History of Italy, NY
From: History of Yates County, N. Y.
Edited by: Lewis Cass Aldrich
Published by: D. Mason & Co.
Syracuse, N. Y. 1892


THE town of Italy comprises a location in the extreme western part of Yates County, and while no more remote from the county seat than the adjoining town of Middlesex, the distance between these points is less easily traveled from Italy on account of the exceedingly rough, rugged and mountainous character of the land surface in the town of which we write. But with all of its great elevations, Italy has agricultural lands of fine quality, and these are found alike in its valleys and on its heights.

The town has two principal water courses, and each of these has its smaller tributaries. West River is perhaps the greater of the large streams, but its course in the town is confined to the northwestern locality, whence it comes from Middlesex, and eventually discharges into the head of Canandaigua Lake. This last named body of water hardly more than touches the lands of this town, and the advantages derived from it are necessarily small. This town, with Potter, are the only two of Yates County that are only indirectly benefited by the lakes of the region, but Potter still less so than Italy. The other chief water course of Italy is the ancient Ah-ta-gweh-da-ga of the Senecas, but from time out of mind known to the white settlers and residents as Flint Creek. This stream has its source in the southeast part of the town, whence it runs west into the valley, and then takes a northeasterly general course and passes from the town near its northeast corner. This creek, although second in magnitude and volume of water to the West River, has ever been of more importance to the dwellers of Italy, for along its banks the saw mills have been numbered by dozens, while grist and flour mills have likewise been maintained thereon to supply domestic demands. And it is a safe assertion to make that there are but few farms in the central, eastern and southwest portions of Italy, the buildings upon which have not been erected with lumber manufactured at some of the mills along Flint Creek. The stream itself is not large, but its water power has been abundant. It follows the course of a valley through the town, and so continues in the town into which it passes on the north.

Italy Summit is the most elevated height of land in the county, rising above Keuka Lake 1,324 feet, according to the estimate of the late Israel H. Arnold. It is also higher than Canandaigua Lake 1,374 feet, and above Seneca Lake 1,595 feet. It is also more elevated than the extreme height of Bluff Point, in Jerusalem, 613 feet, and above Barrington Summit by 404 feet.

Italy Hollow, the only settled hamlet of the town, is the opposite of the Summit, being in the valley of Flint Creek; but this particular locality is not more depressed than its surrounding localities in the same vale, nor is it so much lower than the summit by fifty feet as is the locality of the lake in the town.

If the town of Italy can be said to possess any historic locality, the spot occupied by the famous "big elm tree" must necessarily take precedence over all others. This tree is by far the largest in the county, if not in the region. Its height reaches beyond 125 feet, while in circumfernce it is almost thirty feet, two feet above ground. It is claimed that this was a council tree, and as such greatly revered by the Indians; but as the Senecas had no village in this locality, it is quite doubtful if the claim has much foundation in truth. As a somewhat jocose wight of the town recently remarked: "What on earth did the Indians know about Italy Hollow ? and if they knew of it, what could induce them to come there to hold a council?"

Italy was one of the townships that formed a part of the vast Phelps and Gorham purchase, and in the survey made under that ownership was number seven in the third range. It appears that during the proprietorship of Phelps and Gorham no settlers came forward and expressed a desire to purchase the town or locate on any of its lands. When the proprietary sold to Robert Morris, and the latter to the English syndicate, Italy was one of the towns transferred in the deeds then executed. It thereafter became a part of the Pultney and Hornby estates, each taking alternate lots. The town was surveyed afterwards, and in an irregular and somewhat unaccountable manner. The first was known as Slot's survey, made in 1793, and covered thirteen lots east of except two, and lying near Flint Creek, or Potter's Creek, as it was then called. The so called south survey was made in 1795, and included about 10,000 acres. This tract was again surveyed in 1826. The northeast portion of the town was also surveyed in 1795, designated the northeast section, and containing forty eight lots of 16o acres each. The "Brothers Tract" survey covered the middle of the town. The northwest section has ever been known as the unsurveyed tract.

Early Settlement of Italy. - The pioneer settlement of Italy was not unlike that of other towns in the same general region and similarly conditioned; but here where the physical characteristics of the land were such as to repel rather than invite settlement, it was hardly to be expected that settlement should commence so early and progress so rapidly as in the more desirable townships. The honor of being called "first settler" in Italy appears to have fallen upon John Mower, one of an old surveying party, and acting in the capacity of chain bearer. At the time of his first coming to Italy, in 1790, it is said that Mower was but nineteen years old, and had no family. It is also asserted, or at least strongly intimated, that Mower's settlement at that time was not permanent, and that he made no actual settlement earlier than 1795. His lands embraced 292 acres, lots 6 and 7 of the Slot survey.

William Clark also is said to have come to the town in 1790, locating near Mower, on lot 8. He, too, was a pioneer, and one who had a large family of children. William Dunton settled on lot 30 of the Brothers Tract in 1792, and died there in 1806. In 1796 Edward Low settled on lot 1, Slot Tract. Fisher Whitney located on lot 4 of the same tract in 1806. Fisher Metcalf came to the ursurveyed district in 1805, and ten years later was drowned in Canandaigua Lake.

Jabez Metcalf located on lot 5 of the Sloat Tract in 1807. He was one of the founders of Methodism in the town, and died here in 1859. Jason Watkins came from Massachusetts and settled on lot 2 of Slot's Tract in 1807. He died in 1844. The Parish family, Samuel Parish, his wife, and sons Levi and Reuben, came in February, 1791, and settled at the head of the lake. Edwin R. Parish, a descendant of Samuel, became one of the best and wealthiest farmers of the town. Josiah Bradish located on the Sloat Tract in 1792, but moved from the town in 1806. In 1793 Seth Sprague located on lot 2 of Slot's Tract. His daughter Olive was the first white child born in this town. Elias Lee settled on lot 3, same tract, in 1800.

The pioneer of Italy Hollow is said to have been a man named Flint, and after him the creek was named. Archibald Armstrong settled here in 1794. He was called "Old Algerine." Alexander Porter settled on the North Survey, on lot 15, in 1794; John Armstrong, on lot 3, in 1795; Stephen and Isaiah Post in 1796; Sylvanus Hastings and John Morris in the same vicinity in 1798; John C. Knowles in 1798; and Jacob Virgil in the same year on lot 7. Andrew Robson, an Englishman, came to lot 38, North Tract, in 1800; Nathan Scott to lot 30 in 1809. John Crouch, prominent in Baptist church history in the town, settled here in 1813; Robert Straughan in 1808, on lot 34 North Tract; Joshua Stearns on lot 11, in 1806; John Brown in 1800, on lot 19; John Hood on lot 23, in 1809.

On the South Survey John Graham, Br., settled in 1812, on lot 39; Benjamin Bartlett on lot 30, in 1811; George Murphy on lot 3o also in 1812; Isaac. Barker on lot 39, in 181o; Amos Arnold on lot 38, in 1812; James Fox on lot 30, in 1813; Josiah Barker on the same lot in 1813 also; Elisha Barker on lot 62, in 1814; Daniel Ensign on lot 44, in 1812; James Slaughter on lot 11, 1812; Rufus Edson, jr., on lot 16, in 1809; James Tourtelotte on lot 29, in 1818; William Douglass on lot 17, in 1816; Henderson Cole located on lot 8, northeast section, in 1810; John Craft in 1812, on lot 36; William Green settled on lot 7, North Survey, in 1815; John Green located on lot 28, Brothers Survey, in 1825. Again on North Survey, Charles Hutchins settled on lot 3, in 1815; Thaddeus Parsons on lot 11, in 1809; Charles Rumford on lot 18, in 1819; Joel Cooper on lot 26, in 1818; Charles Clark on lot 26, in 1818; Jeduthan Wing on the south half of lot 26, in 1817; Samuel H. Torrey on the south half of lot 15, in 1812; Samuel Dean, sr., in 1820 on lot 34; Charles Graves on the east half of lot 45, in 1813; Eli Graves on the same lot in 1814; Truman Curtis on lot 31, in 1810; Rufus Razee on lot 42, in 1814; William E. Smith on lot 29, in 1813; Truman Reed on lot 3, in 1815; Josiah Reed on lot 4, in 1814; William Griswold on lot 9, in 1815; Erastus Griswold on lot 9, in 1815; James Kennedy on lot 32, in 1845; John Hooper on lot 50, in 1820; George Nutten on lot 11, in 1823; Hiram Doubleday on lot 9, in 1830; Daniel Swift on lot 9, in 1830; Thomas Treat on lot 6, in 1817; Daniel Baldwin on lot 44, in 1813; John B. Yoking on lot 47, in 1823; Heman Squire on lot 1o, in 1810; Sherman Stanton on lot 2, in 1821; James Shepherd on lot 17, in 1835; Lucien Anable in 1830 on lot 1; George W. Horton on lot 18, in 1835; Ira Bassett on lot 33, in 1835; Theodorus Northrup on lot 29, in 1830; Jacob Thomas on lot 39, in 1830; Thomas W. Teall on lot 25, in 1840; William C. Keech on lot 36, in 1823.

On the South Survey, James Scofield settled on lot 3, in 1812; William Smith on lot 29, in 1814; Daniel Smith on the same lot; Chester Smith on lot 3o; Belisha Pierce on lot 3, in 1816; Holden Stone on lot 4, in 1816; Asahel Stone on lot 39, in 1815; David Burke on lot 9, in 1820; Philip Cool, jr., on lot 3, in 1820; James Packard on lot 39, in 1819; Jesse McAllister on lot 39, in 1821; David Fisher on lot 50, in 1820; Felix Fisher on lot 55, in 1821; Jeremiah Fisher on lot 44, in 1823; James Fisher, in 1820; William Fisher on lot 48, in 1821; Dr. Elisha Doubleday on lot 2, in 1820; Christopher Corey on lot 18, in 182o; Randall Hewitt on lot 5, in 1818; Solomon Hewitt on lot 19, in 1820; Alexander V. Dean on lot 13, in 1825; David Elliott on lot 22, in 1821; Peter Elliott on lot 23, in 1821; Joseph Squier on lot 28, in 1822; Samuel Barker on lot 63, in 1817; Orlando Barker on lot 56, in 1830; Enoch Barker on lot 43, in 1820; Reuben Wheaton on lot 18, in 1821; Avery Herrick on lot 49, in 1819; Garrett Van Ripper on lot 49, in 1830; Levi Wolvin on lot 17, in 1830; Henry Kirk on lot 25, in 1822; Stephen Marsh on lot 25, in 1817; Ebenezer Arnold on lot 22, in 1820; Adolphus Howard on lot 22, in 1820; Jabez Gillett on lot 46, in 1832; Charles G. Maxfield on lot 41, in 1834; Moses W. Barden on lot 36, in 1840; Anson Clark on lot 51, in 1835.

Among the other early settlers in the town, whose names have not been already mentioned, were William J. Kinney on lot 34, in 1815; Russell A. Mann in 1824; Henry Henneberg in 1820; Stephen Johnson on lot 11, Chipman's.Survey, in 1819; Stephen Hendricks on lot 12, of the same; Hugh Burns; Henry Roff, jr.; Worcester Burke in 1817; Alanson Packard, the cloth dresser; Edward Markham, who bought the first Joshua Stearns farm; John Chase, the mason and shoemaker, in 1830; Smith McLoud, formerly of Starkey; Nehemiah and Leonard White, in 1820; Michael Maxfield, the tailor, in 1819; Abraham Maxfield, the merchant and miller, in 1821; Ichabod Randall, clothier; Reuben Durkee, clothier; Asa Butler, harness and saddle maker; Bradley Woodworth, tailor; Amos Peabody, tailor; Weldon, Gallup, settler on lot 6o, northeast tract, in 1822; Simon R Cookingham on lot 31, North Survey, in 1820; Joseph De Wick on lot 16, same tract; Benjamin Dumbolton, in Italy Hollow in 1823; Alfred Pelton, who lived with Adolphus Howard; Cornelius Bassett on lot I, of the Brothers Survey, in 1835; Martin Flowers on lot 12, in 1838; Henry Crank on lot 9, in 1836; William Bassett on lot 4; Abram I. Van Ordstrand on lot 5, in 1832; Russell Burnett on lot 4, in 1832; James G. Williamson on lot 3; Luther B. Blood, settler on Italy Hill in 1832.

These who have been named on foregoing pages were the pioneers of the town of Italy, and upon them fell the burden of clearing the vast forest growths and making the land fit for cultivation. That they were a determined, sturdy set of men is evinced by their works. Italy offered no inducements as a place of settlement and abode, or even of speculation, but the labors of the pioneer brought good results in the the course of time, and the town soon ranked favorably with others of the region in agricutural products. In 1800 the town had a population of 259, or about forty or fifty families. Forty. five years later the census enumeration showed the maximum population of 1,698. From that until the present time there has been a general decrease, so that at this time the number of inhabitants cannot much exceed 1,300.

Early History. - Originally, the lands and territory of Italy were included within the town of Middlesex, as one of the divisions of Ontario County, and so organized in 1789. The name was changed to Naples in 1808, and so remained until 1815, when the district was divided and Italy set off as a separate town. The name is plain, but why applied to the town is a matter on which there appears to be no reliable authority extant. The town was taken into Yates County upon the extension and organization of the latter in 1823. The succession of supervisors who have represented Italy in the county legislature has been as follows: Asahel Stone, jr., 1815, '16; Jabez Metcalf, 1817-20, '24, '27; Randall Graves, 1821-22; Elisha Doubleday, 1825, '28, '42; Harvey Roff, 1826; Abraham Maxfield, 1829, '30; Elisha Barker, 1831, '32. '35, '40; David Burk, 1833, '34, '36, '37, '46; Nathaniel Squire, 1838, '39, '50, '51; Spencer Clark, 1841; Lewis B. Graham, 1843,1853-55; Stephen Mumford, 1844, '45; Henry Hutchinson, 1847, '48; David Smith, 1852, '56; William Scott, 1857, '58; Alden D. Fox, 1859-62,1864-67; William S. Green, 1863; Bradford S. Wixsom, 1868-70; Joel M. Clark, 1871-74; Francis M. Kennedy, 1875-77; Ithamar Clark, 1878, '79; Absalom C. Law, 1880, '81; David Kennedy, 1882, '84; Joseph W. Robson, 1883; A. F Robson, 1885, '80; James S. Paddock, 1887, '88; Harvey M. Clark, 1889, '9o; Alden D. Fox, 1891.

Justices of the Peace. - Prior to the election of justices of the peace that office in the town was held by appointment by Jabez Metcalf, Asahel Stone, jr., Henderson Cole, Henry Ruoff, Br., and James Fox. Subsequent elections have been as follows: James Fox, 1830, '31, '35, and '39; Orison Graham, 1830; Elisha Doubleday, 1831 and consecutively forth to the time of his death, in 1863; Jabez Metcalf, 1830; Valentine Graham, 1834; Edward Low, 1834, '38, '42; Holden T. Wing, 1838, '42; Henry A. Metcalf, 1843; Lewis B. Graham, 1844, '48; Martin N. Flowers, 1846; George W. Barker, 1848; William Scott, 1849, '53, '60, '64, '69; Philip Paddock, 1851; Edward H: Beals, 1852; Israel Chissom, 1852; Gilbert Graham, 1855; Erastus G. Clark, 1855, '59, '63; Charles G. Maxfield, 1857; Lucien Annable, 1858, '62, '72, '72; Guy L. Doubleday, 1864, '68; John W. Mower, 1864; Joel M. Clark, 1868; William C. Williams, 1868; William Scott, 1871, '78; Ezra Squires, 1871, '77; Frank H. Smith, 1873; Joel M. Clark, 1874, '82, '86; Chester Stoddard, 1874, '77; Bradford S Wixsom, 1875, '79, '83, '87, '91; Elnathan Mead, 1876; Guy D. Wixsom, 1879; David Wolvin, 1880, '84, '88; James Shaw, 1881, '85, '89; James S. Paddock, 1890.

Ecclesiastical - As has been said of many other towns in Western New York, may also be said of Italy, that the first denomination to obtain a prominent foothold therein was the Methodist. In this town, conceded to be one of the latest in settlement in the county, a class was formed in Italy Hollow as early as 1813. Robert Graham, Caleb Crouch, Henry Roff, sen., Philena Edson, Bazaleel Edson, Amos Arnold, Adolphus Eaton, Orison Graham, Worcester Burk, Benjamin Bartlett, James Scofield, nearly all of them heads of families, together with members of their families, and others as well, were prominently associated with the class at that time and in years following, prior to 1823. The church edifice was erected in 1856, and in its steeple was placed the bell of the older church at the county seat.

The Italy Hill Methodist class was formed and organized at Jerusalem in 1828, and in 1842 was moved to the Hill. Three years later, and at an expense of more than $2,000, the church was built. The first trustees of the Hill society were Joel Ansley, James Haire, Stephen Mumford, Albert R. Cowing, Dr. Elisha Doubleday, Benjamin Stodard, Rowland Champlin, jr., Bazaleel Edson, and Nathan Benedict.

In 1816, under the ministrations of Elder Jehial Wisner, the Baptist Church of Italy Hollow was organized. The early meetings were held in school houses, but about the year 1825 a church home was provided. In May, 1841, a Baptist society, a branch or offshoot of the organization last named, was formed by the Baptist brethren on Italy Hill. Early in 1842 steps were taken toward the erection of a house of worship, the trustees to accomplish that work being Hiram T. Stanton, Levi Wolvin, Edward Squier, Joseph Sturtevant, Asa B. Miner, Abel Gurney, Christopher Corey, Thomas B. Smith, and Luther B. Blood. In 1844 the church was built, and dedicated during the fall of that year.

A Free Will Baptist society was formed in the town in 1826, by Elder Samuel Weare. Among its more prominent members were the Arnolds, the Marshes, the Howards, the Fishers, the Douglasses, the Crouches and others. The society never became prosperous; never built a church, and gradually passed out of existence after about seven or eight years.

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