappeared, leaving the boy to return to the arms of his doting grandmother.

During the year 1800 we find the names of several additional settlers; among them James Wright, John Calvert, James Sherwood, Peter Jones, Seth Larabee, John Ellis, Moses Rice, Abiel Brown, Oren Jones, Moses Stevens and Jason Crawford. The next year Daniel Edwards, Nathaniel Bouton, Prince Freeman and James Clark came in and settled in various parts of the town. During the next two or three years we find the names of Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Carson, Alex. Hunt, George Wright, Abner and Ezra Bruce, Wm. Lincoln, Peter Graw, Moses Olmsted, John I. Gee and others. Elisha Woods settled in this town in 1815, four years after which he removed to Freetown. June 17, 1815, snow fell in this town to the depth of two and a half inches.

Some of the early settlers are described as being destitute of all the luxuries and most of what would be considered the necessaries of life. One man had a cow, an ax and an auger, and his furniture consisted of a hewn slab, standing on four legs, for a table, square blocks for chairs and a corn husk rug for a carpet. Chips served for plates, and a bake kettle for dish kettle, water and milk pail, soup dish, frying pan and coffee pot, showing conclusively that the real necessaries ofdife are very few.

Considerable interest was manifest at an early day in the cause of education. The “Virgil Library” was established in 1807, and another under the name of the “Virgil Union Library” in 1814.

The first birth in the town was that of a son of Mr. Chaplin, and the first death that of a stranger, Charles Hoffman, in April, 1798. The first death of a resident was that of Mrs. Derosel Gee, in March, 1802. The first marriage was that of Ruluff Whitney, of Dryden, and Susan Glenny, of Virgil, in 1800. The first school house was erected in 1799, and the first teacher was Charles Joyce. Daniel Sheldon was the first merchant, and Daniel Edwards built the first saw mill. Peter Vanderlyn and Nathaniel Knapp erected the first grist mill, in 1805. This was an important work, for previous to its erection the settlers were compelled to go to Chenango Point or Ludlowville. It was not uncommon for them to carry a grist upon their backs more than twenty miles. The first cider was made by Enos Bouton, in 1819; it was worth four dollars a barrel. The apples were mashed by a pestle hung to a spring sweep, and the juice extracted by a simple lever press. The first supervisor of the town was Moses Rice, and the first town clerk, Gideon Messenger.

The first religious meeting was held in 1802; and the first church (Congregational) was organized February 28, 1805, consisting of eight members, by Rev. Seth Williston. The Baptist Church was organized in 1807. The Methodist Church was organized in 1826 or 1827, and their house of worship erected in 1831.

An Agricultural Society was organized in 1853 and held its first annual Fair ira 1854. In 1857 it was re-organized and a piece of ground was secured upon which to hold their Fairs, and buildings were erected upon it for the use of the society.

The population in 1865 was 2,009 and its area 28,751 acres.

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